You know those days when your kids are bursting full of energy and climbing up the walls (literally)? That’s exactly what was going on in our house at the end of last week. It’s not always easy (or appealing) to get outside at this time of year to get some fresh air into the system and burn off some of that energy. But sometimes you know that’s exactly what they (and you) need.
After last week’s rain and storms, the weekend was cold but dry and sunny so we made the most of it, grabbed our wellies, waterproofs and warm clothes and headed to Forest Farm for a winter walk.
Our little trip also gave me the perfect excuse to put the new military green parka kindly sent to me from the lovely people at Target Dry to the test (see below for your chance to win a £75 spending spree on their website!).
I’d been looking for something to keep me warm and dry on the school run and when out and about with my children, but which was wasn’t completely mumsy and unstylish, for a while, so this coat is perfect. It’s waterproof, has an insulated layer to keep me warm yet isn’t too puffy like other parka coats I’ve tried on, has pockets, which I think are essential for school run mums, is machine washable – and, perfect for a shortie like me, there is a Velcro patch on the hood, which means I can position it so I can actually see out from under the hood, rather than it covering half my face, like most hoods do.
We got to Forest Farm mid-morning, and other than a couple of dog walkers, the place was so quiet and peaceful.
Tucked away in the north Cardiff suburb of Whitchurch, the beautiful nature reserve is centred around the old Glamorgan Canal and old farm land. This place really is a hidden gem. So many people I know have never heard of it; indeed, I’ve lived in Cardiff for over 10 years but I only realised this tranquil haven existed a couple of years ago.
The fresh water of the canal is home to kingfishers, herons and many other bird species (the photos on the Friends of Forest Farm website are truly stunning). The woodland consists of mostly beach and oak trees, some of which are over 200 years old. You can also see some of the remains of the old Melingriffith Tin plate works and Cardiff Railway.
Like I said, Forest Farm is very well hidden but there are two main entrances. For the first, you turn off the Velindre roundabout in Whitchurch and head down Forest Farm Road, and the second is via Longwood Drive at Junction 32 of the M4.
We took the first entrance, parking in the designated car park near the Forest Farm buildings.
The white limewash of the old buildings looked absolutely gorgeous in the winter sun – although my children were more concerned with the large puddles outside. Even I couldn’t resist joining in with them in splashing about.
The information board gives plenty of detail of Forest Farm’s history. The area was used as farm land for over 1,000 years, coming to an end in 1979. Since 1981, the site has been developed as a conservation centre, with the volunteers of the Friends of Forest Farm doing an amazing job of looking after it.
If time is on your side, you can follow the trail which will take around two hours, or a shorter circular trail of around half that. There’s a map in the main car park which shows you where to head. My children were desperate to see the ducks in the canal however, so we headed straight there and walked along the water side. Cardiff Daddy and I didn’t let go of 20-month old Toddler Boy I’s hands.
Little Miss E, my almost six-year-old daughter, counted 56 ducks swimming up and down the canal. She asked me to make sure I told you all that. The area around the canal is accessible for buggies, although you do need to be careful with toddlers around the waterside, as the path is quite narrow.
Miss E and her four-year-old brother, Little Man O, also collected a few leaves and found a big log to climb on. After about 45 minutes or so, their little hands and faces were getting cold, so we decided it was time to head home for some homemade brown lentil soup and crusty bread rolls for lunch – but not before my children made us promise we could visit again in the warmer weather to have a picnic and see the baby ducks. That’s a deal we’ll definitely be keeping.
For more information visit the Friends of Forest Farm website, follow them on Facebook or Twitter. You can support their work in conserving the area by joining the Friends for £5 per year per family. Older children between 8 and 12 years old can take part in the wildlife watch club, which is held once a month. More details on the website.
Win a £75 spending spree on the Target Dry website!
The military green Georgia waterproof women’s parka (RRP, £87.95) I’m wearing in these photos was a kind gift from Target Dry. I’m also excited to be running a brilliant competition where one lucky Cardiff Mummy Says reader will win a £75 voucher to spend on the Target Dry website (which is home to fantastic waterproofs and outdoor clothing for men, women and children). To enter, answer the following question.
Q. How many ducks did Little Miss E count at Forest Farm?
Please leave your answer on the Cardiff Mummy Says Facebook page post for this blog post (dated 24th November 2015). Deadline for entries is 11pm Sunday 29th November.
You might also like these posts on other free family-friendly outdoor places to explore in and around Cardiff: Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail; Cefn Onn Country Park; Porthkerry Country Park; Bryngarw House and Country Park, Cosmeston Lakes and Country Park, Amelia Trust Farm.
For all my blog posts on family-friendly things to do locally, see the Cardiff section of my blog.