No longer a blot on the land­scape

Rub­bish dumps across the coun­try are be­ing trans­formed into tran­quil na­ture re­serves and works of art, re­ports Julie Hard­ing

Country Life Every Week - - My Week -

The os­cil­lat­ing reeds form an im­pen­e­tra­ble screen to the pond be­yond. Un­even baked clay topped with rye grass leads to the up­stand­ing mane-like beds. Nearby, sunny yel­low cowslips bloom among the grasses, per­form­ing pen­du­lum swings in the spring breeze. This ocean of yel­low is punc­tu­ated by a blue bu­gle and an early pur­ple or­chid. A reed war­bler re­peats its dis­tinct rhyth­mic song, but its shrill sound is some­times drowned out by the roar of a me­chan­i­cal ex­ca­va­tor in the far dis­tance and a low-level black-plas­tic cylin­der stands out among the flora.

Although Cary­moor has the feel of a longestab­lished na­ture re­serve, there are re­minders that, un­der­neath, 70.6 mil­lion cu­bic feet of com­pacted waste, to a depth of 50ft, is de­grad­ing and giv­ing off enough gas to power 1,500 homes. house­hold waste is still in­car­cer­ated nearby.

Opened in 1970, this land­fill site near Cas­tle Cary be­came an eye­sore as it swal­lowed rub­bish from the towns and vil­lages of Som­er­set, un­til 1996, when it was cov­ered over. Be­tween 2006 and 2014, ac­tive land­fill sites in the UK have re­duced dra­mat­i­cally, from 278 to 160 re­spec­tively, as re­cy­cling and in­cin­er­a­tion take prece­dence. how­ever, with the UK still pro­duc­ing enough rub­bish to fill the Al­bert hall ev­ery two hours, that leaves thou­sands of acres of cur­rent sites, as well as open-cast coal mines and other gi­ant, man­made car­bun­cles, to be turned from a blot to a beau­ti­ful panorama.

‘Gen­er­ally, land­fills are cov­ered with rye grass, which is of­ten sheep-grazed,’ ex­plains Ru­pert Farthing, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Cary­moor en­vi­ron­men­tal Trust, which leases the land from waste com­pany Viri­dor. ‘Cary­moor is un­usual in its di­ver­sity and num­ber of habi­tats.’

When the clay cap was placed on top of Cary­moor’s heart-shaped 100 acres, en­cas­ing mat­tresses and fridge freez­ers, the food waste from myr­iad Sun­day roasts, wine bot­tles, old cur­tains and clothes, it re­sem­bled a moon­scape. how­ever, univer­sity re­searchers,

ecol­o­gists and vol­un­teers soon moved in and planted neu­tral grass­lands, wild­flow­ers, reed beds and marshy grass­lands, hawthorn to make up hedgerows and al­most 21 ⁄2 acres of cal­care­ous grass­land, in which devil’s-bit scabi­ous, crested dog’s-tail, kid­ney vetch and ox-eye daisy can to­day be seen among the grasses.

The en­vi­ron­ment has been shaped with wildlife in mind. Thirty dif­fer­ent species of but­ter­fly have been recorded, in­clud­ing the small blue; the grass snake is a res­i­dent, as are slow worms, voles, great crested newts and the oc­ca­sional har­vest mouse. In the sum­mer, when the clover turns one of the mead­ows a rich red, bum­ble­bees turn up in droves.

‘Land­fill is a blank can­vas and we can do things at Cary­moor in a more ex­per­i­men­tal way than else­where, so there’s a lot go­ing on con­densed into a small foot­print,’ con­tin­ues Mr Farthing. ‘That, in part, is thanks to Viri­dor, which, like some other land­fill op­er­a­tors, has been for­ward-think­ing in recog­nis­ing the bio­di­ver­sity value of its sites.’

Ali­son White­head, de­vel­op­ment man­ager at the Land Trust, points out that, with no one or­gan­i­sa­tion over­see­ing for­mer blots on the land­scape, they are re­stored to vary­ing de­grees, depend­ing on the in­ten­tions of the landowner, funds and/or plan­ning con­di­tions—which have been lax in the past.

‘The Land Trust doesn’t pro­vide a short­term quick fix, but we make sure that the ar­eas we are re­spon­si­ble for are go­ing to be man­aged in per­pe­tu­ity,’ notes Miss White­head, whose or­gan­i­sa­tion has over­seen the land­scap­ing of eight for­mer land­fill sites, in­clud­ing the 70-acre Port Sun­light River Park and Northum­ber­lan­dia, also known as the Lady

of the North. The gi­ant re­cum­bent fe­male near Cram­ling­ton, de­signed as a tourist at­trac­tion and wildlife mag­net, was the brain­child of land­scape de­signer Charles Jencks.

‘It was an un­prece­dented civil-en­gi­neer­ing job and Charles has al­most im­proved on Na­ture,’ de­clares Vis­count Ri­d­ley, on whose Blag­don es­tate the sculp­ture was built.

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