To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
The second of this week’s posts about our stay on Ynys Gybi, at the tip of Anglesey.
Now, even I know Anglesey’s good for wildflowers. Lots of uncultivated heathland, much of it on sandy soil and a good deal of it on cliffs us humans can’t get to. Ideal.
And then this year we’ve also had our late, slow Spring. So when we arrived in Anglesey this last Saturday it was like a party and all the wildflowers had come out to meet us. ‘Lots of them are a month late,’ the friendly woman at Anglesey Outdoors Centre where we were staying told us, ‘So they’re all here at once.’
Let’s have a look at them then, the cliffs up towards South Stack where we saw most of them, and some of the paintings Sarah did of them and the place while we were there.
And here to show us round is Sarah, who knows about wildflowers, whereas I am just the pupil.
Sarah here… with a wildflower feast!
Before we set off for Anglesey I say to a friend that I’m a little sad that we’ve not been in May, as that’s when my favourite spring flower is out – the spring squill. It is a lovely flower. It is ‘locally common on coasts of West Britain and East ireland, and scare or absent elsewhere. It grows within sight of the sea.’ (From the Collins Complete Guide to British Wild Flowers).
Imagine my delight then when we arrive in Anglesey… as soon as we walk up onto the cliff… it is covered in spring squill.
Spring squill – one of my favourite flowers.
They grow low to the ground, especially in cliff top locations… and at first you don’t always notice them, but once you do, first one, then another… you realise that underfoot is studded with these gorgeous blue flowers. The dark blue anthers I find particularly attractive. You can see them very clearly here in this picture , six of them stop white filaments surrounding the dark blue central ovary.
Here is a spring squill, ready to be painted… (please note, I only picked one, it is abundant here and I have pressed it to add to my herbarium).
And here is the painting…
We’ve strolled down to the beach at Porth Dafarch, about 300 yards from where we are staying at Anglesey Outdoors. A magnificent beach. Golden sand, surrounded by rock pools, accessible cliffs and blue water. Ideal!
The beach at Porth Dafach.
Our first explore is of the cliffs you can see here on the far side of the bay. We then cross the beach and walk along the cliff path on the opposite side.
Along the cliff path, the rocks are full of plants…
A mixture of white, lilac, yellow, blue, pink and green…
Sea thrift (Armeria maritima). Widespread and locally abundant; mainly coastal. For me this flower defines British clifftops.
Sheep’s bit scabious (Jasione montana). A downy biennial that grows in dry grassland and on coastal cliffs. Widespread but local, and commonest in the west and near the sea.
Haven’t been able to identify this…. any ideas? (Sorry plant ID fans I have omitted to photograph the leaves, the leaves behind are ivy, not belonging to this flower spike).
Sea campion (Silene uniflora). Widespread and locally common around the coast.
Kidney vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria). Perennial found on calcareous grassland and coastal slopes.
Sea thrift, and sea plantain (Plantago maritima), both common around coasts.
Sea mayweed (Tripleurospermum maritimum). Lots of these ‘daisy’ like flowers which I thought were oxeye daisy, but my guidebook suggests sea mayweed – widespread around coasts.
Every crevice is home to someone… this is another daisy (Bellis perennis).
Walking back along the road to our home for the weekend, the roadside verge is full of life…
The roadside verge.
Red campion and buttercup.
Frothy heads of the a white umbellifer… there are a number of similar plants, but I think this is probably wild carrot (Daucus carota).
Red campion (Silene dioica).
Herb-Robert (Geranium robertianum). A lovely straggling annual that grows everywhere.
I’m guessing this is a member of the cabbage family (judging from the arrangement of flowers and seedheads), possibly common scurvygrass (Coclearia officinalis) which is common around coastal walls and cliffs.
This is a stitchwort, of which there are several. I think this is greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea). Widespread and common but lovely nonetheless.
And look…. look closely at the blue flower.
The last bluebells are still here…
And on the hillsides the gorse is abundantly flowering
And even the trees are in flower… here’s the flowers of a sycamore tree – which provide excellent food for bees – you can see a bumble bee in the top left flower. It’s a black bumble bee with an orange ‘tail’.
The next day we head to the cliffs again, and this time keep walking.
Cliff walking. Beautiful.
More of those lovely daisy flowers. Sea mayweed.
And sheep’s bit scabious.
Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea).
And huge clover flowers.
More spring squill… you could almost miss it if you didn’t look.
Bird’s foot trefoil.
We stop here to set up a Skype conversation with our friend Mandy in Western Australia.
I’m looking forward to showing Mandy the wildflower heaven we are sitting in.
We don’t reach Australia… but while we’re trying, this creature crawls up Ronnie’s trousers…
A relative is nearby… looks like he’s drunk on nectar…
We carry on amidst total abundance of flowers.
Sheep’s bit scabious close up – you can see the purple pollen.
We stop for lunch, and for a bit of plant ID.
‘In the field.’ I’m researching this post.
This is very interesting. It’s called lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica). I have seen this in marshy fields, but never up on a cliff top. It’s a semi-parasitic plant which grows on the roots of other plants – it extracts nutrients from the roots of other plants through tiny white suckers on its own roots.
More lousewort, growing abundantly here.
Every crevice is full… the plant is stonecrop (Sedum anglicum), which is very common especially in West Britain and Ireland, often tinged red as this one is. And you can see grey lichen on the bare rock.
Flowers of stonecrop.
And more sea thrift, enjoying a clifftop seaview.
Sea campion and sea thrift.
Wild thyme (Thymus polytrichus), forming mats of tiny green leaves and faintly aromatic purple flowers.
Life is everywhere… shiney green beetle on ubiquitous yellow daisy-like flower… maybe a hawkbit or hawkweed… This yellow daisy-like flower is one of many similar ones, much like the white umbellifers… which fall into the ‘difficult to ID plants’….
Don’t know what this one’s called?
And finally… we arrive at the cliffs at South Stack. We visit the lighthouse – see Ronnie’s previous post – and then go to find this unremarkable looking yellow flower…
Spatulate fleawort, the yellow flower, which is only found on these cliffs in the whole world.
A closer look.
And we wander home… along abundant roadside verges and blue skies.
And lovely blue-eyed speedwell (Veronica persica).
Finally, nearly back home, and there’s red valerian (Centhranthus ruber) in flower – a flower I consider to be a later summer flower, and yet I’ve seen lots of spring flowers too… just proving that ‘there all here at once’ indeed. Lovely. Quite lovely. Heaven indeed.
See also ‘To the Lighthouse’ about our visit to the South Stack Lighthouse.