Splott Beach: my edgeland

A treat for you today: Splott resident Tamsin Stirling tells us about her Cardiff edgeland: the fabled Splott Beach.

My edgeland: Splott Beach

When people ask me, as they often do, ‘is there really such a thing as Splott beach?’, I answer an emphatic yes. It’s not your archetypical white sandy beach, but a beach there is, sandwiched between the Bristol Channel and the Tremorfa waste water treatment works.

I’ve lived in Splott for over 20 years and only discovered Splott Beach a couple of years ago thanks to our wonderful hyperlocal news service Inksplott. I’m now a regular visitor, usually with my camera. I’ve met a few other walkers there and a couple of fishermen hoping to catch cod, but I am usually on my own, accompanied by the rumble of traffic along Rover Way.

Face out to sea and there’s the Somerset coast, the screech of gulls and curlews and, if the tide is out, beautiful skeins of runnels left in the mud. Face inland and there is a fascinating jumble of buildings and tanks that take storm water and sewage from south east Wales and, using oxygen and bacteria, make it clean enough to be discharged into the channel. And further back, the Celsa steelworks, a 24 hour-a-day workhorse which turns scrap metal into steel reinforcing bars, generating noise and dust which Tremorfa and Splott residents are so familiar with.

Splott beach is an industrial archive. Bricks, tiles, parts of the former East Moors steel works –broken crucibles, substances produced by heat, there are endless objects to be found on the beach. It’s a joy for someone like me who enjoys pottering about and taking photographs. There is so much beauty in degraded industrial objects. Less beautiful are current human interventions; the beach and the coastal path are frequently used as an alternative to the Lamby Way tip.

The Wales Coastal Path runs just above Splott beach going east, along the water treatment works fence. Beyond the works, the path rises up a bit and there is a fantastic viewpoint to the city and beyond. This spot demonstrates the location of Splott in a way that I knew logically, but had never seen laid out so clearly before. It also provides a fantastic vantage point for the whole of the steel works – lorries bringing scrap metal, a water truck damping down the slag heap, diggers constantly shifting metal and ash.

Splott beach is physically on the edge of our city. For me, it is also a brilliant example of what Robert Macfarlane and others refer to as ‘edgelands’ – places that do not attract much interest or attention, that are not known by many, but where plenty of beauty and interest thrives.

On and around Splott Beach, an edgeland down the road from where I live, there is constant ebb and flow – of tides, of traffic, water, steel, people … It is a fascinating place, ever changing, always different from the last time. Yes, Splott Beach is most definitely a thing …

Tamsin Stirling has lived in Splott since 1997. She is a freelance researcher, working on housing and regeneration issues. She is fascinated in how places and communities function and particularly in the very different experiences of individuals living in the same city. She loves to walk and take photographs. @TamsinStirling1

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