A walk on the Taff Trail might be just what you need to take a break from the bustle of city living.
There was a moment when I realised I could no longer hear any traffic. It came without warning and for a second it was possible to forget we were still in Cardiff. There was no one around. I stood surrounded by trees, listening to the gentle roll of pebbles along the bank of the river Taff, and the drumming of a nearby woodpecker. If you ever feel the need to take a break from the city, I highly recommend a walk on the Taff Trail.
Stretching a total of 55 miles from Cardiff to Brecon, the Taff trail lends itself to both experienced and inexperienced walkers alike. Being walkers of middling experience, my girlfriend and I wanted to get a feel for the trail and take a break from the noise and rush of central Cardiff. We opted for a brisk stretch from Bute Park to Castell Coch, a fairytale-esque 19th century castle above the town Tongwynlais.
A walk through Bute park is, in itself, a wonderful way to spend a day. Easily accessible from town but well sheltered from the traffic heavy roads, the park strikes a refreshing balance between city living and the true outdoors. Sticking to the river’s edge we soon found ourselves being drawn into a wilder, more natural side of the park, moving steadily away from the comfort of the secret garden cafe and the rows of carefully selected garden flowers.
Moving on through Pontcanna fields and Haley Park things get a little less wild but no less interesting. It’s a great stretch for bird watching and photography if you’re that way inclined, with the waterfowl that inhabit the riverside ranging from mallard ducks to cormorants. A birdwatcher with wispy white hair stopped for a moment to tell us about the recent unusual visitors to Cardiff, brought here by the snow. We spent a few minutes chatting about the Fieldfares and Redwings that he had seen dotted along the Trail, before going our separate ways.
About half way to Castell Coch you’ll come across Forest Farm country park and the Long wood nature reserve. This is where you know you’re leaving the city behind. A lot of conservation work goes on here, maintaining the natural beauty of Cardiff and its outskirts. Here the wooded areas are denser, older and more alive with the sounds of wildlife.
When you finally get to Tongwynlais you’ll see the walls of Castell Coch peeking through the trees from its perch on the hill like something straight out of a fantasy novel. The town is quiet and subdued. The occasional whirr of a cyclists wheels was the only sign of anything remotely resembling traffic.
When we got to the castle we stood at the edge of the hill, in the shadow of its stoic grey walls and looked out across the Rhondda valley in the distance. If you’re the adventurous type, you could press on and attempt the whole route. If you do make it all the way to Brecon, you’ll be rewarded with some truly stunning scenery, but the peaceful quiet of the hilltop woodland, with the reassuring presence of the watchful towers at your back, it’s possible to lose yourself for a moment, and just enjoy being back in nature.