To ‘the Point’

“Where are we going Mummy?”  piped up C from the back seat of the car.

“On an adventure, is that Ok?”I ask.

“Yes, that is Ok” she said, nodding

JoJo giggled in agreement.

It is 6pm and far too warm to contemplate starting the bedtime routine. Instead we can fit in one quick outing before the sun sets. Down along the country lanes we go, passing the imposing gateway to Picton Castle, after which the road narrows considerably to almost become a single track lane. The trees arch overhead, forming a canopy of green as we reach our final destination.

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Picton Point is the where the eastern and western Cleddau (pronounced cleth-aye) rivers meet. These rivers are quite special, and stretches of both have been afforded SSI status.  Apparently they are one of the best rivers in the UK for Otters. They also provide sanctuary for various species of Lamprey,  as well as the European Bullhead. Along the length of these two water courses, some 74km in total, exist several Special areas of conservation, with habitat for Marsh Fritillaries and Southern Damselflies.

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We started our exploration from under the boughs of an ancient sessile oak, stooped so low the bottom branch has been propped up.

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There is a waymarked walk along the banks of the Cleddau , left heads back inland , but C chooses to turn right along the path to the rope swing.DSC_0332 (Medium)

 

The tide was out. On the water, two kayakers quietly paddle along the estuary. Other than that our only company is wild.  I can here an oystercatcher in the distance, and jackdaws overhead. Seaweed crackles and pops underfoot as we make our way along the shore.

Gnarly tree roots protrude from the bank and dangle above us, reminding me of when Frodo hides from the Ring Wraiths.

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We trip trap over the boardwalk, a deep muddy tributary to the estuary beneath our feet. On all sides reeds rustle, and dragonflies flutter past their wings whirring mechanically. I think I saw a red darter, I can’t be sure as the light was dim and my camera too slow.

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Finally we reach the swing. I settle JoJo on the floor, where she amuses herself  with the shale. The rope dangles from the branches of an oak, thick and strong.C wanted a go, but at the same time was just a little bit afraid. She soon conquered her fear, she may be small but she is fierce!

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I stood and admired the view, out across the millpond calm water to Landshipping. Boats clinked, bobbing on the incoming tide. A small black bird, probably a Shag, flew low and straight over  the water.

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A gaggle of Canada geese flew past in V formation, honking loudly as they go.

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By now the light was beginning to fade so we retraced our steps, stopping to marvel at the piece of seahorse shaped deadwood.

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Picton point is a real hidden gem in Pembrokeshire’s crown of natural beauty. I find it is somewhere to go when the world becomes a little too fast. Here you can metaphorically press the pause for just an hour or so, and watch the comings and goings of riparian life.

 

 

 

Dr Beynon’s Bug Farm.

 

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How do you get to the Bug farm? Why,follow the dung beetles of course.

 

Day 22 wasn’t too wild and outdoorsy but it was very exciting! We were rather privileged to attend the official launch of one of Pembrokeshire’s newest and most innovative attractions, Dr Sarah Beynon’s Bug Farm. F happens to be related (in typical convoluted, Pembrokeshire fashion!) to Dr Beynon, so we were thrilled to be invited along.

Dr Sarah Beynon, (photo from cloud9management.co.uk )

Dr Beynon is an entomologist, TV presenter and insect farmer (quite a CV!).She is a fantastic ambassador for entomology, and an inspirational role model for girls (and boys) wanting to break into the world of science. Her enthusiasm for all things entomological is infectious. I have only met her in person once before this event, but even then could see how passionate she is about her subject. We took C and JoJo along for a visit a few months ago, and had the opportunity to see how Sarah can engage even the smallest child with Science. She took time to show C a hissing cockroach and managed to explain this wonderful, curious creature to her in simple terms. Making learning fun and accessible for all is something I feel strongly about, and it is definitely an ethos that the Bug farm shares.

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The website describes the bug farm as a ‘farm with a difference’. It is set within 100 acres of amazing Pembrokeshire countryside, with the city of St.Davids very close by. A lot has changed at the site since our last trip. The indoor play barn is now open, which is a very sensible addition to any child friendly Pembrokeshire ‘attraction’ . C thoroughly enjoyed balancing and running, and admiring the rather life like giant spiders    and beetles. that adorn the walls.

The walled garden is up and growing! The new bug museum is also open, full of interesting facts and displays.

There is also a bug farm trail around the site, which aims to show adults and children how farming can coexist with wildlife. For the culinary adventurer there is also the on site ‘Grub Kitchen’. Its all in the name, the kitchen’s fare is mainly based around entomophagy, although there are some non insect based options for the squeamish (including Lemonade scones!)

 The food looks and smells amazing. I haven’t had the chance to sample any of Andy’s (Sarah’s partner and head chef) cooking yet but i’m dying to give the’bug burger’ a go! The ‘Bombay Bug mix’ has also caught my eye. I love, love love Bombay mix, so figure this might be a gentle introduction into edible insects! The speeches and ribbon cutting ceremony started at 3pm. By this point C and JoJo were getting a wee bit tired and squirmy. I was concerned we might disturb proceedings, so we hid in the Tropical Insect Zoo for a bit!

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We missed the ribbon cutting but it was nice being able to explore the exhibits in peace. I love the displays, they are very clever and easily visible to little ones thanks to the handy steps!

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C and JoJo had a great time, with their noses pressed up against the glass tanks. C’s particular favourite was the scorpion exhibit. There is a button for a UV light, which makes the scorpion glow (if she obliges and doesn’t hide!). This is rather cool to see.

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C also likes the heated floor, she nearly fell asleep on it the first time we came!! There isn’t much information up around the insect enclosures, just Latin and common names on chalk boards. This is due to the fact that there are normally guided tours in this area. I still think it might be a nice idea to provide a leaflet with little take home facts and messages. I’m a sucker for info sheets, I think it’s just my inner ‘collector’ coming out!

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The collection also includes a gorgeous Rainbow Stag  beetle, a leaf cutter ant population all the way from Trinidad which is fascinating to watch as well as Stick insects.I officially heart stick insects. I used to have one as a Zoology student. It was called Nigel (yes, I do name all insects Nigel or Steve), and it used to travel around in a match box whenever I made return trips home to Ireland (On the plane. Note I now know this is probably not a good thing.)

We had a fab time and it was lucky that the sun shone down for the whole afternoon, showing Pembrokeshire off in its best light. If you ever happen to find yourself in this neck of the woods, I highly recommend a trip to the Bug Farm. I know a lot of people are down here at some point of 30 days wild, go and get up close and personal with some insects!