06 March 2016

Cardiff walks: Forest Farm Nature Reserve

If you follow Earthstar, my daily nature blog, you’ll see that I delight in the trees, canals and wildlife of Forest Farm Nature Reserve, on Cardiff’s northern boundary. It’s a favourite place to walk and not just for me – you’ll encounter birders and fungi forayers, joggers, power walkers and dog strollers along its leafy trails.

As I don’t drive and depending on how energetic I’m feeling, I either walk from my flat in Roath Park (a 90-minute stroll) or I catch a train to Radyr (bottom left) or to Coryton (centre right of the map). (I have also walked back to Cardiff via the Taff Trail that borders the reserve alongside the River Taff, but that’s a story for another blog post.)

A. From Coryton, I can either walk around or across the large meadow that runs along the top of the site, or follow the path of the old railway track, a continuation of the track that now truncates at Coryton. It can be a bit muddy in winter but is lovely during the summer and autumn.

B. Longwood is an ancient broadleaf woodland, dominated by huge oak, ash and beech trees, and a walk along its top trail affords panoramic views west and south-west towards Radyr. The trail is quite narrow and the hillside below steep, so I also avoid this area when it’s very muddy and slippery, but the trees in this wood are majestic so it’s a beautiful place to wander.

C. A remnant of the Glamorgan Canal runs through Forest Farm. When it opened in 1798, it ran between Cardiff and the iron works at Merthyr Tydfil, carrying supplies in one direction and finished product in the other. It was also used by the coal mining industries in the Taff valley. Nowadays, it’s silted up, has fallen trees draped across its waters, and provides the perfect home and feeding place for a myriad of bird life, including stunning kingfishers.

D. It’s hard to imagine boats or barges ever using this old lock, but it would have been a busy place in the 1800s. As well as the lock itself, there is a separate smaller water channel that runs through this way, which provides pretty reflections in its still waters. Passers-by leave birdseed on the stone walls of the lock, making this a good spot for bird photography, and, as there’s a conveniently sited wooden bench, it’s a lovely spot to sit a while.

E. The waterway that bisects the southern part of the reserve is the Melingriffith feeder, which once provided water to the Melingriffith Tin Plate Works a little further down the Taff. Another pleasant trail runs alongside this stream and, from the trail, you can access the bird hides where you’re almost guaranteed to see the sudden turquoise flash that marks the kingfisher feeding.

F. Along the lower part of the Glamorgan Canal, you’ll see mallards and moorhen a plenty, the occasional heron and little grebe, as well as all the smaller birds that make this lovely woodland their home. And even in winter, when the trees are mostly leafless, it’s a pretty place, with beautiful reflections in the still water.

I’m sure you can see why I love this place so much and I hope I’ve tempted you to take a stroll through Forest Farm if you’re ever in the area. Remember, you can click on the map and photos to see them full screen.

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