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

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Fifty shades of Farteg grey

Love them or hate them coal spoil tips polarise opinion. Icons of working class toil and natural resource exploitation, those tips that escaped the influences of gravel voiced civil engineers are now sites of ecological value and a resource for students of the discipline. Nonetheless coal recovery is still big business and the grubby hands of specialist companies continue to submit planning applications for open cast mining clothed in a cloak of patronising respectability as if a favour is being done for valley communities by removing 'eyesores'. The truth is left alone the actions of vegetational succession will soften the perception of harshness creating an open mosaic habitat that contributes to nature conservation and is faithful to its social history. Why should it be any other way?

One of the areas under threat of the public service 'big hole land reclamation' technique is the Varteg - or should it be Farteg? Here the tips remain a blend of various shades of grey, where the angle of repose is hostile to germination and water cuts the surface like the furrowed brow of a concerned local resident. These tips are a delight to scramble around. Bare solar heat absorbing shale sits cheek by jowl with dwarf shrub heath and marshy grassland, where the common lizard basks in the sunshine like a holiday maker on the beach in Benedorm before scurrying for cover at the first sight of a lumbering inquisitive naturalist.

I write this post after a morning pottering around this peri-urban environment. Here a cuckoo called and a couple of wheatear were in chase me mode. From the nearby ffridd skylark provided the background mood music, linnet skipped from gorse bush to gorse bush and a snipe was heard from the seclusion of some reed dominated marshy grassland. A green tiger beetle struggled to generate any speed across the spoil due to a keen chilly wind.

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