Sunday 8 November 2009

The Barrage Walk, Cardiff Bay

If you have kids, the round trip from Cardiff Bay to the playground on the barrage, enclosing the harbour, makes for an invigorating two mile walk. As you head towards the attractive waterfront of Penarth in the distance, you can survey an eclectic mix of ultra modern and nineteenth century architecture. Lined with old-fashioned lamp-posts, the route takes you past the space-age glass and steel of the Welsh Assembly and a Norwegian white clapboard church, housing an arts centre and coffee shop. Outside the church is a striking, but amorphous, mosaic statue of a sailor. Further along, the wide path is lined with ugly and high mesh fences, patches of wasteland and disused Victorian warehouses and docks. But look back across the yachts in the bay and you'll see a red brick Gothic harbour building, which looks a bit like a Rhineland fairytale castle, against a backdrop of the gleaming gold armadillo-shaped Cardiff Opera House. Further around is a row of handsome Victorian terrace houses flanking a large and smart white apartment block with a funky arc mounted on its flat roof. As you approach the barrage itself, you come to an imaginative wooden playground with a nautical theme. The centrepiece is a shipwreck, with colourful bunting hanging from its masts and barrels strewn around, half-buried in the sand. From here, you get a fine view of the grassy mounds of the islands in the middle of the wide open waters of the mouth of the Severn. If it also had a coffee shop, it would be a great spot for both adults and kids to pass an hour or two. 7/10