Photographs Showing Barry Island’s Transformation

Is Barry Island Returning to the Glory Days?

When we get the opportunity, Jackie and I walk as much as we can.  There are so many fantastic places to see in South Wales and the regeneration of Barry Island is one of them.Barry Island-5

I have been going to Barry Island since I was a child and can still remember the excitement when Mum and Dad said we were going.  There was sand and a huge funfair!  What more does a child want?

However, Barry Island fell on hard times as people deserted the British seaside towns for cheap holidays abroad.   Maybe also for the guarantee of at least a few days of sunshine.  This once iconic holiday destination that attracted literally thousands of holiday makers each year, was in deep decline.  And then something marvelous happened in the form of a BBC TV show called ‘Gavin & Stacey‘.Barry Island-9

This brilliant comedy series, written by Ruth Jones and James Corden, introduced Barry Island to a whole new audience.  Nearly overnight, people were starting to drive down to Barry Island to see if it really was as depicted on the TV show.  At that was the beginning of the regeneration of a wonderful seaside destination.

Over the past few years, there have been huge amounts of investment into the sea front, a great deal of it provided from local and the Welsh Government.  Barry Island is an example of how to transform an area and now thousands of people flock there all year round.

There are excellent walks right along the coast from around Whitmore Bay to Jackson’s Bay.  The Barry Island promenade is now littered with an array of coffee houses (like the fab Bay 5), chip shops and places to buy your buckets and spades.  Even the funfair has been rejuvenated and is in the midst of a major overhaul.  It is alive with activities being organised along the front and on the beach, which is also constantly cleaned.  This is a million miles away from the Barry Island I knew and loved, but so much better.Barry Island Pleasure Park

Although my day job is photography, it is also my hobby and I just love photographing all the colour and magic that now fills Barry Island.  A selection of photographs of the new Barry Island can be seen on my website and I intend to keep adding to them until there is nothing left to photograph!

Paul Fears is a Commercial and Industrial Photographer based in South Wales.  For further information on his work or to request further information, please visit Paul’s website.

Castell Coch Photographed through the Eye of a Fish

The Castell Coch (Red Castle) is, undoubtedly, one of the most photographed castles in South Wales.  The fairy-tale dream of William Burges and the 3rd marquess of Bute, John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, is perched on the hillside just behind Tongwynlais looking down the River Taff towards Cardiff.  It is as beautiful as it is strange and has many features that are similar to those seen in Cardiff Castle, another project worked on by Burgess and the 3rd marquess of Bute.  The architecture is quite stunning and evolved as the project unfolded.  There was a focus on maintaining historical accuracy, although this is disputed by many experts who simply say that this was borne from the minds of two dreamers who were in love with medieval times.  Castell Coch is managed by Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service working for an accessible and well-protected historic environment for Wales.Castell Coch-10

I have photographed the Castell Coch castle many times, but on this occasion I wanted to try something different.  It was November and the weather was pretty miserable, which isn’t unusual for Wales, and so my wife, Jackie, and I were going to spend most of our time inside.  Despite its appearance, Castell Coch is not that big and the rooms and spaces inside can be quite compact.  With that in mind, I decided to only shoot with my 8-15mm Canon wide-angle fish-eye lens to see what I could capture.

The lens made me consider compositions in a very different way, looking for framing and also to capture the glorious splendor of some of the rooms.  In fact, I think the fish-eye effect adds something to the image, filling the frame with colour and texture rather than focusing on one small feature.

Castell Coch Bedroom

 

I even managed to get a photograph with a little splash of blue sky as we were walking in between rooms.  The photograph uses the walkway on the 1st floor as a frame, whilst focusing on one of the pointed roof of one of the towers.  Down below, the circular courtyard can be seen in all it’s glory.

A selection of photographs taken at Castell Coch, both with and without the fish-eye, can be seen in the ‘Castles‘ section on my website.

