Sunday, 23 July 2017

SAY IT WITH FLOWERS

Periodically I visit Usk in Monmouthshire and I am always pleasantly surprised how many people I see out on their bikes. This is probably not surprising because it is near the start of the legendary Lon Las Cymru cycle route and at the same time has an interesting east-west route too. They are NCN's 42 and 423.

Local people in 2017 with its Festival of Flowers decided to make cycling its theme and I was encouraged to see that people of all ages took part. Participants ranged from school children to shop window displays, pub bikes, fishermen's bikes and the police.  Here are a few piccies for you to decide:





This unusual community should be applauded with its creative approach to involving everyone and, who knows, it creates greater awareness and perhaps a few more people will be tempted to ride?  Here is a link to the Usk area

Sunday, 18 June 2017

BEARA WAY CYCLE ROUTE, SW IRELAND



The Beara Peninsula is in the far south west of Ireland. It is an area of wild beauty surrounded on three sides by the sea with the Slieve Miskish Mountains as its core. It is thought to be the warmest and most romantic part of Ireland. Among the things you should know are that the Mare's Tail is the highest waterfall in Ireland and Berehaven is the second safest natural harbour in the World with 7 miles of safe anchorage. Castletownbere, its main town, is the largest white fish port in Ireland.

The Beara Way Cycle Route is signed and 138km long. For the most part it is on safe quiet roads. The route varies from being flat in places to having challenging hills on others. The north and west coasts in particular have hills around every corner but the rugged coastal scenery make every rotation of the pedals feel worthwhile as if expecting something new each time.

At one moment, I found a hare running in front of me. On another, I could hear the sound of the sea over 1km away yet the only other sound was the lowing of cattle but there was no other noise. Beside the sea, there were gannets diving and I could see shoals of fish in the crystal clear water. 

I have been here twice and on each occasion, there were very few motorists and many coffee stops. The colourful little villages were competing with one another to be the tidiest place and local people always give a welcome asking how are you.

There is more to see on this route as many cyclists come to climb the Healy Pass while there are numerous little side roads that disappear off only to reappear beside a cove with perhaps a jetty or beach.  

For another view of this route, this is a link.  The image above is the Healy Pass and below are a few around the coast:

View from the copper coast:


Eyeries main street:


Castletownbere trawlers:


Cyclist climbing the Healy Pass:


The north coast road with the Kenmare estuary on the right


I stayed in Castletownbere and used this a base for short tours cycling between 25 to 40 miles per trip.

Friday, 9 June 2017

#30 DAYS WILD: THE FIRST WEEK





June is the month that I join Devon Wildlife Trust for 30 Days Wild. This is its third year and it is a month long nature challenge to see if it is possible to do something wild every day. Living in Devon, this is not difficult and I use my bike wherever possible. It has been wild and windy for many of the first few days and here is my diary:

The month started with a bike ride to  Brent Tor 4 miles north of Tavistock accompanied by two friends where we found a church sitting precariously on top of a hill having astonishing views over Dartmoor. It was only possible to walk to it through some beautiful wild flower meadows to reach it. 

Another bike ride followed on Sunday where I was the guide for a 50 mile cycle tour around Dartmoor. I had 14 cyclists with me. The ride started by exploring the beautiful southern foothills then turned sharp left to climb onto the high moors and back again. We discovered ancient woodlands, fast flowing rivers, rugged granite tors and fine open moorland.

Near my home, I found beautiful ragged robin flowers in full bloom, see a fox, discover a recently built nest, watch a mother canada goose and five chicks.

I will continue with my 30 Days Wild tomorrow and hopefully see much more of nature's bounty




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