Welchman Hall Gully is named after its first owner, a former soldier from Wales called General William Asygell Williams. A supporter of the monarchy during the English Civil War, he was banished by Cromwell after losing at the Battle of Bristol in 1650. He established a plantation here, which he named Welchman Hall. It was this man who first developed the gully, adding many exotic trees and an orchard.
Welchman Hall Gully has at least two other claims to fame.
It is the home of the grapefruit, a hybrid formed from a sweet orange and a shaddock, a large pomelo. On the coral rock floor, you can sometimes see its thick peel, discarded by the monkeys who love its bitter-sweet tangy taste.
The first reference to the grapefruit was in 1750, when it was described in some detail by another Welshman, Rev Griffith Hughes, author of The Natural History of Barbados. It was known as the forbidden fruit of Barbados.
The gully is also home to the world’s smallest species of snake. But don’t worry, Leptotytphlops Carlae, discovered by Blair Hedges, of Penn State University in 2008, is blind, harmless and lives deep in the gully. It is so tiny, it can curl up on to a US quarter. It is very rare and hasn’t been seen for a couple of years.
The Gully was acquired by Barbados National Trust in 1962. They continued to develop it for tourism by adding more exotics trees and ornaments and by putting in a path.
It is now leased from the trust by Debra Branker, an environmentalist and educator who is an expert in enthno-botany, the study of people and plants.
Nature Lovers and Plant Enthusiasts
If you like nature, hiking (at any level), plants, culture and natural history, then Welchman Hall gully must not be missed.
The tranquil feel of the gully will instantly strike you. It is a place where you can experience a piece of nature and imagine what the island was like 300 years ago. It is a touch of tropical forest, mixed with Barbadian and other exotic tropical plants.
Since Barbados does not have many remaining tropical landscapes that are easily accessible, visiting Welchman Hall Gully will be an unexpected surprise and treat.
Fascinatingly, the gully is also still geologically connected to Harrison’s Cave. Before Harrison’s Cave was developed, locals would enter via an entrance located in Welchman Hall Gully. In fact, Welchman Hall Gully was formed by the collapsed roofs of caves.
You can still see evidence of stalagmites and stalactites throughout your walk. However, gullies are generally formed when the land is pushed up and cracked, then developed by rain erosion.
Flora and Fauna
Barbados forms part of the Lesser Antilles where there are about 2100 species of native, or naturalised plants. However, Barbados hosts only about 700 species of these native or naturalised plants, where only 2 are endemic to Barbados, a gully shrub, Phyllanthus andersonii and a slender climber Metastelma barbadense.
The gully shrub is quite common in the Gully. Here in Barbados, it is believed that with the onset of colonisation and the intense cultivation of sugar, many indigenous plants disappeared.
Not surprisingly, it was in the gullies where most of the native plant community were able to survive the sugar invasion. There are about 150 plants found in the gully, but the goal is to re-introduce more native plants..