Colliery spoil tips are often cast in a bad light because of their association with a heavily industrialised past, but those that remain have developed into outstanding sites for wildlife. Liam Olds and Richard Wistow explain the key features that make the tips so biologically interesting, and celebrate the rich biodiversity of the South Wales colliery spoil.
For more than a century, the environment of the South Wales Valleys and the fortunes of the people who live there were shaped by coal-mining. The scars of heavy industry were everywhere and black heaps of coal waste brooded ominously over the Valleys. Today, mining and heavy industry have largely gone and nature has transformed the landscape, but, nevertheless, perceptions of dereliction and despoliation stubbornly persist.