Saturday, 22 June 2013

Creating a Community Garden 9

In my previous post on Nightingale Community Garden in Dinas Powys (April 2013), I described the completion of the garden and the first plants and seeds going into the soil. The garden is now flourishing and the first crops have been picked.

From the uniformity of marked out plots in April, a collection of distinct little gardens has emerged. Each local resident has stamped their own individuality on their patch of ground. Different gardening techniques are being deployed and a wide range of food plants are being grown.

I have runner beans, potatoes, peas, chard (yellow and red), spinach, a couple of courgette plants, a couple of bull’s blood beetroot, rhubarb and strawberries on my plot. I have already harvested spinach, and my eldest had the first strawberry. Ok, I should have split those rhubarb crowns up a bit more before transplanting them!

Runner beans and potatoes have been a popular choice to get the garden established. From certain angles the garden looks like a forest of bean poles. There’s a profusion of salad (lettuces, radish etc.), various brassicas (now covered due to pigeons!), broad beans and, amongst other things, sweetcorn, marrow, onions, garlic, tomatoes, beetroot, and herb gardens and flowers.

There are now two communal sheds and two greenhouses on site, and some well-tended deep beds. There is an area for wild flowers to attract beneficial insects. A large water tank is filled from a shed roof, while a mains tap and long hosepipe are available for watering.

The project was set up with the help of Community Foodie (Creative Rural Communities), a Vale of Glamorgan Council initiative to promote local food production. A Steering Group of plotholders has been established, to make sure things continue to run smoothly. The area has been leased to Dinas Powys Resident's Association, who collect the rents (that will pay for water and other costs). There is an email mailing list and a Facebook page for correspondence and discussion.

An area with a table and chairs has become a focus for socializing on sunny days.

A social event in the garden is planned for Saturday 14 September (12-4pm). All welcome.

Nightingale Community Garden on Facebook:!/groups/nightingalecommunitygarden/

Previous posts:

April 2013

March 2013

Feb 2013

Jan 2013

Oct 2012

Aug 2012

Feb 2012

Jan 2012

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

St Mary Street, Cardiff

Previously, on the Walking Tour of Cardiff, I left you where High Street changes its name to St Mary Street/Heol Eglwys Fair, at the slightly staggered junctions with Quay Street and Church Street.

St Mary Street has been largely pedestrianized in recent years. On your left (easterly side), on the corner with Church Street:

1 St Mary Street CF10 1AF (20666 8753)
One of around 15 branches of Greggs around Cardiff: sandwiches, pies, patisserie, hot and cold drinks (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Jan 2013).

Double-breasted suits used to be sold in what is now Greggs. In fact, the take-over of St Mary Street by food outlets and bars is relatively recent. The street used to be more of a commercial centre, dominated by banks, upmarket clothes shop, shoe shops, jewellers (some remain) and department stores; with food largely confined to the Indoor Market.

Bean Freaks (3 St Mary Street) is a “natural health” store.

Bar 411
3-6 St Mary Street CF10 1AT (2066 7996)
Bar 411 is a bar and nightclub, on the first floor. It’s not the street number: ‘What’s the 411?’ apparently means ‘What’s occurin’?’ in American English (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Aug 2011).

Pass the entrance to Cardiff Indoor Market (we’ll be entering from Trinity Street).

The Borough Arms
8 St Mary Street CF10 1AF (2022 1343)
Traditional and I think still privately-owned bar that is popular with local traders. The pub dates from 1867, changing its name from The Borough Arms to Bodega in 1897; but wisely reverted to its original name in 1967. Long narrow bar with real ale, though not a food destination.

Cross the road and backtrack to the corner with Quay Street:

Costa Coffee
119 St Mary Street CF10 1DY
Recently opened branch of the ubiquitous coffee shop chain (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Jan 2013).

Charlie Browns
114-116 St Mary Street CF10 1DY (2022 0114)
Opened in 2012 and has found its niche among Cardiff’s plentiful bars and nightclub venues, with CBUK specialising in “alternative clubbing.”

On the corner with Guildhall Place:

114 St Mary Street CF10 1LF
A Sainsbury’s Local in a unit formerly occupied by a Co-operative store and bank (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. April 2013).

Cross the entrance to Guildford Place:

Papa Panda
112 St Mary Street CF10 1DX (2039 8678)
Recently opened, and replacing the China Zone, which was an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Papa Panda serves Oriental food, mainly Chinese, with menu selections at set-prices. Also does take-away. The building was formerly a Barclays Bank.

