Tag Archives: Llandaff

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






Street seen: wag that tail


“My dog’s a boy, but he’s had his bits off. So I guess he’s a half and half now.”

As seen in: Riverside

Photographs by Helia Phoenix



“With dreamy ideas of castles, doubledecker buses, pubs, and all the stereotypes Americans impose on Britain, I moved to Cardiff” – Joni

Joni by Ffion Matthews

I came to Cardiff on a productive gap year. But I stayed because I fell in love.

A studio flat in Washington, D.C., working at USA Today and a lovely bunch of friends weren’t enough to keep me happy in 2007. I had just turned 26 having spent my early twenties slogging in the newsroom as a sub-editor, then graphics editor, then online travel editor. So with dreamy ideas of castles, double-decker buses, pubs, and all the stereotypes Americans impose on Britain, I moved to Cardiff.

Cardiff wasn’t an obvious choice. People where I’m from in the states think Wales swim in the ocean. My logic went something like this:

I had $20,000 to spend on one year of education abroad from the Rotarians of West Texas. Britain awards most master’s degrees in one year. It also gives you free health care as an international student, lets you work up to 20 hours a week, and allows you to get a visa to work after you graduate. (Though some of these perks may change.)Then an old professor told me Cardiff had a good journalism school, and I was sold. So that is how I came to be in Cardiff.

It was temporary, though. I was going to get my degree, round out my journalism skills and probably go home. But Roy Noble of all people read the stars before I did. Some Rotarian who had heard me speak to his club in Aberdare told Roy he found an American he should interview. On Thanksgiving Day 2007, I went on his radio show. He told me Cardiff has a funny way of making people stay. The next summer, Cardiff worked its funny magic. I fell in love.

A year later, my now husband and I moved to Llandaff’s skinny Chapel Street. This village within Cardiff reminded me of a Neighbours within Albert Square – full of stories, history and soap-style drama lurking in the corners. Keen to keep up with the pace in online journalism, I created a local news site: Llandaff News. It was my experiment with WordPress, Twitter, and the social media sphere. It was my attempt to tell the stories of Llandaff and give more people a voice. But it’s become my reason and place to engage with my new home. Llandaff is where I live.

I’m still very much American. I sing Oklahoma with gusto after a few drinks. But I’m a Cardiffian and Llandavian, too. And I love it.

Joni Ayn Alexander is a multimedia journalist, lecturer, blogger, and PhD student. She spends a lot of time reading about journalism and hyperlocal media because that’s what her thesis is all about. When she can find the time, she practices journalism on Llandaff News. She’s American. She’s not British – yet. She drinks so much diet coke she’s been known to make artistic towers with leftover cans. (Small towers,
mind.) And she loves fried chicken. She currently lives in Llandaff.

Joni was photographed in Llandaff by Ffion Matthews


“To me, Cardiff was just somewhere you had to pay to get to on the train” – Charlotte


My 16 year old self wasn’t very keen on Cardiff. I grew up in Newport and thought it was great. It had everything I needed at that time: a McDonald’s where I could buy a Big Mac meal every Saturday lunchtime; a Miss Selfridge where I could stock up on black kohl eye pencils; and a Hitman where I could pretend to be cool looking through the grunge CDs. There was a bar called The Griffin where everyone from school used to hang out (yes, when we were 16) and I could recite the bus time-table. I remember an argument with a girl at school who was from Cardiff about how much better Newport was. I can’t even remember what my argument consisted of but I think I mentioned Annie’s bead shop in Newport Market more than once. At the time I’d probably only actually been to Cardiff a handful of times, it wasn’t ‘my place’ and I didn’t know much about it, but I was sure it just wasn’t that good. To me it was just somewhere you had to pay to get to on the train.

Eight years later in 2004, after moving to England for university, I’d changed. I wasn’t so interested in McDonald’s, kohl eye pencils or grunge, and was more concerned about finding a Pizza Express, an arty cinema and proper department stores. When I decided to move back to Wales, Cardiff seemed to tick all the boxes. I thought about what that girl from school would have said if she’d seen me moving in to my Llandaff flat.

Over the past six years, Cardiff’s become my home. I know all the shortcuts through the backstreets to avoid traffic, I’ve tracked down the best coffee shops, restaurants and bars found myself a dentist, doctor, dry cleaner, car mechanic and all the other things that make you feel like you’re really settled somewhere. I love everything about this place, from the Bay to St David’s shopping centre, Chapter Arts Centre to the amazing Bute Park, and I now find myself telling people how much better Cardiff is than Newport. Not many people argue with me, though.

Charlotte Laing is a freelance journalist and editor of ‘notebook’ magazine for St David’s shopping centre. She also edits her own online magazine about online shopping, www.mrsmagpie.co.uk. She currently lives in Llandaff.

Charlotte was photographed outside Jaspers coffee shop in Llandaff by Adam Chard


Alyson’s daily commute through Cardiff’s green spaces


This is a story about my ordinary, daily walk to work.

It started by bus, unsure of the city I was worried about becoming lost along the way. One evening I missed the bus and decided to walk back to my flat. It sparked a mini love affair.

My walk takes me through Pontcanna, through Llandaff Fields, past Llandaff Cathedral and across the village green.

Over the past year, I have watched cricket matches played out on a background of dazzlingly intense blues and greens.

I have heard owls hoot on early spring evenings. I have smiled at dog walkers appearing from the cathedral grounds; crunched and slipped my way through ice and snow; admired roses tumbling over garden walls; found lost mittens.

I have eaten wild strawberries from the side of the path, blown dandelion clocks past the cathedral – soft plumes of seed heads floating to earth in the hazy evening light.

All very ordinary, all very normal.

I am leaving Cardiff in August. I already know I’ll miss every last bit of ordinary from this extraordinary, beautiful city.

Alyson creates and manages digital content. You can follow her on Twitter at @alysonf. She currently lives in Pontcanna.

Alyson was photographed in Llandaff by Simon Ayre