Amgueddfa Blog

Hello Bulb Buddies,

I hope that you have had a good half term. Have any of your plants flowered over the holidays? Remember to enter the date your plant flowers and the height of your plant in mm to the website. We ask for the flowering date for every single plant to be entered, these are then used to work out the average flowering date for your school.

Schools that are taking part in the Edina Trust Extension Project are also asked to note whether each daffodil record they enter is from a bulb planted in the ground or in a pot.

We talk a lot about the weather records you take each week, but the flower records are just as important. We are investigating how changes in the weather effect the flowering dates of spring plants. To do this we need to be able to compare flowering dates for each year the investigation has been running.

The bar chart below shows the average flowering dates for spring plants in Wales since 2006. You can see from the chart that 2019 saw the earliest flowering dates since 2008. Do you think our plants will flower earlier or later this year Bulb Buddies?

Average flowering dates for Wales 2006-2019








The bar chart below shows the average flowering date for each country in 2019. You can see from the chart that plants flowered earliest in Northern Ireland and latest in Scotland. Do you think we will see the same pattern this year Bulb Buddies?

Average flowering dates 2019







Watch your plants closely over the next few weeks. Last year the average flowering dates for crocus was 22 February.

It’s fascinating to see how your plants change over time. There are activities on the website about the life cycle of plants:

Remember to share your photos with me Bulb Buddies.

Professor Plant

Sadly, Dippy has now left National Museum Cardiff and continued on his tour to Rochdale. But he won't be forgotten! This video, made by Dippy volunteer Ben, says farewell to the super sauropod, and acknowledges the importance of the volunteers in making the exhibition such a success! 

Music credit : Cherry Blossom by Kevin MacLeod

If you missed it, check out our other volunteer-made Dippy video!


The current display Imagine a Castle: Paintings from the National Gallery, London offers a great opportunity to see a selection of European Old Master paintings for the first time in Wales alongside Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s own collection.

Comparing European and Welsh castles and the history and legends that come with them plays a vital part in defining Welsh cultural identity. Yet the history of castles in Wales is, for some, contentious.

To find out why we need to go back to the thriteenth century. During this time, there were many disputes between Welsh princes and English kings. Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (last Prince of Wales) was involved in many disputes with Edward I, who launched a vicious campaign on the Welsh. This resulted in Llywelyn losing his power, land, titles and ultimately his life.

Following this English victory, Edward began the most ambitious castle-building policy ever seen in Europe. His collection of fortresses became known as the infamous ‘iron ring’ and included those at Harlech, Caernarfon and Conwy. They were intended to intimidate the Welsh and subdue uprisings. Along with these English-built fortresses came new towns that were intentionally populated with English settlers. Welsh people were forbidden to trade or sometimes even enter into the towns’ walls. Yet, while these castles remind us of English power over the Welsh, the strength of their construction underlines that Edward was conscious of the formidable and ever-present threat of Welsh resistance.

To acknowledge the histories of castles in Wales, we have included works from two Welsh artists, the ‘father of British landscape painting’, Richard Wilson, whose works offer an eighteenth-century perspective, and contemporary artist Peter Finnemore.

Wilson’s work reflects his travels to Italy and the influence of the hugely important French landscape painter, Claude Lorrain, whose work can also be seen in this exhibition. Wilson painted many Welsh landscapes and is recognised as changing the face of British landscape painting. While his work encouraged artists to come to Wales, many of his later Welsh compositions, such as Caernarfon Castle (Edward’s main seat in Wales) remind us more of the warmer climates of Italy. As such, they also point to his inspirations outside of Wales.

On the other hand, Finnemore’s photographic works, Lesson 56 – Wales and Ancient Ruler Worship (made especially for this display), look at castles in Wales from a more recent Welsh perspective. Finnemore’s work revolves around his Welsh-speaking grandmother’s school textbooks that were written from an English standpoint. Her childhood drawings in these books humorously undermine the didactic English text. Ancient Ruler Worship depicts Castell Carreg Cennen and looks back to World War II. It is taken from a still in Humphry Jennings’s propaganda film, Silent Village, that portrayed this castle as a site of Welsh resistance during an imagined Nazi invasion. The film demonstrated solidarity with Lidice, a mining village in the Czech Republic that was totally destroyed by the Nazis.

Whatever we may feel about their history, many of Edward’s Welsh castles are now designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Edward left a unique and internationally important legacy of medieval military architecture that can only be seen in Wales.

