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Cardiff A-Z: P is for parkrun

Katie Hamer continues her A–Z series with an exploration of Cardiff’s ever-growing running community.


A runner near the start of the route on Taff’s Trail near Bute Park


How are you doing with your New Year’s Resolutions? What do you hope to achieve in 2015?

Whatever you have planned, make getting out in the fresh air and exercising a priority. As I’ve discovered, there’s nothing better for blowing away those winter cobwebs. It helps to eliminate the gloom of long dark evenings, and may also have prevented me from catching a cold so far.

What’s so special about parkrun?

Parkrun events are free. All you have to do to take part, is register online and turn up with a printout of your barcode (scans from mobile phones don’t work, for some reason). They take place at many venues, both UK-wide and internationally. Local running clubs organize them and people of all abilities are welcome to take part.

At the end of the run your time appears online for all to see, provided you have brought your barcode. It’s not a race, but from my own personal experience, I’ve gained a lot of satisfaction from smashing my Personal Best.

Leaders of the pack on Saturday


So, it it’s nationwide, what makes the Cardiff parkrun special?

Well, this I couldn’t initially answer, as I am in fact a veteran of another parkrun venue, the one at Bryn Bach, Ebbw Vale. So I decided to set out to investigate. This is what I discovered:

Cardiff parkrun is huge

Four hundred runners on average turn up every week to participate. The most they’ve had is a staggering seven hundred, now that makes for crowded footpaths!

Cardiff parkrun has a vibrant community

They have a very lively Facebook group with 2,000 plus registered members. They’re adding more people all the time. All members are encouraged to post, and there’s almost always a vibrant conversation going on. Which got me thinking…

Determined runners stride ahead


How could I play an active role in that community?

I had to think about this. I could turn up to the Cardiff parkrun to take part, but what would that teach me? Then, it occurred to me that what I should do is sign up to volunteer.

What happened next?

I found signing up to volunteer very easy. A few days after signing up, I received an email requesting that I marshal at the crossroads. So, on a wet and windy Saturday at the beginning of January, I turned up at the Taff’s Trail next to the big Tesco Extra, donned a high-vis bib, and stood at the side of the course to cheer the runners on.

My view from the crossroads, a stretch where marshals have to ensure runners have enough space to run both directions: there and back


How did I rate the experience?

Never having been to this particular course before, and not knowing anyone there, I did feel daunted. But that daunted feeling soon dissipated as I got chatting to the other volunteers. I quickly realized how passionate the people who marshal the event are. They are members of running clubs who have taken part in elite races, and yet go out of their way on a Saturday to give support and encouragement to aspiring runners of all abilities. What really impressed me is that they have a volunteer to ensure the slowest participants cross the finishing line and gain their time.

The fastest runners pass the middle of the pack on the two-way stretch as marshals offer guidance and encouragement


Parkrun changes lives

Parkrun has changed my life. When I turned up for my first event, I did so as a casual runner. I’m now a member of a running club, registered with the Welsh Athletics Association and training to take part in the Berlin 25km race. If you ask around at any parkrun event, you will hear many similar stories, and ones that are even more remarkable.

Cardiff – a great city for running

Cardiff is an amazing city to be a runner. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this list of forthcoming races:


1st March 2015 St. David’s Day Run

4th May 2015 Cardiff Bay 5 mile

28th June 2015 Cardiff Triathlon

6th September 2015 Cardiff 10k

4th October 2015 Cardiff Half-Marathon


If you’re new to running or it’s been a while since you last did any running, you can find some great training tips here, to help you get prepared: Runner’s World Website.

So, what are you waiting for? Put your trainers on and get down to Cardiff parkrun this Saturday!

You can find more information on Cardiff Parkrun here:

Parkrun website



Thanks for reading.




Cardiff A-Z: O is for OPENCities

What better way to kick off 2015 in Cardiff than to celebrate all that makes the city uniquely special?

I’m now halfway through my A-Z exploration so I decided to sum up what I’ve discovered so far. During this summing up I also uncovered the city’s involvement in the European-wide OPENCities project so I’m sharing this with you as well. Here goes:

OPENCities is a British Council project set up to examine the future role of urban spaces. Cardiff has had a pivotal role in this project since it began in 2008. I’ll explain why.

First of all, why openness matters

By 2050 two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. This urban expansion will be caused by mass migration. OPENCities examines how cities can embrace their migrant populations and offer new opportunities for all.

