Welcome friends. This humble blog is about the simple observations I discover whilst cycling through lovely Wales. I hope to offer you, dear reader; cheerful reflections upon the days and miles I pedal, along with encouragement to get out and explore on a bicycle! Perhaps too, if I attempt a bit of amusing anecdotes along the way, I may invoke your readership as well. Thanks for stopping by... cheers, cm

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Kingfishers to Kington (pt. 1)

The Kingfishers had their annual overnight bike trip back in September. It's a little late, but with the nonstop rain I'm finally sorting the photos and writing something about our little adventure.

AUGUST 31, 2015 - I set off around 7 am on a grey Monday morning heading up through the Sirhowy Valley towards Tredegar. I would then turn east toward Brynmawr and across the Heads of the Valley. My overall plan was to cycle up to the village of Kington where I was to meet the other fellas on Tuesday morning. I had the entire day to myself and the 60 mile journey.

The skies were thick with low heavy clouds as I cycled through a fine mist for the first couple of hours. However, just being on my bike... having it loaded with all my gear was incredibly exciting and overshadowed any concern for rain. It's a steady climb to Brynmawr where you feel as if you're on top of the world.

Riding out of Brynmawr and down into Clydach Gorge is simply stunning. The cycle paths are unmatched anywhere in Wales. As many times as I've been here, I cannot help but pause to take a few photos.

I completed the first leg of my trip coming down the mountain from Clydach Gorge into Gilwern. It's a short and fast drop of over 1.000 feet in just over 3 miles. A fabulous glide with continuous views over the valley toward Abergavenny and Sugarloaf Mountain. Once down, I then moved onto a proper road and headed west passing first through Crickhowell and onto Llangynidr.

I crossed the historic Llangynidr Stone Bridge and turned north again toward Bwlch. It's a helluva climb of 400 feet over 1.5 miles, but once past Bwlch, the road levels out and is lovely and rolling past Llangorse Lake to Talgarth.

Talgarth is a quaint market town at the heart of which features a restored 18th century flour mill. Having travelled just under 40 miles, I stopped here and parked my bike by a bench in the middle of the town square to have my lunch. It's a great place to sit and people-watch. The tourists wander about, poking their heads in doorways and squinting through windows while the locals zip into the small shops waving hello to their neighbours, talking loudly across the road to each other, and glaring with wonder at sweaty men with strange bicycles eating bananas in the centre of town.

The Wye valley is wide and flat heading out from Talgarth to the undisputed book capital of the Uk, Hay on Wye.

Hay on Wye needs little introduction. It's generally quite busy with tourists taking up the streets such that cycling is simply impossible. Even pushing my bike through the crowds was considerably difficult though many people stopped to ask of my journey. "Where ya going?" Followed by; "How long have ya been on the road" and then with a look of shock; "With all that on your bike?"

Whitney Bridge was a complete surprise. I came around a corner to see a short line of traffic waiting for some unseen delay ahead... and then as I slowly pedalled forward, inching along behind the cars... SURPRISE! It's an adorable little wooden toll bridge. £1 for cars; FREE for cyclists! Woohoo! Plus they have a cute camp-ground with canoe rentals right along the shore.

The remainder of my trip was rather uneventful. I had to take a short detour due to some road construction. I missed a turn because I just wasn't paying attention - a real problem when I get into my "cycling zone".

After nine hours and 60 miles I finally rode down into Kington about 4 pm. I snaked through town to the little camp-ground of Fleece Meadows. I set up camp, then went back into town for supplies. By 6:30 the sun had come out and I was having dinner by a stream. A fabulous day.

>> Stay tuned... Kingfishers to Kington (pt. 2) is coming soon!

Kingfishers to Kington (pt. 1)
Location: Oakdale to Kington
Distance: 60.5 mi.
Skill Level: Advanced
Approx. Time: 8 - 9.5 hrs.
Elevation Gain: +3541 ft. / -3839 ft.
Max. Grade: 9.8%
Avg. Grade: 0.2%

Links of Interest

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Raining, Reading, & Riding (not!)

I'm a huge fan of "crazyguyonabike". I often follow folks as they wander across the globe on their beguiling adventures. They can be often scary and cautionary, though mostly charming and extremely motivating... And all of that is what makes cycle touring such a wonderful experience.

Photo credit: © copyright Mike Hayes

However, sometimes you find someone who is completely different. They're not retired, they haven't sold everything to go on a life-changing epic adventure... they simply work and live on their bike(s).

Photo credit: © copyright Cass Gilbert

I've been following these two fellas for a few years now and to be quite honest... I envy them. I am humbled by my short daily trips. I am embarrassed with my amateurish attempts at photography. These guys are the real deal. These guys are the professionals.
So go read and enjoy. I'm gonna order some bike parts (the "other thing" to do when it's raining and you don't feel like riding, right?... )


Friday, October 2, 2015

Explorer Day 2015

Including: Tredegar House, the Transporter Bridge, and Newport Wetlands
Distance: 20.8 miles
Travel Time: All day event
Ride Level: Beginner

Quite simply, this was a fantastic ride. The weather was gorgeous, the route was lovely, and the folks that came along were happy and excited to be out on their bicycles for such a wonderful autumn day.

The focus of the event was to celebrate the 50th anniversary of National Trust’s Neptune Coastal Campaign on a guided 20 mile charity cycle ride between Tredegar House and Newport Wetlands National Nature reserve.

photo by: Kevin Dupe

The group of 30+ cyclists began arriving around 9:30 eager to depart for the ride through the Gwent Levels. The day was divided into three parts beginning with a ride from Tredegar House to the Newport Wetlands. Then at the Wetlands Center, we joined in some organized activities, such as walks and nature watches. We even had time for a bit of lunch in their cafe.

Following a few relaxing hours at the Wetlands, we mounted our trusty steeds and rode back to Tredegar House following our previous route. Back at Tredegar House we were welcomed by a glorious afternoon in the gardens along with a lovely catered picnic including live acoustic music.

The ride itself was flat and easy going. We followed NCN Route 4 from Tredegar House to the Newport Wetlands where we entered onto the Wetlands cycle path that runs along the estuary to the visitor center. A special highlight of the ride too; was a historical presentation by the volunteers of the Newport Transporter Bridge while crossing the River Usk.

photo by: Kevin Dupe

A rest at Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve was a welcome break where we stretched our legs and enjoyed refreshments at the RSPB Visitor Centre cafe.

Volunteers on hand with telescopes and binoculars showed us some of the amazing array of birds and wildlife of this wonderful site.

ROUTE COLOUR KEY:  Traffic-free  Shared Use  Quiet Road  Steep Hill

Explorer Day Ride
Location: Tredegar House to Newport Wetlands
Distance: 20.8 mi. (round-trip)
Skill Level: Beginner
Approx. Time: 4 - 5 hrs.
Elevation Gain: +164 ft. / -167 ft.
Max. Grade: 3.1%
Avg. Grade: 0.0%

Check out the great video shot by Alexander Allen:

Once we returned to Tredegar House, we were greeted with a catered picnic and LIVE music making for a perfect ending to a truly unique day of cycling in South-east Wales.

Just look at those smiling faces!

photo by: Kevin Dupe

Seeya next year gang!

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