Introduction

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 by bicycle yourself! 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, muse

Thursday, 25 August 2016

TOURING 
Yn Uchel Uwchben y Cymoedd; pt. 2


Day two of my weekend exploring the Rhondda Valleys. Today I set off for the little hidden jewel of Gawr Valley. And what a lovely surprise it turned out to be!



Blaengarw & Nant-y-moel Tour
Date: 14 August 2016
Distance: 84.7 miles

OAKDALE to TONYREFAIL - The ride down to Pontypridd was just as I had made the day before... easy-peazy across NCN Route 47 to Quakers Yard and then down the Taff Trail (NCN Route 8). Both routes are well-marked and well-paved.

Innocent looking lane heading out of town...

At Pontypridd this time I got onto NCN Route 4 heading west. Now I've been on this route a few times and its lovely, BUT... I have to add that this section is one of the hardest I've ridden on the National Cycle Network. The climb out of Pontypridd is brutal to say the least. It is long and steep and seems to go on forever. (NOTE: You can see an annotation of this section on the map if you view the larger version... )




Sorry, but there are no photos of the climb. But once at the top, the ride is really lovely and rolls along through some seemingly isolated valleys thick with trees and lush overgrowth.

Life at the top...


Looking over yonder valley...


Time to ride back down...

Surprisingly too, the paved road sort of fades out to a very rough bridleway. It's slow going in places and it's pretty rutted out from the rain. But despite the change, it is short-lived and you'll find yourself back on smooth tarmac before dropping into Tonyrefail.

A sudden change in road surface...


Looks like an adventure to me...


Looking back over my shoulder...

I have to be honest too... I kinda dig this sort of bridleway. It's not too difficult to manage. Sure I had to get off a couple of times because the gravel was too large or there was an unusually large gully across the path, but it totally adds to the "adventure feel". And then before I knew it... I was back on a paved roadway.

Nothing but the sound of wind...


and bird calls...


and in the distance a dog is barking...


and the sheep hear it all.

Coming out of the wild country I headed into Tonrevail and entered what I guess to be the city park? And then I promptly got lost. I don't know if I missed a sign or what?... but, I had no idea where to go.

Thank goodness I had brought along my Ordinance Survey maps. Plus, I had my Garmin Tour... so between the two I successfully navigated my way out of there! What this means to you dear reader... is that I didn't document my confusion. (You can see it on the map though...HA!)



BLACKMILL/OGMORE JUNCTION to BLAENGARW - Once back on course, the route was fabulous... yet again. In fact, looking back I can't believe I didn't take more photographs? It's a testament to how pretty this little country is. I was completely in the zone of "gazing at the beauty of Wales".

Down along the Ogmore River, the scenery changes completely...


Crossing paths...


Yup, those are real flowers...


From high mountain passes to thick wooded jungle...

I got a bit turned around looking for Bryngawr Country Parc and found myself riding up the A4064 from Brenminyn to Llangeinor. And for an "A" road it's actually not bad to cycle. It has a gentle slope, but the traffic is mild and the cars gave me plenty of room.

I found the path at Llangeinor by the old train station where it comes out of the woods and settles up along the old Gawr Valley rail line. I have to say, from here on up to the top of the valley was like stepping back in time. The entire area just felt as if it was cut off from the rest of the world.

Once a bustling and lively train station is now a lovely and quiet home...


nuthin' but the sounds of chickens and my tyres rolling along...

It's lovely... and quiet... and incredibly scenic... in a very low-key, understated way. I could clearly hear children joking and playing across a small pond as I passed. I could make out every word from women chatting somewhere in the near distance, but couldn't see them.

With no idea of what lies ahead...


Little gems appear...


with the whisper of a secret valley discovered...

And so with little fanfare I reached the top of the valley. I had thought I might try to follow a logging road that climbs up behind the houses and through the woods to the other side, but following a brief conversation with a local fella, I decided that it might be too much. Now home and looking at the area in Google Earth... it was good advice.

At the end of the road...

I had my lunch sitting on bench looking at this little valley trying to soak it all in. I'm always stunned at how much you can see in such a short space... in such a small country. It's a treasure chest packed with fascinating history and amazing scenery and lovely, wonderful people.

Another look around...


before heading back down the path as I had arrived...

Coasting back down the path I stopped along an old rail siding to snap a few quick photos when I was approached by a young man asking if I'd like to see inside the train shed. HELLO?!?! Would I ever... yes, please.

Abandoned?... Disused?...


