A distinctive feature of the West Wales countryside is the ‘clawdd’. Translated it means hedge, dyke or embankment. Although the term really refers to our ‘stone hedges’ – stone-faced earth banks built as stockproof boundaries to fields or to divide land. Patterns of stonework vary from area to area depending on local styles and the availability and type of stone. The most common Welsh style has rows of vertically set stones with the stones wedged together to create a strong and stable outer layer for the earth bank. Let us tell you all about two storey nature reserves.
On roadsides and away from grazing animals, the stone walls become colonised by plants and grasses until the stone is completely hidden. They may look like soft grassy banks but bear that stone construction in mind if you are driving down a narrow Welsh lane! Often the clawdd is topped by a hedge and has a ditch to one side to gain height and it is this combination of wall, hedge and ditch which makes it into a remarkable two-storey nature reserve. The top storey hedge can include beech, ash, hawthorn, blackthorn, wild plum, dog roses and laburnum to name a few, all providing food and shelter for wildlife.
The first storey clawdd with its earth core is a haven for mice, voles and other small mammals and insects – a wasps’ nest in the stone hedge just outside our house caused quite a problem last summer!
The combination of stone and earth in the clawdd is perfect for flowering plants and grasses and a high percentage of all recorded flowering plant species in Wales have been found in cloddiau. Foxglove, red campion, navelwort, jack-by-the-hedge, sorrel and the occasional garden escapee – the list is endless and the displays of blossom, flowers and seedheads a joy throughout the year.
The next time you are driving down a Welsh lane take a closer look at these wonderful two storey nature reserves.