Archive for Pontcanna

Biographical Note

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Crosswords with tags , , on July 1, 2017 by telescoper

It’s 1st July 2017, which means that it is ten years to the day since I officially started work at Cardiff University (for the first time). Can it really be so long ago? 

Quite a lot has happened in the intervening decade, including spending three and a half years at the University of Sussex before returning to Cardiff last summer.

The first of July was actually a Sunday in 2007, so my last day at work in my previous position at the University of Nottingham was Friday 29th June. I remember they threw a nice leaving party that afternoon and also persuaded me to sign up to Facebook to keep in touch. Facebook reminded me of this on Thursday.

I was a bit slow in putting my house in Beeston on the market in 2007, and rented a flat in Cardiff while I sorted that out. Unfortunately the Credit Crunch and I didn’t actually manage to move permanently to a little house in Pontcanna for almost a year. In the meantime I had to travel regularly to and fro between Cardiff and Nottingham by train.

The main thing I remember about the summer of 2007 was the extensive flooding, much of which was located in South Wales and up the Severn towards Gloucester and beyond. That is precisely the route that the train takes from Cardiff to Nottingham so I had quite a few travel problems!

I didn’t actually start blogging until 2008 when I was firmly established in the house I bought here in Cardiff, and which I’m sitting now as I write this rambling post. 

They say that ‘all good things come to an end’, which implies that this blog should carry on forever. Maybe I’ll keep it going until its tenth anniversary, after which…well, we’ll see. Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam.

Anyway, although pipped at the post for this year’s Beard of Summer award I did receive a bit of good news in today’s paper by way of compensation!

In fact the two books arrived in the post yesterday. I’ll be disposing of them at work in due course..


The “Pont” in Pontcanna

Posted in Cardiff, 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:


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:


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):


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!

The Co-op that wasn’t….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 16, 2012 by telescoper

Yesterday evening I went to a meeting of local Pontcanna residents for an update about the plans to build a supermarket on King’s Road. The developer, a Mr Voyle, has tried before but had his planning application rejected. He’s back again with a revised application that states that the Co-op want to put a supermarket on the site.

However, this is where the plot thickens. Last night’s meeting was attended by a senior member of the Co-op’s management, who stated categorically that they had no interest in the site and were unaware until a few days ago that their name was being used in the planning application.

You can draw your own inferences about what this developer is up to.

Anyway, the proposed development will cause a huge increase in traffic in an already heavily congested area, so I’ll be sending my objections in writing to the Council, just as soon as I can find my green biro. It’ll also be interesting to see what steps the Co-op take concerning the developer’s misrepresentation of their involvement…


As anticipated, despite having their proposals recommended for rejection last time and OVERWHELMING PUBLIC CRITICISM OF THE PLANS the developers have DISREGARDED LOCALS’ CONCERNS and resubmitted plans for a supermarket on the Pontcanna Pine/Dairy site.

Please attend the meeting to discuss revised scheme and decide on action:
7pm, Monday 15 October, St Catherine’s  Church Hall, Kings Road.
We will also place petitions in local shops and kindly request that you write letters again – the deadline for letters/emails is October 22 2012.

The application for a store at Pontcanna Pine/The Dairy has been submitted again as expected – pretty much the same as before, with a large retail unit on the ground floor and 8 2-bed flats in the two storeys above. There is gated parking for 10 cars – 1 for each flat, 1 for disabled customers and 1 for the store manager – NONE FOR CUSTOMERS.

The main…

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Local Politics

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , on May 6, 2012 by telescoper

By way of reminding myself for future reference I thought I’d do a quick post about the results of Thursday’s local elections.

I live in the Riverside ward within the area administered by Cardiff City Council. When I moved here in 2008 there were three Plaid Cymru (Welsh Nationalist) councillors. That was just after an election in which the Welsh Labour party had done badly, and also to some extent reflected the particular nature of the Pontcanna area which is within Riverside ward, in that it has a sizeable Welsh-speaking population many of whom work for the  media, especially the BBC.

Last year we had a by-election, won by Iona Gordon for Labour, so going into this year’s elections there were two Plaid councillors and one Labour. The result of the 2012 vote was very bad for Plaid, who lost their two remaining candidates to Labour. So in four years I’ve gone from living in a Plaid Cymru stronghold to a Labour stronghold.

The pattern in Riverside ward was repeated across Cardiff, so that Labour achieved a sizeable overall majority, with the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru all losing seats:

Before the elections the Council was run by a LibDem/Plaid Coalition and such was the swing against these parties that Council Leader Rodney Berman lost his seat, although in apparent desperation to cling onto his salary he demanded two recounts before giving up. Afterwards he spoke to the press claiming that the result in Cardiff was down to Westminster politics rather than local issues.

I don’t think so.

