Salmon Leaps is a nature spot near Michaelston-le-Pit. I discovered it a couple of weeks back during a 54km hiking loop, which took in some of the Wales coast path from Cardiff Bay to Sully, Dinas Powis woods and castle, Salmon Leaps, Tinkinswood Burial Chamber, and St Fagans. You can watch the video which I created about that day at the bottom of this post.
I've since been back to Salmons Leap via a shorter route - so I thought I'd share that with you here (unless you want the 54km version??)
I'd describe Salmon Leaps as a magical little wooded valley, with a chalky blue stream and pools that look full of wildlife. The pools link together via cascading steps. It's only accessible on foot, and at this time of year (winter) is very (very, very, very) muddy. So boots or wellies are advisable!
The route is just short of 15km when starting from Cardiff Castle. It takes you up through Leckwith Woods, which is very muddy and steep (so get your grippy shoes on), but good fun. If you don't live in Cardiff Castle then you'll obviously need to adjust your start point accordingly. Here's a downloadable GPX file for the route:
Alternatively, you can use the link below to view the route on the OS maps site. I use my OS maps app to plot all of my routes. If you have a subscription you can save it – if not then you will still see the route for free, but in order to save/download it and follow it via the app, as well as change to an OS map (instead of standard map) view, you’ll need to have the OS app. This is an affiliate link so if you choose to subscribe I’ll get a wee tip. It’s honestly the most affordable way to get OS maps of the entire UK at your finger tips – and has been a life saver for me in lockdown.
It has similarities to the National 3 Peaks challenge, in that, there are 3 lumps which stick up from sea level and you walk over them. But, that's about it. It's roughly a 34km loop, starting and finishing in the centre of Cardiff (other start and end points are available if you don't live in Cardiff Castle - obvs).
At this point in time we're in lockdown 3.0. This time around I've decided to accept it. Rather than having a constant narrative about how unfair it is streaming through my head, I've chosen to live by one of my favourite sayings - 'it is what it is'. And do you know what... it feels great. It's freed me to enjoy the things that I CAN do within the restrictions, and to be creative with my time. I took a hike a couple of weeks back, and named it the Cardiff 3 Peaks. Then I thought "hmmmm, other 'Cardiffians' might want to know about this". And here we are.
Definitely the sunrise on Garth Hill - if you can get yourself there when the weather's right, it's so worth the early start. I could see the sun reflecting on the Bristol Channel. It was beautiful.
Other highlights include; the woodland on the way up to Garth Hill, my epic snacks (can't guarantee that for you), a splatter of snow on Craig Yr Allt (again, not guaranteed), and getting stuck in a sea of brambles by Caerphilly common and making it out alive!
Where's the route at then?
Download the GPX file to use my route via some fancy GPS device:
The above link allows you to view the route for free on a standard map view. If you have a subscription, you can change to an OS leisure map, and save the route to access fully from your phone.
If you don't have an OS maps subscription, this is the part where I convince you it's amazing, because it is, I love it, and also because I'll get a wee bonus if you love it too (what can I say, these blogs don't pay for themselves).
I highly recommend it - it's an incredibly cheap way to have access to OS maps of the entire UK on your phone and laptop all year round. You can plan and edit routes on several different map views, as well as watch 3D fly through's of your routes - so you get an idea of the landscape before you go! I've been using it for about 4 years, and used it to plan and visualise (with the fly through) every section of the entire 477km route for my Ultimate Wales challenge. It's honestly one of my most used apps!
*The link is an affiliate link, so if you decide to subscribe to OS maps (like I do), then I will receive a wee referral bonus.
Obviously there are a million different ways to skin a cat (hate that saying - no one should be skinning cats), but a couple of my suggestions for route variations would be -
From Caerphilly Common, head back to Cardiff via the Wenallt instead of Graig Llanishen.
And, if you're not racing up Garth Hill for sunrise, there's a lovely little nature reserve between Garth Woods and Garth Hill that's worth a wonder through - you'll spot it on the OS map!
