(I’ve only just come across this – I hope John will forgive me for being remiss at moderating the backlog of comments awaiting approval. I get a lot of spam, mostly because of how heavily read my blog was back when I worked on Gentoo Linux).

If I could have one wish, it would be to take my MacBook Pro, my Nikon D200 and the whole GPS satellite system back in time to visit the places I write about back when they were more than the mostly-lost memories that they’ve become today. I’d love to be able to see what the docks were like before the Glamorganshire Canal was emptied by an unfortunate accident in 1951. I’d loved to have walked under the Walnut Tree Viaduct before it was dismantled in 1969. Heck, I’d have even loved to have seen the old power stations that have completely disappeared from Taff Vale.

But I can’t. All these things were gone before I was born, and several decades before I settled in Wales in 2000 (yup, I’m one of those ‘orrible invading English from across the border ๐Ÿ™‚ )

Fortunately, there are folks on Flickr who are sharing their photos from these times. It’s an act of generosity that I really appreciate. I just hope the generation that follows us all one day learns to understand and respect the history of South Wales that we’re all trying to preserve before it’s gone forever.

John Briggs is one of those people kindly sharing their photos on Flickr. John’s photos, from his book Before The Deluge: Cardiff Docklands 1970’s, provide an excellent snapshot of life in the docks some twenty years after the Glamorganshire Canal had finally closed, and after the Bute West Dock too had closed.

Two photos in particular caught my eye this evening whilst taking a first look through John’s work, because they provide more information about the Junction Canal that still survives today.

Junction Canal to West is a great shot of the Junction Canal that used to link the Bute East Dock, the Bute West Dock, and Sea Lock Pond on the Glamorganshire Canal. The railway viaduct in the foreground is the Bute Viaduct, which carried trains across the Junction Canal to the western ank of the Bute East Dock.

This is the TVR Viaduct, which carried trains over Junction Canal and down to the eastern bank of the Bute West Dock (originally called the Bute Shipping Canal). From the curve, I’m guessing that this photo is looking west along Junction Canal, but I could be wrong ๐Ÿ™‚

You can see more of John’s photos up on Flickr, or pick up a copy of his book Before The Deluge: Photographs of Cardiff’s Docklands in the Seventies.

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Aperture Workflow Tutorial

Posted by Stuart Herbert on June 23rd, 2007 in Photos, Technique.

After The Storm

View a larger version of this photo on Flickr, or on black.

Download the Aperture Workflow tutorial (PDF; 3.1M)

When it comes to digital photography, everyone always puts so much emphasis on the workflow – the tasks that are done, and the order that they are done in. There is no OneTrueWorkflow(tm) that suits everyone. Workflows are very definitely horses for courses. You have to find your own way of doing things that suits the way you do photography, the amount of time available to you, and the results you want.

After six months now of using Aperture, the way I use Aperture has settled down into a fairly consistent pattern. Using the simple but effective ScreenSteps, I’ve put together a short tutorial with screenshots showing what I did in Aperture to create the final image and publish it on Flickr. If you’ve just moved to Aperture from iPhoto or Photoshop Elements (or from Picasa et al on Windows), I hope it gives you a way to start using Aperture that you can adapt over time to make your own. I’m not a professional photographer, but I don’t buy into the idea that Aperture is just for professional photographers either!
Please leave below any tips or comments about workflow in Aperture. I’m always keen to learn how I can improve on what I’m doing, especially if it saves time or results in a better final image!

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LifeTrail(tm) Station #3

View the photos of The Lost LifeTrail(tm) Stations as part of my Merthyr Road project on Flickr.

It isn’t just the wealth of South Wales that has declined since the closure of the Glamorganshire Canal, the iron works, the coal mines, and most of our railways. There has also been a dramatic turn for the worst in the health of South Wales. The nation as a whole is facing an ever-increasing burden of folks who are overweight and who just aren’t doing enough physical activity to maintain their health as they get older. When coupled with the rising average age of the working population, the UK as a whole is facing extra demand on its state-funded health care services coinciding with less people footing the bill.

The Welsh Assembly Government is trying to plan ahead with the twenty year Climbing Higher national strategy for sport and active recreation. Under this initiative, a number of Welsh councils have been buying the LifeTrail(tm) outdoor activity solution from US company Playworld Systems and installing them in local parks. Comprising of ten separate Wellness Stations, the LifeTrail system is aimed at getting the aging population to perform simple but effective exercises that will contribute towards their overall health.

