Sustaining the wildlife of Llandyfeisant

Nestled below our Castle Woods nature reserve at Dinefwr, Llandeilo, is the beautiful and secluded Llandyfeisant Church. For much of its life it depended on the generosity of the family of the estate, and was the family church of the Dynevors. It closed as a parish church in 1961 as numbers attending services from the tiny parish were so low, and the building itself in a state of disrepair.

Volunteer raking up "hay"

Volunteer raking up “hay”

Surrounding the church building, the graveyard remains a secluded and sylvan spot, a haven for wildlife and a peaceful location for rest and contemplation by its human visitors. The inscriptions on the many gravestones have been compiled, and it is notable that the majority of the people were involved directly or indirectly with the estate. As well as members of the Dynevor family, the stones record the faithful service over many decades of servants to the family, their burial paid for by their employers.

WTSWW manage the graveyard for wildlife as well as for visitors, with a summer haycut to enhance the wildlife value of the grassland. The site is shaded by the mature trees that surround it, influencing the wild flowers that bloom here- comfrey, red campion, dog’s mercury and bluebells in the spring and summer. In the sunnier areas, buttercups, red clover and meadow cranesbill thrive.

This month we’ve worked with the Carmarthenshire volunteer team to cut the vegetation- but late enough to allow all these plants to have finished flowering and set seed before we do so. We mow and rake away the cut vegetation, which will help these flowering plants thrive even and compete against some of the more tussocky, competitive grasses that also grow here, like cocksfoot, and which would otherwise dominate. Keeping the vegetation low in the later part of the year also helps another feature of Llandyfesaint thrive- its displays of snowdrops, that are such wonderful heralds of spring in the woods.

Areas of scrub and taller vegetation are maintained around the edge of the graveyard, providing continuity of habitat for birds, for reptiles- we were treated to beautiful views of a juvenile slow worm as we mowed the grass this month- and providing fruit such as blackberries for the birds and small mammals.

More information on how to visit Castle Woods nature reserve and Llandyfeisant Churchyard