Thursday, 11 May 2017

LON LAS CYMRU




Lon Las Cymru is a cycle route 250 miles long that crosses Wales with a choice of starts in the south from either Chepstow or Cardiff to Holyhead in the north. It is a spectacular journey through the Brecon Beacons, Cambrian Mountains and Snowdonia almost entirely on quiet roads.  Along the way, there are inland market towns, coastal towns, mountains and river valleys.  For lovers of wildlife, red kites sore above, woodpeckers hammer away and two of Britain's finest rivers, the Usk and Wye, are met.

The route is challenging but there are some family friendly sections too.  Whichever is chosen the scenery is stunning and wild. I took my touring bike which started life as a cyclo-cross and has puncture proof tyres. Mostly the route is on tarmac but some of the best stretches are on gravel tracks so this choice of bike is recommended. It is possible to use a road bike but not really ideal.

For the best scenery and biggest challenge, the start should be from Chepstow, though on this occasion, I used a third option and started at Newport. This is the link for choice of routes all of which are on the National Cycle Network

I had an easy first day following the Brecon and Monmouth Canal to Brecon where I met NCN8. This route changed to minor roads through Talgath, Builth Wells, Rhayader, Llangurig, Llanidloes and on to Machynlleth.  I met the gravel coach road last seen 4 weeks ago on the Radnor Ring and this time the bluebells were out. On this route the hills start in earnest at Llangurig.  They climb passing Plynlimon, source of the Rivers Wye and Severn, drop down to Staylittle and climb again through the Cambrian Mountains, before a very long and exhilerating descent to Machynlleth.

Lon Las follows NCN8 round the east side of Cadair Idris to Dolgellau with a huge climb and spectacular views of the mountain.  However on this occasion I followed NCN82 the north route that on the map looked even better but much of it is on gravel tracks. Here are a few images:

I was accompanied by my friend Andy and this is the easy canal path near Abergavenny on the first day


A coffee stop beside the River Wye


Cycling through the Cambrian Mountains on route to Machynlleth


Views from NCN82 after Tywyn and the north side of Cadair Idris





Looking back from Barmouth at Cadair Idris.


For another opinion of this route, please check this link
The route is well signed with the NCN. I finished on this occasion at Barmouth and my distance was 170 miles. My overnights stops were at Crickhowell, Newbridge, Macynlleth and Dolgellau.
For train access, Newport and Cardiff are well served with main line trains.  There is a train station at Chepstow but this will probably involve changes. I made my return journey on the Cambrian Coast Railway, a delightfully scenic route where time is not of the essence

Thursday, 6 April 2017

CYCLING THE RADNOR RING


The Radnor Ring is a cycle route 95 miles long set in deepest rural Wales. It winds its way along tiny roads through a landscape of sheep hill farms, open moorland, varied woodlands, high hills and deep valleys. The population is sparce containing a few small market towns and occasional hamlets.

The route is challenging but the effort is rewarded with spectacular views, plenty of bird song and on my visit over the previous few days an almost continuous baaing from thousands from what seemed happy sheep.

I took my trusty touring bike and it was the right bike for the ride.  Mostly it was on tarmac but there was one off-road stretch beside the River Wye which must not be missed. 

I recommend the start should be at Knighton on the Heart of Wales railway line and cycle clockwise towards Presteigne. The first mile leaving town involves a steep climb and gives a taste of things to come. At the top, the next 2 miles are reasonably flat as you cycle along a ridge. This short stretch looks out to give incredible views in a 360 degree circle.  Behind you are the Shropshire Hills while in front are the Black Mountains, to the right the Cambrian Mountains come into view and to the left another range of hills.  When you have taken all this in, a steep downhill plunges you into Presteigne where coffee shops await you. 

