Promoting observation, free range exploration, sense of place and citizen science, through the field notes of a naturalist.

Friday, 13 September 2013

A sense of neglect

Dunlop Semtex Pond in Brynmawr has taken a turn for the worst. Once a pond servicing the thirst of heavy industry this redundant natural resource was included in a comprehensive regeneration scheme that saw  a mix of residential and retail properties, freshly branded as 'Lakeside'. The pond itself was sold to a local angling organisation and public monies were used to improve access primarily for fishing. Since this brave new world the pond has steadily developed an air of neglect. Waterside fences have been damaged and not replaced, access to ramps and fishing platforms are barred to all other users by padlocked gates (similar to Wentwood Reservoir) and its also accumulating that characteristic eclectic mix of urban detritus. Furthermore there's an issue with algal blooms. The surface is now over half covered by algae that seems somewhat unique to this site. I suspect this is directly related to the daily input of detergent from a nearby business exacerbated by the ill judged introduction of defecating domestic fowl. These birds are mainly sedentary choosing to spend most of their time preening in or adjacent to the main water inlet, where organic material is flushed into the pond.      

I'm sure the reasons behind this neglect are complex so I wouldn't wish to be too critcal. My issue is with the regulatory bodies and funding organisations who appear to think that the future well being of these sites are best placed with fishing interests as if they are the only player in town. Welsh Water embraces angling like a lifelong friend often to the exclusion of other legitimate users. Wentwood Reservoir is like Fort Knox accessible only to fisherman with no hint of multifuctionality here! Angling is a predominately male dominated past time but with numbers particapating falling annually it surely is time for plan B, where the interests of the majority are preferred to the interests of the few. 


  1. With regard to Brynmawr "Semtex" Lake, as a life-long Brynmawr resident and a course fishing enthusiast, I feel I must both agree and disagree with your comments on the current condition of the lake, which having a small amount of inside knowledge, I know is directly due to a personal falling out of the two gentlemen who originally part invested in its taking over. Initially the lake was cleaned up and stocked with carp, but without any publicity campaign, and following the fall out between the two parties, the lake has now become neglected as a fishery and just a hang-out for local weekend teenage drinkers causing damage to the erected platforms - hence the pad-locking of the gates. As much as I respect your opinion on the condition of the lake and its obvious neglect I must correct you on your statement regarding ,angling membership reducing annually.If you were to visit the EA website you would clearly see that membership has risen year on year for the past 10 years, so please do not make such sweeping comments without correct research. Finally, with the closure of the Ebbw Vale Steel Works, and the fact that nearly all ponds/lakes in the Brynmawr/Ebbw Vale area were used to feed the site, I must bring to your attention that the local authorities gave the communities an option to either take over the control and upkeep of local ponds, or face them being filled in, and guess which group stepped forward with a plan to keep these ponds open and in use? that's right, anglers and angling clubs. Some successfully and in the case of Semtex lake some not so successfully. Please take this into account when you make sarcastic comments regarding anglers and their relationship with Welsh Water. I am a nature lover and respect all bird and aquatic related life, but for everyone one of me, there'll always be 10 others who will regard ponds/lakes as nothing more than a place to hang around and cause vandalism. This is the issue, not any petty preference shown to bird watchers, naturalists or anglers. Try visiting Bryn Bach Park in Tredegar if you want to see a multi used lake, it is a shining example to all.

  2. Thanks very much Stefonas for your detailed reply to my posting - I only just noticed it.

    I certainly have no intention of being critical of anglers and fully acknowledge the role played in saving the many interesting ponds in Brynmawr. As you say they stepped in to support these sites when British Steel threatened to pull the plug and for this they need the credit it deserves.

    As you will have noticed I am passionate (just like you) about environmental concerns in the valleys and part of the purpose of this blog is to showcase the good practice that is happening all over the valleys but to also highlight areas where it may be not so good. The delivery is sometimes a bit 'left field' as I find it often helps to simulate debate. The fact you felt motivated to write to 'put the record straight' suggests the site is going its job. I do however make no apologies for this approach even though you feel it sarcastic on times!

    I don't think you should to be too sensitive about the issue of angling in decline because these days all such traditional outdoor activities including botany and bird watching are struggling to compete with Sky TV and computer games etc. and therefore not attracting younger people. It is well acknowledged that the age profile of many of those interested in these past times are 40 +. Its interesting you should seek to correct me on my 'decline' observation referencing the EA, as it was the same organisation that was the subject of a BBC Breakfast item during the summer that suggested that angling was in decline as there were not enough youngsters taking it up. Nonetheless, angling does remain very popular.

    On the matter of Welsh Water I do feel that sometimes their approach to water uses is heavily weighted to angling. I see why this happens as it makes good business sense to do so, but when it is seen to exclude other legitmate users I take issue. I cited Wentwood Reservoir as an example as I have no possibility of accessing this site unless I fish. Furthermore I've been told to leave another Welsh Water site as I didn't have permission to walk around it and this is from an organisation that have duties for wildlife and recreation. I have sort permission via the offical route of asking WW but was flatly refused, so I hope you will agree that I have some good grounds for frustration.

    I do hope your concerns about my forthright views do not put you off from visiting this site again as your knowledge and observations are valued additions to the site.

    Thanks once again.

    PS: yes I agree Bryn Bach Park is a very good example of multifunctional use!

  3. Hi, I am a visitor who is staying at waun heulog in Brynmawr and pass this pond nearly everyday as a friend and I go to take her children back and forth local school and shopping in asdas. We happened to be passing yesterday, Monday 30th March to go to local cinema with children and we heard cries for help, a ten year old little girl was up to her waste in freezing cold mud and sinking fast, without a second thought I used an old car tyre, sunk myself up to my knees but grabbing the tyre managed to free the young girl and eventually myself, Surely in the state the pond is in at the moment there should at least be barriers and warnings all the way around it to prevent this from happening again, children always head for the most dangerous places as 'kids will be kids', but I keep thinking about the what ifs, for example, what if we hadnt of been passing. Please could something be put around this dangerous boggy pond before a child is actually killed which would be a devastation to the Brynmawr area.
    Thank you
    A very concerned Brynmawr visitor.
    Ps, The young girl was freezing cold and traumatised but is now doing well as am I.

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