And there just happens to be a few of these hidden away along an old railway line in Pontypridd …

Thoughts On The Day

This might seem like an odd topic for my Merthyr Road project, which to date has focused on the more historical locations between Cardiff and Merthyr Tydfil, but please indulge me. The LifeTrail(tm) stations have been placed along the route of the former Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport Railway, which opened in 1884 and was taken out of use in 1967. The Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport Railway connected the coal mines at Merthyr with the docks at Newport, running along the Taff Vale Railway to Pontypridd before crossing the River Taff just south of Ynysangharad Park, down the eastern side of the valley to Penhros Junction, and then east through Caerphilly, Machen and Basseleg and so down to the Newport Docks. To the best of my knowledge, some of the P.C. & N. Railway has been converted to form the Taff Trail route between Nantgarw and Glyntaff, whilst some of it has been lost under the A470 along with the Glamorganshire Canal. A third section, between the Treforest Ironworks Bridge over the Taff at Glyntaff and Ynysangharad Park, has recently been turned into a pleasant riverside walk, and it is here that the LifeTrail(tm) stations have appeared.

To be honest, I had no idea that the LifeTrail(tm) stations were there – I was actually heading out of Pontypridd for a walk down to Taffs Well to gather more photos for a second article about Cardiff Railway. The first station can be found at the south-western corner of Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, and I found a total of five more stations along the route of the old railway line to Treforest. It’s difficult to describe what they are; the best thing to do is to look at the photos of the individual stations. Without trying to do them down, they’re basically simple but effective exercise equipment purpose-built for placing outdoors in parks. Online articles I’ve read since I took the photos suggest that they are aimed at the older adult population (by which I mean the over 40’s!), and that’s also backed up by the promotional material available on the manufacturer’s website.

I walked along the set of exercise stations with an adult couple who were probably in their mid-forties (my apologies to you if I’ve gotten that wrong ๐Ÿ™‚ ), looking at each of the exercises on offer and talking about the concept. We all expressed surprise at where the stations have been placed, and wondered whether they would have been more accessible and easier to find if they’d been placed in a trail around Ynysangharad War Memorial Park instead. I’m sorry to say that, at Station #2, we couldn’t work out whether the contractors hadn’t finished installing this station yet, or whether someone had already stolen the pedals from the exercise bike built into this station! We also all noticed that these stations are labelled for Tredegar Park and are branded for Newport City Council, an unfortunate oversight on someone’s part that gave me the title of this article ๐Ÿ™‚

My overall feelings on these installations are mixed. On the one hand, anything that gets the under-active to do more healthy exercise is a GoodThing(tm). The UK in general, and Wales in particular, is heading towards a health crisis caused in part by folks doing less physical activity, and that’s not going to be fun for anyone – not the folks who will be (or are) suffering, and not for my generation who will also be footing the tax bill for it. On the other, it’s a shame to see Welsh tax money being used to buy an off-the-shelf solution from the US. This could have been a good opportunity for Welsh business and the various Welsh teaching centres, including the Welsh Institute of Chiropractic at the University of Glamorgan (who I’m personally indebted to for excellent treatment following a car accident some years ago).

I’m wondering where the other four LifeTrail(tm) stations will be built. There are six stations at the moment in Pontypridd (one of which is purely informational), leaving four additional stations if RCT are going to take the standard complement of ten stations. Station #6 is at the end of the track; it wasn’t obvious to me where any additional stations could be built. I’ll have to go back out to the site once work has been completed to see where RCT has placed the other four units.

On the day I didn’t know any better, but after researching the LifeTrail(tm) stations, I’m disappointed to find that RCT’s stations don’t appear at first glance to include the panels for disabled people. Just to explain – each station has three sides to it, or three panels. Each panel hosts a single exercise for folks to do. According to Playworld System’s website, normally two of the panels would have exercises for the able-bodied, whilst the third panel would either be used for information / sponsor purposes, or for exercises for folks in wheelchairs. RCT appear to have opted for a different configuration, using all three panels for exercises for able-bodied folks. In this post-DDA world, that might prove to be a bold move on RCT’s part.

(As a footnote, it will be interesting to go down to Tredegar Park one weekend to see how their LifeTrail(tm) stations compare to those installed in Pontypridd).

Post Production

The main job since taking the photos has been to try and find out more about the LifeTrail stations. Talking to a few locals who regularly use the path between Treforest and Ynysangharad Park, they’re as much a surprise to them as they were to me on the day!

