A 180 year-old canal which has been hidden underground for decades has finally been uncovered in Cardiff city centre.
The Dock Feeder Canal was paved over for more than seven decades but will form the heart of a huge rejuvenation of the city centre.
Work on the redevelopment is well underway on Churchill Way, and a section of the waterway has now been exposed.
The project started in early February and will see the canal opened up and turned into a green public space with outdoor seating and an amphitheatre-style performance area. The ambitious plans will effectively turn the east of the city centre into a new district in a project similar to the renovation of Central Square.
The Dock Feeder Canal was built 180 years ago and the majority of it has been underground since being covered between 1948 and 1950. Most parts sit underneath the modern city centre and only some are still exposed.
Some 69 huge concrete beams - each weighing 7.5 tonnes - are now being removed, with 70 metres of the canal set to be uncovered by the end of next week. As part of the regeneration scheme, two footbridges will then be built across the canal.
The re-emergence of the canal is expected to create a new water habitat, and a new cycleway will be developed in Station Terrace with wider pavements and better crossings. An improved junction between Adam Street and Churchill Way will then be built.
South Wales used to be full of canals, including the Glamorganshire canal which stretched all the way to Merthyr Tydfil.
Some segments of the dock feeder are still visible near the docks in Cardiff Bay, but the 518-metre section being reopened has been hidden below ground for decades. It runs along the eastern boundary of Bute Park from Blackweir at the north end and south to the Castle.
There, it turns east, and then along the north side of the Castle. Having left Bute Park it passes under North Road and along the southern edge of Cathays Park to Park Place - where there is a culvert.
However, when the canal was created in the late 1830s it would continue onto what we now know as Churchill Way. After reaching the castle the canal disappears underground, descending around 9 feet along its course and making it only visible a handful of times from the surface as it winds beneath the city streets.
As the industrial revolution took hold, the three mile long canal was constructed in order to supply water to the docks in Cardiff Bay so that they could be operated even when the tide was out. This gave Cardiff one of the world’s first 24-hour docks and led to a rapid expansion of commerce and population in the city during the mid-19th Century.
Once rail transport arrived, the canals rapidly lost business and often were also bought up – by 1900 the Great Western Railway Company owned 13 canals. Only profitable canals that could maintain an advantage in some way survived. The first phase of culverting was in 1949, in order to create a new city centre road, Churchill Way.
Councillor Dan De'Ath, the council's cabinet member for strategic planning and transport, said: "The opening of the dock feeder canal and the new transport scheme will not only mark the beginning of a new district centre for the city and act as a catalyst for new investment, but it will play an essential role in managing traffic flow and surface water drainage in the city centre.
"A series of rain gardens will be built, with specific soil and planting to treat the surface water to remove pollutants before the water flows into the canal. This will ensure that 3,700 m2 of water will be diverted away from the sewage system each year, reducing the cost and energy of treating this water through the sewage pumping station at Cardiff Bay."
In 2018, a spokesperson for the Canal and River Trust explained the reasons for Welsh canals' closure, saying: "Most of our canals were built over 200 years ago.
"They powered the Industrial Revolution, very much the motorways of their day, enabling industrial and agricultural materials to be transported long distances around the country and between key locations. However, by the turn of the 20th century the railways, and subsequently motor transport on the roads, were a more efficient option than horse-drawn canal barges.
"As a result many canals became redundant and fell into dereliction. In some cities [like Birmingham] they remained in use, sometimes because industrial buildings had been densely built adjacent to the canals meaning the waterways remained a viable option. Once rail arrived the canals rapidly lost business and often were also bought up – by 1900 the Great Western Railway Company owned 13 canals. Only profitable canals that could maintain an advantage in some way survived."