Walking across “The Chems” from town centre towards Oakfield, along a pathway sodden with orange tinged water, you come to a fork in the path. This was new to me. When I was growing up in Cwmbran there was only one pathway around the back of the stadium and it joined on to a branch of Oakfield Road, down past a paltry park and behind the football fields. Now there is a second pathway that takes you to the entrance to the cemetery. Staying on the old pathway brings you to the alley that cuts between the houses and out on to the road. As you enter the alleyway the ground is littered with half a dozen coke cans, beer cans, energy cans, some polystyrene food cartons and other sundry bits of paper and plastic. About halfway back up “The Chems” – probably at about the halfway mark of the beautifully appointed, newly laid artificial pitch in the stadium – it looks as if someone has gone through the drawers of the house, found as much sweet wrappers, plastic odds and ends, bits of paper, small toys, etc, etc…you know, like all the chaff you get in drawers when you leave them alone for long enough…it looks like they’ve got a hold of all this chaff in one drawer, walked halfway along the path and dumped it on the ground. During the time of my stay the rain it fell and the mud it formed. The detritus on the ground was sinking in, was wearing in to the soil. It was awful to see.
Two examples. More? Ok, more.
Having been down to Oakfield Shops – and having negotiated rubbish and overflowing bins (a cat having managed to get a hold of a turkey or chicken carcass and picking it over as I passed down Abbey Green) – I walked back up East Road. Part way up East Road is a house whose owner has taken some care over the presentation of the house. The front garden has been knocked away to make provision for a paved front garden area, presumably to be used as a car port. The side of the garden has a wood-chip like flooring out of which grows some tended rose bushes and other plants. In the roots of these plants coke cans and other wrappers. Blown in from wherever they were dropped. At the junction of The Highway and East Road a spent bottle of rose wine lay in the grass for a couple of days. It was still there when I left the town last Monday.
Walking to town up St David’s Road, at a point where some garages back on to the pathway, three trolleys sat for a couple of days – they may still be there now – strewn around them polystyrene food containers. The other fork down to the cemetery: milk cartons, drink cans, food packaging. The junction at the top of town centre at Maendy Way and Caradoc Road – fish & chip paper, other paper and other litter all over the place. The by-pass round, up the other side of the stadium, has so much ground in rubbish in the planted sidings it is pitiful.
I have never seen litter like it. Rather, I have never seen litter tolerated like this.
Irony of ironies – when putting household rubbish together now, the denizens of Cwmbran must selectively bag and bin, must sort recyclables from non, must put paper and tins in one and plastic in another, must put decomposable rubbish in yet another. All this for the household rubbish; nothing for the town’s. I have being trying to think what is at the heart of this. Why would, how could a town appear so readily to put up with the this awful appearance? I have a conclusion, it may not be right – it may not bring agreement from any, but a conclusion it is nonetheless. And it is this: there is no identity in Cwmbran anymore. No identity means no pride, means the population are happy to tread through filth and rubbish each and every time they walk out their doors, means that they are happy to see it swirled into and ground into their gardens and pathways. How heartbreaking.
Cwmbran has a funny history – a series of old villages expanded in the post-war era as a place of industry and to absorb population (I think I’ve got that right – hang on…Wikipedia suggests so). So, perhaps, it is a little odd to suggest a town which has an artificial birth has lost its identity. Bear with. The town’s development was for people to live and work in Cwmbran. Now people live in Cwmbran to work otherwhere. The population commute – to Cardiff, to Bristol, to Newport (which is now pretty much indistinguishable from Cwmbran – borders really blurred by housing estates); my brother tells of a commuting group who travel daily to Reading. Industrial buildings and schools have been and are being torn down and turned into houses. The heart of the town is now longer production it is a hyper-market of retail development and entertainments. Increasingly, people don’t live in Cwmbran, they just sleep there. It is a town upon which people can gain the first step on the property ladder. It is a stepping stone. It is no longer a place where you are “from”. This is just my opinion – and one that many can mock if they choose to do so as I no longer live in Cwmbran, nor in Wales…my pathway has taken me further afield. But, I know where I am from…knew, more accurately.
During my recent stay back in Cwmbran, a relative of mine asked me whether much had changed. I couldn’t articulate an answer but knew inside that everything had changed. Now there are just memories of the town in my past – and they’ve become littered.