Archive for Cardiff

Cardiff, City of Cycling?

Posted in Bute Park 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!

The Trump Protest in Cardiff

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , , , , on January 31, 2017 by telescoper

Last night I joined in a protest in Cardiff against Donald Trump’s executive order curtailing the US refugee programme and suspending the right of entry to the USA to people with perfectly valid documentation who were born in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. In effect, it’s a Muslim Ban. Coincidentally, the Muslim countries exempted from the order include Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are all places where Trump has business interests.

This unconscionable and unconstitutional order has led to detentions and forced deportations in clear violation of the Geneva convention. There’s a Nature piece giving some examples of scientists it has affected, to illustrate the damage done already. I find it a disgrace that our government has failed to voice its disapproval of this order, and I’m apparently not alone. Despite just a day’s notice, thousands turned out for protests across the United Kingdom, including Cardiff, where we assembled at about 6.30pm near the statue of Aneurin Bevan on Queen Street.

queen-street

Despite the pouring rain the numbers built up impressively until the street became very crowded. It wasn’t very easy to count the people there but I’m very confident that they numbered well over a thousand. That’s not as large as the demonstration in London that happened at the same time, but it’s a start.

There were some speeches and chanting and lots of witty signs and we marched up and down Queen Street making an enjoyable noise. It was all very good-humoured, but behind it all was a deep sense of alarm that the President of the United States of America has revealed himself to be nothing but a fascist. Yes, I mean a fascist -that’s precisely what he is. More and more people are going to come to that conclusion over the next few weeks and months and if and when he ever does come to the United Kingdom on a State Visit, there’ll be demonstrations against him. Our political masters may be prepared to sell this country to Trump, but I don’t think ordinary people will stand for it.

Women’s March in Cardiff 

Posted in Politics with tags , on January 21, 2017 by telescoper

Lots to do today so I’ll just make a note that this afternoon there was a Women’s March in Cardiff along with many around the world (including a huge one in Washington DC) to protest against misogyny and discrimination.

Here’s the scene near the statue of Nye Bevan on Queen Street (looking toward the Castle)  just before the March started around 1pm:

Love and respect to all who took part!

Collapse at Sophia Gardens

Posted in History with tags , , on January 10, 2017 by telescoper

If the title of this post attracted the attention of cricket fans then I apologize, because it’s not about goings-on at the SWALEC Stadium in Cardiff but at the Sophia Gardens Pavilion which no longer exists (for reasons which will become obvious) but was an entertainment and exhibition venue built in 1951 as part of the Festival of Britain celebrations. You can see a (rather hilarious) Pathé News item about a fashion show held there in 1952 here.  It was also the venue in 1958 for the Empire and Commonwealth Games, held between July 18 and 26th, for boxing and wrestling matches. Owing to post-war austerity, the supply of building materials was heavily controlled so it was necessary to adapt a war surplus aeroplane hangar to provide the framework for the Pavilion. The hangar was obtained from Stormy Down aerodrome near Pyle, Bridgend in late 1949. The cost of dismantling and transporting it was £3,400 and rebuilding it in Sophia Gardens was estimated to cost £40,000. The Pavilion when completed seated approximately 2,500 people, and the final cost of construction was £80,000. It was opened officially on Friday 27th April 1951.

I was about to leave the office just now when I was reminded – by Derek The Weather – that at this time of year in 1982 (i.e. 35 years ago) Cardiff was in the grip of exceptionally severe weather. In fact it started snowing heavily on 7th January and carried on for 48 hours without a pause. It snowed so heavily, in fact, that the weight of snow caused the roof of the Sophia Gardens Pavilion to collapse:

cardiff-sophia-gdns

Fortunately no-one was inside. After the roof collapsed the Pavilion was demolished and the land it stood on is now a car park (a little way South of the cricket ground). I don’t know precisely when this event occurred, but it had happened by 13th January 1982. I know this because he collapse of the building led to the cancellation of a concert due to take place there on 13th January 1982 by Black Sabbath, which is apparently a popular beat combo of some sort.

Anyway, it looks like we’re due for some snow in the UK over the next few days although perhaps not in Cardiff and perhaps not heavy as 1982. Strangely, I have no memory of 1982 being a particularly severe winter. I was living in Newcastle at the time, but the weather maps suggest the severe conditions covered most of the country.

The “Pont” in Pontcanna

Posted in History with tags , on January 10, 2017 by telescoper

Regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Bonkers) will know that I currently reside in an area of Cardiff known as Pontcanna, which is part of the administrative district of the city known as Riverside.  Although Pontcanna does have a distinct identity as a community, there’s no precise definition that I can find of exactly where it is. Even Cardiff City Council doesn’t really recognize its existence: all my official mail has  “Riverside” in the address. Although I tell everyone I live in Pontcanna, I don’t have any official evidence that I do!

