On a dry morning, the aftermath of the snow caused a few problems for some of the walkers who came to join Geraint and his sheepdog Patch as entry could not be gained into the Woodland Trust car park off the Michaelston-le-Pit lane because of slippery compacted snow which had turned to ice.
But undaunted the cars were parked in the lay-by off Pen-y-Turnpike Road and the group walked down through snow covered fields containing sheep to liaise with the leader.
A group of eight and Patch set off along an undulating muddy path encased by bare trees in Casehill Wood and exiting onto Casehill meadow tramped downhill on boggy ground that still had snow in places to cross the wooden footbridge over the Cadoxton River. Following the river along grassy banks they re-crossed further along into a field and over a stile to reach the 14th century St Michael and All Angels Church in Michaelston-le-Pit. The present church dates to the 14th century and was restored in the 19th century and the lych gate commemorates soldiers who were killed in World War 1 and was dedicated in 1920.
The group made their way through the neat churchyard passing the graves of several members of the Merrett family who resided at nearby Cwrt-yr-ala (or Cwrtyrala). In 1937, Sir Hubert Merrett who was chairman of Powell Dyffryn purchased the Cwrtyrala estate and demolished the 19th century villa that stood there to build a new house the architect being Sir Percy Thomas. Beside his grave lies the grave of his son Norman Stuart Merrett, a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force who was killed on active service on 10 August 1940, aged 28 years.
Michaelston-le-Pit is translated from the Welsh – Llanfihangel-y-Pwll or Llanfihangel yn y Gwaelod which means the Church of St Michael in the Pit. The earliest documents mentioning the church date back to 1200 when it was recorded that the area was held by the De Reigny family as a sub manor of the lordship of Dinas Powys.
In the village the group passed the old red square phone kiosk which was a standard design by Giles Gilbert Scott (an architect from London) and the GPO introduced these kiosks in 1936, this one now holds a library of books for use by the villagers.
They crossed a large field full of sheep and were forced to begin a rescue attempt as many of the sheep had managed to get themselves firmly caught on the brambles in the hedgerow and fortunately for them, secateurs were at the ready, and they were cut free – no doubt to go and do it all over again!
Crossing a footbridge the group passed White Farm where they examined the remains of a brick-lined old ice house. Purpose built buildings to store ice were introduced into this country in the mid 1600’s and usually only large manor houses had them for that purpose. Snow and ice would be collected in winter and placed in the ice house which was then packed with straw or sawdust for insulation to preserve perishable goods.
Moving on, a rather awkward stile led into fields where the thinning snow had turned to ice and skidding their way through they reached a snow-lined lane leading to Brynwell. This two-storey old building built of local stone was once a substantial farmhouse and looking closely, what is though to be a medieval cusped lancet window which may date back to the 14th century is on the upper storey.
The house was remodelled in the 19th century and extended by the Bute estate and it is so sad to think that this once busy and vibrant farmstead has slowly deteriorated and lies in ruins with trees growing through the roof.
Following a rough track and turning northeast the leader stopped for a friendly chat with a resident of Beggan on the opposite bank of a small stream before the group trudged on through snow covered fields. They headed towards a stile at West Hill Wood where the leader informed them that the path had been cleared and the stile repaired by the Vale of Glamorgan Council for which they were most grateful and as they scrambled up narrow muddy tracks, the wooden steps that had been laid in the wood certainly made the going easier.
Entering and crossing several snow covered fields at the top towards Leckwith Hill Farm they were able to enjoy misty views towards Cardiff Bay, Penarth Head and St Augustine’s Church, Flat Holm, the Bristol Channel and the Somerset coastline.
Joining the track from Leckwith Hill Farm the group paused for morning coffee on some handy boulders just inside an entrance to Leckwith Wood. Coed Cymru manages this 150-acre site on behalf of the Vale of Glamorgan Council and the name of the woods may derive from the Welsh llechwedd, meaning slope or hillside.
