Trees In Bute Park

Although most visitors to Bute Park in Cardiff may only really notice the wide open spaces of the playing fields, or the gorsedd stones left by a previous eisteddfod, it is the trees where the beauty of Bute Park truly lies. As well as the arboretum (which contains some of the finest examples of trees in the UK), the playing fields are ringed with trees, casting their cool shade down onto anyone walking or cycling by who needs shelter from the sun.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (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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Grass In Bute Park

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One of the great legacies from the age of coal that gave Cardiff its wealth before the First World War is also one of the great gifts made to the people of Cardiff. Originally flanked by Cardiff Castle to the south, the River Taff to the west, the Glamorganshire Canal to the east and Western Avenue to the north, Bute Park was begun in 1873 by the 3rd Marquess of Bute, and handed over to the people of Cardiff in 1947 by the 5th Marquess.

It is a fabulous place to roam, especially for the many thousands of office workers in Cardiff’s busy city centre who need somewhere to escape to on a lunch time. As well as open playing fields and the arboretum, there are quieter, shaded areas under the trees and by the river banks where you can go and hide with a book for a bit of peace and quiet.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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South Towards Pontypridd

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As the end of the week approaches, and time runs out to pick out HDR shots in tribute to my Nikon D200, it’s getting harder and harder to pick my wallpaper choice, I don’t mind admitting! But there was no way I could leave this shot out of my selection. For me, like my Calanais At Dusk shot that’s sadly the wrong aspect to ever be a Daily Desktop Wallpaper (but, do try it on an iPad … it’s the wallpaper for the lock screen on mine!), this shot is an example of what HDR can really achieve when it all comes together. The end result looks more like a painting than a photograph, and I could happily stare at it all day.

In fact, that’s exactly what I’m going to do! At least until tomorrow, when I’ll be sharing my last choice from the D200 HDR archives.

Oh, and tonight I’m planning on working on the shots for next week’s wallpaper theme. Mrs H has set me a photographic challenge. I’ve no idea how it will go, but I’m looking forward to doing something a little different (for me). If there’s a photographic challenge you’d like to set me for a future wallpaper theme, drop me a comment on my blog and I’ll certainly consider it 🙂

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (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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Under Construction: Cardiff Food Festival

I enjoyed greatly the juxtaposition of the distant construction crane and the much nearer Torchwood Towers during a visit to the Cardiff Food Festival.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (all).

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In 1858, the Rhymney Railway opened a branch route which ran from the Taff Vale Railway (modern Valley Lines route) at Walnut Tree Junction (modern Taffs Well station) up and over the Glamorganshire Canal to Penrhos Cutting, where it was joined by the Barry Railway and the Pontypridd, Caerphilly and Newport Railway. It survived the construction of the A470 trunk road, and was in use up until 1984, long after the railroad had constructed the Caerphilly Tunnel in 1871 to provide a much more direct route between the eastern valleys and Cardiff.

Today, it forms a section of the Taff Trail, a national cycle path (route 8) that runs from Cardiff Bay in the south all the way north to Brecon in the heart of the Brecon Beacons.

The Photos

Plenty of Lamp Posts at Taffs Well

The Rhymney Railway route starts at Taffs Well railway station, with the magnificant Garth behind it. The Garth, with its three distinctive barrows, dominates the skyline looking north from Cardiff.

Half a Mile to Tongwynlais

At the start of this section of the Taff Trail, if instead you want to head south towards Cardiff (a route which threads its way through Tongwynlais and then largely follows the River Taff), you can pick up refreshments in the village of Taffs Well if you need them. Just cross the railway by the nearby bridge.

If you’re heading north along the Rhymney Railway and then either up Penrhos Cutting to Caerphilly or along the Pontypridd, Newport and Caerphilly railway route up through Nantgarw, your nearest refreshments are some miles away. Stocking up first in Taffs Well might be a good idea.

Daisies Beside The Path

These lush daisies stand large and proud beside the fence at the start of the route.

