Roath Park Lake, 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 series ‘Walk of the Week’ back in August, and have already visited ten 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 ten, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Where’d we go this week?
This week we visited possibly one of the most iconic parks that Cardiff has to offer; Roath Park Lake (see on maps). Roath Park Lake is renown as a beautiful spot to go for a walk. The man-made lake sit’s comfortably in suburban Cardiff and offers a delightful change of scenery for those who visit. You’ll find an abundance of swans, ducks and other birds that dwell in the lake for most of the year. Four islands allow the birds to breed and survive without too much interruption and they don’t mind sharing the park with us humans too. Inside the fenced area of the park, you can find a rose garden, children’s park, a conservatory and so much more. In fact, you could spend a whole day at the park, and still have more to discover.
An Overview of Roath Park Lake
Roath Park Lake really is beautiful. The Lake itself provides a habitat for birds and fish alike. The path that circles the lake is approximately 1.3 miles long, and will take you around 30 minutes to walk around. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to admire the views, go off the beaten track or simply take a perch on one of the many benches around the lake area.
At the northern end of the lake you can cross ‘Lover’s Lane’ and head into Roath Wild Gardens. The street itself is actually called Wild Gardens Road, but it’s most commonly known as lovers lane here in Cardiff… not sure why, but it’s been that way since we can remember!
Roath Wild Gardens is like the messy unkempt cousin of Roath Park Lake. The paths are made of gravel, and the whole place is pretty overgrown. There’s plenty more trees, plants and weed’s here but it still is a beautiful spot to explore. If you wanted a more secluded walk or just some peace and quiet, then this is where you want to be.
The Nant Fawr stream wind’s through the Wild Gardens, and travels on to Nant Fawr Woods. If you’d like to discover more about Nant Fawr woods, check out our episode or read our blog of when we visited Rhydypennau Park and Nant Fawr Woods.
Going back around the lake into the park area of Roath Park, you’ll come across all sorts of activities, facilities, a variety of plants and wildlife- the lot. You can even rent rowing boats and pedalo’s in the summer (Parkwood Outdoors); a great way to spend the day with the family or kids.
A bit further along, you’ll find the dog friendly café, Terra Nova, where you can sit down, relax and enjoy a cup of tea with a view. If ice cream is more your thing, you can find an ice cream hut and van in the park area too which means you’re only ever a couple of minutes away from an ice cream.
Further along, you’ll come across the Rose Gardens. These gardens house some of the most beautiful roses you can find. You can clearly tell the park rangers at Roath Park work all year round to keep it tip top.
At the southern end of the park area you’ll come across Roath Park Conservatory. Most people see the building but have never been inside… If you’re one of them, we highly recommend paying it a visit next time you’re down! Inside, you’ll find an array of exotic plants and wildlife including a pair of white-faced whistling ducks that have lived there for the last 6 years! Typically found in southern parts of Africa and South America, these two are always happy to pose for the camera and say hi.
For a sneak peak of what’s inside the conservatory, watch our full episode of Roath Park Lake, at the bottom of the page.
All in all, Roath Park Lake really is magnificent. It’s difficult to describe just how amazing the whole place is without visiting it yourself. If you have a spare moment, we’d highly recommend heading down and exploring all of its beauty to see what we mean. You won’t regret it!
How to get there
Roath Park Lake is in Roath and stretches all the way to Cardiff High School. You can park all around the park for free, or simply walk there! There are plenty of bus routes that can take you to the lake too, or simply catch a train to Heath High Level and it’s 5minutes walk from the platform.
A bit of History…
(Main Source: cardiffparks.org.uk)
The land on which Roath Park Lake was built was once bog land believe it or not! The Marquis of Bute, who owned most of the land, donated it to Cardiff Council in 1887 to build Roath Park; the first publicly owned park in Cardiff!
When work started on building the lake, the priority was to dam the Nant Fawr stream. By 1891 the dam was complete, and you can walk over it today as it forms the promenade between the park area and the lighthouse!
The following year, in 1892, the islands in the north area of the lake were formed and trees were planted to allow for birds to breed. In 1893 the lake was filled with water and by 1894 the park officially opened to the public.
The Wild Gardens at the northern end of the lake wasn’t opened until 1896 and was initially planned to be a second artificial lake. Unfortunately, due to the high costs, the plans were scrapped and ponds were built there instead. The Wild Gardens haven’t been ‘tidied’ or maintained since the 1980’s, leaving them in the current overgrown state that you’ll find them in now.
From the moment the lake was open, you could hire boats to take out onto the lake, although they didn’t have pedalo’s back then!