Unfortunately, this has been easier said than done. There’s plenty of information online from other councils in Wales about the Climbing Higher initiative, and how they are spending tax payers’ money – but there’s precious little information available online from Rhondda Cynon Taff Council itself. Unfortunately, the online search on the RCT website appears to have been having a bad day, as even searches for basic terms like ‘Ynysangharad’ produce no results, and searches for ‘Climbing Higher’ list PDFs that don’t mention the WAG initiative at all ๐Ÿ™

At the time of writing, I’m assuming that RCT is still in the process of installing the LifeTrail(tm) stations. That’s based mainly on the state of the six stations that I came across during this shoot, and that there’s been no launch of the stations to match the work that Newport City Council did when their stations were setup in Tredegar Park.

I’ve found it a little weird writing an article about a modern-day attraction. This is the very first one, and it certainly won’t be the last! Regular readers of my blog might be forgiven for thinking that the route between Cardiff and Merthyr consists of nothing other than a post-industrial wilderness littered with abandoned canals, railways and industrial workings. As well as celebrating what used to be here, I believe that my Merthyr Road project should also be playing a positive role in documenting what has taken the place of the industrial landscape of the 1800’s and 1900’s. There’s so little about this part of the world online, so anything that I or anyone else can do to chip away at that problem can only be a good thing!

Sources / See Also

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16361

Whilst exploring the banks of the River Taff at Hawthorn, near Upper Boat, I spotted this soggy piece of cardboard clinging onto a rock in the river for dear life.

I love the colour of this shot, and the energy injected into the water by the little weir just out of frame on the right. After all the black and white shots I’ve been posting these last few weeks, it’s almost a relief to come up with a stunning colour shot for a change!

Whilst I was there, I took the individual frames that I’ll need to make a panoramic shot of the River Taff. At some point, I’ll get the shots stitched together and uploaded to Flickr as part of a new ‘Panoramic Shots’ series for my Merthyr Road project.

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Bridge Over The Cardiff Railway

View the photos from A Walk Along The Cardiff Railway as part of my Merthyr Road collection on Flickr.

In 1885, the Marquis of Bute finally succeeded in assuming ownership of the Glamorganshire and Aberdare Canals. It was his intention to close both canals and re-use the land for a railway to compete with the Taff Vale Railway. However, he was unable to do so, and instead was forced to build his Cardiff Railway as a new route north to Treforest. The route ran from Heath Junction, through Coryton, across the Glamorganshire Canal at Middle Lock, and north from there through Taffs Well, Nantgarw, the modern-day Treforest Industrial Estate, and behind the Treforest Tin Plate Works at Rhydyfelin.

However, even the powerful Marquis had finally met his match. The Taff Vale Railway purchased strategically-placed land just south of Treforest, and so were able to prevent the Cardiff Railway from being connected to Treforest Junction. The Marquis was forced to consider merger talks, but when these broke down in 1909, it sealed Cardiff Railway’s fate. With no connection at Treforest, Cardiff Railway was a railway that went nowhere. Passenger services up to Rhydyfelin Halt began in 1911, but in 1931 they were cut back to go no further than Coryton.

The colliery opened at Nantgarw in the 1938 finally gave the railway the freight it was built to carry. However, with the war over, the Taff Vale Railway was able to divert even this traffic by laying a branch line to the colliery in 1952, and in 1953 the line north of Coryton finally closed for good.

The Photos

Longwood Drive

The walk along the route of the Cardiff Railway starts here, at Longwood Drive. Right beside the entrance to Asda at Coryton Roundabout, there’s this track heading off into the trees. The track takes you into the Glamorganshire Canal Local Nature Reserve, and over a 3-span bridge that was built over the Cardiff Railway.

In this photo, Longwood Drive disappears off into the distance on the right. Just out of frame on the right is another track that takes you down to the remains of the bridge that carried Cardiff Railway over the Glamorganshire Canal at Middle Lock.

(Thanks to the Friends of Forest Farm, there’s an old photo of the Cardiff Railway bridge over Middle Lock online, if you’re interested in seeing what this area looked like before both the Glamorganshire Canal and Cardiff Railway closed).

Bridge Over The Cardiff Railway

The track from beside Asda brings you to this bridge. The Cardiff Railway trackbed is below the bridge.

Grass Growing On The Bridge

This is a macro shot of what I think is grass growing in the gaps between the masonry on the bridge over the old Cardiff Railway.

Bridge Over The Cardiff Railway

This is the western end of the bridge over the Cardiff Railway. To date, I’ve been unable to discover who built this bridge, when, or why.

From here, there are steps down to the old trackbed.

Steps Down To Cardiff Railway

From the western end of the bridge, these steps lead down to the trackbed below the bridge.

Bridge Over The Cardiff Railway

The bridge over the Cardiff Railway consists of these three spans. The bridge appears to be built from brick rather than stone.

This photo is taken looking north along the old trackbed.

