Natural Setting

trees and flowers

Cae Mabon is set in an oak forest by a rushing mountain river, Afon Fachwen. It adjoins the Padarn Country Park, one hundred acres of natural oak woodland. It is an excellent example of the indigenous forests of Wales, with most of the tree species native to these parts: oak, ash, birch, rowan, hazel, alder, willow, holly, blackthorn, hawthorn, beech, yew and pine.

On the Cae Mabon land you’ll also find apple, plum, pear, walnut, mulberry, quince, lime, aspen, elder, chestnut, wild cherry, sycamore and hornbeam. There are also some rather fine specimens of the eucalyptus, planted to remind Eric of his Aussie origins. The one in the top corner of the land by the track is especially magnificent.

There is also wild rose and honeysuckle as well as the ubiquitous ivy, bramble, bracken and fern. Himalayan balsam is also proving to be rather too vigorous. Up in the valley there are some rare mosses, and healthy lichens can be found in all shades of pale.

In the spring wild garlic grows along the riverbank and primroses, bluebells, violets, foxgloves, harebells and many other wildflowers are to be found in abundance.

Fish and birds

The Afon Fachwen (‘little white river’) gathers its waters from Elidir Fawr and flows into Llyn Padarn 150 metres below the Cae Mabon boundary. There used to be a trout fishing lake higher up the hill. The fishing rights were held exclusively by the managers of the Dinorwic Slate Quarry. Any quarryman caught poaching would lose his job.

But one year in the 1950s there was a terrific storm and the lake became dangerously full. That night the lake keeper was not in his nearby cottage (was he drunk or dead, no one knows) and so did not open the sluice gates to relieve the pressure.

Eventually the dam burst and a torrent of water hurtled down the hillside, scattering boulders everywhere. The course of the river was changed forever. But the next morning the quarrymen’s wives filled baskets with fish plucked from the path of the flood and that night the quarrymen and their families ate one last fish supper!

Since then it’s been rare to see brown trout in the river pools, though herons are often spotted there so there must be something to make it worth their while. Llyn Padarn itself contains trout and, in its deeper recesses, rare Arctic char, trapped there since the last Ice Age. Migrating salmon are sometimes seen from the old bridge at the foot of the lake as they make their way back to their spawning grounds.

As well as herons it’s also common to see and hear buzzards and ravens circling above our little valley. Most of the common woodland birds are also nearby including blue tit, coal tit, chaffinch, wren, nuthatch, blackbird, thrush, magpie, wood pigeon, jay, dipper and woodpecker.

Insects, lizards and mammals

On a warm day small, 10 cm long lizards may be spotted sunning themselves or scurrying into the rocks. There are plenty of grey squirrels leaping about the trees. Occasionally we see hedgehogs and there are many molehills, which sometimes move as the moles clear their tunnels. There’s no evidence of badgers in the near vicinity but they may not be far away. The same with foxes. So far – fingers crossed – they haven’t found our ducks. The largest semi-wild animals to be seen in the woods are the wild mountain goats. They’re splendid looking creatures though unfortunately have an appetite for tree (including apple) bark, so have to be kept away from our land and orchards.

In late summer one of the loveliest sights is an iridescent blue dragonfly shimmering by. Plenty of other insects keep themselves mostly out of sight but the one you will feel (between mid-May and early August) is the midge. Generally they come out for a couple of hours in the early evening, though occasionally when it is damp they may luck about all day. Come prepared!

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