CASTLE WOODS IN FEBRUARY Heather Sealy-Lewis Already the spring grass is beginning to grow in the meadows that sweep up to the limestone ridge with its crown of trees, and dandelions are in bud. A narrow track crosses the broad path; a low arch lifts the bottom of the sheep-netting fence, padmarks of badger and fox clearcut in the muddy scrape beneath it. A few yards further on, it is the top of the netting which is distorted, and caught on the single strand of barbed wire above it is a tuft of hair from a Fallow Deer; the sapling trees in the plantation have been nibbled. Fallow Deer Susan Edwards We come among tall trees. A flash of scarlet in the shade shows Peziza coccinea fungus growing on a fallen twig. The bare branches of the deciduous trees are clothed in fronds of polypody fern and mantles of silvery grey-green lichen: here the air is damp and unpolluted. Below, the glossy leaves of wild arum are already unfurling to make Jack's pulpit. From the flooded ox-bow at the foot of the hill, Mallard rise quacking like farmyard ducks; in the green depths, big leaves of waterlilies give promise of summer's spectacle, and on the grassy bank frogspawn lies stranded, dragged here perhaps by a heron, so we rescue it and restore it to the water, for frogs are mysteriously diminishing and every one must be saved if possible. Last year's reedmace stand tall and tatty, beggar-clothed in bedraggled down. The pale gleam of sunlit snowdrops covering the opposite bank is reflected on the lake's surface. Among the faintly-etched bird-foot tracks on the muddy margin we search for prints of otters but are disappointed. Flocks of peewits and of duck Mallard and the small, lively Teal- whirl overhead; beyond the watermeadow, Tufted Duck and Coots, pied and neat, and a pair of young Mute Swans, not white but grey, glide on the curving river, where later in the year salmon and sea-trout will pass on their way to the spawning-beds. Clouds of Wigeon fly up, forming and re-forming their variable yet constant pattern. The West Wales Naturalists' Trust has the shooting rights here, to provide sanctuary for the wildfowl after the depredations endured in the past. The Fallow Deer need protection too; there's a fad for venison in the trendy restaurants. The treetops are a-twitter with small birds Blue and Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinches, Robins; a Treecreeper slips up the bark of an oak, scarcely distinguishable, and two 1. This article was one of the runners-up in the Nature in Wales competition referred to on page 55.