Real Cardiff

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Real Cardiff
Bute Street
Charles Street
City Road
Flat Holm
The Four Elms
The Garth
Gorsedd Gardens
Hadfield Road
Lloyd George Ave
Mount Stuart Square
Newport Road

The Parks of Roath
The Pearl


Womanby St.

Cardiff Poets Map
Cardiff, New York
Shots of the Bay
and the City

More Scenes

Cardiff Fictions and

Hamadryad Park
The Bay
St David's Hall
The Museum
The City
Check Your Accent
Ffynnon Denis

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South west of the city in the once great flood plain between the estuaries of the Taff and the Ely lies Hadfield Road. This smooth and underused stretch of metalled highway connects the old road to Penarth with the newer A4232 which cuts up out of Cardiff to join the M4 to the north. Standing here now, looking over the tarmac crossed flats, with their mix of fast-build low-rise warehouse and glass-fronted block walled show units you might be mistaken for imagining that water never got this far. But it did. As recently as last century these were the West Moors - a land of river gravel overlaid with waterlogged clay and rough grass; rifted with reens, sluices and ponds. You farmed here if you had good boots or a boat.

Hadfield Road is Cardiff's answer to mid-west America. No one walks it. No skateboards. No dogs on leads. The pavements are clear from start to finish. In the several hours I prowled its length I didn't see anyone who didn't arrive precisely at their destination by car. Draw up, open the door, stroll ten yards. That's what this is. Auto land. Hadfield is car showrooms run together on the me-too principle from Plexiglas beginning to crystal laminated end. Inside, the ubiquitous salesmen are all mid-Cardiffian clones - clever enough to catch the big spenders, patient enough to work the economy end. These guys could operate anywhere in the Capital. They're swift, slick and they smile. They sell to couples with babies, middle-aged fatties in trainers and track suit bottoms, tieless youths with big shirts. At VW, where style and image have become everything, they are in suits and you are sir. At Honda they wear polo shirts and call you mate. They put you at ease, offer you coffee, press brochures in your hands. Prices have fallen, things are tough, commission is hard to find. There's a guy outside Mazda in a Chrysler Voyager People Carrier in which he has installed sixteen speakers and is blasting out garage at more than 100 decibels. He has the windows down. No one tells him to stop.

We are in sight here of a whole bunch of past Cardiff landmarks. Grange Farm, which gave Grangetown its name. Canton Moor. Leckwith Bridge. Bessemer Road and its Sunday market. Ninian Park, where the fans of the club that once actually roared up through the First Division now have the reputation of being the most violent in Britain. Check their fanzines to experience the sprawling, half-literate violence that blows over soccer like a dark cloud. But they are not in Hadfield Road buying racers, GTIs, hot hatches, not today.

In the vast Fiat customer car park, full of white vans and coupes, it begins to rain. A herring gull in its second winter plumage lands near a parked Brava and, looking lost for a moment, tilts its head, stares under the tyres. This bird breeds on cliffs and moorland. It would have been here well before the Italian car maker. Before there was an Italy. Before Rome, come to that. It takes off through the Cardiff drizzle, still doing it after thousands of years. It heads south towards Daihatsu. Why walk. There's no point.

Cardiff OS 1833
Cardiff from the Ordnance Survey of 1833

Peter Finch

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