Tag Archives: canton

Things to do in Canton when you’re dead…..bored

**This article first appeared in Pontcanna & Canton Matters**

Oh, those words that bring joy to every parent’s heart….Mam, I’m Booooorrrreeed! I’m going to pretend, for the purposes of this article, that I never, EVER, respond with the words ‘well, go and play with one of the thousands of toys that appear to be cluttering up every inch of floor space’.  So what exactly DO I do with the little sweethearts?

One hour: Thompsons Park is our fallback. There’s no play equipment, but the climbing tree, Death Valley, duck feeding and manic scooting can easily take up 60 minutes, with the added bonus that there are always other bored and freezing grownups to moan to. AND you can pick up freshly cooked pakora from Mandy and Bharat’s shop on the way, which goes some way towards making up for the the being bored and freezing bit.

Two hours: Victoria Park will probably keep the kids entertained for a bit longer due to the play equipment and the extra potential for fleecing parents at the snack bar. In the Summer the paddling pool is a lot of fun, though since we’ve had, like, seven years worth of sunshine this year, it’ll probably be about 2020 before it gets warm enough to enjoy it again. Alternatively, there’s Bambeans on Cowbridge Road East, but be warned – though billed as suitable for kids up to 10, I think much above 5 is pushing it. However they do a decent coffee and also meals for kids which don’t cost the earth.

Three hours: Chapter Arts Centre have kids’ films at 11am and 3pm on a Saturday, and with pre-and-post film wee stops and a coffee afterwards, you’ve almost killed A QUARTER OF THEIR WAKING DAY! It’s worth checking what’s on as sometimes the film will be a 12 or PG; they also sell out very quickly in the winter or on rainy weekends, so be warned!

Four hours plus: Not a great deal to do in Canton itself, but with this sort of window you could walk along the Ely Trail to the Bay. Or,  pick up the clipper from the Castle (departs on the hour) and get off at the barrage, then walk across with a stop at the sandy Pirate park. Once in the Bay there’s ice cream for them, coffee for you, and a direct bus (no 1) back to Canton.

Or the little darlings could JUST play with the THOUSANDS of toys…oh, sorry, done that already.

This article was brought to you by Michelle Davis – say hi @michelledavis or read more pearls of parenting wisdom* at learnermother.co.uk

*not a true and accurate representation 

On living la vida local – in Canton

I love living in Canton, and right at this point there is nowhere in Cardiff that I would rather live. I mean, sure, I would love a more spacious house, with a slightly bigger garden and not on the main road, but I would not want to move outside about 100 metre radius from where we are. I’ve had a few surprised faces when I’ve said this to people in the past, and it’s true that if I try to look with someone else’s eyes, I see Canton as a nondescript and traffic choked high street, populated with the usual suspects – charity shops, pawn shops, fast food outlets and pubs, not to mention the ubiquitous supermarkets. It’s scruffy, down and heel, and for many folk I suspect it’s just somewhere they have to pass through on the way to somewhere else.

But there is so much more to our little patch of Cardiff. For a start, we have an an impressive range of thriving independent shops tucked in between the ‘usual suspects’. Two greengrocers plus a fruit and veg stall; three (or possibly four?) butchers; a stationery shop with a sub post office, a launderette and dry cleaner, an electrical retailer, an exotic spider shop, a cobblers, two hardware shops (though one’s just about to close due to retirement), several opticians, various newsagents – my favourite one also serves home cooked pakora at the weekend, a wool shop, a couple of bakers. Lots of indie eateries – from the posh and expensive Purple Poppadom to the down to earth and mouth watering Falafel Wales; plus two independent gyms, a busy Community Centre, a library (currently being renovated), an arts centre/cinema, and a community garden which grows herbs and veg – which we get to pick and eat when there’s a surplus. All that and two parks, and then Pontcanna Fields just 5 mins away, makes this a pretty ideal place to live, I’d say.



Picking purple sprouting broccoli for Sunday lunch from the Canton Community Garden, outside Chapter Arts Centre




Fruit and veg on display at Laura’s, 158 Cowbridge Road East

It’s not just about the amenities though – what makes Canton special for me is the fact that it has a proper community feel about it. I haven’t come across this anywhere else I have lived, or perhaps I have come to a stage in my life where I notice and value it more. Either way, I like it. I like the fact that this morning, I’ve exchanged smiles with the regular early morning street cleaner whilst out running; I’ve waved at my optician and the guy in the carpet shop; I’ve had a chat with the site manager on the building site across the road from me; caught up with progress on the renovations on our local post office; had a laugh with the lady in the greengrocer about a game her other half bought from OUR shop a couple of weeks ago – and it’s not even 10.30am. Last week, without being asked, our postie broke probably about a million Royal Mail rules and dropped a parcel into my workplace for me, because he knew I wouldn’t be home to sign for it – and when my eldest wrote him a thank you note (it was his long awaited Skylanders game) – he wrote a note back! Which feels wonderfully old fashioned, and kind, and above all, local.

I don’t think you can put a price on this feeling of community, and I am not sure what makes it happen. I guess being in the same place for a while helps – I have lived in Canton for nearly 14 years now. As I mentioned before, there are probably stages in your life when you value the community around you more, and putting down roots and having kids would seem to be one of those stages – so perhaps it is that I am simply more aware of what’s around me, and that it could be found anywhere, if you look hard enough. Who knows.

But here’s what I do know – which is that I feel immensely lucky to have stumbled upon and settled in this scruffy, down at heel little corner of Cardiff. Canton, you rock.


