The first day of November and overcast skies with frequent bursts of heavy showers greeted the four walkers who braved the elements to join David M at Paget Road in Penarth on his first walk for Penarth and District Ramblers.
Setting off downhill to pick up another walker by the Custom House, they followed a narrow track to join the foreshore where they slithered across wet pebbles and seaweed to locate soft sinking sand on the journey below Penarth Head towards Penarth Pier which appeared rather eerily on the darkened skyline ahead.
Joining pavements near the pier, a short climb up Bridgeman Road led them into the delightful Windsor Gardens, past the old bandstand and onward to cross Cliff Hill and along the cliff walk, where a number of other people were out enjoying the fresh air. The rough clifftop path between bushes resembled a river after previous heavy rainfall and paddling their way along it, a deviation into fields for a quick stop for morning refreshments as overhead there were traces of blue in between the clouds.
Crossing a sticky muddy ploughed field brought them to the dismantled railway line where at last the sun made an appearance and following Fort Road and crossing the busy Lavernock Road, a gate led them into Cosmeston Lakes Country Park beside the Medieval Village.
A lush green meadow above the Sully Brook brought them to a stile leading into the Community Orchard, planted by volunteers in 2010 and then through a gate into Cogan Wood, where squirrels were bounding and delicately prancing along the ground seeking food before scurrying up into the trees. Reaching Mile Road they continued towards Old Cogan Hall Farm to enter the churchyard of St Peter’s where lunch was taken whilst soaking up the sunshine that felt more like May than November.
Refreshed they walked on through what had been the deserted medieval settlement of Old Cogan which relates to the 12th century when the church was built. It appears buildings were set within gardens on either side of a sunken lane and there was a village pond or a well with a mill and leat set to the south of the village.
A narrow track brought them into woodland at the rear of Myrtle Close to hop across the Sully Brook into the lovely open green space of St Cyres Park with deep blue skies overhead. Then onto pavements taking them through Penarth town by way of Glyndwr Road, Elfed Avenue and across Redlands Road, through Mountjoy Crescent and more open parkland to the lovely upgraded Golden Gates Park and past the Grade II listed St Joseph’s Church, which took seven years to build as work was interrupted by the Great War.
By lane to reach Dingle Road and across the railway footbridge just as a train was approaching and then across the A4160 Windsor Road into Windsor Lane, across Plassey Street to Plassey Square open space and along Harbour View Road to Queen Street. Here they heard the oldest reference to Penarth goes back to Osbert a Norman Knight that granted land there to St Augustine’s Abbey in Bristol. The land was then taken by King Henry VII and leased out to local well to do families like the Herbert’s, Windsor’s and Lewis families.
This area to the north of Penarth is known as The Bowery and was a poor area without access to education, doctors or a good standard of living. Many of the Irish navvies that came over to build Penarth Docks lodged in this area which became known as ‘Dagger Town’ and fights, prostitution, opium dens and gambling along with no doubt a murder or two was rife. The Irish making the journey by boat often arrived starving and disease ridden if the journey had taken longer than expected. Whilst to the south of Penarth, it was a different story as the middle and upper class residents were better dressed, had moral values and enjoyed wealth and all the other things their counterparts in the north of the town lacked. A lane between houses built into the hillside at the rear of Paget Road brought them to Steep Street for the short walk back to their start, this time with sunny views across Cardiff Bay and beyond.
You can follow the group’s exploits at www.penarthramblers.wordpress.com or Facebook