I certainly voted on local issues and so did many of the people I talked to. The former administration of the Council was awful in many respects, including proven maladministration over the decision to build a waste incinerator. I’m not the only person to have remarked on the plethora of pointless roadworks going on in the city, including narrowing the busiest thoroughfares, and of course the ongoing over-development of Bute Park.

No, Mr Berman. You were voted out because you did a lousy job.

There’s no guarantee, of course, that Labour will do any better but I very much doubt they can do any worse. I hope I’m not proved wrong.

The Travellers and the Rest

Posted in Biographical with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2011 by telescoper

Yesterday’s journey to the Big Smoke wasn’t as bad as it might have been, although it was a bit frustrating at times. The train was diverted through Bath to avoid flooding near Bristol, which added about 20 minutes to the journey time. That was expected, so didn’t cause any major anxiety. After the rather scenic detour we found ourselves back in familiar territory on the Cardiff-London line, Swindon. I never thought I’d see the day when I was pleased to arrive at Swindon! However, my pleasure soon evaporated when we sat on the platform at Swindon without moving, and with no announcements or information or explanation, for another 15 minutes. Obviously 25 minutes late just wasn’t late enough for First Great Western, so they had to hold the train to enhance further their record of unpunctuality. In the end we arrived at Paddington 40 minutes late. Not good.

I still got to the meeting in time for a quick cup of tea before the afternoon’s proceedings. Straight away there was some great news. The President of the RAS, Prof. Roger Davies, announced the recipients of this year’s medals and awards and among them was Cardiff’s own Matt Griffin, who receives the Jackson-Gwilt Medal.  According to the RAS website

The Jackson-Gwilt Medal is available for award annually for the invention, improvement or development of astronomical instrumentation or techniques; for achievement in observational astronomy; or for achievement in research in the history of astronomy.

Matt Griffin’s citation reads as follows:

This year’s winner is Professor Matt Griffin of the University of Cardiff, for his work on instrumentation for astronomy in the submillimetre waveband, the region of the electromagnetic spectrum between the far-infrared and microwave wavebands.

Matt Griffin is one of a select group of scientists that helped establish a UK lead in the technical development of instrumentation for submillimetre astronomy. He has been involved in most submillimetre instrument projects over the last three decades, including the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE) camera on Herschel. Matt led a diverse international team to bring this project to fruition, encompassing 18 institutions on three different continents.

SPIRE represents a step change in capability. With the ground-based SCUBA camera, 20 nights of observing led to the detection of 5 galaxies at submillimetre wavelengths. With SPIRE, 6000 galaxies can be detected in 8 hours.

Matt Griffin thus receives the Jackson-Gwilt Medal for in particular his outstandingly successful work on SPIRE, an instrument that is transforming submillimetre astronomy.

Heartiest congratulations to Matt and, of course, to the rest of this year’s awardees!

After the RAS meeting it was time for dinner. Owing to a muddle with bookings The Athenaeum wasn’t available for this month’s RAS Club dinner so we dined instead in the unfamiliar surroundings of The Travellers Club, which is actually next door at 106 Pall Mall.Given the trials and tribulations of travelling with First Great Western, perhaps I should apply for honorary membership?

The room we had was smaller than usual, but cosy, and the staff were very friendly. The dinner wasn’t marvellous but as always there was no shortage of interesting conversation, some of it even relating to astronomy! I got grilled by a few people about what’s going on with STFC new consolidated grants system. I told everyone who asked everything I know about it, which didn’t break any confidentiality because I don’t know anything at all.

The table service was a bit slower than at the Athenaeum so it was quite late by the time we got onto the club business. The January dinner is the “Parish” dinner at which new members and, if necessary, new officers are elected by an amusingly arcane process. A few members had to leave  to catch trains before the business was completed but I stayed to the end at about 10.00pm,  placing (perhaps unjustified) confidence in  the 10.45 train from Paddington actually existing and getting there in time to get it.

I did get to Paddington in good time, and the train hadn’t been cancelled, but it was a bit late leaving.  It then apparently developed an unspecified “mechanical fault” which made for slow running. I got into Cardiff about 25 minutes late. No diversions on the way back – presumably the floods had subsided. Perhaps there’s an excuse for the chaos ensuing from the floods, but poor maintenance is surely entirely the fault of the train company.  Not a good day for First Great Western, especially when they’ve raised their already exorbitant fares for the new year..

Oh, and one other thing that’s not at all connected with anything else. As I walked back through Sophia Gardens from the station to my house in Pontcanna about quarter to two in the morning, I saw a fox hurtling across the path in front of me then vanishing into the trees. When I lived in Beeston (a suburb of Nottingham) I saw foxes very regularly, often in my own garden. Likewise even when I lived in Bethnal Green, in the East End of London. I was  quite surprised when I moved to my house in Cardiff, right next to Pontcanna Fields and Bute Park, that no foxes were to be seen despite the apparently more promising surroundings. I’ve now lived here for two and a half years and this is the first one I’ve ever spotted. I wonder why there are so few foxes in this area?