Tag Archives: planning

No Country For Old Men (or Women)

In which The Author explores a space-packing exercise

This week I will be mostly delivering Plaid Cymru newspapers.
Actually, it took up a fair portion of last week as well, but I really didn’t mind. After over two months of torrential downpours, interrupted only by the occasional heavy shower, it’s been nice to get some fresh air and exercise.
We were the first political group in the Cynon Valley to declare our candidate for the forthcoming Welsh Assembly elections. Cerith Griffiths, a firefighter and union activist, fought the seat in last year’s general election, and accepted our nomination late last year. We’ve been able to get the drop on the opposition by starting our campaigning early. (Labour announced their candidate a little while ago; he subsequently withdrew, and they’ve only recently found someone else.) The party has set its sights on winning some Valleys seats, and we’re going all out to support Cerith.
At last week’s branch meeting we received the first tranche of our campaign newspapers. Cerith had somehow managed to get an impressive eighteen thousand papers (that’s ninety bundles, boys and girls) into his car, and walked into the room with a big grin on his face.
‘We’re going to need a bigger boat!’ he announced, to laughter all round.
We divided them up between the various districts, and at the end we went our separate ways, each with several bundles of papers and a designated area to hit over the next few weeks.
As I told you in ‘The Postman’s Burden‘, I decided to start counting the number of doors in each street as I made my way around Trecynon, Robertstown and the Gadlys. (Those three areas make up a fair chunk of the Aberdare West and Aberdare East electoral wards.) I knew from my previous leafletting expeditions (the first of which I told you about in ‘Nooks and Crannies‘) that I could expect to deliver somewhere in the region of two thousand.
However, two thousand eight-page newspapers occupy considerably more space (and weigh far more) than two thousand A5 leaflets. As a result I’ve been covering my area in short bursts, interspersed with visits home to restock. I jotted down the numbers as I went along and made a spreadsheet to track my progress, mainly to make sure I didn’t miss any of the back lanes scattered throughout Aberdare West. I failed to gain access to the sheltered accommodation at Maes Rhydwen and Cynon Close, and didn’t bother with the similar block at Pen Llew Court. (Elderly people almost invariably vote Labour anyway, as I noted in ‘No Future‘. There’s not much point in wasting time and effort on places like that.) Let’s assume I wrote off a maximum of forty doors there, for the sake of argument.
The numbers climbed steadily as I made my way through the areas I know well. After doing the five houses at Gelli Isaf, sandwiched between the old tramroad and the River Cynon, which pretty marks the northern limit of Trecynon, I made my way up a slippery footpath and emerged at the top end of Aberdare Cemetery. I included the big houses opposite the cemetery, but shied away from the caravan park a bit further down. There was a sign at the entrance which said ‘No canvassers without prior permission of the site owners’, so I decided not to risk it. I didn’t get as far as Dawkins Place (which may count as Trecynon – or even Cwmdare – depending on which source you consult). That can wait until we hit Penywaun a bit later on.
I finished off the large estate of Trefelin at lunchtime on Sunday, and was able to add 142 houses to my Trecynon total. And it’s an impressive total.
I’ve covered the entire area bounded by the A4059, the river Cynon, the link road by Tesco, St John’s churchyard, Aberdare Park, and the main road through Trecynon, and all the streets branching off the road as well. Even though I didn’t put a paper through every door (there are some commercial premises and a large number of obviously empty properties), according to my spreadsheet I’ve passed nearly 2100 letterboxes on my travels.
But the fun didn’t stop there.
On Saturday morning David Walters and I headed for the car park of the Ynyscynon Inn, at the northern end of Cwmbach. We were joined by Cerith and his girlfriend Alison (in one car), Pauline Jarman, Brian Arnold and Danny Allen from down the valley (in a second car), and Peter Fenner, Cerith’s election agent (in a third car). It was time to blitz the entire village.
Cwmbach is a very large area which I explored in some detail last summer, on one of my periodic tours in search of the Aberdare Local Board of Health street signs. There are remnants of the original settlement at either end, some old parts in the centre, and odd Victorian bits and pieces dotted here and there. Apart from those, virtually the entire place was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a sprawling council housing estate (known locally as ‘the site’).
