Rush hour in Wales!
Picture taken at 5.30pm yesterday on the A483 a few miles south of Newtown in Powys. Of all the stereotypically Welsh things that could have happened on a road trip through mid-Wales!
But, you know, just picture the M25 at the same time, and it's not as if we were in a hurry - this was just the start of a very long drive back to Cardiff after a truly lovely day out, so we were quite happy to take our time and watch the farmers and their wonderful sheepdogs at work, mustering the flock from one side of the road to the other.
We had just spent the day at Powis Castle, which is at Welshpool in the north of Powys. It's a long way, there and back in a day, but I've wanted to go for ages, and I've got to say, it was totally worth it - we even had glorious sunshine on a day that saw drizzly dampness across most of the rest of the country. Just look how beautiful!( Picspam continued behind the cut - beware very long post! )
The zen of the lovely day out yesterday was then much needed for dealing with the alarums and excursions of today! A car crashed right outside my office this afternoon. It was a really loud bang, brought people running from all over the building to see what had happened. It didn't look that bad from the vantage point of my window, no one seemed to be seriously hurt, but...our street is one of two main arteries north from the city centre, and we had an emergency response vehicle, two ambulances, police, fire service, all sorts - a nice little blockage just as rush hour hit.
And this was not a good day to block up one of only two main arteries north of the city centre, since the preparations for the Champions League finals have hit a fever pitch, with the four day football festival about to kick off tomorrow. And, you know, I love my city, I'm really glad it's got the chance to host such a prestigious event, and I hope it all goes off smoothly and successfully. I have no doubt that the couple of hundred thousand people flocking into the city for the festival will have a great time…but as a local resident, I'm starting to get a bit frustrated with the mounting disruption and inconvenience. It'll be okay once the road closures and diversions kick in properly, I daresay, it's the preparations that have been so disruptive - key roads narrowed by the fencing and bollards going up ahead of the road closures, but without any mitigation in place, and the centre gets congested enough at the best of times without adding new bottlenecks to the mix.
What really annoyed me today was that the main westbound road out of the city centre was closed, putting the central bridge over the Taff out of action, and by closed I mean closed to pedestrians as well as traffic, which had not been previously communicated - and it's a bridge
, it's not like you can just nip down a few side streets and come out in the same place! To get from where I work to where I hoped I might catch my detoured bus meant a huge
detour, so huge that it simply wasn't worth it. So I just gave up and walked the whole way home, over an hour's walk, and the congestion I saw along the way was so awful I knew I'd made the right decision, way beyond our usual rush hour jams - not surprising, given that we had westbound road closures, that accident on the northbound road, and the state funeral for former First Minister Rhodri Morgan going on in the Bay to the south!
Speaking of which, RIP, Rhodri, I'll miss bumping into you in Tesco in your shorts and sandals, you always said hello, were the most down-to-earth politician imaginable, and the perfect choice for the very first leader of our devolved government in Wales.
I do sometimes choose to walk home from work, but ordinarily I'd walk through the parks, only on this occasion I couldn't face all the fences and tents set up ready for the football festival, so I stuck to the main road, and along the way actually caught up with and overtook a bus, that's how bad the traffic was. I did consider waiting for it at the next stop, but I'm glad I didn't, since having overtaken it, it then never caught up with me again! And I'd even stopped for an ice cream along the road, and had to wait ages for it because the people ahead of me were chatting to the sales person about the black market price of tickets for the game on Saturday, so the bus had plenty of time to catch me up, but it never did!
Yeah, the traffic disruption caused by the road closures is pretty bad. Sue, Carol – we really, really made the right decision, changing our plans for this weekend! No wonder the roads were gridlocked! Honestly, the difference between 5.30pm in Cardiff today and 5.30pm up in Powys yesterday couldn't be starker!
I just hope there are no more bangs or crashes tomorrow, when the football festival kicks off. Our building has been put into lockdown for Thursday and Friday – staff can get in and out through the access controlled doors, but the main door is to be kept locked, so we can better control who comes in and out of the building. I'm expecting it to be really quiet, though. A lot of our staff will be working from home to avoid the disruption and road closures, and although after the events of last week it is wise to be cautious, I really think this event is too high profile to be considered a soft target. Security is really, really tight, there's been a lot of effort gone into making this a safe, fun event for all the visitors. Here's hoping it goes well!