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Wyn the Warden and Dinefwr Park

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Rachael Garside Rachael Garside | 14:31 UK time, Thursday, 19 January 2012

Looking out for hazardous trees, feeding fallow deer and pregnancy-testing a native breed of rare cattle - all in a day's work for countryside warden Wyn Davies.

Wyn has worked as the Area Warden for the National Trust in Carmarthenshire for the past ten years and even though it's winter, there's plenty of work to do.

Wyn Davies, area warden for the National Trust in Carmarthenshire.

Wyn Davies, Area Warden for the National Trust in Carmarthenshire.

"This is the perfect time to maintain the pathways, mend fencing and signs and survey for any potentially dangerous trees" Wyn told me as we took a walk around near Llandeilo, "Christmas is behind us, we've had the shortest day and there are already signs that spring is just around the corner. I saw a horse chestnut coming into bud the other day, and a few snowdrops appearing."

Wyn and I walked along a new footpath at Dinefwr - the 'Brown Path', not named after the colour of the terrain, but after the landscape architect Capability Brown, who visited Dinefwr in the eighteenth century and suggested the route from Newton House to the medieval castle, taking in some of the best views in this designed landscape on the way.

We passed a field of grazing White Park cattle, one of our native Welsh breeds which have been here for around a thousand years.

The herd has just been pregnancy-tested and of the 22 cows, 20 are in calf, which means there's a busy spring calving ahead.

We walked on through the deer park, home to around 120 fallow deer. The herd needs to be fed daily at this time of year with sugar beet. In the misty rain today, there was no sign of any deer - they'd taken shelter in the trees.

A fallow deer at Dinefwr Park by Steve Greaves.

A fallow deer in the woods at Dinefwr Park by Steve Greaves.

Dinefwr has one of the best collection of ancient trees in the country, with around three hundred trees thought to be more than four hundred years old.

Wyn talked about them as if they were family members, talking about their characters and saying how upset he gets if they lose one in a storm.

As he put it poetically, "In some ways, winter is the best time to see the trees because without their leaves, it's easier to appreciate their structure and majesty".

Through the ancient woodland, we headed down towards the oxbow lakes created by the river Towy.

At this time of year, the lakes are a haven for visiting wildfowl, hundreds of geese, ducks and other migratory birds stopping off in Wales to escape the arctic conditions of northern Europe.

There's a thriving otter population here as well, but no sign of them on our walk.

Finally we headed along the boardwalk, a meandering wooden pathway passing the millpond and paused to admire the Castle Oak, reputed to be the oldest tree in the park.

At around 800 years old, it was quite a sight. Wyn assured me it was also home to thousands of invertebrates, part of the reason that Dinefwr is the only park in Wales designated a national nature reserve.

A really enjoyable walk and a chance to escape the bustle of everyday life and an invitation to revisit Wyn and his work as a warden in the spring, his favourite time of year.

For more information on opening times at Dinefwr visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/dinefwr


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