Archive for the Bute Park Category

Pictures in the Park

Posted in Bute Park, Cricket with tags , , , on June 28, 2012 by telescoper

We’re  approaching  the end of June, and the weather is for the most part typical for a British summer. Rain.

Yesterday evening, however, as I walked home through Bute Park, the weather was sufficiently clement to allow cricket on Pontcanna Fields, which lie on the west side of Bute Park, across the Taff from the city centre.

I stopped and watched for a while, taking in about ten overs. I don’t think there have been many occasions in the last month or so when play has been possible either here or in the nearby SWALEC stadium where Glamorgan play. Or try to;  they’re having a lousy season even when it’s not raining.

The pitches here are notoriously lively – the ball bouncing and darting all over the place makes them very difficult to bat on – and in the game I watched I saw three consecutive deliveries resulting in dropped catches. Let’s just say the fielders must have been out of practice…

Anyway it’s a lovely sight to see people out in the open air enjoying recreational activities in this part of the Park. It’s what a Park is for.

It’s a pity about the park on the other side of the river. Coopers Fields seem to be regarded by the Council as a lorry park and storage area for heavy equipment rather than a place of recreation.

…with the damage caused by all this traffic never repaired. Grass does eventually re-grow if it is given time, but sadly this doesn’t happen in Bute Park. No sooner has one set of temporary buildings been dismantled when another is set up. Indeed, preparations are already under way  for another “event” on this park, with trucks already churning it up again and fencing being deployed to deprive the public of access to it.

Sometimes I wonder  why they don’t just tarmac it all over and be done with it.

Operation Torch

Posted in Bute Park with tags , , , on May 24, 2012 by telescoper

Tomorrow, Friday 25th May 2012, the Olympic Torch Relay will arrive in Cardiff on its way across the United Kingdom to its eventual destination in London’s East End. Why this is so interesting I don’t know. I think it would be a lot more fun if they made a real race out of it; Olympic Torch versus Olympic Fire Extinguisher, for example. Instead the Bearer of the Torch (and associated entourage of security men) will head into Cardiff from the direction of Newport, run around randomly for a bit in the city to maximise traffic disruption, and then head into Bute Park where it will start off a “free” concert for 15,000 people.

Cardiff City Council has clearly gone a bit berserk in its desire to throw money around and try to create an event to bolster its sense of its own importance. Whatever happened to the age of austerity? We’ve obviously got money to burn!

For example, these Olympic Rings were put up some weeks ago in Cathay’s Park, in front of Cardiff’s fine City Hall:

Quite nice. Very few Olympic events are actually happening in Cardiff, of course, and those that are seem to be attracting negligible interest, so one wonders why it is necessary. It also cost £300,000. That’s about £60,000 per ring.  Just saying.

The preparations for tomorrow’s Bute Park extravaganza have been going on for two weeks, with a huge section (Coopers Fields) closed to the public, the intrusion of dozens of heavy vehicles carving up the turf, and the closure of the cycle paths.

Here’s a view through the railings at the area chosen for the “free” pop concert. Of course it’s not actually free. It’s just the people who are going to it that don’t have to pay. Tickets were apparently distributed by some kind of ballot, although I don’t recall ever seeing it advertised. Nobody I know managed to get any tickets either. I wonder who did? One possible explanation is that there are 15,000 tickets, and the number of people employed by Cardiff City Council is..er…15,000. Coincidence?

The concert venue  is ringed with burger, pizza and chip vans and is sponsored by Coca Cola. Apparently the irony of marking a celebration of athletic achievement in this way seems to have escaped the organizers.

Last night I walked home through Bute Park. The weather was lovely and quite a few people were out in the Park enjoying the sunshine, crammed into the small part near the Castle that is still open to the public. Juggernauts like this were moving in and out of the Park along the footpaths:

Is this really the right way to treat a public park? You could say that it’s a special occasion, but a similar thing happened just a month ago, and no doubt other events will happen throughout the summer. It’s a park, for pity’s sake, not a building site!   The number of heavy vehicles thundering around the footpaths has increased enormously since the decision to build a new road entrance a few years back. The effect on the Park’s environment of all this traffic  has been devastating.

And then there’s this:

As this lorry turned to head towards the South exit of the Park – that’s the one that was supposed to have less traffic through it when they built the new road – there wasn’t enough clearance and it ploughed into the branches of a tree. The person who had been walking in front of the lorry saw me taking a picture and asked me to stop. They don’t want any evidence of the damage they’re doing, obviously.

You can bet your bottom dollar that Coopers Fields will be completely trashed by the 15,000 strong crowd tomorrow night. You can also bet that the Council will do all it can to conceal the cost of clearing up afterwards, even if it does bother to repair the damage. It’s very sad that beautiful Bute Park is being treated in such a way.

In fact I think it’s criminal.

