Rumney Hill Gardens and the Rumney Trail

DSC_0001

I have driven past the entrance to Rumney Hill Gardens hundreds of times, in fact probably into the thousands. Most of those times, I’ve seen the little brown sign post announcing the attraction and thought ‘I should go in there and explore one day’. I regularly use a gym in Rumney on a Sunday morning, so one Sunday this month I decided that was the day, parked up my car on the main road and took my camera into the gardens.

DSC_0002DSC_0003

If you haven’t looked at a map beforehand, you will get more than you bargained for. The gardens themselves are relatively small (although lovely and beautifully kept) and home to the local bowls club. The land was originally designated as a burial ground, but the gardens were instead established there in the late 1950s. A footpath then takes you onto the Rumney Trail and along the River Rhymney. Although they are pronounced the same to an English speaker, Rumney and Rhymney are two different places, the name of the river referencing the town of Rhymney that it flows through from it’s source in on the southern edge of the Brecon Beacons, before flowing through New Tredegar and entering Cardiff. Evetually, it meets the Severn Estuary. This estuary has the second highest tidal range of any coast in the world, which coincidentally I already knew because I happen to have visited number 1 and number 3 on the list, Alaska and Jersey.

DSC_0004DSC_0014

On the western side of the Rhymney Valley is the Howardian Local Nature Reserve. The area, a former landfill site, is now home to woodlands, wildflower meadows, ponds, reed beds and over 500 species including rare and vulnerable species. Back in the days of coal mining and iron producing in South Wales, the river would flow black with coal dust and hardly any wildlife could survive there at all. The water quality has improved massively over the past 40 years, although I did notice some grey dust on some of the lower trees and bushes next to the river which had obviously been left when the tide receded and gave it a slightly grubby look.

DSC_0015DSC_0016

It was nice to take some time out to walk along the river and explore an area that is just a 10 minute drive from where I’ve lived for over 10 years, but yet that I didn’t know at all. It’s not the most beautiful scenery in Wales, but it is a very tranquil place and we are lucky to have such hidden little oases in a city the size of Cardiff. I also found some blackberry bushes on the trail, and although it’s quite late in the season now there was some fruit left and it was very tasty. I’m by far not an expert on foraging, but I can recognise blackberries. I was surprised to see that none of the berries had been picked, even the birds seem to have left them alone, and most of them had simply dried up in the heat. I will definitely be back earlier next year to collect lots more!

Edible Adamsdown Seedling Swap

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA

There are some events I get invited to where I have to double check I’ve heard correctly. ‘Sorry, you want me to go to a what?’

That was possibly the reaction I had when Becca from Edible Adamsdown Community Garden first invited me to their seedling swap (and I apologise to Becca if it was). However, I can honestly say that the event is a brilliant idea and really good fun.

As many of you who read my blog regularly will know, I volunteer in Plasnewydd Community Garden in Cardiff. This is a good point in this post to shamelessly plug the new blog that we have created for the garden, and please click the link and follow us if you feel so inclined to do so. If you do take the time to read the garden blog, you will now also know that we haven’t had the greatest of starts to the growing season this year. Out of all the human errors and natural disasters that I fear may dramatically affect our food supplies, I didn’t expect ants to have such an impact. They have taken over all our raised beds, and are systematically eating everything that we plant. Which is why the seedling swap was the perfect solution to our critter problem.

The way the swap works is simple. Each person brings along surplus seedlings from their garden, they all get displayed together, and then you take other people’s seedlings that you need. Or, if you don’t have anything to swap, you can give a donation instead.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA

I must admit, I did feel a bit inadequate when I filled our box up ready to take to the event. All we could muster was a few strawberry plants and some trays of sweet Williams from last year that were looking a little worse for wear. I needn’t have worried, though. The sweet Williams were a huge success, especially when I told people they are perfect for filling in gaps in any garden. And we are one step closer to taking over Cardiff with Plasnewydd Garden strawberries (our strawberries have a well-known history of growing shoots and replanting themselves at an alarming speed).

And what did I get in return? Some purple sprouting broccoli (which was already so healthy I transplanted it straight into the brassicas bed), cauliflower, pak choi and a pepper. Cauliflowers because we’ve never been able to grow them at Plasnewydd for some unknown reason, and the pak choi and the pepper as a bit of an experiment for future seasons.

