Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay: the lustre of pearls?

The video presentation released by Tidal Lagoon Swansea Bay certainly looks impressive, but will the scheme have a ‘lustre of pearl’ effect on the bay?

The presentation describes plans to construct a 10.5 km causeway, using innovative techniques, to create a 11 sq km lagoon in a £650m development. But will it live up to its promises?

A lagoon for energy?

Fitted with turbines capable of generating enough electricity to power over 100,000 homes, the causeway certainly ticks the environment-friendly boxes, helping to create a carbon-neutral Wales. But what will the impact be on the local ecology? On its website the company appear to be quite honest in accepting that the development will have some impact on the local environment, and have confirmed that they will be producing an Environmental Impact Assessment report.

A lagoon of opportunity?

The developer states that the lagoon will provide an environment for reviving old marine-based industries such as oyster beds, kelp farming; and watersports like sailing and triathlon. These are to be welcomed and can only further enhance the bay’s status as a premier location for seafood and watersports.

A lagoon for jobs?

It is fair to say that the tidal lagoon will create some much needed jobs for the area and give our local economy a boost. But I assume that a development as cutting edge as this will require some highly-skilled expertise. I wonder how many of these jobs will come to Swansea Bay? I believe that the lagoon offers the Swansea Bay region an exciting opportunity to create a research centre, possibly at the new university campus on Fabian Way, to lead the way in the development of tidal power technologies for export.

A lagoon for art?

Some may find the suggested dragon sculpture a little cliche. However, the developers should surely be applauded for their efforts to include public artworks in the scheme. Cape Farewell, an arts group committed to engaging the public around the issue of climate change through the arts, have been commissioned to develop a creative inquiry into the scheme and how it will impact change on the area. Perhaps, artworks that stimulate debate around climate change and the marine environment specifically would be more appropriate and beneficial, and better reflect the innovation of the scheme?

What do you think?

Detailed plans are still being prepared ahead of an expected public consultation during the summer and submission to the UK Secretary of State for Climate Change and Energy in the autumn.

Meanwhile, here’s the report of the children of nearby St Thomas Primary:

And here’s what the children of Grange Primary had to say in a classroom debate:

Walking around Oxwich Point in January

‘An exhilarating ramble through woodland and along delightful coastline’ is how the walking guide described the 4.5 mile circular walk around Oxwich Point, and after a three hour trek through the less explored part of Gower I couldn’t argue.

A windy day at Oxwich Bay

A stiff south easterly blew across the Bristol Channel to greet us as we stepped out of the car mid-morning on a Sunday – a great way to clear the head after a glass or two on a Saturday night.

We walked past St Illtyd’s Church, a medieval church built on a site used for Christian worship since the 6th Century, and began our ascent through the ancient woodland. The church is open to visitors during August, and a quick peep inside will reveal a selection of 13th Century monuments including effigies of a knight and his lady.

The ancient woodland clings to the the north-east facing cliff, sheltering it from the prevailing south-westerly wind, but making it quite shady. Part of the Oxwich National Nature Reserve the woods offer a spectacular display of wildflowers in the spring, such as bluebells and ramsons. Budding botanists will also get excited by the several rare species of plants such as the Purple Gromwell, Herb Paris and Butcher’s Broom (or Knee Holly).

Straight to the point... Oxwich Point!

Alas, whilst this winter has been rather mild bluebells were out of the question. However, we were treated to a sighting of a rather unusual fungi growing among some moss clinging to old plastic Coke bottle – I know Coca-Cola are big on branding, having turned St Nic red, but red mushrooms?

The fungi in red...?

We continued walking a little while through the woods, up then down, before finally emerging into the bright sunlight and a stunning view out to sea. It literally was breathtaking, or was it the climbing up and down? I pulled out my flask and we stopped for a quick coffee and to enjoy the scene.

Pennard ahoy!

After our caffeine fix we were ready to hit the trail again. Thankfully (for the sake of my marriage at least!) the path is easier from this point forward – it’s open, wider and pretty much flat. As you’d expect the views out to sea are brilliant. The sounds, especially the waves crashing on the rocks, soothing (ta-ta syrah!). We walked some way before turning Oxwich Point and gaining our first sight of Port Eynon in the distance.

Oxwich Point looking toward Port Eynon

Beyond this point the coastal path really widens, we’re virtually walking through fields, and being bombarded by constant reminders of why Gower was the UK’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

However, not even the remotest parts of our coastline can escape the effects of life in a throwaway society. The strandline on the pebble beach below was littered with debris, plastic bottles, and this crate!

A beached crate!

Not far from where I took this photo, at Slade sands, we stopped again for coffee before heading inland away from the coast and up the hill. A short walk along a track and we picked up the lane leading from Slade back down to Oxwich, stopping only to admire the fine-looking cows grazing hay in the paddock of a farm.

What a mooverlous day!

With journey’s end in sight, we picked up the pace, walking briskly down the hill past the entrance to Oxwich Castle and Greenways Leisure Park.

Our ramble was exhilarating, the coastline delightful, and we shall definitely be returning to this part of the Wales coastal path again, maybe in May to check out those bluebells!

HM Government replies to petition to protect our canals

Earlier this week I received an email from Her Majesty’s Government informing me that an official response to a petition I started some time ago was now available on their website.

It was one Sunday in November 2009 that I posted my petition on the Number 10 website. I was driven to action by a report on BBC’s Politics Show programme highlighting plans being considered by the government to sell off the property portfolio of British Waterways, the agency tasked with the restoration and maintenance of the nation’s canals and waterways.

