Friday, July 20, 2018

Outstanding and Famous Speakers of the last 150 years

As the 150th Anniversary year comes closer to drawing to a close, the weather has been so wonderful that it has been hard to find time to sit behind a computer and do more work on the pictures we took from the Society archives.

However I have managed to place another page into the 150th Anniversary pages on the website regarding Outstanding and Famous Speakers of the last 150 years (well as far as 1922) which us where I have got to for now.

From Fridtjof Nansen ...


Through Winston Churchill...


To George Mallory ...


There have been some incredibly well known names who have spoken to the Society and to the public on behalf of the Society.

It was in this spirit that we put on the wonderfully successful Iolo Williams lecture at the start of our 150th anniversary year.




Monday, July 2, 2018

Insole Court Tree Walk: Saturday, 9th June

Main text and photos:Bruce McDonald

Tree notes (below) by Chris Powell





As part of Insole Court’s Heritage Day, Cardiff Naturalists’ Society agreed to organise a tree walk which was led by Chris Powell, ex-Cardiff City Parks department and currently leading walks in Dyffryn Gardens. There is only limited information on the trees at Insole; a list of champion trees on the Cardiff City website and another list derived from a walk around the garden in 1902 with Tony Titchen. The notes from Tony’s walk were helpful although inevitably in the intervening 16 years some trees had disappeared and there has been some new plantings of, principally, Acers.


Chris kindly passed on his own notes that were the basis for this tour and what follows is essentially what was covered on his perambulation. Fine weather was on offer and a large group of 31 assembled outside the Visitor Centre to look at the trees. With some of the paths narrow and winding a group of around a dozen would have been ideal and with over 30 it was inevitable that people at the back did not always hear what was said.  It seems that a self-guided tree trail would be a good idea and we hope that the Society will be able to design and publish one as part of its decades long involvement with Insole.


The house was acquired in 1856/7 by James Harvey Insole (1821-1901) who had extensive coal and shipping interests. The garden developed initially in 1861 by local nurseryman William Treseder and then Insole’s daughter Violet added a national collection of Irises and a large rockery containing an extensive collection of alpines which has since disappeared. A horse Chestnut avenue was planted in 1882. Cardiff Council then acquired the house in 1932 by compulsory purchase for the creation of Western Avenue and new housing.


Today there is a large collection of interesting trees some of which are Glamorgan and Welsh National Champions. The mid Victorian period was a time of great interest in gardening spurred on by the plant hunting expeditions that were introducing new plants from North and South America , Asia and in particular China. Plant hunters like George Forrest introduced Rhododendrons from the Himalayas and Ernest Wilson added new species from China. The fashion for planting exotics was spurred on by the new found wealth acquired as a result of the Industrial Revolution and there was considerable competition to outdo neighbouring estates such as Bute Park, Dyffryn Gardens and the Plymouth estate in St Fagans. Insole Court includes a good range of New Zealand plants as well as others from the northern hemisphere which were able to thrive in this area of Wales


Tree notes by Chris Powell


Acer Lawn formerly a rose Garden




Acer glade



Magnolia Kobus borealis Northern Japanese Magnolia larger than species but shy flowering.



Acer crataegifolium Hawthorn Maple Japan having yellow flowers and prettily marked bark.



Cornus nuttallii Pacific Dogwood W N America introduced 1835. Large bracts appear in May sometimes flushed pink.



Cotoneaster x waterii – Hybrid Cotoneaster with upright fruits and flowers



From drive looking beyond the hedge



Sequioa sempervirens (Californian Redwood) introduced by Archibald Menzies in 1794 can reach over 100m in Californian forests soft and spongy bark which is fire resistant. Slightly drooping branches. Grow on seaward side of coastal mountain ranges. Tallest tree in Devon in 1970 reached 40m  but are often struck by lightning in Britain. Long lived, 500-700 years average but can live up to 2000 years



Sequoiadendron giganteum Wellingtonia having the widest in girth (24m) grows in the western slopes of Sierra Nevada in California. Said to be the oldest living thing in the world. 3000 years plus. Reddish brown bark similar to the giant redwood.



Pinus nigra (Austrian pine) has roughish greyish brown bark introduced to Britain in 1835 often as a wind break.



