Archive for Bute Park

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.

Road_Closure_Map_A3-Preparing-Cardiff-

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!

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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!

Bank Holiday in Bute Park

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 6, 2013 by telescoper

Well, I’ve done next to nothing today. Just yesterday’s Azed crossword in which I found

All too public ‘diary’ left in the loo (4)

which clues what this is.

I also held my last ever project meeting with Cardiff student; hand-in dates are looming across the country, I suspect.

Other than that, I’ve just been strolling around, and otherwise enjoying, Bute Park in the sunshine along with half the population of Cardiff. It is a pity the Council don’t take better care of the grass, though..

The canals of old Cardiff

Posted in Cardiff, History with tags , , , , on January 8, 2013 by telescoper

I came across this old map of Cardiff the other day and thought I’d post it to make up for the fact that I’ve not posted much about the local history of this fascinating city over the years.

Old_cardiff

I can’t find a date for the map, but I guess it is from the early 20th Century.

The most interesting thing about the map is the pretty extensive network of canals. The Dock Feeder Canal still runs down from the top of the map then turns East and past the North side of the Castle, and then South again towards Cardiff Bay. Some of its route is now underground, including the section that used to be Edward Terrace and Pembroke Terrace, which now form the two sides of Churchill Way  under which the canal still flows.

It’s worth mentioning in passing that most of the present Cardiff Castle is basically a late 19th Century folly, but it is the site of much older buildings, including a Norman Keep and a Roman fort. When the Romans occupied the location, the area from the Castle down to the sea was basically a swamp, flanked by the flood plain of the Taff to the West, with the salt marshes of Cardiff Bay to the South. Almost all of present-day Cardiff is reclaimed land.

The Dock Feeder Canal was constructed around 1840 in order to supply water to the Docks in Cardiff Bay so that they could be operated even when the tide was out. This gave  Cardiff one of the world’s first 24-hour docks and led to a rapid expansion of commerce and population in the city during the mid-19th Century.

Among the quite surprising facts about the City of Cardiff is its spectacular population growth. The first official census was held in 1801 and it  showed Cardiff to have a population of 1,870 – much smaller than other Welsh towns like Merthyr Tydfil (7,700) and Swansea (6,000). Every ten years another census was carried out, with the figures for Cardiff growing as follows:

1801 – 1,870
1811 – 2,457
1821 – 3,251
1831 – 6,187
1841 – 10,079
1851 – 18,351
1861 – no data
1871 – 57,363
1881 – no data
1891 – 128,915
1901 – 164,333
1911 – 182,259
1921 – 222,827
1931 – 226,937
1941 – no data
1951 – 243,632
1961 – 283,998
1971 – 293,220
1981 – 286,740
1991 – 296,900
2001 – 305,353

The expansion of the docks in Cardiff Bay, driven by the export of coal from the valleys, seems to have been the main factor in driving the population increase, and this accelerated markedly from the middle of the 19th century until the early 20th century.

Early on in the industrial revolution the South Wales valleys were primarily concerned with the production of iron. In February 1794, the 25-mile-long Glamorganshire Canal was opened between Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil to bring iron products down to the coast and for nearly 50 years was unchallenged as the main transport link between the two towns.  It was later to become the primary route for carrying coal to the Bay. The Glamorganshire Canal can be seen on the map too, but has now virtually vanished, the route it used to follow now just being marked by new roads; for example, the route it used to take to the East of Bute Park is now covered by North Road.

Here is an old photograph of Mill Lane, now the site of a number of not-very-salubrious eating and drinking establishments. I suspect not many Cardiff residents know that less than half a century ago, these were canalside properties..

Mill_Lane

In October 1839, the Bute West Dock covering 19 acres with 9,400 feet of quays was opened, and the construction of the Dock Feeder to regulate the water supply to the dock from the River Taff was completed.  Entirely paid for by the second Marquis of Bute, this new dock set in motion Cardiff’s amazing growth to become the world’s biggest coal exporting port. The Taff Vale Railway was opened in 1841 between Cardiff and Abercynon and soon overtook the Glamorganshire Canal in economic importance. Coal shipments from Cardiff exceeded one million tons for the first time in 1851. In December 1855, the first historical trainload of Rhondda steam coal arrived at Cardiff, where the Bute East Dock was opened. By 1883 the docks handled six million tons of coal and by 1913 this figure had grown to a staggering 10.7 million tons.

Much of the labour needed to handle this volume of coal came from immigrants, including very large numbers of Irish but also lots of other people from all around the world. By 1850 there were no less than 20 foreign consulates in Cardiff and the city quickly established the cosmopolitan reputation it has kept to this day.

After the end of the First World War the coal trade suffered because the market was flooded with cheap German coal used for war reparations. That, and the subsequent depression, led to a decline in Cardiff as a port, although it was very busy during the Second World War. About 75 per cent of the supplies for the American forces in Europe were shipped out through Cardiff docks following the D-Day landings in June 1944.  This was a short-lived renaissance; the last ever shipment of coal left Bute Dock in 1950.

Other random but possibly interesting points about the map are:

  • The site of the modern Cardiff University School of Physics & Astronomy is near the top right of the map, marked “Univers. Coll.”
  • Taff Vale Railway Station is now named Queen Street Station, and Great Western Station is now Cardiff Central.
  • Note that Cardiff Arms Park was actually surrounded by parkland when this map was drawn, but now the area around is built up (and of course the Millennium Stadium is now there too).
  • Much of central Cardiff has been replaced by modern malls and the like, but the Central Market is still there.

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…