The Way Up To The Taff Precinct

Nothing represents the decline of Pontypridd better than the rotting Taff Vale Precinct and the regeneration plans (and local councillors for that matter) that have come and gone in the last six years. A post-war shopping precinct that reminds me of similar places from a childhood in my beloved Yorkshire, the sooner they tear this place down and start again the better.

Unfortunately, the proposals to replace the precinct have smelt as bad as the precinct itself. One previous plan called for the building of a car park within Pontypridd’s War Memorial Park – another Pontypridd landmark that successive Labour and Plyd Cymru administrations are famous for neglecting. With the rise of out-of-town shopping over at Talbot Green (30 mins by car from Pontypridd today; much more accessible once the Church Village by-pass has been completed) and more recently at Merthyr Tydfil (15 mins by car), plus new developments down in Cardiff (the St. Davids 2 project, and the new shopping area to go along with Cardiff City’s new stadium at Leckwork) to go along with the many existing shops of our capital city, Pontypridd isn’t just being left behind, it’s having the wealth sucked out of it – and indeed out of the entire borough. And that’s something that the entire Rhondda Cynon Taf district cannot afford forever (as those of us in the south of the district have the heaviest council tax burden).

Thoughts On The Day

I hadn’t actually gone out to photograph the precinct. I ended up wandering through it looking for a good spot to continue taking photographs of Pontypridd’s Old Bridge. I walk past the precinct twice a day on the way to the train station and back, but before today I’d never done anything other than hurried past as fast as I could, doing my best to avoid the youths who hang out there on an evening outside the Bargain Booze shop.

This time, though, I ended up wandering about underneath the precinct – well, as much as I dared, which I confess wasn’t very much. Even with the low winter sun and a very bright day, the empty car park underneath the precinct was as dingy as I was unsure, and I didn’t feel safe venturing inside to see what else is under there. God only knows how the council expects anyone to feel safe parking their car there on these short winter days! I can’t imagine that the place is any more welcoming during the long summer evenings.

I didn’t find a good view of the Old Bridge either 🙁

Favourite Photo From The Shoot

Underneath The Taff PrecinctThis colour shot peering into the darkness is my favourite shot from this shoot. The reflection of the supporting column in the water, the blown highlights from the incoming sun, and the way that the photo very quickly drops off into darkness – they all sum up for me how I remember my walk beneath the precinct. I’m also very fond of the black and white version of the same photo.

Three Tips From The Shoot

  • If you’re out and about alone, make sure someone knows where you’ve gone. I didn’t see anyone at all underneath the precinct, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always safe to wander around down there. You’re much more likely to have an accident than be assaulted anyway, no matter where you go to take photos. The last thing you want is to be in need of assistance when no-one knows where to look for you.
  • Do your best to avoid blown highlights. The huge contrast between the low winter sun streaming in and the darkness of the car park was a metering nightmare. My trusty Canon Digital IXUS did a great job in the end, but practically every photo still ended up with badly blown highlights. You can often recover parts of a picture from dark areas, but there’s nothing in blown highlights to rescue.
  • Make sure your battery is charged (or carry a spare). There’s a good reason why I never made it back up those stairs to take photos of the rest of the precinct!

Post Production

Unlike last week’s shoot up at the Cefn Coed Viaduct, this time around I’ve uploaded both colour and black and white versions of all but one of the photos. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that, to be honest. Normally, I convert photos to black and white as a way of salvaging uninspiring colour originals. But, this time, I felt that the colour photos were good enough to see the light of day too.


  1. Tess says:
    January 22nd, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    Your shots have really captured the scene and weirdly the colour ones have shown up the decrepid nature of the stairs more than ‘moody’ black and white. I remember going there with you guys in about 2001 and it was very dingy then. It reminds me of some of the subway areas in the old bull ring in Bimingham before they rebuilt it (twice) – forgotten and attracting damp.

  2. Roy( EGGO) evans says:
    November 24th, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Hi, I live in spain and have done for nearly 30 years. I was born in Hopkinstown and went to Mill street school. I can just remember the precinct being built and opening. Do you remember the cafe in the precinct, merengies I think it was called. I spent many a good time in there with a coke and a burger. THIS WAS A TIME WHEN PONTY WAS A PROPER MARKET TOWN. The shame of it all is that we are all subject to change and not always for the better. Great pics, Thanks all the best Roy.

  3. Andrew says:
    January 15th, 2009 at 12:07 am

    This is a really interesting post. I grew up not far from Ponty until I was about eleven, and it was pretty well abandoned back then. A record shop with some arcades in the back and a barbers is all I think there was when we left.

    I live in Yorkshire now.

  4. Jerry Cody says:
    April 15th, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Another ex-Ponty boy here! Hope the rest of you guys don’t mind but can’t find any other way of getting hold of one of the earlier posters – Roy ‘Eggo’ Evans. If you read this Roy, give me a shout – would love to hear from you – must be at least 35 years! You can reach me at jerrycody80 AT hotmail DOT com

    Last I heard some friends of mine bumped into you in Spain about 15 years ago. Best wishes


  5. Dafydd says:
    March 24th, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Great set & background info that inspired me to take some photographs around Pontypridd while I was just in the area.
    thanks !

  6. Stuart’s Photography - » Found On Flickr: Pontypridd In 2005 says:
    April 9th, 2010 at 8:35 am

    […] I’ve written before about the decline of Pontypridd, and am planning on doing so again later this year. For as long as I’ve lived here in Ponty, the talk of the town has always been about how local council neglect has seen Ponty become more and more run down over the years. And sets of photos like Norman’s are an important example of how this has been the case for years, under successive administrations. Compare his to mine from 2007, and you’ll see little difference, sadly, in the state of this town. […]

  7. Rhys Griffiths says:
    June 16th, 2011 at 6:46 am

    It’s finally being demolished – they’re almost finished!

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