Flowers on the Mawddach Trail


Last week I managed a day out walking along the disused railway track which has become an excellent trail, running along the south side of the Mawddach estuary. I blogged about the walk itself over on Woolwinding – there are woolly connections, honest – but I was entranced by the plants and flowers too. And here’s the place to go on and on and on about them…

Most of the trail is bordered by woods, which finally seem to be catching up; even the ashes are coming properly into leaf. It’s been a peculiar spring all round, and the early parts of the trail in particular were full of hawthorn blossom,


which will now be falling on the path like snow as we have, thankfully, finally had some rain. (I never thought I’d type a phrase like that – oh, please don’t let me have jinxed the whole summer!)

As you’d expect from a walk by the sea, there was plenty of thrift, Armeria maritima:


which was particularly impressive all along the seaward end of the walk – as you move further inland there are more reed beds and mud flats, but the first half certainly belongs to the thrift. A couple of years ago I was in Shetland at this time of year, and the thrift was noticeably good there too: this must be its prime period, weird spring or no weird spring.

And the first half also belongs to the rocks,

thrift in setting

and the lichen, some of which made the most extraordinary patterns. Can anyone explain these?


Oh, I guess it’s just symmetrical growth etc, etc, but the patterns are rather lovely!

Unsurprisingly, there were clumps of sea campion, Silene maritima:

sea campion

I’m a sucker for all the campions, really. It’s always a sign of the start of summer when our hedgerows start turning crimson with red campion; maybe that’s why I love it so much. Hang on, not all campions. My affection for the campions and their relatives doesn’t extend to soapwort (or that feckin’ soapwort, which is how I generally refer to it), which I spend a lot of time trying to eliminate from one corner of the garden. Agh.

Sigh. Back to the Trail, and the ferns which were just unrolling their fronds.


I love ferns, and it’s just as well, living where I do. Ferns, I can reconcile myself to, like, love and even introduce. Soapwort? Nah… even though the crafty, woolly, side of me says I ought to give it a go for its cleansing properties. No. NO. Sorry. Guess what I’ve been spending the last few days pulling up?


We had plenty of time and so took a detour, following one of the small rivers that join the estuary. Again the path was easy, even though we had left the railway behind us, because the whole estuary had once been devoted to boat building; there were even traces of an old jetty. And more than trace of ramsons, Allium ursinum:


which I call wild garlic, though I have been corrected by someone who gave that name to what I call field garlic, aka Allium oleraceum. Which is it? Are either of them really wild garlic? Ramsons certainly smell like it, especially in these woods. Just as well I like garlic!

There were many more ferns here,


and I became particularly entranced with the contrasting colour of new growth on the trees:


I’m sure I can use this colour combination in knitting!

We returned to the walk, made it to the George III pub where we had tea – no, really; you don’t want beer when you’ve still got a couple of miles to do, well I don’t, anyway; I’d never get going again – and had enough of a break to make continuing a little difficult, beer or no beer. It was towards the end of this last stretch that the foot issue began to rear its ugly head (I do love a mixed metaphor), and we found ourselves beside the river Wnion,


bordered by umbellifers and on the far side – must be a garden escape – huge gunneras.

We had actually gone down to the river trying to identify another, more mysterious plant. There were great drifts of it, pink drifts, but a pale pink, not an in-your-face ‘I’m a campion and just deal with it’ pink. Unfortunately most of the drifts were inaccessible and it’s quite hard to identify a plant when you have to look at it through binoculars (at least they stay still, unlike the little bobbing birds – not dippers, something else). But down by the river we could get close:

Pink purslane

Pink purslane, Montia sibirica.

To the best of my recollection, I’ve not seen this before; certainly not in such quantity. According to my battered Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe, it’s ‘scattered’. Maybe it is, in one sense, but not here. Here – admittedly a fairly contained area and in the damp woods it likes – it’s amazingly prolific. And gorgeous!

What a treat: a lovely walk enlivened by beautiful flowers, and one I’ve not spotted before. Is there a botanical equivalent to twitching? If so, I’ve just scored another tick…


18 Comments Add yours

  1. croftgarden says:

    On the garlic conundrum – the problem with common names is that not only do they vary from region to region but also from person to person. I’ve only heard wild garlic used for allium ursinum, but I’m sure others may differ.
    Pink purslane is a North American species (garden escape) and is widespread.
    That’s enough botanical nerdery what I really meant to say was how much I enjoyed your walk and the wild flowers. The countryside in June can be as beautiful as any garden.

