I haven’t seen much of the countryside since I’ve been here in North Wales, other than through a car window, and I was very keen to see some spring flowers and fresh greenery. I know the wildflowers in Spain will be amazing when I get back there next week, but the native British wildflowers have an altogether gentler and more subtle beauty that I love. I have been planning to make a trip to the local nature reserve on Bryn Euryn, and as I will only be in the locality for a couple more days I decided to head there this morning.
Bryn Euryn is a limestone hill rising to 131metres (365 ft) above sea level and a well-loved local landmark of Rhos-on-Sea that is now a Local Nature Reserve. Its slopes are clothed with a mixture of woodland and grassland, part of which has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest. From its summit their are extensive panoramic views over Rhos-on-Sea and Colwyn Bay and across to the mountains of Snowdonia in the west.
I parked in the small car park that is surrounded by trees, and as soon as I got out of the car I heard a Chiffchaff ‘singing’. I couldn’t see him,but as I tried to locate his whereabouts a Robin flew into a nearby tree and also began to sing. Moving off towards the beginning of the track that leads up to the summit of the hill I stopped to watch a Song Thrush hunting on the woodland edge where it borders a grassed area.
I soon came upon a patch of bluebells growing alongside some wild garlic whose flowers are almost finished. There were a few wood anemones still flowering, but they too are all but over; wild strawberry plants were flowering along a length of the path edge in dry shade, they have a long flowering period beginning in April and continuing until October, with fruits appearing throughout the summer. It was lovely walking in the dappled shade of the woodland, listening to the birds singing and coming across flowers that gave me the opportunity to make a stop on the fairly steep upward climb. A special find was a sunlit Early Spotted Orchid growing beneath the trees. The presence of this delightful bloom, together with that of bluebells and wood anemones is a sign of an ‘old wood’, indicating that this area has never been anything other than woodland.
There was a pretty patch of little blue/purple dog violets and the surprise of a Cowslip plant on a steep bank; this one must have strayed from the grassy downland on the other side of the hill; the more usual habitat of Cowslips.
At the top of the hill you emerge from the woodland onto a surprisingly large expanse of open grassy heathland. There were large patches of yellow flowers growing here, taking a closer look I saw there were of two separate species; I recognised rock rose, but was unfamiliar with the other. Looking it up when I got home I realised it was Hoary Rockrose, one of the plants named on the information board in the car park that is apparently very scarce in the British Isles.
The views from the top here are truly spectacular, extending from the Little Orme around and across Rhos-on-Sea and Colwyn Bay with the mountains of Snowdonia to the west. The only downside, at least from this side of the hilltop, was the traffic noise arising from the busy A55.
Turning around I walked across to the other side of the summit, passing through a shrubby area, the woodland edge, where there are shrubs and small trees growing. Here, Hawthorn is in full bloom and I stopped to watch a furry bumblebee as she burrowed into the leafy debris on the ground beneath.
I discovered another early purple orchid plant here, this one had an earlier, or perhaps even last year’s, dried flower spike attached.
I reached the true summit of the hill, which has a concrete trig point on it that is part of the nationwide network built by the Ordnance survey to create their maps of the UK in the old days before computers.There is also a board depicting how the ancient hill fort may have looked. I was very surprised to come across an extensive patch of orchids here, I roughly counted them and estimated at least 100 flowers.
The summit of Bryn Euryn was once occupied by a small but strong fortification. This may have been the ‘Bear’s Den’ mentioned by Gidas the Wise and thought to have been a stronghold of Cynlas the ‘Red Butcher’, king in Rhos around the middle of the sixth century. Only the faint traces of the limestone rampart’s foundations are visible today, protruding through the turf and ringing the summit of the hill, to remind us of its former importance.
It was much quieter and more peaceful on this side of the hill and I sat for a while enjoying the sunshine and the view out to sea and across to the Little Orme. Two Red Admiral butterflies were flying around the nearby shrubbery, one kept attempting to sun itself on a bramble leaf, the other kept disturbing it, the basking one chased after its disturber then returned to the same spot etc. etc. It took a lot of patience to get the photograph.
Even trickier to photograph was this Speckled Wood. Once again there were two of the insects chasing one another – these little butterflies are especially territorial, but I wanted to get a photograph as they were much paler in colour than the ones I had been seeing in the garden. That made getting the photograph even harder, as when they did land it was on dried leaves and they were so well camouflaged I couldn’t find them through the lens.
There are some beautiful trees growing here, including Ash, whose leaves are quite well grown now.
They brought to mind the old country rhyme about their predicting the forthcoming summer weather:-
“Ash before oak, look for a soak, oak before ash, look for a splash”
I had a quick look at a neighbouring oak and would say they were pretty much on a level, so hopefully that means some rain, but not too much.