Fol­low the Taff Trail

Fol­low part of the route taken by At­lantic salmon as they head up the River Taff to spawn near Merthyr Tyd­fil, says Julie Bro­minicks

Countryfile Magazine - - Contents -

South Wales


Salmon must en­ter the fresh­wa­ter part of Cardiff Bay via a fish pass in­stalled in the bar­rage. A sys­tem of pools and weirs and fish lad­ders stag­ger the flow, al­low­ing mi­grat­ing fish to pass. The pass is also used by trout, grey mul­let – and an ot­ter.

Smoke once filled the Taff Val­ley. Abun­dant in iron ore, coal, lime­stone, tim­ber and wa­ter, it was an in­dus­trial heart­land of iron­works and col­lieries, slag heaps and slums. All this was bad news for salmon and other mi­grat­ing fish. Weirs chan­nelled off wa­ter to power ma­chin­ery, making the river un­nav­i­ga­ble for them, and the wa­ter was pol­luted. Now the val­ley is green again, the wa­ter clear and the weirs have been adapted to let salmon pass.

They do so ev­ery au­tumn, tast­ing or smelling the river of their birth from out at sea. Some en­ter Cardiff Bay in sum­mer and leave soon af­ter, as if just check­ing the route. Oth­ers come up river early, lan­guish, and de­te­ri­o­rate – salmon don’t eat while in fresh wa­ter. But some wait till au­tumn and swim, swift and sure, up river to spawn, reach­ing the Merthyr Tyd­fil area in around Novem­ber. You can fol­low their jour­ney by walk­ing this 15-mile route us­ing parts of the Taff Trail and the Tre­vithick Trail. The walk starts at Quak­ers Yard and heads north to­wards Merthyr Tyd­fil. It is well marked, and here are some high­lights:


The path is shaded by for­est as the river flows through a gorge. You walk be­neath Brunel’s Taff Vale Viaduct, and over a Grade II listed pack­horse bridge.


Pant­glas School was buried in 1966 by a coal tip which, un­der­mined by wa­ter, slid down the val­ley, killing 28 adults and 116 chil­dren. To­day, the spot is marked by a me­mo­rial gar­den. King­fish­ers hunt by the weir, which is also a good salmon view­ing spot.


The route joins the Tre­vithick Trail for a while. Watch for ot­ters, given away by their tell-tale trails of bub­bles in the wa­ter. This was the route taken in 1804 by the first steam train to run on rails, de­signed by Richard Tre­vithick.


This ex­traor­di­nar­ily tall weir was built to cream off wa­ter that pow­ered ma­chin­ery at Plymouth Iron­works. Salmon were un­able get be­yond it un­til a fish pass was pro­vided in 2008. An ot­ter pass runs along the wall above it.

ABOVE AND RIGHT Au­thor Julie ex­plores the Taff Trail, a 55-mile walk­ing / cy­cling route that fol­lows the river from Cardiff Bay to Bre­con

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