A bilingual sign for the City of Cardiff


“Openness is the capacity of a city to attract international populations and to enable them to contribute to the future success of the city”

What makes Cardiff especially important?

First off it’s the youngest capital city in Western Europe. Since the 19th Century when the city become a major importer of coal from the valleys its population expanded tenfold. It has welcome new residents from all over the world, who have made a valuable contribution towards the city’s economy and culture. Cardiff is indeed a vibrant multicultural hub of which all its citizens can be proud.

As well as examining the patterns of migrant populations, the OPENCities project has investigated how cities such as Cardiff can raise its profile internationally. The longterm plan is make Cardiff an even more attractive place for people of all ages and backgrounds to live and work than it is now.

In the picture – What will the future of Cardiff look like?


“By 2020…Cardiff will be a world class European capital city with an exceptional quality of life and at the heart of a thriving city region.”

In my explorations of Cardiff for my A-Z series I have indeed experienced a culturally diverse city, as my photo gallery demonstrates. Here’s to a good 2015 for you all, and Enjoy!

Arcades provide a cafe culture as well as shops


Green areas provide rest and relaxation within the City centre
Different eras of history co-exist in harmony. The 19th Century clock tower at Cardiff Castle as seen from the Medieval Keep.
Daleks, who have made their home in Cardiff Bay
Cardiff University students dig for Iron Age remains at Caerau Hill Fort
Visitors enjoy the sunshine outside Rhyd-Y-Car Terrace, an exhibit which takes you through 200 years of Welsh history.
The Shree Swaminarayan Temple within Grangetown demonstrates the diversity of religions catered for in Cardiff.


Brains beer, as celebrated in The Hennessys’ song ‘Cardiff Born, Cardiff Bred’.
Ianto’s shrine at Mermaid Quay is on the tourist trail for international visitors.
St John the Baptist Church provides an open door policy within the heart of the City.
Roath Park – one of the favourite places for Christian Amadeo, the brains behind ‘I Loves the ‘Diff’
Visitors gather to be spooked by ghost stories in Llandaff.
Visitors can experience the view through the players’ entrance while on the Millennium Stadium tour.
National and international exhibits can be viewed alongside each other at the National Museum, Cardiff


Cardiff A-Z: N is for the National Museum, Cardiff

Katie Hamer continues her A-Z exploration of the highlights of Cardiff with an excursion of discovery to the National Museum, Cardiff. Here’s what she discovered.


I decided to go on a journey to explore the Evolution of Wales through the millennia, and where better to do this than at the National Museum, Cardiff?


Right at the heart of Cardiff’s beating civic centre, I experienced a permanent exhibition of fascinating artefacts, which took me from pre-pre-historic times right up to the present day. I found it breathtaking to discover just how much Wales has evolved. Although today the country has a relatively wet but stable climate, its history reveals an entirely different story.


My journey started 4.6 billion years before the Common Era. I ventured past giant screens where molten lava boiled and flowed, before cooling to form solid rock. I heard explanations for how meteors from space formed minerals here on Earth. I stood amazed in front of displays, which revealed that Wales at one point had a tropical climate with coral reefs around its shores. It appears that the country has had a very tumultuous time in the past, and we cannot take for granted that our current stable climate will last. Indeed, we take it for granted at our own peril.


By visiting this vast exhibition I gained a great understanding of how modern day Wales came to be. I saw fossils of shells and plants, minerals such as gold, iron ore and coal. I discovered that the black gold, which led to the nineteenth century population explosion of the city, originated from fossilized peat deposits. I also witnessed dragonflies as big as buzzards, came face to face with dinosaur skeletons and even a life-sized Woolly Mammoth with cub, if that’s the correct word!


I discovered that the Wales we know and love today didn’t actually begin to take shape until after the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago. At this point the glaciers retreated, and flora and fauna flourished. But it wasn’t for another 4,000 years that farmland for grazing herds of sheep and cattle were claimed from the woodlands, which resulted in the first permanent settlements being established. Farming communities, where families lived in wooden huts became the norm, then led to the extinction of the hunter-gatherer way of life.


Following on from that, Wales experienced a Bronze Age, an Iron Age and eventually a Coal Age. We’re now heavily invested in the Technology Age without which I wouldn’t be sharing this article with you now.

So, where next for our small corner of the planet?

I’m sure whatever occurs the National Museum Cardiff will keep us updated.