In The Shadow Of The Bridge

This is a shot of the Cardiff Railway trackbed as it goes underneath the bridge near Longwood Drive.

This photo is looking south towards Coryton. Behind me, Cardiff Railway would have crossed the Glamorganshire Canal at Middle Lock over a now-lost bridge.

Along The Trackbed

The Cardiff Railway trackbed between Coryton and Longwood Drive runs through this cutting. At the northern end of the cutting stands the bridge featured in earlier photos in this set.

The Cutting of Cardiff Railway

On a sunny day like today, the light reflects off of the many leaves and plants that line the route once taken by the Cardiff Railway. They present a formidable challenge to anyone wishing to capture the scene with a digital camera.

Watch Your Feet!

Along the old trackbed of the Cardiff Railway, there are a few raised manhole covers such as this one. Be careful not to trip over them as you walk!

A Lovely Day For A Stroll

Unlike the Glamorganshire Canal Local Nature Research to the west, the path along the trackbed of the old Cardiff Railway is much less crowded ๐Ÿ™‚

Tree Cutting

These initials, carved into a tree trunk, caught my eye whilst out walking along the old trackbed of the Cardiff Railway.

Bridge At The Southern End Of The Cardiff Railway

After a relaxing walk that takes about twenty minutes, the Cardiff Railway trackbed passes under a smaller bridge. The route over the bridge goes to Melingriffith in the west, but is very overgrown and no fun at all to walk.

This photo is taken looking north along the trackbed of the Cardiff Railway.

The Route Out

South of the bridge, between here and Coryton Station, the trackbed has become completely overgrown. The best route out is along this path to the A4054. Unfortunately this path can be very muddy indeed. Sensible footwear is highly recommended!

Welcome To The Glamorganshire Canal Local Nature Reserve

The old trackbed of the Cardiff Railway sits within the Glamorganshire Canal Local Nature Reserve. At each entrance to the reserve, there are identical signs showing visitors a map of the nature reserve.

Coryton Station

Today, the surviving track of the Cardiff Railway ends here at Coryton Station.

Looking Along The Cardiff Railway

To finish the walk, I went down to the first bridge over the surviving track, and took this photo of whatever it is that’s growing on the bridge.

View the photos from A Walk Along The Cardiff Railway as part of my Merthyr Road collection on Flickr.

Thoughts On The Day

I have something to confess. As a regular commuter between the valleys and Cardiff, I often wondered why the Coryton line didn’t connect up to the main route at Radyr Station. I often expressed the opinion that this would be A Good Thing(tm).

Now, thankfully, I know better.

The basis of this ignorance was the mistaken belief that the Coryton line must once have been connected to the main route at Radyr Station. I’d never heard of Cardiff Railway, and I had no idea at all that the Coryton line was the remainder of a railway that had made its own independent route up to Trefforest. I’d never heard of the Glamorganshire Canal, or the Local Nature Reserve at Forest Farm, and didn’t know that the Coryton line would have to take a destructive route through the Local Nature Reserve in order to reach Radyr.

Time has moved on and consigned the Cardiff Railway route to the history books. North of the M4, very little of the route survives at all. It was the last railway to be built in direct competition with the Taff Vale Railway. It had to jump through the most hoops in order to snake its way north, the most favourable land having already been taken up by the Glamorganshire Canal and the Taff Vale Railway.

In retrospect, the futility of the Cardiff Railway is best summed up by the viaduct over the Taff built immediately behind the Treforest Tin Works. Built in 1907, only a single token train ever crossed Rhydyfelin Viaduct, because north of the Tin Works the Taff Vale Railway did everything they could to prevent the Cardiff Railway ever connecting to it (a temporary connection was put in place in 1909, which allowed the single train to cross Rhydyfelin Viaduct, but this connection at Treforest Junction was removed in the same year after a merger between Taff Vale Railway and Cardiff Railway collapsed). Unused for 31 years, Rhydyfelin Viaduct was taken down in 1940 to be recycled for the war effort.

What’s left today is a pleasant walk, taking about half an hour, between Coryton Station and Longwood Drive. We parked on Longwood Drive itself, and made our way down the steps beside a surviving bridge to the cutting where the Cardiff Railway once ran. From there, we made our way south to Coryton, before returning via the same route.

Post Production

Combining photos taken on two separate visits to form a single set of photos can be tricky, given the variance in the British weather. The main problem is always the same – skies and contrast. My main tool for dealing with any tricky situation is conversion to black and white. It feels like a bit of a cop-out, but sometimes I think the results look better than the original colour images.