Forgotten?... Unappreciated?...


No!


Sleeping perhaps...


Awaiting a second life...

And then I was off again! Shaking my head... the hits keep on coming! Heading up to Nant-y-moel next... What more can I see today?

I'm just loving these old rail lines...


How perfect to convert them to walking and cycle paths?


And how best to see the valleys?


Hello pony!


Looking back down the valley.


Looking up and out of town...




Visit Gallery

It's that time again to kick you over to the Gallery section of my blog. Leaving Nant-y-moel was somewhat auspicious. Not only have I loaded this post with perhaps too many photos, but the climb up and over to Cwmparc deserves it's own space.






So thanks again for stopping by and giving my blog a look. I hope you've enjoyed your time here.

cheers | cm

Saturday, 20 August 2016

TOURING 
Yn Uchel Uwchben y Cymoedd; pt. 1


As part of my ongoing plan to ride all of the National Cycle Network in Wales, I set off to explore the Rhondda Valleys through NCN Routes 881, 883, 884, & 885. I've been through the Rhondda on numerous occasions, but never as a specific destination itself. This weekend proved to be magnificent.



Maerdy & Treherbert Tour
Date: 13 August 2016
Distance: 67.7 miles

HENGOED to PONTYPRIDD - The day started off easy as I cycled down from Oakdale to join NCN Route 47 at the Hengoed/Maesycwmmer Viaduct. Heading west through Ystrad Mynach and Penalta Parc, I then turned south onto the Taff Trail (NCN Route 8) at Quakers YARD to Pontypridd. Riding the Taff Trail can be hit and miss in places, but the section just above Pontypool is quite unique. The pavement is rough in places and gets very narrow, but the views are quite surprising. It's one of the few places along the entire Taff Trail where you actually get down along side the river.

Along the River Taff...

In Pontypridd, I entered the city park and briefly joined NCN Route 4 (Celtic Trail) across town to find NCN Route 881 as it branches off into a housing estate. Odd as this may seem, the route quickly enters dense woods and becomes lovely. You then pass several historic markers before entering Barry Sidings Countryside Park. This is a great place for a pause to collect your thoughts, grab a snack, and have a toilet break (Note: it will be a while before you have access to public facilities again).

Barry Sidings Country Park...


Little surprises along the way...

As you leave the park and head north the route is a mixed bag of quiet roads and shared use paths for the next several miles until you reach Stanleytown.

Looking over at the Heritage Park in Trehafod...


Sleepy little Llwyncelyn...

Trehafod to Maerdy - The route becomes unpaved as it enters the woods at Stanleytown. It's a lovely smooth path which climbs gently along the Rhondda Fawr River.

Entering the path at Stanleytown...


Very quiet and secluded...


Rustic details along the way...


Can you hear the water flowing over the rocks?


There's not a car or truck or traffic of any kind to heard.


Starting to climb just a bit...


Almost there...

Maerdy and beyond - After a short ride above the river you pop out into Maerdy at the junction of the A4233. This too is a great place to stop and regroup. There is a wonderful historical marker full of pertinent local information and well worth the read.

This is also a good place to check your bike over... your brakes especially, but also your tyres. Make sure you've got plenty of water to drink... you'll be going on quite an adventure next.

A great read and lovely stop for lunch...


Looking back from where you've come...


Looking forward on a rather inauspicious path...


... and then you begin to climb.



... and then surprisingly the path becomes paved again as you enter the industrial remains of an abandoned colliery...



... and now it's camera time.





Visit Gallery

I could continue to describe the ride, but honestly the pictures tell the story best. And this is a perfect segue over to the Gallery section of my blog if you haven't been there before. So take a moment to review the map... noting the climb and descent. One special and surprising issue that I discovered was that Rhigos Road (A4061) was actually closed for repaving over on the Hirwaun side. Other than the occasional service vehicle, I had the road to myself. Fantastic!







Overall Route

The map shown below is the entire route that I rode on Saturday. I had set out to climb over to Hirwaun, but was rather disappointed to find the road under repair. However, I would not have discovered the ride down into Treherbert otherwise and that turned out to be a fantastic surprise! WooHoo!





Once I was back down in Treherbert, I merely followed A4061 & A4058 through Treorchy, Tonypandy and on down to Porth where I rejoined NCN 881 to Pontypridd and returned home as I had come. The major routes covered were NCN 881, NCN 884 & NCN 885. Part 2 of this adventure covers NCN Route 883.

Check back soon for the next part of this weekend adventure.

cheers | cm

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