Gate Guarding Cycle Route Eight

To try and keep the Taff Trail just for walkers and cyclists, the route is guarded by gates such as this one. They do break up leisure cycling a bit, as it’s much safer to dismount to navigate, but they seem a reasonable compromise to stop dirt bikers abusing the trail.

All Quiet On The A470

The route crosses the major A470 trunk road over a distinctive railway bridge. I don’t know for certain, but I’m willing to bet that this bridge is modern and was constructed when the A470 was built in 1969/1970.

Note how the A470 was empty when I took this shot. I commute up and down this road every weekday, and traffic levels have been (relatively) low for several months. Several years ago, it wasn’t unusual on a morning for this stretch to be completely stuffed with queueing traffic.

Rhymney Railway Bridge Over The A470

This is what the view is like along the bridge … wide and flat, with just the offensive graffiti for company.

Central Divider

Almost immediately beyond the bridge over the A470, the former Rhymney Railway section of the Taff Trail crosses a much older bridge, which originally went over the Cardiff Railway. The trackbed over the bridge has been tarmaced over, but this central divider with its metal studs (rivets) remains a major feature.

Bridge Over The Cardiff Railway

There’s hardly anything left of the Cardiff Railway in the immediate vicinity, as much of it was obliterated by the construction of the A470. There’s the Cardiff Railway stretch between Coryton and Longwood Drive that I’ve covered before, and also a stretch through Taffs Well that I haven’t yet written up … but in between, I think this bridge that carried the Rhymney Railway over the Cardiff Railway is about the only bit of the Cardiff Railway that still exists.

Gate Across The Trail

Aways beyond the bridge over the Cardiff Railway, a padlocked gate stands across the route. There’s one of the usual cycle gates beside it (so that cyclists and walkers can use the route as normal).

Alleyway and Gate

This section of the Taff Trail is crossed in places by alleyways that disappear into housing estates in one direction, and up the hill (presumably to the other Taff Trail along the old Barry Railway – yes, there are two Taff Trails running in parallel here!). Metal gates bar them to prevent non-walkers and non-cyclists from abusing the route.

It would be interesting to dig out some old maps to see whether any of these were here (as public footpaths) back when the railway was in existence.

Tree in Abstract

The Rhymney Railway section of the Taff Trail is very green this time of year – almost monotonously so. Occasional breaks of light like this provide interesting contrasts.

Tree in Abstract

The contrast of shade and well-lit trees beyond can make for eye-catching scenes such as this … but I imagine that if you’re cycling rather than walking, you’d probably miss them as you whizz by.

Sign in the Undergrowth

Does anyone know what this sign might be? I spotted it half-buried in the undergrowth along the route. Is it a left-over from when the railway was here, or something unrelated?

Rusting Post

I’ve no idea what this metal post’s original function was. It stands by the route, and is happily rusting away. If you can shed some light onto this, please leave a comment below.

Rusting Post Up Close

I’m a bit of a sucker for textures, especially when they contrast with a soft background like this one does.

Posts Beside The Rhymney Railway

Here are some old posts (I’m guessing they were railway fence posts from back in the day) standing beside the Taff Trail as it runs along the route of the former Rhymney Railway. As you can see, this particular stretch is long, straight, and very green, with not a lot to see.

The Two Taff Trails Merge

Not far from the start of Penrhos Cutting, the other Taff Trail route (which runs along the old Barry Railway line that used to go over Walnut Tree Viaduct) joins the Rhymney Railway route. I’m planning on covering the other Taff Trail route at a later date.

Bathed In Sunlight

When you get to Penrhos Cutting, the trail goes under this bridge. I’ll talk about the bridge more in the next photo.

What you’re seeing isn’t rain. It was a very dry, very sunny day, and when I angled my Nikon D300s up towards the sun, these strange streaks of purple light appeared on the image. I think it looks better as black and white, but if anyone really wants me to, I’ll upload the colour original for you to see for yourself.

