Monday 28 March 2016

Cardiff Bay

We had decided to visit Cardiff Bay on the last day of our stay in Cardiff and it's just as well because as we were checking out of our hotel we found out that the whole of the city centre would be closed due to a rugby match between Wales and Italy. The stadium was just behind our hotel  - thousands of fans were heading towards the stadium as we were leaving. We were glad to have the opportunity to be away from the city centre.

The regeneration of Cardiff Bay is regarded as one of the most successful regeneration projects in the UK. The Bay is supplied by two rivers, the Taff and the Ely, to form a freshwater lake around the former dockland area south of the city centre.

The Millenium Centre, a performing arts and cultural venue was our first stop.

The Millenium Centre is located in Roald Dahl Plass:

its bowl-like shape has made it a popular amphitheatre for hosting open-air concerts. Formerly known as the Oval Basin or the Bowl, the area was one of the docks for a thriving coal port during the latter half of the 19th century and much of the 20th. Following WWII, the space entered a period of decay and dereliction until the 1980s, when the Cardiff Bay area was regenerated.

Plass means space in Norwegian, a nod to the writer's roots and to the Norwegian seafarers' church which stands nearby.

At the north end of the plass is the Water Tower, which stands at approximately 21 metre high with a constant stream of water running down the metallic fountain. The tower was designed by Nicholas Hare Architects in conjunction with the sculptor William Pye.

The tower has also become known as the Torchwood Tower because it marked the location and entrance of the fictitious Torchwood Hub of the BBC television Doctor Who spin-off series, Torchwood.

The sculpture of Ivor Novello (composer, playwright, actor) stands nearby

Y Senedd, home to the National Assembly for Wales is next to the Millenium Centre. It houses the debating room and three committee rooms - the Pier Head and Ty Hywell are also part of the National Assembly.

It was designed by Richard Rogers. It has a glass faƧade around the entire building and is dominated by a steel roof and wood ceiling. The first and second floors are accessible to the public and the ground floor is a private area for officials. The building was designed to be as open and accessible as possible. Rogers said: 'the building was not to be an insular, closed edifice. Rather it would be a transparent envelope, looking towards Cardiff Bay and beyond, and making visible the inner workings of the Assembly and encouraging public participation in the democratic process'.

The wooden funnel dominates the first floor

We were not able to go into the debating chamber as there was a meeting going on

looking out

In front of the building is this amazing sculpture

The Merchant Seafarers' War Memorial (1997) by Brian Fell

commemorating the merchant seamen who sailed from the ports of Cardiff, Penarth and Barry during WWII, never to return.

The Pierhead building opened in 1897 as the headquarters of the Cardiff Railway Company to replace the original Bute Dock Company Offices which burnt down in 1892.  It was here that the Harbour Master oversaw the ports, where the engineers drew up their plans and the docks accounts were settled.

In Gothic Renaissance style, it was designed by William Frame. Its multi-directional clock face would be visible day and night - illuminated by gas lighting at the rear of the dials, it would automatically light at night.

We were not able to go in the Main Hall, as there were rehearsals going on, but we visited the Chief Dock Manager's Office, where amongst other famous Welsh people, tribute was paid to Aneurin Bevan.

The day was dull and grey, a perfect backdrop for one of my favourite buildings in the Bay

The Norwegian Church, a truly iconic building.

It was built during the days when Cardiff was one of the greatest sea ports in the world. In Cardiff Docks' heyday, the Church was a haven for Scandinavian seamen, its pointed steeple dwarfed by the tall masts of the sailing ships which packed the quay. Founded in 1868 by Herman Lunde of Oslo and built at the entrance to the Bute West Dock, the church was designed along traditional village lines, it was the oldest church built by the Norwegian Seaman's mission overseas that remained intact. Packed with Scandinavian newspapers, magazines and facilities for writing letters home, this was a place where sailors could relax and talk with friends in their native tongue.

The Docks declined rapidly after WWII and the Norwegian ships turned elsewhere for trade. The church finally closed in 1974 upon de-consecration and fell into a state of disrepair. In 1987, the Norwegian Church Preservation Trust was established to raise money to rescue and rebuild the church. Its first president was Doald Dahl who was christened at the church. It reopened as an Art Centre and coffee shop in 1992.

On our way to the church we came upon the World Harmony Peace Statue.

Every year the World Harmony Run carries a flaming torch, as a symbol of harmony, in a relay run around the world. Running from country to country, and across several continents, the torch is passed from hand to hand.

The church is a little gem, one of the strongest memories I had from our previous visit.

In the past, a sailing ship model was suspended from the ceiling, while portraits of the Norwegian Royal Family were hung on the walls and miniature national flags decorated the tables.

Today, the interior is a bit of a mess and going in was a disappointment.

Outside the church is the Antarctic 100, a sculpture commemorating the heroic age of the Antarctic exploration and in particular Captain Robert Falcon Scott's Scientific Expedition of 1910-13. The memorial overlooks the point from which Scott's expedition ship, the SS Terra Nova, left Cardiff on the 15th of June 1910. Prior to the departure, Scott had launched a national appeal for funds and the money donated by the City of Cardiff and South Wales exceeded that contribution by any other city in the UK. It was in recognition of this generosity that Scott designated the city as the home port of the Terra Nova.

The expedition ended tragically and created one of the great legends of the 20th century. It touched the imagination of this country as no other expedition had done. His dying message, eloquently told in his diaries and handwritten in desperate circumstances: 'The causes of this disaster are not due to faulty organisation but to misfortune in all risks that had to be undertaken... Had we lived, I should have a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every[one]... These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale'...

The sculpture was designed and created by Jonathan Willliams.

The memorial depicts Scott and, trapped in the snow, the faces of his four companions, Wilson, Oates, Bowers and Evans who died with him on the return journey from the South Pole.


  1. The Bay is the only area of Cardiff that I have visited, but your posts have sold the whole city to me for a future trip. They did miss a trick by turning down Zaha Hadid's opera house, I think!

    1. It's a lovely city Olga, and I have not even posted on the best bit yet - the museum.

      It a shame indeed that Zaha Hadid's opera house was not built, but at the same time, I have to say, I like this one.