Bedwas Tips - Reclaimed by Nature

Open Mosaic Habitats on Bedwas Tips © Gemma Waters

Bedwas Tips near Caerphilly, South Wales, have been reclaimed by nature from their industrial past. But they are under threat from plans to destroy their wildlife-rich habitats and extract the coal within them.

When thinking of wildlife havens in Wales, former coal mining sites might not be top of your list. But it might be a surprise to learn that these colliery spoils support an impressive array of species and can be particularly rich in invertebrates.

Buglife’s Conservation Officer Liam Olds says “Colliery spoil sites are often regarded as unsightly areas of land that are devoid of life. This couldn’t be further from the truth! They are in fact places of incredible beauty which harbour complex ecosystems for many rare and threatened species”.

Bedwas Tips in the county borough of Caerphilly, South Wales, is one such site. Since operations ceased in 1985, a mosaic of habitats has developed, transforming the once barren spoil tips to a thriving ecosystem. Dry and wet habitats weave together to provide opportunities for a wealth of wildlife, including declining butterfly species such as Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages), Grayling (Hipparchia semele) and Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus). We need to know more about the special wildlife it supports, as collieries can offer vital habitat to rare and threatened invertebrates such as bees, beetles and spiders, as well as reptiles, birds and small mammals.

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) © Greg Hitchcock Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages) © Greg Hitchcock

One of the legacies of coal mining is that the resulting spoil tips can present health and safety issues that need to be addressed. Buglife believe the way forward for Bedwas Colliery and other tips across Wales is to find solutions to these issues, keeping communities safe whilst retaining the site’s wildlife value and keeping the coal in the ground.

The ‘Bedwas Tip Reclamation scheme’ proposed by Energy Recovery Investments Ltd threatens the wildlife value of the site and surrounding habitats. The scheme involves the removal and sale of 500,000 tonnes of coal over at least 5 years, potentially to be used to fuel cement furnaces. Waste from washing the spoil will be dumped on Mynydd y Grug Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), and coal transported through Graig Goch Local Nature Reserve (LNR). Restoration plans will completely transform the character of the site, altering soil conditions, topography and vegetation to create species-poor upland grassland. This would result in a landscape that lacks the complexity of the current open mosaic habitats, with a devastating loss of biodiversity.

If other reclamation schemes follow this approach, it will have severe consequences for important habitats and threatened species across Wales. Buglife is campaigning with Friends of the Earth Cymru and other partners to make sure this doesn’t happen. We are campaigning to save not just Bedwas Tips, but cherished colliery habitats across Wales.

Bedwas Colliery Tip © Phil Jenkins

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