I’m staying at River House Hostel in Cardiff and before I begin reporting my travels here is a puzzle for you: If I said, in a rich Welsh female lilt “I’m not being funny but…” or “Crackin’” or “What’s occurin’?” Where am in Wales?… No I’m not at the Hi Di Hi Camp! Come on play nicely. I’m down on the coastline of Glamorgan looking out over Barry Island. A resort made famous in recent times due to the outrageously funny sitcom Gavin and Stacey. Above quotes taken from Ruth Jones in character as Nessa Jenkins.
From a Saturday football match in the Midlands I’ve traveled a couple of hours by train into Cardiff Central. My base for my five day exploration of Cardiff its coastline and surrounding areas, The RIVER HOUSE HOSTEL a gentle five minute stroll from the cities central rail station. I arrived late on a Saturday evening deciding to spend an hour in the city centre. A ge is an important factor in terms of enjoyment and hostelry admittance. Anyone aged over 30 seems to become invisible. “Oh sorry I didn’t see you their queuing for a drink amongst all these young, vibrant people. I’m like a rugby ball on a football pitch. Wrong in so many ways. I wonder, what was the month or year I officially became old?
Back at River House, having slept like the proverbial leek it’s Sunday morning and I’m one of the first down to breakfast. The spread is breads, cereals, pastries, juices, milks, fruit, yogurt all laid out and available before 7.30a.m. Cups, plates, saucers, bowls, clean tidy and ready for duty. A choice of morning TV, radio or do “important things” on the Internet via the free WiFi.
This is a hostel with hotel standards. Once fed I’m out the door, back in my boots, with a rucksack on my back, Barry Island and beyond beckons. Open the hostels front door to be met with The River Taff, or stand in amazement at the modern engineering prowess which is The Millennium Stadium. The weather is a mix of drizzle with a cold wind chill factor which quickly snuggles against my ribs. At least The River Taff has a path which is easy to follow (even for me).
The dark, dank overcast skyline does little to improve the disconcerting architecture. There are 60’s style high rise flats across from new apartment complexes, within the eyeline of industrial units varying in shapes, sizes and colours. My walk soon finds unwelcome companions, roads, streets and houses
Along the way it’s clear Cardiff is developing at a prestigious rate. Building sites, cranes, and oddly shaped buildings are testimony to a local collective intent on promoting sports and business. The impressive Cardiff International Pool is a focal point as both a landmark and opportunity to promote sport in a modern environment. In fact Cardiff is deemed to be the UK’s fastest growing city. Some business experts predicting a 42% growth rate over the next 20 years. I pass through Penarth Quays watching wind swept yachts bobbing up and down on their mooring hoping for summer owners to soon return. As the road ends Cardiff Bay begins. Here the panorama opens up offering a diversity of culture, fun and activities. Although weather conditions have worsened due the lack of shelter it hasn’t deterred a constant stream of runners looping around the bay. One guy is running in shorts and vest. Maybe it’s a wager or dare, either way that cannot be a pleasant experience.
I didn’t have time to visit the Wales Millennium Centre or Doctor Who Experience both situated around the bay. By all accounts well worth a visit. I did manage to take in a pictorial and narrative account of Captain Scott’s fateful Terra Nova Expedition which departed Cardiff in 1910. The brevity and simplicity of information is touchingly expressed how four very brave men nearly made it back from The South Pole. I read it with a cold wind and driving rain whipping around my ears. In comparison to the weather conditions they endured, impossible to imagine and humbling.
Leaving Cardiff Bay is a steep uphill walk. Next stop, the small town of Penarth. Yet again I’m in amongst uncut lawns, shiney cars and private drives. The coastline is once again a welcome sight as I head down into Penarth and the Victorian pier, all 750 feet of cast iron and wooden decking. Àlthough various commercial tankers and long forgotten pleasure cruisers caused damage to the pier over it’s lifetime, the dedication of local community stalwarts plus lottery cash has kept the pier alive and well.
A mile on from the pier the walk becomes a half hour endurance test, as i slip and slide over sodden paths and fields. I’m thinking of a patent for mud ski’s such was the depth of mud and sludge up and over my boots. As my boot squelching ends so begins the walk from Sully to Barry Docks. A road walk most of the way. My only saving grace, I’m walking on a Sunday. A slow flow of traffic. Unbearable if this was a commuter work day. The least said about this stretch the better. Finally I reach Barry Docks onto the promenade with water on my left. Hurray! More building site re routes. In between supermarket carparks, through newly fenced footpaths, up a staircase of steps, I walk away from Barry Island amusements centre, looping around the harbour area, finally I get my footwear onto the beach. Maybe a papal kissing on the sand? I decide against it. Heading towards the causeway I’m surrounding by a proliferation of happiness, the canine kind. Barking, digging, swimming, play fights ensue. Balls, frisbees, rubber bones are thrown by heavily insulated owners. Some retrieve, others not in the mood. Otherwise happy breathless dogs abound on the causeway beach.
Once across the bay I walk around Friars Point peninsula but the scirocco wind isn’t conducive with staying for long. Spookily when reaching Barry Island beach, suddenly the wind is gone. It’s been with me all day, as in weather wind not flatulence, cheeky. Bizarrely for those already on the beach dress code seems to be spring apparel. A climatic weather change covered by 100 yards. Doctor Who? Yes it’s true Barry Island is…”Lush”.
As darkness slowly drops it’s cloak over Barry Island I’m passing by Barry Docks on my train journey back to Cardiff. Thousands of industrial lights sparkle and glisten for attention against the night sky. Just before the start of WW1 the docks were reported to be the busiest coal port in the world. Some 18,000 men and women were employed on various dock related duties. A reminder the glory days of coal and Barry Docks are gone, but certainly not forgotten. In a couple of months time Barry Island will be packed with day trippers and tourists heading for the amusement rides and candy floss. If you get the time take a visit and join in the fun. “I’m not being funny, but Barry Island… it’s Crackin’…
Look out for the sequel blog ” Cardiff ‘s Highest Mountain” scheduled for 6th July 2016 on this blog.
Or to plan a holiday your self look at this map of Hostels and Bunkhouse around Cardiff.