THE acid tar lagoon at Llwyneinion can, I think, be fairly described as an evil legacy of former highly toxic industrial practices.

But should the spooky presence of a score or more of dead birds hanging in the trees there, as reported last week, lead us to suspect the work of the devil himself?

It's certainly a mystery how the carcasses came to be dangling ominously like a sinister warning from woodland branches near the edge of the dark and forbidding waters.

Could fumes rising from this noxious pit - a well-known hazard, and hence securely fenced-off to the public - have been responsible?

Unlikely, since most if not all the volatile gases it contained were burnt off when it caught fire almost 40 years ago in 1980.

So could it have been the work of some occult group unwisely trespassing there?

Cllr Paul Pemberton, who has been campaigning for the clean-up of this former petrochemical dump for many years, said: "I fielded several calls and emails from concerned residents... I was sent photos of the birds hanging and it looked like they'd been tied there. I thought, what the hell's going on, because where they were is quite a large drop.

"People were asking if it was witchcraft or the devil, although I don't think that's the case."

He explained: "There's a fence all round the site because if someone falls in, they're not getting back out. [But] the rural crime team had a look and it looks like someone's been poaching pheasants and to get rid of them they've thrown them over the fence.

"There must be 20 or 30 of them, tied together like a brace you'd find in the butchers. They've obviously been thrown in and some have caught in the trees."

These days the small village of Llwyneinion enjoys a charmingly rural character recognised by Wales in Bloom awards, but in the 18th century it was a hub for coal and iron ore mining and smelting.

A brickworks and clay pit followed, operating until the early 1960s, after which the latter was used for the - utterly scandalous by today's standards - industrial dumping of the by-products from nearby oil refining: hydrocarbons, heavily-oiled clays and sulphuric acid in vast quantities.

Purchased for £1 in 1980 by the then Clwyd County Council in the interests of public and environmental protection, the pit and its 'lake' - in fact a thick chemical soup of liquid tar on which floats a shallow layer of deceptively innocuous-looking rainwater, but whose black depths are also believed to harbour more than 1,000 metal drums with unknown contents - has yet to be drained and decontaminated due to the almost prohibitive costs involved.

Thankfully none of this is considered to pose any risk to human health outside the security cordon, while inside the site there is more than enough hazardous potential to make the addition of supernatural horrors entirely superfluous.

But if a stranger does offer to sell you a pheasant locally for Christmas and tells you it's already been hung, I'd definitely think twice.