Blog posts by year and month May 2011

Posts (78)

  1. One of the most notable pieces of industrial architecture in Wales was, for many years, the famous Crumlin Viaduct. From the day that work began until the moment it was finally demolished in the 1960s, people flocked to Crumlin to see this wonder of the modern industrial age, the highest railway viaduct ever built in the United Kingdom. Situated at Crumlin, some four or five miles to the west of Pontypool, the huge viaduct spanned the valley of the Ebbw River and was opened on Whit Monday, 1 June 1857. By the middle years of the 19th century there was something of a 'coal rush' going on in Wales as entrepreneurs rushed to take advantage of the Welsh coal fields. A network of railways was built, most of them running from north to south, to take coal from the pit heads to the ports of Cardiff and Newport. However, by the early 1850s it had become clear that there was a need for another railway line, this time running west to east, to join up the Taff Vale Railway in the west with the Newport, Abergavenny and Hereford Railway in the east. The line was to be known as the Taff Vale Extension. Parliament gave its approval and work began. One of the big problems for the railway engineers was how to cross the Ebbw Valley. Initially a stone bridge was suggested but the technical difficulties and the vicious nature of the winds up and down this narrow, steep sided valley were too great a risk. There was also the matter of cost. And so building a bridge or viaduct made out of wrought iron was considered the thing to do. Thomas Kennard submitted a proposal that called for a viaduct of 10 iron trusses, supported by a number of high stone piers. The proposal was accepted and in the summer of 1853 work began. Foundations were bored into the valley floor and slowly but surely the iron trusses edged out over the valley. The viaduct was 200 foot high and ran across the valley (across two valleys, in fact, the Ebbw and the smaller Kendon) for 1650 feet. Built by Kennard, construction took several years to complete. It was a difficult and dangerous process. Despite this, there was only one fatality during the whole construction process, when a girder slipped as it was being hoisted into position.M All of the iron used in the viaduct was made at the nearby works of the Blaenavon Iron and Coal Company and most of the labour came from the local area. Kennard even built himself a house - Crumlin Hall - and lived in it while the viaduct was being built. By the time the work was completed the whole project had cost £62,000, a not inconsiderable sum for those days but considerably cheaper than the cost of a stone bridge. Finally, on 1 June 1857 opening day arrived. Speeches were made, the first train inched across the structure and upwards of 20,000 spectators came to watch the event. Cannons, set up on the hillside, fired off volley after volley of celebratory shots throughout the day, the noise of the explosions reverberating across the valley and town. It was a day of great celebration and the tiny Welsh community achieved instant immortality. Even the London papers sent reporters and artists to cover the event. Crumlin Viaduct survived the closure of the Taff Vale Railway, even the amalgamation of the Great Western into British Rail in the years after the Second World War. But it could not survive Dr Beeching and his infamous cuts. By the early 1960s the line was barely used and the decision to close was made. The last train rumbled over the viaduct in 1964 and, despite proposals to save the unique structure, it was decided that it was in too bad a state of disrepair. Demolition began in 1967. Even then, however, fame would not leave the viaduct alone. As the demolition began, a film company arrived to shoot scenes for a film, called Arabesque. The stars were Sophie Loren and Gregory Peck . Nowadays the film, the stone abutments on either side of the valley and pictures of the viaduct on the Crumlin Mural in the centre of the town, are all that remain of this incredible piece of architecture. Crossing Crumlin Viaduct must have been a wonderful experience but, like so much of our heritage, it has now long gone. The town of Crumlin can be proud, however, of the fact that it once boasted the highest railway viaduct in the country.

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  2. Warning: This review can cause severe jealousy! Ah Barcelona. What a city! We touch down in the golden glow of setting sun, and hit the sticky tarmac; embracing that warmth that bounces off walls and fills you with smiles. I was back for more Primavera Festival fun, which I've decided is most de...

