By Tamsin Stirling
When Cardiff Civic Society asked on Twitter ‘what is your favourite unsung public space in Cardiff?’, the replies served as a reminder of the diversity of public spaces, that are loved and used by citizens across the city and which are a vital part of our quality of life. Formal parks and gardens, trails, fields, woodlands, docks, canals, nature reserves, foreshore and Cathays cemetery.
As a Splott resident, I have a few favourite unsung public spots. Probably the most unloved is Splott beach which has always fascinated me. Sandwiched between the Tremorfa waste water treatment works and Southpoint Industrial Estate and with the very busy Rover Way in the background, it’s an unlikely location to go for some peace. But the space does provide respite from the city and is well used, not only by walkers, but also by people fishing.
It’s an industrial archive, strewn with the remnants of the 17 streets of Lower Splott and East Moors Steelworks. On the foreshore as it’s also known, I’ve spotted over 120 different types of bricks. Many are from the brick works that were built alongside South Wales collieries – from Aberaman to Abersychan, from Ebbw Vale to South Rhondda.
Splott beach is physically on the southern edge of our city. It’s also a great example of what Robert Macfarlane and others refer to as ‘edgelands’ – places that do not attract much attention, that are not widely known, but where beauty and interest thrives. When the tide is out, you can safely walk along the coast west from Splott beach to very close to the docks entrance. Sitting on the channel side of the barrage with the tide out feels a bit strange; it’s a perspective of the city that we don’t often get the chance to see.
The second space I want to mention is the reen that runs between the Lamby Way tip and Eastgate Business Park. It’s an unlikely wildlife haven – teeming with birds of all sorts – swans, geese, coots, moorhens, cormorants and the imperious heron. From the channel end of the reen, you can walk west to Lamby beach and the Rhymney estuary and east as far as the Usk estuary before you have to head inland. The reen is popular with people bird watching, cycling, riding and walking with, and without, dogs.
I don’t know what the future might bring for these unsung spaces that might be seen as rather unlovely by many. For example, if the second phase of the Eastern Bay Link goes ahead, what would that mean for Splott Beach, particularly if the ‘foreshore’ option is selected? I’d better make the most of my wanderings while I can.