Real Cardiff

don't bother to bathe here

Read about

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

to Cardiff

to site map

Coming past Waterloo Gardens in summer mid-evening you can see the attraction. Tight grass, wide beds, paths than snake, unsullied benches. NO CYCLING by all four entrances. This fails to stop kids on fat-tyred two-wheelers from steaming through, breaking the thin lower branches on the park's new cherry trees and frightening the dogs. But it doesn't happen much. This is the park where the silver band plays on Sundays and you take your babies to teach them to walk. There's a brook running through here, looped down from Llanishen Reservoir to the north. It divides into two channels - the old course and, a few yards from that, a dug channel. Joining up the old rivers. Protection against flooding. That happened. There was a tidemark a few feet up the wall of the Dairy. That's a hairdressers now. At the Post Office the stamps almost floated out through the door. NO BATHING warns a sign. And nearby more NO CYCLING. We write things down a lot in the UK. Near here was once the green hut that contained the youthfully carved name of the poet Dannie Abse. He told me where to look but when I visited the hut had been pulled down.

The brook - Nant Fawr, Nant y Lleici - was utterly unpronounceable for the entire length of my childhood. But demographies change. At the back of the Minsters someone's named their house after it. And there's another half-way up Westville. Unwaith eto mae'r cymru wedi dod.

downstream from Waterloo Gardens
The Lleici looking south

At night you can stand on the road that separates the Gardens from its larger neighbour, the Mill Park, and hear the piped waters of the stream. Local legend has it that a tributary once sluiced down Penylan Hill before erupting into the Lleici below in a torrent of meadow flooding foam. But there's little evidence on the old maps. The waters rush deep, now, dark, their magic compromised, contained.

The Mill was real but all that's left is a bunch of worked stones let into the brook embankment. The wheel and its house are long gone. The grind stone smashed. The park here - another in the five mile stretch that arcs from Llanishen to the Harlequin Fields - once grew wheat, barley, oats and beans. Now you come if you want to wreck bushes, throw frisbees or do yourself on drugs. You can hear the young crashing through the weekend dark nights when it doesn't rain. Squirrels, condoms, Castlemain.

As we go north, along the thin Westville Park, dug-up, re-grassed and pathed; shaped like the State of Delaware; the ground rises imperceptibly. Willows weep into the stream by the houses - all different from each other, all with flood marks beneath their hall wallpaper. South of Sandringham Road, running parallel to Westville, was once a brickworks. The clay pits are now sunken gardens. The houses oblivious, industry moved on.

Beyond are the Recreation Grounds. First the bridge, the library, the new community centre, park offices, the bark-surfaced kids play area with artificial hill and climbing frame like a Frank Lloyd Wright construct. Then the fields - tougher grass - soccer, baseball, running, whooping, dog chasing, things with bats. Rough kids after the war. A downed Messerschmidt. Bust bikes. Bent my arm here once. Now it's cool Asians and Afro-caribbeans who always score. Top end are the karate mystics, body rings, tattoos, jugglers, and guys with shaved-heads and dogs. Someone with a tai chi sword is slowly slicing through the form, the energy all inside, moving like a man underwater. A pensioner from the rich Ty Draw houses opposite reports him for unsheathing a weapon in a public place. It's my religion, the practitioner claims. The investigating officer replaces his notebook with the same liquid movement the swordsman used. "Next time," he says with a half-smile, "try singing hymns."

St Margaret's Church in 1867
The first St Margaret's Church in 1867. That's one of the tributaries of the Lleici to the left of the Church. Gone now. Drained. Taken away in pipes.

Peter Finch

back to the top