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.
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.
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.
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!