CARDIFF BAY, home of the Senedd Cymru (Welsh Parliament), is a celebrated regenerated urban area featuring a marina, shops and eateries, plus historic buildings and guided tours.
Cardiff Bay is the area of water created by the Cardiff Barrage in south Cardiff, the capital of Wales, supplied by two rivers, the Taff and Ely, to form a 500-acre (2.0km2) freshwater lake around the former dockland area south of the city centre. It is also the name commonly given to the surrounding areas of the city.
The ‘bay’ was formerly tidal, with access to the sea limited to a couple of hours each side of high water, but now provides 24-hour access through three locks.
Cardiff Bay played a major part in Cardiff’s development by being the means of exporting coal from the South Wales Valleys to the rest of the world, helping to power the industrial age.
The coal mining industry helped fund the building of Cardiff into the capital city of Wales and also helped the Third Marquis of Bute, who owned the docks, become the richest man in the world at the time.
As Cardiff exports grew, so did its population; dockworkers and sailors from across the world settled in neighbourhoods close to the docks, known as Tiger Bay, and communities from up to 45 different nationalities, including Norwegian, Somali, Yemeni, Spanish, Italian, Caribbean and Irish helped create the unique multicultural character of the area.
After the Second World War most of the industry closed down and became derelict. But, in 1999, new life was injected into the area by the building of the Cardiff Bay Barrage.
The Cardiff Bay Development Corporation (CBDC) was created in 1987 to stimulate the redevelopment of 1,100 hectares (2,700 acres) of derelict land. The Development Corporation aimed to attract private capital by spending public money to improve the area.
Despite opposition by environmentalists and wildlife organisations, the mudflats at the mouths of the River Taff and River Ely were inundated, with loss of habitat for wading birds. The Barrage has created several new habitats for freshwater species with the wetlands to the south of the Hamadryad Park.
When the Development Corporation was wound up in on March 31, 2000, it had achieved many of its objectives. The whole area was unrecognisable from 10 years before.
Notable features of the area include The Senedd, Wales Millennium Centre, home to the Welsh National Opera, The Pierhead Building, formerly the headquarters of the Bute Dock Company, Techniquest educational science and discovery centre, The Norwegian Church Arts Centre, Craft in the Bay and Roald Dahl Plass plaza.
In addition to commercial and residential complexes, the Bay area also boasts the five-star St David’s Hotel, The Tube Cardiff Bay Visitor Centre and Mermaid Quay, populated by restaurants, bars, cafés and shops.
A short distance away, Cardiff International Sports Village has the Viola Arena ice rink, home to the Cardiff Devils ice hockey team, Cardiff International Pool, Cardiff International White Water and Cardiff Bay Yacht Club. Cardiff Sailing Centre, a council-run watersports & RYA Training Centre, Cardiff Rowing Centre and Cardiff Yacht Club continue the watersports theme.
Other water-based attractions include Cardiff Bay Barrage, which is free to explore and also has guided tours, and Cardiff Bay Wetland Reserve, which has rare birds and a boardwalk leading to a viewing platform.
The Red Dragon Centre (formerly Atlantic Wharf Leisure Village) is a popular leisure and entertainment complex which includes a cinema, casino, bars and restaurants.
Not only is the Bay area easily accessible by rail and bus services just a few minutes away in Cardiff city centre, but there is also Cardiff Waterbus, which offers a public transport service and tourist cruises.
The Pont y Werin pedestrian and cycle bridge opened in July 2010, completing a six and a half-mile circular route around Cardiff Bay and Penarth.
A cycle hire system, launched in September 2009, and similar to those in other large cities, includes 70 bikes and 35 hire points around the centre and the south of the city.
Picture Special: A WANDER AROUND… CARDIFF BAY