A tribute to Mary Gillham


During her lifetime Mary had a huge impact on the landscape around us; many of the nature reserves and green spaces we know today could be very different places had she not fought tirelessly for their protection and helped to raise awareness of their natural value.

The hard work Mary has provided to our communities did not go unnoticed! As a continuing supporter of the Wildlife Trusts throughout her life, Mary was honoured with a bird hide at Parc Slip. Established in Mary’s name, the hide is a celebration of her enthusiasm for the natural world and dedication to sharing her wealth of knowledge about our local wildlife with everyone around her.

Another bird hide was constructed at Forest Farm to commemorate Mary and her lifetime of work and support for the nature reserve. The surrounding meadows, filled with colourful wild flowers and apple trees, were named the ‘Mary Gillham fields’.

(Thanks to Cliff Woodhead for the lovely photos of the Mary Gillham hide and fields at Forest Farm).

Hopefully for many years to come people will continue to remember Mary when visiting these hides, within the natural environments that she cared for dearly, and feel inspired to follow in her footsteps. Two fitting tributes to a very deserving botanist and zoologist!

If you pay a visit to Gwaelod-y-Garth (home to Mary’s beloved old cottage) you’ll find a lovely memorial bench dedicated to Mary at the entrance to the Lan mine, by Coed Rhiw’r Ceiliog woodland. Mary was an avid recorder of wildlife in this area and as a conscientious botanist she conducted botanical surveys across many areas in South Wales, including those close to her home. Mary adored her home here in Gwaelod and so her ashes were also spread over the beloved Garth hill.

(Thanks to Norma Procter for these great images of the Mary Gillham memorial bench).

Those who venture into this woodland can admire the vast floral diversity that was once surveyed by Mary herself. As a lovely scenic location for a tribute to Mary’s hard work, it will hopefully inspire a new generation of botanists.

The memorial bench was constructed by the people of The Lan Film Project; a project creating a film based on Norma Procter’s novel on the tragic Lan Colliery disaster of 1875.

Take a look at the making of the Mary Gillham bench via this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEwJIMO0i5E

During her lifetime Mary reached thousands of people during her lectures, guided walks and study tours, and through her positions within the Ecological community. As a devoted president of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society, her contribution to the society as well as her eagerness to help others learn about their local natural history will never be forgotten.

Keep your eyes open for an exhibition run by the society called ‘Cardiff Naturalists’ Society: The first 150 years!’ from September 4th to November 26th 2017. As a celebration of their 150th anniversary it will demonstrate the history of the society and will feature an interesting piece on Mary Gillham herself!

For more info about the exhibition and another event celebrating the 150th anniversary of Cardiff Naturalists’ Society (‘An evening with Iolo Williams’) see the society’s website: http://cardiffnaturalists.blogspot.co.uk/

All of these tributes are thoughtful celebrations of Mary’s life and achievements; why not pay a visit to see some of them yourself? In memory of a dedicated naturalist.

Walking in the Footsteps of Mary: May, Forest Farm, Cardiff

In this series we provide you with details of surveys Mary (and her colleagues) undertook, the species she recorded, and encourage you to visit sites and record what you can see. This month we’re within Cardiff’s and alongside the River Taff and Glamorganishire Canal at Forest Farm

The Carpark can be found at: ST13828054, with entrances at: ST132814, ST135807 and ST143803.

The long history of Forest Farm, the Glamorganshire Canal and Long Wood is described img_20170207_0009in Mary’s ‘Natural History of Cardiff’ book. From being an important thoroughfare for industry (by rail and canal) and being bisected by the new M4, Cardiff City Council with the help of groups such as the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society, Glamorgan Naturalists’ Trust, and Friends of Forest Farm, have managed to retain some of the historical features such as the Melingruffydd sluice and water wheel while managing the nature and habitats in way which supports a great diversity of wildlife.

Included below is a list of species Mary and colleagues recorded over a 40 year period, comprising over 700 species!

Species List

The species were recorded and identified by a number of people including Mike Wiley, Idris Bowen; A.D. Tipper; Adrian Amsden; Mike Claridge; W Mapleson; A Pearcy; R. Jones; Amy Heathcote; M. Sutherland, Mary Thelwall, Linda Nottage, Ted Edwards, Phil Bristow, Mark Jervis and members of the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society, Glamorgan Naturalists’ Trust, and Friends of Forest Farm (http://forestfarm.org.uk/).

Mary’s found Forest Farm soon after arriving in Cardiff and remained fond of it throughout her life. She wrote the paper on the biological value of the reserve in 1967 (written during the Cardiff Naturalists’ Society centenary – they will be 150 this year!) and continued to contribute to the Friends of Forest Farm newsletter well into the 2000s.

Listen to the introduction of ‘A New Nature Reserve’ here:

Have a look at some of Mary’s pictures from Forest Farm and see how the landscape has changed with our ‘Then and Now’ photos.

picture1Take a look out our downloadable resources beginners recording!


Submit your records at www.sewbrecord.org.uk/Mary_Gillham or send them in a spreadsheet to dedicated.naturalist@sewbrec.org.uk. You can download a template spreadsheet from the Walks with Mary Gillham page on the SEWBReC website: www.sewbrec.org.uk/a-dedicated-naturalist/walks-with-mary.page.


Notes about Walks with Mary Gillham:

  • Please take a common sense approach to recording at these sites. We do not advocate any form of trespassing, and please do not take any risks with regards to your own health and safety.
  • All records are welcome, even the most common of species!
  • For a record to be useful, we need the following information: recorder’s name; date recorded; location name; grid reference (ideally 6 figures or more); species name. Please feel free to include extra information or photos.


The Mary Gillham Archive Project is funded by HLF and managed by SEWBReC
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