Trachycarpus fortunei Chusan Palm introduced in 1849 winter hardy



Alongside drive



Eriobotrya japonica (Loquat) from Japan. (Wales Champion 2017). Large shrub or small tree growing 6-10 m with blackish bark cracked with age. Leaves deeply veined and brown and woolly on underside. The flowers are white hawthorn like followed by yellow pear shaped fruit which ripen the following summer. It seldom fruits in Britain although its large evergreen leaves make for an exotic effect. (Rosaceae)



2 Magnolia grandifloras from SE America usually grown against a south wall on houses. The large white flowers are scented and appear in July and August.



Pinus nigra var. caramanica Crimea Pine from West Asia broad conical habit more compact habit than Pinus nigra introduced in 1798. Thrives in chalky soil. Trunk divides into several stems.



Alongside house



Gleditsia triacanthos Honey Locust E United states introduced in 1700. Pinnate leaves resembling mimosas flowers greenish followed by flattened shining brown seed pods.



Gingkgo biloba Maidenhair tree ancestors found in Britain 160 million years ago. Male and female trees. Introduced in 1727



Magnolia grandiflora Bull Bay Magnolia – S E United States often grown against south facing walls. Large creamy white flowers produced throughout summer and able to be smelt through open windows. Lime tolerant



Myrtus luma syn M. apiculata. Chilean Myrtle Wales Champion in 2005 with orange brown bark peeling white. Dark green fragrant leaves with white single flowers appearing in late summer and early autumn. Naturalised in parts of southern Ireland, the red and black fruits are edible and sweet.



Sophora tetraptera – Kowhai from New Zealand. Leaves pendulous and with 20-40 leaflets In May yellow flowers appear in clusters followed by winged seed pods. Rare Wales Champion 12m tall in 2017. Introduced in 1772.






Kowhai



X Cupressocyparis leylandii - Leyland Cypress. Fast growing tree bigeneric hybrid slightly drooping sprays. First originated from Leighton Hall in Montgomeryshire in 1888 and 1911. Wales Champion 2017 next to Gingko.



Front Garden



Cedrus libani (Glamorgan Champion) from Asia Minor and Levant grows 35-40 m with flattened tops and deeply cracked stems. Level branches as opposed to Cedrus atlantica with upturned branches and Cedrus deodara with pendulous tips to branches. Tree was declared a Glamorgan Champion in 2005



Liquidamber styraciflua - Sweet Gum from Eastern N America and Nicaragua - a large tree with deeply lobed alternate leaves and a corky bark. Very good Autumn Colour with red yellow and purple tints. Glamorgan Champion in 2017.



Corokia Cotoneaster- Wire netting Bush New Zealand with twisted branch system and tiny yellow but attractive flowers.



Fagus sylvatica purpurea Purple Beech purplish leaves selected from seedlings. Grows up to 40m tall with yellowish green flowers in May



Fagus sylvatica Riversii Purple Beech either vegetatively propagated or in this case possibly grafted



Carpinus betulus – An upright form of Common hornbeam makes a very large tree with broader crown as it matures. Suitable for clay and chalky soils.



Cornus capitata Bentham’s Cornel – An evergreen tree with large sulphur bracts in June July followed by large strawberry like fruits







Benthams Cornel



Cryptomeria japonica – Japanese cedar large tree with reddish shredding bark and spreading branches. Likes moist soils. Similar to Wellingtonia but with less spongy bark.



Griselinia littoralis- Cornacaea introduced from New Zealand in 1850 an evergreen leafy shrub often used as a coastal hedge.



Quercus petraea Sessile Oak native oak growing in west and north. Long stalked leaves and sessile fruit



Podocarpus totara – Totara. A tall tree from New Zealand with yellowish green leaves leathery stiff and sharply pointed. It likes the protection of other evergreens.



Eucryphia x nymansensis – A deciduous shrub with pinnate leaves. A profusion of white flowers in July and August. Hybrid between cordifolia and glutinosa.



Aesculus indica – Indian Horse Chestnut from N W Himalayas with later flowering large panicles of red flowers. Introduced in 1851



Thuja occidentalis American Arbor-vitae columnar tree with reddish brown pealing bark. Branches horizontally spreading up curved at tips. Leaves have conspicuous resin glands dark green above pale green below. Pleasant fruity smell when crushed. Important timber tree in N America coping with colder conditions.



