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Thomas Pennant

Flora/ Fauna

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Basically Pennant Country is the one Pennant himself wrote about in “The History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell”. Consequently it can be argued that to chronicle every species of plants and animals would be a major task. Therefore what is included on this website is a general list of the natural history of the area. There is a section of Pennant’s “The History” devoted to Flora and Fauna.

What appears here are the fruits of observation and recordings since the early ‘70’s, especially in relation to birds of Pennant Country. In terms of Flora, other than “The History of the Parishes of Whiteford and Holywell”, the standard reference is “Flora of Flintshire” by Dr Goronwy Wynne (1993) Gee and Sons, Denbigh

 

Botany — some plants of the area
Most of the Pennant Country lies between the 500' contour and the coast, facing the estuary of the River Dee. The underlying rocks consist of Coal Measures along the coastal strip, with Millstone Grit further inland and Carboniferous Limestone on the higher ground. The limestone comes to the surface in a few places, but most of the area is covered by drift, giving rise to Brown Earth soils with some Stagnogleys on the lower, coastal belt. In the past, there was extensive coal and lead mining here, but these activities ended during the second half of the twentieth century and today, most of the land is farmed.

For the botanist we can mention half a dozen areas of interest

 

1. The area around Downing Hall, Whitford.
Sadly, Thomas Pennant's home has long gone, but there are some public footpaths which one can follow through the woods, with their mixture of native and planted trees, including reveral Rhododendrons. In spring, you can enjoy the familiar woodland plants such as Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa), Wood Sorrell (Oxalis accetosella), Primrose (Primula vulgaris) and Dog Violet (Viola riviniand). The Giant Bellflower (Campanula latifolid) does well in a few places, and the rare, yellow-flowered Touch-me-not Balsam (Impatiens noli-tangere) flowers in July and August.

2. The coastal strip of the Dee estuary.
There are wide areas of saltmarsh, partly built up by the advance of Cord-grass (Spartina anglica) during the twentieth century. In the muddy parts grows Glasswort (Salicornia sp.) traditionally eaten locally where it is known as 'Sampkin'. The flowers of Scurvygrass (Cochlearia anglicd) form white sects here and there and patches of the purple Sea Aster (Aster tripolium) appear among the Sea Purslane (Atriplex portulacoides). The Yellow-Horned poppy (Glaucium flavum) is a rarity in the Mostyn area.

3. The Calcareous Grasslands of Halkyn Mountain and the areas around Holywell and Trelogan.
Here, on the sheep-grazed common land grow the calcicoles — lime-loving plants — such as Common Rock-rose (Helianthemum nummulariaum), Salad Burnet (Poterium sanquisorbd) and Wild Thyme (Thymus potytrichus) and on the old spoil-heaps, where lead was mined, you will see masses of the white Spring Sandwort (Miriuartia vernd) - it is one of the few plants that can tolerate these poisonous soils. If you are very lucky you might even find the elusive Dwarf Thistle (Cirsium acaule).

4. Disused limestone quarries. .
These can be good hunting-grounds for the botanist, a good example being the Grange Quarry (or White Quarry) near Pantasaph. The invasive Hawthorn and Blackthorn tend to dominate some parts, but there are some good Whitebeams (Sorbus spp) here as well. Also look out for the elusive Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) and Frog Orchid (Coeloglossum viride).

5. Llyn Helyg..
Pennant was very familiar with this man-made lake on the Mostyn Estate between Lloc aiidTrelawnyd. (An annual permit may be obtained from the estate office). The wood Surrounding the lake is varied, with an interesting mixture of native and introduced trees, and rich in mosses and ferns. The lake itself is home to a dense assembly of marsh plants including Bladder-sedge (Carex vesicarid), Water Horsetail (Equisetumfluviatile), Spring Quill wort (Jsoetes echinospord), YellowMs (Iris pseudacorus), Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris), Shoreweed (Littorella uniflord), Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus), Water Mint (Mentha aquaticd), Marsh Cinquefoil (Comarum palustre) and many more. The really special plant here is the tiny Pill wort (Pilularia globulifera) - technically a fern - but you wouldn't think so! Much more obvious are the large floating patches of the introduced Fringed Water-lily (Nymphoides peltata) with its yellow flowers much smaller than the more familiar Yellow Water-lily.

6. Remember that the lanes around Whitford, Carmel, Trelogan, Tremostyn and the neighbouring villages can still be a delight in spring and summer.
NB. Pennant himself admits that he was not a botanist. The list of the 'rarer plants of our parish' on p. 152 of his History of the parishes ofWhitefordandHolywell is reproduced word for word from a letter sent to him by his friend, the eminent botanist Rev. Hugh Davies of Abergwyngregyn near Bangor, author of Welsh Botanology.

 

Provided by Dr Goronwy Wynne 
Photos: Dr Goronwy Wynne 

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