At the City’s Edge: the Wetlands of Wales – episode 1

 At the City’s Edge: The Wetlands of Wales – episode 1

 At the City’s Edge: The Wetlands of Wales is a podcast of poems, stories, discovery, discussion, music and sound art exploring the importance of the Welsh wetlands, which are now under threat.

With special guests for this episode: Steve Andrews, and Wynn Griffith.

Created and hosted by Mab Jones, with support from the Royal Society of Literature and a Literature Matters Award 2019.

This podcast is also available on iTunes and Spotify.

Earth Day / Welsh Wetlands

When you think of all the life that Earth has sustained – is sustaining – will sustain, across the whole of time; when you think of the near infinity of flora and fauna blooming and being upon, above, and within the Earth right at this moment; when your mind reaches up to the thin wing bones of a bird, let’s say the albatross, which are of a span so wide as to allow it to glide thousands of kilometres without pause; and then think down to the deepest dwelling creatures of the sea, as deep as we can ourselves fathom, to the monster-ish fang tooth fish and snails that resemble small ghosts; and then across into the dark innards of the Earth, its rich, black soil, to the myriad flatworms, roundworms, and ringed worms, drawing dirt into their bellies and transmuting them into their own existence: you know that even these creatures are a miracle, and more valuable than gold; that the Earth itself is everything, everything, it is Everything, and as such is precious beyond any words.

We often talk about the rainforest being destroyed, but did you know that Wales in fact possesses its own ‘rainforest’, a wonderfully rich, wildlife-sustaining series of habitats known as the wetlands? Right now some of the Welsh wetlands – specifically, the Gwent Levels – are under threat because ‘they’ want to build a relief road for the M4 through it. This area is home to the endangered water vole, the common crane (which has only recently returned to the area after 400 years away), the rare king diving beetle, and the scarce rootless duckweed. Grass snakes lie like lords in the long, feather grasses; birds of many description gather here to nest and feed. In order to save 10 minutes of commuting time, it is proposed that 125 hectares of this specially protected wildlife zone be destroyed or damaged, and the rest polluted by toxic vehicle fumes. Its water ways would be disrupted, also, which for the WET-lands means that a major element of its ongoing sustainability could be dangerously unbalanced.

In a small way I’m hoping to engage people with the #WelshWetlands via the #LiteratureMatters award I’ve just been granted by the Royal Society of Literature to create a number of podcasts (if you’d like to feature on one of these / collaborate, please get in touch!). I live directly opposite Cardiff Wetlands, which are incredibly beautiful and inspiring. But, more than this, they are often considered to be the lungs or lymphatic system of the Earth, and of cities in particular, as they tend to exist in close proximity to urban areas. So, on this Earth Day, I wanted to alert you to the fact that this particular set of lungs, the Gwent Levels, are in dire need of your help, RIGHT NOW. Please consider signing and sharing this petition, therefore:

Welsh Government can still be swayed and directed by us to make the right choice. Which, I strongly believe, would be a decision to put the Earth, which sustains all life, including our own, first.

The beauty of the wetlands is one thing… But, we should not forget that every bird out there right now possesses a tiny beating heart. Every single strand of grass is drinking water from the soil, thirsty as a child. Every leaf is proof of magic in action, an unconscious alchemy in which sunlight is transformed, moment after moment, into life.

The song of the coots is, as I type, swimming through my living room windows… It says to me, that they would like to live. Just as I, too, would like to live. And, as we would all like all of our children to live! And we need the Earth to live in order for us to make this our future.

Please choose the Earth on this Easter Monday!

“In nature, nothing exists alone” – Rachel Carson

#WelshWetlands #NoNewM4 #SaveTheGwentLevels


Cardiff Wetlands Writer in Residence

I’ve recently been able to announce that, in agreement with Cardiff Harbour Authority, I am now Writer in Residence at Cardiff Wetlands.

This is a non-contractual role which I am undertaking for my own inspiration and development.

Why Wetlands, though? some of you have asked….

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Well, previously, I was Writer in Residence at the National Botanic Garden of Wales; so, this new, nature-based position seems like a perfect follow on from that.

However, unlike the National Botanic Garden, this little fringe of mud, moisture, and metre-high wild grasses isn’t well known to many, remaining a mystery even to Cardiff-born city slickers such as myself.

I first found out about the Wetlands earlier this year when my friend Steve Andrews told me about it and we came here after a poetry reading to take a look around.


I was instantly captivated by that most poetic of influences, which are abundantly apparent here – nature’s beauty.

The Wetlands are utterly, awe-inspiringly gorgeous. Go past Techniquest, turn left at the roundabout, and then right again – and suddenly you see a magical-looking, estuary-edged area over the top of the wall. Keep walking, and the wall gives way to paths which lead you down into a world of birds busily nesting and feedings amongst the reeds; bugs of every element, e.g. dragonflies, cinnabar moths, and water scorpions; and views out over inky, rippling waters to the Barrage, Penarth and, further across, to the mysterious, misty islands of Flatholm and Steepholm.

It’s so lovely, I was instantly captivated, and knew then that, when I moved back to Cardiff (I was living in Ceredigion at the time and looking to return to the city), this was the place I wanted to live near.

And, I got my wish.

And, now, this. I’m terribly pleased and excited by the Writer in Residence role, because
I look out at the Wetlands every single day and feel words pooling and gathering inside me, ready to be released. This role will provide purpose and structure to that process, and whatever I pen then will, hopefully, incite interest and give more people an awareness of this amazing former salt marsh.

Cardiff Harbour Authority web page for the Wetlands (current)
Cardiff Harbour Authority web page for the Wetlands (archive)