Cardiff heritage loop
Cardiff heritage loop
To celebrate St David’s Day, and in the hope of lockdown restrictions easing over the coming year, here is a route from Cardiff that’s packed with historic and natural interest.
The ride was created by Cardiff CTC’s Clive Cazeaux, and last year Gwenda Owen led one of the few rides the club managed in a very difficult year.
Kicking off the heritage theme, the ride starts at the National Museum Cardiff. Leaving the city along a busy Newport Road, through Rumney to St Mellons is not the most pleasant of routes but it’s direct and soon gets you out onto the ‘flats’ and some lovely lanes alongside the reens, or drainage channels. These ditches drain land that was once saltmarsh alongside the Severn Estuary, and has been reclaimed since Roman times.
Following the Sustrans route through Duffryn to avoid the dual carriageway, you soon catch site of the first heritage site, the Newport Transporter Bridge. One of only eight remaining transporter bridges in the world, this “aerial ferry” opened in 1906 as a way of transporting workers across the River Usk without disturbing the sea traffic into the town’s busy port. Wheeling bikes onto the suspended gondola for a ride across the river that takes just a few minutes is always one of the best bits of any ride out this way. (You’ll have to wait a while before you can do this as the bridge is currently closed for repairs.)
Disembarking, you follow the Sustrans route again through the industrial estate. When the bridge is closed, the alternative route is on a shared path which follows the river and takes you to the industrial estate.
The route then takes you onto a path through some scrubland and then back out on to the lanes of the Gwent Levels. (If you want an early café stop, you can detour off a couple of miles to Newport Wetlands nature reserve). Passing through Bishton and Underwood, cross the A48 and then you have the first short climb of the ride, as you follow the old Roman road from Llanbeder, via Catsash to Caerleon.
By the time the Romans set up the fortress of Isca here in about 75AD the site already had a long history, as witnessed by the Iron Age fort on the hill above. The Roman baths and barracks can still be seen today, as can the well-preserved amphitheatre – a good spot to stop for a picnic lunch.
From here, follow the NCN 88 along the boardwalk towards Newport, then cross over the A4042 and join the Monmouthshire Canal. Follow the flight of 14 locks, a marvel of 18th-century engineering that takes the canal up 160ft in half a mile. At the top is the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre, which is currently (March 2021) open for takeaway coffee.
Next it’s down to Bassaleg before the climb up Penylan Hill opens up amazing views over the Severn Estuary. The reward is a fast descent on a quiet lane, before crossing over the motorway bridge for a final few miles of open countryside until the suburbs of Cardiff come into view.