CAEAU TALWRN SITE OF SPECIAL SCIENTIFIC INTEREST
What is ‘special’ about Caeau Talwrn SSSI?
Caeau Talwrn has four special features.
These habitats are found within several small fields near the village of Talwrn. A complex mosaic of plants is present which varies with changes in landform, underlying rock types and drainage. Several types of wetland habitat and dry neutral grassland occur and the site shows the transition between these types particularly well.
As well as the features listed above, Caeau Talwrn has other habitats that contribute to the special interest. These include hedges and areas of blackthorn, willow and gorse scrub. This is important for much of the wildlife including many farmland birds and insects such as Stratiomys chamaeleon, a rare soldier fly. Uncommon plant species increase the importance of the site. These include adder's tongue fern, smooth brome grass and early marsh orchid. Columbine is also present on verges and banks. Unless specified below, management of this site should aim to look after these habitats and species as well as the listed features of interest.
The site should continue to comprise a complex of small fields supporting species-rich grassland with the grasses common bent, crested dog's-tail and red fescue amongst the most prominent. A wide range of flowering plants such as black knapweed, autumn hawkbit, common bird's-foot trefoil and red clover should be present. Hedgerows should be stockproof, dense and bushy, but should not spread into the field. Gorse and other scrub should be scattered and occupy no more than 10% of the area in total.
In the east of the site the large open area should be a mosaic of marshy grassland (with purple moor-grass or rushes) and dry grassland (with crested dogs-tail and common bent). Adder's tongue fern should occur in the dry grassland.
In other parts of the site grassland should merge into wetland, where plants such as sedges, rushes or meadowsweet become more abundant. Where the water supply is rich in lime, black bog-rush and blunt-flowered rush should be widespread, with fragrant orchid and marsh helleborine. In other wet areas greater bird’-foot trefoil, angelica and ragged robin may be more frequent. Dry banks and hedgerows should exhibit a spring display of blue columbine flowers.
What management is needed on Caeau Talwrn SSSI and why?
Although Caeau Talwrn is an excellent place for wildlife it will only remain so if the necessary management continues. CCW’s aim is to work with you to ensure that this management is carried out.
What does this mean in practice?
There are many factors that could damage the special features at Caeau Talwrn if they are not properly managed. These are the ones we regard as most important:
Grazing: The site has a long established tradition of light grazing which, over many years, has encouraged the grassland and wetland habitats found here.
Some areas have been un-grazed in recent years, other areas very lightly stocked. As a result scrub is spreading in some areas and much of it is rank with large amounts of dead leaf litter. Over-grazing causes poaching in some areas so it is essential that stocking levels are set high enough to prevent build up of leaf litter, but low enough to avoid poaching. Some fences and hedges are no longer stock-proof and need maintenance or replacement to facilitate grazing.
Light grazing or mowing should be reintroduced, where appropriate, and in some areas existing grazing practices should be modified. For much of this area small breed cattle or ponies would be the most appropriate stock but sheep could be used in drier areas.
Stock feeding: Supplementary feeding results in localised increases in soil nutrient levels, trampling of small areas and the introduction of coarse grasses. This can lead to a change in the plants of the area; aggressive weed species can increase while delicate less competitive species are lost. If the land cannot support stock without substantial supplementary feeding, stocking levels should be reduced or stock removed for at least part of the winter. Only mineral licks (to enable coarse herbage to be digested), concentrates to keep stock tame, or hay in hard weather should be given. No supplementary feed should be provided during spring and summer and stocking levels should match the carrying capacity of the grassland.
Hay Cutting: Mowing or cutting for hay can be beneficial to neutral grassland communities in some areas. The small size of fields within this site may be a problem for modern machinery.
Increased nutrients: Increased levels of plant nutrients such as nitrates and phosphates result in growth of less desirable species such as reedmace (in wetlands) or cocksfoot (in grassland) and the loss of less vigorous plants such as small sedges and orchids. Nutrients can come from agricultural fertilisers, silage, farmyard manure, abattoir, creamery or similar waste spread on the land. These substances should not be used within the SSSI and elsewhere within the catchment should be applied only when required, in appropriate quantities and in good weather conditions to avoid accidental run-off. Avoid polluting watercourses on site, or in the catchment.
Scrub: Blackthorn, willow and gorse scrub adds diversity and is valuable to birds and invertebrates. However, the spread of scrub at the expense of grassland and wetland communities should be controlled. In some areas this will necessitate scrub clearance followed by a revised grazing regime. Past hedgerow management has resulted in coarse weedy growth on the sites of bonfires; this should be avoided by either burning on metal sheets (so that ash is removed) or by removing cut material from the site.
Changes in water level: Any modification of drainage would adversely affect the marshy grassland and wetland communities, which rely on a high water table. Although there are some ditches on the site, they are shallow and have not been cleaned recently. Should there be any need to clean these ditches they should not be deepened. No additional drainage should be installed or water extracted or diverted from the site.
Our knowledge of wildlife is far from complete. It is possible that new features of value may appear and new management issues may arise in the future, whilst other issues may disappear. This statement is written with the best information we have now, but may have to change in the future as our understanding improves. Any information you can provide on the wildlife of your site, its management and its conservation would be much appreciated.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of your SSSI, or have any concerns about your SSSI, please contact your local CCW office.
Your local office is:
Cyngor Cefn Gwlad Cymru/Countryside Council for Wales
North Wales Region
Llys y Bont,
Ffordd y Parc,
Gwynedd, LL57 4BN,
Telephone: 01248 672500
Fax: 01248 679259