Vulcan Hotel, Cardiff

The Vulcan Hotel has to be the most famous pub in all of Cardiff. Built in 1853, it is one of the oldest pubs in Cardiff, but for several years now has been under threat of closure because it is standing in the way of planned developments in what is becoming prime real estate in Cardiff.

With the current landlady leaving at the end of May, 2010, and (at the time of writing) no news about her successor, fans of this old-fashioned pub are very worried that the pub will finally close for the last time. If it does, the Welsh National History Museum out at St Fagans has previously offered to move this pub to their site.

I, for one, hope that the pub does stay open. A walk through Cardiff today is, imho, a walk through a total planning mess. Too many flats standing empty, and lots of modern buildings that don’t fit style-wise either with each other or their older neighbours. I think it would be nice for the planners (for once!) to see a bit of sense, and do something to preserve what little is left of old Cardiff before it is all lost forever.

References

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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ye olde Newbridge Arms
In all honesty, I don’t know much at all about the Newbridge Arms in Trallwn, Pontypridd. Most of my research is done online, and I’ve struggled to find anything at all about what must be one of the oldest surviving buildings in Pontypridd.

The pub prominently proclaims that it dates back to 1735. That makes it 21 years older than Pontypridd’s famous bridge (1756), 57 years older than the Glamorganshire Canal (1792 for this section) that eventually snaked right past its front door, and a whopping 235 years older than the A470 trunk road (1970) that has replaced the canal in modern times.

Today, this public house is 275 years old. I have real difficulty in imagining any building built today still standing in 275 years time; not because of poor construction, but because yesterday’s great pieces of architecture quickly become tomorrow’s eyesore (*cough cough* Taff Vale Precinct).

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Drive north along the A470 from Abercynon, and your view to the left is dominated by the Giant’s Bite, a gap in the skyline quarried from the ridge top.

The Photos

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

The Giant’s Bite is a strange sight indeed, clearly visible against the sky.

A Giant's Bite On The Landscape

Up close, the quarrying that created this unique feature of the landscape is clear to see.

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

Its position on the ridge top makes it easy to take dramatic photos of the quarry face against the sky.

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

This single tree growing out of the old quarry face makes a great focal point for photography.

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

Further down the slopes likes the eastern entrance to the old Cefn Glas railway tunnel that runs under the mountain.

A Giant's Bite In The Landscape

The views from the Giant’s Bite, more formally known as Cefn Glas, are best to the east, where you have Edwardsville and Quakers Yard.

Thoughts On The Day

We’d gone out for the afternoon for a walk on Cefn Glas. There’s a choice of routes to it; you can cycle along the Taff Trail over the Pontygwaith bridge and then head south instead of north, or you can drive to it through either Quakers Yard or Abercynon. We decided to drive, and parked up right at the foot of the ridge line itself.

The walk up from the road is easy enough. The ridge itself is maybe half a mile long, running north to south, making for a nice afternoon of wandering along between the Cynon Valley to the west and the Taff Valley to the east. The Giant’s Bite itself is much rockier, and takes a bit of care to clamber around; I can imagine it being a fun place to bring the kids for an afternoon.

Post Production

Although bright and sunny on the day, there were just enough clouds in the sky to make it extremely difficult to turn the colour shots into anything usable at all without HDR. Rather than resort to HDR, I decided to turn them into a black and white set instead. I can’t decide whether or not I’m happy with the results, but they are what they are.

See Also

I’ve really struggled to find anything at all about the Giant’s Bite on the Internet, but there’s plenty to be found regarding the railway tunnel that runs underneath.

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

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In 2009, the Rhondda Cynon Taff local authority, in conjunction with the Arts Council of Wales, erected a new piece of public sculpture just outside Pontypridd. Christened Unity, the sculpture stands on land beside the Ynysangharad War Memorial Park, and is intended to bring new visitors into one of South Wales’ most exploited and neglected former mining towns. The sculpture represents three aspects of Pontypridd’s heritage: the town’s famous bridge, the mines that populated the town in the 1800’s and 1900’s, and the way that the British fleet relied on both coal and locally-manufactured chains.

