Cardiff Boundary Walk

One of the rules in Wales at one stage during lockdown was you weren’t allowed to travel outside your county without a good reason such as for the purposes of work. People in Cardiff suddenly realised that not only did they live in the City of Cardiff but they also lived in the County of Cardiff. My new project therefore became an attempt to walk around the Country of Cardiff in stages and stare out into the forbidden lands of neighbouring counties. My first walk was on 11 Oct 2020 and I finished on 11 Apr 2021. I saw lots of places I hadn’t seen before and revisited many I had.

Walk 1 – Rumney and the Reens

Walk 1 was just a small variation on one of our regular and favourite walks, a walk along the foreshore to the Cardiff country boundary. 

Parking at (1) Lamby Way and walking down Rhosog Fach Reen. I never knew what this was called till just recently even though I have been walking down it for years. A reen in these parts is the term for a drainage ditch and most are much smaller than this one.  You are now on the Wales Coastal Path.  Families of swans and the occasional lone heron frequent the water.

Near the mouth of the reen (2) is a trig point.  These were constructed and used by the Ordnance Survey to accurately map the country in the mid 1900s.  A theodolite would be mounted into the top of the trig point and angles very accurately taken to at least two other trig points.  The measurements from this trig point were probably made across the Bristol Channel to other trig points on the Somerset coast. This trig point has deteriorated over the years and brass fittings are missing. Luckily the trig point network has become largely redundant and replaced by accurate GPS measurements.  Apparently some people still busy themselves by trying to visit the old trig points, over 6000 of them 😉.

A special lockdown favourite of ours was to visit the largely undiscovered beach (3).  If the dog is lucky and the tide is at just the right point he can chase the waves, but when the tide is out it exposes a lot of dangerous soft mud. Lots of old bricks are washed up on the beach which must have an interesting story behind them.  They may well be from the rows of terraced houses in East Moors, Cardiff, demolished and the rubble used to reclaim land near Splott beach.

Walking back to the trig point you pass the giant compost heaps were Cardiff garden waste is composted and turned into a useful product.   Back and beyond the trig point you get to Rumney Great Wharf (4). It may just look and feel like a mundane seawall but there is an enormous amount of history and nature around here.  It is believed that the Romans were the first to build sea defences and drainage reens here, slightly inland from the current sea wall. 

After a couple of kilometres you get to the county boundary (5).  It’s not marked in any way, nor were there any guards present. Take a peek just beyond this point and you will see the narrow fields that typify the ‘Levels’ begin to appear.  The Bristol Channel has the second largest tidal range in the world.  Fishermen would exploit this to catch salmon and eels by using putchers – hazel or willow funnel-shaped baskets.  I think the network of posts that can be seen at low tide would have been used to tether the putchers to.

I took the very unused footpath from the sea wall up to the road (6), alongside the reen that probably marks the county boundary.    The lack of parking places along the road probably explains why the footpath is not used by people to gain access to the seawall.

So it is now just a case of reversing your tracks, back to the seawall.  Keep your eye out for the rich birdlife that populates the mudflats.  Also the cattle that graze the salt marsh.  I’ve heard their meat had a unique taste attributable to the  salt marsh.

Walk 2 – Peterstone Wentlooge to St Mellons

An interesting and enjoyable exploration but never one that was going to score highly in terms of scenic photography.

The county boundary weaves its way over the Wentlooge Levels from where I left it last time across inaccessible fields.  I picked it up again on a quiet country lane (1).  From here I could see Peterstone Wentlooge in the distance down by the foreshore.  The village was one of those badly affected by the tsunami of 1605 that flooded low lying areas all along the Severn Estuary. For many years it was thought to have been caused by bad weather but more recently the theory of a tsunami was proposed and backed up by scientific theory.

Walking inland up the lane I came to a new replacement bridge over the railway lines (2).  The old bridges were too low for the overhead electric lines to be installed so in the past few years many bridges have been rebuilt.  The electrification of the line from London to Cardiff is now complete.

It wasn’t long till the county border disappeared again across private land (3) leaving me to wander through an industrial/office area, that was very peaceful on a Sunday.  The economy of the area may change in future years if plans to open a new station near here go ahead.

My next encounter with the county boarder is on the driveway up to St Mellons Golf Club (4).  The club’s fairways straddle the county border so I presume golfers from both Cardiff and Newport are allowed to play.

I was hoping to take the footpath marked on the map over the golf course but it didn’t seem exist on the ground. I could have walked across but fearing an altercation with a Newport C+ve golfer I thought better of it and made my way around. 

Vaendre Close (5) was a lovely walk and included a boarded up gatehouse which would make a smashing cottage.