I have. In fact, it happened to me last month. As I trudged up the 4th peak of the Welsh 3000s challenge, I questioned my ability to finish what I’d started, in more ways than one. I panicked that maybe I wasn’t good enough to complete the Welsh 3000s – a fast paced and gruelling journey in which you summit all 15 peaks in Snowdonia above 3000ft, in under 24 hours. But, that was just the tip of the crisis iceberg. The Welsh 3000s challenge for me was a training exercise, preparing me for an even bigger and more personal challenge lying ahead…
Some of you may already know that I’m training to complete a unique challenge in August. The challenge involves stand up paddle boarding, cycling and hiking across Wales, from Cardiff to Holyhead. I’m fundraising for the Search and Rescue Dogs in Wales, Keep Wales Tidy, and Mind for mental health.
Training has been a hard battle to gain not only the physical ability to do this, but also the knowledge required to safely complete my journey. Particularly with the paddle boarding element, where it’s been a steep learning curve to gain the knowledge needed to journey along the Bristol channel – the second most tidal region in the World!
A couple of months back, I completed a 48km day on my paddle board; paddling from Porthcawl to Penarth. A massive tick in the confidence box. But after the high of realising I can paddle long distance wore off, the confidence crushing demons crept in. Could I cycle far enough to complete my challenge? Had I neglected the cycling and hiking elements and focussed too heavily on the paddle boarding element?
So, 4 days later I headed out on my bike, and cycled 107.5km. From Cardiff to the Rhigos mountain, to Merthyr, and back to Cardiff. Again, a massive tick in the confidence box, and enough to pacify the demons for another few days. I guess you probably know what’s coming next…
A few days down the line, the demons had forced their way back in, and were running rings around me. Would I be able to hike 15 peaks after paddle boarding and cycling??? Compared to the other 2 elements of my challenge, hiking is where my experience lies. I completed some pretty hard trails and challenges whilst part of the Officer Training Corps, and the mountains have always been where I’ve felt at home. But, the demons weren’t having it.
Next thing I know, I’m sat in Pen-Y-Pass car park at 04:30am on a Saturday morning, with a group of people that I’d never met, but who I’d get to know over the proceeding 20 hours.
We completed peaks 1-3 on the Snowdon range, and descended into Nantperis to our first checkpoint, and then onto the Glyderau range. Peak 4, Elidar Fawr, is a non-technical climb. No scrambling or technical ability required in comparison to some of the other peaks, just a long hard slog of ascent. It was at this point that I began to question my ability to complete the challenge. Not because peak 4 was going to defeat me, I knew I could push through that, but because my chimp brain was running ahead of me.
Our human brains have a nasty habit of catastrophising in stressful situations. This wasn’t about peak 4 at all, this was my mind creating beliefs that if I was struggling at this point, I would never make it to the end of the Welsh 3000s. And if I couldn’t do that, what chance do I have for my challenge in August?
I gave myself so many talking’s to on the ascent of peak 4. I got into the root of why I was there and what this was all about. My Ultimate Wales challenge has been about more than just training for the final adventure. I dreamt it up with the intention of giving my adventures a purpose. It’s been a fundraising project with an ethos behind it – to inspire and encourage more people to get outdoors, move, adventure, and explore this beautiful country. It’s been about encouraging people to take control of their own health, both mental and physical. And it’s been about my own self progression.
15 peaks in 19.5 hours, a 50km continuous journey, 4000m (13,000ft) of ascent, scrambling, sweating, laughing, blisters, burning knees… and the Welsh 3000s was complete! I crawled into my tent with another big fat tick in the confidence box, and the confidence crushing demons left out in the cold.
Next time you’re facing your peak 4, ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing. That’s the way to get through a crisis of confidence. You’ll touch on your core values, and remind yourself why the thing you are doing is important to you. And if you’re ever facing the actual peak 4, turn around now, it’s flipping horrible! (But the view is well worth it!)
If you’ve enjoyed this post, I’d be eternally grateful if you could donate to my fundraising target. Just £1 would make a huge difference in helping me to blow my target out of the water 🙂