My favourite days with my children are the ones when they come home from a day outdoors with clothes and skin so grubby, everyone and everything needs a wash straight away.
We had one such day last weekend with an afternoon exploring Coed y Wenallt, the beautiful ancient woodland at the top of Rhiwbina Hill.
We built dens, climbed trees, balanced on fallen trunks, and explored for more than two hours, with my three children accompanied by two of their cousins, who were staying for the night.
Yes, they were filthy by the end of it. But as I always say, the mud and dirt will wash away but the memories will stay.
See more local places we have explored this year with our 52 South Wales Free Family Trips 2019
More than just bluebells at the Wenallt
More commonly known locally as the Wenallt, the ancient woodland is famous for its bluebells, which pop up like a purple carpet during May. You may remember my post on this year’s visit from a few months ago. However, the woods are wonderful to visit at any time of the year. The ancient woodland dates back to at least 1600AD and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in recognition of its value for wildlife.
It’s home to bird species including Great Spotted Woodpeckers, nuthatches, jays, and even ravens and buzzards; as well as Speckled Wood butterflies, and nocturnal mammals such as dormice and bangers.
Getting to Coed y Wenallt
The Wenallt sits at the top of Thornhill Road, the hill on the way to Caerphilly Mountain. If you are coming from Cardiff, drive up the hill, passing the New House Hotel on your left and then, opposite The Traveller’s Rest pub, you’ll see a small left turn onto a country lane. Take this turning and head down the lane for about a mile.
We tend to bypass the first car park and head to the second, which is the perfect place from which to explore the woods. It only holds about 15 cars, so at busy times people park along the lane itself.
Both car parks are free. There are no toilets at the woodland, which is always a consideration when out with young children.
You can also access the 44-hectare woods via Rhiwbina Hill.
Where to explore
Once you’ve parked, you’ll see the woodland in front of you. This area is fairly accessible for buggies, although if you want to go further into the woods a carrier or sling would be better as it’s quite hilly and there are a few small streams to cross.
There’s an area for picnics (and campfires) next to the car park. A few years ago we went to a birthday party here where the kids cooked sausages on sticks, toasted marshmallows and took turns on the rope swing. It’s one of the loveliest birthday parties we’ve been to. When we visited last weekend, we saw another party in full swing – a group of older children, equipped with super soakers, having a huge water fight. It looked like great fun.
A map at the entrance shows different walking routes around the woods although it’s pretty easy to navigate around yourself. The map also shows some of the different species of animals and trees and plants you’ll find in the woodlands too.
We began our adventure by taking the path to the left (with the car park behind us) where we quickly found trees to climb on and dens and shelters made from sticks to hide inside.
Continuing along the path leads to an unusual looking tree with wonderfully gnarled roots, as well one of our favourite things in the woods – a hollow tree with a gap that is the perfect height for children to stand inside, and which makes for great photos.
From here, we followed the path right down the hill, coming across little rocky streams to splash through, fallen tree trunks to play on, more dens and a rope swing, which was super popular among the five young cousins.
We generally either head down to the bottom of the hill, which leads to a field and this stile. Or if you don’t go down quite so far, you can follow the path across and back up to the top. It is a little steep on the way back up but plenty of interesting trees to stop and play at. This one pictured always becomes a coffee shop for my children, serving up imaginary hot drinks and cakes.
A longer 5KM walk is available here and you can find more information on the Wenallt’s location, including grid references, here.
A little word on litter
One of the saddest things about the woodland is the amount of litter and discarded bags of dog poo. There’s a bin near the car park but sadly this is usually overflowing. Please, if you visit, make sure to take your litter home. Our children instinctively did a mini clean-up while exploring, picking up all kinds of discarded sweet wrappers, drinks cans and more. I’m proud of them for suggesting this themselves – but it’s incredibly sad that they even needed to.
See more of our adventures on the Cardiff Mummy Says Instagram feed.
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