I emerged onto the busy A48 (6) and again waved goodbye to the county border as it headed across a field. 

I spotted a footpath marked on the map that seemed to hug the embankment of the A48(M) and wondered if it existed on the ground.  It did, though by the looks of it is rarely walked. It led through a smashing copse, again something I wouldn’t ever have found otherwise.  I ended up (7) where the county border crosses the A48(M) and will pick it up again next time.

Walk 3 – St Mellons to Cefn Mably

A somewhat frightening experience near the start of the walk and one of my favourite spots to finish off.

I parked the car in Old St Mellons (a) and walked NE up the minor road to (2).  There was no sign of the footpath I had hoped to find that would take me down towards the motorway (1).  Instead I was faced with a field of 10ft high maize. The farmer was busy working the adjacent field so whilst his back was turned I headed through the maize field. 

It wasn’t long before I’d reached the copse I was heading to pick up the Cardiff boundary again. There were footpath signs here and even some stiles but whether any walkers ever came this way I very much doubt. The ground was boggy.  At one stage I got stuck; one of those situations where you don’t know which leg to push off from for whichever one you choose you just seem to sink deeper and the other one doesn’t move.  

With that adventure over I headed back up to the road to (2).  Imagine my surprise when I got to the maize field to find a tractor and combine harvester at work and the maize I had walked through completely gone.  I could easily have ended up as those red bits in a can of sweetcorn.  A scary thought.

With an open field in front of me I headed over to the copse at (3).  This is one of the great discoveries of this exploration, the rarely visited copses that lie around the place.  This one had a well marked footpath from the road (4) and even some parking spots under the motorway bridge.  I made a mental note to return this way one day.

I walked north (4-5) up the minor road and reached Rhymney Valley Nurseries and their greenhouses.  From here you get a good view across the valley to Cefn Mably, but in order to get there I had to return to where I had parked the car (a) and then down the lane to the trailhead at (b). 

Walking up the River Rhymney from here (b to 6) is a regular walk for us having discovered it in the first lockdown. The treat is after you pass under the M4 and the path opens up into the countryside and the Cefn Mably estate.  The old trees in the sheep grazing fields are smashing. 

I went down to the river banks (6).  There is almost a tripoint here – the meeting of three boundaries, but not quite.  I was to say goodbye here to the county of Newport and pick up the Cardiff-Caerphilly border for my next walk.

Walk 4 – Cefn Mably Woods

Cefn Mably Woods – a great place but a devil to get close to.  If I want a long walk I start from home. If I want a medium walk I park in Old St Mellons as described previously and walk up the River Rhymney and through the Cefn Mably estate.  If I want a short walk then I take my life in my hands and drive up Cefn-porth Road and park at (a) or (b), but the road is horrible – narrow, windy and used by some drivers who don’t seem to have a reverse gear.

I picked up the Cardiff County boundary again at (1), on the avenue up to the Cefn Mably estate.  Nice views back down the hill to the east and up towards the woods where I was heading.

Once in Cefn Mably woods you rarely meet anyone, probably because they are so inaccessible.  I wrote to NRW once to ask why the barriers are never open so that cars can park off the road.  I was told that they sub-let the management of the wood to a horse riding group.  And that I think explains why they are never open!  Never mind, it does have the benefit that once you are here you are alone! 

I walked the path that skirts the southern boundary of the woods and occasionally offers good views across the fields (2). There is a good series of puzzle geocaches nearby for anyone interested ;).

As the path drops height it emerges onto the forest track in just about the same place as the county boundary – now there’s convenient (3).  Close by is a lovely conifer copse.

 

Walk 5 – Cefn Mably Woods to Rhymney Valley Ridgeway

An interesting section of the walk and again some fairly unused footpaths.  Some sections of country lane walking so maybe not one to recommend to those with small children or dogs.

I started near Cefn Mably woods, near the Cardiff boundary then a mix of fields and lanes.  There is an enormous new house near 3 where the footpath takes you across their front lawn.  After that it is onto another lane that takes you up towards the ridgeway.   The footpath 5-6 is a good chance to exercise the lungs. 

The ridgeway 6-7 is a fantastic path with gnarled old trees overhanging the path and views down over the Diff.  Plus you are rewarded with a trig point at the end!

Walk 6 – Cefn Onn Ridgeway

A relatively short there-and-back walk with a bit of ascent to exercise the lungs.

