WALK 8: TONGWYNLAIS - FFOREST FAWR - WENALLT

A fairly easy half-day walk through varied countryside with good viewpoints, some geological interest (you will see odd bits of conglomerate from the Old Red Sandstone in the Wenallt area, whilst the Fforest Fawr area, above Castell Coch is Carboniferous Limestone; you are on the edge of the coal measures), some historical interest, (Castell Coch was built by William Burges for the Marquis of Bute, and there is also the motte (tumulus) in the "Tump Field"), and some reason for civic pride. The Wenallt was acquired for public pleasure and recreation through the efforts of the late Alderman Hill-Snook, who was Lord Mayor of Cardiff in 1930-31. At that time it was way outside the boundaries of the Cardiff County Borough Council. Generations of dog walkers and courting couples have had cause to think kindly of the City Fathers of old: present day councillors and candidates, please note!

Getting there from Cardiff:
by train: travel from Queen Street station, getting off at Rhiwbina Halt. Walk up through the village, Heol-y-Deri, to Rhiwbina Hill.
by bus: from Central Bus station either the No. 21 or No. 23 (via Whitchurch), getting off at "The Deri" pub and walking 140 metres to the lay-by on the left.
by car: go up North Road passing the Maindy Sports Centre to the Gabalfa flyover. Go over and bear right onto the Caerphilly Road. Go as far as the traffic lights at the "Birchgrove" (pub) where turn left and then immediately right into Pantbach Road. Carry on past Caesar Jones and the Monico Cinema to Rhiwbina village. Ahead, past the Mormon Temple to the Deri. Please do not use the pub car park but go on 140 metres to the lay-by on the left of Rhiwbina Hill.


From the lay-by cross to the opposite pavement and walk uphill, past Pantmawr Road and just over the motorway bridge. Cross to the waymarked footpath on the left hand side and go up the steps and path to the stile on the right at the end. Turn left and follow the motorway fence, around a small thicket to a stile and continue, (using the raised boards if wet), to the next stile. When you come to a stream, turn right uphill to the crossing point and on to gate in the top corner of the field. Climb it and continue diagonally right, past the electricity pylon, to the gate leading into Greenmeadow Wood, behind the Friendly Hotel. Go through and along the path above the housing estate to a clearing. Go left into Greenmeadow Drive. Turn right and, just around the corner, take the path between numbers 7 and 9 and turn right and then left along a rather squalid path to emerge in Castell Coch View. Turn right and follow the road (past the Band Room), to Castle Road. Turn right, uphill, to the gates of Castell Coch.

Castell Coch: The first castle on this site was built in the 13C. Built in the same period as Caerphilly Castle, it commanded the stretch of the Taff that cuts between Little Garth and Fforest Fawr. By the 16C it was a ruin which in the late 19C caught the eye of the architect William Burges and his patron the third Marquis of Bute. Burges designed the enchanting fairy tale castle that you see today. The outside is simple, with three round towers and a courtyard. The interior decoration is fantastic, a riot of animal and plant life and scenes from literature, rather over the top in its romantic, gothic magnificence. The Third Marquis grew grapes on the slopes in front of the Castle until the sugar shortage in the 1914-18 war forced him to abandon his wine making experiments.

Just inside the gates take the path uphill on the right, signposted 'Countryside Centre'. At the fence do not go right, to the Countryside Centre, but continue left, uphill. At the next cross path continue ahead and at the blue marked post do not turn right but keep ahead uphill (north and then north-west), past the cave entrance where the path swings south-west to join the main forestry road and where you turn right and continue to the car park.

Go down to the road and turn right and then, almost immediately, left onto the horse track. Follow to a path on the left leading to a stile and horse gate onto the road. Go right for 22 metres and then left on the bridleway. After 10 metres cross the waymarked stile on the right and go down, quite steeply, to a track above the stream. Turn right and go over the stile ahead, ignore the ford on the left, and continue parallel with the stream, over more stiles, to a metal gate on the left which gives access to a shallow ford. Cross into the field and go ahead to the top of the field to climb an easy rail fence into the woodland. You are now on the horse path. Take the footpath half-left uphill, marked "no horses". Cross a main path and continue to go up, crossing nother path and bearing left, to emerge at the corner of a large open picnic area. Head south-east for the highest point and then bear left through some conifers and follow the path downhill, parallel with the road, to the entrance to the Wenallt. Note the Hill-Snook memorial and pay your respects.

Go ahead on the horse route, alongside the covered reservoir, to a stile on the left, leading into a field. Go over and then half right to a footbridge over the motorway. Cross it and climb a stile into the next field. Here is a large mound, described on various maps as "Motte" or "Tumulus", but to the locals it has always been "The Tump". Turn right down to the bridge over the stream. Cross it and go ahead up the lane to emerge on Rhiwbina Hill, about 50 metres above the lay-by where you parked.


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