Amgueddfa Blog

The Urban Meadow at National Museum Cardiff

Sally Whyman, 1 July 2023

This year we’re not only celebrating National Meadow’s Day on 1st July, we’ll also be celebrating ten years of our Urban Meadow at National Museum Cardiff. We are marking the day with the Celebration of Nature event at Saint Fagans National Museum of History.


Initial funding from the Cemex Community Fund has allowed the meadow to go from an area of “species poor amenity grassland.” (Biodiversity Survey, AC-MW, 2009) to the creation of an urban meadow with over 56 plant species recorded in the last survey (Biodiversity Survey, AC-MW, 2021). 


On the Urban Meadow plants such as Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare), Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum) and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) add colour to this part of the city every summer. Over the ten years they have been joined by Mallard ducks looking for some shelter, and even a grass snake has been spotted. Exotic looking Bee Orchids (Ophrys apifera) appear in flower in late May/early June every year too. By July the meadow is buzzing with insect life and birds looking to eat those insects and seeds. There are honey bees (Apis mellifera) who live in hives on the Museum roof. It’s only a short flight for them to collect nectar and pollen from the Urban Meadow during the summer months.


During the Covid 19 lockdowns, the meadow carried on without many people to see it or staff and volunteers to help maintain it. This has meant that some of the grasses have taken over. Smaller flowering plants can’t compete against the more robust grasses. Meadow foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis), Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata) and Timothy (Phleum pratense) may all be native grasses, but we don’t want too many on the meadow. One corner of the meadow is damper than the other three corners and Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus) has dominated here. Not one of the taller grass species, Yorkshire-fog only usually reaches 1m high, but the other grass species can reach 150cm tall.


Grasses are usually wind pollinated and so don’t need to have bright coloured flowers to attract insects for pollination. To let the flowering plants have some space to grow we are going to sow seeds of Yellow-rattle (Rhinanthus minor) this autumn. This annual plant is a parasite on Grasses (Poeaceae) meaning it gets nutrients by penetrating its roots of the grass. Many meadows may need Yellow-rattle seed sowing this autumn because the grasses have coped better with the hot weather than the smaller brightly coloured plants. The seeds are sown in the autumn because they need to sit in the soil during the winter and experience the cold to germinate. The yellow flowers appear in spring, followed by seed pods which ‘rattle’.


The Urban Meadow hasn’t just been an opportunity to increase biodiversity at Cathay’s Park by making it a nice place for plants and animals to live, it has helped people too. Staff and volunteers have been joined by many local school and community groups who have visited the meadow to learn about this city habitat. They have helped us to sow seed and plant small plants, mow and generally tidy up. One group even found a horseshoe! Lucky perhaps for the person who found it, but not for the horse who lost it!

Fantastic Work Bulb Buddies

Penny Tomkins, 30 June 2023

Congratulations to all of the schools who successfully completed the Spring Bulbs for Schools Investigation this year. All schools listed below have been sent Super Scientist Certificates and pencils. The standard was extremely high again this year. 


Professor Plant would like to thank all schools that contributed to making this year’s investigation a success.


Enillwyr / Winners:

Cymru / Wales

Model Church in Wales Primary School

Lloegr / England: 

Roseacre Primary Academy

Yr Alban / Scotland: 

St John Ogilvie Primary School

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland: 

St Mary's Primary School (Maguiresbridge)


Yn Ail / Runners up:

Cymru / Wales

Peterston Super Ely Church in Wales Primary

Lloegr / England: 

Kidgate Primary Academy

Yr Alban / Scotland: 

Gavinburn Primary School

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland: 

Grange Primary School Kilkeel


Clod Uchel / Highly Commended

Cymru / Wales

Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tonyrefail

Pil Primary School

YGG Aberystwyth

Ysgol Llandegfan

St Julian's Primary

Yr Alban / Scotland: 

Kingcase Primary School

Dedridge Primary School

Kincaidston Primary School

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland: 

St Patrick's Primary School, Eskra


Cydnabyddiaeth Arbennig / Special Recognition:

Cymru / Wales

Forden CiW School

Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant

Ysgol San Sior

St Joseph's RC Primary School (North Road)

Alaw Primary

Ysgol Glan Conwy

Lloegr / England: 

St Anne's Catholic Primary School

Stanford in the Vale Primary School

Anchorsholme Academy

Fleet Wood Lane Primary School

Sylvester Primary Academy

St Kentigern's Primary School

Yr Alban / Scotland: 

Leslie Primary School

Livingston Village Primary School

St Anthony's Primary (Saltcoats)

Kirkhill Primary School

Blacklands Primary School

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland: 

Clonalig Primary School

Irvinestown Primary School

Sacred Heart Primary - CO. Down

St Mary's Primary School (Newry)

St Paul's Primary School (Co Fermanagh)