Stuartia pseudocamellia – Japan a small acid loving tree with lovely autumn colour and flaking bark. A member of the Tea family closely related to Camellias with large white camellia flowers occurring solitary in leaf axils



Acer sacchirinum – Silver Maple A large fast growing tree from N America with 5 lobed leaves silvery underneath. Introduced in 1725.



Chamecyparis nootkatensis pendula – Nootka Cypress from western N America with drooping branchlets. Introduced in 1853 the sharp point scale like leaves are strong smelling.



Picea brewerana- Brewer’s Weeping Spruce. From North West California and Oregon. It is a rare tree in the wild (Siskiyou Mountains). Makes a majestic tree when mature.



Cupressus macrocarpa Lutea Monterey Cypress a tall columnar tree becoming broader with age, with soft yellow foliage becoming green. First Introduced in Britain 1893.



Other plants seen but not described were flowering Bescheria yuccoides, Cestrum parqui, Abutilon megapotimcum growing on the west facing wall along the Acer Lawn. In the area behind the former rockery were Crinodendrum hookerianum (Tricuspidaria lanceolate) Chilean lantern, Liriodendron tulipifera (tulip tree).



Bruce McDonald

Photos by Bruce McDonald

Tree notes by Chris Powell

Sunday, April 8, 2018

All the Presidents Men and Women

No this is not a reference to the 1976 film about the Watergate Scandal and no it does not include Robert Redford or Dustin Hoffman, but it does include a few scandals and a few hero's and gives some thoughtful insight into the history of the Society and the changing history of the way people view science, culture and wildlife over the ages.

The President's pages are now all live on the website and the Society history section is now substantially complete so what does all of  this tell us.

One thing is that we have a lot of information available about some fascinating people and it has been a real pleasure to explore all of this and share it with the people of Cardiff and through the internet the world.

In doing this I have amassed a personal archive of over 1000 images, snippets of information and I have created 117 webpages with about 350 images on them totally a bit over 70Mb if information (which admittedly is a very small number in terms of file sizes these days)

Robert Drane, Thomas Henry Thomas, William Adams

Interestingly in these days of social media and where GDPR regulations are coming into force to ensure that people's personal details are kept private, it is the earliest presidents who were the easiest to research as the details of the daily lives of the forward thinking people who formed the Cardiff Naturalists' Society were documented on an almost daily basis in the local newspapers of which there were many, covering what was at that time a relatively small, but fast growing town.

The details recorded about people's attendance at scientific lectures and the events of the Society in those early days would probably have people reaching for lawyers in order to sue someone these days.

Eleanor Vachell, Franklen G.Adams, Henry Heywood

The research into those early years was massively helped by the wonderful National Library of Wales Newspapers on-line site. it is fantastic how those early newspapers (up to 1919 as far as I can tell) are scanned and OCR'd to make the information available

Also the fact that we as a society agreed and made available our Reports and Transactions to be scanned into their Welsh Journals on-line site was a wonderful boon. The same scanning and OCR process has made searching for information about former members much easier than reading through about a meter of bookshelf every time I wanted to look something up. One note on this is that not all journal copies are coming up in the searches.

The National Library have been made aware and they say that they have scanned and OCR'd them all, but there is a problem with some metadata which is preventing some issues appearing. Hopefully they will sort this out sometime soon and I will be able to perform another set of searches to see if anything more comes up

A H Lee and unknown junior member, A H Trow, A W Sheen

The Glamorgan Archives have also been wonderful and a number of the pictures have come from materials that we have deposited at the archives and are available for any bonafide researcher to make use of.

Things got harder to research after about the 1950's  whilst the society was still thriving at the time, the level of coverage in local newspapers started to drop and by the 1970's things seem to get very hard and it is not until the 2000's where we start to find information getting easier to find again in the internet age.

I suspect that gap will be filled in in some way with the scanning of further publications and a lot more information coming onto the internet, but there are likely to be gaps still in those years where the telephone took over from letter writing and there is nothing to place in the archives.

Sir Cyril Fox, Canon Charles J Thompson, Charles Vachell, A W Sheen

Also in those years the fragmentation of scientific interests led to many more specialist groups being setup and a loss in the overall place that a local general natural history society had in Cardiff's culture. Such is not uncommon, but also not always the case, but one thing is clear from my experience is that the published press have a much lower interest unless a story that could grab a headline is placed on their plate with little work for them to need to do.