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  3. This week's show is now available via the iPlayer. I'll keep it brief this week, because even z-List radio 'personalities' have rubbishy DIY tasks to fulfil on a Bank Holiday Monday, like a low-rent, really-let-himself-go, B&Q Hercules (for the record: I need to complete the Odyssey of the Front-Door, which involves capturing glittering brassware from the perilous passages of the local hardware emporium. Wish me luck!) I've decided I'm going to try and curb my use of unmerited, casually tossed around hyperbole. About time, really. I've butchered more 'AMAAAAZINGS', 'AAAAWESOMES' and 'FANTASTIIIICS' than the combined scripts of Disney's teen channel. So this week's show contains some fine and interesting music... more per square kilohertz of airwave than quite a few others. Hmm. Sorry, I can't rein myself in like that. This week's show is brimful of brilliance. Including an exclusive play of a track from Black Serpent Choir's peripatetic new album, and first-time plays for Yaj, Jodie-Marie, Jumping Back Slash, People Of Pontic Origin, Shifty Sarah, Repeater 64, Touchstone Pictures, Apostles, Just Keep Swimming, Giles Barratt, Fingurz, Dataslaves and Rob Harrison. Huw Williams again reminds us of the groovy excellence of Tony Sheveton's early recordings. Lara Catrin translates my favourite song from Lleuwen's gritty and superlative recent album, Tn. Ben Hayes inspires us with some Van Der Graaf Generator. Please send new noise / gig info / banter to: themysterytour@gmail.com If it's the 1st time you've submitted music to the show, I recommend you check out the blogs linked to below (of course I do): Submitting Music to the Show Dos and Don'ts Submitting Music to the Show Do's and Don'ts #2 Submitting Music to the Show Do's and Don'ts #3 Submitting Music to the Show Do's and Don'ts #4 They're quite long. Has anyone got a screwdriver? Flipping Bank Holidays! Do enjoy yours, though and have an excellent week, Adam Walton MELYS - 'Once Around Again ( Session Track )' Capel Curig / Betws Y Coed HOUDINI DAX - 'Magicians' Cardiff BEATLES, THE - 'Helter Skelter ( Soundhog Remix )' Liverpool BLACK SERPENT CHOIR - 'Dinosaur. Train. Postman. Mouse.' Cardiff / Wallasey YAJé - 'Look For Skull' Cardiff GRUFF RHYS - 'Honey All Over' Bethesda WHITE ARROWS - 'The Voyeur' Los Angeles / Cardiff Label CUBA CUBA - 'Hong Kong' Cardiff JODIE - MARIE - 'Single Blank Canvas' Narberth, Pembrokeshire SPARROW AND THE WORKSHOP - 'Snakes In The Grass' Wales CREISION HUD - 'Indigo' Caernarfon / Cardiff JUMPING BACK SLASH - 'Kwaai Sneakers' Ikapa / Wrexham FRIENDS ELECTRIC - 'Fireworks' Neath PEOPLE OF PONTIC ORIGIN - 'Those Snakes Will Get Nanette' Bethesda EXIT INTERNATIONAL - 'Glory Horn ( Alt. Edit )' Cardiff HUW WILLIAMS - 'Spoken Contribution' Swansea TONY SHEVETON - 'I Have A Feeling' Cardiff CHRISTOPHER REES - 'Raise The Battle Cry' Cardiff SHIFTY SARAH - 'Yellow Brick Road' Newport SWEET BABOO - 'Bounce' Bangor / Cardiff JOY OF SEX - 'Hypnic Jerk ( Radio Edit )' Cardiff REPEATER 64 - 'Better By Design' Bridgend / Sweden SUGARBRUTE - 'State' Milford Haven EXOTOPE - 'Dagga' Newport TOUCHSTONE PICTURES - 'Night Eraser' Dunvant GERAINT JARMAN - 'Brecwast Astronot' Denbigh SHAMONIKS - 'Paranoid' Nefyn HEHFU - 'Come Home' Caerphilly SEN SEGUR - 'Pen Rhydd' Penmachno APOSTLES - 'Centre Fade' Old Radnor Powys VICTORIAN HARDWARE - 'The Moss Will Tell' Wrexham JUST KEEP SWIMMING - 'Leonardo Dicappuccino' Neath CALLING CARD, THE - 'Cross My Heart' Newport ATTACK + DEFEND - 'Bop The Bopping Bunnies' Cardiff HELEN LOVE - 'We Love You' Swansea MICE GIRLS - 'Tesco Disco' Cardiff GILES BARRATT - 'Brighton Bossa' Mumbles FFRED JONES - 'Reasons And Excuses' Newport FINGURZ - 'Rockabye' Cardiff PULCO - 'What's In A Name' Bangor JOHN CALE - 'Cable Hogue' Unknown. PULCO - 'Place Lid On Me' Bangor LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution' Bangor / Cardiff LLEUWEN - 'Cawell Fach Y Galon' Bangor QUESTION THE MARK - 'Growing Old' Bridgend DATASLAVES - 'People Are Innocent' Betws - Y - Coed BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution' Ruthin VAN DER GRAAF GENERATOR - 'What's In A Name' Manchester ROB HARRISON - 'Cognitive Overture' Swansea

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  4. Being part of the crew filming Molly Parkin for Great Lives on BBC Wales has shredded my nerves. She may be in her 80th year but being close to her when she's recounting details of her turbulent life or expounding upon her philosophy is like trying to live with a machine-gun emplacement in the h...

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  5. David Lloyd George was the only Welshman to have become Prime Minister of Great Britain. By the time of his death on 26 March 1945, his glory days were long past and although still a member of Parliament during most of the war years, he rarely attended the House of Commons during that time and t...

