Kennet and Avon Canal

This year I thought I would combine a bike pack with a visit to a cousin whom I haven’t seen for a long time.

I drove to Melksham where I left my car at a friend’s house and then cycled south to join the Kennet and Avon Canal and National Cycle Network 4 which I would follow to Aldermaston.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3 – reverse of Day 2

Day 4 – reverse of Day 1

The trip would be over 4 days there and back, camping for two nights and staying at my cousin’s for one night.

I intended to go sometime in June or early July. Eventually my diary and weather conditions gave me a window from 4/7/2017 to 7/7/2017. If I was being picky the weather was really too hot for the ride but at least better than a wet windy one. The total distance was about 110 miles.

My camping spot for the first and third day were spent at the Bruce Arms situated on the B3087 between Easton Royal and Littleworth. I can recommend this site but worth telephoning to ensure it is not fully booked, a probability during holiday periods. Clearly the pub is a bonus but food is not served during the week.

I found the Cycle Travel web site a useful resource and together with the OS Landranger maps 173, 174 and 175 route finding was not difficult. It is also well signposted as NCN 4.

The route is both on the canal tow path and quiet lanes through pretty villages with more thatched cottages than I had seen in such a short time. There were some hills but all manageable and short lived.

Pictures of my trip follow.

 

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Caen Locks near Devizes. (click for information)

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Vale of Pewsey

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A skillful job.

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My beast of burden.

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Crofton (click for information)

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Bruce Arms campsite

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Compare and contrast!

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Beware low hanging branches!

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Bike Pack in the Brecon Beacons

I was looking for a route to  bike pack and I had recently come across a cycling route from Llandeilo to Abergavenny using minor roads and the Momouthshire and Brecon Canal.

Here are the details

I did not plan to cycle the whole length but decided to start in Sennybridge which would give me some 30 plus miles with an additional mileage off the route to the campsite at Pysgodlyn Farm.

Being retired I have the luxury of choosing a weather window, which recently was proving difficult as summer has forgotten to put in an appearance. However here was a chance and I took it although as I drove into Sennybridge I was met with a hail storm which thankfully soon passed and rain was not seen for the  rest of the trip.

 

All packed

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Corn Ddu and Pen Y Fan

The first 9 miles are quite lumpy which was not too bad with fresh legs but on the return were hard work.

I had a coffee break in Brecon before joining the  canal tow path which took me to Pencelli where I again joined the road.

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Coffee at Brecon

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Canal side homes

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River Usk from aquaduct

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An owner from the 60’s?

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Lime kilns

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A redwood

 

En route I had a puncture caused by a drawing pin, hopefully not left to cause annoyance but just a stray incident.  Some 2 miles after Llangynidr the tow path was joined until I arrived at Gilwern where I rejoined the road to head for the A40 and my camp site for the night.

I can recommend Pysgodlyn Farm. It is a flat site with good facilities although for some there is no local pub unless you decide to ride or walk into Abergavenny. From my tent there were good views of the Blorenge.

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The Blorenge

My tent was soon erected and I was looking forward to a coffee but to my horror my lighter was empty and it was impossible to light the meths burner with a fire stick. Thankfully the farm owner lent me some matches and a friendly camper gave me a Bic lighter to keep and all was well with the world.

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Home for the night

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Kitchen

The following morning breakfast was eaten and I was soon on my way down to Abergavenny looking to join the tow path which I had decided I would follow all the way back to Brecon. The canal was quite busy with numerous narrow boats and a  few  boats hired by the hour.

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Llangatwg escarpment

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Future sausages

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Hills above Crickhowell

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Locks at Llangynidr

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We won’t be seeing these again!

 

I stopped at Talybont on Usk for lunch but there was a mild panic as my wallet was not in its usual place. Whilst emptying the panniers a kind lady in a small camper van offered to buy me coffee – this shows there are more good people than bad in this world. However my wallet was hiding at the bottom of the bag and I was able to pay my own way.

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Lunch at Talybont

At Brecon after some 25 miles of flat pedalling I faced the hilly lanes back to Sennybridge, my very own Mont Ventoux! I made it and soon loaded up the car. An enjoyable two days and perhaps the rest of the route can be undertaken a little later.

Amman Valley Cycle Trail

I thought that I would extend the usual ride from Panyffynnon / Brynamman to Cwmllynfell. The additional section is not fully completed as there is a short section of a public footpath from Brynamman alongside the river Nant Garw. It then becomes a traffic free tarmac path to just beyond Cwmllynfell.

Route The gadget didn’t pick up that I returned to the start!

