Heath Park, Cardiff
If you’re looking for some of the best dog walks that Wales has to offer (and in video!), then you've come to the right place. Join us on our adventure, where we plan to travel all over Wales, seeking out the best spots to take your dog (or dogs!) and we want to share our adventure with all of you.
We only started filming our new series ‘Walk of the Week’ back in August, and have already visited six of the coolest dog walks Cardiff has to offer. Share our adventure with us, and discover some of the best-kept secret walking locations in your local area!
To watch episode six, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Where'd we go this week?
This week we headed over to check out Heath Park (see on maps) which resides just behind Heath Hospital. Heath Park has plenty to offer in the form of 37 hectares of playing fields, woodlands, ponds and recreational facilities. It really is massive, and offers a range of sports and leisure activities such as a 9-hole pitch-and-put golf course, tennis and even has a 3G pitch! Heath Park really is a great place to go and explore, and its super dog friendly too!
Here’s a table of contents to help you navigate a little better – hope it helps!
1. An overview of Heath Park
2. How to get there
3. A bit of history
4. Heath Park Golf Course
5. Tennis at Heath Park
6. The Friends of Heath Park Woodlands
7. The Pond (and semi-rare Great Crested Newts!)
8. Heath Hospital
9. Watch the full episode here!
An Overview of Heath Park
Heath Park is found in Heath (naturally), and is owned by Cardiff City Council. Along with the park rangers there, an enthusiastic group of local residents have formed a ‘Friends of Heath Park Woodlands’ group to help maintain and further improve the park area. How awesome is that!! You get a real sense of passion from the volunteers helping to care for our parkland.
From the main entrance and car park, you can pretty much take any route you fancy and you’ll find your way around eventually. There’s a kid’s play park located right by the car park, and has some beyond-the-normal-park features that look pretty neat!
You’ll also find a 3G pitch pretty much inside the car park; you can either hire it out for a kick around or join one of the teams that play there!
Past the kid’s playground, the park simply opens up into vast open space. It’s incredible! Honestly, even with Marley (and he’s bonkers) we are pretty confident he couldn't run too far away or run onto a road from here. If you have a dog that’s similar, then this place can give you that stress-free, off-lead walk you (and your dog!) crave.
Past the fields, you’ll find plenty of woodlands with gravel paths and there’s even a pond to find here. In fact, the pond is used as breeding grounds for the semi-rare Great Crested Newt; fun facts for you right there!
Backing into Heath Park is Heath Hospital, or the ‘University Hospital of Wales’. As the largest in Wales, Heath Hospital boasts an impressive 1000 beds and was the largest hospital and medical school in Europe when it was first built in 1971.
All in all, Heath Park is absolutely fantastic and should be on everyone’s list to visit if you haven’t already been.
2. How to get there
The park is real easy to find, whether you walk or drive. You can even take the train!
The park offers a pretty big car park with free parking for 2 hours during the week, and it’s always free on weekends! We’ve never had issues with finding parking, nor have we ever needed to pay! Here’s what we found on the official Cardiff.gov.uk website regarding parking:
3. A Bit of History
Heath Park actually has a pretty interesting history, and no; it wasn’t always such a beautiful public park as we had assumed previously! (source: cardiffians.co.uk)
It’s history goes way back to the 18th Century, when the Heath area was a blanket of forest, full of swamps, marshland and more.
In fact, Heath was split into two separate entities; ‘Little Heath’ covered much of what we call Cathays and Roath nowadays, and ‘Great Heath’ went as far as Llanishen and Rhiwbina!
Here’s a map from 1886, to give you an idea of it’s rural past.
The stage is set…
In the 1760’s, a 2-mile racecourse was built on Great Heath by the rich and wealthy of the time.
In 1802, the Health Enclosure Act saw much of the land being sold to raise revenue for the Cardiff Corporation (now Cardiff Council).