Lisbellaw Primary School


Gwyddonwyr Gwych / Super Scientists

Cymru / Wales

Oystermouth Primary School

Abernant Primary

High Cross Primary (Newport)

Ysgol Capel Garmon

Albert Primary School

Llanbedr Church in Wales

NPTC Newtown College

Glyncoed Primary School

Spittal VC School

St Mary's Church in Wales Primary School 

St Paul’s CiW Primary

Lloegr / England: 

Cambridge Park Academy

Devonshire Primary Academy

Rowley Hall Primary School

St John's CE Primary School

St Bernadette's Catholic Primary School

Yr Alban / Scotland: 

Milton Primary School

Darvel Primary School

Meldrum Primary School

Our Lady of Peace Primary

Underbank Primary School

Maidens Primary School

Logan Primary School

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland: 

Newtownbutler Primary School

Sacred Heart Primary School - Omagh

Glasswater Primary School

Cortamlet Primary School

Newtownhamilton Primary School


Tystysgrifau / Certificates:

Cymru / Wales

Ysgol Bro Sannan 

Ysgol Bethel

Brynford Primary

Minera Aided Primary School

St Joseph’s Cathedral (Swansea)

Ysgol y Wern

Ysgol Cwm Brombil

Adamsdown Primary School

Franksbridge CP School

Gors Community School


Penrhiwceibr Primary

Rhydri Primary School

St Athan Primary School 

St. Michael's RC Primary School

Trellech Primary School 

Twyn School

Ysgol Gymraeg Mornant

Ysgol Llanilar

Ysgol Pontrobert

Lloegr / England: 

St Teresa's Catholic Primary School

Hamstead Junior School

Harvills Hawthorn Primary School

Grange Primary School

Marton Primary Academy and Nursery

Yr Alban / Scotland: 

Forehill Primary School

Gartcosh Primary School

Newton Primary School

St Joseph's RC Primary School (Kelty)

Whitdale Primary School

Windyknowe Primary School

Gogledd Iwerddon / Northern Ireland: 

St Patrick's Legamaddy

Enniskillen Integrated Primary School

St Mary's Primary School (Killesher)

Hardgate Primary School


Thanks again Bulb Buddies,


Professor Plant

Spring Bulbs for Schools - engaging with 175 schools across Wales

Penny Tomkins, 17 May 2023

Penny Dacey, Spring Bulbs Project Coordinator, has been busy helping young budding scientists get outside and investigate the impact of climate change in an engaging and creative way!

Many of you may have heard of this Spring Bulbs project, as it’s been running since 2005! For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, here’s an overview. 

Pupils are asked to help Professor Plant, a friendly cartoon scientist, to explore the impact of a changing climate on the flowering dates of spring bulbs. Pupils do this by taking part in an annual study that involves documenting and submitting weather and flower data.

How it started and how it’s going…

The project began in Wales, under Danielle Cowell, Digital Learning Program Manager at Amgueddfa Cymru, but through funding from the Edina Trust has expanded to be UK wide.

Amgueddfa Cymru now engages 175 schools each year through the Spring Bulbs for Schools Investigation! That’s a lot of bulbs!

Let’s talk science!

Schools that participate in the investigation take part for a full academic year. They receive their resource packs in late September, plant their bulbs on 20 October, and begin taking weather records on 1 November through to 31 March.

Schools are asked to take weather records (temperature and rainfall readings) for every day that they are in school, and to upload this data to the Amgueddfa Cymru website at the end of each week. They are also asked to monitor their plants and to document the flowering date and the height of their plants on that date to the website. The result is that we can now compare the flowering dates for spring bulbs in Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to those of previous years and look at how changing weather patterns may have impacted on these dates. Isn’t that amazing?


Making a difference - from scientific skills to well-being

The investigation supports the development of scientific knowledge and skills, including an understanding of plant growth, the impact of climate change on the environment, and data collection and analysis. Students are able to apply scientific methods and concepts to a real-world scenario, which helps them to understand the importance and relevance of science in their lives. The process of caring for their plants, getting outdoors (in all weather) and working together to collect the data has numerous benefits, both for well-being and in developing lifelong connections to nature.


Do you know of any schools that would like to take part?

Applications open on a first come first serve basis to primary schools in Wales in late April. If you know of any schools that would like to take part, please ask them to check
out the following pages for more information:
Spring Bulbs Website
Spring Bulbs Blog
Spring Bulbs Twitter

New English Learner Resources for Amgueddfa Cymru

Loveday Williams, Senior Learning, Participation and Interpretation Officer, 10 May 2023

Amgueddfa Cymru Museum Wales have been working with Refugees and Asylum Seekers, supporting people to integrate into their new communities for many years. 

As part of this work, we have developed partnerships with key organisations such as Addysg Oedolion Cymru Adult Learning Cymru. They have been working with us over the past year, alongside their ESOL students, to develop new ESOL learner resources designed to support people learning English to explore our museums and galleries. 

