I've been desperate for a few years to find a local bluebell wood, and this year The Boy loves nothing better than tramping through a forest, so in search of the elusive sapphire flowers before they disappeared, we headed to Cefn Onn for the first time. This was recommended to me by Laura from Side Street Style and I am very grateful that I followed her advice!
Tucked away in a fold of Caerphilly Mountain, Cefn Onn Country Park is on the northern fringes of Cardiff. The park was laid out between 1911 and 1925 by Ernest Albert Prosser (general manager of the Rhymney Valley Railway, which runs alongside the park with an abandoned train 'halt') as a woodland garden where his son could recuperate from tuberculosis.
Luckily we used the SatNav to get us there because we could have easily missed it. When we arrived, we were almost put off by the limited parking and 'seen-better-days' toilets, but I'm so glad we persevered as once we had walked under the 'bridge' with the thundering traffic of the M4 we discovered a wonderland that I'd never have guessed was there. Cefn Onn (meaning 'ridge of ash trees') holds one of the finest collections of rhododendron and azalea bushes in Europe, and they were in full bloom when we arrived. The huge collection of both native and exotic trees create a high canopy which helps to muffle the sounds of the 21st century, the sunlight streams through this creating a dappled effect on the colourful bushes and carpet of bluebells.
We veered off the tarmac path running throughout most of the park so we could do our usual tree climbing and 'exploring'. The Boy asked if there was a playground and I pointed out the balance beam that was the fallen tree trunk, the climbing frame which turned out to be an oak, the stepping stones across the stream and the treasure hunt that was hunting for pinecones.
There is a small stream (Nant Fawr) which runs throughout the parkland, with stepping stones and a Japanese bridge, as well as fallen logs and more structured bridges. The stream stems from a large pond (which is probably fed into from a brook higher up the mountain) which is three-quarters of the way up the park, and is a beautiful spot for a picnic, or for hot golden retrievers to jump into, much to the amusement of The Boy.
We must have spent two and a half hours wandering around the park and had a brilliant time. Definitely one to return to in the Autumn when the leaves are turning golden colours and creating a crunchy carpet underfoot.