Archive for the Bute Park Category

Equinoctial Molehills

Posted in Biographical, Bute Park, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on March 20, 2018 by telescoper

Very busy today, what with a return to lecturing in Cardiff and so on, so I’ve just got time for a quick post to mark the fact that the Vernal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere took place today, Tuesday 20th March 2018, at 16.15 UTC (which is 16.15 GMT). This means that the Sun has just crossed the celestial equator on its journey Northward. Some people regard this as the first day of spring, which is fair enough as it does correspond fairly well to the end of the Six Nations rugby.

It wasn’t exactly spring weather when I walked into work this morning, as there are still bits of snow around in Bute Park.

More significantly, a huge number of molehills have appeared. Not quite a mole of molehills, but still quite a few. I’m not sure of the reason for all this molar activity. Perhaps moles have special rituals for marking the Vernal Equinox?

Incidentally I was dismayed to see that my Royal Astronomical Society diary gives the time of the 2018 Vernal Equinox as 16.16 GMT while the wikipedia page I linked to above gives 16.15 GMT. I find a discrepancy of this magnitude extremely unnerving. Or am I making a mountain out of a molehill?


Back to Snowy Cardiff

Posted in Biographical, Bute Park, Cardiff on March 3, 2018 by telescoper

I made it back to Cardiff yesterday. The train I was on was about half an hour late, but that was understandable. The strange bit was that most of the delay resulted from us running very slowly through the Severn Tunnel. There certainly wasn’t any snow down there!

Cardiff city centre was virtually deserted and none of the roads had been cleared of snow. I’m guessing no buses were running, as I didn’t see any on the way, and there were few cars. Many shops were closed. The M&S in the station was open but had received no deliveries that day, and was just selling what it had from the day before. I bought some groceries, mostly at a reduced price.

It was snowing quite heavily and was very cold when I walked back to my house from the station, so I didn’t take many pictures, but I couldn’t resist this one of the River Taff, frozen over by the Principality Stadium:

This was the view towards Pontcanna Fields from near the cricket ground.

Fortunately I was wearing heavy walking boots, but I’d forgotten what hard work it is to walk through snow!

This morning there’s still a lot of snow around and no sign of any attempt to clear the roads.

I wonder if there’ll be anywhere open to buy a paper?

Storm Damage

Posted in Bute Park, Cardiff with tags on September 13, 2017 by telescoper

It was rather windy last night, thanks to Storm Aileen. This morning my garden contained quite a few  broken branches and other wind-blown items of  detritus that weren’t there yesterday. 

But all that was nothing compared to what I saw on the way to work past the back of the SSE SWALEC stadium at Sophia  Gardens.

It’s quite a busy path but I think the tree probably came down in the early hours of the morning so I don’t think any lives were at risk.

Storms are not unusual at this time of year, but this one seems to be a bit earlier than normal.

Update: the same scene this evening

Good work by the Council!

A Tale of Two Fields 

Posted in Bute Park, Cardiff with tags , , on July 2, 2017 by telescoper

My neighbourhood has been a tad busy this weekend, as Llandaff Fields (which lie just 100 yards or so from my house) are the venue for Tafwyl, a free festival of Welsh language music. It’s normally quite a quiet area at the weekends, but this event has attracted large crowds.

I took a stroll in the park yesterday. There seemed to be a few thousand or so enjoying the music and the sunshine behind the temporary barrier.

Although admission to Tafwyl is free, I didn’t go in as I was en route elsewhere and didn’t have time.

This event is usually held in the grounds of Cardiff Castle but that wasn’t possible this year because of the UEFA Champions League Final last month. The temporary buildings erected for that event have damaged the part of Bute Park near the Castle so badly that it will be out of bounds until September at the earliest. 

On my way back home I passed the area adjacent to Llandaff Fields, Pontcanna Fields, where I saw a much more familiar sight:

The River Taff flows roughly where the trees are in this picture. There are several cricket pitches and they are quite heavily used in the summer. 

Tafwyl will move back to its usual venue next year but hopefully the cricket will continue just as it is!

Cose da sapere su Cardiff

Posted in Bute Park, Cardiff, Football with tags , , , , , , on June 1, 2017 by telescoper

Cardiff is gearing up for the UEFA Champion’s League final between Real Madrid and Juventus which takes place in the Principality Stadium on Saturday night. Cardiff University has produced this nice video featuring some students from Italy telling visitors about `things to know about Cardiff’, which I thought I’d share here:

There’s also a Spanish version here.

As you can imagine there’s quite a lot of disruption going on in the City ahead of this event, which is expected to attracted over 200,000 visitors. Last night one of the main roads was closed to allow the construction of a temporary footbridge to help manage the flow of people from Bute Park into the Stadium in the period just before the kickoff. There is only one small exit from the Park opposite the ground, which would probably cause considerable congestion, so the bridge will provide another route out, over the famous Animal Wall.

