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The National Student Microadventure Challenge: Pedalos and wildflowers in the Welsh capital

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Modern-day life can be hectic. Sometimes it is too easy to fall into the same rhythm day-in and day-out. With this in mind, last weekend I challenged myself to step out of my weekly routine and explore the local area which I too often take for granted. I took the day to visit somewhere new, somewhere close to home that I have never had the opportunity to visit… a microadventure.

Microadventure is a term coined by adventurer and travel blogger Alastair Humphrey based on the notion that adventures should not be limited just to holidays. A microadventure is an adventure close to home: short, simple, and affordable. Have you ever heard of a concept so well suited to students?

As someone who is prone to holing themselves up in the house especially in times when my workload is heaviest, The National Student Microadventure Challenge appealed to me as a way to break up my weekly routine and open my eyes up the wonders right on my doorstep.

Last Sunday, I enlisted two friends to join me on my first microadventure. We set out shortly before midday, taking a ten-minute train from Cardiff Central station towards Roath Park.

A hub of wildlife and activity hidden in Cardiff’s suburbs, Roath Park is visited by roughly two million people a year. However, often overlooked in favour of the more central Bute park and popular shopping center St. David’s 2, Roath park is still a relatively unexplored destination in the capital.

Before I can see Roath Park, I hear it. The park is animated by the rumble of voices and laughter which mingles with the chattering of ducks and the whizz of cyclists making the most of the park’s smooth pathways.

In the sun, the lake glistens, completely tranquil without wind. Built from an area of marshland in the late nineteenth century, nowadays the thirty-acre lake is populated by fleets of pedalos and rowing boats which weave in and out of the hordes of ducks and swans.

Walking around the lake is slow-moving for me due to a foot injury but there are plenty of benches dotted along the promenade, convenient for disabled people or families with young children to rest while taking in the scenery.

From almost every angle, the Scott Memorial Lighthouse, now an iconic Cardiff landmark, can be seen towering over the lake. The historic monument, besides making for a pretty postcard, alludes to the park’s Victorian past. The lighthouse itself is a memorial based on Captain Scott’s “Terra Nova” ship, which he sailed from Cardiff to the Antarctic in 1910.

Still retaining its classic Victorian layout and authentic atmosphere, the city park, which has been open since 1894, also has a Victorian glasshouse with tropical plants, terrapin, and koi carp.

At various points along the promenade, my stroll is brightened up by regular floral displays, the first indicators of the importance of wildlife to Roath Park. At the North of the lake, The Wild Garden has wildflowers which sprout between the winding paths, and, to the south of the dam, the Botanic garden exhibits an extensive tree and shrub collection.

A wide variety of birds have made Roath Park’s lake and wooded islands their habitat, including mallards, cormorants, and herons. With status as a conservation area, the birds and native species of plants are protected in Roath Park. For those wanting to engage with the wildlife, swan and duck food can be purchased for only 60p from the conservatory to sprinkle on the bank or water.

Since the sun is out in full force on the July afternoon, a long cue has formed on the boat stage, full of people wanting to make the most of the affordable boat rentals offered by Parkwood Outdoors. For the small cost of seven pounds, a group of four people can spend half an hour gliding over the water in a pedalo. Alternatively, six people can take out a rowing boat for under ten pounds for half an hour spent in the style of the traditional Victorian pastime.

With its floral displays and thriving wildlife, Roath Park would have been an ideal spot to take a run or unwind by pedalling over the water, if only it wasn’t for my injury. Instead, my microadventure allowed me to soak in the authentic Victorian atmosphere and fully appreciate the dynamic wildlife hidden right in the centre of the Welsh capital.

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