Unity or Lunacy? You decide.

The sculpture is largely invisible to anyone travelling up the major road from Cardiff until you’ve passed the turn-off for Pontypridd, which limits its ability to draw passing tourists into the town. In common with both RCT and Cardiff’s local authority, there’s no memory of the Glamorganshire Canal incorporated into the sculpture – without the canal, the Chainworks would never have come to Pontypridd in 1816. And there’s no incorporation either of the Taff Vale Railway, still in operation today and visible from the site of the sculpture.

Time will tell whether this piece of public sculpture will be an asset or a communist-red (as opposed to white) elephant for the town, but it seems unlikely to become as iconic a piece as the Angel Of The North.

The Photos

Unity

Unity

Unity

Thoughts On The Day

My earlier shot of Unity from up on the Common provoked a fair few comments on Flickr, and in the ensuing conversation I’d mentioned that I would try and wander over to the site and shoot it up close and personal.

There seems to be a trend in our cramped little country of Wales (well, in South Wales anyway) of spending public money to create iconic structures, but overlooking the importance that photography plays in turning a structure into something iconic (think of the Sydney Opera House), and Unity is the latest addition to this trend. This thing is simply a bitch to photograph.

I’m lucky enough to own a decent 10-20mm wide-angle lens, but even with that I was seriously struggling. The old adage about ultra-wide angle lenses is that a photographer should use them to make stronger pictures; they’re not for fitting everything in. Well, I tell you know – when it comes to shooting Unity, they’re most definitely for fitting everything in … if you don’t mind tramping through the muddy ground beside the sculpture or taking your chances and standing in the middle of Broadway (which is a bit too busy for that to be a sensible option). This thing is like a stealth fighter – light seems to just slide off it, making autofocus almost impossible.

It’s no accident that I only managed three usable photos out of the whole shoot 🙁

I have no idea how folks armed with point and shoot pocket cameras or (shudder) camera phones are going to photograph this puppy. A quick look through Google suggests that no-one is, despite the fact that it’s been in place over six months now. If I was an auditor measuring whether or not this investment of public funding was a success or a failure, I’d be wondering whether a piece of art no-one is photographing was a good way to spend public funds.

For myself, I think it’s great to see that RCT occasionally remembers that Pontypridd is supposed to be the county town, but it feels like this was built without anyone really thinking about how it would support desired outcomes. It’s on the wrong side of the roundabout to be visible to tourists travelling north to the Brecon Beacons (these are the folks whose money we want!) because the A470 is quite sunken at this particular stretch, and if you can see it travelling down from the north it doesn’t matter anyway, as there’s no southbound sliproad off into Pontypridd for passing cars to take. Visibility from the Taff Trail cycle network is poor too, but that doesn’t matter so much because that already takes cyclists into town.

So, at the time of writing, as a resident of Pontypridd myself, I’m left wondering how this 100,000 GBP sculpture that passing tourists can’t see and no-one is taking photographs of is going to help in the regeneration that Pontypridd so desperately needs after many years of neglect by RCT? If you have any answers, please leave them in the comments below.

Post Production

The main work I did on these photos in Aperture was to bring out some of the detail in the shadow, balance out the ultra-strong red (which has a tendency to turn purple in direct sunlight) and add a vignette effect to draw the viewer’s gaze to the sculpture itself in the middle of the shot. I first experimented with the vignette effect on the first shot of Unity that I took earlier in the year, and with the positive feedback decided to use it on these shots too.

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

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Daffodils Beside Brown Lenox

I recently went over to the site where the Newbridge Chainworks operated by Brown Lenox and Co, Ltd, once stood. The site is reached by a bit of a torturous route if you’re going to stick to public footpaths; one has to walk round to Pontypridd Railway Station, and then round the outside of Ynysangharad Park and cross the sliproad that goes down to the A470. And then you have to go all the way back afterwards. I’m assuming that they’ll do something to improve this if they build a supermarket on the site.

