Progress on Maesteg Washery Site

Posts and Trees

Loads happening recently as regards Public Art.
The information below is taken from a brilliant blog by Catherine Stephens-Ward, Arts, Officer for Sustrans, the text is written by Jony Easterby the Artist working on the site, Catherine’s  blog address is,

Monoliths and Ponds looking West to East


A busy month down on site for the Maesteg Landscape project.

It was great to arrive back on site after a month or two away time to start putting some fencing in.
The contractor Jonathan and his mate Dai arrived a bit late and a bit lost with a mad bit of kit…a tracked post driver, very handy…and then did a cracking job of driving my nice oak fence posts into the ground. A couple of lines of Stock fence then arose. I was worried about how this would look, but it actually framed the site really nicely and gave a sense of protection to the water. A nice bit of local vernacular as Aled Singleton from BCBC pointed out. This fence will also act as a barrier to keep dogs out of the ponds as well affording protection for the newly planted trees .

Jonathan Lean and his crazy machine

Jonathan Lean and his crazy machine whacking fence posts in

 Having put up the fences we then moved on to the charred riven oak posts. This grid of oak posts will form the protective supports for over 250 Betula pubescens (Downy Birch) that will be planted next to each post.
The charred black oak posts reference the pit props once use in coalmines, their use now subverted to support trees. As they slowly decay they will add organic matter and a bit of biochar to the soil and help the birches grow. The oak posts came from a woodland a half mile from my house, near Machynlleth. They are thinings from the re-growth from stumps of an old oak wood that was clear felled during the great war around 1916, this was used to provide pit props fro the South Wales mines…..what comes around.

The contractors were dragging their feet a bit by now, smoking too many fags and totally underestimated the time it takes to drive the posts in despite my nagging. By fall of light we still had another 30-40 to go. Not my favourite pastime, holding a torch in the cold and rain so someone can bash posts in the dark!

All done Jules Russel my swarthy assistant woodsman, and I re retreated to the Crystal Palace Chinese restaurant, as we do evry night in Maesteg, so that Sam and his family could spoil us with amazing food and hospitality for the night. My warmest thanks to  them and the cosy Afan Lodge for making our stay in Maesteg comfortable.

The monolith semi circle

The monolith semi circle

We were also able to see how the water has been behaving and settling into the ponds. All the ponds were holding water…but at different levels?
So out with the shovel and spade, and after a while we had reached an equilibrium with each pool flowing into another….there is so much child like fun and wonder to be had working on this project, big diggers and mud pies!
We spent the next day raising the levels of all the ponds by building a stone outfall which cannot be eroded by the over flow, this in turn seeps into the land drain,under the cycle path and onto the stream to the North of the site.
This meant some of the bunds have started to disappear, losing the flow of lines I had imagined, this however has created an interesting broken line which will hopefully soon be colonised by vegetation. Only time will tell the combined action of water, wind and life will have on the site.

Raised path between seating and mound

Raised path with limestone dust running between the seating feature and the pond mounds.

Retreating back to the hills of mid Wales for a few days allowed me to pick up the tree and plant orders and gather spades in preparation for the tree planting session the following week. A trip to the Dingle wholesale nursery in Welshpool which I have been visiting for a number of years secured all bare rooted tree stock needed. They have over 200 acres of nursery there which is very impressive.
I also ordered a tub of ‘Friendly’ mycorrhizal fungi that you dip the bare roots into.

At the dawn  of time  when (the earth looked like the Maesteg washery) plants were just beginning to colonise our planet mycorrhizal fungi were there living in a symbiotic relationship with plants enabling them to extract nutrients and hold onto water in very difficult soil conditions.
In effect, the fungus provides a secondary root system, a system that is considerably more efficient and extensive than the plants own root system.
These fungi are living organisms and will live with the plant, sourcing a continued nutrient supply for its entire lifetime. In exchange the plant provides carbon and sugars to the fungi.
Boy the soil on site needs all the help it can get!

Riven oak grid with eager tree planters from Maesteg Comp

Riven oak grid with eager tree planters from Maesteg Comp

We then planted trees with a seemingly endless trail of school kids from Maesteg Comp…and how they can plant trees. After the first day we had manage to get well over 600 trees in the ground and were starting to worry there would be non left for locals to plant on the weekend!
We then got very wet, and planted more trees and got very wet..etc.

Needless to say the local folk of Maesteg showed up over the weekend despite the rain and rugby, and all the trees were put in the ground -over 1800 of them.
The following species were planted.

Alnus glutinosa – common alder
Acer campestre – Field maple
Cornus alba – Red stemmed dogwood
Cornus Sanguina- Dogwood
Crataegus monogyna – Hawthorn
Sorbus aucuparia – Mountain ash
Viburnum opulus – Guelder rose
Viburnum lantana –Wayfaring Tree
Rosa canina – Dog Rose
Quercus Petera -Oak
Corylus avellana – Hazel
Malus sylvestris – Crab Apple
Sambucus nigra – Elder
Betula pendula – Silver Birch
Betula pubesencs – Downey birch
Cytisus scoparius – Broom
Lonicera periclymenum – Honeysuckle
Pinus Sylvistris – Scots Pine

So its over to the elements and nature to take its course on site.
I will return in the spring to sow the following wildflower seeds.
These will be ‘artistically sprinkled’ in different coloured drifts around the site.

White Campion
Hedge Parsley
Birdsfoot Trefoil
White Melilot
Vipers Bugloss
Basic Mix
Corn Poppy
Corn Campion
Water edge mix
Devils Bit Scabios
Meadow Buttercup
Purple loosestrife
Ragged Robin
Self heal
Yellow Flag Iris

About guys1

Arts Professional Theatre Designer
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