On the corner with Golate:

Chicken Cottage
108 St Mary Street CF10 1DX
Take-away: fried chicken and burgers (Food Hygiene Rating 2: improvement necessary. July 2012).

106 St Mary Street CF10 1DX (2022 7785)
Italian chain of restaurants; this one, on the corner with Golate, benefits from large glass windows. Plenty of modern Italian cooking to enjoy, most notably pizzas. There’s a set-price lunch menu and take-away available. There is another Prezzo nearby, in the more neon-lit St David’s Centre (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Nov 2011).

Crossing the road, and continuing where we left off by The Borough Arms:

14-18 St Mary Street CF10 1TT
A House of Fraser Department Store, Howells has a food hall for food purchases (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Sept 2011), a restaurant on the Second Floor, and a terrace café for coffees, cake and light lunches (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Jan 2013).

Cross Wharton Street:

21 St Mary Street CF10 1PL (2038 7026)
Café JAZZ is the downstairs bar and restaurant of The Sandringham Hotel, on the corner of Wharton Street and St Mary Street. The lunch menu ranges from wraps and burgers to chef’s specials (e.g., Moules frites; Grilled salmon; and Rump steak). Evening menu (Tues-Sat from 5.30pm) includes pizza and some interesting starters and mains (e.g., Citrus chicken and chorizo brochettes served with aromatic couscous; Crustade of beef medallions and roasted red peppers glazed with horseradish; and Roasted salmon tornado wrapped in Parma ham, with lemon butter and tarragon). Wine can be bought in when eating from the restaurant menu (£2 corkage). There’s an extensive programme of jazz and blues, with music usually starting around 8.45pm, giving you time to eat beforehand. Something I had not noticed before - the lion on the roof of The Sandringham Hotel (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Dec 2011).

Spirited Wine
23 St Mary Street CF10 1AA (2037 7449)
Spirited Wine of Cardiff stocks wines, spirits and bottled beers, including ales from local microbreweries such as Untapped ( Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Nov 2011).

The Cottage
25 St Mary Street CF10 1AA (2033 7195)
Brains pub that would have been practically next door to their old brewery, but it’s still only “700 yards from brewery to cellar.” I visited recently and drank Dr Rudi, a beer from the Brains Craft Brewery (named after Rudi Roborough: “father of NZ hops”; a golden ale boasting lemongrass and pine needle flavour notes). The Cottage is lighter than you expect inside, thanks to a skylight and opposing mirrors, and the walls are decorated with period photos of Welsh personalities and Cardiff street scenes. I ate a very pleasing Welsh rarebit topped with a poached egg: two slices, plenty of mustard grain in the cheese mix, and beetroot leaf salad garnish. The menu also features jacket potatoes, grills, pub food mains and puddings (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Jan 2013).

Tesco Express
26-27 St Mary Street CF10 1JD
There's a handy cashpoint outside (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Oct 2011).

28-29 St Mary Street CF10 1AB
One of the largest McDonalds in Cardiff (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Jan 2013).

Coffee Heaven
30 St Mary Street CF10 1AB (2064 4839)
A recently-opened coffee shop, serving soups (e.g., wild mushroom, minestrone, or carrot and coriander, on the day I passed), snacks, cakes, along with range of coffees and teas (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. Jan 2013).

31 St Mary Street CF10 1AB
Convenience store (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Aug 2011).

The Louis Restaurant
32 St Mary Street CF10 1AB (2022 5722)
An old-fashioned café restaurant, serving traditional English breakfast, home-made pies, grills and curry. Budget food, sister to Pillars on Queen Street (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. June 2011).

Pass the entrance to Morgan Arcade (later on the tour); the Pembrokeshire Pasty Co. previously had an outlet here.

Across the road, and jogging back toward Prezzo; if my eldest is reading, the shop where you sometimes buy running gear on Wood Street (Run and Become) has relocated here (100 St Mary Street).

96 St Mary Street CF10 1DX
Nightclub, incorporating Rococco (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Aug 2011).

Pass the door to the upstairs Fantasy Lounge (lap dancing), the No 1 Sports Bar (95 St Mary Street), and the Bunk House (94 St Mary Street) offering “beds, bar and boogie.”

91 St Mary Street CF10 1DX
Flatbreads and tandoori chicken among the latest promotions, alongside all the regular soft-bread subs. Bread-like smells to entice you as you walk past (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Oct 2011).

90 St Mary Street 1DW
Chinese restaurant and take-away franchise, of the stir-fried variety. Another outlet opened in Wellfield Road (Roath) earlier this year (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Jan 2013).

