The capital city of Wales is one that few people ‘get’. It’s kind of out of the way, full of welsh people and sheep (apparently) and is, from my experience fairly misunderstood and unexplored – even by the people that live there!
Of all the cities I’ve lived in, Cardiff feels most like the collection of villages it once was. Distinct neighbourhoods and parish churches, village pubs and tiny train stations. And as you move further from the city’s centre, you suddenly find yourself increasingly diving down country lanes and manoeuvring your way around tiny village war memorials, all the while with glimpses of the towering wooded ridgeways that guard the edges of the city.
There is a particular favourite view of mine that I discovered on my cycles home from work, and it comes when you reach the pinnacle of the North Road flyover (glamorous I know). If you look away from town, what you can see defies the urban sprawl below and a ridge rises from the horizon – of fields and forests. It is a view that signals I’m on my way home, and one that reminds me of the hidden treasures that lay on the city limits.
Living as we do at the moment on the edge of Cardiff, our neighbourhood occupies a peculiar position where we have a large Sainsbury’s to our right and a forestry park to our left. The houses just sort of stop and countryside begins, and it is here in this green oasis that I have found increasingly fantastic adventures. On a ridgeway that is so obvious when you realise it’s there, but is often ignored by many Cardiffians (may have just invented that word). There is a ring of green around the city limits where steep hills and awesome views beckon – all hidden in plain sight with more manicured ‘forestry parks’ holding paths that snake further than the end of the tarmac.
Those in the know, well they KNOW the best place to trail run and mountain bike and not have to drive a single mile. You all know each other, the ones who know it’s there. You can spot each other emerging onto the pavement, muddied and sweaty with grins and various types of kit on your head shoulders knees and toes. Emerging back into city life after a few hours lost amongst the hills. It is hands down my favourite place to run, in spite of (but also a little bit because of…) the hills, and as the sound of the M4 fades you find yourself in a world of fields, woods, trails and cows. And THAT is my favourite thing about this city at the moment – how I can be 25 minutes from the centre of town and hear nothing but the birds and breathe nothing but green-smelling air *insert incredibly content and happy emoji here*