Cardiff A–Z: X Marks the Spot!

Back from her summer holidays, Katie Hamer continues her A–Z series of Cardiff. She’s here to update you with her most recent adventures from around the capital…


I can’t believe that I’m now at ‘X’ in my series! Where did that time go? It’s been quite a journey, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading so far.

‘X’ was always going to be a tricky one. I mean, there aren’t many words in English, let alone Welsh, that start with an ‘X’. I actually felt stumped for the first time while researching this. Then Helia, who is the brains behind this site, made a wonderful suggestion: how about doing ‘X marks the spot?’

First view of Penarth Pier Pavilion

Well that immediately got me thinking of treasure hunts. But where in Cardiff would I find my hidden trove? The answer turned out to be Penarth Beach and I’ll tell you why!

Growing up, I dreamed of becoming an archaeologist, but perhaps without the drama of those Indiana Jones films. Although I never realised this dream, I still experience a sense of awe in learning about different centuries and from visiting ancient landmarks.

Panoramic sweep of the Pier

My enthusiasm has so far led me to St. Fagans and also to the dig at the Caerau Hillfort. Due to time constraints, I never got to experience the dig at Caerau first-hand, so you can imagine my excitement upon hearing about Penarth Beach’s abundance of fossils. This is amazing in itself, but then I read about the discovery of an early Jurassic dinosaur at nearby Lavernock Beach, and that really captured my imagination. What if I were to discover an actual Tyrannosaurus Rex? Well, I decided, there’s only one way to find out…

And so I hopped on the next train with my bucket and spade, determined to make at least one discovery of a fossilised nature. That Penarth Beach is home to many fossil remains certainly isn’t what you’d call a well-kept secret. Over-collection could be an issue. But I’d also heard that it’s still possible to find at least one good example per visit. Feeling particularly optimistic, I decided to put this theory to the test.

Penarth Beach looking South towards Flat Holm

The Pier is the defining landmark. To the right of the Pier you have the flower-decked Esplanade leading to Lavernock Beach. To the left are the cliffs, which lead up to the Barrage and this is where I decided to explore.

Looking North at the cliffs

Upon arrival in Penarth, I decided to survey this particular territory from the safety of the Pier. I have to say, the stretch of stone-laden beech didn’t look the most inviting, but I’d arrived so I remained resolute in my mission.


Once on the beach, I had to watch my footing. The loose stones and boulders make it a challenge. I also felt nervous of getting near the bottom of the cliffs, because I could see evidence of recent rock falls. All in all, I felt like a complete amateur and wished I had sought advice from someone ‘in the know’ beforehand. My problem lay in determining what kind of rock would bear fruit, as there are so many different varieties on this beach.


What surprised me about this stretch of coast is the hint of more recent historical periods. There are the foundations of what look like nineteenth or early twentieth century buildings. It certainly got me thinking about what the purpose of these now ruined buildings had been and how they had reached their current state. To think in centuries to come, archaeologists could be exploring these sites for clues as to how we live now.


My mission to find a precious artefact seemed to be going nowhere, however. After a couple of hours of searching I decided to head for the Pier for my cod and chips.

The remains of a brick with socket-holes that almost look skeletal


Could this be the impression of a beetle or a crab?

I made my most interesting discovery upon leaving the beach for the Pier. I found a stone with what looks like the impression of a hard-shelled creature. Could it be the markings of a beetle or a crab? Whatever the origin, the shape looks too symmetrical to be accidental.

One thing for certain is that this ‘find’ has certainly wetted my appetite and I shall return. Maybe I’ll see you there?

You can find more information about fossil hunting at Penarth Beach here:

U.K. Fossils Network Website

And here’s more information about the Penarth Beach dinosaur discovery:

Penarth Times website

Thanks for reading. I hope you will enjoy my photo gallery. Until next time!


Penarth Pier on a ‘sunny’ August day
Underneath the Pier






Some of my ‘finds’

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