Collecting in Carmarthenshire

by Jonathan Welsh

Anyway, for our holiday this year, Lynn and I headed to Wales. In May. The previous weeks weather had been excellent but the forecast for the 18 -25th was not so good. So we set off on a Saturday morning and arrived mid-afternoon in Laugharne, not far from St. Clears. The weather at that time was fine, because it wasn't raining!

By the following morning, however, it was quite unpleasant with high winds and squally showers, hardly the sort of weather that you want to wander along a beach in. Before we had left, I had emailed Janice Light from the Conchological Society to ask her if there were any good places to visit and she had suggested a place called Burry Holms. However, due to my not being "compos mentis" I thought she'd said Burry Port. As it wasn't too far, we decided to go there, only realising when nearly there that it was Burry Holms she'd suggested and it was a lot further away. Anyway, we decided to press on and about an hour and a half later we arrived in a caravan park.

Venus verrucosa Linne 1758 Picture courtesy of Lowtide Shells(Copyright)

As usually happens at this point, I left Lynn in the car reading and headed out across the sand toward the headland about one and a half miles away. Employing my usual technique of wondering along the strand-line, and after a short while found a very large Natica catena, (Da Costa 1778), half buried in the sand along with lots of Crepidula fornicata (Linne 1758). There were numerous bivalves also, including: Mytilus edulis, Linne 1758, Ostrea edulis, Linne 1758, Cerastoderma edule Linne 1758, Venerupsis rhomboides, (Pennant 1777), Venus verrucosa Linne 1758, Tellina tenuis, Da Costa 1778, loads of Ensis siliqua, Linne 1758, Ensis ensis, Linne 1758, Lutraria lutraria, Linne 1758, Mya arenaria, Linne 1758 and most of the other common bivalves from our shores. Being not specially interested in these, I left them alone.

Calliostoma zizphinium Linne 1758 Picture coutesy of Lowtide Shells(Copyright)

In Janice's email, she'd said that I should be able to find Clathrus clathrus Linne 1758 at this locality and as it is a shell which I don't have, I decided to try. However, all I did find on the beach was lots more Natica catena Da Costa 1778, loads of assorted bivalves and one Calliostoma zizyphinium Linne 1758. Very disheartened, I set off back to the car. While striding along the high tide line in my trusty hiking boots, I accidentally crushed a Sea Urchin, specifically Echinocardium cordatum (Pennant 1777). Now really annoyed (I'd never even seen one before, except in a book), I stomped on, now and then looking down at the sand. Some time later, I just managed to avoid crushing another, slightly smaller Echinocardium cordatum, Pennant, so I picked it up and stowed it very carefully away in my knapsack.

Later still, attempting to find my way back to the car through the dunes, I stumbled into a sand trap with numerous dead Capaea nemoralis Linne 1758 and Helix aspersa Muller 1774. As I am also interested in terrestrial gastropods, I picked up two of these and put them away. lastly, just as I was about to join the path to the car park, I found another sand trap and sitting in tlhe middle of this, all on its own, was a perfect example of Acteon tornatilis, Linne 1758. I picked this up and returned to the car .

Natica catena Da Costa 1778 Picture courtesy of Lowtide Shells(Copyright)

The next day we went anywhere to collect was the Wednesday. We drove along in reasonable weather to Pendine Sands, a little seaside resort. The most abundant mollusc on the beach here was again Natica catena Da Costa 1778 but among the rocks at the base of the cliffs, were hundreds and hundreds of bivalves, mostly smashed into fragments by the pounding of the waves. Lynn found a huge (over 120mm) Buccinium undatum, Linne 1758 wedged between the rocks. We tried to free it but sadly the tide and weather were closing in and so we had to leave it alone. So we gave up and headed back along the coast road, stopping off at Amroth for a brief look for anything different. Here, the beach has only a small area of sand, the rest is rocks and small pebbles and the shells seem to be only in this area. Here (aside from the obligatory bivalves) I found a single Monodonta lineata, Da Costa 1778 and two very badly beached Nassarius reticulatus (Linne 1758). I left the Nassarius and then we headed home.

Overall, considering that this was supposed to be a classic locality, I was disappointed. However, I had never found any Natica, Acteon or Echinocardium in the UK before so from that point of view it was worth going. Shame about the lack of Clathrus!

Maybe next year......!

Article published by member Jonathan Welsh in our magazine Pallidula in 2002
We would like to thank Lowtide Shells, the Atlantic shell specialist for the use of their pictures(Copyright)

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Species list for the area:
Marine gastropods
Acteon tornatilis Linne 1758,
Buccinium undatum Linne 1758,
Calliostoma zizyphinium Linne 1758,
Crepidula fornicata (Linne 1758),
Monodonta lineata Da Costa 1778
Nassarius reticulatus Linne 1758,
Natica catena Da Costa 1778

Bivalves (selected listing).
Cerastoderma edule Linne 1758,
Ensis ensis Linne 1758.
Ensis siliqua Linne 1758.
Lutraria lutraria Linne 1758,
Modiolus modiolus Linne 1758.
Mya arenaria Linne 1758.
Mytilus edulis Linne 1758,
Tellina tenuis Da Costa 1778.
Venerupsis rhomboides (Pennant 1777)
Venus verrucosa Linne 1758.

Terrestrial gastropods
Capaea nemoralis Linne 1758
Helix aspersa Muller 1774

Echinocardium cordatum Pennant

This web page was last updated on 23 November 2003
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