Bridge At Penrhos Cutting

A little saner than my last shot, here’s the bridge at Penrhos Cutting that the Taff Trail goes under before its climb up Nantgarw Hill. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine local boys standing up on the bridge, waiting to be engulfed as a steam train huffs and puffs its way up the valley from Walnut Tree Junction. Maybe the driver blew the train’s whistle for them as his train passed by.

It’s a romanticism that our modern railways, with their sealed carriages and grumbling motors, simply can’t compete with. Who knows … when oil finally starts to run out, maybe we’ll all be forced back to a second age of steam?

Two Miles To Caerffili

At the foot of Penrhos Cutting, the intrepid explorer has a choice. He can continue along the Taff Trail (cycle route 8) to Nantgarw and on to Pontypridd, or he can continue to follow the old Rhymney Railway line up Nantgarw Hill and into Penrhos Cutting.

Entrance To Penrhos Cutting

If you leave the Taff Trail and decide to continue to follow the Rhymney Railway route up Nantgarw Hill instead, this takes you into Penrhos Cutting and on to Caerphilly. At the far end of the cutting (approx 2 miles) stands Penrhos Junction, which I’ll cover at a later date.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (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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Burnished Copper Roof of the Millennium Centre

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Continuing this week’s theme of great slabs of single colour, my desktop wallpaper today is this shot of the wonderful copper roof of Cardiff Bay’s Millennium Centre. There’s something about the rich look of burnished copper. Definitely something I could look at all day long!

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (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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Completed in 1926, Llwyn Onn is the southernmost and largest of the three reservoirs built across the Taf Fawr to supply water to Merthyr Tydfil and the valleys south to Cardiff. With unsually warm and dry weather so far in 2010, water levels at Llwyn Onn have dropped dramatically, revealing Pont-yr-Daf and allowing safe access along the retaining wall to the sluice gates at the southern end.

The Photos

Path Down From The Taff Trail

The Taff Trail (national cycle route 8 ) runs down the western edge of the reservoir, and from the road there are plenty of paths like this one that you can use to walk down to the shores of the reservoir.

Pont-yr-Daf Revealed By Drought

When the reservoir is at normal levels, Pont-yr-Daf lies underwater. But current water levels have fallen low enough to reveal the bridge – the only surviving structure from when the reservoir was created. This shot is looking north … note how the whole northern end of the reservoir is both silted up and completely dried out.

Pont yr Daf Revealed By Drought

Another shot of Pont-yr-Daf, showing the low water levels as we look south down the reservoir.

On reflection, I should have taken this photo at f/8, and made it sharp front-to-back. A lesson for future shots, I think.

Human Detritus In The Reservoir

Here’s a pile of human junk out in the middle of the drying Llwyn-Onn reservoir.

Note how green the ground is starting to turn at this spot. My wife reckons the ground here could have been exposed for about a month for these plants to take hold like this.

Looking South From Pont-yr-Daf

The Llwyn-Onn reservoir is completely dry north of Pont-yr-Daf. From the bridge itself, you can clearly see how the water is retreating south towards the reservoir’s retaining wall.

Reservoir Rubbish Up Close

This is a close-up shot of a tree that had been washed up in the reservoir at some point.

The Beach at Llwyn Onn

The water levels at the Llwyn Onn Reservoir north of Merthyr Tydfil have fallen quite low this year, exposing all of the northern end of the reservoir bed. It is drying and cracking up quite nicely.

Chasing The Receding Water

As the water level drops, the reservoir bed is being slowly uncovered. At first, the bed is a horrible sticky mud, and until it dries out it’s a bit tricky to walk on. The local fishermen have solved this problem, by creating stone pathways out to the water and extending them as the water level continues to drop.

Llwyn Onn Reservoir

Here’s a shot of the reservoir retaining wall, looking south along the reservoir towards Merthyr. You can clearly see how far the water stocks have fallen already this year, and summer is only just beginning.