It was sunny all day but a chill in the air with a headwind on the way out, but much faster return trip.

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Afon Amman

 

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For my non Welsh speaking friends!

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I’m not sure either but I sat on one for a coffee break

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The grass is greener —–!

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Cheshire Cycling

In early September my wife and I travelled to Chester to visit our younger son and his partner. My wife`s sister also lives in Chester. Her husband, Andy, shares my interest in the great outdoors and we planned a day of cycling.

Route

We cycled from Andy`s house and headed through Handbridge to the Dee. The temperature was rising so we stopped at Eccleston Church to take off a layer.

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Just down the road we came to one of the gates leading to the Duke of Westminster`s estate. Almost immediately a disembodied voice queried our business, I decided against humour and merely said that we were having a rest!

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Our route continued on through Poulton, Pulford, Lavister, Trevalyn into Holt and Farndon and back into Holt to find a cafe for coffee and a flapjack. I forget the cafe`s name but they kindly offered to fill our water containers. Refreshed we cycled back into Farndon and then heading south east to Stretton and a visit to the Mill, which was closed today.

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As we were feeling fairly fit a decision was made to cycle on south to Malpas. Now Andy whether we are hill walking or cycling, always out paces me but patiently waits. This went wrong a mile or so from Malpas. There was a junction, one road to Malpas and the other to Malpas Station. I decided to take the main road to Malpas – uphill – but near the top there was no sign of Andy and so I cycled back down to the junction and rode a short way down the other road but this quickly became a grass centred lane. Back I went up the hill thinking I may well have to find my own way back, but then Andy appeared looking for his slow brother in law.

We bought food in Malpas and sat on the steps of a monument. I suppose we had covered some 20 miles by now and feeling quite smug, until two young guns stopped by us on fancy road bikes and told us they had covered 77 miles and were now returning!

Our return was now due and we backtracked to Farndon and then on to Churchton, Aldford, Huntingdon and into Chester along the Dee passing the Roodee racecource with the lady racegoers dressed to the nines.

Back at Andy`s the bike computer showed 40 miles covered, my furthest one day ride – so far.

Isle of Man

In recent years my brother-in-law, Andy has come to West Wales in early July and we have spent a week bike packing, back packing and some canoeing. This year Andy suggested we go bike packing on the Isle of Man, where in the distant past he spent time in Port Erin as part of his Uni. studies. I had never been to this island and  readily agreed to the suggestion.

My youngest son’s partner, Gianna, drove us from Chester to Liverpool docks where we boarded the fast ferry for Douglas.

 

Liverpool, the start

Liverpool, the start

Leaving Liverpool

Leaving Liverpool

Liver Building Liverpool

Liver Building Liverpool

It was a smooth crossing and in about 2.5 hours we were offloading.

Arriving in Douglas

Arriving in Douglas

With some helpful advice from a local we soon located the Heritage Trail which is a shared path on an old railway line. It consists of compressed gravel to about St Johns and then deteriorates into single track compressed earth.The trail is 10.5 miles and leads you to Peel on the west coast.

Heritage Trail, Douglas to Peel

Heritage Trail, Douglas to Peel

We soon arrived at our camp site which appears to be  publicly run with excellent facilities and when we were there fairly quiet. With tents erected and a meal inside us we walked down into the town for a stroll along the seaside before heading back for an early night.

Peel harbour

Peel harbour

Kipper factory Peel

Kipper factory Peel

Up to now the weather had been fine but once ensconced in our sleeping bags the wind picked up and then what only can be described as biblical rain lashed down. I had only used my single skin tent supported by a single walking pole in good weather and I was now concerned that I was about to meet with disaster but it stood up to the weather with no leaks.

My tent in Peel

My tent in Peel

Andy's tent Peel

Andy’s tent Peel

The next morning the rain had passed and the camp field was amazingly dry but the high winds were still in evidence. We decided to leave the bikes and instead go for a coastal walk.

We walked over Peel Hill which gave good views of the surrounding area and then continued south to the coast until we reached Glen Maye.

Statue on Peel Hill

Statue on Peel Hill

View from Peel Hill

View from Peel Hill

Peel Castle

Peel Castle

Peel

Peel

We walked into the Glen and followed it up to the village passing a lovely waterfall.

Glen Maye

Glen Maye

Glen Maye

Glen Maye

Glen Maye

Glen Maye

Glen Maye

Glen Maye

At the pub we had a coffee before retracing our steps to Peel but instead of going over Peel Hill we stuck to the coast path.

