Cheapside, Bridgend, Wales
Bridgend is a strategically positioned town in South Wales, situated mid-way between Cardiff and Swansea, at a shallow fording point on the River Ogmore just below the confluence of three rivers flowing out of the valleys to the north of the town. Although little remains, there is evidence of ancient habitation in the area, and the Romans used the fording point here as they travelled to the port of Neath.
Originally two villages, one each side of the river, called Oldcastle and Newcastle became jointly known as Bridgend when the first stone bridge was built in the 15th century. This became the main route between west and east Wales, and the town prospered. It served the local agricultural trade and became an important market town.
The real expansion of the town came when coal was found in the valleys north of Bridgend. Bridgend itself had no coal, but with the rivers flowing through, and the Great Western Railway running through from London to Fishguard, it became a central hub for the transportation of coal.
During the 20th century the town’s fortunes fluctuated; from being a thriving market town to having a huge munitions factory during the second world war, from having a prisoner of war camp holding up to 2000 men (from which 70 men escaped but were re-caught) to having the South Wales Police Headquarters built in the town, Bridgend has reinvented itself numerous times. The closure of the coal mines impacted the town, but as the local authority had invested in the town, new employment in manufacturing moved in. Major employers such as Ford and Sony built plants, and new industrial estates sprung up.
European funding allowed the local authority to invest money in the town centre, with a new bus station, a pedestrianisation project and a new Supermarket all being built over a short period. As part of this regeneration, a new public space was created in Cheapside, close to the new supermarket. With sculptures and trees, this was intended to be a restful tranquil area in the middle of the town, and so it has become. An unusual copse of Farlakes Green Mophead [Acer platanoides Globosum] has established exceptionally well, breaking up the intense hard landscape in this urban zone. This tree is created “unnaturally”, where the canopy is top grafted onto a platinoids' stem, to give the architecturally satisfying form. These trees provide a screen from the office blocks nearby, and will continue to do so, as they were installed using the GreenBlue Urban ArborSystem, providing the necessary uncompacted aerated soil volume to sustain these trees, and enable them to achieve species potential lifespan.BrBr