Subsequently, private developments have completely swallowed the old heart of the community. Probably the best-known of these is Pant Farm, which covers a huge expanse north of the main road through the village. There’s another development north of the Ynyscynon Inn, and a rapidly spreading complex at the southern end, near the station. That’s not to mention the burgeoning estate across the river, near the large Asda supermarket. I almost feel sorry for anyone who’s bought a place there on the strength of its location. According to Google Maps, it’s only about three hundred metres from Cwmbach Station as the crow flies. In reality, it takes the best part of ten minutes to walk from one to the other. It’s right next to the river, too. After the winter we’ve had, would you want to live on a flood plain?
A couple of the Plaid gang had hit the area around Rose Row and the new houses off Tirfounder Road earlier in the week. That was a nice big patch out of the way. We were at the other end, and needed to fill in the space in between. David had printed off some maps, and we started dividing up the streets into bite-size chunks.
Since I was on the spot, so to speak, I decided to take the area immediately surrounding the pub. Everyone else set off for Pant Farm, a few minutes’ drive away. I took a bundle of papers and set off into unknown territory.
When I was studying A Level Biology, many years ago, I came across a lovely word which has stuck with me to this day: Invagination. (It always used to attract titters from the boys in school, because it contains the word for lady bits – which may or may not be the reason I remember it.) It refers to the way that a piece of tissue can fold in on itself, creating a little pocket. Of course, these infoldings can give rise to further infoldings, allowing a very large surface area to be enclosed in a comparatively small volume. It explains how the human lungs are about the size of two clenched fists, but have a combined surface area roughly equivalent to a tennis court.
Invagination also seems to be the way that town planners and developers go about designing their estates. The street map shows a nice straight road, but the physical reality is very different. Let me explain …
I live on a nice straight road. There are no front gardens, driveways, steps, or other obstacles. All the front doors open straight onto the pavement. The postman can start at Number 1, blast through my side of the street, turn around at the far end and do the other side, and be on his way in a couple of minutes.
You can’t do that in a new-build development, no matter what you might think after glancing at the street map. On the ground you find yourself going in and out of little culs-de-sac and down mysterious alleyways, and in and out again, all the while having to negotiate a bewildering array of gates, driveways, gardens, or – worst of all – entrances which lead only to a side door (without a letterbox), and then having to make your way back to the pavement after visiting each and every house.
When I first did some leafleting for Dafydd’s election campaign in 2010, I came up with a suggestion for a policy which he could take forward. It was quite simple: if your front door is more than three metres from the pavement, you should be required by law to fit an external mailbox at the edge of your property. Dafydd agreed that I was on to something, and I stand by my original suggestion to this day. In fact, as I’ve got a bit older and the novelty of negotiating the mini-mazes between pavement and letterbox has worn off, the notional distance between the two points keeps getting smaller. It currently stands at one metre, and looks set to decrease as I get older.
Here’s a question for homeowners in these big estates: Is there really any point in fitting an external mailbox to the front wall of your bloody house? If the postman has to walk ten yards to get to your front door anyway, confronting him with an external box when he gets there is just taking the piss. Why don’t you just fix the damn thing to your boundary wall and have done with it? While we’re on the subject, attaching the mailbox to the inside of your boundary wall, so that it only becomes apparent when the delivery person is on his/her way back out, is really taking the piss!