What is Ming?

Ocean Quahog shells - scientific name Arctica islandica

Ming is an Ocean Quahog clam with the scientific name of Arctica islandica. It was nicknamed Ming when scientists discovered that it would have been born in 1499 during the Ming Dynasty of China. Ocean Quahogs grow up to 13 cm long and the oldest one fished off the coast of Iceland was 507 years old, making it the oldest non-colonial animal known to science.

Where do Ocean Quahogs live?

These are the siphons of the Ocean Quahog - the shell is buried in the sand. It uses the siphons to suck in water and feed off tiny particles in the water

Ocean Quahogs belong to a big group of shells called ‘bivalves’. Most bivalves are filter feeders and suck in water through their tube-like siphons (you can see in the photo, the two holes surrounded by darker pink). While lying on the seabed or buried in the sand or mud bivalves can safely take food particles and oxygen from the water.

Ming was collected from the deep waters around Iceland but we get this species in British and Irish waters too, although it does not live to such a great age here. The waters surrounding our islands are warmer than those surrounding Iceland, which is just south of the Arctic Circle. Warm waters hold less dissolved oxygen than cold water and so around the UK the Ocean Quahog needs to work harder to get oxygen and so has a faster metabolism. A faster metabolism means that it grows quicker but when animals have a fast metabolism they do not live as long. In the colder waters surrounding Iceland the Ocean Quahog has a slower metabolism and so grows slowly and may even live for longer than 507 – scientists just haven’t found an older one yet!


How long do animals live?

Geoduck lives in the coastal waters of western Canada and USA and can live to 168 years

Some other bivalve molluscs can live for a long time as well. Giant clams can grow to 4 feet long (1.2 m) and live for around 100 years. They have tiny plant cells in their tissue that photosynthesize producing energy from the sun to give to the clam. This is why they reach such a large size – talk about plant power!

The Geoduck, which lives in the coastal waters of western Canada and USA, can live for 164 years. It is known as Gooey duck and has large meaty siphons that are a popular food for humans!

Come to our Insight gallery at Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd - National Museum Cardiff to to find out more about how long animals can live for and much more...

Giant clams live in the tropics and can reach over 4 feet long (1.2 m) and live for 100 years

We have just launched our self-guided mindful tour here at St Fagans National Museum of History. The tour is through the gardens around St Fagans castle. Our new free fold-out map of the gardens encourages visitors to take in their surroundings and explore their different senses.

The idea of the tour came from my own experience of using mindfulness for my mental health. St Fagans castle gardens are beautiful all year round with animals and plants to see whatever the time of year. It is also a place where you can usually find a bit of quiet even during our busier times. Mindfulness is about being in the moment and focusing on individual senses. It’s surprising how much passes us by when we’re focused on our busy lives. Just stopping and concentrating on what you can smell or hear can help in times of stress.

Having the opportunity to walk around the gardens and take in the sights, sounds, smells and textures of nature has been very calming for me. My particular favourite is the Italian Garden in the summer with the running fountain. I feel incredibly lucky to work somewhere where I can do this and I wanted to share it with everyone who visits St Fagans.

Last summer I created a draft plan of a map to test with staff and community groups. Even though it was a very basic map at the time the feedback was very positive:

"Wir wedi mwynhau’r daith - diolch Joe! Braf cael cyfle i grwydro gerddi’r castell a mwynhau’r awyr iach. Diolch!"

“Lovely and peaceful, I like the sound of the water. The gardens were beautiful and very relaxing.”

"Wedi mwynhau gwylio’r colomennod ar ben y colomendy."

“Lots of quiet, secluded areas to sit down. I did find myself stopping to take note of my senses – smelling leaves, listening to the birds”

"Gall hwn fod un o highlights newydd SF"

“It felt like I had permission to take time and look and explore which was so nice.”

The feedback fed into the creation of the final version. It is designed by Frank Duffy who has done a great job of the illustrations and the look of the map. The map was funded by the Armed Forces Covenant who have supported a range of innovate events, displays and programmes at the Museum since 2014. One of the aims of the funding is to support the wellbeing of veterans and their families, so the concept of the mindfulness walk fitted in perfectly with the Covenant’s objectives. Members of the Armed Forces community had a first look at the new maps on 9th December 2019 with very positive feedback for how it could be used to help those living with mental ill health.

Try the tour out for yourself by picking up a copy at St Fagans. The map is available at the front desk or you can download a PDF version here.