In 1973 Richard Mabey labelled it the Unofficial Countryside. Today geographers refer to the land between urban and rural as the edgelands. Edgelands are where you're more likely to travel to work or shop, its where the municipal recycling centre is and leisure facilities are located. Here too ruderal plant communities of both native and non-native species alike jostle for a toe-hold eagerly exploring the vacuum exposed by frequent land use changes. Its the industrial estate car park that's supports a black redstart, the roof where gulls breed and scan the area for discarded fast food or the landscaping that produce the berries for wintering waxwing.
Yesterday's spring morning visit to the landscape around Blaenavon was a visit to an edgeland now championed as having global significance. This edgeland is a cultural landscape, despoiled by the utilitarian priorities of the industrial revolution but now rich in biological diversity. Negotiating the track between a couple of small horse paddocks a pair of stonechat announced my arrival in characteristic style moving from fence post to stunted hawthorn to remnant drystone wall and back to fence post. Onward between some large partly vegetated coal spoil tips I was able to locate up to three wheatear against the audible backdrop of fly past meadow pipit and the many displaying skylark.
Edgelands are an undervalued and unexplored resource. For some naturalists who view open agricultural landscapes with hedgerows ( if you're lucky) as the true countryside, urban edgelands are hostile no go areas not for the purist.