As British Waterways rely on the income generated from rents to undertake a considerable amount of its work I was concerned that  stretches of our canals and waterways, enjoyed by many, would no longer be maintained should it be forced to dispose of its property portfolio.

After a staggering 22,309 signatures (it was in the top five most popular petitions on the website at one stage) and a change of government the future of our waterways looks more certain. In its official response the government has confirmed plans to create a new charity, similar to the National Trust, and transfer the property portfolio to it.

Whilst I disagree with many policies being developed by the current government I must applaud them on this decison and look forward to hearing more about their plans in the next few weeks.

Tweet Little Thing

A few weeks ago this little fella was stuck in our garden. He was a young fledgling who seemed to be struggling to fly. After several laps of the garden, he jumped up onto the lounger, I just had to take a picture.

After a few more laps I managed to coax the little guy, with my excellent chirping routine, onto my hand so I could place him atop our wall, from which he managed to fly into the neighbouring trees.

I’ve been wondering whether he’d survived. Earlier this afternoon, two birds looking very much like this chirpy chappy flew into the garden, I’d like to think one of them was him.

Busy Buzzing

Walking through the sands of time

As I woke-up last Saturday to rays of golden sunlight, shining through the gap in the curtains, it was clear that I was not going to be staying in watching the World Cup this weekend – I’d be making the most of it, camping on nearby Gower.

So it was that me and my beloved packed the car and headed off into not quite the sunset, it was midday, but certainly the sunshine. We drove along the A4118 south Gower road, turning onto a lane just past Knelston. Passing through the little hamlet of Burry it was especially pleasing to see little tables by the side of the road with fresh farm produce for sale, quintessentially rural – lovely.

After 15 minutes or so we arrived at Llangennith, passing the small crowd in the garden of the King’s Head quaffing golden ale we headed for Hillend Caravan and Camping Park.

Hillend is a well-run site set in the dunes at the northern end of Rhossili, a 2-3 mile stretch of beach. We paid our site fee of £22.50 for the night, a little expensive but demand is guaranteed owing to the beach’s attraction to surfers, and entered the campsite crossing a rather hi-tech electric bollard.

We pitched our tent close to the rather clean toilet block (ready for the run to the loo in the middle of the night) and made our way to the beach. Rhossili can be a little exposed and Saturday was no exception with a keen wind ensuring the sea was choppy, but alas for the surfers the waves weren’t that good.

After an hour laying in the sand we finally mustered enough courage to plunge ourselves in the sea. I must admit the water was surprisingly warm, but that wind was chilling.

Around 5pm we went back to the tent and I attempted to get our new bucket BBQ going with a bottle of Old Speckled Hen in hand. What can I say, the bloody thing was enough trouble to try the patience of Job. But thankfully I had patience, perseverance and a few more bottles of Speckled Hen, and after not far off 2 hours I got the thing lit.

We had a really pleasant evening sipping a few glasses of wine, chatting and watching the sun going down behind the dunes before turning in for the night.

Sunday morning, and it wasn’t rays of sunshine greeting us but clouds promising rain. Not to be dismayed, after a light breakfast in Eddy’s we began our steep climb to the top of Rhossili Downs. The panorama at the top is breathtaking, with views across Carmarthen Bay towards Pendine and Pembrokeshire. As you can see from the following photo the clouds gave way to more glorious sunshine – yippee!

We walked along a little way and stumbled upon some ruins. Initially I thought it was an old street left empty and demolished after the National Trust acquired the land, but after a little digging (thanks Google) I have discovered that it’s the site of a WWII radar station and anti-aircraft gun. Part of a defense network to protect vital ports and industrial cities along the south Wales coast from the German Luftwaffe.

Here’s some pictures of the site now.

More information about the radar station can be found at 28dayslater.co.uk

We stopped at the Trig Point (number 192) for a quick photo before heading down to Rhossili. Here’s Emma, my beloved, who must have more patience than Job to put with me.

Love must have been all around us then as I noticed this heart made of grass in the path – is it a sign?

Blondie's lesser known hit - 'Heart of Grass'

We entered Rhossili and whereupon we entered the open church. St Mary’s was built during the Norman period around AD1200 and the kind parishioners had left bottles of water for people to help themselves to, leaving a donation to help with repairs to the building if they so wish. I’m a little religious, and this is quiet act of kindness, I think, shows religion at its best.

We stopped for a liquid lunch at the Worm’s Head – a nice pint from local brewers Tomos Watkin.

Feeling refreshed it was quick trot down the steps and onto the beach to find the wreck of the Helvetia, one of many shipwrecks scattered around the Gower coastline, which ran aground in November 1887.

Half way along the 2 mile stretch of sand and the clouds had closed in again and it began to rain. We made our way back to tent, packed up and left not resisting the urge to call in and try a pint of Rhymney Bitter at the King’s Head on the way out of Llangennith.

I must admit, you can trick yourself with a little one night break on a weekend. You go to work on Monday feeling as though you’ve really had a nice long weekend. Maybe Emma and me really did walk through the sands of time.

HM Government closes down e-petitions

The ConDem coalition government have seen fit to shut down the e-petition service on the Number10 website.

Unfortunately, that means that the Protect Our Canals petition has been closed with a total of 22309 signatures.

Now is a time when we really need to maintain pressure on the new government to honour the previous Labour government’s pledge to mutualise British Waterways, thereby helping to secure the future for the country’s canals and waterways.

Alun Michael, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, raised the subject during Treasury Questions in the Commons on the 8th June. You can view the record in Hansard on the Parliament website.

Please write to your MP urging them to raise the question in Parliament and seek assurances from George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his new Treasury team that British Waterways will be mutualised with its property portfolio intact.

Don’t know your MP? Find out at theyworkforyou.com