This resulted in a lot of the land being transformed for agricultural development and farming purposes which in turn helped to tame the land over the next century.
Fast-forward 100+ years, and not much had really changed… yet.
In 1938, Cardiff Council bought ‘Heath House’ and the surrounding land from the Lewis family, who built the property in the 1840’s. This became the basis of Heath Park today.
During World War II, the council transformed the park area to be used as military training grounds for the British and American troops. It was one of many training facilities used in the build up to D-day (6 June 1944 – a date to remember!).
After the war, the park was used as a temporary teacher training college, and then became a hot spot for squatters. In 1965, Heath House was caught up in a fire that pretty much ended its existence, so unfortunately you won’t find it standing today.
4. Heath Park Golf Course
Along with it’s natural beauty, Heath Park offers a range of leisure activities and sport.
Thanks to an investment from the Ryder Cup Legacy fund, Heath Park is home to a 9-hole pitch and put course.
You can simply turn up on the day; pay at the office, and go play some golf with your friends! They even offer lessons for any beginners looking to learn.
We’ll leave the prices and opening times below if you’re interested. Or, you can find out more on the website.
5. Tennis at Heath Park
On top of the Golf course, if you’re mad about tennis then you’re in for a treat. Heath Park has five competition sized tennis courts, and a whole bunch of mini-courts for the kids too. As far as we know, you can even book lessons.
If you’re interested, you can book a court on their official website, or apply for membership and get to play there for free!
6. The Model Railway – Heath Park Station
Within the borders of Heath Park, you can find the headquarters of the Cardiff Model Engineering Society. This radical bunch have built a miniature railway track right in the heart of the park.
Unfortunately it’s not open all the time, and we missed it by a handful of days. However, after getting in touch, we found out that they not only have trains, but a tram and an indoor railway too! You can also find a burger stand, cafe, ice cream parlour and gift/tuck shop all run by volunteers and society members.
For more info about the miniature railway and everything else they have there, and to find out when the next open-day is, check out their website here.
7. The Friends of Heath Park Woodlands
The Friends of Heath Park group were established over 12 years ago to help the council maintain and improve the parkland area. (source)
Over the years, they’ve helped plant 2000 trees that you’ll find there today. Along with general maintenance work, they also monitor bird populations, and have put up over 20 nest boxes around the park.
If you wanted to get involved with the group, simply ask at the park office or you can find them on Facebook here.
8. The Pond and the ‘Semi-Rare’ Great Crested Newts
If you wander around the woodlands for long enough, you’ll come across this beautiful pond.
It’s actually the breeding ground for the semi-rare Great Crested Newt! Oh yes…
The newts breed here, and are looked after by the volunteers and park rangers. There’s an information board at the pond for more juicy facts, or you can download a whopping 60-page booklet about them here.
9. Heath Hospital
Here are some cool things about Heath Hospital you may find pretty impressive… (source: wiki)
Firstly, Heath Hospital is actually called the University Hospital of Wales (or UHW). Let’s get that out of the way first.
The hospital cost £22 million to build and planning started way back in 1951.
When it was finally finished in 1971, UHW was the first fully integrated hospital and medical school in the whole of Europe at the time.
It’s the third largest University Hospital in the UK, and by far the largest in Wales. Cardiff and Vale University Health Board have operated it since 2009 and it boasts whopping 1000+ beds nowadays with it’s own helipad on the roof!
In 2009 a brand new birthing centre was built costing £16 million and is equip to handle around 90 births a month! There’s an interesting fact for you…
Without further ado; here’s the full episode:
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Where are we heading next?
We are already looking for new and wonderful places to visit and explore. At the moment we’re still in Cardiff, and we still have a couple of gems to showcase here. After Cardiff, who knows where next? Drop us a comment and tell us where you think we should go. Maybe we’ll catch you for an episode!
Thanks for reading, and catch you all on next week's Walk of the Week!
- Dino & Beth (and Marley!)