The Wales Coast Path – the Cardiff bit

The 870 mile path along the coast of Wales has some fantastic scenery and geography to view and to navigate too. Officially titled ‘The Wales Coast Path‘ it’s the first path in the world to follow a country’s coastline in its entirety.

So from the glorious sights of Gower to the angelic Anglesey coast – the capital must surely carry on the tradition of this being one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world?

The border of Cardiff next to the Vale of Glamorgan to the West starts at the Cardiff Bay barrage. The barrage was completed in 1999 and turned the tidal River Ely and River Taff and surrounding mudflats into a brand new fresh water lake ready for new developments and sporting opportunites.

The path across the barrage is tarmac and easy to cycle and naturally takes you through the working port, a lot of the land is still owned by Associated British Ports and it’s very difficult to accidentally veer from the official route.

So far so good – the route takes you over the newly extended A4232 and onto the old ‘docks road’ which has a dedicated shared cycle and pedestrian wide pavement.

This is where the coast path gets a bit messy and signs are a bit hit and miss and its not that obvious whether you stick to the road “Rover Way’ or go off track and risk a route around one of the least loved areas of Cardiff now.

SPLOTT BEACH

So wheeling the bike through a break in the hedgeline revealed an area labelled on Google maps as ‘Splott Beach’ – it’s not obvious whether this label is a new creation or just noone ever knew about it.

During the lockdown of 2020 the residents of Cardiff were looking for new places to venture due to a ‘stay local’ or 5 mile ruling so during this period a lot of people made a bee-line for Splott Beach to discover all of it’s delights.

Splott beach is definitley the place to go if you want to socially distance and chill.

A small inlet (or is that a sewer outlet) is the centrepiece to this estuary and at low tide reveals glistening mud which has a beauty all of it’s own.

A small building takes centre stage which attracts a variety of artwork and looks quite striking among the grey drab environment. Here ‘Sick’ and ‘Pr0les’ have painted a very colourful piece with the tag lines ‘Happy day’ and ‘Kill the bill.’

Dumped bricks litter the scene but add to the overall ambience of the location. Two large containers dominate the skyline to the East where a small path leads next.

It’s uncertain if this small path is part of the official route and is permitted to cycle on.

Heading up the rough path away from Splott Beach give you close up views of the Welsh Water sewage plant that does really give you a different view of Cardiff and also the different aromas of Cardiff too that were apparent in this area too.

A selection of silos, buildings, containers and water treatment buildings squeezed into the coastal site. (not far to pump the treated results mind!)

For many years this stretch of coast was locally called ‘The Foreshore’ but online map data gives is sparse and gives no hint of this area apart from Splott Beach and the Welsh Water plant.

There were fantastic views across the Bristol Channel where Flat Holm and Steep Holm could clearly be seen in the distance with a range of pebbles, stones and bricks in the foreground. How glorious is that mud!?

Having previously visited Chernobyl and Pripryat the desolate vibes around here were very similar, large industrial buildings, slabs of concrete, mother nature at work and not a single other person around – this really was a secluded spot. (I wonder why!)

In the distance the Celsa steelworks in Tremorfa could be seen with other industrial buildings scattered around the area. Piles of rubble and other material were stacked up adding to the bleak landscape.

Ahead lied a junction – to the left a rough path to a bmx style track that looks like it has seen better years and helpfully a sign post pointing to the right ‘Coastal Path’ – right it is then!

Snaking alongside the pebbly coastline the path undulated through the windswept shrubbery with a few rabbits running for cover at the rumble of the bikes – nowhere to sit for a rest though.

Travellers Site

It doesn’t seem the most obvious place to live but a coastal location seems ideal for Cardiff’s travelling population based between Rover Way and the Bristol Channel. (yes it was named after the Rover Car company factory that used to be located close by.)

Squeezing between two intentionally placed boulders another small inlet appeared littered with lots of extra items including tyres, bricks, metal and just lots of general rubbish.

It’s uncertain who is reposnsible for this rubbish and it’s removal but it’s not a great look or that environmentally friendly.

There was a very welcoming sign on the corner of the travellers compound but there was very little sign of any activity within. There seemed to be a variety of temporary and semi-temporary homes within in varying conditions – one contained some very stylish columns along the front of it.

Some more graffiti can be seen on a concrete wall with old fridge freezers littered around the scene.

The path wasn’t very good condition along here and scattered with things that could puncture the bike tyres so a swift ride back to where the River Rhymney enters the Bristol Channel and a fantastic vista with Newport and England beyond in the distance.

The land between the travellers site and the river seemed to have tethered horses along the whole distance with people attending to them during the day. There are lots of improvements that could take place here to make this a really nice area to walk.

More rubbish including tyres littered this part of the coast with lots of vintage bricks also to be discovered – they are a history lesson all in themselves.

A small peninsula houses the Rhymney River Motor Boat and Angling Club with lots of boats moored up and the odd vintage boat on display too.

Beyond is Cardiff’s £15 million solar farm built on the former Lamby Way rubbish tip – which is the size of 20 Millennium Stadium pitches….or 42 acres.

Acting as a flood barrier the raised land following the River Rhymney acts as a rough path taking you to a bridge over the river which then points the Coast Path left into a park. You’d think the official route would take you straight up Lamby Way but this was a really nice detour.

Tredelerch Park

The left turn takes you into Tredelerch Park which in 2001 was transformed from a licensed waste tipping site into a fantastic 4 acre park complete with new lake and boardwalk. The River Rhymney to the left and the A4232 ‘docks flyover’ taking traffic from the A48M over a delightful part of the capital.

What a total transformation for the whole area and shows that bad parts of the city can really prosper and reinvent themselves. The park now houses a whole host of wildlife like kingfishers, water voles, hares, curlews and lapwings. Whereas the lake includes tench, perch, golden rudd and several varities of carp.

Most visitors to Cardiff will only ever navigate the Cardiff Bay barrage part of the Wales Coast Path in Cardiff but it was like a trip down memory lane still seeing a working part of the docks, the glistening mudflats and how a rubbish tip can be reinvented into such a fantastic park.

It’s great just seeing the mudflats back in Cardiff again.

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