The Cefn Onn car park and paths have become popular in lockdown so I tend to prefer to park east of the railway line, near the entrance to the tennis club (1). Walking up towards the club, under the motorway, the path turns right and up through the woods. After gaining some height (2), I headed east to (3) along good paths before the climb up to (4). I’ve walked this lane a few times recently – it’s quiet but I’m still nervous of traffic.  It was only on the way down this time did I discover a path runs parallel to the lane for much of it. The path along the ridge (4 to 5) is one of my favourite local walks with great views down over the city and overhanging trees. Plus there’s even a trig point to bag – go on, you know you want to.

Walk 7 – Cefn Onn and Castell Morgraig

A good excuse to vary our normal walk around Cefn-Onn. 

Parked at 1 as described previously and up the steady incline (to 2) following the railway line to Caerphilly, passing the tall brick air shaft for the railway tunnel below. We then found a muddy path that headed west following the county border across a couple of fields (2-3). Here we joined a good track that forms part of the Cambrian Way, the long-distance footpath that goes the length of Wales. The path pops out on the Caerphilly road near the Traveller’s Rest pub (4) and the ruins of Cardiff’s second and much less well-known castle, Morgraig Castle, built around 1250. 

There was then a short section of road to walk (4->5) before discovering a footpath I don’t think I have walked previously across some lovely fields below the ridgeway (5->6) and then back to the main footpath (2).  A smashing circular walk discovery.

Walk 8 – Wenallt

Today was another variation of one of our favourite walks, this time around the hilly woods of the Wenallt. 

The walk began on the opposite side of the A469 to the Traveller’s Rest. It was good to explore the rolling meadows north of Wenallt Woods (1->2) which again I’d never walked previously.  The footpath ran parallel to the county boundary before entering the woods (2) and then climbing up towards the road. It then cuts through another wood to the Forest Fawr car park (3). 

Wenallt

It was then a case of cutting back to (2) and down though the familiar dog-walking territory of Wenallt Woods to where we normally park (4). 

Walk 9 – Forest Fawr

I needed two attempts at this one as it rained heavily the first time – OK for dog walking but not for taking photographs. 

There’s good car parking facilities here (1) and the road up from Tongwynlais is OK, a bit narrow in places. The main path (1->2) and parallel options, is festooned with entertaining wooden sculptures.

There’s some old mine working and the notice boards seem to be in disagreement over whether they were iron ore or limestone mine workings or maybe even both.  

I left the main path near (2) and found a minor path that approximately followed the Cardiff county boundary down through the woods and ended up on the Taff Trail (3).  It was then a case of cutting back south and making a bit of a detour to visit Castell Coch (4). It’s not really a castle at all, more a folly, built for the Marquess of Bute and designed by William Burges.  It was however built on the site of an old Norman castle.  I always wonder how much of the Norman castle remained when the Bute builders arrived on the site in the late 1870s.

Forest Fawr

A steep climb then up through the woods and it is back to the main path that led me back to (1)

Walk 10 – Garth Hill

I parked up in amongst housing (1) and walked up the path that hugs the River Taff and the Cardiff County boundary.  At the point where the footbridge from Taff’s Well appears (2) there is a steep path up through the woods and into Gwaelod y Garth (3) home of a great pub with fine ales that serves cheese on chips for the hungry, but not for me today.  Taking the narrow steep road up past the side of the pub takes you to a hairpin bend where a path leads off into the woods.  After about half a mile of flat walking there is a feint path (4) that climbs steeply all the way up to the Garth, exiting the woods onto open moorland with just a few hundred yards of steep ascent left before reaching the plateau.  From here you get good views into the forbidden county of Caerphilly (Lockdown 1 jargon). The summit itself along with the trig point is on a small tumuli (5). You can sit there and think about Hugh Grant in the film ‘The Englishman who Went up a Hill but Came down a Mountain’ which was based on a story about this hill – though it wasn’t filmed here.  After admiring the views over the Diff it was time to come down and find a way from the road (6) across the fields and into the woods (7).  This was a lovely section and contrasted well with the scenery on top of the Garth. Navigation towards the end is a bit tricky but eventually I exited at (8) and back to the car. 

Garth Hill

A smashing circular walk I’d only done in sections previously.

Walk 11 – Pentyrch & Creigiau loop

Today was a nice mix of lane, woodland and field walking. I parked up in Pentrych village before heading north to where link up with where I had finished my previous walk (1). From there I headed north further along the lane through Soar to (2). From there it was a case of walking west across rolling fields and seemingly seldom walked tracks to the wood (3). Ty’n-y-Coed is more popular with a car park at (4) and a nice walk. Along another quiet lane and on to Ceasar’s restaurant and farm shop. From there it was across soggy varied fields till I hit the lane at (5), close to the site of one of my nemesis geocaches (three visits and no find). Heading south now along the county border itself and another quiet lane till I got to (7) then east before popping out in Creigiau village, which necessitated waving through some back streets and then into the fields again at (8).  Finally, a stretch of walking across varied fields brought me back to Pentyrch. 