This is one link that gives the route. It is well waymarked on the National Cycle Network, being mostly NCN825 except where it joins Lon Las Cymru where it is signed NCN8.  There is accommodation in the market towns but don't rely on finding shops, pubs or B+B's in between.  The main towns are Knighton, Presteigne, Kington, Llandrindod Wells and Rhayader

These are a few images





I was accompanied for part of the journey by my friend for a long time, Jaana. We started at Leominster and cycled along lanes in Herefordshire which were equally picturesque in a different landscape as this image


I mentioned plenty of sheep


I also mentioned the Heart of Wales Railway Line.  This station is 5 miles from a town.


For another opinion of this route, you should check this link.  My total journey was 156 miles including some side trips.  My overnight stops were at Presteigne, Newbridge on Wye, Rhayader and Wigmore.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

A WORD FOR 2017

The best of both worlds.  This is what I call cycling in Devon. There have been no long dramatic rides this winter. Instead in Plymouth I joined The Pasty Ride .  I also have led two guided rides with Sustrans. Here an image from one ride


There were 30 riders on the first event and 16 on the second. The third was a night ride and only 5 came because the weather turned against us.  Winter often involves lots of short trips and this includes loading up my panniers with visits to our local shops.  I have fixed my first short tour and it will be a trip to the Welsh borders in early April. I am also arranging taster guided rides for Dartmoor and hope to have some published soon.  Please watch here for these events

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A DARK SKIES RIDE

I woke up this morning and my adrenalin was still going from last night.  Four of us had decided to go on a dark skies ride for a Christmas meal by bike along some Dartmoor lanes.  We met at 6.30 at Ivybridge Watermark Centre.  It was only 6 miles to the Cornwood Inn along the Dartmoor Way Cycle Route but it was truly amazing.  There was no moon and no urban lights either so it was a true dark skies ride.  We could sense the countryside.  We could hear owls hooting, we listened to the flow of rivers alongside us and could pick out the ancient walls and trees beside the road. On the return ride, we stopped and turned off our lights to look at the stars.

When we arrived back at the Watermark, we realized that it was the winter solstice.  We had a great dark skies ride and a enjoyable meal too.  Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

AN AWARD AND SOME FAVOURITE IMAGES FROM 2016

I have won an award and it is for doing what I enjoy, going out with my bike.  I am apparently SW Volunteer of the Year for Sustrans.  I have not talked much about Sustrans in my blog.  I have always liked what they do.  The National Cycle Network is its creation and nothing to do with our Government. It is a credit to Sustrans that all the local authorities across the UK have adopted it. For me, it brings adventure in some of Britain's remotest places and in busier areas the NCN, as it is known, takes people along safe paths suitable for everyone, children, disabled people, elderly as well as cyclists.  It has something for everyone.  These are a selection of images that have inspired me in 2016.
My first image was taken in Cambridge in February and could easily be thought to be in one of Europe's cycling capitals, such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam. All towns and cities should have cycling facilities like this. There would be less traffic congestion and we would "mostly" be happier


The next image was popular with the Wildlife Trusts and was tweeted to 100K followers.  My theme was searching for 30 Days Wild which they ask everyone to take part in June every year. I was in the New Forest for this piccie.


I sometimes lead small group guided rides for Sustrans in South Devon.  My image below was a group ride that I led on Dartmoor.


Of course Dartmoor can be bleak.  Why else was a jail built there?  It did not put this Sustrans cyclist off


The NCN takes you to some iconic places. I often use it for my tours in the UK and Ireland. Taken last year, this is my buddy, Andy, also a volunteer, in the Black Mountains


This image was taken last month at the Sustainable Travel Fair in Ivybridge. It is Gary Streeter, our MP, checking out an e-mountain bike. This is his blog for the Fair and I am wondering if he will become a convert?


If on tour, many of the best scenic journeys can be off-road. There is nothing wrong with some mud or hard tracks, just bring a tough bike with good tyres. This is my buddy, Dagmar, from Germany setting off for the Pyrenees earlier this year.