The Tree Growing Out Of The Drainpipe

At the top of the retaining wall, my wife spotted this tree growing out of a drainpipe. It certainly looks like it has been here for some time.

The Sluice Gates At Llwyn Onn Reservoir

With the water levels so low, we were able to carefully walk out along the reservoir wall to the sluice gates.

The Bars Of The Sluice Gates

To stop debris being flushed into the sluice gates (and, presumably, to stop nosey photographers from doing something silly and ending up falling down the gates!) there are these metal bars across all of the sluice gates at the reservoir.

View this photo at ‘large’ or better on Flickr … the rust patterns in the bars are quite something.

Where Do The Gates Go?

Behind the bars lie the sluice gate itself … but what does it look like and where does it go?

Inside The Sluice Gates

This is what the bars are protecting … one of the sluice gates at the reservoir. Not far into the blackness there must be quite a drop down to the valley floor below. We didn’t go and explore the other side, so I couldn’t tell you whether the gates empty into the river below or into the water plant. Either way, it’s a ride that you don’t want to try.

Uncovered Shoe

Whilst clambering back along the reservoir wall after visiting the sluice gates, I spotted this shoe further down towards the receding water. I’m guessing it was washed up here when the water level fell, rather than being simply abandoned by someone else scrambling along the wall.

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This is the recently-completed road bridge into Bute Park from North Road. This photograph is taken at the western end of the bridge, looking east towards North Road.

The bridge is part of controversial changes to Bute Park to provide a new access route for lorries to enter and leave the park. Before this bridge over the Bute Dock Feeder was built, lorries had to enter and leave by one of the main pedestrian routes behind Cardiff Castle.

Despite sustained opposition from the public, and a motion of opposition, Cardiff Council (controlled by the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru at the time) pushed ahead with the construction of this new bridge, which opened in 2010.

For myself, I can understand why making a new entry route into the park for lorries and service vehicles would be beneficial. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t align the eastern end of the bridge with the existing road junction, allowing vehicles to enter and leave the park from all directions. All exiting vehicles are forced to turn north, and their only opportunities to then change route after that are either at Maindy or Gabalfa Roundabout.

The Controversial Bridge

New Bridge Over The Bute Dock Feeder

Post and Walkers

Traffic Control On The New Bridge

Steel Cables On The New Bridge

Steel Cables and Post on the New Bridge

References:

http://no2lorriesinbutepark.blogspot.com/
http://yourcardiff.walesonline.co.uk/2010/04/16/green-activists-protest-bute-park-bridge-cycle-lanes/
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/south_east/7294834.stm
http://www.urban75.net/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=243752
http://yourcardiff.walesonline.co.uk/2010/03/30/bute-park-a-tear-is-shed/
http://www.buteparksalliance.org/Council_250609.html

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (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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Cycle Hire Pedal Power

At the western end of Cardiff Council’s controversial new road bridge into Bute Park, I noticed this striking sign directing people entering the park over the new bridge to where they can hire a bike to cycle around the park.

I think cycling is a great way to explore Bute Park and Pontcanna Fields, and you’ve always got the choice to cycle down the Taff Trail to Cardiff Bay and the barrage.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (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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A Sea of Daisies

Bute Park is one of the enduring legacies from the heady days of Cardiff’s wealth from being a major shipping port. Located in the north west corner of the city centre, just a few minutes walk from all of Cardiff’s major shopping areas, it offers open fields, river and canal banks, an arboretum, sculptures and art installations, cycle trails, and superbly-tendered plants and flowers. There’s even a stone circle.

And, in the midst of all this careful tendering, you also get wild plants and flowers that have seeded themselves, such as this wonderful carpet of daisies.

For many of the folks who work in Cardiff city centre, Bute Park offers a great place to escape during lunch hours, and is always popular with the students from the nearby Cardiff University.

Copyright (c) Stuart Herbert. blog | twitter: (photography) (all) | facebook: (Merthyr Road project) (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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