A nice varied walk though maybe not one for pooches given the lane walking.

Walk 12 – Gros-faen and Capel Llanilltern

This was my first post-lockdown 2 walk and it was such a relief to be allowed out of my immediate area. It didn’t matter that most of it was along roads. The day started and finished with visits to a couple of attractive chapels.

Starting in Gros-faen I visited St David’s church cemetery (1) and found the grave of William Bradley.  My lockdown project had been visiting a different street in my area each day and researching the history.  There is a group of streets off Broadway in Cardiff named after members of the Bradley family, including Bradley Street – some of which are buried here.

After that I headed south along the lane will I reached the M4 bridge (2).  The county boundary heads east from here along the path of the M4 and is impossible to follow without being arrested.  I therefore backtracked north, and looked for the footpath heading NE (3).  Unfortunately it didn’t exist on the ground and I only got half way before being hit by a fenced off dense wood.

St David’s at Gros-faen and Capel Llanilltern

I retreated and took to the A4119 which had a pavement and wasn’t busy.  The walk ended at the tiny attractive Capel Llanilltern (4).

Walk 13 – Capel Llanilltern to St Fagans

This was almost a ‘there and back’ walk but I did manage a bit of a diversion on the return leg to take in St-y-Nyll derelict windmill near St Brides-super-Ely.

I picked up where I had stopped last time at Capel Llanilltern (1) though in reality it was a bit further back than that as there are no parking opportunities at Capel Llanilltern.  Walking in the sunken lane south for about half a mile, under the M4 and I then took the footpath (2) that ran parallel to the A4232, and east of Tregurnog Farm.  This isn’t a route to recommend to people as the footpaths are indistinct and the route finding tricky even with a GPS and map to help plus a bit of livestock around too.  I was relieved to find my way under the old railway  and onto St Bride’s Road (3).

I went west along the road then picked up another footpath going south to St Fagans (4). This section was much more walker-friendly.  My favourite spot of the day was a fallen tree just on the NW tip of the St Fagans museum boundary wall.  A great place to stop for lunch.

After lunch I walked along the boundary of St Fagans Museum and into the village.  Unfortunately the museum is still closed because of covid so it was all quiet here today.

I backtracked back up to the St Bride’s Road and then west under main road before picking up a footpath up to the St-y-Nyll windmill.  St-y-Nyll windmill was built around 1800 for milling corn and is now Grade II Listed.  I can’t imagine the ivy growing around it is doing the structure much good.  

After that it was back along the lanes to Capel Llanilltern

Walk 14 – St Fagans to Culverhouse Cross

A short circular walk starting at St Fagans where it was all quiet today as the museum is still closed.  Parking however always remains a challenge here but as it was so quiet there was room in the tiny  layby on the Cardiff Road just before the village. 

There was a bonus for me at the start of the walk.  I spotted a Flush Bracket on the wall of the old school (1).  It’s a metal ordnance survey plate similar to those found on a trig point.  This one is half buried in the gravel but still there.  I even took a photo.

The only photograph I took all day for some reason. The flush bracket on St Fagans old school.

After walking over the level crossing the next short stretch is dangerous on a busy road before turning off down Personby Lane which is completely the opposite.  At the end of the lane is the an old church now converted into a private residence (2).  From here I picked up a footpath, not well-trodden but perfectly passable and hilly in places.  You end up at a ramshackle private residence/smallholding with a footbridge over the stream. The path took me down to Drope Road (3).

I crossed Drope Road and into a managed area of woodland with footpath.  The last part of the Cardiff Boundary I followed closely was along roads down to Cowbridge Road West to Culverhouse Cross (4).  From there I walked up Cowbridge Road West for a while by the Western Cemetery and scouted out a place to begin my next walk before heading back up to St Fagans (5).

Walk 15 – Culverhouse Cross to Trelai Park

A few bits of history in amongst some urban sprawl sums up today.  The Cardiff County boundary follow the A4232 for this section.  As walking that busy dual carriageway is discouraged I had to find the best way I could through the suburbs.

I began around Culverhouse Cross and managed to find my way onto Caerau Lane. From there I had hoped to cut east through the park, down though the little steep woodland and out by Caerau Hill Fort.  It wasn’t to be.  After dropping down through the woods there didn’t seem to be an exit so it was a climb all the way back up for me and around.  Eventually I got around and onto the path that led me to today’s gem – Caerau Hill fort.