Cowbridge road was closed to vehicles and pedestrians for this operation, which I assumed would mean a bit detour for me on my walk home from the pub last night. Nevertheless, out of curiosity, I followed my normal route until I reached the construction site. A small group of people and a couple of very friendly policemen were there. I asked nicely if there was any possibility of getting past the road block rather than walking all the way around by side streets, and one of the officers said that if I waited for about 5 minutes they were going to open it up temporarily and let people through, which they did.

Cardiff Castle and Bute Park are being used to host a few thousand `Corporate VIP Guests’ during the weekend of the Final. For that a huge part of Bute Park – the entire area of Coopers Field – is closed to the public. Not only that, but the temporary buildings that have been erected there will cause so much damage to the grass that it will have to be completely re-seeded. This area will not be re-opened to the public until September at the earliest. This seems a very heavy price for the ordinary folk of Cardiff to pay for an event very few will be able to attend.

As well as congestion and crowd control, there is also the threat of terrorist activity (especially in the wake of the Manchester bomb). This morning as I walked into work I saw several groups of armed police officers. I’m not sure if they are intended to make people feel more secure, but they just made me feel nervous.


It’s quite easy to infer what the biggest concern is for the security services. The presence of vehicle barriers all round the city and the suspension of all vehicle traffic within a wide perimeter of the various fan zones suggests that they are worried about potential attacks involving cars or lorries running amok among the huge numbers of pedestrians. It’s sad that we have to think of such things, but these precautions seem entirely necessary.

I was toying with the idea of taking photographs of some of the security measures but on reflection thought that might not be a wise thing to do in case I was mistaken for someone plotting an atrocity!

My own plan for the Final is to shut myself in my house, batten down the hatches, cook myself a nice dinner and drink a nice bottle of wine. I’m completely neutral as far as the match is concerned. Whether it’s Real Madrid of Italy or Juventus of Spain, may the best team win!

Cardiff, City of Cycling?

Posted in Bute Park, Cardiff with tags , , , , , , , on February 22, 2017 by telescoper

Two recent news items about Cardiff caught my attention so I thought I’d do a quick post. The first piece was about the terrible state of traffic congestion in the city. This doesn’t affect me directly as I normally work to work and back, but it has definitely got much worse in the last few years. The roads are regularly gridlocked, a situation made worse by the interminable and apparently pointless roadworks going on everywhere as well as absurdly slow and dysfunctional traffic lights. There’s a common view around these parts that this is being allowed to happen – or even engineered – so that Cardiff City Council can justify the introduction of congestion charging. This would be an unpopular move among motorists, but I think a congestion charge would not be a bad idea at all, as what the city really needs is to reduce the number of motor vehicles on its streets, to deal with the growing problem of pollution and long journey times.

One day, about six years ago,  I was almost run over three different times by three different vehicles. The first was near the car park in Sophia Gardens, where there are signs and road marking clearly indicating that there is a speed limit of 5 mph but where the normal speed of cars is probably more like 35; the guy who nearly killed me was doing about 60.

Next, in Bute Park, a heavy lorry belonging to the Council, engaged in some sort of “tree-management” business, thundered along the footpath past me. These paths used to be marked 5mph too, but the Council removed all the signs when it decided to build a huge road into the Park and encourage more vehicles to drive around inside. The lorry wasn’t going as fast as the Boy Racer of Sophia Gardens, but the size of the truck made it just as scary.

Finally, using a green light at the pedestrian crossing at Park Place I was narrowly missed by another car who had clearly jumped a red light to get onto the dual carriageway (Dumfries Place) leading to Newport Road.

I have to say things like this aren’t at all unusual, but that is the only time I’ve had three close encounters in one day! Although most car drivers behave responsibly, there seems to be a strong concentration of idiots in Cardiff whose antics are exacerbated by the hare-brained Highways Department of the local council. There are many things to enjoy about living in Cardiff, and the quality of life here is very good for a wide range of reasons, but of all the cities I’ve lived in it is by a long way the least friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

Which brings me to the second news item, which is about Cardiff City Council’s ambitious new Cycling Strategy, which aims to double the number of trips made using cyclists over the next ten years. That still wouldn’t reach the level of Cambridge, where 30% of all journeys in the city are done by bicycle.

Cardiff has a long way to go to match Cambridge and further still to be like Copenhagen, one of the loveliest and most livable cities I’ve ever experienced, partly because of its traffic policies.

In the interest of balance I should also point out that I was once actually hit on a pedestrian crossing in Cardiff by a bicycle steered by a maniac who went through a red light. In this case, however, I did manage to push him off his bike as he tried to get away, so he ended up more seriously hurt than I was. I was hoping that a friendly car would run over his bike, which was lying in the road, but sadly that didn’t happen.

I hope in their desire to increase the number of cyclists, the town planners don’t forget those of us who travel on foot!

