Monday, 16 July 2012

Our silver studded blues

There’s only one colony of silver studded blues in Snowdonia and that’s at Hafod Garegog National Nature Reserve, between Porthmadog and Beddgelert. It’s one of only six sites in Wales and the only site in the UK on wet peatland, but this summer of wet weather could wipe it out.

They need the help of black ants. The females lay their eggs singly on stalks of heather where they detect suitable ant pheromones. Next spring the resultant larvae are either picked up by the ants or crawl into the nearest ants’ nest, where they enjoy a warm and humid environment, safely protected from predators, with the ants collecting protection money in the form of a sugary secretion. Larvae crawl out of the nest to feed on tender shoots of heather before pupating, sprouting blue wings (or brown if they are females) and flying off to mate. 

At Hafod Garegog they can usually be seen in July and the first half of August with individuals living for just a few days. Without warmth and sunshine they won’t mate and that would be a disaster from which they can’t recover. These butterflies are weak fliers so there is no chance of new blood flying in from another colony, such as the Great Orme. 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Bodnant Welsh Food - food from the Vale of Ffestiniog

Business was brisk at Furnace Farm Shop, part of Bodnant Welsh Food, on its first Saturday. From the car park we followed the smell of baking bread. At the fruit and veg display I filled a brown paper bag with broad beans and placed them in a large wicker basket; much more pleasing than a plastic bag into a trolley.

The deli counter was temptation, full of new tastes to explore including cheeses from the on-site dairy. A few slices of air cured ham from Trealy Mon at £45 per kilo. Sausage rolls were more to our taste - watching a film later that night the last roll was sliced into wafer thin rondels and shared round.

Good to see Purple Moose beers on display and Cynan’s shiitake mushrooms (fresh and dried) from Nantmor.

Top marks to master butcher Ian Miles for the meat counter, his salt marsh lamb sourced from the Vale of Ffestiniog. Black beef even more local with just a fourteen mile round trip to the abattoir and back. We chose minted lamb henry for our supper with the broad beans and our own freshly dug new potatoes.

The setting is good. Across the farmyard, now courtyard, an ice cream parlour and a long thin cattle shed converted into a tea room. In a corner the National Bee Keeping Centre for Wales. Plenty to see and do. Upstairs is a posh restaurant and on the top floor a cookery school.

This is what it looked like just before the official opening:

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Our Angel of the North?

11th July 2012 and the crane was hoisting the final components on top of the sail shape, slate sculptures. Will this be our ‘Angel of the North’? 

Howard checks the alignment

The project is generating a lot of interest – while I was filming I got talking to a couple on their first visit in thirty years. They could not believe how much things had changed and said they would be back next year to see the sculptures unveiled from their scaffold.