89 St Mary Street CF10 1FA
Nightclub (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Aug 2011).

The Royal Hotel
88 St Mary Street CF10 1AB
One of Cardiff’s historic city centre hotels. The Fitz Bar on the second floor open to non-residents. A plaque outside records how Captain Scott and his crew dined here before sailing for the Antarctic (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Nov 2011).

84-86 St Mary Street CF10 1FA (2037 1315)
“Music, food and cocktails” in a large bar that opens for lunch and closes in the early hours; at weekends food is served until 10pm. Surprising large menu includes fish and chips, pizza, burgers, steak and chips, chicken burritos, macaroni cheese and sticky ribs, sandwiches, small plates and sharing platters. Classic dishes given American-themed names (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Aug 2011).

On the corner with Wood Street:

85-87 St Mary Street CF10 1DW (2066 4103)
Irish bar and grill chain with extensive pub food menu, including all-day breakfasts, lunch and dinner. Mains include chargrilled chicken and steaks, salads and fish, burgers and O’Neill’s favourites such as Irish stew, Steak and Guinness, sausages and colcannon, and beer battered fish and chips. There’s live music every night (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. April 2011).

Opposite, on the other side of St Mary Street:

Pass the entrance to Morgan Arcade, and also The Royal Arcade (both later in the tour):

The Meating Place
41 St Mary Street CF10 1AD (2022 4757)
Meat skewers hanging from hooks above the tables are the big feature here. JT Morgan family butchers, in the nearby Indoor Market, are among the meat suppliers. Marinated meat skewers include Chicken breast with lemon, ginger and cardamom, and Lamb leg pieces with cumin, coriander and garlic. Menu also includes Rack of lamb, BBQ ribs and fish dishes. Two-course lunch represents best value: recent menu items have included mussels, cockles, Welsh rarebit and minute steak). The Meating Place is owned by local company The Chameleon Group, who also operate The Potted Pig, The North Star, The Vulcan Lounge, and the Crystal Lounge in Cardiff (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. March 2012).

Crystal Lounge
41 St Mary Street CF10 1AD (2034 5477)
Crystal Boutique Lounge & Club is a late-night bar and nightclub, situated above The Meating Place (also owned by The Chameleon Group). A drinking and dancing, rather than dining, venue (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. Sept 2011).

At the entrance to The Brewery Quarter:

The Yard
43 St Mary Street CF10 1AD (2022 7577)
The Yard Kitchen and Bar is Brains-owned. Express lunch menu. We will visit again when in The Brewery Quarter (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. April 2012).

Past the entrance to The Brewery Quarter:

Starbucks Coffee
47 St Mary Street CF10 1FA
A branch of the famous tax-avoiding multinational.

Brewhouse Coffee House
49 St Mary Street CF10 1FA
Recently opened coffee shop and take-away, through which you can get to the Brewhouse bar, which we will visit on The Brewery Quarter leg of the tour. You can order the bar menu in the coffee shop.

Bar 50
50 St Mary Street CF10 1FA
This upstairs bar/nightclub is named after its street number.

Kitty Flynn’s is on the corner with Caroline Street, so we will visit on the Caroline Street leg of the tour.

Opposite, where Wood Street joins St Mary Street (which is only pedestrianized below this point on Friday and Saturday evenings; when St Mary Street becomes the capital’s party central):

The Prince of Wales
82 St Mary Street CF10 1FA (2064 4449)
The largest Wetherspoon’s pub in Cardiff; situated in a former theatre (founded 1878), which in its heyday hosted many prestigious theatrical productions and the first performances by Welsh National Opera. It was for many years a cinema (mainly porn during the 1980s, so I’m told), until it was sympathetically redeveloped with bold theatrical flourishes. The full Wetherspoon pub food menu and an impressive range of real ales (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Feb 2013).

The Chippy
80 St Mary Street CF10 1FA
Unreconstructed chip shop, currently under the scaffolding on the Philharmonic and Prince of Wales buildings but open for business, serving fish and chips, Peter’s Pies, burgers and kebabs  (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. Sept 2012).

65-73 St Mary Street CF10 1FA (2072 7930)
Australian-themed sports bar, boasting over 50 big-screen TVs and 3 large screens – one of them the largest in Cardiff (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Feb 2012).

