A large expanse of water lies virtually on my doorstep. Not an ocean, pond or lake, but an unused industrial dock.
‘The Wharf’, as it is to me, is officially known as The Bute East Dock and was constructed to ease pressure on the existing Bute Dock in the 1850s before being closed in 1970. (Wikipedia).
Around its perimeter are residential flats, a number of offices, a Holiday Inn hotel and The Wharf pub.
One vessel remains on the water itself. The Eben Haezer has been moored next to The Wharf pub for as long as I can remember, but with controversial plans to host watersports in the near future, its time there may now be limited. The boat has been decrepit for a good number of years, but therein lies its mystique. It adds a character to the place, and provides some shelter to the wildfowl that live in and around the water.
You can’t help but wonder about the boat’s history: where it’s been in its life, what it has seen, what it was like when new.
It takes a couple of minutes to walk to the Wharf from my flat, and to walk all the way around takes around half an hour. Longer if you have a camera and are bumbling along at a casual pace, lingering oddly, looking closely for quirky subjects to photograph. It’s a circuit for runners and dog-walkers, a haven for urban fishermen – despite the droning arterial dual carriageway which runs adjacent to one side; and it’s another place to skulk and smoke and antagonise strangers for bored young people.
Last week (early September 2013) I took two circuits on two very different early mornings. The first was grey, misty and atmospheric; a morning of a new season, a morning of mornings to come as summer turns to autumn.
Two mornings later, summer returned. The light was sharp, the sun bright but not glaring, golden as it rose to illuminate reflections across the surface.
This one is from a recent evening stroll.
The Wharf is a regular source of inspiration and pleasure. From the water and its changing reflections through different casts of light, to the ever-changing wildfowl residents – the ducklings and cygnets, coots, mallards and swans, to the circling human traffic and off-putting detritus you often see strewn around and in it, to the groaning, aged Eben Haezer.
In its planning application, Cardiff Bay Wakeboarding apparently described the area as follows.
“a bleak, desolate unwelcoming area… unmitigated by any meaningful uses… scarcely overlooked with little visual amenity value at all… a hostile area … a neglected space quite intimidating to the casual observer.”
And the Cardiff Bay Wakeboarding vision of what it might look like. An improvement?
If the planned Wakeboarding watersports activity comes to pass in 2014 – together with extra local noise pollution, a new pylon infrastructure disturbance, and disruption to the abundant local wildlife, a great community space will be lost.
The Wharf isn’t pristine and it isn’t perfect. Literally, it is fairly shallow and usually unclean, littered with bottles and waste despite the admirable efforts of the Atlantic Wharf Residents Association. But if you look closely enough there’s all sorts of life and a charming depth to it. It’s a large open place in the middle of a bustling city: a place to walk, jog, sit and breathe. I for one hope it stays this way.
More from dusk and dawns in the chilly late autumn week-ending November 24th 2013.
This from Christmas Eve 2013, something fittingly magical flying through the sky.
There’s more about the Wharf on these blog pages, if you care to scroll around.
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