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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Bridge Over The Glamorganshire Canal At Pont-y-dderwen

North of Navigation, in the shadow of the Giant’s Bite and Cefn Glas, stands one of the few surviving bridges that used to span the Glamorganshire Canal. Built in 1792, this bridge is 7 miles from where Canal Head used to be. This whole area is teeming with relics of the industrial heritage of the route along the canal:

  • Just a few hundred yards from this bridge is the eastern end of the Cefn Glas tunnel, which ran under the mountain from Penrhiwceiber to Quaker’s Yard via one of the lost viaducts over the River Taff.
  • Behind is the Giant’s Bite, an odd stone quarry dominating the skyline to the west.
  • Across the river runs the Penydaren Tramway, the route of the first steam railway journey in the world.
  • The tramroad runs near Pontygwaith and its historic bridge over the Taff.
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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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Roundabouts are normally somewhere between dull and dangerous … either seeking to break up a predominant flow of traffic or simply so overgrown that drivers just can’t see what might be hurtling around from behind the bushes and trees. So when you come across one that’s truly different, it deserves to be celebrated.

Thoughts On The Day

With Mrs H. away all morning at the local iaido class, I didn’t want to be left in the house by myself for several hours. Grabbing my camera gear, I decided to head out to try and track down a rather unusual roundabout Bernie at work had told me about a couple of weeks ago.

Created nearly 20 years ago now, the Magic Roundabout is an art sculpture (installation?) created by Pierre Vivant for the Arts and Regeneration Agency. Built from classic (and some downright unusual too) British road signs, it sits in Ocean Park not far from one of the old Cardiff Bay docks. Ever since I was told about it, I’ve been looking at it on Google Maps, and decided it would make for a short but enjoyable shoot this morning. Besides, I could drive right up to it, which my injured knee appreciated.

It’s a real roundabout intersecting two busy roads, making initial photography a bit of a challenge. Although I took some shots from the footpaths by the road, the best shots were definitely to be had by crossing onto the roundabout itself and getting up close and personal with the sculptures. I can’t say that I was disappointed; it gave me a great excuse to mess about with the depth of field offered by the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D. It’s a lens that I’m still learning how to use effectively.

The Photos

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

The Magic Roundabout

Post Production

I’m deliberately trying to re-invent my photography style this year. It’s partly a reaction to the kind of photography I found myself doing towards the middle of 2009 before the car crash, and it’s partly a need for a bit of a change.

I’m trying to achieve two specific things:

  1. Stronger photos that stand on their own, instead of simply accompanying the photo journalism I’ve been doing since starting the Merthyr Road project
  2. More natural photos … which means getting away from HDR once again

To do this, I’m experimenting with different lenses (the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D in this shoot, and soon a Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX), and different settings in camera. I’ve stopped shooting in RAW, and gone back to JPEG. Instead of bracketing 5 shots for HDR, I’m now bracketing just 3 shots. The processing I’m doing in Aperture is still about definition and colour management, but I’m spending more time on highlights and shadows instead of just resorting to HDR.

Most of all, I’m trying to follow some kindly advice given to me by a pro photographer after my shoot at the Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall event. During post-production, I’m trying to be ruthless with the photos, seeking out the least number of photos possible to upload, and only uploading those that add something different to the set they belong to. That’s going to be the hardest bit of all for me – on any one day, I tend to be very consistent in the quality of what I shoot.

But what the heck. I can’t get better unless I try 🙂

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Roundabout Ahead

Street sign at dusk, taken down at the regenerated waterfront at Barry Docks.

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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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Lane Control Beside The Canal

If you drive down the A470, over the Gabalfa fly-over and into Cardiff city centre, you’ll be familiar with one of the peculiarities of the roads in Cardiff. I’m not talking about the continuous experimentation with partially-closing St Mary’s Street; I’m referring to where four lanes of traffic goes down to just three as you reach Blackweir. On the right there’s the long, thin car park with the beauty of Bute Park beyond, and overhead the direction of traffic is controlled by these new digital signs. That car park has been built over the top of the old Glamorganshire Canal.

The new signs were installed either in 2007 or 2008 (I didn’t make a note of exactly when), and they replaced older mechanical signs that sat on top of the same gantry. (I have a similar shot of the old signs that I’ll dig out and post later). You’d have thought that they could have given the gantry a lick of fresh paint at the same time, wouldn’t you? 🙂

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The Gatso Is Your Friend

Like most drivers, I hate speed cameras. Too many of them, especially over in England, seem to be sited in places where they are most likely to generate revenue. This camera in Cathays, Cardiff, is one of the more sensibly located cameras. It’s placed outside a private nursery / school, on a road that has a major cycleway down the opposite side.

The car park on the opposite side has been built where the Glamorganshire Canal once ran, and the lane disappearing off into the distance is approximately the route that the canal used to follow up towards Gabalfa.

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Escaping The Canal

View “Cardiff’s Little Venice” as part of my Merthyr Road project on Flickr.