The Great Western
40 St Mary Street CF10 1FA (2035 3990)
Hotel built around 1879 to offer accommodation to travellers on the Great Western Railway nearby. Now one of two massive Wetherspoon’s pub in this large block of old buildings (it operates as a Lloyds #1 Bar). Full Wetherspoon pub food menu and good range of beers. Previous pub names here, according to, include The Old Monk and The Bush Pig; becoming The Great Western again in 2004 after being acquired by J.D. Wetherspoon (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. May 2012).

Across the side-road the taxis use to get to Cardiff Central railway station:

Viva Brazil
Ground Floor, Maldron Hotel, St Mary St CF10 1GD (2020 0255)
Viva Brazil Churrascaria is a Brazilian steakhouse and bar that opened last year in the Maldron Hotel. You pay a set price for what is billed as a dining experience involving Passadors (carvers) who move from table to table offering up to 15 cuts of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and sausages, all slow-cooked over a barbeque. Choices include Picanha Com alho (rump steak southern Brazil style), Cordeiro (marinated leg of lamb), Costela de boi (beef ribs), Linguica (Brazilian sausages), Coracao (chicken hearts) and Presunto defumado (smoked gammon). There are other traditional Brazilian dishes on offer (e.g., Oxtail stew with cassava), fish and seafood dishes, and salads (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Nov 2012).

Across St Mary Street, backtracking toward Kitty Flynn's and the entrance to Caroline Street:

55 St Mary Street CF10 1FE (2039 8965)
Kiwis is a New Zealand-themed bar and club (previously located in Wyndham Arcade). This attractive building, dating from 1887, was previously the Taurus Steakhouse. Today, you can choose between the North Island and South Island bars. Food served includes pies, sandwiches and pasta dishes (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. March 2012).

The Bunker
60-62 St Mary Street CF10 1FE
Sports bar, part of the Le Monde complex. More TVs than you can shake a remote at, with basic food menu.

Le Monde
60-62 St Mary Street CF10 1FE (2038 7376)
Le Monde Fish Bar & Grill is a stylish French-style restaurant noted for its seafood, fish and steaks, located on the first floor, above The Bunker, in a spacious dining room with stained glass windows. Menu sections include Whole fish (e.g., Black sea bream, brill, Dover sole, sea bass), Shellfish (e.g., Crawfish tails, oysters, Tiger prawns, lobster), Portioned fish (e.g., conger eel, mahi maahi, monkfish, red mullet, halibut, gurnard, swordfish steaks), Meat (steaks, veal, duck, whole leg of Welsh lamb). I had a meal here a few years ago, and remember the fish display counter and a good meal. Le Monde opened in 1985 and was overdue a refit (reflected in a poor food hygiene score). However, it was just reopened after a major refurbishment, which has included new kitchens and a new layout (Food Hygiene Rating 1: major improvement necessary. May 2012).

We have reached Peppermint Bar and Kitchen on the corner of St Mary Street and Mill Lane (you can’t miss it: the building is painted a bright lime colour). I’ll see you here next time for a walk down Mill Lane.

Previously, on the walking tour:

High Street

Castle Arcade and Castle Street

Womanby Street and Quay Street

Westgate Street


Cathedral Road

Pontcanna 2

Pontcanna 1

North Canton

Cowbridge Road East 3

Cowbridge Road East 2

Cowbridge Road East 1

Bute Park

Cathays Park

Cathays Terrace

Salisbury Road

Woodville Road

Crwys Road

Wellfield Road

Albany Road

City Road

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

World Environment Day 2013: Vale of Glamorgan

UN World Environment Day (5 June) is marked globally on an ever-increasing scale. Today, the Vale of Glamorgan Council organized its first World Environment Day event at the Civic Offices in Barry. This year’s theme is food waste (“Think Eat Save”).

Councillor Rob Curtis (Cabinet Member for the Environment and Visible Services) welcomed attendees. He set the scene with some stark statistics. Around a third of all food grown is wasted, which is also a massive waste of the energy, water resources and land (especially through deforestation) used in producing food; while 1 in 7 of the world’s population goes hungry. Relatively little food waste occurred 40 years ago, but since then it has become a source of great social injustice and a terrible waste of limited resources. However, a change is now underway, and everyone can play their part in reducing food wastage.

Initiatives taken by the Welsh Assembly Government to address the issue were summarized by Jasper Roberts (Head of Waste and Resources Efficiency, Welsh Government). In recent years, 400,000 tonnes of food have been wasted in Wales annually. A Welsh Government Waste Strategy is now in place to reduce this figure. Instead of it going into costly and environmentally-polluting landfill sites, food waste is increasingly being channelled into recycling, composting and biogas-production schemes. The necessary infrastructure for collecting and processing food waste is being put in place, with the Welsh government favouring anaerobic digestion (AD) as the method to produce energy from food waste.

