10 Things You Should Know About Cathays

A vibrant, bustling place with plenty of hidden gems

Cathays – a vibrant area with plenty of attractions, shops, students and watering holes of all kinds. Very few know of the hidden gems and the secrets that lie beneath – here are 10 things in particular that you might find interesting!

1. Watch out for the rubbish

Littering around Cathays is a big problem

Litter in Cathays was highlighted as a key issue in the last community meeting. According to residents, students littering the area heavily contributes to the problem.

Whilst Cathays’ councillors appeal for more bins, residents are fighting back the tides of waste with litter picks, such as those organised by Keep Cathays TidyOne twitter user, @micjsmith, said, “Cathays is absolutely strewn with litter and fag ends. Come on Cardiff let’s clean up and make Cardiff proud.”

2. A war-time source of heroism and prostitution

An artist’s depiction of the heroic feats of Frederick Barter (centre)

In World War One, Frederick Barter of 60 Daniel Street near Cathays library was awarded the Victoria Cross for capturing 100 prisoners and 500 yards of enemy trenches, accompanied by eight volunteers.

In World War Two, American GIs were transferred to Maindy Barracks, pursued by prostitutes from Liverpool who commandeered the area by which Maindy Pool lies today. The footpath between Gelligaer Street and New Zealand Road soon became known as the “BURMA Road” (Be undressed and ready my angel).

3. Help for the Homeless

Cardiff council received 3,987 applications for help with homelessness in 2017-18

Homelessness is a big problem in Cardiff with large populations residing in Cathays. In May 2018, the area outside the National Museum and the Main University Building was occupied by a cluster of tents and temporary shelters for the Homeless – with a lecturer even describing it as a “refugee camp”.

Organisations such as the Salvation Army are changing the situation for the better by providing them food on Mondays and Thursdays.

4. Christmas events are plentiful

A little bit of thrill as your Christmas experience

Cardiff is already beginning to feel a lot like Christmas already. The Winter Wonderland is also something everyone looks forward to. What’s special about this year is the two new attractions launched to be a part of your Christmas experience – “Sur La Piste”, a cosy ski lodge, and The 90M Tower that gives you a full view of the city as you reach the top!

Some other Christmas events happening in town are The National Museum’s Christmas Weekend and Carol Concert between the 13th and 16th of December. Local businesses, churches and community centres are opening their doors for Yuletide celebrations.

5. A labyrinth of secret tunnels

Somewhere near the bushes of Greyfriars Road lurks a tunnel

A lesser known fact about Cardiff is how many secret tunnels and rooms the city was built over – many of which are currently popular locations in Cathays! This even served as a subject for a BBC program by Will Millard.

Under St. David’s Shopping Centre is a labyrinth where the Glamorganshire Canal once flowed, and under the leafy areas of Greyfriars Road and Bute Park is a tunnel rumoured to lead to what was once a 13th century friary!

6. Cathays loves sports

A modern architectural marvel in the world of sports

The home of Welsh rugby, Cathays has the infamous Principality Stadium at the heart of it. The stadium draws in crowds of students and non-students alike during the annual Welsh Varsity rugby matches.

As the student hub, Cathays is home to a vast number of student athletes. The Cardiff University Athletic Union supports over 67 sports clubs from aikido to trampolining. Community-run sports and events are also plentiful with organised runs in the scenic Bute park and a range of social cycling, football and rugby groups.

7. Student Behaviour

Students attending YOLO on a Wednesday night

Whether local residents like it or not, Cathays is home to the grand majority of the Cardiff student body. The key to survival? Know their routines.

Cardiff University Students Union hosts two main events during the week: Yolo on Wednesday nights where you might see outlandish costumes from sports clubs, and Juice on Saturday nights when well-made-up but messy groups stumble about the union.

8. Churches

The Protestant chapel in the Cathays Cemetery

Cathays has an extremely high concentration of churches. Different religious groups have places of worship open to the community. From Catholic and Methodist churches to synagogues and Quaker groups.

Aside from some beautiful architecture, these places offer a community space and kind hospitality to anyone regardless of faith.

9. Cycle Theft

Lock and load your cycles

Lock it or lose it! While Cardiff is a great place to cycle, bike theft has risen by 57% in the last five years, with Cathays being a particular hotspot.

Over 368 cycle thefts have been reported till August this year. Make sure to use a D-lock to secure your frame, and a chain lock for your wheels to prevent theft and a sad walk home!

10. Sherman Theatre

Enjoy a good show and a cup of coffee at the Sherman Theatre

One of the hidden gems of Cathays is the Sherman Theatre, a production house making and curating theatre for both locals and internationals since 1973.

It offers a variety of shows ranging from Christmas productions for children to their monthly Studio Comedy Club and new theatre companies are encouraged to perform in both English and Welsh. So don’t miss out on some quality theatre right here in Cathays!