On Saturday the weather was still windy but dry and we decided to cycle to Port Erin in the south west corner of the island. We cycled along the Heritage Trail to St Johns and then joined the road network for the rest of the day. from St Johns we took a quiet lane which is shown as Cycle route 4 on the maps but which included a steep hill where I resorted to pushing for some of the way.

Route

Hills above St Johns

Hills above St Johns

South Barrule

South Barrule

say no more

say no more

Eventually we joined the main A36 all the way into Port Erin. It included a swooping downhill which we would not have to re climb following the advice from a local cyclist. Despite this being an “A” road there was little traffic most of which consisted of noisy off road enduro bikes taking part in an event.

Port Erin is a quaint little seaside town where we found  the “Cosy Corner Cafe” where we refuelled with a coffee and expensive cake. Further around the harbour we found the now closed marine station where Andy had studied.

Port Erin cakes

Port Erin cakes

Bradda

Bradda

We headed back to Peel via Colby following the A27 with a short push in Glen Maye.

On Sunday we packed our tents  and headed for Silly Moos camp site just outside Ramsey.

Route

From this

From this

to this

to this

From Peel to just before Ballaugh we were on the TT mountain course albeit at far slower speeds. We left the main road and took a lane to Cronk and at Sandygate we took a diversion to see if the newly opened Motor Museum possibly had a cafe – result! Another piece of expensive cake, but scrummy. Our route now passed through St Judes where there is an attractive church and to a lane through Garey Ford. From here we soon arrived at Silly Moos campsite.

Glen Ford

Glen Ford

Andy at Glen Ford

Andy at Glen Ford

At the height of the TT season the owner told us she accommodates 500 tents but for the next two nights  we were the only occupants.

Silly Moos

Silly Moos

We also had the use of a huge barn which includes tables, benches, fridges, microwave, FREE tea and coffee and table football. There was also a huge flat screen TV where we were able to catch up on the Tour de France. The showers and toilet facilities were first class. The one small drawback was a 1..5 mile trek into Ramsey for shops etc. We did walk in later that evening.

Ramsey

Ramsey

Ramsey

Ramsey

On Monday we had thought of a bike ride in the lanes up to Point of Ayre but the forecast was for more high winds and rain. We therefore decided on a  walk taking in Glen Audlyn and to see how the weather panned out. The main hill which was coming into view was North Barrule but as we walked further up the valley and left the trees the weather became a lot worse and any further height gain would have been unpleasant not to mention we did not have our usual hill walking kit with us. We found shelter behind a small building on the A18 before heading back down via the Millennium Way.

Fungi in Glen Audlyn

Fungi in Glen Audlyn

Glen Audlyn

Glen Audlyn

Glen Audlyn

Glen Audlyn

Looking down into Glen Audlyn

Looking down into Glen Audlyn

Tuesday we packed up and  headed further down the coast to Laxey. We both found this stretch hard going no doubt the strong head wind had something to do with it. En route we took in Maughold Head Hill Fort and once again a stretch of road which meant a dismount and a push.

Route

Maughold Church

Maughold Church

North Barrule and Maughold Church

North Barrule and Maughold Church

Memorial Maughold Church

Memorial Maughold Church

 

Old Plough Maughold

Old Plough Maughold

South west from Maughold

South west from Maughold

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Summit Maughold Hill

Summit Maughold Hill

Our third and last camp was another gem at Laxey, much smaller but with a kitchen and free shower. There were plans on view to extend the shower block which will make it easier in busier periods. We walked down into the village and discovered a pub with excellent beer and that Tuesday was curry night. We returned later and I can fully recommend the curry which was helped down with some more beer.

Ballajora Station on way to Laxey

Ballajora Station on way to Laxey

Electric Tram Laxey

Electric Tram Laxey

water wheel Laxey

water wheel Laxey

Laxey history

Laxey history

We had a short journey on Wednesday down into Douglas to catch our ferry home. Near the terminal there is a small indoor market which serves an excellent mini breakfast at a good price – the maxi breakfast must be huge!

Route

 

Towards Douglas

Towards Douglas

Once back in Liverpool we caught a train to just outside Chester and I cycled the rest of the way to my son’s home.

A different kind of a week but very enjoyable. I found the island a little run down on the west coast whereas the east side did seem more prosperous. There is lots to do if you like the outdoors but I’m not so sure it’s a venue for a typical family holiday. We both thought a week spent walking the hills and coast would be worthwhile.

 

 

Gower Bike Pack

One benefit of being retired is that I can now choose the weather for any trip and at the beginning of this week Tuesday and Wednesday looked good.

For the last two years I have bike packed from home to Clyne Farm which is near to the Mumbles on the Gower and it was time for a change.Wild camping on the Gower with a bike is not  really a viable proposition and a camp site is the only option.