Patch was eager to get going again and refreshed the leader put it to a vote on how the walk should proceed – by road or following the track in the woods? Having warned them the going would be muddy it seemed most people still would prefer the woods to the road – so woodland track it was!
Although rutted and muddy it did seem the better option, but further on the group began to slither steadily downhill on thick gooey mud and under a tree that had fallen. In a clearing where they had to wade through mud, deep pools of water and several inches of snow they paused to enjoy fantastic views across Cardiff City Football Club to the Millennium Stadium. More pools of water in places where hillside springs had suddenly turned into small rivers caused the path to turn into a boggy morass and underfoot conditions were very tricky in places especially where the path had been used by off-road motor cyclists but eventually they reached firmer footing at Leckwith Hill.
Just on the outer limit of the wood and standing above Old Leckwith Bridge in an area that looked as if it had recently been cleared of undergrowth stood several stone arches, built into the hillside, which it would appear are the remnants of an old limekiln.
They crossed the new road bridge built by Norwest of Liverpool and opened in 1935 by the then Minister of Transport Leslie Hore-Belisha. He was born in 1893 and after a career in the military, in 1923 he entered politics becoming a Liberal MP and later whilst he was Minister for Transport he is renowned for successfully reducing the number of road accidents by introducing Belisha beacons at pedestrian crossings, a new highway code and driving tests for all motorists.
Adjacent to and just below this bridge is Old Leckwith Bridge, a 16th century narrow bridge constructed of local stone which spans the Ely River. It has three arches with triangular-shaped recesses and originally carrier’s carts from the salt marsh of Leckwith moors would make the journey across it and travel uphill to Leckwith village on their way to Cadoxton, Barry and the open sea. It was finally closed to traffic in 1936 but was left in position as an access road to Leckwith Bridge House, an ancient farmhouse beside the river and at the foot of the woods which has now been turned into business premises.
Carefully crossing the road the group joined part of the Ely Trail which runs parallel with the A4232 and is used by cyclists, runners and pedestrians and tramping alongside the fast flowing Ely River they reached Penarth Road.
Making their way down the bank into part of the industrial estate they joined a fairly steep track which led uphill across wooden bridges and steps to another steep path where water was cascading in the form of a stream and paddling through they entered Llandough village.
The name derives from the Welsh Llan and dochdu, dochau or dochdwy and the village dates back to Roman times as the site of a Roman villa was found near to the village church. The area was believed to be one of the main ecclesiastical centres in south Wales and was the site of St Dochdwy’s monastery which no longer exists.
Llandough was used for farming and the quarrying of limestone and iron right up until the mid 20th century when residential homes began to spring up but before that, around 1900 there were only six thatched cottages in the village.
Passing the village green which contains a large stone placed there to commemorate the Millennium the group made their way through the gates into the village church.
Llandough has been a place of Christian worship since the 5-6th centuries and the first permanent church was erected in the 12th century restored in the 18th century and remained in use until 1820. However after this time it became clear that the community was growing rapidly and the church was too small. So the original church was removed and rebuilt as St James, Leckwith which made way for the present St Dochdwy’s Church which was consecrated by Bishop Olivant on 12 July 1866.
They moved on to view the 10th or 11th century ornately carved Irbic Pillar Cross made of Sutton stone which is complete except for the very top which has been mutilated. It is a totally unique design and measures 9ft 9ins in height and 2ft 3ins in width with an upper square shaft with bold roll mouldings on the four corners and is supported on a pedestal or column and has carvings of horsemen on its base and is inscribed with the word IRBICI.
The cross may have associations with the monastery but in the forming of pillar crosses, general local stone was used if possible and recognised patterns were first sketched onto the stone before work began. Once the background had been deepened the head of the cross and figures would be completed and pillar crosses were very popular during the Norman period.
With time moving on the group passed quickly through a residential area and joined a path into a field which the group crossed making their way back to the busy Pen-y-Turnpike Road. For those whose cars were parked in the lay-by the journey was over and hearty thanks were given to their leader for what had been an interesting seven mile journey on local soil.