    1. kate says:

      Please keep up the nerdery – I’m an apprentice and I need more, more! (I also need another wild flower guide as mine has disintegrated and I can’y find my old Wild Flower Key.) I’m amazed I haven’t spotted pink purslane before at all; I clearly need to rehabilitate it to the ways of gardens with damp woody bits…

      Quite agree with you on wild flowers and gardens. I must go and see if the bee orchids are out yet – fingers crossed.

      1. croftgarden says:

        I still use Blamey, Fitter & Fitter and also Rose Wild Flower Key (I think there is a new edition). If I get stuck it’s Stace (New British Flora) or the Vegetative Key. I leave the lower plants and fungi to Himself, but I’m having a go at grasses, rushes and sedges this year.
        Keeps my nerdy bits happy and at least flowers don’t fly off or move! Sometimes I’m too lazy and just enjoy and admire

        1. kate says:

          I love B, F and F but that’s the one that’s just fallen into individual sections (I think Blamey’s illustrations are as good as any, and I actively dislike the new Collins one). Somewhere there’s the New British Flora, but I could definitely do with updating the Key anyway. There’s a mission for a rainy day; spend time in a real bookshop looking through flower books. Fortunately we have a good small shop locally, with a good nat hist section…

          You are brave with grasses – yikes. I keep meaning to get really, really good at ferns, myself…

  2. Christina says:

    Thank you for sharing your delightful walk, I truely enjoyed myself on even this virtual trail. Christina

    1. kate says:

      It’s a little smasher, and the wild flowers are amazing. Sigh…

  3. VP says:

    *sigh* – that’s my favourite cycle ride in the whole world. I fear your posts are solely aimed at tempting me back for a visit ASAP!

    1. kate says:

      You’re going to have to come back! Seriously, it’s the most delightful cycle ride, and great for people with mobility issues, too. Except the gates can be a bit awkward – but boy are they worth mastering… (Though I did see some people get their tandem tangled.)

  4. Pauline says:

    Lovely walk, thanks for sharing it with us. We have Montia sibirica in our woodland, it is obviously happy as it is spreading around in various areas, never seemingly coming up in the same place 2 years running. Its such a lovely little plant.

    1. kate says:

      It was great – and now the weather’s gone off again. I must think about getting my hands on some M. sibirica – can’t believe I’ve not come across it before – and there’s a nearby garden where I think it may have spread. I’m sure they’ll want to offload a little…

  5. morrolesssocks says:

    I love sea pinks. There is an abundance in Shetland & yesterday I discovered a happy clump growing under my bedroom window through the paving stones!
    Lovely photos, they’ve given me a welcome sense of calm this busy evening 🙂

    1. kate says:

      Oh, you lucky thing! I adore pinks as well; they’re so reminiscent – for me – of childhood near to the coast of Sutherland… and glad you enjoyed the pics. You can’t fail on some days – conditions are just perfect.

      (Must, must, must get back to Shetland soon!)

  6. Cathy says:

    What a treat indeed – thanks for sharing it Kate. I loved the picture of the swathe of thrift in the ‘fold’ of the rocks

    1. kate says:

      Those rocks are just gorgeous. Glaciation, as indeed is the whole estuary (my friend is a geologist – she does rocks, I do human contribution – archaeologist)…

  7. Ah, soapwort. Yes. Lots of that here too. And self-seeded ferns, which are far more welcome, though given how large they get I think I could soon reach a tipping point with those too…

    I was supposed to be doing some work, but I spotted the title of your blog post and it seduced me. I love the Mawddach Estuary, so thank you. Besides, worth the longer break to read you rhapsodizing about pinkness… And I agree about the rain, although I am ready for it to stop again now, my water butts are full and my soil has had a plentiful soaking.

    As to the lichen patterns, I don’t really care that the explanation for them is so mundane, in many ways it just enhances the beauty.

    1. kate says:

      You might want to try and reconcile yourself to soapwort. Just saying. I’ve been waging war with it for 11 years. Ferns, no problems… soapwort: AGHHHHHHHH. And I can’t think what came over me with the pink thing. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are pinks and pinks, and some are repellent. I’ve also come to the conclusion that there’s a heck of a lot of pink in my garden for someone who doesn’t like pink.

      (I’ve still got one water butt with a bit of room, so that’s why it’s still raining. I’ll tell it to stop soon.)

  8. woodlousehouse says:

    Lovely walk – I could smell the garlic 🙂

    1. kate says:

      Thanks – and I’ve just put my boots on again, and I definitely can!

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