Other institutions have been very helpful as I have come across items that relate to things in their collections and I would like to list some other information sources and institutions that have been particularly useful or helpful at this time (there are yet more people or institutions which are individually thanked within the pages)
  • National Museum of Wales 
  • Cardiff University
  • Guernsey Museum
  • Dr Mary Gillham Archive project
  • Vachell Family Archives
  • www.cardiffparks.org.uk 

Linda Nottage, Mary Gillham, Peter Price

Noting recent privacy aspects, we have left it up to living people as to whether they want a page in the system and some have not yet decided or got around to providing a set of information that they are happy with. There are also a few people who I have struggled to find any information about (mostly in that information blackout age) and I need to continue the search, but that will have to be as a much lower priority project.

So I may well come back and update some of those pages and it's worth keeping an eye out for updates. 

Andy Kendall
Publicity Officer and 113th President 



Saturday, April 7, 2018

Many thanks to the Archives

As regular readers of these blog posts will know we have been exploring the history of the Society and we have had a lot of help along the way from the staff and volunteers of the Glamorgan Archives

It was a real pleasure to give a talk to them recently an as an added attraction they brought some of the CNS materials out from the archives for us to have a look at.

One day I hope to go back and spend a week or two reading it all and looking for some more interesting stories

Especial thanks to Fiona Diggins (on left in the bottom picture) for setting it all up



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

100 Presidents on-line

The title says 100 Presidents on-line.

However it's not actually true, there are 104 if you count them one way and only 97 if you count another



The way I have been posting these updates is from the sequence of Presidential occupancies and not the actual web pages.

I have just posted Presidential occupancy 100 that being Dr Joyce Lloyd who I am glad to say I knew and was a lovely person to talk to about wildlife adventures she had had, and someone who said she enjoyed hearing about my adventures as well. However Presidential occupancy 101 Mrs Mairead Sutherland is already on-line as we had a wonderful obituary of her in electronic format and it was easy at the start of this project to create that page.

There are some others already on-line out of sequence so the number of presidential occupancies is 104

However the number of files that have gone on-line is just 97 for the simple reason that some presidents were in post for a number of years, and that some were presidents for more than one term, just not in sequence

There are a few people who are still living who have not agreed for a profile to go on-line or have just not managed to get around to providing one. Anyway I'm still saying that 100 are on-line, and there are just 15 left to do to complete the project

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Thomas Henry Thomas Paintings

As many readers of this blog will know we have been exploring the past of members of the society though the ever increasing Presidents Pages. Tthough this we have had some interesting internet comunications and some more fascinating information has come to us.

The family of Charles Tanfield Vachell and Eleanor Vachell  made contact with the society via our Twitter account showing us some interesting pictures of them and other pictures tht were in an album belonging to Eleanor

In these we spotted a picture by another of our former Presidents T. H. Thomas and after some emails back and fore we are able to now share with you some colour pictures by the illustrious artist and former president

We are very happy to have these to add to the information that we have about Thomas as the web pages we put together were a little "grey"

So now in colour (click images for larger versions)

Glamorgan in Purple and Gold from Quantox, Somerset ...


An Umbrella shop in ??? ...


Pandy Mill nr Bettws Y Coed in Winter...


We are extremely grateful to the Vachell family for sharing these treasures from their family archives with us and we hope to be able to continue this relationship in order to bring you more fascinating history of not only the Society, but of Cardiff and Wales as well

Monday, February 26, 2018

75 Presidents and counting

I got so wrapped up in the project that I forgot to make a post when 75 Presidents were on-line

So now there are 82...

There is also some wonderful news in that the Family of Eleanor Vachell known to the family as Alie have been in touch and have offered some more information and pictures and have confirmed the family archives are well and being cared for by the family.

So we have been able to add some more previously unseen and previously published pictures to the Eleanor Vachell page which gives a much more detailed picture of her as a young woman and as a developing scientist under her Father's guidance










It's certainly worth another look at that Page and at the Charles Vachell page to take in some of the new pictures




We are really appreciative of the generosity of the family in sharing these (and more to come) pictures and we are happy that the role that this influential family had in the development of Cardiff is once again being recognised








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