Flaming June Again

Posted in Art, Biographical, Bute Park, History with tags , , , , on June 10, 2016 by telescoper

Since we’re in the middle of a modest heatwave I thought “Flaming June” would be a good title for a blog post. Until a few years ago I always thought that “Flaming June” was some sort of folk expression or quotation from a poem, but it is instead the title of this Pre-Raphaelite painting by Frederic Leighton of a lady wearing what looks like a dress made out of old curtains. Apparently the oleander branch seen in the upper right symbolizes the fragile link between sleep and death. It looks to me like she must be attending a lecture…

But I’m rambling. This has been an exhausting week, probably because I a few days off last week and have come back to one of the busiest periods of the academic year. The examination period is over so there are scripts to mark,  examiners’ meetings, class lists and the like, all parts of the arcane business of academic life. In fact I’ll be spending the first three days of next week in Cambridge where I’m External Examiner for Physics, and I have a lot to do here before I go.

In between all the meetings I had to attend yesterday I noticed that it was the 9th of June, a date of enormous cultural significance for those of us born on Tyneside, as Geordie Ridley’s famous music hall song The Blaydon Races begins “I went to Blaydon Races, ’twas on the 9th of June… The original Blaydon Races were horse races and site of the course is long since gone, but the name has recently been resurrected as a road race involving people on foot rather than on horseback. Incidentally, the usual “Whit Week” holiday in late May or early June is still referred to on Tyneside as “Race Week”.

All this reminded me of the occasion – over twenty years ago – when I entered the Great North Run for the first time. Nowadays this race – the biggest mass participation half-marathon race in the world, with 50,000 competitors – is run in September, but in those days it was held in June. As it happened, there was also a heatwave the first time I did it. I remember lining up at 9.30 on a Sunday morning on the start grid (I was number eleven thousand and something) while the stewards went round pleading with all the participants to take plenty of water as they went around as it was going to be very hot indeed and they didn’t want people suffering from dehydration.

In those days I was quite a keen long-distance runner and was fairly fit. I wasn’t that concerned about the heat but took the advice to heart and determined to stop at all the water stations on the way from Newcastle to South Shields. When we started I also took care not to go off too fast over the first mile or so, which is basically all downhill from the Town Moor to the Tyne Bridge. Not that you could go fast anyway, as the track was so crowded with runners.

I remember the wonderful feeling as we emerged onto the Tyne Bridge and took in the splendid view of the bridges along the river. When we got to Gateshead the crowds were out in large numbers cheering everyone on and I felt completely elated. The first water station was near Gateshead athletics stadium, and I took a drink there as I did at the next, and the next. After Gateshead the route heads towards the Felling bypass at about 4-5 miles and then the runners can see a long climb in front of them. A large thermometer showed the temperature on the road to be about 45 Celsius. Fortunately the people living in houses either side of the road were out in their front gardens offering encouragement and sometimes had their hoses out to shower people as they went past. At one point there was a fire engine that had made an impromptu fountain by the side of the road too.

Unfortunately, as I near the ten mile mark I started to feel a bit strange. I had never actually taken on water while I was running before this race; I never felt the need for it when on training runs. My stomach wasn’t used to the water sloshing around while I was running. I felt quite sick by the time we got to the top of the climb but when I saw the sea and felt its breath on my face I cheered up and descended the steep downward slope towards the seafront near Marsden Rock.

There’s a good mile and a half along the seafront to the finish, however, and I was definitely struggling really badly by then. I could see the finish line but it felt like it wasn’t getting any closer. I slowed to a crawl but kept going, finally reaching the grandstand where a large crowd shouted encouragement. I must have looked dreadful because I heard several people shouting out my number along with “keep going, son”  and “you’re nearly there”.

Eventually I got to the finish line but the feeder lanes were quite busy then – I was finishing at about the peak  time of about 1hr 50 – so I was forced to slow right down because of the people in front of me.

As I crossed the line, I stopped running and was immediately overcome with nausea. I bent over, hands on my knees and emptied the contents of my stomach – mainly water – all over the grass. I felt absolutely dreadful but, after a quick check from the St John Ambulance crew who were on hand, I recovered and found my folks who were nearby. After we got home and I had a shower I felt fine.

About a week later, when I had returned to my flat in London a letter arrived for me. I opened it up and found a small passport-sized photograph, with the caption “YOUR MOMENT OF TRIUMPH”. It turns out there was an automatic camera near the finishing line that snapped everyone crossing it along with a shot of the digital clock showing their finishing time. The idea is that you could order a blow-up of the picture for £25 to put on your wall.

In my case, though, the picture showed not a moment of splendid athletic achievement, but a bedraggled creature puking uncontrollably while those around him looked on in disgust. I didn’t order the blow-up of my throw-up.

Over the years I did the Great North Run a number of times – six or seven, I don’t remember exactly – and a few marathons too, but the strain of running on the roads around London gradually told on my knees and I had to stop because of recurrent pain and swelling. Eventually, a few years ago I surrendered to the inevitable and had arthroscopic surgery to sort out the damage to my knee joints. That seems to have fixed the problem, but my running days are over.