Josh from the Real Junk Food Project was also there to fuel everyone, and there were a lot of people for him to feed. Aside from the seedlings, it was great to catch up with people, meet other gardeners and swap tips.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA

Murder Mystery Treasure Trail Cardiff

DSC_0444

My friends complain that I’m really difficult to buy gifts for, but they always get me great things. A couple of years ago, my friend Catherine bought me a murder mystery themed Treasure Trail for Cardiff. In all honesty, I filed it away somewhere vowing to get it out and actually do it one day. As the weather was so beautiful in Cardiff this weekend, and believe me that is not something  we have said often this year, I decided to go on that treasure hunt that I had been promising myself.

Treasure Trails have designed hundreds of these handy little packs for locations all over the UK. As you follow the clues to solve the puzzle you are taken on a cultural tour that pushes you to find details you wouldn’t normally notice. It’s great fun if you have kids, although admittedly I followed the trail all on my and it was just as entertaining.

The Cardiff murder mystery trail begins at the National Museum of Wales. A mummified body has been discovered in the Ancient Egyptian exhibition, and it’s been deceased for less than 2 months. My quest was to find out who carried out this crime and how the victim died. The first clue was on the foundation plaque outside the museum, and involved some maths which left me in a bit of a panic. You are allowed to request 3 answers to clues via SMS, and I had an embarrassing vision of me using all three of them on the first 3 questions. After double checking my numbers, though, I was able to figure it out and I was off.

DSC_0446 DSC_0447 DSC_0448DSC_0450 DSC_0451 DSC_0452

Clue 4 is where I came unstuck. After walking in circles around Bute Park for 30 minutes, I remembered that it had recently had a renovation, since my trail was published in fact. Maybe I shouldn’t have waited so long to solve this murder mystery.

DSC_0453 DSC_0454

Over two hours, the trail took me on a gentle walk around the park, castle, the Millennium Stadium and city centre. After living in Cardiff for 8 years, I’m ashamed to admit just how much I haven’t noticed before. I have walked through The Hayes hundreds of times and yet never known that some of the traffic bollards I am rushing past have spy holes with beautiful silhouetted scenes inside them.

DSC_0473

Unfortunately, I’m not the best at following directions and I did get lost/confused a few times. Maybe I should have brought a child along to help me. There was also an amusing moment when I was looking for a clue outside the Hilton hotel. At the same time, there was a crowd of rugby fans waiting for the All Blacks to leave the building. Stood there with my camera and notebook I must have looked like a serious autograph hunter. They all looked a little shocked when, once I’d found my clue, I moved on before the players had even appeared.

DSC_0471

The murder mystery trail is a great, cheap way to spend a couple of hours. I’m definitely going to check out some of the other trails when I’m visiting other UK cities. When I was a kid, there was a popular British TV show called Treasure Hunt. Anneka Rice would fly around the UK in her helicopter, wearing a lycra jumpsuit, and help players to solve clues. I used to love following along at home, and dreamed of one day being on such an adventure. The lycra jumpsuit probably wouldn’t have been appropriate on this occasion and the helicopter would have been a little extravagant, but I got to experience a real life treasure hunt.

My biggest piece of advice would be, unlike I did, to use an up-to-date trail. I resorted to the magic of google to fill in a few gaps, but I did make it to the end. And did I solve the mystery? Well, I can’t give that away can I? You’ll have to come to Cardiff and try for yourself.

(More) Street Art in Cardiff

A while ago, a friend told me about some great new street art in Cardiff city centre. It took me a few weeks to get down there with my camera and check it out, but now that I have I really wanted to share the photos with you all. I love this city!

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA

Eat Well: Live Well Expo 2014

OK, I’ve got something to tell you all.

Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I’ve not been as active on it this year. That’s because I’ve been sooooo busy, I’ve even pushed my own definitions of what the word busy means. At the beginning of March I enrolled on a course that began four months of intense physical and mental study, exam papers (haven’t had to deal with them since I left sixth form in 1998!), what seemed like endless coursework and very little time to sleep. I’m very proud to say, though, that all that hard work was worth it because at the end of June I became a fully qualified personal trainer! If you’d have known me six years ago, you’d have thought I had more chance of becoming an astronaut or brain surgeon in my thirties than working in the fitness industry.

Since qualifying, I’ve kept myself just as busy working three jobs whilst I transition between my current full-time role and hopefully working for myself one day. Hence the reason sasieology hasn’t been posting as frequently. You’ll probably also notice some changes in my blog, because now not only am I obsessed about living plant-based and travelling, I’m also obsessed about fitness as well. I’m learning more and more every day, and I love it.