Olympic Scale Disruption

Posted in Bute Park with tags , , , on May 18, 2012 by telescoper

Apparently the Torch is passing through Cardiff on 25th May 2012 ahead of the 2012 London Olympics. Some sort of celebration is going to happen in Bute Park that evening, and the preparations started earlier this week. Yet more heavy vehicle movements. Yet more temporary buildings. Yet more damage Cooper’s Fields (which will probably never be repaired). Yet more denial of public access to a public Park.

Any why on Earth does such a huge area have to be sealed off for two whole weeks just to make way for an event that will only last a few hours? What a waste of time! And I dread to think how much it’s going to cost…

Such a Shame

Posted in Bute Park with tags , , on March 29, 2011 by telescoper

Thanks to MaryCav for this ironic take on the ongoing destruction of Britain’s green spaces, including Bute Park. It was made by Friends of the Earth.


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Lawful Assembly

Posted in Bute Park, Politics with tags , , on March 4, 2011 by telescoper

So there we have it. Yesterday’s votes are all counted and we have the results. Here’s a quick Friday afternoon round-up before I go to the Pub.

The biggest issue of the day involved Referendum on extending the law-making powers of the Welsh Assembly, in which the “yes” vote won by 517,132 votes to 297,380.  This means that the Welsh Assembly will henceforth be able to make laws directly concerning those matters already devolved to it (including Health and Education). Contrary to popular myth, it does not broaden the Assembly’s power to cover new policy areas neither does it allow the Assembly to raise taxes. What it does is eliminate a bureaucratic bottleneck that previously required the Welsh Assembly to ask Parliament in Westminster every time it wanted to enact a law.

I think the “Yes” vote is a good thing, and the majority (63.5%) is healthy enough that there should be no griping about the outcome. In fact all but one region – Monmouthshire – voted in favour of the new powers, and Monmouthshire voted “no” by a mere 320 votes…

The only really disappointing thing was that the turnout was dismally low – only about 35%. Those that didn’t vote, however, have even less justification for complaining about the outcome.

On a smaller scale, the by-election for my local Council ward resulted in a gain for Labour from Plaid Cymru:

Steve Garrett (Plaid Cymru): 1,099
Iona Gordon (Labour): 1,700
Gwilym Owen (Liberal Democrat): 187
James Roach (Conservative) 369
Yvan Maurel (Green party): 277

Turnout was about 40%.

Pontcanna has been a Plaid Cymru (Welsh nationalist party) stronghold for quite a while, so I was moderately surprised at the result. I was personally quite pleased that Plaid Cymru lost this seat because of their support for the over-development of Bute Park, but I’ve no idea whether that issue contributed significantly to the result. I voted for the Green Party, incidentally, and was glad at least to see them beat the Liberal Democrats into 5th place. The new Labour councillor Iona Gordon is however a prominent campaigner on environmental issues and I wish her well.

The other major electoral result in the UK was a Parliamentary by-election in Barnsley, which saw the Liberal Democrats ending in a humiliating sixth place and losing their deposit. The only real question in my mind is why anyone would find that surprising given their track-record as part of the coalition government?

In a  couple of months we’ll be voting again, this time for the Welsh Assembly. A great deal will depend on the eventual composition of the Senedd, especially for Welsh universities…


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Yes for Wales!

Posted in Bute Park, Politics with tags , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by telescoper

Still suffused with a peculiar form of vicarious national pride after last night’s rousing St David’s Day concert in Cardiff – of which I hope to do a review later today – I thought I’d put up a gratuitous picture of the daffodils in Bute Park because they’re one of the two official emblems of Wales.

The other national emblem of Wales is the leek, but I couldn’t find any of them growing in Bute Park. It’s the wrong time of year anyway.

More importantly, tomorrow (Thursday 3rd March) is the date of the Referendum on Welsh Assembly powers. The question is a fairly uninteresting one, actually, and is simply about whether the Welsh Assembly should be allowed to make laws itself – concerning those matters over which it has devolved responsibility – rather than the current system which requires oversight by the House of Commons.

As a matter of fact I’ve got another vote to cast tomorrow, in a Council by-election. My ward is currently controlled by Plaid Cymru, but I will be voting for the Green Party in protest against the over-development of Bute Park.

In the Referendum I’ve decided to vote Yes for Wales, a stance which all the major parties agree on in fact. I’m pretty confident the Yes vote will win, but am concerned by a sense of apathy over this, and the Welsh Assembly elections coming up in May.

I think it’s very sad to compare the courage and determination shown by people across North Africa and in the Middle East protesting for democracy, with the attitude of so many here in a mature democracy who just can’t be bothered to exercise the rights that others struggled so hard to establish for us. If it matters so much to people in Egypt, Algeria and Libya to have the right to vote then it matters here too! Call me old-fashioned, but I think the right to vote is not only a privilege but also a duty.

So whichever side of whatever argument you’re on, and wherever it is you’re voting, please get down to the polling station and put your cross where it counts!


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The Ongoing Saga of Bute Park

Posted in Bute Park, Cardiff, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 22, 2011 by telescoper

Recently a wooden fence appeared around the Council Nursery in Bute Park, clearly erected to hide what’s going on inside from prying eyes. Walking into work the other day I noticed that one of the gates was open so I went and had a look. I was shocked by the scale of the building work I saw inside. Foundations are being laid for an enormous new building, mysteriously entitled the Nursery Education and Training Centre.