Various excavations have taken place up here and the conclusion being it’s well old.  There’s no real sign left of the hill fort any longer but a church was built on top, St Mary’s.  Various attempts to restore the original church have taken place over the years such as 1885 and 1920s and even 1961 but its position is very vulnerable and once again it has been left to go to ruin.  A few uprights remain but it’s a shadow of what was here even as recent as the 1970s.

After coming down off the hill it was a stretch of pavement plodding before getting to Trelai Park.  This was the site of a Roman Villa in the first half of the 2nd century.  It was excavated and mapped in 1922 which must have caused quite a bit of disruption to Ely Racecourse which occupied the site at the time.  The last race to be held there, in 1939, was won by Grasshopper, ridden by Keith Piggott, father of the famous jockey Lester Piggott. there’s no sign of the Roman villa nor racecourse now – you just have to use your imagination when looking at the football pitches that now cover the site.

St Mary’s church ruins at Caerau Hill Fort and where the Roman Villa used to be at Trelai Park

I called it a day there and headed back up Cowbridge Road West to where I had left the car.  Buses were still for essential workers only.

Walk 16 – Trelai Park to Penarth Road

A lot of this walk was along the bank of the River Ely, one of the three major rivers that flows into the sea at Cardiff, the others being the River Rhymney (where this project started) and the River Taff.

I walked through Trelai Park and had another look at the site of the former Roman Villa (1).  I thought I would have to double back on myself then and go all the way back up to the main road to get over the river but I admit I discovered it was possible to get up onto the dual carriageway and scurry along a hundred yards and then back down another embankment which saved me a long diversion.  I wouldn’t have done it if I’d have had the dog with me, today but I didn’t.

The Cardiff County boundary now goes along the River Ely rather than the dual carriageway so by keeping to the Ely Trail cycleway/pathway I was once again technically within Cardiff.  I’ve walked this section of the trail a few times.  It’s always pretty quiet, just the occasional runner or cyclist.  You just have to be careful crossing the road at the Leckwith Bridge which incidentally was opened by Lord Hore-Belisha, yes, of Bolisha beacon fame (2).  I only know that because I read the plaque!  You would have thought they would have put a Bolisha Crossing here to help pedestrians!  The old bridge below looks very old with passing places on it.

The end of the boundary walk today was at Penarth Road.  I went onto the bridge and photographed the river with the virtual boundary running up it. Over the road is the old pumping station now and antiques emporium, a lovely building. It would be nice to think it was used for pumping water but actually it was a sewage pumping station (3). 

To get back to Trelai Park I walked back up the Ely Trail as tar as Leckwith then over the bridge and picked up the path through Leckwith Woods which was new to me – and lovely

Walk 17 – Penarth Road to Cardiff Bay Marina

A short and pleasant enough stroll with more and more boats appearing all the time.

A quiet weekend meant I could park off Penarth Road then take the tack down towards Grangemoor Park.  When we come here with the dog we usually climb up to the top and admire the view and take in the sea air but today I hugged the boundary by keeping to the river path.  The middle bit through the park is quite pleasant but then I had to take to the pavements again through the business park.

Cardiff Bay Marina

I ended up near the Cardiff International White Water but even that was closed today.  This is about as far as I could get following the Cardiff Boundary as from here it crosses Cardiff Bay and goes into the sea.  Next time I will cross to the boundary as restrictions have now eased and finish my walk by going to the very last place the boundary crosses land.  Instead today I turned tail and headed back up to the far less attractive Penarth Road.

Walk 18 – Cardiff Bay

Strictly speaking this walk, one of our regulars, is over the border in the Vale of Glamorgan.  I wanted however to enjoy the feeling of striding across the actual border which crosses into the sea at Cardiff Barrage. 

When we go we tend to park in the free car park at the western end of Marconi Avenue and walk down the Bay from there, admiring the boats and views.  And that’s exactly what I did today.

The Barrage looked great today in the sunshine.

End of the walk – walking over the Cardiff County Boundary in Cardiff Bay

Our dog gets his treat at the end when we take him down onto the nearby beach for a paddle.  

I told him we’d finished the walk but he just wanted to keep on going.

And so there we have it.  The border of Cardiff circumnavigated in 18 separate walks.  I suppose I could have done the back up the coastline as well but I’ve walked that a few times in the past so will leave it for another day.

Each walk was very different as you would expect.  My favourite? Probably the one up Garth Hill.

Local author and poet Peter Finch happened to tackle the same project over lockdown but he walked in the opposite direction. His book is entitled Edging the City. His writing skills are vastly superior to mine, as a his photographs. I look forward to having a read.