On Saturday, I took myself along to the Eat Well: Live Well Expo right here in Cardiff. I enjoyed the day so much and came away with so many great ideas for my blog and my business, and I want to share with you what I learnt about the amazing products, services and people that I met during the day. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see all the events because I had to dash off to one of my paid jobs (the story of my life at the moment!), but here’s what I did manage to catch. PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERA

Tara Hammett actually told me about the event, so I have to say a big thank you to her. She put some lucky volunteers through their paces for one of her 12 minute workouts, and having witnessed first hand the sweat pouring off them at the end of it I can testify that they really do work. I also got to try one of Tara’s famous chocolate sprouts. They may sound strange, but don’t knock it until you try it because they are delicious. Check out her website for info about the chocolate sprouts, workouts and lots more tips and tricks to stay in shape.

Having recently started adding vegan protein powder to my diet, I was excited to discover that Marvellous make their own right here in Wales with hemp and pea protein. I’ve started using it alongside Sun Warrior on days when I’m training and I already feel more energised. As a rule I advise people to stay away from protein powders, especially animal proteins, but Marvellous is 100% organic, gluten free and vegan, nothing like the synthetic chemicals I see people guzzling at the gym. They specialise in other superfood powders too, and you can order straight from their website.

DSC_0941Juicing is something that I’ve wanted to get into for ages, but I’ve not been able to make it work for me so far. Until I discovered the Natural Juice Junkie that is. If you have any questions about juicing, juicers, what to juice, when to juice, how to fit juicing into your life or how to make it work for you, this is the guy to ask. During a fantastic, informative and entertaining presentation, Neil told us his personal story, how he came to completely change his life through juicing and how he helps other people through their own journeys. I then harassed some of his team with lots of questions, and they were brilliant. They answered everything I asked, and encouraged me to download some free juicing recipes from their website. The Natural Juice Junkie is holding a 2 day masterclass in Swindon in November which I would recommend to anyone seriously considering incorporating juicing into their healthy diet. I’ve already had my juicer back out and been giving it another go, and I’ve found it so much easier with the great, simple recipes and advice Neil gave us.

If you’re still unsure about buying a juicer and venturing down the juicing path yourself, there are great companies out there that can deliver the juices straight to your door for you. Fresh Start offers such a service here in Cardiff and they deliver all over the UK. I tried two of their lovely juices on the day. Beat It is a comforting mix of apple, beetroot, carrot, lemon, mint and a kick of ginger. Super Survivor is a healthy green blend of apple, cucumber, kale, pineapple, watercress and lemon. They both tasted delicious, and I can’t wait to try more of the other juices that Fresh Start make.

I was happily surprised when I came across the Hero Health Room stand, because it’s the first time I’ve seen the DSC_0940term ‘Plant-Based’ actually written on anything in the UK. Luke and his team are committed to helping people live a healthier, happier, plant-based lifestyle. As you can imagine, I had lots to talk to them about and it was great to share plant-based experiences with people face to face.

I am a chocaholic! There, I said it. Even though I no longer eat dairy chocolate, I still treat myself to vegan and dark chocolate and when there is some on offer I can’t resist. Shirley’s Raw Chocolate is some of the best vegan, gluten free chocolate I have ever tasted, and believe me I have tried a lot of different brands. I was spoilt for choice with all the different flavours to choose from, but in the ended I went with the orange chocolate and it is to die for! You can find Shirley’s-Homemade Raw Chocolate on Facebook.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERALuckily I didn’t fill up on the chocolate, and I left enough room to try some of the great snack bars from Ernest Food Co. Filled with nuts, fruit, chia seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, cocoa and puffed quinoa to add a satisfying crunch, their bars are totally natural with no added sugar, syrups or flavourings. I have officially found my new snack of choice for when I’m travelling/hiking/away from home in the middle of nowhere with no plant-based food around.

PROMO CODE ALERT! The lovely people at Ernest Food Co have given me a promo code to share with you guys so you too can experience the yumminess of their snack bars. Enter the code “ernestlove” when you order a carton of snack bars from their website and receive 20% off.

