169a Cardiff Bay

 Wales Coast Path marker, Ruth in Cardiff BayAfter a dispiriting end to yesterday’s walk, I start today with no great expectations.

And today doesn’t seem promising either. The weather is dull. My hotel is on the edge of a huge car park that feeds a new shopping centre. All I can see are parking bays, busy roads, and fast food outlets. It takes  me a few minutes to orient myself.

Then I come across this impressive signpost. It’s a National Cycle Way sign, not a Wales Coast Path sign, but at least I know I’m on the right track.

I find myself walking across a large open space,  surprisingly empty at 9:30 in the morning. There is a row of stone columns around the edge and a very tall metal pillar in the middle. Although I’ve never been to Cardiff before, it all seems vaguely familiar.
02 Wales Millennium Centre, Ruth's coastal walk, Cardiff

[Later, I learn this great space is the Roald Dahl Plass and the large building dominating the space is the Wales Millennium Centre, a concert hall and arts centre. It is architecturally stunning and has two poems by Gwyneth Lewis cut out on its front façade.]

Water Tower, aka Torchwood Tower, Ruth walking around Cardiff BayThen I recognise the tall metal pillar.

It’s the Torchwood Tower!

For those who don’t know, Torchwood is a secret organisation dedicated to investigating strange goings-on in Cardiff and to the elimination of alien threats. It’s like a cross between the X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but with Welsh accents and with the handsome Captain Jack as its gay boss.

Of course, I can’t resist taking a photo of myself reflected in the gleaming metal of the tower.

03 Torchwood water tower, Cardiff Bay, Ruth walking through Wales

In the photo above, I may be actually standing on the Torchwood entrance – or it may be round the other side – but in any case the notorious perception filter does its job and I can’t find it.

At the far side of Roald Dahl Plass is the waterside of Cardiff Bay. I turn right and walk along the quay. Here, I come across a wall covered in mementoes, and assume someone died here, or maybe drowned out in the bay. They must be very popular, I think, because there are so many cards and flowers and notes…

04 Iantos Shrine, Ruth walking in Cardiff Bay

Ianto's Shrine, Cardiff, Ruth LivingstoneHang on. Ianto’s shrine?

Pinned up are tributes here from all over the world, and even an official-looking plaque.

Ianto was a Torchwood operative. He died, reasonably heroically, but it’s not exactly clear to me why he has collected so much attention. He was the odd-man-out, the outsider who didn’t like violence, was slightly stodgy, a little slow, and the person who everybody ignored most of the time – in the beginning anyway. And, most importantly, he was gay.

He is, of course, an entirely fictional character.

Anyway, I spend far too long looking at Ianto’s shrine, before realising that I am heading in the wrong direction around Cardiff Bay and have to backtrack.

06 map of Cardiff Bay, Ruth lost again on the Wales Coast Path

I pass this realistic bronze sculpture: People Like Us by John Clinch.

05 People Like Us - bronze, Ruth in Cardiff Bay
The weather is too dull for decent photography of the views across Cardiff Bay, so I have to content myself with taking photos of the artwork and sculptures.

07b Ivor NovelloThere is plenty to look at.

Here is Ivor Novello, who sits high on a plinth in Roald Dahl Plass, and I think this sculpture is intriguing because of the twisted position of the composer.

Around the corner I come across the National Assembly Building, with an impressive modern design.

In front of the Assembly is a wonderful metal sculpture, welded and riveted. While one side looks like the ribs of a wrecked ship,  the other side looks like a continuation of the wrecked hull, but is actually a large face lying face down with closed eyes. This lovely piece (photo below) is the Merchant Seaman’s Memorial by Brian Fell.

It’s very evocative and exactly right for a sailors’ memorial.

08 Merchant Seafarers War Memorial, Cardiff Bay, Ruth Livingstone

World Harmony Peace Statue, Ruth in Cardiff BayOnwards, along a walkway by the water that seems very new, and I come across this bronze figure. It’s  a larger-than-life-size statue of Sri Chinmoy, a spiritual leader who advocated physical exercise. He started a global running event called the Peace Run (also sometimes known as the World Harmony Run) and, although he died in 2007, his Peace Run continues.