And finally, every journey must have its high point.  Here is mine in 2016


If you would like to join a mini adventure in deepest South Devon in 2017, please keep watching this website

Friday, 14 October 2016

A SHORT CYCLE TOUR ON DEVON'S NORTH COAST

Although I live in Devon, I have never cycled its north east coast before. I have heard that the scenery is stunning and hills are steep. I met my friend, Jaana, in Barnstaple for a two day ride to Minehead. I cycled up from Ivybridge on the previous day while she came from London on the train.
The ride across the centre of Devon is one of my favourites with its varied mixture of moorland, countryside, quaint villages, cycle trails, quiet roads and sufficient coffee stops. 

 

Some of the route left the highway and I enjoyed the next section crossing Mary Tavy Moor. Last time I was here, a cyclist came the other way wearing a dishdasha. This is a white ankle length garment usually with long sleeves and frequently worn by Arabs. The rider was accompanied by 6 children, all on mountain bikes


As we left Barnstaple, our journey took us north initially on a flat cycle trail, formerly a railway but after Braunton the journey started becoming arduous as we climbed into the hills.  We arrived at Woolacombe Bay and discovered a most beautiful beach.


If you are a surf dude, you might end your journey here as it is apparantly one of the finest surfing destinations in the UK. The scenery changed to rugged cliffs as we cycled northwards and, at Ilfracombe, we discovered Verity, a complete contrast to everything up to now




Verity was created by Damien Hirst in 2011 and is 20.25 metres high. She is made from stainless steel and bronze. Verity was part of the reason that I wanted to cycle this coast and she must have made a significant impact on visitor numbers coming to Ilfracombe.  The cliffs beyond continue to Minehead and we started to encounter some of the most challenging hills that I have ever met.


We discovered that a normal hill here is 25% and each hill has many bends, some switchbacks and the roads are all narrow. We walked up the hills and it was slightly terrifying going downhill with alarming thoughts of brake fade and worse.  The compensations were truly epic scenery and admiring comments from people who never thought to see cyclists on these roads. Some of the roads were too narrow for most types of motor vehicle so we were left to ourselves to enjoy the scenery at a slow pace.  We cycled through Combe Martin,along the Valley of the Rocks, Lynton, Porlock and finished at Minehead.




These are the journey details:

    Day 1: Ivybridge - Barnstaple:-    84 miles,  cycle routes NCN2 and 27

    Days 2 and 3: Barnstaple - Minehead:-   78 very hilly miles, cycle route RCN51

The map is here  

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A BIKE RIDE TO HIGH DAM

High Dam is in the Lake District and was built to serve Stott Park Bobbin Mill at Finsthwaite near Ulverston. The mill produced millions of bobbins for the once thriving spinning and weaving industries in Lancashire.  Today, the mill is a visitor attraction and still in use. The dam occupies a particularly scenic location above it. My daughter wanted me to join her husband, new baby and her to go wild swimming in the dam. It was a 47 mile bike ride to achieve this. I am becoming a regular visitor to the Lakes and enjoy its many and varied bike routes.

The dam involves a climb on a rough track and it can be reached from the newly formed Lakes and Dales Cycle Loop


The woodland was quite splendid with many varieties of trees. I ask someone at the start of the track if I can cycle it. He thought that a mountain bike might be needed but I took my cyclocross tourer anyway. I walk with the family up the track as it is too gritty to cycle and it was good to see a tree creeper scampering up an oak.


Baby Finn is encouraged to try the saddle. The water is crystal clear with no wind and surrounded by woodland. My daughter encourages us to do a mini triathlon by running around the dam and swimming across it. We resolve to do this another time but all take a dip.This is my first wild swim for a long time so it is brief for me but both parents swim across and back with no wet suits.


Baby Finn is only 10 months old but he is already being groomed for sport including cycling. He loves being in the child seat of my daughter's bike.


The bike ride started from Milnethorpe and followed The Lakes and Dales Cycle Loop through Levens, Grange, Cartmel and Newby Bridge. Apart from the tree creeper, I had close up views of a young fox on the road and nature in the raw where a sparrow hawk was eating a pigeon still alive no more than 1 metre from where I was standing and quite oblivious to my interest.