You can find out more about the National Museum and its various exhibits here:

Museum Wales website

Twitter: @AmgueddfaCymru

Facebook: Amgueddfa Cymru Facebook Page

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy looking at my gallery. Catch up with you again soon!















A-Z of Cardiff: M is for the Millennium Stadium…

Katie Hamer continues her alphabetical adventure through the landmarks of Cardiff! Today she’s reached M … and heading to the Millennium Stadium…



The Millennium Stadium has to be the most iconic landmark in Cardiff. Its eye-catching structure is one of the first things visitors encounter after leaving the Central Station. The city centre positioning is exactly the reason why it’s so special as it places it within the beating heart of the city. It lends to it a vibrancy and liveliness that is harder to create in a stadium on the outskirts of a town or city.


It’s strange to think that I’ve passed this Stadium nearly every time I visit Cardiff on the train and yet I’d never been inside it. Clearly, this didn’t put me in the best position to talk about the Stadium experience, did it? And I wondered what I could do about that. By searching the web I soon realised that I could sign up for a guided tour of the Stadium and buy tickets online, so that’s exactly what I did. This is what I discovered from my visit:


First, I’ll give you a few facts about how the Stadium came to be built. The Millennium Stadium, home of the Wales National Rugby Union team, was built in order to showcase the best that Wales could offer in the run-up to the country hosting the 1999 Rugby World Cup. When it opened its gates to the public for the first time in June of the same year it could boast a full capacity crowd of 74,500 which makes it the third largest Six Nations Championship Stadium to this day. It also stands out for its amazing fully retractable roof, as there is only one larger stadium in the world to have this feature.


All in all, the Stadium has to be one of the best features in Cardiff for getting a photographer’s ‘trigger finger’ fidgety. It’s photogenic from so many different angles. I felt wowed by the potential of visiting such an eye-catching landmark, so unsurprisingly the first question I asked upon joining my tour group was, “Can I take photos?” To my great relief, Pete the tour guide informed me that absolutely, I could take photos and there were no restrictions on what I took. Phew! That was good to hear!


Pete guided my group of intrepid explorers on a tour of the whole building, taking in the press conference suite, the changing rooms for both the home and away teams, the prestigious boxes and of course the Stadium itself. Along the way we were allowed to take our time to relish the memorabilia that they keep in glass display cabinets and which also decorate the walls.


At one point, when we were about to go through double doors which are the player’s entrance onto the pitch, Pete told us all of an experience he’d recently had, and of which he was most proud. He’d told us that he’d met many famous people while working at the Stadium, but the guest he met on Saturday surpassed them all.


While the crowds within the Stadium were waiting in anticipation to see the home team play New Zealand’s All Blacks, he got a chance to speak with a world-famous celebrity, the ‘Hoff, no less. From what I recall, he told me he got a genuinely warm response along the lines of “Hey Buddy”. Oh, to be a fly on the wall on that occasion.


We then entered the Stadium through that most lauded entrance. As I did so, I could imagine the sense of anticipation that the players must feel, the sense that anything is possible, that victory could be within their grasp. I imagined the roar of the crowds on all four sides of the Stadium as the teams finally made it on to the pitch.


During the tour, we visited the Stadium at various different levels, drinking in the atmosphere each time. Pete the tour guide was very congenial and made every effort to make the tour memorable by offering to take photos for us. I’m very pleased with the photos that he took for me from one of the seating areas high up from the pitch. He’s clearly had a lot of practice.


We finished up the tour gazing at a Rugby cup, which was perched on a stand near the top of the Stadium, which was emblazoned with ribbons, but sadly was not a Six Nations Cup. The whole tour party sat in seats over-looking the cup and out towards the pitch, admiring the way it is carefully preserved with sprinkler systems and sun lamps between matches, especially in the winter when there’s not much chance for natural daylight to filter into the grounds.

Looking out at the Stadium I got a real sense of how great the atmosphere would be when there’s an important match, or when the place is full of music fans dancing along to one of their favourite bands. I could imagine how the crowd would react to seeing headliner acts such as Madonna, Take That and Bruce Springsteen performing here. I read somewhere that the Manic Street Preachers were the first band to play at the Stadium, on New Year’s Eve 1999. Now, that’s one concert I wish I could have been at. Perhaps I should see if Doctor Who’s time machine in Cardiff Bay could take me back there!