On Aspire Fitness

Gyms. Ugh. Sport, fitness, exercise, even more ugh.

Me and physical activity got off to a bad start – slow, short, weedy and always the last to be picked for any team,  I used to dread ‘all out’ which was the name for the period between the end of lessons and the evening meal at my (boarding) school. I presume it was called ‘all out’, because it was meant to imply that every single one of us got some fresh air and physical activity, every day…well, as far as I was concerned there was plenty of fresh air in the copses and dens where I smoked my badly rolled cigarettes, and the occasional sprint from a schoolmaster on the prowl more than counted towards my physical activity quota.

I stopped doing any kind of sport (except the mid-fag sprinting) the minute it became non-compulsory, which I suppose was probably 16 or so. I did have a brief flirtation with swimming in my final year at uni, because I got a bit embarrassed confessing that I couldn’t swim more than 10 metres – and then only on my back. So I went to the pool regularly enough that after six months, I had managed the super achievement of being able to swim, uh, twenty metres. On my FRONT! Get me!

After university, I did occasionally have a panic about my unhealthiness, leading me to sign up with various gyms promising the earth, but I never stuck with them. I felt like such a muppet not knowing how anything worked, and I hated the latest-kit-and-fake-tans crew that seemed to lurk around with not much else to do but gossip and stare pityingly at muppets like me. Also beyond a standard induction and perhaps a photocopied exercise program, there was no support and encouragement. Until I phoned to cancel my membership of course, and then the support and encouragement practically oozed down the phone line, slowly calcifying into arsiness as it became clear, that no, I really, really did not want to continue having the lifeblood sucked out of my bank account in exchange for feeling useless and self conscious  in public three times a week. I can do that perfectly well enough on my own, and FOR FREE, thank you very much.

Given my track record with gyms, I don’t know what made me join Aspire Fitness when they opened in Canton back in 2008. Except that I had a six month old and a two and a half year old, and I was desperate for something – anything – that I could do to give me some time to myself for half an hour a couple of times a week. Also, just after I’d had the flyer through to say a new gym was opening,  I had spied three people in their Aspire hoodies, having a coffee in Chapter. I figured they must be the owners and suspiciously inspected them from afar for signs of latest-kit-and-fake-tans-ness but there were none. Even better, one of them was definitely eating CAKE!

So I signed up for the gym, and because it seemed like a good deal, I also signed up for personal training, and then, feeling all proud of myself, I went and signed up for a bloody half marathon with my three sisters who’d all been running for ages. Of course I spent the next week bricking it about how many new and wonderful opportunities I would now have to look, act and feel like a muppet, and how long it would be before I could decently cancel my membership, and whether there might be cake available in the gym, and whether if I fed my sisters enough wine they might forget that I’d promised to run 13.1 stupid miles with them.

So I rocked up on my first session, at 6.30am, which went a little like this..

Joe:’So, why do you want to train?’

Me: ‘What?? I don’t WANT to train at all, you  muppet. Why would I? What I WANT is to lose weight, get a bit healthier, and replace my pelvic door with a pelvic floor. Preferably painlessly and while eating cake’.

Well, that was what the voice in my head said. I have no idea what I actually did say. I probably mumbled something about losing the baby weight, I honestly have no idea. Whatever it was, I ended up really enjoying the training despite myself, and not only did I turn up to my next session and the ones after that, but I started going to the gym in between times as well – and, weirdly, liking it!

Going to Aspire was such a massively different experience than going to any of the gyms I’d been to previously. For a start, all the staff looked genuinely pleased to see me whenever I arrived. I’m sure they were equally pleased to see everyone who walked through the doors of course but when you’re a bit scared and a lot post natal, a friendly smile makes a huge difference. And Joe, who had (and still has) the misfortune to be my trainer, was always remarkably unfazed by my unco-ordinatedness, and had this knack of getting me to do stuff I never dreamed I’d be able to do, without me even realising I was doing it. Last but not least, the other members were not scary and certainly not pos-ey at all, and, like the staff, really friendly…I was encouraged to join the gym’s running club by a couple of them and I never, NOT IN A MILLION YEARS, imagined that I’d have the confidence to go running with people I didn’t know.

I did my half marathon – in fact I did three. Three! Me! And not only that, but I found I was enjoying myself so much that I decided to work towards becoming a personal trainer, and managed, with loads of help from the Aspire team, to actually pass the gym instructor’s exam. I haven’t managed to do anything with it yet – I had my youngest shortly after that and the next couple of years were a bit of a blur, but still – I did it, and I will at some point, when life is a bit less crazy, pick it up again. In the meantime I’m training for a 26 mile walk in September, raising money for Hope for Justice (with friends I met through the gym), I’m running the Cardiff Half Marathon in October, and I’m learning to deadlift. AND I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE I AM WRITING THAT.

So there you have it. I really cannot recommend Aspire highly enough. If you are thinking of joining a gym but nervous about it, or you want to train for anything at all, you should definitely call them – they really do know – and care – what they are talking about, they’re lovely people, and they also do shedloads more fun stuff than I’ve written about here, from rock climbing to triathlon training. You can book a free trial in the Canton gym on 02920 23 55 23, or in the Nantgarw gym on 01685 887544 – or drop them an email on info@aspirefitness.co.uk. Get on it!


ps Aspire didn’t ask me to write this post, and I’m not getting paid for it. Though I hope when they read it they will feed me cake.