Bute Park is one of Cardiff’s biggest and best known gardens, but it has an autumn secret few people know about. I first chanced upon the River Taff’s salmon run several years ago, completely by accident. I was cycling past Blackweir on a chilly October afternoon and saw a lot of people staring at the white water tumbling over the fall, waiting for something to happen. Natural curiosity got the better of me so I slowed down to see what all the fuss is about.
When the first black shape leapt clear of the foaming water I was startled to say the least. The spectacular sight of a huge salmon leaping several feet out of the water was something I only ever expected to see in a nature documentary, maybe shot in Canada or some other distant location but never in my own local park.
South Wales rivers are used by migrating salmon, sea trout, and elvers. The Barrage incorporates a special fish passage to allow easy entry and most of the major weirs now have ‘fish bridges’ too. Blackweir isn’t the only place where lucky walkers sometimes see salmon leaping either. Radyr Weir is another popular spot and there are quite a few others.
The return of salmon to the River Taff marks a major environmental achievement. By the 1980s they’d been almost completely wiped out by pollution, poaching, and human alterations to the river course. It’s taken a lot of effort to clean up and rehabilitate the watercourse but now the fish are back.
My own experience with the Taff salmon run (one I’ve taken care to repeat!) shows that you never know what you might see in your local green space. The rivers of South Wales are full of interesting wildlife and unexpected delights often pop up in the parks.