Alec Stewart has been working as a community park ranger for the last 8 years. Alec manages Grangemore Park in Grangetown, amongst other local urban spaces.
What is the history of Grangemore Park?
Grangemore park is a former municipal rubbish tip. The site is a 20 acre mound on the banks of the River Ely in southern Grangetown, which has been transformed in to a wildlife sanctuary within this heavily urbanised area.
The park has been designed to represent the different aspects of the Welsh countryside, with the top of the mound representing the mountains of Wales, covered in low growing scrub and scree, and other areas of broad-leaved lowland and upland species.
As you walk up the site from the ponds at the bottom of the hill, you cross reens surrounding the hillside that represent moats, as if the top of the hill is an ancient hillfort. At the top of the mound is the Silent Links sculpture.
What is the inspiration for the Silent Links?
The art in the park is to provide a sense of history for the visitors. The sculpture represents the history of Grangemore. Grangemore was firstly owned by the monastery of Grange Farm. Over time, the site became industrialised through the docks and port. Later, scrap merchants moved in, and finally the site was used as a refuse tip. Clattering chains would have been a constant sound through most of the site’s history, but now the chains have fallen silent and it has returned to peace. The large chains in the sculpture lie in dry dock, held in the shape of the cross. The chains also represent the Grangetown community, where the different cultures were brought here from all four corners of the world, pulled together by the chains of industry, with strength at its centre.
What wildlife is present here?
For a site that has only been developed since 2000, the variety and strength of the resident populations is great to see. The grasslands have a thriving orchid population and the site has slow worms. Parts of the site have been fenced off to allow the breeding skylarks to nest in peace. The trees are starting to become more established, which will bring in more and more wildlife as they mature. The ponds attract a huge amount of insect life.
How did you become a ranger?
As a child, I dreamed of being a naturalist on a nature reserve. Unfortunately, I didn’t do well at school and I ended up doing all sorts of jobs instead for many years. I eventually applied to be an urban ranger, then I became a community ranger and finally I got this job. I had no formal education in ecology but I was always a keen photographer and I learned about everything that I photographed. I’ve learned everything else from Raj, who runs several other urban parks around Cardiff. It is the best job I have ever had. There is no money in the work, and the hours are unsociable, so you have to really believe in the work. You have to be completely immersed and utterly involved. There is no point otherwise.
For me, Grangemore is a superb place for reflection on urban living. This isn’t an escape from the city, it just allows you to stand back and watch for a while. Looking from the top of this mound, formed from the city’s past waste, you have views across the whole of Cardiff, including the latest feature in our city-scape; the Energy from Waste plant in Splott. This park is a great reminder that everything we put in our black bin bags has an impact on our environment. It doesn’t just go. It goes somewhere.
Or it may just be a lovely place to sit and count emperor dragonflies while you eat your McDonalds.
EITHER WAY, VISIT AND ENJOY!
There is no ‘Friends’ group for Grangemore Park yet. If you would like to volunteer, contact the rangers, or join a group such as Cardiff Conservation Volunteers, who are one of the many groups that help maintain the site.
The site is located on the Ely Route.
Alec’s superb wildlife photographs are available from Nature Photography by Alec Stewart. A visit is well worth the time.
The rangers can be followed on their Facebook page Wild About Cardiff.
Consider this walking route that incorporates Grangemore Park.