The new resources cover the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, the National Slate Museum in Llanberis and the National Roman Legion Museum in Caerleon. 

The resources have been created by ESOL tutors and tested by ESOL learners. They follow the ESOL curriculum and cover a range of different levels from Entry to Level 2. 

Now that the new resources have been tested, tweaked, and trialed they are ready to download from our website for any ESOL learner or group visiting one of the museums. (See the links above). 

We also have a suite of ESOL resources for St Fagans National Museum of History which were developed in a similar way as part of the HLF funded Creu Hanes Making History Project in 2014. 

We continue to work with our partners and community members to provide meaningful opportunities for people facing barriers to participation in the arts and cultural heritage. 

We learn so much from the people who visit our sites and engage in the learning opportunities we offer. 

Supporting those people who are newly arrived in Wales to settle and integrate into their new communities is a very important area of our work and we hope that these new learner resources help many people on that journey. 

Diolch yn fawr to Addysg Oedolion Cymru Adult Learning Wales and the ESOL tutors and learners who have contributed to the creation of these new learner resources. 

A new home for some Skomer seaweeds

Katherine Slade, 9 May 2023

Off the  coast of Pembrokeshire in west Wales is Ynys Sgomer, Skomer Island, a very special place for wildlife. It is a National Nature Reserve, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the surrounding waters were the first designated Marine Conservation Zone in Wales in 2014. This prestigious list gives a high level of conservation protection to the rich marine habitats and species found here.

A collection of over 100 pressed seaweeds from Skomer Marine Conservation Zone have been donated to the Museum by Kate Lock, Marine Conservation Officer at Natural Resources Wales. Scientists have studied the marine life of the island for many years, and these specimens were collected as part of surveys to record the life within this highly protected region covering 27 kilometers of mostly rocky shores including cliffs, rock pools, caves and tunnels.

The collection preserves evidence of over 70 different seaweed species collected from places with wonderfully descriptive names such as Garland Stone, Martin’s Haven, The Wick, Wendy’s Gully, North Wall and Mew Stone. Of the 119 specimens, 107 are red seaweeds, 12 are brown seaweeds, and 2 are green seaweeds. Almost all were collected from below the tidal zone.

A couple of non-native seaweeds make an appearance, Antithamnionella ternifolia, which was first recorded from Wales in 1956 north of Skokholm and south of Skomer. Also Siphoned Japan Weed (Dasysiphonia japonica) which is native to the Pacific Ocean and invasive in the UK. It was first recorded from Wales in 1999 at Milford Haven. Our specimen is from the Wick on Skomer Island and was collected in 2005. This same survey recorded the rare red seaweed, Crested Spermwell (Euthora cristata) which grows on Forest Kelp (Laminaria hyperborea) has a mainly northern distribution in the UK and most records are from Scotland, with a few in Pembrokeshire.

The exclusively subtidal rare red seaweed Lobed Jelly Weed (Schmitzia hiscockiana) was described as new to science in 1985 from Ynys Enlli in north Wales (Maggs & Guiry 1985). It is found on the western shores of Britain and Ireland and our specimen was collected in 1999 from Skomer.

Collections of plants and algae from highly protected areas like Skomer are rare and highly regulated. These collections were made during surveys conducted by the Countryside Council for Wales, which is now part of Natural Resources Wales, the organisation that manages the island for wildlife. The specimens provide invaluable evidence for the species found there and how they change over time and cannot be duplicated. They will now join the other 8000 algae specimens in the herbarium at Amgueddfa Cymru. They have improved the Museum’s coverage of this area, which previously consisted of only small numbers of seaweeds from Skomer.

Please contact Katherine Slade for enquiries relating to the algae collection at Amgueddfa Cymru.

If you’re visiting Pembrokeshire, its nearly your last chance to the visit the On Your Doorstep exhibition at Oriel y Parc in St. David’s, which runs until the end of May 2023. It brings together stories of nature and archaeological discovery in Pembrokeshire and features the Museum’s collections.


Further Reading

Bunker et al (2017) Seaweeds of Britain and Ireland. Seasearch

M.D. Guiry in Guiry, M.D. & Guiry, G.M. 07 February 2017. AlgaeBase. World-wide electronic publication, National University of Ireland, Galway.; searched on 30 January 2023

Maggs, C.A. & Guiry, M.D. (1985). Life history and reproduction of Schmitzia hiscockiana sp. nov. (Rhodophyta, Gigartinales) from the British Isles. Phycologia 24: 297-310.

Sjøtun et al. (2008) Present distribution and possible vectors of introductions of the alga Heterosiphonia japonica (Ceramiales, Rhodophyta) in Europe. Aquatic Invasions. 3(4): 377-394