I am Welsh and even though I live in the capital, Cardiff, a fashionable, fast-paced, cosmopolitan city, ingrained into my bones is being in outdoor spaces, surrounded by hill mountains, open spaces and a sheep or two.
If you love getting out and about and enjoying yourself, Great Outdoors Month is perfect for you. It is an excellent opportunity to explore or reacquaint with your surroundings. Plus, I am a fair weather outdoor-er, and June should be a warm, dry month. I say, should, I am in Wales after all!
Here are some of my favourite outdoor spaces in Cardiff and the surrounding areas;
Just under an hour drive from home is the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park, it is also known as Waterfall Country. Much of Waterfall Country is open access land, which means it is free to explore it on foot. You can enjoy the waterfalls, streams and the woodland scenery, spot plants, insects and birds, or discover the remains of mines, quarries, kilns and a gunpowder factory with the help of the audio guides you can download as an app. My favourite trail is Ystradfellte, you can read more here Hiking at Ystradfellte in the Brecon Beacons
Step Back In Time
St Fagans Natural History Museum is commonly referred to as St Fagans after the village where it is located, it is an open-air museum where you will find centuries of Wales’ social history gathered together in 100 acres of beautiful countryside, situated in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans Castle and gardens, a late 16th-century manor house.
You can explore over forty original buildings from different historical periods which have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland, among them houses, a farm, a school, a chapel, a pub and a splendid Workmen’s Institute and even one of the post-war tin houses that I used to walk past every day when growing up in Gabalfa. Like all museums in Wales, it is free to enter, but there is a small fee for parking.
Countryside within the City
Roath Park, opened in 1894, is Cardiff’s most popular public park and still retains its classic Victorian atmosphere and layout. Work initially focused on creating the lake from an area of marshland. In 1915 a lighthouse was constructed containing a scale model of the Terra Nova ship to commemorate Captain Scott’s ill-fated voyage to the Antarctic in 1910 (he left from Cardiff Bay).
The well-liked walk around the lake also sees the inhabitants of the park – the birds. There are hundreds of swans and many geese that do not like sharing the park with humans. I have been chased numerous times by these vicious animals! This is my unpopular opinion as it is popular for families to bring bread to feed the birds, but they are now being encouraged to bring nuts and seeds instead. There are four islands within the lake which are inaccessible to the public for safe nesting sites.
You can also visit the various gardens including a botanical garden, wild garden, pleasure garden with bowls, tennis and basketball facilities as well as a substantial recreational ground with football and rugby pitches, a children’s playground and trim trail.
Walk, Run or Cycle
The beauty of the Taff Trail is that it runs from Cardiff Bay into Brecon, over 55 miles long meaning it is easily accessible. The trail is named because it follows the River Taff and makes use of an abandoned branch of the Taff Vale Railway and the Glamorganshire Canal, meaning that there are lots of interesting points of interest along the way.
Growing up in Gabalfa, I would often head to Pontcanna Fields, Blackweir and Hailey Park with friends in the evening or on weekends to explore. I still regularly visit Forest Farm, here you can see so many reminders of the Industrial Revolution. I also love the street art on one of the electrical units, the Taff Snail. Now living in Rhydyfelin, I often run the trail which passes modern industrial units as well as many farms and even passes along the length of Glyntaff Cemetery.
Head to the Beach
Rest Bay in Porthcawl is one of my favourite beaches. It is jam-packed with surfers, throughout the year, and attracts people from as far as Reading, Birmingham, Bristol and London as on any given day you will find a ridable wave. Obviously, this is not why I go, there is a brilliant coastal walk that also offers a combination of countryside, with free-roaming cattle.
If you just want to sit and put your feet up, the beach is a great place to relax. Bring a blanket or chair or perch on one of the rock formations. It is beautiful, with golden sand and is backed by low cliffs.
Are you a local or have you visited any of these places? What is your favourite ‘go-to’ outdoor location? Please let me know in the comments.