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Areas of the Park

A place to discover and explore Porthkerry Country Park


Whether you explore Porthkerry Country Park by foot, bike or on horseback there is plenty to see.


  • Cliffwood and the golden stairs
    Cliffwood and the golden stairs were designated a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) in 1962 and re-notified in 1983.


    Cliffwood is a good example of lowland mixed woodland on limestone with a canopy of ash, pedunculate oak, field maple, and yew along with a variety of typical shrubs and wildflowers. The wood is on a slope facing inland but the southern edge falls away to a partially wooded limestone cliff.


    Two really important and very unusual plants are purple gromwell and the true service tree


    Cliffwood has a designated right of way (Lover’s Lane). Another right of way runs along the southern boundary and there are a number of informal but well used tracks.

  • Cwm Barri
    The area known as Cwm Barri has been used for farming since at least 1622. The woodland runs alongside Barry Brook, covering around 1.3 hectares.



    There is a mix of tree species of different ages (the main species being hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, ash and sycamore). The structure of the woodland changes from closed high canopy to glades and clearings with well-developed shrubs and ground flora.


    Barry brook widens near the road at a place called Fishponds Hill where there is a large pond. The pond is now much smaller because of sedimentation. Over the next few years the pond will hopefully be restored and become an important site for many different aquatic plants and animals.

  •  Four fields

    The Four Fields have been farmed within the current field boundaries since the 17th century. As such, the hedgerows are mature and lots of different plants can be found in them.


    The area is next to a new estate on the fringe of Barry and has three access points from the estate, as well as several from Mill Wood and Cwm Barri. The Four Fields have proven to be popular with children and walkers.


    Working with the Woodland Trust, the Forestry Commission and Coed Cymru, large sections of the Four Fields are being developed as community woodland. Other parts are being left as meadow land, rich in colourful wild flowers, butterflies and lots of other insects.


    Planting began in November 2005 and is intended to continue until 2009. School groups from the Vale, Cardiff and the Valleys have planted many species of native trees and shrubs. Other local community groups such as the scouts will be carrying out planting within the next few years.

  • Knockmandown wood
    Knockmandown wood was an area of woodland fringing medieval meadowland. As a part of the Romilly estate the woodland was managed and coppiced producing a very different habitat from the other woods nearby with a carpet of primroses and orchids.


    In the 1950s the local authorities undertook large planting schemes of larch and beech. The woodland is now even-aged with an open canopy and well-developed shrub and ground layers.


    This gives the woodland a light, open feel that allows plants such as ground ivy, ferns and stinking iris and beautiful primroses and butterfly orchid.


    There are many tree species in the woodland too, including sycamore, hazel, beech, birch, beech and oak. Smaller trees include elder, bramble, blackthorn, guelder rose, holly, wych elm, hazel, spindle and dogwood.


    Knockmandown wood is the first point of contact for many people and has a new trail running through it.

  • The meadow

    The meadow runs through the centre of Porthkerry Park and has been grassland since medieval times.


    a spring-fed stream runs along the western edge of the meadow and has a fantastic range of invertebrate and aquatic plant life (including reed mace, water parsnip and various mints). There is also a breeding toad population.


    The stream is used in spring and summer for pond dipping with local schools. There is a large population of toads.


    Two margins, one on the north and one on the south side are managed differently to encourage wildlife


    • The northern margin is kept as a spring wildflower meadow. One cut is taken each year and the cuttings are removed. Several mature oaks and a number of younger trees are planted here - many of which are memorials
    • The southern margin is kept as woodland fringe, where tree planting schemes have taken place and left to naturalise
  • Mill Wood
    Mill wood was used for 150 years for timber production. The name comes from the sawmill that was run by the Romilly Estate from around 1850. The woodland is around half a mile long and is steeply wooded on both sides of a central stream - the Nant Talwg. A designated right of way follows the course of the stream.


    Large areas of the woodland were clear felled and replanted but areas which were harder to work in (mostly on the slopes) were left and have kept their mature oak, ash, elm and field maple.


    The rest of the woodland is broken into distinct sections that have different species of trees of different ages and in different condition.


    One of these is planted with beech and the original lines of planting can still be seen after the 1950s clear felling. Woodland glades were cut in the 1980s and you can now see a mixture of grasses, wildflowers and other groundcover plants.


    Another interesting area, bordering Cwm Cidi, is a mix of mature oak, beech and yew with several large ashes. There is a large amount of standing and fallen deadwood which provide an important habitat for lots of invertebrates and the animals that feed upon them.

  • The seafront
    The seafront stretches along the southern edge of the country park, from the Bulwarks Iron Age Hill Fort in the west to Bullnose Cliff in the east. The beach is covered in limestone pebbles that stretch up to steep limestone cliffs.


    The last remains of an ancient salt marsh exist north of the pebble bank where a local variety of orache (a special type of plant often found on beaches).


    In front of Porthkerry house is an area of rough grassland which is now being managed to restore wildflowers. You can often see adder basking on the pebbles in the sun in this area.


    Towards the eastern end of the seafront, the pebble bank gives way to cliff. The cliff profile changes along its length and becomes sheer near the Bullnose.


    An area between the golden stairs and the pebbles is set-aside for .

  • Viaduct wood
    Viaduct wood includes the patches of woodland on both sides of the railway viaduct. The reason that these two woodland areas feel very different is due to the clear felling that took place during the 1980s.


    The clear felling has opened up the woodland, allowing more light to reach the ground and for more plants to grow. The trees are a mix of beech, ash, yew and willow, some of which are now very tall.


    One side of the woodland is much damper and receives less light, having had little management in the past. Hazel dominates and in the spring blankets of bluebells and wood anemones can be seen. 


    You can walk through Viaduct wood and join the right of way which leads to Porthkerry village.