Ones that are reasonable in price and are prepared to take single travellers are a rarity but via the Cool Camping web site I found a little gem in the hamlet of Slade. This is just one step up from wild camping in that there is a cold water tap and some porta loos and thats it. It does however have a well mown slightly sloping field with lovely sea views from your tent door. Another bonus, although not used by me is that open fires may be used.

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Room with a view

Route day 1

Route day 2

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Ready for the off

I cycled from home in Llanddarog to Carreg Hollt  where I joined the traffic free route NCN47.

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This follows the old mineral rail line downhill to Llanelli. At Sandy Water Park I stopped for a bacon buttie and coffee (total cost £2.10!). I now joined the Millennium Trail to its end near Lougher Bridge.

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Looking across to the Gower

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Lougher Estuary from the bridge

As yet no passport needed to cross from Carmarthenshire to Swansea but you must be careful not to mention you are a Scarlets supporter.

Near Gowerton I turned to cycle the north part of Gower and onto the North Gower Trail another traffic free route which ends at Penclawdd. The on road from now was however very light in the way of traffic and I turned right at Crofty to cycle the Llanrhidian marshes road into Llanrhidian village. Here I stopped for a lunch break.

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Hard hat time?

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Lunch at Llanrhidian Church

Up to now the route was familiar but I was now on new  ground. I continued on through Oldwalls to Stembridge and then uphill south east to Reynoldston.

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Near Reynoldston

I had planned to continue to Little Reynoldston but my legs refused to climb further and so I turned south to join the main road, A4118 and then south again to cycle to Oxwich for a welcome coffee (twice the price of Sandy Water Park).

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Gate House at Penrice Castle

It was only a short distance from here to Slade but with a very steep hill which I admit I walked.

I had the camping field to myself which was a bonus as I imagine it fills up at weekends and holiday periods. I soon erected my tent/tarp and contemplated my navel for a period of time and following my evening meal I walked down to the coast path overlooking The Sands beach.

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Looking toward Port Eynon Point

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Slade beach

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Slade beach

By 2100 I was safely cocooned in my sleeping bag and soon out for the count. Sometime during the night I had to visit the gents and the display of stars on this clear night was something to behold.

At 0600 I was awake and on my way by 0745. My return route included one dismount to push the bike up from the nature reserve lane up to the main road, where I turned off through Little Reynoldston and cycled up the road I turned back from yesterday. This afforded extensive views once at the top. The map shows burial chambers here known as Arthurs Stone an area my friend Paul and I visited earlier in the year on a walking day.

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Near Arthurs Stone

It was now a nice descent passing Broad Pool and then turning left towards Llanrhidian, but with fresh legs I headed uphill to Welsh Moor, Gelli Groes and Three Crosses.

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Broad Pool

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Near Welsh Moor

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Here I treated myself to a Snicker Bar which I eked out until almost home. It was now another lovely descent coming out near Gowerton and then back onto the Millennium Coast Path. By now I was fantasising about another bacon roll and coffee which I consumed with joy.

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Fancy bridge on Millennium Trail

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Looking back to the North Gower

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Yum Yum

I was now on the last third of the trip but from Llanelli to Tumble it is uphill all the way albeit  just a slow pedal until the steep descent to Drefach and the last few miles to home with yet again an uphill finish.

My next bike pack is with my brother in law, Andy, when we travel to the isle of Man.

Cake Trip (circular bike ride)

Since rediscovering cycling I of course re -read the Highway Code in relation to cyclists and found, buried in the small print,that it is quite legal to visit tea rooms and boost sagging energy levels by ordering scrummy cakes and a decent coffee.

As a law abiding citizen I decided to visit Torcefn Tea Rooms which is not far from where I live but does involve some steep hills.

Here is the route

The graph shows the hilly bits. At the first the bike refused to change down to great granny gear on the front mech. which almost brought the trip to an end, but with some jiggling I resolved the problem but was then stuck in that gear.

Ever onwards ever upwards and  with one stop to don rain wear I was soon a sweating mass at the highest point on the common near Crwbin. At a cattle grid a small herd of young bullocks was stopped in the middle of the road with cars starting to back up. Using my country talents I crossed the grid and waved the cows aside keeping an eye on the leader whose horns could quickly damage my bike or even me!

