Howardian Local Nature Reserve, 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 a bunch 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 seven, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Where’d we go this week?
This week we explored a hidden patch of wilderness, now called Howardian Local Nature Reserve (see on maps). Not many people know about this little gem, and that's because it sits quietly behind David Lloyds Leisure Clubs, with its entrance located discreetly alongside the club. If you follow the paths around, you’ll eventually do a full loop and appear back where you started. It may not be the longest walk, but it’s certainly one of Marley’s (and our) favourite walks!
An Overview of Howardian Local Nature Reserve
This small plot of land, now recognised as a nature reserve, is a great spot to let your dog run free and explore all of the different nooks and crannies that you’ll find here. There are plenty of paths to choose from and you should eventually find your way through the whole reserve. On the whole, it’s probably 20-30 minutes around, but we like to let Marley run loose and sniff a little. There’s so much nature and wildlife inside the nature reserve, it’s definitely worth making the trip.
Following the main path, you’ll come across such a diverse array of habitats, plants and animals. In fact, the more you look the more you’ll find! Having delved a little deeper, we discovered some really interesting history associated with the nature reserve. For example, Howardian High School (no longer around) had a significant role in developing the land from a 6-acre plot to the 30-acre nature reserve it is today.
Fast-forward a little and you’ll find the Friends of Howardian Local Nature Reserve group keeping a watchful eye. They’re a passionate bunch, and some of their members have been involved since 1973! (More on them later…)
On the whole, Howardian Local Nature Reserve is a beautiful spot of wilderness to explore, and you’ll be okay to let your dog off lead too. You may come across one or two other dog walkers, but it’s usually pretty tranquil and quiet. If you live close, you should 100% visit the reserve- especially if you’re already a member of David Lloyds clubs! The amount of work that’s been put into this place over the years is something we should all take the time to cherish.
How to Get There
You can get to Howardian Local Nature Reserve by car, and it’s pretty easy to find. As we mentioned earlier, it sit’s alongside David Lloyd’s Leisure Club. If you know the area well, then you can access the nature reserve from Newport Road (right by Morrison’s) or even Colchester Avenue (where Sainsbury’s and Lidl are located). Here it is on the map:
As you approach its entrance on Ipswich road, there’s plenty of free parking available. We always park literally 10-20 meters from the entrance with no problem whatsoever. If you’re a member of David Lloyd’s, you can park in the car park, but we wouldn’t advise it if you’re not! There’s a gate, which requires a code that you’d need to get from reception. Like we said, there’s plenty of free parking on the road by the entrance.
You can find plenty of bus stops along Newport Road and Colchester Avenue too. We actually walk there when we have time, although walking along Newport Road isn’t always ideal.
A Bit of History…
(main source: howardianlnr.org.uk)
Howardian Local Nature Reserve began its existence way back in 1973, when Cardiff City Council asked the Natural History Society of Howardian High School to look after the small patch of land. Back then, it was only a mere 6 acres and a lot of the land had previously been used as a refuse tip!
When the tip closed in 1970, it was estimated to hold up to 15 feet (deep) of rubbish! This may sound crazy, but the school (along with help from the council) managed to seal the rubbish with a foot or so of dirt, and then proceeded to build the nature reserve on top! We think it’s a brilliant use of an old tip, and you’d never have guessed it if you didn’t read it here first!
The school, and the Natural History Society, took good care of the land for 17 years, right up until the school closed down in 1990. During the 17 years, they managed to do absolutely loads to the land, and by 1990 it was a whopping 30-acre’s big.
In 1989, a year before the school closed down, the Friends of Howardian Local Nature Reserve group was put together to continue to develop the land. The group is still active today and are responsible for the overall maintenance and caring of the land. In 1991, the site was officially recognised as a Local Nature Reserve, due to its diverse wildlife and natural beauty- a huge milestone, considering it began it’s life mostly as a rubbish tip!
The Friends of Howardian Local Nature Reserve website has plenty of old documents and articles that are pretty interesting to read. We have linked a couple below for those who are interested…
First up, here’s a link to a document written in 1975 by the Howardian Natural History Society to its members. If you have a scan of the first page, you’ll see they were raising the issue of people “throwing stones and other objects around in the reserve” and that if caught, they may be “expelled from the society”. I suppose, wherever you go you’ll always find someone who has to mess around!
For even more nostalgia, you can still read the Howardian Nature Trail booklet from 1973. Click here to see for yourself! Inside the booklet, it states
“The Parks Department allowed the Society to draw up its own management plan, which was to provide for as many different habitats within the limited space as possible.”
We can certainly vouch for both the Howardian Natural History Society, and the Friends of Howardian Local Nature Reserve that they have done a cracking job- especially when you see photographs of how it once was!
If you’re after a more up-to-date Trail booklet to read, click here. It’s from 1996, but still stands true today!
Finally, we unearthed the Management Plan for the Nature Reserve (2000) and it’s pretty interesting! If you really really wanted to dive into the history of this place (and more), then you can click here to give it a read.
