I am lucky enough to have been brought up in Carmarthenshire with the countryside right on my doorstep. I have spent a lifetime hiking through the rolling hills of Wales and sometimes I feel more at home outdoors than I do under my own roof.

I moved to Cardiff when I was 19 and now well into my 40s I’ve spent more time living here than anywhere else. Every chance I get, I still head to the mountains but last month, I decided to explore the city I now call home. In light of May’s National Walking Month, join me as I share some fresh walking routes and reveal a few intriguing facts about Cardiff that may surprise you. Who knows, you might even just be inspired to take a look for yourself! 

Bute Park

Following the Taff Trail, I began in Bute Park and headed over to Blackfriars Friary. Did you know there was once a medieval Friary here? It was established in 1256 but dissolved in 1538 and by the late 1880s when the first excavations took place, it was completely gone. Around 10 years ago, a claim was made that Joseph of Arimathea, the man who took Jesus down from the cross and buried him, is laid to rest in one of the unmarked graves in the Friary. 

Stopping in the Secret Garden for a coffee, you can’t help but notice The People’s Door which celebrates Bute Park’s rich history – each panel has a story to tell. They depict things such as Roman coins, which date from the period AD 87 were found in the park showing that it was occupied long before the Friary, the hermit who lived near Cardiff Bridge in the late 1400s and the ducking stool which was erected on the orders of the keeper of the County Gaol, Thomas Williams.

Glamorganshire Canal

One of the last remnants of the Glamorganshire Canal is just outside Bute Park. Barges once passed through this subway and the old bridge was incorporated into the new design. I don’t know how many times I have walked through this subway and not looked up at the architecture, there are even old remnants of the canal in this subway with the winding mechanism and tow rope protector at the entrance. The waterways have mostly been covered up but you can still see parts of it in Coryton and the top half of Churchill Way. 

Credit: @this.girlwalks

City Centre

There is a peephole in the scaffolding at the back of the old Howells department store where the Bethany Particular Baptist Chapel is, which was once swallowed up within the store back in 1969 but is now out in the open once more.

You’ve probably walked through St John’s Gardens countless times, but did you know its nickname is ‘Dead Man’s Alley’? St John’s is an ancient medieval church and the oldest in the city, the numbers underneath your feet refer to burial vaults. The path was built right through the church graveyard so people could access the market easily.

Did you know there once stood a wall around Cardiff dating back to 11c? It has mostly been demolished but there is the last section of the wall hidden just behind the Northgate building opposite the Castle.

Trig Points

Trig points are concrete pillars, around 4 feet high and were built from 1936 onwards by surveyors at the Ordnance Survey to begin the retriangulation of Great Britain – to determine the exact shape of the country. They are generally placed at the highest points, but not always… There are three main trig points with incredible views of Cardiff – Craig Llysfaen, The Garth and Rumney Trig which stands at only 9 metres above sea level – the lowest trig point I’ve ever seen! To give you some perspective, the Garth is 307 metres.

If you’ve ever seen the film starring Hugh Grant “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain”, it is supposedly based on Garth Mountain. It was written and directed by Christopher Monger who is from Taffs Well. In the film, the hill in question is in the fictional town of Ffynnon Garw where it comes up just short of mountain status so the locals build a mound on the top to give it the extra height. When you get to the top, you will see where the inspiration comes from as there are 4 ancient burial mounds which date from the Early-Middle Bronze Age about 2,000 BC. 

Another fun fact, Taffs Well is the only place in Wales with a thermal spring. The water is approximately 21.6°C and has been visited by people for thousands of years for its healing properties. It’s apparently been reopened so I’m looking forward to finally seeing it!

Where am I exploring next? You can keep up with my adventures over on Instagram @this.girlwalks

Author WCS

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