Saturday, 20 June 2009

Over The Bridge To Wales.(not CAFC related)

Earlier in the year Confidential went nostalgic (and partly for a spoken promise) took a trip back to his native birthplace, Barry, near Cardiff in Wales. It's best known for the TV show Gavin&Stacey and Barry Island and that's about it..I chose a wet weekend to feel the real flavour of the place and it didn't disapoint.As a child I remember very little about every day so the first stop was at the old council house where I grew up.The two nice young ladies puffing away on something on the side step were very pleasant but not up to showing a complete stranger with slightly mad eyes around their private house..
Back down the hill (still slightly raining)to where the heaving docks used to be,you can see new terracota herring bone laid paving and not much else. Barry used to be the biggest docks for the export of Welsh coal to the world. The yearly tonnage was staggering. The coal would be mined further up in the valleys and brought down by rail to vast, elaborate shunting yards and then transfered to waiting cargo ships and the "smokestack cutters".
So moving on (still with wipers) across the short causeway towards Barry Island the dog needed a wee and, for a variety of bizarre resons,I wanted to stop off at the old coal marshalling yards. When the coal stopped, so did the steam. There was no coal coming out of the valleys so there was no need for trains. And if there's no coal to put into a steam train, it stops...So what do you do with over 200 old redundant stream trains ? Simple,you give them a one-way only railpass back to the yards where they used to work and cut them up for scrap and take the bits away in a lorry.That was the start of a very unique contribution to British Heritage,made possible by a Welshman Mr Dai Woodham, the Barry Scrapyard owner.
The old marshalling yards quickly became a scrapyard on rails and with Dr Beeching doing his very best around the country, the yard soon filled up with trains and trucks for demolition. Luckily Dai found it much easier and more profitable to cut up straightforward trucks rather than the difficult locomotives and so,by a twist of fate, the steam locomotives were left alone to quietly rust.Then a few years later we all remembered our love of the good old days and invented Preservation Railways that needed steam. Most of the shiny machines that we enjoy on our afternoons out are restored and polished survivors from Dai's scrapyard. Without Dai's yard there would hardly be any period British steam trains left to see (apart from India, Africa and China of course. How come they can fix'em up with just a hammer and some oil? We should have thought of that..).
Nowadays the place is a perfectly flattened brownfield site with no visible takers.The rails and tracks have long gone. There is not a single trace of what was once there. Nothing except ghosts. As if giving it the final accolade my dog trundled over to the middle in the rain and did an enormous turd...
Barry Island itself is more of a bay really with a nice big sandy beach,protected at each end by cliffs and headlands. There used to be a Butlins here but now just a perfunctory amusement park surrounded by arcades,one-stops and handy take-ways.The walks along the headland are invigorating (still raining) and the whole place must be much cleaner and healthier than 60 years ago, when everything had a thin covering of coal dust..
At this point Confidential did something out of character and started a conversation with a homeless person who despite everything looked quite happy with a nice tan and all his worldly possesions in two laundry bags. There he was under the arches,out of the rain,reading a good paperback and thoroughly enjoying the story when some idiot comes along and interrupts to make small talk. oops...sorry..
I'd planned on an overnight stay but with the very fine but very wet rain still falling and the dog semi-confused,decided to go home. Job done.
The moment we drove back up onto the Severn Bridge it stopped raining. 


Ketts said...

Let's make sure I've got this right Rickster,you are actually a Taff?!!

Confidential Rick said...

More of a closet Taff Ketts. I was born in Wales but Mum&Dad came from Hampshire. Does that make me a non/part Taff or token Taff?

Chicago Addick said...

Well put it this way Rick, you could play for Wales....


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