I’ve also often wondered about the origin of the name, as it definitely suggests a bridge of some sort (Pont is Welsh for bridge, cf  the French) and there are no bridges in the area. The name Canna is generally taken to refer to Saint Canna, whose name  is also associated with Canton, an area of modern Cardiff adjacent to Riverside but until the 19th Century a village in its own right. Since this is a very old name it’s logical to infer that the bridge is no more. However, the thing that always puzzled me is that the area of Pontcanna is actually quite small, and actually not all that close to the River Taff (the main river through Cardiff), which is even further from Canton, so there’s no obvious site for a bridge to have been, even if the bridge itself is long gone.

A chance conversation in a pub the other day however led me to a website that offers a solution to this conundrum., namely that the “Pont” in Pontcanna does not relate to a bridge over the River Taff, but over a small brook that used to run through the area shown on old maps and known (in English)  as the “White House Brook”.  This interpretation also casts doubt on the idea that “Canna” has anything to do with Saint Canna: it is possible that it derives instead from an old Welsh verb meaning “to whiten” although I’m by no means confident in that.

Here, according to my source, is the route of this brook:

cannamap

I’m sorry it’s low resolution, but it’s basically an annotated scan of a historical map. You can compare that with a modern map of the area around my house:

pontcanna

The River Taff can be seen to the upper right of the modern map. The White House Brook ran down what is now Cathedral Road before turning along the route of what is now Pontcanna Street. 

Construction of the  large houses on Cathedral Road, and others on surrounding streets, began around 1896, at a time when Cardiff’s population was expanding rapidly. Prior to that this area was mainly farmland, with a few cottages here and there. It is also part of the River Taff flood plain and was criss-crossed with ditches containing small streams, of which the White House Brook was the largest.

As the area became developed, water from these streams was diverted to form the sewer system for the new buildings and the White House Brook progressively dried up. What little remains of it now runs in a culvert, which eventually empties into the Taff.

The bridge presumably disappeared at the same as the brook went underground around 1896, but the most likely candidate for it is a small bridge that stood near a row of cottages that lay between a small church (at the site of the Presbyterian Chuch on Gileston Road, marked on the modern map) and the end of what is now Teilo Street. These can be seen on this map, which  Bryn Jones directed me to (see comment below):

pontcanna_1886

The “Pont-cana cottages” (sic) were also demolished to make way for the new houses on Cathedral road and new roads either side of it. The best guess for the site of the bridge is close to the junction between Teilo Street and Cathedral Road. Note that in the first  map, Pontcanna is marked to the River Taff side of Cathedral road which is probably where the bridge was situated, very close to the end of my street. I feel more justified than ever in saying that I live in Pontcanna!

P.S. This map also shows another location marked “Pont-cana” to the North, on what are now called Llandaff Fields. I think refers to Pontcanna Farm, presumably named after the bridge. Perhaps the Pontcanna cottages may have been homes for farm workers?

P.P.S. Incidentally, I learned from this site that until 1858, Cathedral Road was only accessible by paying a toll at a booth on Cowbridge Road! Even in the old days, Pontcanna was an exlusive area!

Cardiff: City of the Unexpected

Posted in Literature with tags , , on September 18, 2016 by telescoper

It’s been an extraordinary weekend in Cardiff as the city indulged in huge celebrations of the centenary of the birth of writer Roald Dahl, who was born in Llandaff.

I’ve been too busy with other things to see many of the events organised under the banner of City of the Unexpected, but to give you an idea of the scale here’s a shot of the crowds in front of Cardiff Castle watching the James and the Giant Peach episode.

image

The picture was taken by a member of the South Wales Fire service who were assisting at the event.

This happens also to be the welcome weekend for new students at Cardiff University, and I suspect many were a bit bemused by the goings-on!

It’s also worth mentioning that, as well as being a prolific author of children’s books, Road Dahl was the son of Norwegian immigrants. He was also a fighter pilot in the RAF during World War 2 who served with great distinction in North Africa and Greece, despite being seriously injured when his plane crashed while attempting to land.

Anyway, we’ll done to the organisers of this remarkable event which has put a big smile on the face of this great city.

George’s Marvellous Medicine

Posted in History, Literature with tags , , , on September 13, 2016 by telescoper

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of author Roald Dahl, who was born in Llandaff, Cardiff, on 13th September 1916.  To celebrate this occasion, Cardiff University’s School of Chemistry has tried to recreate some of the phenomena described in one of Dahl’s children’s books, George’s Marvellous Medicine. Enjoy!