According to the map David had printed off, there were (at most) six streets behind the Ynyscynon Inn. They average a dozen houses apiece. It still took me the best part of forty minutes to do them all. Then I headed for the main road, lined with fewer than a dozen big houses on one side, and it still took me nearly five minutes to polish them off. I’m not quite fifty, but Peter, Pauline and Brian are quite a bit older. If I was finding it hard work, how must they have felt by the time they’d exhausted their supply of papers? It’s no country for old men (or women), I can tell you.
It came as a relief to return to the terraced houses at Well Place and Ynyscynon Street (I found a Board of Health sign in Ynyscynon Terrace, too). I did a stretch along Aberdare Road and cut down to Scales Row (three lovely old cottages which once stood alongside the Aberdare Canal) before running out of papers and heading back to the car park.
We regrouped in the pub just after opening time, and were pleased to find that we’d broken the back of the work. Cerith and Alison headed off to Blaennantygroes Road, and David and I headed into ‘the site’ to finish off there. I was off my personal map again, so we made it up as we went along.
Tre Gwilym is a mysterious little cluster of houses with no obvious numbering scheme. The maisonettes in Pant-y-Cerdin didn’t take us long, with one of us taking the upper section and the other working below. Tre Telynog is a mixture of nice semi-detached houses and inaccessible flats. Rhiw Ceris is a bizarre place which neither of us could fathom out. It must make sense if you live there, I suppose, but it confused the hell out of us.
We made short work of Crown Row and Sion Terrace, then called it a day. We’d bypassed a fair number of flats in Tre Telynog and Timothy Row, but you’re up against the law of diminishing returns in places like that anyway.
After a little while roaming around the new estate, I realised why Dad had always hated canvassing in Glandare/Landare (I’ve never been sure which is correct. You say potato!) when he was a councillor. I’d only done a short burst there on Thursday afternoon before I ran out of papers.
Somewhere in my house I’ve got a copy of the ‘Local Plan’, drawn up in the 1970s. Landare Park was growing steadily, and was supposed to have boasted all sorts of amenities when it was first put before the planning committee. Needless to say, the shops, post office, pub, play areas, community centre, phone boxes and so forth all failed to materialise. (I think I’m right in saying that it was quite a few years before the place even had a bus service.) Anyone living on the estate had to travel to the Gadlys, Cwmdare or Trecynon to buy a stamp, never mind anything bigger. Then, as now, the general assumption was that people who could afford to live in a place like that would have access to at least one car.
As a casual glance at the original local plan will attest, the estate also wasn’t intended to spread nearly as far as it has. According to documents unearthed back in the days of the Cynon Valley Profile (1986–87), Landare Park was intended to consist of some 450 houses, although we noted that ‘unforeseen contractual problems will limit the actual number of houses to 220 by 1991.’
In fact, it seems to have trebled in size (at least) since its original footprint was established in the 1960s. The houses extend to the bottom lake of the Dare Valley Country Park, obliterating a huge area of recreational land. The first time I took Shanara there, I was able to wave a hand in the direction of the huge new houses and say (in all seriousness), ‘I remember when all this round here were fields.’
When I was in junior school, Landare was still quite new, so only a few of my friends grew up there. On the other hand, my brother had a fair number of friends there, and he used to go and see them quite often. I didn’t spend as much time in the area because most of my pals lived closer to my house. As a result, I never really got to know the place. On the handful of times I’ve walked to Cwmdare that way, or cut through it on ‘the line’ between Trecynon and the Country Park, I’ve rarely wandered off the main axis. For this reason, I’ve never really taken account of the culs-de-sac which contain most of the houses.
Take Willow Grove, for example.
On the map, Willow Grove appears to be a stubby little T branching off the main road. In reality, it contains no fewer than twenty-eight detached houses – each with its own gate, driveway, steps, and custom-built assault course which the unwary canvasser has to negotiate before finally reaching the letterbox.
On the other side of the main road, Fairoak Close lies in wait. The grand frontages which greet the casual visitor are just the prelude to twenty-three individual dwellings of varying sizes, shapes and styles, each offering a variety of challenging approaches.