You can find out more information about Millennium Stadium tours and events here:


Once again, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy spending a few minutes looking through my photo gallery.









Thanks Katie! More Cardiff A-Z very soon…


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Cardiff A-Z: L is for Llandaff

Katie Hamer gets into the spirit of the season, checking out the historic district of Llandaff…

The City Cross at Cathedral Green, Llandaff

I’d heard rumours that Llandaff is one of the most haunted places in the UK. Deciding to investigate further, I armed myself with a camera and also some ghost-detection equipment, in order to join John Hutch on the Llandaff Ghost Walk. What, you may be wondering, did I discover?

By day, Llandaff has the sleepy respectability of a village from out of Agatha Christie. But by night, it takes on much more sombre feel, as the landscape recalls past traumas. Indeed those more grisly moments of Llandaff’s history came to life for me on the ghost walk, thanks to John Hutch’s awesome powers of storytelling.

Llandaff Cathedral


Llandaff’s history spans as far back as the Romans, and there is evidence of Roman burials beneath the walls of Llandaff Cathedral. History books illustrate how it became embroiled in the bloody battles of Owain Glyndwr in the fourteenth century. Later on, in the seventeenth century, Llandaff was again thrown into conflict, as Oliver Cromwell and his army of Roundheads, fought to bring down the monarchy.

This is where we met for the walk

Llandaff Cathedral itself has a checkered history. It’s taken the brunt from uprisings, going as far back as the Norman conquests of the eleventh century. Only Coventry Cathedral was more badly damaged by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War.

As recently as 2007, the Cathedral again suffered damage, when its spire was struck by lightning. The strike blew the brass weathervane clean off the roof, and destroyed the electric church organ.

Was this an act of God, as parishioners had allegedly been praying for a new church organ? Whether act of God or simply act of nature, the full impact of the new organ echoing around the Cathedral grounds as John recalled ghost stories certainly added to the atmosphere, and sent shivers down my spine.

The Cathedral at night

The mist rolled in as we followed John down the footpaths, and through the fields and woodlands. He recalled so many different stories, and in such a magical way, that I wouldn’t be able to recall them all to you now.

Perhaps, the most sinister of them all is about a black faceless figure that watches people unawares, before gliding towards them faster than any human could run. Who could that be? John offered an explanation for this ghost after we reached the graveyard. His delivery of this story was perfect, that I wouldn’t want to steal his thunder, so to speak, by providing a spoiler!

A woodland trail by torchlight
John recalls one of his many ghost stories


Not all the ghost stories are fully polished and explained. In some cases we simply do not know the origins for the ghostly visitors. What makes the accounts fascinating are the number of unrelated sightings of the same apparition.

However, it appears that ghosts do not perform on cue, so sightings from beyond the grave cannot be guaranteed on the walk. Then again, there is always a chance that you might experience something otherworldly, or that an unexplained image could appear in a photograph. I didn’t spot anything in my photos, but I’d love to hear from you, if you think you can!

John touched upon how scientists have tried to explain away the paranormal with logic. For instance, it’s part of how we are as humans to be scared of the dark, to fear dying and what we may or may not face after death. From the very earliest age, we are trying to understand the world around us.

The weir

Interestingly, when those of a sceptical or scientific leaning have experienced these phenomena for themselves, they often become willing converts.

For many people, when faced with the unknown, negative emotions such as fear become as real as fact in a way that happier, more positive feelings rarely do. The resultant sense of panic leads us into the fight or flight mode. More often with ghosts, it’s flight.

Another line of thought is that, when a traumatic event takes place, a memory of that moment is forever etched upon the atmosphere of that place. It is then replayed, as a permanent recording on the Earth’s magnetic fields, to be observed by particularly receptive individuals.

Llandaff graveyard

Whatever the causes of these hauntings, they have certainly captured our imaginations, and our desire to recount stories about them will be around a long time after we are.

So, if you’re curious to hear the stories of ghosts past, while surrounded by some of the most magical settings Cardiff has to offer, I’d well recommend the Llandaff Ghost Walk.

You can find more information on ghost walks, and also how to sign up for them here:

The Cardiff History and Hauntings website: http://www.cardiffhistory.co.uk/index.php?p=1

And also on Facebook:

Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear your spooky experiences, so feel free to share them in the comments below. I hope you also enjoy spending a few minutes looking at my gallery.

Back in the Cathedral grounds



Outside the Cathedral