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  6. I'm out walking again for Weatherman Walking currently so just wanted to remind everyone that Springwatch starts on Bank Holiday Monday at 8pm on BBC One. I've added a few key species that I've heard from the team will be featured this year so have a look if you have time. The fantastic 700 hectare Ynys-Hir nature reserve is set in a stunning location at the top of the Dyfi Estuary, flanked by the Cambrian Mountains. The reserve is a true wildlife haven, offering a huge variety of different habitats for us to explore - Welsh oak woodland, wet grassland and salt marsh, reed beds, heathland, rivers and ponds. From the wet meadows to the mountain tops, the reserve is absolutely bursting with wildlife. As well as managing all these habitats for a diversity of wildlife, the RSPB actively works to conserve a number of priority species, including breeding lapwings, redshanks, reed buntings, skylarks, curlews, Greenland white-fronted and barnacle geese, brown hares and otters. For the first time, Springwatch are planning to broadcast live pictures from a heronry of nesting grey herons and little egrets. In the woods, they're hoping to feature some of our most spectacular returning migrants, like redstarts and pied flycatchers, alongside resident song thrushes and blackbirds as well as some Springwatch firsts, like wood warblers, nuthatches and maybe even elusive bullfinches. They will also be looking out for greater and lesser spotted woodpeckers, birds of prey like ospreys, hen harriers, merlins and goshawks and of course red kites - so they have cameras on them too. The team also be staking out the rivers, waterfalls and freshwater ponds in and around Ynys-hir, hoping to follow dippers, kingfishers, sedge, reed and grasshopper warblers and the occasional bearded tit. The bankside cameras will be poised and ready for river inhabitants like otters and grebes. But it's not just birds and mammals that the camera teams will be tracking down - Ynys Hir is home to 19 species of dragonfly, 26 species of butterflies and over 400 species of moths as well as reptiles like grass snakes. Whatever happens, Chris, Kate and Martin will be keeping an eye on daily developments and bringing you all the day's news over the three week event. For week two, wildlife expert Iolo Willams will be live from Skomer Island off the western tip of Pembrokeshire - home to thousands of sea birds, the Skomer vole - found no where else on Earth, one of Britain's most spectacular floral displays and rich marine life. Designated as one of only three of Britain's marine nature reserves, it is unique, truly stunning, and beautifully magical. Springwatch camera teams have been on the island since early April as the first puffins, razorbills and guillemots arrived back from their long winter at sea so expect some great footage. Iolo will also go under the waves to reveal the rare sea fans, corals and inquisitive grey seals in Skomer's underwater world, as well as the sand eels that feed and power much of the breeding action back on shore. The team will attempt to film the Skomer vole, find out why bluebells flourish on an island with no woods, calculate how many sand eels puffins can gobble down in a season and discover what manx shearwaters get up to at night!

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  7. An initiative to get Welsh children interested in film has launched today in Wales, with backing from home-grown actor Michael Sheen. Education charity FILMCLUB helps schools to set up and run after-school film clubs, enabling young people to watch, discuss and review a diverse range of films ...

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  8. The Hay Festival begins tomorrow, bringing a whole host of literary, creative, musical and comedic personalities to the small Welsh book town of Hay-on-Wye. The Hay Festival site. Photo: Finn Beales You probably know all about it already of course, and will have no doubt heard the oft-qu...

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  9. When I call Alan Holmes the 'Godfather of the Welsh underground' I'm doing more than mythologising someone who appears regularly on my show, so that I can indulge in some much-needed reflection bathing. Alan deserves the epithet, although I suspect he'd prefer to shrug it off. He's a founder mem...

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  10. Bafta in Wales has announced that actor Matthew Rhys will receive the 2011 Siân Phillips Award at the 20th annual British Academy Cymru Awards ceremony later this month. Matthew Rhys. Photo: Bafta in Wales Cardiff-born Rhys, who is now based in America, has enjoyed recent success on both sides of the Atlantic for his role in the American hit series Brothers & Sisters. He is also well known for his portrayal of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in The Edge of Love, and for his role in Welsh director Marc Evans' film Patagonia. The awards ceremony will be held at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on Sunday 29 May. It will be hosted by Sian Williams and Jason Mohammad and feature a performance by the Welsh tenor Wynne Evans. Rhys said: "Receiving the Siân Phillips Award from BAFTA in Wales means an enormous amount to me. "Ironically enough, Siân played my mother in my very first job, which was rather magical, and this honour means an infinite amount more because it is her award... Being recognised by those from home really does make it that much more special." Browse the Bafta in Wales website for a list of nominees for this year's British Academy Cymru Awards, and for more on the awards ceremony.

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