By the time I reached Cedar Close, where my old friend Mike H. used to live, I had just two papers left. I called it a day and headed into town. Including the detached houses in Glan Road, I’d managed to deliver fewer than a hundred papers in just under an hour.
I decided to continue on Sunday afternoon, restocking my bag after finishing off in Trefelin. I cut across the line from Aberdare Park, walked through Cedar Close and arrived in Chestnut Close. There doesn’t seem to be any reason why one street should end and the next should begin, but that’s the way it is. There’s only a little raised kerb between the two. It simply seems to defy logic – as did much of what followed.
Having emerged from Chestnut Close, I crossed over and entered Birchgrove. Once again, the street map promised me a T-shaped cul-de-sac. Thirty-three houses later I arrived back at the main road – and here’s the next part of the mystery. The main road was Beechwood Avenue when I started out on Thursday afternoon. At some point known only to Goddess and the planning authorities, it had turned into Alder Drive.
I’d been jotting down the numbers as I went, to try and update my spreadsheet later on. It was a waste of time. I still don’t know how many houses there are in Alder Drive – the numbering seems to make no sense at all. I found a house with its front gate ostensibly on Alder Drive, which actually turned out to be in Fern Crescent. I think. If it really is, then there must be two Number 1 Fern Crescents.
Cypress Court was equally baffling – it’s a looping cul-de-sac of over twenty houses, with a further three on the main road. At one point a middle-aged chap came to his front door. He’d been alerted by his dog, who’d seen me coming down the driveway. I handed him a paper and explained that I was totally lost and making my way around the estate by dead reckoning.
‘It’s fairly straightforward from here,’ he assured me with a chuckle.
Remember how much I hate that word?
I think there are thirty-two houses in Sycamore Close. I’m not absolutely sure, because the odd-numbered houses are in the stem of a T, and the even-numbered houses are in the crosspiece. (Or was it the other way round? It was becoming increasingly difficult to tell.)
Camelia Close is about as far up as I’d ever been on foot before Landare ends and the road runs on into Cwmdare. I knew that the main road becomes Cherry Drive near the Welsh school. So far, so good. However, there’s a new street called Cherry Court, branching off to the left. The first house you come to is Number 16. There were just three houses – clearly I’d lost a bit somewhere. The rest of Cherry Court turned out to be about two hundred metres further down the road. I had a dozen papers left – I reckoned it would be just enough to finish that little cluster of houses.
I was wrong. Between two houses there’s a little alleyway leading to yet more houses. I’m assuming it’s more Cherry Court, but I can’t be sure. There’s certainly nothing else marked on the latest street map. I assume there’s also a short cut from there into Ashbourne Court. From there, I can make my way into the huge development that connects Landare to the new part of Cwmdare, and from there continue into the old village of Cwmdare – but that’s an adventure for another day. At least my updated street map shows the area in question, unlike the one in my memory, which I’d been trying to work from on Thursday afternoon.
On the day of Uncle Pat’s funeral, my cousin Katie and I were travelling to Llwydcoed Crematorium in our cousin-in-law Clive’s car. We were all talking about the way that people in Cardiff tend to perceive the Valleys. I told them that Jo R. in Dillons once asked me why I didn’t come to work on the same bus as Jeff.
‘Because Jeff lives at the other side of Caerphilly, and I live outside Aberdare,’ I replied. She’d assumed (like many Cardiffians, it seems) that everywhere north of Cardiff was just one long terrace stretching all the way from the Gabalfa flyover to the foothills of the Brecon Beacons.
‘Jo,’ I said, ‘this is going to come as a shock – but if you travel east of St Mellons, west of St Fagans, north of Whitchurch, or south of Penarth, you don’t actually fall off the edge.’
Katie told me a couple of similar stories from her experience, and she could relate to my conversation with Jo.
‘Have a look at the maps printed in Cardiff,’ I said. ‘Instead of having the Valleys drawn in, they just say “Here Be Dragons”.’
That reduced Katie to hysterics, and we always have a laugh about it whenever we get together.
Purely for Katie’s benefit, here’s a map of the area we’re going to try and polish off this week. Watch this space …