The beasts

The beasts

Nosy Horses

Nosy Horses

A rare Ganol

A rare Ganol

It was now I discovered that the £10 note I had tucked into the leg of my lycra shorts (yes I know) was missing and any dream of refreshments disappeared. However I cycled on to find the tea rooms for another trip. One last search and with no one around I dropped my shorts and luckily the note fell to the ground. Cake back on.

highly recommended

Highly recommended

What a find, with lots of cake on sale and more substantial meals if required. I decided on coffee and a scone. Now not being a well refined lad I was taken aback by a cafeteria of coffee and a proper cake dish with TWO scones with jam and cream – result! The whole lot came to £3.20! Luckily the waitress had no idea where the £10 note had been for most of the trip!

Fill your boots

Fill your boots

With so many calories now resting in my stomach I decided to extend my journey to at least stay weight neutral and cycled on to Meinciau, Pontantwn, Llangynderyn, Cwmisfael and back to Llanddarog.

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In Llangynderyn I was reminded of the fight that took place to stop the valley from being submerged by a reservoir to water the good folk of Swansea. The fight was won. Here is the story

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meinciau 008

Llansamlet to Mumbles Pier and back

 

There are lots of reasons for being retired but one good one is that one can choose the good days to go out. Today was a cracker, blue skies and not too cold. However although not too strong we seemed to be against the wind on the outward trip and again on the  way back – how does that happen?

Today was also the second in less than a week when we went east and crossed the Afon Lougher and strayed into Osprey Land (it`s a rugby thing).

Route – Viewranger

Route – UK Hills

We parked next to the lake in the Llansamlet trading estate and set  off on NCN 43 heading for Swansea marina situated in the imaginative named area of SA1 (the postcode). We passed the training ground of Swansea City FC, who are riding high at present in the Premier league and then Liberty Stadium where both the football side and the Osprey rugby union side play.

Liberty Stadium
Swansea Marina

Once at the marina we crossed over the Afon Tawe by the barrage and then headed west on the shared path to Mumbles Pier. We did however stop at “Ripples” cafe for a cup of coffee and a warm Welsh cake and butter.

We returned on the same route apart from a short diversion to cross the Sail Bridge in SA1.

I told you it was windy
The wild side of Osprey land

Before driving home we did visit Tredz Cycle shop to drool over lots of lovely bikes and kit, but no money changed hands.

Chester – Delamere Forest – Guilden Sutton

My son and partner live just outside Chester and luckily my brother-in-law Andy also lives in Chester.

The main purpose of my visit was to carry out gardening work at my son`s but I had time off for good behaviour and Saturday was pencilled in for a bike ride with Andy.

The plan was to cycle on the Chester Greenway and then on route NCN 70 to Delamere Forest and find our way back again on NCN70 and 71 to Guilden Sutton.

Route

The weather was cooler than late with just a hint of rain but ideal for cycling.

The Chester Greenway is traffic free and built on a disused railway. We headed east but he way west takes you to the Wirral all on traffic free trails.

Once off the Greenway we cycled on mainly country roads with little traffic. Anyone thinking that Cheshire is flat well think again. There were some hilly bits with a couple of 10% inclines. I did walk for one short stretch.

Morning coffee (no cake) was taken at the cafe at Manley Mere and then lunch at the cafe in Delamere Forest (no cake). Not by design but we took a forest trail which coincided with a race celebrating the Sandstone Trail and it was very busy.

 

They breed them big here

 

No cake

 

After lunch we took another forest trail around Blakemere Moss a shallow lake teeming with wildlife.
Blakemere Moss

 

Segway riding
Back on the roads we cycled through some lovely Cheshire countryside and villages back to my sons home in Guilden Sutton, pretty well tired out.

 

Golden Secrets

I bought some time ago a guide to a number of cycle rides based at Llandovery and with a day spare I decided on the longest ride which is described as “Golden Secrets”

Route

I parked the car by the bridge over the Afon Tywi and set off crossing Dolauhirion Bridge and thereafter followed the described route.

The weather was just right for cycling being not too hot or cold and little wind.

 

 

 

 

The route shows two steep areas but the first which leads to Bwlch y Rhiw was not too bad and I cycled the whole way rewarded with a lovely descent passing Cwrt Y Cadno and then the entrance to Dolaucothi Gold Mine.

 

I was hoping the next steep bit on the outskirts of Caio would be similar to the earlier one, but no, this was beyond my output and I walked slowly up pushing the bike and munched a banana at the top.

My friend tells a story about Caio when he was asked by a traveller if he knew the way to CA  10, When the traveller showed my bemused friend a map he realised it was Caio!

I had a short lunch stop in Porthyrhyd ouside the old post office. This Porthyrhyd sometimes gets muddled up with the other Porthyrhyd near my home and about 7 miles east of Carmarthen..

From here it was relatively flat with one steep descent back to the car.