Cosmeston Lakes Country Park and Medieval Village is one of those places you can stay all day and have a new adventure on every corner.
From feeding the ducks and swans in the lake, exploring the woods and the boardwalks around the marshes, to playing in the adventure playground and visiting the reconstructed medieval village, the 100-hectare beauty spot on Lavernock Road near Penarth and Sully is perfect for a free family day out.
I’ve been visiting Cosmeston since I was a child, so it’s steeped in memories for me. Now I’m a mum, I love taking my three little ones to visit such a special place.
We arrived just before 10am last Thursday, parked in the large, free car park and headed straight to the lake. It always amazes me that Cosmeston used to be a limestone quarry. The quarries were filled in with water and the tip sites landscaped into meadows and fields, opening to the public in 1978. Yet other than a monument of a cart used to transport the limestone at the entrance, you’d never realise its history. Like most local children, I grew up hearing the horror stories about not swimming or diving in the lake as there may still be dangerous equipment in the water, so I feel it’s my duty to pass that on in case you miss the big signs warning you against this!
The lakes are home to so many different species of ducks and birds – mute swans, mallards and coots, as well as large flocks of migrating wildfowl during the winter months, including teal, tufted duck, widgeon, pochard and shoveler ducks and bitterns.
My children love feeding the ducks and birds here (you can buy seeds in the visitor centre at the park’s entrance). However, some days the sheer numbers can be overwhelming and they’re certainly not shy about looking for food, so be mindful if you have children who are easily scared.
From there, we headed across the paths – which can be quite gravelly and bumpy at points but are accessible to buggies and wheelchairs – to the adventure playground. The park was surprisingly quiet for a warm and dry day during the school holidays and my children were thrilled to have the play equipment almost to themselves bar a couple of other children. We’ve visited on sunny weekends before and it’s been full to bursting with kids so we were pleasantly surprised. And it made it much easier to take these photos, too!
There’s a good range of equipment for different ages – assorted climbing frames and swings for younger and older children, plus rotating swings and even a see-saw. Quite a rare sight these days. My children love the wooden pirate ship and had great fun pretending to sail the seas – although it’s looking a bit run down and could definitely do with a lick of paint.
The woodland is great to explore, but today instead we opted for the wooden boardwalks around the reedbeds. These are home to all manner of rare plants and wildlife, including 16 different species of dragonfly and damselfly and various amphibians.
We also love Cosmeston Medieval Village (or “evil muddy village” as Little Man O, my 3¾ year old thinks it is called!). The remains of the 13th or 14th century village was uncovered during the park’s development, and the reconstruction is based on how the village would have looked in 1350 at a time of hardship that included famine due to wet summers and freezing winters and freezing winters.
Seeing history brought to life in this way makes it so much easier for young children to learn about life in times gone by. Little Man and his 5.5 year old sister, Little Miss E, found it really easy to work out the answers to the questions they had such as how people kept their houses warm, and where they got their food from, because they could see for themselves the fireplaces and plants growing. The information boards around the village give a really clear description of what life was like in South Wales some 650 years ago.
If you’re planning on visiting the village, then make sure you get there between 10am and 12pm as since April 2015, the village is only free to the public between those hours. At other times, you need to pay for a guided tour to access the place, at a cost of £4 for adults and £3 for children. I thought the limited open access was a real shame during the school holidays, especially as I could see no mention of this on the Vale of Glamorgan website. Luckily, we arrived at the village during the free hours, and had great fun looking the various thatched-roof stone buildings and houses.
There’s plenty of space at Cosmeston for picnics – there are a good number of wooden benches and grassland for picnic blankets. There’s also a café and toilet facilities. For an extra cost, children aged 7-11 can take part in medieval mystery events on Mondays and Go Wild events on Thursdays during the school summer holidays.
See the Cardiff section of my blog for more ideas for family-friendly days out.
You might also like these posts about other great outdoorsy places in South Wales:
Porthkerry Country Park,
St Fagans National History Museum,
Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail
Mountain View Ranch, Caerphilly (entrance fees apply)
Plus check out this post on 63 free family days out in and around Cardiff for summer 2015