The Cardiff Waterways Map project

Writer Ellie Philpotts attended the launch of the Cardiff Waterways Project, headed up by ArtShell.



Cardiff is a watery city. As well as the surrounding Bay and beachside areas such as Barry Island and Penarth, residents will be accustomed to the River Taff winding throughout, plus the fact that it rains. A lot. But did you know just how much the city is built on waterways?

Forty volunteers, headed by Johana Hartwig, founder of Art Shell, have been busy working on The Cardiff Waterways Map project. The year-long venture has researched our city’s changing waterscape – from its humble origins to industrial boom, while also thinking about the role it has today and will no doubt have in the future. Local artwork; website development; tours of the waterways by poet and Cardiff literary king Peter Finch and museum visits were all part and parcel of the scheme, which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and has just reached its conclusion.

I went along to the grand finale, where the new beta website for The Cardiff Waterways Project was also revealed.

Johana, whose organisation Art Shell is based in Grangetown, said one of the incentives for the project was the fact that ‘many of the waterways are hidden or filled in.’ The roots of the city are not always acknowledged or even known about, despite the fact that industry has developed from them. Art Shell helps to facilitate art in alternative spaces and engages in artistic research.

Held in Cardiff Story Museum in the Hayes, the day exhibited historic waterways postcards, displays and snippets of info, the focal point of which had to be the Glamorganshire Canal model, made by The Boat Studio and commissioned by Art Shell. The Boat Studio run an innovative scheme in which a functional narrow boat hosts arts residences and performances.

As well as learning about the waterways themselves, I found out a lot about Peter Finch’s role in bringing Cardiff’s past to life. His vast range of creative work centres on his native city, and spans to The Real Cardiff Trilogy, depicting how the capital has evolved over the years.

One of his publications is Cardiff as a Watery Place, a smaller compilation commissioned for the waterways project by Art Shell, with chapters on ‘lost rivers of Cardiff’, ‘The Glamorgan Canal’, and ‘The Bridge over the Canna’, among others. He’s recently begun working on the fourth addition to the series, so it seems if you want to find out more about Cardiff’s history, Peter is the trusty fountain of knowledge (see Peter Finch’s website for more details). He’s also a long time friend of We Are Cardiff – you can read his entry about Cardiff on the site here: Cardiff, city of new height).

The team’s dedication and the ultimate showcase proved to me that if there’s one thing to be said about the people of Cardiff, it’s that they have pride in their heritage and culture, as well as a genuine passion for where we live.

Want to find out more? Check out; or – or pop by the Cardiff Story Museum because it’s definitely one of the places to be to immerse yourself in some good Welsh history.

Ellie Philpotts


Thanks Ellie! See you again …

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