Moving on from Sri Chinmoy, I continue along the water front and towards the wooden, church-like building that I had first noticed from the other side of the bay.

I discover this is the Norwegian Church, first established as a religious and cultural centre for the Norwegian sailors who worked here in the days when Cardiff was a busy port. But the church fell into decline, along with the docks, and was deconsecrated in the 1970s. It is now an arts centre.

Outside the Norwegian Church is another monument, a rather weird design and covered by a mosaic of white tiles. At first I assume it represents a Viking warrior, although I don’t know why he’s wearing a balaclava. But it turns out to be a memorial to Captain Scott and his Antarctic expedition. The white represents the Antarctic snow fields.

Captain Scott Memorial, in front of the Norweigan Church, photo by Ruth Livingstone, Cardiff

Captain Scott was beaten to the South Pole by a Norwegian, and it so it seems unkind to put his memorial next to the Norwegian Church. Rubbing his nose in it. Strange.

Still puzzled I continue. Further along, I come across a Tardis. There are a lot of them dotted around South Wales. This one marks the entrance to the Doctor Who Exhibition.

11 Dr Who box, Cardiff Bay, Ruth Livingstone
I have to confess that today I was hoping for rain. That would have given me an excuse to stop walking and look around the exhibition. I’ve watched the series on and off for years, starting with the first Doctor Who film. The Daleks were the first real monsters I came across. Absolutely terrifying.

The weather is murky and I can hardly see across the bay. But it’s not raining. I walk on.

I follow the Wales Coast Path as it leaves the buildings behind.  And pass a playground with a climbing wall and a wonderful message: impossible is nothing.
12 Impossible is Nothing climbing wall, Ruth walking through Cardiff
Onwards. I’ve spent an hour looking around Cardiff Bay and I need to reach Barry before it gets dark…


You can find out more about Torchwood here.

Later I learn that Captain Scott began his doomed expedition from Cardiff, from where he set off on his ship the Terra Nova, which was launched close to where the Norwegian Church stands. That explains the position of the monument.

About Ruth Livingstone

Walker, writer, photographer, blogger, Doctor, woman, etc.
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9 Responses to 169a Cardiff Bay

  1. Love all the sculptures and Torchwood connections. You’ve just convinced me to plan a weekend in Cardiff!

  2. Gayle says:

    At the start of that post I was getting worried about my observational skills, as it was only a couple of weeks ago that I walked this, yet I had no recollection of passing the Torchwood Tower or Iantos Memorial. All became clear as I read on 🙂

    I did also head the wrong way around the Bay. It seemed to me that way-marking of the WCP was excellent between Chepstow and Cardiff Bay, but then it suddenly disappeared (or maybe I was just too busy looking at the buildings to notice?). Thankfully, I’d only gone a couple of minutes when I looked at the map and performed a sharp about-turn!

    • Hi Gayle, and I agree about the signposts. The path was very well signed between Chepstow and Newport, but around Cardiff it all just seems to fizzle out. And its interesting how two people can walk the same path and see different things. Since I am a sci-fi addict, I saw Cardiff as the centre of an inter-dimensional rift and site of the Torchwood Hub. Others see it as the place with the Millennium Stadium…

  3. jcombe says:

    I was impressed with Cardiff Bay.. Iremember when the barrage was built I wondered if it would prove to be a huge waste of money. However I’m pleased to see it actually worked very well and it’s an interesting mix of old and new. Like you I was impressed with the Millenium Centre, it is very striking. The letters above the entrance also light up at night.

    • It really was impressive, wasn’t it. And I’ve been following the news about the construction of a possible tidal energy lagoon with interest. That could be very beautiful – or truly hideous. We’ll have to wait and see.

  4. Helena says:

    Beautiful seaman’s memorial!

  5. Marie Keates says:

    What an interesting start to your walk Ruth

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