Penarth and District Ramblers New Year opened with a walk from Geraint beginning from Dinas Powys village square and maybe there were a few sore heads around but only four walkers and sheepdog Bracken were lured out of warm beds to join him.

They set off along Highwalls Road in dry humid conditions to the Dinas Powys golf course, where a number of golfers were out enjoying the peace and quiet of the early morning before a short climb led them to the One o’Clock gate. Here the leader paused to explain that small leaved lime trees can be found in the adjacent wood, which denotes ancient woodland and also that this particular species of tree has never been found further southwest than Monmouth.

Entering Park Wood the path between bare trees and over fallen autumnal leaves led them slightly uphill beside Beauville Wood for a circumnavigation of the pretty woodland to a site overlooking Michaelston. Once a pathway on the north eastern side of the wood led up to a summerhouse belonging to Cwrt yr Ala from where they would have enjoyed lovely views over their vast estate land.

Exiting through a gateway there was a chance to examine a piece of rock containing crinoids which are marine animals and ancient fossils that predate dinosaurs by 300 million years and they are classed as plants not animals.

A descent on a slippery and rocky track led them to a viewpoint complete with a wooden seat overlooking Cwrt yr Ala House away in the valley. Robert Rous owned Cwrt yr Ala in 1789 and made many improvements to it and it remained within the family until the death of Georgina Anne Rous in 1907. It then passed to Frances William George Gore, a nephew of the last male heir who preferred to remain in London, so he rented out the house to the renowned Cardiff brewer W. H. Brain.

Prior to 1935 Mr Gore had tried to sell Cwrt yr Ala and the estate lands to Dr Iorwerth Cyfeiliog Peate (1901-1982) who was looking for a suitable place for the newly proposed Welsh Folk Museum to be sited. In fact Peate was later offered land at St Fagans by the Earl of Plymouth for free as the site and became its first curator from 1948 to 1971. During World War Two he was temporarily dismissed for being a pacifist and a conscientious objector, but soon reinstated.

Recent heavy rainfall had made the normal descent via the bridleway a bit like a slalom so instead they followed tracks through the lower part of the wood to join a farm track at the top end of the steep-sided and wooded Cwm George.

A rough farm track brought them to the stone bridge over the fast flowing Cadoxton River and out onto Cwrt-yr-Ala Road for the short journey into Michaelston-le-Pit where they made their way to St Michael and All Angels, to view the ‘sporting side’ of the churchyard where the Brain and Merrett families are buried before partaking of refreshments.

William Henry Brain (1870-1934) was an English first-class cricketer and footballer who was noted for being the only man to perform the ‘wicket keeper’s hat trick’ of three dismissals off consecutive deliveries and also John Patrick Brain, a Welsh cricketer and wicketkeeper. Sir Herbert Henry Merrett who owned Cwrt yr Ala was a footballer and referee and chaired both Cardiff City Football Club and was president of the Glamorgan County Cricket Club despite being a busy industrialist and Chairman of Powell Dyffryn Ltd. Another gravestone celebrated the Reverend Henry Holmes Stewart, a Scottish clergyman who was a member of the Wanderers team that won the FA Cup in 1873 which was the same year he was ordained as a priest.

Then making their way through riverside meadows and across a wooden footbridge, the surrounding trees were bearing pretty yellow catkins as they climbed uphill, then down to re-cross the river into the muddy Millfields and make their way back across the golf course to their start.

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