To try and improve the quality of the black and whites this time, I’ve boosted the brightness and contrast on all of these shots, and then adjusted highlights and shadows to try and even out the differences between the shots. Overall, I’m very happy with the results, and I’ll probably try the same technique again the next time I publish a black and white set.

See Also

As always with these articles, I’m indebted to the information that has already been published about Cardiff Railway. Here’s a list of the sources that I used to compile this article:

โ€“

If youโ€™re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I havenโ€™t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now youโ€™ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Celsa UK, Cardiff

Enjoy The View From The Garth as part of my Merthyr Road series on Flickr.

If there’s one part of the landscape that dominates views of both Taff Vale and Cardiff, it has to be the Garth. But what can you see from up on the Garth? That’s what I went up there to find out.

Thoughts On The Day

The day was a tale of two directions. To the south, towards the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff, conditions were very difficult for landscape photography, with the sun reflecting off the Bristol Channel beyond the South Wales coastline. The photos shot facing that way all suffered from limited contrast and colour; I ended up converting those to black and white to make the most of them.

To the east, towards Caerphilly and Taffs Well, the light was much better (well, in between the rain drops ๐Ÿ™‚ ). I was able to get nice, crisp shots of most of my subjects, and I was able to leave those photos in colour.

To get up the Garth, I recommend hiking up the road from Gwaelod-y-Garth. A couple of sections of the road are steep, and like me you might find using a walking stick helps with these bits, but for the main it’s not too hard on the legs or the knees! You can reach Gwaelod-y-Garth easily from Taffs Well railway station car park by using the footbridge to cross the River Taff. Don’t be tempted to try a short cut through the new housing estate on the site of the former Pentyrch Iron Works; I couldn’t find a way through from there to the old village behind it, and had to double back ๐Ÿ™

And, as to what you can see once you get up there …

Celsa UK, CardiffCelsa UK, CardiffCardiff Barrage and PenarthAberthaw Cement WorksThe Millennium Stadium and The Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Radyr SidingsGarth Quarry, CardiffHill In The DistanceTaff ValeWar Memorial, Ynysangharad Common, Pontypridd

Trig Point, The GarthRailway Bridge over the TVRRailway Bridge over the TVR With TrainGeneral Electric, NantgarwCraig Yr Allt, Nantgarw

Railway Viaduct, Taffs WellPentyrch Iron Works and Garth Works, circa 2007Walnut Tree Station, circa 2007Walnut Tree Viaduct, circa 2007

Panoramic Shot

Favourite Photo From The Shoot

General Electric, NantgarwThis photo of the General Electric plant at Nantgarw is my favourite photo from this shoot. Being up on the Garth provided the perfect elevation to show how GE’s factory dominates the entire hill side and the communities that it surrounds.

I also like the photo of the War Memorial (simply because it’s a great demonstration how just how much reach the Sigma 80-400 mm lens has) and my shot of the Millennium Stadium in the heart of Cardiff (because it shows just how central the stadium is).

Post Production

Whilst I was up on the Garth, I also took 14 shots of Taff Vale to stitch together into a single panoramic image of Taff Vale. At Jon Pearse’s recommendation, I bought a copy of Calico to do the stitching, and I’m very happy with the result. The beautiful thing about Calico is that it does all the work for you, and (unlike some competing tools) it doesn’t complain when you want to stitch 14 images together ๐Ÿ™‚

Now, getting the final panoramic shot uploaded to Flickr … that was far harder than generating the shot in the first place!

Found On Flickr

This old postcard provides a great view of the Walnut Tree Viaduct with the Garth beyond it. With a lot more care and thought into how the heritage of the South Wales valleys could be protected and developed, this could have been the view that greeted visitors leaving the M4 bound for the Brecon Beacons.

I think it’s a shame that it isn’t so.

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I took advantage of the recent May bank holiday weekend to head on up to the top of the Garth, and shoot some photos of what I could see. Whilst I was up there, I took these 14 panned shots of Taff Vale.

Panoramic Shot #1

Panoramic Shot #2

Panoramic Shot #3

Panoramic Shot #4

Panoramic Shot #5

Panoramic Shot #6

Panoramic Shot #7

Panoramic Shot #8

Panoramic Shot #9

Panoramic Shot #10

Panoramic Shot #11

Panoramic Shot #12

Panoramic Shot #13

Panoramic Shot #14

There’ll be a full article on The View from the Garth in the next few days, but I wanted to share these 14 photos separately. How many things in these photos do you recognise? Please head on over to Flickr, and feel free to add as many notes as possible for as many things as possible.

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If youโ€™re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I havenโ€™t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now youโ€™ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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