The success of the Glamorganshire Canal was always going to bring with it rival means of shipping the goods of the industrial South Wales Valleys out to a world eager for the iron, coal, patent fuel, and stone that were the currency of the Welsh industrialists. The canal was never going to have the capacity required to meet ever-growing demand, and so within 120 years of the canal opening, the marsh land south of Cardiff disappeared under no less than four separate docks, all competing with the Canal for trade. The invention of railway led to five separate railway companies all doing their best to keep up with the rate at which coal was being mined, and their iron tendrils snuck out past the congested Cardiff Docks to Barry, Newport and Swansea too.

Inevitably, it all came to an end.

Although the Glamorganshire Canal finally closed in 1951, it has taken more than fifty years to regenerate the parts of Cardiff touched by the former iron and coal trades. (The situation up in the valleys is bleaker, where full regeneration and recovery from the loss of coal mining may not happen in our lifetimes). It’s the Cardiff Docks that have taken longest to recover, and the recovery has come at what some consider a steep price (the Cardiff Barrage scheme, central to the redevelopment of the waterfront area, led to the loss of mud flats important to wildlife).

As part of the regeneration, the first dock to compete with the Glamorganshire Canal’s Sea Lock Pond has been almost completely erased from the landscape. Originally known as the Bute Ship Canal, all that is left of the Bute West Dock today is the Roald Dahl Basin down on the shore (a popular venue for events such as food fairs), and the Bute Dock Feeder that used to take water from the River Taff beside Cardiff Weir to help regulate the water level in the dock. With no dock left to flow into, the Bute Feeder has instead been diverted down to the old Junction Canal which once linked Bute West Dock and Bute East Dock.

What appears to be an entirely new waterway now flows south off of Junction Canal. Around it has sprung up the housing development known as Atlantic Wharf, transforming what was once a busy industrial dockland into a sort of Cardiff’s own Little Venice.

Thoughts On The Day

Daft as it sounds, I actually stumbled upon the Atlantic Wharf redevelopment by accident. I found myself with lunch hour to kill, and I decided to follow the Bute Dock Feeder as best I could to see where it goes today. I’m very glad that I did.

The path that leads south beside the Bute Dock Feeder from Herbert Street gives no inkling of the new waterway hidden beyond. Indeed, the Feeder quickly disappears into the overgrowth. My initial reaction was one of ‘Oh, well.’ Appearing and disappearing stretches of water are the hallmark of the remains of the Glamorganshire Canal and its associated waterways.

However, rounding the corner reveals the Junction Canal, which could never have looked as pleasant as it does today. Built to link Bute’s original Dock (the Bute West Dock) to his bigger deeper Bute East Dock, the only old photo I’ve seen of Junction Canal shows it to have been a miserable industrial landscape crossed by the remains of a ruined railway viaduct. Bute West Dock may be gone, but Junction Canal has not only survived – it has flourished.

There are two stone footbridges across Junction Canal. They are in sharp contrast to the other bridges over the new waterway that runs south through Atlantic Wharf, which are unmistakably modern in design and construction. At the time I thought that they might be original bridges across the Canal, but now I believe that they stand at the spots where the two railway viaducts – one for the TVR to the west, and the Bute Viaduct to the east – would have crossed the Junction Canal as they brought coal down from the Taff and Rhymney valleys to the Bute West Dock and Bute East Dock respectively.

The new waterway that runs south off of Junction Canal is what makes this such a pleasant place to take a lunch time walk. I don’t know what was here originally, but I’ve found no mention of Junction Canal ever being anything other than a straight forward stretch of canal flowing west to east and back again. There are houses here now on both sides, where the trains would have emptied their loads of coal to be transferred onto ships in both docks.

I found the place so charming that, if I ever move into Cardiff, this will be one of the areas that I’d look to buy a house in.

Favourite Photograph From The Shoot

The Bute Dock Feeder Hides AwayI love this shot of the Bute Dock Feeder running south above Herbert Street so much that I went back there later on with the Nikon D200 to take another, more detailed version of the same shot. I’m planning on uploading that shot soon as a HDR shot. I think that this is the best angle to take a shot of that apartment building (built on the site of a former school); it really brings out the angular nature of its design.

I also love the contrast between the Bute Dock Feeder (a relic of the 19th century), the old industrial units from the 20th century on the right, and the apartment block from the 21st century.

Post Production

I had to go back for a second visit to take some additional shots. Unfortunately, after only three years my Canon Digital IXUS has started to become unreliable. It’s starting to look like it’s time to replace it with a newer model. (Anyone remember the days when we didn’t throw things away, but had them repaired instead?)

After the last two epic photo shoots, I was hoping to get this one published quickly – and then I started trying to find out more about the two stone bridges over Junction Canal 🙂

I’ve also switched back to publishing the photos – complete with their write-ups – and the blog entry simultaneously. With my last article, once it and the photos were published, I found myself frustrated by the need to go back and continue working on it. I wanted to look forward to the next piece instead.

Found On Flickr

The term ‘Junction Canal’ is one that has arguably been overused over the centuries, but even so Flickr couldn’t find a single photo that had been tagged with Junction Canal in Cardiff 🙁 The map of geotagged photos is also pretty sparse, but I did find a couple of good photos on there.

  • P2170082, a colour photo of the new waterway through Atlantic Wharf, by Aaron A. Aardvark.
  • Fishing in the canal, a old shot showing two boys fishing in the Junction Canal, uploaded by Ben Salter. The bridge in the background of the photo is the Bute Street road bridge.
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