The River Ely

The source of the River Ely is located approximately 12 miles outside of Cardiff, just to the north of Tonyrefail. The River is popular for fishing, walking and cycling and despite its location in Central Cardiff the River Ely still retains a rural feel. The Leckwith section of the river is located in a narrow straight corridor, running parallel to the road but feels a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city. South of Leckwith Bridge the river runs to Penarth Road and the moorings and boat hoist at Cardiff Marine Village. This section of the river is set against the impressive green backdrop of the Leckwith woods. The river then reverts to a meandering course as it approaches Grangemore Park, a former landfill site, which is now an attractive area of open space adjacent to the river. Opposite, a narrow section of unused open space and woodland extends between the river and railway. The river then runs alongside Cardiff Marinas 350 pontoons, where your exploring of this beautiful stretch of water is complete.

Sensitivity of the River Ely and Cardiff Bay

The Boat House Rentals recognises that the River Ely is classed as a Site of Interest for Nature Conservation (SINC) as it is: "Important for migratory fish, Otters, wildfowl and bankside vegetation. Acts as a major wildlife corridor."

The designated stretch of the river runs throughout the area under the jurisdiction of the Harbour Authority, i.e. from the confluence with the Bay to the former Arjo Wiggins weir on the Ely. Cardiff Harbour Authority have made a clear commitment to protecting the nature conservation value of these areas.

Cardiff Harbour Authority is working with the Natural Environment Group of Cardiff County Council to progress the Cardiff River Valley initiative. The River Ely is being considered as part of this as the corridor makes a unique contribution to the character and form of the City. Although there are a variety of urban land uses within the river corridor in Cardiff, it still provides a green corridor for wildlife, access and recreation, linking the Bay to the more rural area of Cardiff, around St Fagans, and the Vale of Glamorgan. A number of service areas in the Council, the Environment Agency, the Countryside Council for Wales and other organisations have specific operational requirements and responsibilities in relation to the river and the river corridor. The aim of the Initiative is to develop a more joined up approach to the protection, management and enhancement of the River corridor.

Protected Species Within the Bay and River Ely

From biological records available we have identified the following protected species as being present within Cardiff Bay and the River Ely:

  • Bats
  • Otter
  • Kingfisher
  • Barbell

Other non-protected species are also likely to use this stretch of the River Ely, including:

  • Terrestrial invertebrates
  • Aquatic Invertebrates
  • Fish including - Roach, Brown trout, perch, chub, eel, grayling, sea trout and salmon
  • Wading birds and waterfowl


The River Ely is a rich biodiversity resource, containing a wide variety of habitats that provide a haven for wildlife. You will be amazed at how much you can see hidden on the river banks in the heart of a city! Some of the common plants, animals and birds which can be spotted along the River Ely include:

Plants Birds Wildlife
Old Man's beard
Common SPotted Orchid
Reed Beds
Sand Martin
Grey Wagtail
Grey Heron
Red Adminral Butterfly
Great Crested Newt


The River Ely has several significant historical sites along its banks. Whilst exploring the Leckwith to Cardiff Marina section you will see the Leckwith Old Bridge and the old Edwardian Outfall Sewer.

Leckwith Old Bridge - Scheduled ancient monument

The Leckwith Old Bridge originates in medieval times and has three arches made of course rubble stone. Two of the arches are pointed; the centre one is semi circular and has been rebuilt. The bridge was originally built to take carriers' carts from the slat march of Leckwith Moors through Leckwith Village, Cadoxton, and Barry and onto the sea. A new bridge was opened in 1935 but the old bridge was left in place to provide access to Leckwith Bridge House.

Outfall Sewer Cardiff-Western District- Grade 11 listed building

Built in 1907 by engineer William Harper as an Edwardian Sewage pumping station, it comprises a single storey yellow brick building with slate roof and six round headed bay windows with red brick arches. Today known as 'The Pumping Station' it is home to numerous antique dealers over three floors covering over thirty two thousand square feet.