Monthly Archives: June 2014

And the winner is…

Highest road
1 Gospel Pass 549 m
2 Bwlch-y-Groes 545 m
3 ?

Steepest Road
1 Start of the Devil’s Staircase
2 Bwlch-y-Groes near the top, next to the safety barriers
3 Climb out of the Tywi valley,  a couple of miles beyond the Devil’s Staircase

Best Descent
Gospel Pass, towards Hay. Silky – smooth surface, wonderful views.  Doing it in company with another cyclist made it special.

Best Ascent
Nant Gwynant.  Not too steep, steady gradient, wonderful scenery

Best Cafe
Great Oak Wholefood Cafe, Llanidloes.
Friendly service, great meal, free Wifi and battery charging -excellent value.

Best Campsite
Tie between Riverside Camping at Caernarfon and Blackthorn Farm near Holyhead. Both were very friendly and welcoming and had excellent facilities, including an on site cafe at Riverside and a B&B at Blackthorn, both of which serve breakfast.  Beautiful riverside location (providing it’s not in flood) or coastal views (providing it’s not blowing a gale) respectively.  Riverside sneaks it with free Wifi.

Getting to the End.

I was always somewhat ambivalent about finishing this trip in Caernarfon or Holyhead.  By Caernarfon I would have done all the mountains and reached the sea. What more was needed? Well, Caernarfon doesn’t have the right sort of railway station so I would have had to cycle to Bangor anyway, and my editor encouraged me to finish with a photo of South Stack lighthouse.
So what was there to see? Magnificent views of the Menai Straits from the smooth tarmac of the bike path along the old Caernarfon to Bangor railway line.  Close-up views of Telford’s wonderful suspension bridge and The Swellies, the tidal rapids between Telford’s bridge and Stephenson’s Brittania bridge. And Llanfair PG.
I won’t try typing out the full version of the village with the longest name on a mobile phone keypad.  I recall hearing a story that the reason for the long name was basically a tourist attraction.  When I were a lad you could buy a four-inch long cardboard platform ticket at the station.  Tastes change but the tradition continues.  In what used to be the station yard is now Shopping World, what passes for a tourist attraction these days.  It had certainly attracted coaches from as far away as Great Yarmouth. For the passing cyclist
at the end of a tour it was a useful place to pick up the obligatory box of Welsh fudge to take back to work.
There’s an old folk tale (which I just made up) that when Duw had finished creating Wales, he had some bits left over. Not enough for a big mountain range or majestic moorland, mostly just the twisty-turny bits of country lanes that wouldn’t fit anywhere else.  Being short of time he dumped them down in the sea just a bit away from the mainland.  Not quite flat, with surprisingly many steep ups and downs. That’s why the best thing about cycling in Anglesey is the view of the mainland. 
And what a view it is! From the Carneddau to Bardsey the whole of Snowdonia was stretched out on my left as I pushed my way into the stiff westerly that was trying to keep me from Holyhead.
Anglesey does have its own little mountain, and my campsite was halfway up it. This had the advantage that it wasn’t much further to South Stack lighthouse, which really was the end of the road. Time to press-gang a couple from Somerset into taking my photo and admire the views.  From the top of the headland one could see the Wicklow mountains.

Shelter from the storm

My ID may be RocknTroll, but I don’t often post from beneath bridges. I had heard the storm coming for some time, from the thunder rumbling over Rhobell Fawr to my left.
When I saw lightning, I knew it was time to take shelter. There was one more steep stretch to climb before the descent to Trawsfynydd, but I could see the road ahead across open moorland.  Seeing a clump of trees beside road I pulled over.
On closer inspection there was astream in the trees and the stream ran under the road. There’s almost enough headroom to stand upright and it’s dry apart from under foot.
Half an hour and two blogs.  I hope it stops soon.

Feed my lambs

“En Pommerol on dort jus’qua midi” – “at Pommerol one sleeps til midday” was the caption on a child’s drawing in the Reception at Pomerol, the most tranquil campsite i stayed at in France. Celyn Brithion at Minllyn near Dinas Maddwy is its Welsh equivalent. 
Turning off the main road there is a clear sign for tourers to your left and tents to the right. The tents have the best of it — smooth, manicured lawn set about with picnic tables, garden armchair, free range hens — and a boat on a trailer.
When the owner returned from wherever he was, he  disappeared into the house, to re-emerge a few minutes later carrying four baby’s drinking bottles. He had four orphan lambs he was looking after for his daughter,  one of them only two days old.
Helping feed a lamb was a reminder of how strongly such delicate – looking creatures could push, pull and suck.
Once fed, the lambs explored the garden, including my tent. 
The owner told me how the didn’t get as many campers these days. First it was foot-and-mouth, then a run of bad summers and the recession.  He reckoned that your typical camper is part of the sqeezed middle, with less disposable income to spend on a weekend away.
It’s a shame, as it’s a lovely site. In the silence of the evening it’s hard to believe it’s adjacent to the A470, Wales’ main north – south route.  Oh, and I slept for eleven hours.

The Mountain Road

The road from Llanidloes to Machynlleth gets a lot of billing as “The Mountain Road”. Even the road signs say “via narrow mountain road”. As I turned left for Machynlleth just beyond the delightfully-named Staylittle I was amazed by the width.
It was here I met Richard and Phyllis.  I stopped in a layby to take a photo of the view down the Dylife Gorge. They were parked higher up in the layby. After taking a photo I wandered over and asked if they’d mind taking one with me in it. This led on to an offer of a cup of tea, which I gladly accepted.  (My first free cup of tea of the trip was from Dot, a resident of the leisure park near Builth).
Beyond Dylife there was a road narrows sign, and it did get somewhat narrower, but there was still room for two cars to pass without difficulty. The County Council needs to apply to the EU for funding to upgrade the signs to match the roads.
Earlier in the morning I had passed a very old sign, one that said “Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles”. It certainly was. Whereas many farm tracks have two bands of tarmac with a strip of grass down the middle, this had a narrow central band of tarmac and two gullies either side deeper even than Oxfordshire’s potholes. Sustrans followers with vertigo would be advised not to use it. This would have a better claim to be THE Mountain Road, if only it were a road.
My average speed for today was 9.3 mph. Yesterday it was 8.4. Abergwesyn to Tregaron is THE mountain road.