Back in the day, you could go for a swim in the lake with organized races frequently taking place, and ice-skating was allowed in the winter months when the ice was thick enough.
After World War I, two German artillery guns were placed in the park, right next to the promenade- can you imagine that! It wasn’t long before people complained and the guns were removed. During World War II, Roath Park was used for the war effort, mostly as Air Raid Precautions and allotment space.
Since the creation of the lake there have been ongoing issues with the build up of weeds and silt. Over the years, there have been numerous initiatives to keep the lake clean. One of these was to drain the lake during the winter months to expose the weeds to frost, reducing the impact they had in the summer months.
If you live in the area, you’ll know the lake still struggles with weeds and the rest today. In fact, most recently they have had issues with a build up of toxic blue-green algae in the lake, which has lead to more maintenance work being planned for the near future. (Source: Walesonline.co.uk)
Fun Fact: The slide in the children’s play park used to be a lot more adventurous! Here’s a photograph of what it used to look like!
(Main Source: cardiffparks.org.uk)
The lighthouse at Roath Park Lake was built in 1914/15 as a permanent memorial to Captain Scott and the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910. The expedition sailed from Cardiff on the S.S. Terra Nova ship, but unfortunately they perished in 1912 due to extreme conditions and perhaps a little miscommunication. You can see a scale size model of the Terra Nova ship atop of the lighthouse today.
In order to build the foundations of the lighthouse, the lake had to be drained, and it was eventually presented to the city in 1918. Back then, the clock had to be wound weekly, which was pretty awkward and time consuming as you can imagine.
In the late 1970’s, Lord Pontypridd contributed £4,534 to upgrade the mechanism, which included the installation of an electricity cable from the promenade to the clock tower. They also installed floodlights, although we aren’t sure if the lighting still works today.
Captain Scott and the Antarctic Expedition
(Main Source: Wiki)
Captain Scott was a British Royal Navy Officer who led two expeditions to the Antarctic. The first expedition was a wild success, as he discovered the Antarctic Plateau on which the South Pole is located.
In 1912, he led a second expedition with a crew of five men and reached the South Pole in 1912. Unfortunately, on his return, a planned meeting with supporting dog teams from the base camp failed, leaving Captain Scott and his companions stranded.
The full tale of Captain Scott is rife with injury, adventure, setbacks, terrible weather conditions, and more. He kept a journal throughout the expedition, which was recovered after his body was found. It really is an epic, but sad story and we’d encourage anyone who is interested to read more about the challenges they faced.
In his journal, Captain Scott wrote a “message to the public” that we’ll leave below. It’s pretty inspiring!
“We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last ... Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.”
Champion Tree’s of Roath Park
So we read that there were twelve Champion Tree’s at Roath Park Lake but apparently there’s thirteen of them! A champion tree is one of the broadest or tallest of its species and all champion trees are recorded in the Tree Register of the British Isles.
Here’s a list of the champion trees at Roath Park. You can find them by looking out for plaques by the base of the trees.
Fun Fact: Two oak trees at Roath Park predate the establishment of the park and have been estimated to be around 238 years old! One of them is sat in the children’s park area and is pretty difficult to miss… It’s the ruddy huge oak tree by the promenade!!
Roath Park Conservatory
The initial plans for Roath Park Conservatory were estimated to cost £20,000. It opened in 1975, and the initial charge for entry was set at 5 pence. (Source: cardiffparks.org.uk) Nowadays, it costs £2 for adults and £1 for students.
Inside you’ll find a large pond, full of goldfish and great big carp fish. Luckily, we had a waterproof camera so could take a much closer look at the fella’s. There are terrapins that live there too; apparently unwanted pets that have been given a new home.
One of the main attractions inside the conservatory is the white-faced whistling ducks that live there. These ducks usually live in South Africa and South America, and these two have lived in the conservatory for 6 years. Steve, the super helpful and friendly park ranger who works at the conservatory told us all about them and was ace.
Without further ado, here’s the full episode of Roath Park Lake:
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Where are we heading next?
If you watched the full episode, you’ll know we lost our drone whilst filming at Roath Park Lake. That being said, we are already planning to bring Walk of the Week back next year, and we want to make it huge! With plenty of time to prepare, we can assure you that it’ll be bigger, better and much further afield next time round. Our vision really is massive, and we are wholeheartedly committed to taking Walk of the Week everywhere.
If you haven’t already, take a moment to check out all ten of our episodes so far. You can find the full playlist on YouTube here, or on our website here. If you like what we are doing, and would like to see more of it, we’d love to know! Either drop us a comment on our blog, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or tell us what you think on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!
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Thanks for reading, and catch you all online!
- Dino & Beth (and Marley!)