There’s a helpful sign on the fence to explain what’s going on:

You probably can’t read the text but, amongst other things, it states that a new wall will be built “along the line of the existing conifer hedge, which will be felled by the Council’s arborists in advance of the construction” (my emphasis). Nasty pesky hedges. Nearly as bad as trees. Get in the way of our nice new brick wall. Get rid of them. Still, at least the brick wall might hide some of the horrors lurking inside…

Apparently

It will allow people an insight into the council’s impressive horticultural operation which supplies the city with its colourful displays of flowers and shrubs. For example, there will be a special area for teaching demonstrations by horticultural staff and large windows situated at the back of the centre will allow people to look out over the working part of the nursery.

The facility will also boast excellent learning assets including a classroom and an IT and archive room which will house a variety of resources on park heritage, natural history and environmental themes.

The centre will be available for hire by community and corporate groups and additional facilities will include a catering kiosk and public toilets.

Excellent. People can go inside and see what plants and trees look like on the internet, rather than actually having to walk around in the outside in the fresh air and see the real thing. Mind you, before long so much of Bute Park will have been covered in tarmac that’s the only way people will be able to see foliage of any sort.

I’ve nothing against the idea of encouraging more people into the Park, but not by ploughing it up and building things in it! Do people really want to go into Bute Park to look at greenhouses rather than simply enjoy its serene natural beauty out in the open?

Even more disturbingly, take a look at the artist’s impression to the right of the map. It shows a path wide enough to be considered a road. There are even pedestrians on it. They’re taking a bit of a risk, as the Council clearly intends this to be used by motor vehicles driving into and out of the Nursery. All the speed limit signs in the park have been removed to allow the new influx of road vehicles to drive around at high speed, so this new path will no doubt be just as dangerous as the rest of the park has become.

But wait a minute. Look where the path goes. It doesn’t stop at the planned new entrance to the Nursery. It carries on towards the River Taff, which is just a few yards away. I wonder why?

Let’s take a look across the River from the Nursery gate:

That’s one of the stands of the SWALEC Stadium (the cricket ground) to the right, and part of the Wales Institute of Sport to the left. In between these two is a road which runs from Sophia Gardens towards the River Taff where it comes to a dead end exactly opposite the new Nursery Road.

Let’s have a sweepstake on when the Council starts building its new bridge…

There’s a Council byelection in my ward next month. There’s only one party standing to have stated its opposition to the rapacious exploitation of this beautiful park, and that’s the Green Party.  They’ve got my vote.

Mole Apocalypse

Posted in Bute Park, Uncategorized with tags , , on February 1, 2011 by telescoper

I recently mentioned in passing that the rodent control executive whose services I had cause to call on told me that most of his time these days is taken up with controlling an epidemic of moles whose activities are annoying the hell out of local people, especially those with lawns. On the way to work the other day I took a couple of pictures near the River Taff in Bute Park which show how severe the problem is…


If all this is the work of one critter he or she’s been very busy indeed!

Now, what was that line again?

“The houses are blind as moles (though moles see fine to-night in the snouting, velvet dingles)..”


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Why can’t Cardiff be like Copenhagen?

Posted in Bute Park, Cardiff, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 28, 2011 by telescoper

Walking into work this morning 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 it is the first 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.

If only Cardiff were like Copenhagen, one of the loveliest and most liveable cities I’ve ever experienced, partly because of traffic policies.

PS. 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.


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Mock Examination

Posted in Bute Park on January 8, 2011 by telescoper

Regular readers (both of them) will know I’m Professor of Theoretical Astrophysics at Cardiff University. With the undergraduate mid-year exam period coming up shortly, I was thinking of posting something to help the students with their revision of my specialist topic. Based on an appropriate syllabus for this subject inferred from rigorous study of the content of this blog, a friend of mine (who should remain nameless, but is called Anton) suggested the following examination questions.

Feel free to suggest others through the comments box!

CARDIFF UNIVERSITY FINAL YEAR EXAMINATION IN PHYSICS

Option: Theoretical Astrophysics.

Time allowed: 2 hours.

Answer all questions, in full. No credit will be given for partial answers, numerical or grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or any other variety of underachievement.

1. “England’s victorious Ashes series in 2005 was more meritorious than retaining the Ashes in 2010/11.” Discuss.

2. Was Charlie Parker a greater saxophonist than Miles Davis was a trumpeter?

3. Compose a 15 × 15 cryptic crossword using only astrophysical terms.

4. You hear that Bute Park is to be turned into an airport. Write a model letter of complaint to Cardiff City Council.

5. Discuss the influence of Mahler’s awareness of his own mortality on his later Lieder.

6. You have 10 minutes on Google to find a US TV soap star lookalike for Prof. Coles. (Marks will be awarded automatically by a Bayesian image comparison routine.)

7. Compose a Pindarian ode protesting about governmental priorities in science funding.


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