Here be dragons


Desire Lines

In which The Author goes back to the drawing board

The Piss-Artist Formerly Known As My Brother used to work as a cartographic draughtsman for a number of public bodies. In fact, we used to joke that if anyone was ever digging up the ground anywhere in Wales (and a fair chunk of Western England), there was a good chance that he’d drawn up the plans beforehand.
One useful piece of jargon I picked up from his career was ‘desire line’. You’ve probably all come across desire lines, but I expect very few of you ever realised that they had a name. According to Wikipedia (because I’m at home, and I haven’t got access to any textbooks on Town and Country Planning):
desire path (also known as a desire line, social trail, goat track or bootleg trail) can be a path created as a consequence of foot or bicycle traffic. The path usually represents the shortest or most easily navigated route between an origin and destination. The width of the path and its erosion are indicators of the amount of use the path receives. Desire paths emerge as shortcuts where constructed ways take a circuitous route, or have gaps, or are lacking entirely.
There used to be a fairly conspicuous desire line at the bottom of the hill where we grew up. The road met a disused tramroad at a right angle, and there was an access point to the drainage system just to the side of the intersection. Rather than walk the five feet or so around the manhole cover, Trecynon people would instead cut across the grassy patch, saving all of about five seconds and about two feet on the ground. In the sort of weather we’ve been experiencing for the past three months, this human-generated path would be a mire of thick red mud. Eventually the local authority bowed to public opinion and paved the desire line over.
I found another one last week, when I was walking to Aberdare through Robertstown. There’s a hole in the fence separating the road from the old railway sidings, leading into a field popular with dog walkers. Once again, this human traffic has worn a quite distinct desire line into the soil:


I was walking into Aberdare this way for a change, partly in search of a desire line, and partly because I wanted to take some photos in town. Then a happy accident occurred, and the pieces of this entry all fell into place.
Yesterday afternoon Rowland and I met up for a couple of pints, and he brought a pile of photos from his days on the Aberdare Leader. One of them meshed perfectly with the outline I’d constructed already, so I’ll share it with you:

Scanned Document-31

This is a real flashback. On the left is W. H. Smith. On the right is the Railway Bar. At the centre is the Dukes Arms, one of the semi-legendary pubs clustered at the eastern end of Commercial Street when I was growing up. (The others were the Iron Bridge and the Commercial.) My older friends have told me tall tales of these establishments, but sadly I never darkened their doors. By the time I came back from university in the summer of 1985, all three were history. Most of the musicians, artists, hippies, rockers, punks, potheads and general ne’er-do-wells of Aberdare and environs eventually gravitated to the Carpenters – where, in my case, I eventually came onto the town’s real pub scene.
One Xmas night in the late-ish 1980s, I was in the Carpenters when Rowland himself strolled in. Then, as now, he stood me a pint and wished me the compliments of the season. Then he looked around at the assorted eccentrics, charlatans and lunatics, and said, ‘I like this pub, Steve. It’s an oasis of sanity in a mad world.’ I shudder to think what Xmas Day must have like been chez Rowland.
Anyway, I digress …
Here’s an undated and uncredited photo of the same area, which I found in the Rhondda Cynon Taf Library Service Digital Archive just now. This is looking in the opposite direction from the other side of the junction; people from Abernant and Cwmbach, and pupils at the Girls’ Grammar School would have found this a familiar sight back in the 1960s and 1970s. Note that it was possible to drive straight up Commercial Street in those days. Nowadays you can’t – officially – drive down it, unless you’re delivering to the shops there.


Here’s a section of the Ordnance Survey map from the mid-1960s, showing the dense buildings and railway lines in this area of Aberdare when I was growing up.