Many of the castle photographs shown in the collection are framed or put on canvas for supply to customers all over the world and are only available through Paul Fears Photography.  For further details or to enquire about purchased a castle photograph mounted in a frame or on a canvas, please contact Paul by email on paul@paulfearsphoto.co.uk or send an enquiry via the website.

Castles In Wales – Chepstow Castle

Chepstow Castle

Chepstow Castle is one of my favourite castles, positioned on top of cliffs overlooking the River Wye in Monmouthshire, South Wales.  Being located on the edge of the river, means that the castle has a very unusual shape, being more long and thin than castles located in basins such as Caerphilly.  The castle dates back to 1067,  when William the Conqueror understood the strategic importance of Chepstow with road links to Monmouth and Hereford, and was expanded and modified through to at least 1300.  The castle was still being used in a military capacity in the English Civil War (1642-1651) and maintained as an artillery fort and barracks until 1685.  Since 1984, the castle has been in the care of Cadw.  It has also been used in a number of major films and television series including the Doctor Who 50th anniversary broadcast.

When you enter Chepstow Castle you end up walking uphill as the castle is built on a slope along the cliff top.  The views from the castle across the River Wye are stunning and we watched as dark clouds gathered in the sky and rushed towards us.  Inside, the castle boasts the oldest castle doors in Europe (approximately 800 years old), which are quite amazing.

I was looking to try to photograph the textures, colours and shapes of the castle like inside the Great Hall where they are still the remnants of ornate arches.  We were able to walk along some of the ramparts, looking across in the nearby Chepstow town.  Marten’s Tower is particularly impressive, but for me looking out over the walls next to the River Wye was the highlight.  Building Chepstow Castle on the cliffs was a fantastic feat of engineering and the buildings twist and turn along the cliff top.

Just before leaving Chepstow, cross the river and gaze at the castle from across the other side of the water.  For any enemy, this must have been a very imposing and frightening sight.

Photographs of Chepstow Castle can be seen on my website.  Also, photographs of castles are available as downloaded images or framed photographs.  For further details please contact me on paul@paulfearsphoto.co.uk.

 

 

Castles In Wales – Margam Castle

Castle, Margam

In Margam Country Park, near Port Talbot in South Wales, is a 19th century Tudor gothic mansion that many people would not even class as a castle.  Margam Castle was built 1830 and 1840 by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot (1803-1890) in a style that would compliment Margam’s illustrious history and his own family’s lineage.  The original mansion house had been demolished in 1787 and replaced by the Orangery, that still remains in the gardens today.  Margam Castle was passed through inheritance to several owners unto it was requisitioned by the Government in 1939.  In 1941, the trustees of the Margam estate then decided to sell the greater part of the property ultimately leaving an empty mansion and even though the estate was sold to Sir David Evans-Bevan in 1942, he never lived there and it fell into decline.  Glamorgan County Council acquired the state in 1973 and, despite a terrible fire in 1977 that gutted the interior, restoration of the mansion continues today.

Architecturally it is quite splendid and the imposing structure dominants the surrounding park areas.  The octagonal tower is particularly striking and sits in the centre of the mansion.  When my children were young we would come into Margam Park and spend hours in the grounds, taking advantage of the wide open grassy areas for a picnic and to play rugby.  I can remember sitting and looking across the expanse of grass at the dominant and imposing building silhouetted by the trees of the wooded hillside behind.

During our latest visit, we took the opportunity to walk to the magnificent Orangery, before following a path up a series of ornate steps up to the mansion.  Despite the clouds overhead, the beautiful trees and flowers lit up the gardens and I can only imagine the splendour when the mansion was in its prime.  From the grounds you can look towards the coast and see steam plumbing up into the sky from the vast Port Talbot steel works and it always makes me appreciate the industrial heritage of South Wales.

If you haven’t been to Margam Park before, I recommend that you visit.  It is a great place to go with young families with expansive grounds to play in or if you have an interest in history and architecture.

The photographs are all shot with a Canon 5D, all handheld with a little adjustment in Photoshop where needed to enhance certain features. More photographs can be seen on my website.