Saturday, 12 March 2016

Exploring Atlantic Wharf

I spent a good part of Friday in the office, the Owain arrived early evening and we went out for a drink and brought home a very nice pizza for supper from 'La Cabrisella', a small Italian run place down on Cowbridge Road, and drank rather a lot of wine together while we talked. He stayed the night and then spent the day looking up friends and watching the rugby in a cup with friends.

The weather was good, so in the afternoon I made the effort to go into town, undecided about whether to catch a bus somewhere or walk to Penarth, but decided go and photograph some of the new buildings across the London-Paddington railway line, where the new Central Cardiff Enterprise Zone developing in the vicinity of the stylish if daftly named 'Smart Bridge' pedestrian railway crossing. 
Historically, this was an area of dockland industries and poor housing called 'Newtown', being one of the first areas of the city to expand with Irish migrant labourers in the early nineteenth century. There's no trace of its early history, as it was a poor area, and it has been built over several times since then. Only the name on map serves as a reminder of its story.  

Then, my eye drew me past newish Tyndall Street hotels, down Schooner Way, with the Novotel on the corner, interestingly combining old warehouse with new-build glass and steel.
There's now the huge Waterside residential area in the old dockyard terrain between Atlantic Wharf and Lloyd George Avenue, with new-build houses, attractively interlinked with canals flanked by footpaths. The ancient Glamorganshire canal, which still runs concealed across the city centre, still supplies water to this network. Many if not all of the waterways would originally transported goods off-loaded from ships in Atlantic wharf to warehouse storage nearby. All are lined in brick and stone and bridged strategically for use of residents. 
How much of the old has been restored and how much is new-build imitation is hard to tell. 
After twenty years trees and gardens have matured and the new domestic environment has established itself. It's very quiet, well quiet I suppose, because most people would be indoors despite the congenial weather watching Wales nearly catch up and beat England in their six nation rugby match. Nearly, but not quite. In the middle of the actual Atlantic Wharf waterfront, quite close to a Holiday Inn Express hotel is a large pub called 'The Wharf'.
It is an extensive adaptation of the shells of two fine nineteenth century industrial buildings, with bars, a restaurant, and function suites in one half and offices, sadly empty, in the other. Built by Cardiff's native brewery S A Brain, it's just been sold, as it has failed to make a hoped for profit, being less of a social hub for its upwardly and outwardly mobile local residents than was expected.

Other fine old brick built warehouse buildings in this area have been turned into apartments.
There are many empty offices too, and I wonder how the current expansion in the old 'Newtown' area, not to mention the Central Square development hopes to draw in new business. Such faith in progress, so easily shaken by downturns in the global economy. What's needed so much more than empty office space is affordable housing, for rent or for sale. The revenue may be smaller for any who invest, but in the long terms it is sustainable. Time and time again, get rick quick schemes provide sustainable for the few, at the expense of the many. When will be ever learn?

The final pair of episodes of 'Trapped' were on tonight. Compelling watching. All was resolved intelligibly, our small town detective hero was vindicated, but sadly walked away a lonely man at the end, with his dignity and self respect intact. We were spared the media mobbing and acclaim of the successful sluth. Great acting, so much done with looks and subtle facial expressions, caught by beautiful camera work, as much on the landscape as the actors. Will there be a sequel, I wonder?

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