Smiths Corner-5

The level crossing is clearly visible in the centre square. There’s a signal box marked immediately to the south, which I can’t say I remember. The little wedge-shaped building adjacent to the level crossing was W. H. Smith. In fact, for many years after Graham Ewington took the shop over in his own right and the name was changed, this traffic junction was still known locally as ‘Smith’s Corner’. I wonder how many people remember that name today.
There’s not much left of the area in the top centre block, and the east side of Duke Street has all gone as well. Carpanini’s Cafe, where Dad used to take us for pie, chips and gravy on Saturday lunchtimes, was part of that block between the crossroads and the old red-brick bus station. Nazareth Welsh Presbyterian Church still stands, but is covered with steel shutters. I’ve no idea what Glancynon House was, but it’s long gone.
The properties are numbered on this sheet, which is handy. Using a list compiled by Aberdare’s former borough librarian Richard Arnold (Arnold, 1982) I can tell you exactly what the old pubs are.
The Commercial Hotel is marked directly alongside the level crossing, which gives you some idea of the size of these old Valleys pubs. Directly across the road at 29 Commercial Street was the Iron Bridge. It took its name from the iron bridge across the River Cynon a little way to the east. On the south-east corner of the junction, at number 31, was the Dukes, so you can see more or less where the photographer was standing when he took the shot. On the opposite corner, 32 Commercial Street was the Railway Bar. According to Mr Arnold’s research, that one closed in 1970. The other three were still open in January 1982, when he completed his list.
There are several other pubs marked on the map as well, so I’ll run through those. In the top-left square is the Crown Hotel, now the headquarters of Aberdare RFC. In the bottom-centre square, that used to be the Cowbridge, but now trades as the Market Tavern. 43 Commercial Street was the Bush, now called the Pickled Pepper, and a couple of doors further up was the Globe, which also closed in 1970. On the other side, 19 Commercial Street was the Prince of Wales, which closed in 1963 and shouldn’t be confused with the pub of the same name in a different location entirely.
20 Commercial Street was the George Hotel, also closed in 1963. Towards the western edge of this section, you can see the Boot Hotel, currently closed. On the opposite corner was the Castle Hotel, now the NatWest Bank.
This is just scratching the surface, to be honest. When I’ve got time, I’ll get hold of some older maps and link them to Mr Arnold’s invaluable list. A few months ago I bumped into some mates of mine who were doing a fund-raising pub crawl for charity. I told them they were lucky they weren’t doing it twenty years earlier; it would have taken them at least twice as long and got them considerably more pissed into the bargain. Half a century earlier again, they’d all have ended up with alcohol poisoning long before they got to the War Memorial.
Anyway, to give you an idea of how this part of town has changed in the last thirty years or so, here’s a more recent map of the same area, although extended a bit further to the south:

Smiths Corner-1

As you can see, the bus station now occupies most of the east side of Duke Street, more or less where the old Low Level Station used to be. The trains run from the new station on the High Level line, although in an act of sheer industrial vandalism Brunel’s fine red brick station a little way to the north has been allowed to fall into disrepair.
The cottages and the old abattoir to the east of the old line are long gone, replaced by a swimming pool which is itself about to be replaced – although detailed maps of the area still show ‘Slaughterhouse Lane’ as the name of the minor road leading towards the Michael Sobell Sports Centre.
Where the level crossing, Ewington’s and the pubs used to be, there’s a bloody great traffic roundabout instead. By the time I got back from university in 1985, the pubs and shops that used to be in the centre of the map had nearly all vanished, swept away by the long-awaited Aberdare bypass road. There’s also a footbridge over the bypass …
The footbridge, Duke Street approach
The footbridge, Slaughterhouse Lane approach
The footbridge, Slaughterhouse Lane approach
This bridge was deeply unpopular when it was first opened. People complained that it was too steep, and that the surface became treacherous in icy weather. It’s also not much use if you suffer from a fear of heights. When Jamila came to town one Saturday morning, I walked back to the station with her. She only told me when we were halfway across the bridge that she was terrified. She spent the rest of the brief crossing with her eyes shut tight, clinging to my arm as if her life depended on it. I don’t know what the good folk of Aberdare must have thought when they saw me arm in arm with a tiny and incredibly beautiful Nigerian princess, but I’m sure we made an impression.
After a few years of public campaigning, letters to the paper, and representations to the local authorities, a pelican crossing was installed. It began about thirty yards south of the rugby club, and enabled pedestrians to cross easily to the newly reopened railway station (see Nice Work If You Can Get There).
The bridge is still used, of course, especially by pupils at the Girls’ School, but now people had a choice of how to cross the bypass. More importantly, people could get to the station without using the footbridge and then crossing two busy roads – the road over the iron bridge and the entrance to Slaughterhouse Lane lie between the east end of the footbridge and the railway station – or negotiating a long zigzagging ramp up to the far end of the platform.
The roundabout and footbridge near Aberdare Station
At the moment, Aberdare is in the middle of yet another traffic upheaval. It seems like only yesterday that the town centre was being torn up in an attempt to ‘improve’ the place, at a cost of several million pounds. Now, the wrecking crew have turned their attention to the southern approach.
The Swimming Pool and Sobell Centre are to be demolished to make way for a new ‘super school’ and leisure complex. Preparatory work is well under way, with a new road bridge over the Cynon a couple of hundred yards south of the existing crossing, linking the site to a modified roundabout at the southern end of Duke Street and Cardiff Street.
The new bridge has already attracted criticism; some people have pointed out that it will be too narrow to allow school buses to pass each other. Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council has shrugged off this idea, although a bus driver mate of mine thinks that the nay-sayers are right.
We’ll see who wins when the new school opens, of course, although that will be at least two terms later than originally planned. The work has fallen behind schedule, and hasty alternative provision has been made for the pupils of the three schools which are set to close at the end of this academic year (Tegeltija, 2013). I say ‘at least’, because the site has already flooded once, and we’re in the middle of yet more torrential rain even as I type this, with a host of flood warnings in effect around Wales and the West of England.
In the meantime, things have changed around the centre of the map yet again. Presumably in an attempt to reduce the risk to pedestrians making their way between the town centre and the new school, a new pelican crossing has been situated directly beneath the footbridge:


This will be ideal for people walking to the new school, of course, but if you’re trying to get to the railway station, you’re almost back to Square One. You can either cross two busy roads (and the flow along Slaughterhouse Lane will undoubtedly increase when the new school eventually opens), or go up the long zigzagging ramp and arrive at the wrong end of the platform.
Meanwhile, there are no prizes for guessing what’s happened to the original pelican crossing – the one that’s been there for the last twenty-five years or so without annoying anyone unnecessarily:



That’s where it used to be. You can see the ticket office of the station directly behind it. I knew the crossing had been out of action for a while before Xmas, because Rowland commented on the fact that he’d had to go the long way round on his way from the station. Like him, I assumed that it was a temporary closure while the work on the road surface was ongoing.
We were wrong. There’s now a fence on either side of the road in the exact spot where, until recently, people could walk to the station in complete safety.
It’s anyone’s guess how long it will be until the work is completed and the access roads to the new school are officially opened. However, I’m fairly sure that it won’t be long before people take matters into their own hands and start scaling the fence in order to get to the station. They’ll plough their own desire lines into the tarmac, and in due course the local authority will have to rethink the whole scheme.
Like so much else I’ve commented on in this blog over the past few years, this has all the makings of another monumental RCTCBC cock-up. I’ll bet that a fair number of Aberdare residents will literally vote with their feet, and that the old crossing will be reinstated before the paint even dries in the new classrooms.
Goddess only knows how much this has cost already, but RCTCBC have a track record of throwing good money after bad. Given the inbuilt traffic hazards on the way to the station at present, the walk over the footbridge suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad prospect. You could almost say that it’s a case of swings and roundabouts …


ARNOLD, R. (1982) The Inns, Hotels and Beer Houses of Aberdare and District in Old Aberdare Volume 2. Aberdare: Cynon Valley History Society.
TEGELTIJA, S. (2013) Opening of new South Wales Valleys super-school building is delayed Wales Online, 25 Nov 2013.