Thursday, 27 May 2010

Lower Wye Ramblers Conquer Offa’s Dyke

The Lower Wye Ramblers completed the entire Offa’s Dyke Walk last Sunday – after three years of walking.

The group started the 177-mile walk from Prestatyn on 27 May 2007. They passed through hills, valleys, woodland and mountains, and finished at Sedbury Cliffs on 23 May 2010.

The 32-strong group has an age range of 49-81 years – making them possibly the largest and oldest group ever to undertake the walk - and the 27 degrees heat made the final stretch quite a struggle.

“The walk took us through the stunning beauty of the Welsh borders. There were many challenging ascents but it gave me a real sense of achievement. Lower Wye Ramblers benefits from great group solidarity and superb organization,” said Maggie Rowlands, 62, of Shirenewton.

Completing the walk entailed 11,000 vehicle miles, 380 hotel nights and contributed around £20,000 to the Offa’s Dyke economy.

Walk leader, Terry Summers, said: “The Offa’s Dyke path runs through the most beautiful, deserted countryside. It’s brilliantly signposted from end to end. You hardly need a map, guide or compass. In fact, one of our members insisted on using a guidebook and kept getting us lost!”

The Ramblers Association is currently celebrating its 75th anniversary. They now help over 700,000 people to access the countryside every year on 28,000 walks covering 140,000 miles of footpaths, bridleways and public rights of way. They are supported by 12,000 volunteers.

In May 2011, the Lower Wye Ramblers plan to start the Pembrokeshire Coast Path/Ceredigion Way – a total of 250 miles that will take four years to complete.

If you are interested in walking with the Lower Wye Ramblers you can find contact details on the Lower Wye Ramblers website or ring the Walks Programme Officer on 029 2063 7416.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Staycation Cardiff: The New City Break

After almost a week of empty skies, the airlines are slowly grinding back into life and vapour trails are starting to scrawl across the sky once more. But it might be a while before you find yourself a seat on that plane you’ve been waiting for - so why not make the most of your holiday in Cardiff?

Wales’ capital city is full of green spaces just asking for a picnic. Roath Park is a particular favourite, stretching from the football fields in the south, through the shady botanic gardens, to Roath Lake in the north. Here you can enjoy an ice cream on the banks, feed the swans or have a leisurely float in a pedalo.

If you’re feeling a little more energetic why not get on two wheels and cycle the Taff Trail to Castell Coch? This easy track winds its way from Bute Park, following the River Taff through woodland and villages, to the fairy-tale folly.

Sybil Williams, of Pedal Power in Pontcanna, says, “Bike hire has been very popular recently due to the good weather. We have great access to very nice trails – Cardiff is great for leisure cycling.”

If adrenaline’s your thing, why not join a high-speed boat tour of Cardiff Bay. Companies such as Bay Island Voyages or Cardiff Sea Safaris will take you out past the barrage to Flat Holm Island, combining adventure with spectacular scenery.

“Business has increased notably since the grounding of the planes,” says Pat Nicholas of Bay Island Voyages, “Since just last weekend we’ve had three extra group bookings for stag and hen dos that were supposed to be elsewhere.”

Cardiff enjoys a huge array of summer events and festivals. May’s first bank holiday promises to be a noisy one with Samba Galez’ Welsh Encontro 2010. A weekend of samba workshops and city-wide gigs will culminate outside the Senedd on 3 May with the ‘Sambadrome’ – a mass performance from all the visiting bands, totalling around 500 musicians.

Celebrate May Day in true Celtic style with Festival Interceltique de Lorient at the Wales Millennium Centre. This day-long international folk festival will see Bretons performing alongside home-grown musicians.

Fancy a bit of action? The Romans will be visiting Cardiff Castle en masse from 15 to 16 May for a spectacular military display, complete with artillery and a working ‘catapulta’.

You will probably have worked up quite an appetite by now! If it’s alfresco dining you’re after, Cardiff has plenty of options. Gastro pub, Y Cadno, provides good food and a quiet beer garden. For more traditional types, the Mochyn Du offers a range of local ales and hearty meals. The Maen Llwyd at Rudry is a regular in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. Just north of Cardiff, it has a large beer garden with idyllic views of rolling countryside - the perfect place to relax on a sunny afternoon.

How about some culture to finish off a perfect day? Artes Mundi is currently on display at the National Museum Wales. The exhibition celebrates emerging artists from around the world and features installations, drawing, photography and film.

Ballet Nacional de Cuba will be at the Wales Millennium Centre from 5 May. Renowned for their Cuban passion, the company is to perform two programmes – ‘Magia de la Danza’ and ‘Giselle’ with live orchestral accompaniment by Royal Ballet Sinfonia.

From 6 May, National Theatre Wales’ production of ‘The Devil inside Him’ by John Osborne, starring recent Olivier Award winner, Iwan Rheon, will be showing at the New Theatre.

When Cardiff has all this to offer and more, you might find yourself starting to wonder why it was you wanted to go away on holiday in the first place…

Published: The Guardian (Cardiff), 23 April 2010