Friday, 4 November 2016

St David's: October 2016: Part 2

Some more eclectica from Pembrokeshire. Selected images from our wanderings in and around St David's. There's always something new to see. But we always stay in the same place because it's great (and for those of you who have asked, you can find the details at Just keep away from the last week in October for Glowty, 'cos that's ours!).
A touch of the Halloween's about this one. And that's about as spooky as I'll get.
A Shaggy Inkcap. So what? Although these are common, there is so much about them that is fascinating and I'm going to bore you with some facts. Take its Latin name: Coprinus comatus. Coprinus means 'living on dung' - not that this is particularly apt for this species. Comatus means hairy - a reference to the shaggy scales that stand out on its cap. This Inkcap starts out as a white cylinder and then gradually morphs into the 'normal' mushroom shape seen above. And as it matures something rather wonderful happens. It starts to digest itself or autolyse and in the process it starts turning black from the edges inwards until just the stalk remains. The black is caused by the liquefaction of the tissues as they are gradually converted to a mucilaginous mass. Technically this is an example of deliquescence (water absorption) and this activates an hydrolytic enzyme called chitinase, which digests the chitin of the fungal cell walls. Why does this happen? Removal of the tissue exposes the spores for dispersal so this is a sacrificial seed dispersal mechanism. Ah, I hear you ask, aren't the spore walls made of chitin and why aren't they digested as well? Nature's thought of this and has the answer: the spore walls are made of thicker chitin and are resistant to the enzyme. I think that's pretty smart and adds to my pleasure at looking at these. And yours now that you know all about them.
Apparently the Shaggy Inkcap is what is known as a breakfast mushroom. Meaning that it doesn't keep very well and needs to be eaten as soon after picking as possible. They are better eaten young when they are still cylindrical and they have, apparently, a mild flavour. As they get older and start to blacken, cooking them produces lots of (black) liquid. For those who are interested, here's a recipe for Inkcap Supreme. Plaudits to anyone brave enough to try it. Let me know if you do - and survive the experience.
Looking west from the glorious stretch of sands that are Newgale. Around 1.75 miles from end to end and a great place for a leisurely stroll.....
......Or for paddling in your clothes if you are young enough. Enduring childhood memories in the making?
Typical coastal path scenery on one of our favourite walks - a 6 mile circular route from Solva taking in St Elvis's Chapel (yes, really. He taught St David everything he knew) and then back along the cliffs. Here's a fact for you: at the back of St David's Cathedral there's a contemporary etching of St Elvis and it clearly shows the curled lip and quiff that he was reknowned for. Apparently people came from miles around to see them, including St David himself.
This time around really took it out of the old man.
The last part of the walk taking us along the creek back into Solva. Small but perfectly formed with everything you could want - pub, cafes, decent Welsh gift shop, art galleries. Plus some industrial archaeology in the form of a bank of impressive lime kilns.
A Praying Mantis shadow-boxing at the Bug Farm just outside of St David's. A new attraction (was it there last year?) with live displays, an interesting museum and a caf√©, at which there is the chance of trying some bug-containing bits and pieces. We felt no need to indulge as we've 'done' insects elsewhere on our travels. One minor cavil from a pedant (me!): they are using the term 'bug' in the widest sense (i.e. all things deemed creepy crawly) rather than the strictly zoological sense. Maybe Insect Farm would be a more accurate, but less 'sexy', descriptor?
Here's a thought. The male Praying Mantis is eaten soon after mating by the female. Some say this is a sacrifice so that the female has sufficient nutrition for the subsequent egg bearing etc. So the male sacrifices itself for the sake of his young. It strikes me that there are similarities between this act and the sacrifice of the Shaggy Inkcap for the sake of its spores. OK, I'd better go and lie down in a dark room for a while.
Just one example of a non-bug that can be seen at the Bug Farm. Giant Flower Beetle, from Central Africa originally and now breeding prolifically in their new habitat.
Giant Orange Spotted Assassin Beetle, another non-bug at the Bug Farm.

A collection of Birch Polyphores by the roadside on the way to Lawrenny. The largest was about 15 inches across so were not difficult to spot. What's the proper collective noun for these? A plateful? A radius? My field guide says that these are edible but does stress the distinction between edible and palatable. Another guide says "edible when young and tender but not often collected due to the bitter flesh". I'm not tempted.
Our last walk of the week and this was a 4 mile linear one from Tenby to Saundersfoot. This is the view looking back to Tenby with Caldey Island in the background. Although it was along the coast, much of the footpath took us through woods. This was OK but it's always nice to be able to see the sea when you are walking along side it! But it was a good walk for exercise as it had 320 steps up and down - we didn't do the counting but someone else did. I wonder why they did? Did they set out to do it or did it just occur to them whilst on the walk? If the latter, how accurate is their count of 320?
In a few place we came across a few Common Violets, which was surprising as they generally bloom in May - July.
Strange things by the wayside Part 28: not sure what this notice was about but, taking it at face value, it seems to be related to an accident at some time. A cycling accident? Who knows? Even Mr Google couldn't tell me anything but there is a holiday let called The Leap nearby and it's owned by the Powell family. I think I'll leave it there: even my curiosity has limits.
A curlew on the mud flats at Lawrenny Quay.
A teaser for the subject of my next, and final, posting from St David's.

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