Clifford Parish (Operations Manager for Waste Management, Vale of Glamorgan Council) noted that all households in the Vale of Glamorgan now have kerbside collections of domestic food waste. This waste is taken to a site in Cowbridge for turning into compost. He noted that meeting high recycling targets was an initial step; reducing the amount of waste actually generated is the next goal. The Council is working with WRAP (Waste action and Resources Action Programme) to identify ways of doing this. WRAP campaigns to reduce waste by focusing on things like smart shopping, good storage, appropriate portion size, reduced packaging, reusable containers and staff training; it can draw upon its long experience of working with the hospitality industry and other food businesses.

John Homfray (Cowbridge Compost) told the story of how a bit of farm diversification led to a major food waste composting operation on the outskirts of Cowbridge. He took in some wood waste for money in 2004, bought a shredder and spread it on his fields. In 2006, the farm was processing the Vale of Glamorgan Council’s green (garden) waste kerbside collections; and by 2011 all the kitchen waste as well. It is planned to process waste with an AD plant by 2015, to produce biogas as well as compost. Green and food waste lorries from around the Vale arrive daily, increasingly joined by lorries from other parts of south Wales. The waste is processed (three tonnes of green waste to one of kitchen waste) by being moved every 4 days along a series of 8 bunkers, and it takes 60 days to mature. Anyone can come to the site and get compost for free (“you’ve already paid for it”), but if you’re collecting in a family car it is advised to keep the windows open!

Rob McGhee (Rural Regeneration Officer for Food) talked about how the Community Foodie initiative is helping communities grow their own food. One of the success stories is Nightingale Community Garden in Dinas Powys, which I have followed from initial planning stage to completion on this blog. One of the aims of Community Foodie is to help reconnect people with food, a big challenge when so much food is processed and too many children do not know how food is grown.

After a lively Q&A session and a break, Elen Jones (Fair Trade Wales) informed us of Fair Trade’s success in getting a fair deal for farmers of crops such as coffee and bananas. The growth in Fair Trade products has been due to consumer pressure. A number of major chocolate and coffee brands now use fair trade ingredients. Fair Trade schemes ensure better working conditions, greater environmental sustainability and a more transparent supply chain. Wales became the first Fair Trade Nation five years ago; around 50 towns and cities, 60% of its schools, and all its universities and colleges have signed up to the scheme. The next challenge is to extend Fair Trade cotton. Elen suggested a big step forward would be for all school uniforms in Wales to be made using Fair Trade cotton.

Anne Sharp (Knowledge and Strategy Manager, Energy Saving Trust) outlined some of the Trust’s behaviour-changing projects in Wales, aimed at reducing energy usage and food waste. The ‘Living Wise Cardiff’ project focussed on 1,000 residences in Rhiwbina, assessing attitudes to energy use before and after an education programme. The results suggested most people had changed their energy use behaviour as a result of the project. A key tool is the Water Energy Calculator, which anyone can use on the Energy Saving Trust’s website.

Craig Mitchell (Welsh Local Government) talked about the Welsh Government-funded Waste Awareness Wales campaign, with its Love Food Hate Waste slogan.  Fresh fruit and vegetables account for 40% by weight of food waste. Other commonly wasted foods are meat, fish, bread, rice and pasta. The campaign raised awareness about wasting perfectly good food, and the economic and environmental benefits of reducing waste.

In addition to the speakers, a number of Information stands proved popular. One stall was devoted to the Change 4 Life campaign. I have cooked all 14 meals in the campaign’s Supermeals recipe book, aiming to get people eating healthily on a low budget. They now have a newer booklet concerning packed lunches for children.

The plastic bag charge introduced by the Welsh Government was acknowledged by several speakers as a very positive step in reducing waste and environmental pollution.  Rob Curtis noted that plastic bags were now much less commonly picked up on Barry Island volunteer beach clean-up days.

Key themes that emerged were communication and education. In particular, campaigns such as those seen at this event should ensure a new generation in Wales do not have the wasteful habits of their parents. Whatever your age, however, it was clear there are many ways for everyone to become involved in changing the scandalous food waste situation.

It is hoped that World Environment Day will become an annual event for the Vale of Glamorgan Council.

Some links:

Nightingale Community Garden

Change 4 Life Supermeals Challenge

Cowbridge compost