(Of course, we could still be discussing this in another 10 years time …)

But, whilst I was there, I couldn’t help but notice this wonderful spread of daffodils growing beside the road. The setting sun meant that the light was against me (I’d already used the best of the light to take some snaps of Unity, which I’ll upload soon), but I like the gritty look that the conditions ultimately gave this photo.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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Where Brown Lenox Used To Be

This is the site where the Newbridge Chain Works, operated by Brown, Lenox, and Co Ltd used to be.

The Chain Works were built in 1816, and Brown Lennox operated a factory here until 2000. Since then, the site fell into disrepair, until in 2007 the local council took steps which eventually led to the site being cleared in 2009.

The Rhondda Cynon Taff Libraries Digital Archive contains over fifty photos of the chainworks, several of which have been published in local history books over the years.

Today, the town is waiting to hear what will happen next on this piece of prime land … one of the oldest pieces of developed land in the town. Originally it was going to be a Morrisons supermarket, but that was rejected by the Welsh Assembly Government. Now? It might become a Sainsbury’s supermarket instead.

Or maybe in 10 years time we’ll still be left wondering what will happen.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

If you’re reading this in the RSS feed, my original blog post also includes a Google map showing where this photo was taken. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to get the map to appear yet in the RSS feed, so for now you’ll have to click through to my blog if you want to see the map. Sorry.

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The Pontypridd Sculpture

After the Brown Lennox site was cleared in 2009, this bright red sculpture appeared opposite, just outside the southern end of the Ynysangharad Park. It incorporates the Titanic (the chains for the Titanic were made at Brown Lennox), the old bridge that gives Pontypridd its name (which still stands today), and the flywheel from a mine lift (none of the mines have survived through to today).

It’s nice to see the much-maligned RCT making an effort in Pontypridd for a change, but like so much of what they do it just misses the mark. Why? Because if you’re coming north from Cardiff on the A470, this sculpture is mostly hidden from view by the turnoff into Pontypridd itself. Contrast that to other roadside art installations around the UK, such as the Angel of the North, which are sited specifically to be seen by approaching drivers.

I’m sure this thing must have an official name 🙂 If anyone knows what it is, please leave a comment below.

It sits close to the now-lost route of the Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport Railway, and opposite the site where the Brown Lennox factory used to stand. In the background runs the line of the old Taff Vale Railway (TVR), today the main passenger line up and down the valleys. The road curving up and to the right crosses the River Taff.

Copyright (c) 2010 Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all).

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Keeping Watch Over The A470

If you can get out of bed early enough, this time of year offers fantastic light when the weather isn’t against you. And yet, look at the photography going on this time of year, and you’ll see that so few people ever look up to see – and photograph – what’s above them.

Mind you, you have to look up a long way to see this bad boy. This is one of the ridiculously tall lights that rises up from the Treforrest / Glyntaff turnoff to look down onto the elevated section of the A470. To have any chance at all of capturing this shot, I had to wander into the car park of the new University of Glamorgan campus (many thanks to the security team for their permission), and even from that elevated position I had a fair job getting the whole lamp into the shot.

Can you imagine having the job of changing the bulbs in this thing when they blow? 🙂

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A Lost Canal Bridge

It might not look like much today, and the bare trees and cold tarmac of the A470 might make this picture seem extremely unremarkable, but sixty years ago you’d have been looking at the canal bridge at Trallwn as it crossed the Glamorganshire Canal.

Sadly, although I’m sure I’ve seen a photo online of the bridge taken from about this spot, I’ve been unable to find it so far. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments below!

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Under The A470

I was walking home this afternoon from an as-yet unpublished shoot [a follow-up on the further decline of Pontypridd – Ed] when the low winter sun drew my eye to this rusting, vandalised junction box sat underneath the A470 by Ynysangharad Park.

I just love the way the curve of the road and the path draw the eye towards the rusting box itself. That’s exactly what happened when I was walking, and I’m pleased that it came out so well in this photograph.

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