18 May 2020

Cardiff : an assortment of benches

We’ve all been discouraged from sitting on benches during the lockdown but, when this pandemic is finally over (or at least controlled to the point where we are able to resume some semblance of normal life), these lovely benches will be there for the good folks of Cardiff and its visitors to rest their weary legs while out walking.

The aptly named Ship in a bottle bench was installed at the top of the meadow overlooking Cardiff Bay Wetland Reserve in 2004. This bottle bench is the work of artist Melissa Gibbs who, according to her profile on London’s Artist Quarter website, is ‘a professional artist and art tutor living and working in London’. Gibbs makes ‘sculpture and installations for public and private commissions and exhibitions’.

World-renowned author Roald Dahl was born in Cardiff in 1916 so it’s probably not surprising that Cardiff likes to celebrate its famous son in diverse ways in various locations around the city. Cardiff Bay already had Roald Dahl Plas (Square) when, in August 2016, as part of the Roald Dahl centenary celebrations, a 10-metre-long crocodile sculpture became the latest addition to the Dahl memorabilia.

The Croc in the Dock sculpture, located near the Sails on the Barrage, was based on the character in the book The Enormous Crocodile. It is supposed to be a bench but it’s really too low for comfort so it’s become a fun sculpture for kids to clamber on. 

And that is probably why there is now an actual bench right next to the crocodile. Appropriately enough, the bench is shaped like a book, the back of the bench is painted with the book's front cover illustration, and it too is named The Enormous Crocodile.

If you choose to walk from Cardiff Bay back in to the city along the Taff Trail, then you might rest your sore feet awhile (but not during lockdown) with a seat on one of four similar wrought-iron benches positioned alongside the River Taff. I haven’t been able to uncover any information about their creator but I quite like the paddle steamer and lighthouse that have been incorporated into the design.

10 May 2020

Under my feet : utility cover plates

During my lockdown exercise walks, as I seek to avoid other people’s germs wafting in my face, I’ve been spending a little more time than usual looking down and, in the process, especially during urban walks, I’ve been taking more notice of these ...

Now, I’m not entirely sure what to call them: utility cover plates? manhole covers (though not all are man-sized)? utility access points? inspection chamber covers? drain covers? drainage grates? 

I see many of those I have photographed have the word ‘ductile’ on their surfaces so has the industry that manufactures these cover plates adopted this word to identify their products? If so, it has done this in error as ductile is an adjective describing the pliability of metal. Perhaps they have conflated the two words ‘duct' and 'tile’?

I suppose these plates can actually have a variety of names, depending on their functions and whether they relate to storm water or other water drainage, sewers, electricity, gas or telecommunications. I have lumped together a wide variety of those I have found in this blog but, if I were to attempt a more detailed examination, I would need to separate them out in to their respective functions. I’m not sure I’m quite that motivated by these items but I am very impressed with some of their designs.

If you’re interested in learning more about these covers, Wikipedia has an interesting article

08 April 2020

Clocks : Penarth

It’s time for more time pieces, this time my local clocks here in Penarth, south Wales.

Town Clock
First up is our official Town Clock. Located in the centre of a busy roundabout at the junction of Penarth’s main street and four other roads, this four-faced clock was designed to coordinate with the Victorian architecture for which Penarth is well known (the town rose to fame as a seaside escape for busy Cardiffians during the Victorian era). 

The clock, manufactured by renowned clockmakers J. B. Joyce & Co of Shropshire, was presented to Penarth by the local Rotary Club to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their local presence in 1987.

However, the current clock is not that clock. After ticking away for 20 years or so, the original clock started to lose time, showed different times on its different faces, and developed a degree of unreliability that locals found irksome. 

Apparently, the local water company stepped up to fund the purchase of a replacement town clock, which looks exactly the same as the old one and which was installed on Sunday 4 November 2018.

But what became of the old clock? Well, imagine my surprise when, just a couple of days after I had read the details of this replacement, my daily walk took me past Penarth Cemetery and there, plonked on the tarmac next to the old chapel buildings, was the clock. I have no idea what its long-term fate will be but the cemetery chapel is due to be renovated shortly so perhaps the old clock is being incorporated in that renovation in some manner.

Old Town Clock on the left, new on the right

Pier Pavilion clock
This is another tale of clocks being replaced. The original round Art Deco clock on the front of Penarth’s pier pavilion was presented to the District Council, in 1929, by a Mrs Esther Harris, partly in memory of her husband Hyman, who had long run a pawnbroker’s business in the town, and also in memory of her son Stewart, known as Solly, who was a casualty of the First World War. Private Stewart Ernest Harris, 8th Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, was killed at Ypres on 26 August 1915, aged just 22.

The new, square clock was installed when the pier pavilion was refurbished in 2013, thanks to the generosity of locals Paul and Geraldine Twamley. This clock, which also has a pleasing Art Deco look, in keeping with the design of the pavilion, was made by Smith of Derby, clockmakers to the nation since 1856.

Public Library clock  
Penarth’s Public Library is a handsome building, built mainly of Pennant stone with Bath stone dressings, and it boasts the striking addition of a clock tower.

According to an article in The Cardiff Times, Saturday 17 September 1904, which was reporting the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone for the new public library (on 10 September), the District Council had ‘already voted a sum of money to provide a handsome tower clock in the tower, and Mr Robert Forrest has also generously expressed his intention of providing the necessary bell and striking apparatus.’ When the library opened on 30 August 1905, The Cardiff Times again reported the event (on 2 September 1905), including confirmation that Mr Robert Forrest had indeed ‘generously contributed £100 towards the cost of the clock in the tower.’

If you’re particularly fascinated by this clock, you can watch a very short video of it on YouTube, including its chiming of the hour. Prior to moving to Penarth, I looked at buying a flat in an old building opposite Penarth Library. The flat was nice, if small, and had a peep-of-the-sea view but I’m now very glad I didn’t buy it because I think the sound of the library clock striking not only every hour of every day, but also every quarter hour, might well have become very annoying.