Tower Regeneration: a site visit

Tower Colliery has now closed, and the site is being restored through Tower Regeneration Limited (TRL).  I have been to one working group meeting, representing Open Spaces Society (as the Local Correspondent for Rhondda Cynon Taf), and last Friday we had a site visit.

The whole Tower site is about 250 hectares close to Hirwaun and Rhigos villages, and over a third will be put in trust for local people’s use.  The caption above some photographs of the site reads “If you think you are a person of influence, Try ordering my dog around.”

We were visiting the former tip 107, which straddles the bypass.  TRL have created ponds and nature has been taking the tip back. Our group included the RCT ecologist Richard, tourism Ceri and regeneration officers, community councillor,  Natalie Sargent from Coalfields Regeneration Trust and, of course, our guides from TRL, and the dog.

Since restoration began, the trees around the ponds have grown high and might hinder creating a more accessible route.  (Later, I remembered my Kilvey Hill friend Blod and his horse Macsen who are trained loggers – maybe that’s a solution to tidy the birch and remove blackthorn.)  The present path is made by using rubber and topped off to create a solid enough surface for walkers.

The nearby A465 and smaller roads are background noise to observing the diverse plants and fish, we were told, in the ponds.  Like much of the Valleys, it is beautiful. On the far side of the pond is a stone bridge, with fossils, and then we walked up a slope where conifers have failed to establish (“probably a good thing” Richard the ecologist said, because many plants he hopes to see like poor soils).

That was the smaller triangle before we went under the A465. There’s parking available and the area could house various facilities and create jobs. I liked the tyres and reflections.

On the other side is a huge concreted area where buildings have been demolished, and the old railway line. Everything opens up – or maybe it was the sun.  The wind was bitter.

We walked along and round the top of the site, groups chatting and getting split. there’s still the odd tangle of iron.

At the far end, we climbed back over the other side of the low hill. It is a massive area and could include a multi user path.  I’ve looked out the leaflets by British Horse Society and Sustrans on good designs.  Runners, cycling and horse riding or driving could all be accommodated and linked to other trails.

There’s a ridge of land with the road below, with great landscapes and also so many tiny flowering lichens making subtle colours under our feet.

TRL want people who “will do” actions to add to the success and sustainability of the project.  I specifically want to see rights of way – probably multi user, bridleways or byways – designed into it and on the Definitive Map, and a status for the land which will protect it for the people of Hirwaun and Rhigos, well, the Valleys really, forever.

 

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3 Responses to Tower Regeneration: a site visit

  1. Fascinating blog, thanks so much for getting involved Jay, great opportunities here.

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  2. glyncoch says:

    Great news that Tower is being restored. It was so important as all the Rhondda pits lost their access, and the last working in the upper Rhondda (and later in Wales) was via Tower. The old visitor centre was like no other, and told the story of the brave fight to keep this pit open.(Mainly via hand written postcard sized records) While it was a pity to see the industry and its communities disappear, it would be wonderful to have their story told in such a beautiful place.My grandmother used to tell us that when she was a girl a monkey could get from Treherbert to Cardiff, without touching the ground. In her lifetime the natural Oak had all be felled for pit props, and coking etc, when she was a very old lady she was pleased to be able to tell us that that monkey would soon be able to do the same journey, even if only on conifers. The ecology has obvious had very serious disruption over a couple of hundred years, so as conditions improve it will be fascinating to see how it develops. There will be old species returning and some that have never been there before. In managing the area, it may be important to replicate the old farming techniques done to an appropriate “traditional” scale, if it is desired to attract species that were here before.
    A bit worried to see that paths were made of old tyres, covered over with soil/gravel. Tyres are normally regarded as a potent source of pollution over time. For foot paths, using bundles of twiggy branches instead of tyres, will work very well. Remember that many Victorian railways were built over marshy areas stabilized with bunches of willow. I am told that these can be found when work is done on the mainline railways in marshy areas of Carmarthenshire, those twigs can still be found.I have been experimenting with all the branches, that normally get turned into wood-chip, when trees are felled, for a couple of years, and so far, results are quite good. Keeping branches longer, and randomly scattered without bundling, will produce a stronger path, eventually, but where soil or gravel is in short supply, or when a quick result is desired branches need to be cut shorter. Wood chip works but can rapidly deteriorate into sludge if conditions are very wet. Some species are better than others, but I generally use a mixture of whatever is available. The fibres in the wood, trap minerals, being washed out of natural soil by the rain, to produce the harder footpath.

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    • ossjay says:

      Many thanks for these thoughts and very interesting suggestions on using twigs. I may have mis-remembered tyres rather than rubber and will get told off! because, since the 90s, the trees have grown, pulling some out and then layering them for harder paths might work well. Something to investigate.
      You are right about the species and diversity returning, although the mining may have changed which ones – it is fabulous.

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