Friends of Howardian Local Nature Reserve
The Friends of Howardian Local Nature Reserve group was formed in 1989, and they’re still very much active today. Endorsed by Cardiff City Council, who work alongside them, this group of enthusiastic locals work hard to preserve the reserve…
Their roles cover a whole range of jobs, from planting and hedge laying to water management and path maintenance. They even put up 40 bird boxes and 20 bat boxes in the area, back in 2009! Honestly, they’ve been super busy.
For a taste of what they’ve achieved, here’s a handful of photographs taken from their website, showing them hard at work to keep the nature reserve as beautiful and well kept as you’ll find it today!
Some more interesting facts about the group…
After doing some digging, we discovered that some of the longest-serving members of the Friends group have actually had local streets named after them, in a show of respect for what they have done for Howardian Local Nature Reserve. We thought that was pretty neat, so here’s a shout out to them!
Both Martin Doe (left) and Gerald Nowell (right) are honoured members of the Friends group. Martin Doe has been involved with the nature reserve since he was a schoolboy at Howardian High School, and has been involved in the project from the very beginning. Gerald Nowell joined in 1986 and his role included being very much in charge of most of the planning and planting in the reserve.
High five to both of you, and to everyone else who has helped over the years to make Howardian Local Nature Reserve what it is today. That includes members of Cardiff City Council, the old Natural History Society, other volunteers and rangers who’ve contributed over the years- and everyone else who has cared for the area! It truly is a place to be proud of, and we thank all of you on behalf of everyone who visits and uses the area.
Hopefully we can spread the word so that more people can come to appreciate the nature reserve and learn about its super-interesting past.
If you’d like to get involved with the Friends of Howardian Local Nature Reserve, or see how you can volunteer, visit their website: howardianlnr.org.uk to find out more.
Seeing as Howardian Local Nature Reserve sits right behind David Lloyds Club, and practically shares the same entrance, we figured we’d give the club a mention here for anyone wanting to find out more.
David Lloyds Clubs are huge in the UK. According to their website, they currently have 98 clubs in the UK, and have even spread into Europe with a further 13 clubs! They’ve certainly been busy over the years.
If that’s not impressive enough, they boast over 2000 fitness experts, 680 tennis coaches, over 180 swimming pools and 13,000 exercise classes each week!
Admittedly, that doesn’t help grasp what’s actually inside the Cardiff club, but it’s a pretty big (and slick) operation on the whole.
We actually picked up a free week pass not too long ago and can vouch that the place is massive. It has countless tennis courts and the gym is fully packed with modern equipment. They have a pool, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi as well as plenty of fitness studios, squash courts and more! Honestly, if you can afford the membership, you’ll be pretty amazed with just how awesome the place is.
On top of all of the facilities, they have a café and restaurant inside plus plenty of room to hire out for events, and even a dedicated play area and ‘Kids Club’ for your kids to play whilst you work out! This place has it all.
We’ll leave a link to their website here. If you were thinking of checking them out, now’s your time! They often offer free passes, or deals, for people looking to try before they buy, so it’s worth having a look and asking!
David Lloyd; The Man Himself…
We have always wondered who David Lloyd is, and how it all started. Well, here’s what we found on the internet: (source: wiki)
David Lloyd was a pro tennis player back in the 1970’s. In 1982, he opened up the first David Lloyds Club in London, with the vision of creating “a family orientated club with an emphasis on tennis.” If you hadn’t guessed it, he’s very passionate about tennis.
In true entrepreneur fashion, 10 years after the first club opened, David Lloyds Clubs was put on the stock market and in 1995 it was bought for £200 million by Whitbread Plc.
David Lloyd didn't retire then though! He was only getting warmed up…
Staying on as managing director until 1996, David Lloyd then went on to create Next Generation Fitness Clubs. Believe it or not, in 2007, David Lloyds Leisure Clubs was bought off Whitbread Plc. and Next Generation Fitness Clubs were incorporated into the group in a deal worth £925 million!
His tale doesn’t stop there. In recent years, David Lloyd has had plenty more business endeavours ranging from buying and selling property abroad to launching a string of trampoline parks here in the UK!
When asked by the telegraph (in 2016) about his business ventures, he replied,
“I need something to keep my brain working. I can’t retire but I don’t invest for money’s sake. If I put my money into something, it means I love it.” (source: telegraph.co.uk)
If David Lloyd’s story doesn’t inspire you, we don’t know what will. A true entrepreneur with a seriously good record, and he’s in it for the right reasons! Salute to you David Lloyd, you’re awesome.
Without further ado, click below to watch the full episode:
Where are we heading next?
We still have a couple of locations in Cardiff that we want to film. After that, we’ll be venturing out of Cardiff and are looking for suggestions to check out! If you know of a crazy-good walk in your local area, let us know about it! Leave a comment below and we’ll make a note of it. We want to go everywhere…
Thanks for reading, and we’ll catch you on next week’s Walk of the Week!
- Dino & Beth (and Marley!)