Tuesday, March 09, 2021

cheesy walkers

Here's another lockdown jaunt in the Newport area: having pretty much exhausted the supply of green spaces accessible on foot from the house we got in the car to make the short jaunt over towards junction 27 of the M4 and the Allt-yr-yn nature reserve (note for non-Welsh people re. pronunciation: something like "all-tureen" will probably do). I'd been here a couple of times before for solo walks and you can also end up in pretty much the same place if you follow the canal south and under the M4 from the Fourteen Locks visitor centre. The canal in question is the old Monmouthshire and Brecon canal, the main arm of which ran up from central Newport to Brecon, and which is still navigable in places, though not, as it happens, the section here which runs along the north side of the nature reserve and separates it from the M4. 

Anyway, between the road where we parked and the canal there are some interesting woodland areas to be explored, including a couple of clearly man-made ponds. Just like with Woodland Park there is a back-story here involving a big house that no longer exists, in this case called, unsurprisingly, Allt-yr-yn House. Old maps (the one below is from 1937) show it but the main building seems to have gone now. There was also a lido which seems to have sat above the couple of ponds we explored; it's unclear exactly how much of that remains but I don't recall seeing anything, and we would have walked around pretty much the exact area where it would have been. I expect it was probably landscaped into a natural-looking pond when the area was made into a nature reserve. 

That was very nice and I recommend it highly; a few photos from our walk can be found here. We also did a walk up around Usk which, while much less interesting as a walk, did yield another entry for my occasional Mystery Object contest. Here is a pile of them in a field (the complete pile was considerably bigger and must have comprised a couple of hundred):

And here are a couple of closer views of the one I picked up and brought home with me:

As always someone on Twitter either had the knowledge or was prepared to put in the legwork to find out what it was, and it turns out these are "biomarbles" which are typically used as a hi-tech filtration device for various kinds of noxious industrial and farming effluent. The web page here is a bit vague about what their actual real-world application is, as it's obviously for industry insiders who know what things like "a perfect solution when surface area is more important than voidage" mean. There is an explanatory (well, sort of) video, though. Obviously the implications of finding a large number of them just dumped in a field is that they've probably already been used for their primary purpose, that is to say filtering noxious solids out of noxious liquids, and so a thorough wash of the hands is very much in order.

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