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Y Filltir Sgwâr/The Square Mile: If The Landscape Could Speak

02 Jun 2024 4 minute read
Cwmbyrgwm Stack under a Magritte Sky Photo: Tom Maloney

In a year long series Tom Maloney, from Abersychan, shows how you can love a place so well it becomes a part of you.

 There has been such a burst of new life and greens of every shade over the past couple of weeks and old industrial sites like ‘The British’ in Abersychan are blossoming too, perhaps in many ways that are surprising.

When the ferns start to peek through the soil and unpack their leggy stems and sculptural leaves the faded, brittle bracken of last year’s growth fades from view. The impact on the landscape is sumptuous.

Oh how the picture changes! The iconic stack at Cwmbyrgwm, at the very edge of The British is a grand old sight at home in its little valley of pastel green ferns and how nice to catch the towering chimney under a Magritte sky.

Foxgloves Photo: Tom Maloney

Foxgloves add another dimension to the texture of the panorama and although I know they have been growing quietly for quite some while, they seem to have arrived out of nowhere!

Like merry Maypoles pointing to the sky with their little bells of silky, purple pink flowers attracting a buzz of bumblebee activity, they instantly make you smile!

May has cast its magical wand far and wide and even the site where the furnaces of The British Ironworks once stood is just as picturesque.

Y dirwedd hyfryd hon
Photo: Tom Maloney

As a Welsh learner I often look for signs of progress in my understanding of the language and if my vocabulary is growing.

I was so pleased to find myself thinking about what I could see in Welsh on this occasion, rather than English first and the thought that came to mind was ‘y dirwedd hyfryd hon’ meaning ‘this lovely landscape’.

Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Photo: Tom Maloney

Wherever you cast your eye there are Meadow buttercups (Ranunulus acris) and Red clover (Trifolium pratense) flowers in abundance, but my favourite at the moment is Common bird’s-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus).

This delightful little plant positively beams in the glow of early evening sunlight and has such vibrant red and yellow waxy flowers that it is also called ‘Ham and Eggs or Eggs and Bacon’. Plant names are great fun!

Keep your eyes keen though as Common bird’s-foot-trefoil grows low to the ground and is easily missed.

Pollinator at work Photo: Tom Maloney

 All this abundance is good news if you are a pollinator.

I am always amazed at the agility of insects to feed on flowers at very odd angles and to be able to stay on a plant in the wind. It is really fantastic!

What next for this landscape?

There are plans for the development of a drainage system, incorporating ponds that will be beneficial to wildlife, but the future beyond this is less clear.

A space for the community Photo: Tom Maloney

Recently on my walks I have wondered more and more what the landscape would say if it could speak and I believe it is talking in so many ways.

Spaces where once industrial railways cut their path are spaces for leisure and to play now. In the recent spells of warm, sunny weather I have heard the sound of laughing children and families on Nature hunts.

And I would never have expected to hear guitars being strummed and pleasant versions of songs like Eric Clapton’s ‘Lay Down Sally’ being sung in the early evening, but this enjoyment of space is happening more and more.

The singer on this occasion telling me that ‘The British was like his back garden’, which was music to my ears.

Nature’s healing hand is incredible really. The scars of an industrial past are still there but you would be hard pressed to believe that iron was the master and coal was the king once.

In mining terms I think the landscape is saying, “I have done my stint, it’s time to let me retire now!”

Read the earlier installments of Y Filltir Sgwâr/The Square Mile by Tom Maloney


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