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

Wednesday, 30 December 2015


The beauty of time off from holding back the steady drip drip of environmental damage is having the space to ponder and potter. This week I made the short journey to scuff around a couple of the few remaining urban wildspaces of Blaenavon's inner town. 

St Peters churchyard is large. From its lime tree lined entrance it quickly opens up into a naturalists dream of unkemptedness. Grave stones, at more angles than a draughtman's set square, emerge from a threadbare, weather beaten, tangled mass of vegetation. A great spotted woodpecker called as it alighted in one of the several mature Scots pines followed quickly by the less aggressive call of a coal tit. I pushed my way through bramble and brittle stalks of rosebay willowherb over uncertain terrain that hid the remnants of graves and all the associated decaying stonework. A desire line that marked the lower boundary of this urban oasis and a road with a small cul-de-sac of houses was littered with discarded drinks cans. I knelt to examine an ornate headstone with the forms of wildflowers traced in the stonework and found some fresh dogs mess.

Leaving this place of the dead through a stand of Japanese knotweed and a newish wooden five-bar gate with a missing latch making its closing impossible, I left for the nearby Beeches house. A gully with a locally distinctive stonewall complete with a coping of slagstone led to this, another unmanaged urban green space.

Ty Mawr or The Beeches is a large former NHS nursing home and before that a base for industrialists to organise grouse shooting parties during the Victorian times. Now disused the house and grounds have declined significantly. Several mature beech trees carry the penknife carvings of teenage lovers from the 1960's  - an unrecognised cultural subject. A small common duckweed covered pond was populated with debris including a chair. I looked for a makeshift headstone that I remember seeing a number of years ago that marked the grave of a dog that was probably a shooters companion, but this could not be found. A fallen tree colonised with what appears to be oyster mushroom was compensation.

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