As well as chatting to all the amazing people I met, and trying all the free samples, I also had lunch from The Parsnipship, a long time favourite vegetarian caterer of mine. Some of the Boulders team were also there with the mobile climbing wall. I’ve been a member of Boulders for a few year, and as you know I love climbing, so it was great to see them. Anyway, I’ve got to go and try and get some sleep before I’m up at 5.30am for one of my jobs 🙂

The Taff Trail

DSC_0359

We are extremely lucky here in Cardiff. We live in a beautiful capital city with all the amenities and facilities that you would expect to find in such a place, but we also have some amazing green spaces to explore and relax in. Standing in front of the Millennium Stadium and looking up the River Taff, you’d be forgiven for thinking Bute Park is completely surrounded by the city. However, it hides a secret that is there to be found by those willing to venture a bit further.

The Taff Trail, as the name suggests, follows the River Taff from Cardiff all the way up to Brecon, a whopping 55 miles. I’d love to be able to tell you that I’ve walked, or even cycled, the whole route. Alas, for now, the first stage from Bute Park to Llandaff North will have to do.

Most of the trail allows you to forget that you’re anywhere near an urban centre, although the occasional tall building and the spire of Llandaf Cathedral peeping above the treetops don’t let you completely forget. Your surroundings change with every twist and turn of the path as you walk past tree carvings, under roads through beautiful gardens. On the day of my walk we were enjoying some hot, sunny weather and lots of the local kids were cooling off in the weir, daring each other to jump of the bridge.

My Dad and I are already planning to catch a train to Llandaf and tackle the next section of the trail, and I’m hoping to cycle to Castell Coch (8 miles from Cardiff) next time we have some good weather.

DSC_0350 DSC_0352 DSC_0353 DSC_0354 DSC_0358

Photo Challenge: Letters

Wales Millennium Centre

 

Letters are the subject of this week’s photo challenge. I’m always taking photos of signs, graffiti and directions that interest me when I’m travelling. However, I thought that for this challenge I would stay right here in Wales. The Wales Millennium Centre is one of the most iconic buildings in Cardiff. Built from all Welsh wood, slate, steel and glass, the centre was designed as part of the Cardiff Bay regeneration project. It took over 20 years for the idea for a Welsh home for the arts to be realised.

The English inscription reads ‘In these stones horizons sing’. Just as poetic, the Welsh inscription says ‘Creu Gwir Fel Gwydr o Ffwrnais Awen’, which translates into English as ‘Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration’. The letter themselves are actually windows into the building, making it a bright and sociable place that is loved by both visitors and residents. If you go into the 1st floor bar, you can sit in the letters and look out over Mermaid Quay.

Click here to see other entries for this week’s challenge.

 like glass from the furnace of inspiration

Weekly Photo Challenge: Street Life

I love my neighbourhood. There is always something to do here. On sunny summer days, Roath Park and the boating lake are full of people enjoying the outdoors. City Road offers food and drink from all corners or the globe, and we even have our own arts festival. Sometimes, however, I like to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of activity in Roath, literally. Behind the main roads here, there is a labyrinth of alleyways and smaller streets that feel like another world.

Click here to see more entries from this week’s photo challenge.

Made in Roath: Part 5

DSC_0626

This week, I have been sharing with you my favourite bits of the 2013 Made in Roath festival. Here’s all the stuff that didn’t quite fit in anywhere else.

I came across these guys outside the community centre at the end of my street. I have no idea what their performance piece was all about, but they were certainly attracting a crowd.

DSC_0618

This little critter was hiding in a tree next to the community garden.

DSC_0593

When the festival is on, it’s not always easy to tell what is art and therefore part of the festival and what isn’t. I remember one year when a toilet appeared on the street outside my house. I was too embarrassed to phone the council and ask them to remove it incase it was an installation piece!

Down at Om Yoga Studio, Kalavathi showed us how to make Kolam art, an Indian technique using coloured rice powder.

DSC_0657 DSC_0661 DSC_0658

The whole festival finished on Thursday evening with a cycle-in screening of E.T. We are very environmentally conscious in our neighbourhood, and residents were given free popcorn if they arrived by bike.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my view of the festival. If you’re ever in Cardiff in October, come check out our cool community.

Made in Roath: Part 4

If you’ve ever read my blog before, you’ll know that I love street art. During the Made in Roath festival, there was lots of new street art that popped up around the neighbourhood. What made it more exciting was that we weren’t told exactly where the new pieces were going to be or what they would depict. You’d here a rumour from someone who’d spotted one, and then everyone would dash off to see it for themselves. Here’s the ones that I managed to find:

DSC_0653 DSC_0652 DSC_0651 DSC_0597 DSC_0581