WELCOME! I've been cycling through the Southeast Valleys of Wales since 2010 and I can't say (or show) enough about the place. I just love it. So if you've got the interest and would like to spend some time... sit back and let me show you some of the fabulous places I've discovered.

September 20, 2014

Llangynidr Commons

Sitting between the villages of Garnlydan and Llangynidr is a high wide ridge called Llangynidr Commons. It sits along the southern edge of the Brecon Beacon National Park and east of the Black Mountains.

This day trip began with a ride heading north toward Brecon. Its roughly 32 miles up through the Brecon Beacon Mountains from our home in Oakdale. We're really fortunate to live so close to this spectacular national park. If you visit Wales and plan to do some cycling, you simply must cycle up through Llangynidr Commons. I've climbed quite a few mountains in the Brecon Beacons including the Gospel Pass and to be honest, I think this is one of the best.

The route starts just off of the National Cycle Network Route 46 along the Heads of the Valleys on the B4560 from Beaufort to Llangynidr. I suggest riding out from Beaufort because not only is it easier, but more dramatic.

It's a slow ride at first. The climb is steady and subtle.

But then quite suddenly you reach the top and the valleys just unfold beneath you. In the far distance you can see Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Llangorse Lake... and the Brecon Beacons. Meanwhile the Black Mountains loom along your right.

Then the ride down to Llangynidr is not one for the faint of heart. It was quite easy for me to reach speeds over 40 mph during the three miles of steep descent and some of the switchbacks are "hairpin turns" which require very long and hard breaking.

Halfway... looking down.

... and looking back.

I've a new Gallery you may wish to view: Llangynidr Commons II

September 08, 2014

Looking for Moleman II

I caught some type of chest infection in early June of this year which laid me up for a couple of weeks. The weather had been exceptionally nice and I was worried that I was going to miss some lovely days cycling. But once I had recovered, I started training again on this little route up behind our village.

The road is rather rough in places and it has a steady climb of about five miles.

So this is my short training ride; all of six miles... up to Manmoel and back.
And look at the views!

Then to round off the ride, I generally continue back down the mountain to Blackwood and up the other side of the valley to Hollybush just to tack on another seven miles. It's nothing difficult, but makes for a great start if you've been out of the saddle for a while. There's hardly any traffic and well... it's rather nice, I think.

September 05, 2014

Penpont Campout

This trip was originally made in September of 2014, but my images and write up were somehow lost. Thankfully, whilst digging through my archive I found the skeletal remains which I've pieced together here.

This was the view from outside my tent...

Looking back on this trip today feels like a dream. My wife discovered Penpont online and immediately we were attracted to the place. We had planned to visit as part of a larger cycling adventure, but our route changed and we didn't make it. However, I later went as a sort of "solo-expedition" ride and what a treat it turned out to be.

Quite simply, this is one of the best campsites at which I have stayed. To start; it is gorgeous. The vibe of the place is laid back and relaxed, with a folksy feel. Penpont has been in the same family since being built nearly 400 years ago. To this day it is managed by the same small family. This is their home.

Total Distance: 105.4 miles
Total Elevation: + 5598 / - 5597 ft

This was a short and straight-forward overnight campout. I rode to Brecon/Penpont on Friday and came home on Saturday. The weather was fabulous; a sunny and warm September.

I loaded my bike with more gear than I really needed for a single night, but I am prone to packing as if I'm never coming home. Of course, the bike rode like a champ! This is for what she was made.

This report is divided into two parts to reflect the two days. However, I seem to have lost most of my original photos from the ride up, so I've placed a few images from a later ride along the canal and into Brecon to give you a feel for the day. Then once I arrived at Penpont, my photos from the actual trip begin in earnest.

Day One: Oakdale to Penpont
Distance: 51.3 miles
Elevation: + 2,291 / - 2,524 ft

I started my little adventure by cycling an easy 13 miles west across the valley from Oakdale to Pontymoile Boat Basin. I then joined the Monmouth & Brecon Canal path (NCN Route 49) for another easy-peasy 13 miles to Gilwern.

The M&B Canal path is something every cyclist should explore. It's lovely at any time of the year. It is perfectly flat for nearly 30 miles between Pontymoile Boat Basin and Brecon. There are convenient rest stops for snacks, toilet breaks, and pubs nestled in quaint villages along the way. (For more details on the canal route see: Taff Trail: Brecon to Pontsticill.)

However, at Gilwern I got on Cwm Crawnon Road (B4558) and cycled to Talibont-on-Usk where I joined the Taff Trail (NCN Route 8) to just outside Brecon. Cwm Crawnon Road snakes between the M&B Canal and the Usk River and though it's not quite as scenic, it is somewhat faster. The last two miles into Brecon I got back onto the canal path again.

Cwm Crawnon Road

You'll cruise past lush fields along both sides of a deep valley. You'll pass Glanusk Park; home to the Greenman Festival. You'll ride along slowly as the road follows both the River Usk and the M&B Canal, snaking back and forth under a deep canopy of green. But don't try this road during rush hour! Wait until mid-morning or early afternoon when this route between Llnagynidr and Crickhowell quietens down to become a real cycling treat.

From the junction over the bridge at the B4558 and the canal lock, it's just a couple of miles to the boat basin in Brecon. It's a stunning ride into town.

Following my first cycle tour through here; I went back to the states and told my friends that Wales was like being in a storybook. It still feels that way.

I was amazed that people lived so casually amongst such beauty. There's something peaceful and quiet that I've never seen in the United States.

I got on the A40 leaving out of Brecon. It's a very busy trunk road most notable for climbing the high pass below Pen y Fan. The views are spectacular, however I only had to travel a short five miles outside of Brecon to reach Penpont. (For more on this route, see: "Brecon & Beyond".)

Then I fell down the rabbit hole.

Aerial video courtesy of © Penpont

Here we go...

Heading into the grounds, I met a man along the drive who instructed me to go past the house and across the bridge. I would then see signs where to camp. Someone would be along to check on me shortly. That's easy enough.

Hmmm... this is looking promising. Riding over the bridge it occurs to me that this is the River Usk and this is their private bridge?!?

Yeah. This is where I camped. The owner; David Hogg came by about an hour after I had set up my tent and we chatted for quite a while. He was very cordial and welcoming. He explained much about this fascinating property and his family (check out: Penpont A brief history and description). The cost?... £10 for the night. Then I was left alone, secluded and completely on my own within this magical realm.

Of course I set off to explore! Through this door leads you down to the old rose garden whre I camped. Above that is an orchard with more campsites for larger groups and a few fire pits. It's simply spectacular.

Back across the bridge is the main house and many interesting buildings. I discovered the farm store and had I known, I wouldn't have shopped in Brecon. They have milk, eggs, some packaged cheese and meats, fresh vegetables (from their farm)... most anything you'd need to fix a dinner or breakfast.

Of course I poked around... there is much to see and explore. Be sure to arrive before it gets dark or plan to wander around at some point before you leave.

Through the gates is the Organic Farm Shop. Here's a grainy shot from inside the store to give you a better idea of just how friggin' adorable this place is...

A wood worker has set up shop in one of the buildings. I think she/he was making chairs when I stuck my head in... no one was around, so I didn't go in.

As you can see, no one was around. I saw plenty of signs of life, but I was on my own to explore. And to be fair, it was hard to take it all in.

Hello pups. Are you all alone here too? Where do ya think everybody is?

This courtyard is used for wedding receptions I believe. There's a kitchen and large banquet hall just through the door.

If you appreciate architectural vignettes; you will be in heaven. If you love just looking at old things laying around as they may have been for a fifty years; you will be highly engaged. There's more stuff at which to look upon than you can imagine. It's brilliant.

Of course, all of this fascinating architecture and history rests within the lush landscape of the Usk River Valley. It's magical. I can't wait to go back.

Aerial image courtesy of © Google Maps. Site labeling by bikewales.

Day Two: Penpont to Oakdale
Distance: 54.1 miles
Elevation: + 3,,307 / - 3,073 ft

But all things come to pass and the next day I packed up for the ride home. It was another lovely day heading up the lane toward the main road.

But this place just won't let go of you. When I thought I had seen it all, I came upon two more buildings. How did I miss these coming in?

By the way... I didn't even see the Green Man maze!?! In fact, I didn't even know about it until I got home and was flying over the satellite view in Google Maps. Crazy.

I'm on the A40 heading toward Sennybridge now. A thick fog set in, perfectly matching my somber mood as I climbed the road behind Pen y Fan.

I know that Penpont is going to be a tough act to follow, but the road is wide and the traffic is very light on this early Saturday morning.

Slowly the day begins to brighten. I turn south at Sennybridge and begin my way home in earnest down the A4067.

Looking up, I think to myself; "yeah, I see why Turner liked to paint clouds..."

Old roadways along side the new, forgotten and no longer used. How much of this landscape has changed? How much is the same?

After about 13 miles I droppd over the ridge I had been climbing and began rolling down along side the Tawe River in the Swansea Valley into Craig y Nos. This lovely little village is known for its very large Victorian Gothic country house (Craig y Nos Castle). It's popular for weddings these days. in fact, they're having one as I pass.

This is also home to The National Showcaves for Wales. It too looks interesting, but I don't stop... I've seen enough. I'm ready to be home.

I turned onto the A4221 at Abercrave and made my way down a few easy miles down to Glyneath.

In conclusion...
The end of my day was a straight-forward ride home from Glyneath. I took NCN Route 46 down to NCN Route 478 passing through the towns of Aberdare, Mountain Ash, and Abercynon.

I rode across to Quakers Yard and joined traffic-free NCN Route 47 across to Maesycwmmer. Then it was just up the road through Blackwood to Oakdale.

Total Distance: 105.4 miles
Total Elevation: + 5,598 / -5597 ft
Total Duration: Two days/One night

It had been a great trip, but I was tired and glad to be home.

Thanks as always for visiting.

Seeya down the road... Cheers! - cm

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