I was just looking over what I wrote last year on some developing thoughts and ideas for cycle touring. I did actually get out on a couple of short trips in the late summer, the first trial run I wrote about here but then I seemed to forget I was planning to record more of my thoughts and activities and it’s been six months since I posted anything. Time to put that right.
At the end of August I did a three day camping tour into North Wales and then south to Herefordshire before returning to Cheshire through Shropshire. The first couple of days were pretty tough with a very stiff headwind all the way on the first day for the 117km run to Bala Lake via the climb from Llangynog, which rises to around 500m on the B4391. The camp site at Bala was great but I hadn’t really thought about my evening meal till I had pitched the tent. The wind was still up and it was a tough 5km cycle on tired legs to the Eagle Inn in Llanuwchllyn at the southern end of the lake. The return in the dark after a very filling pub meal was somewhat swifter!
Day two was tough because I had set my route to Herefordshire via Lake Vyrnwy and to reach it I had Bwlch-y-Groes to climb, the second highest public road in Wales at 545m above sea level. It was still a blustery day, which made the long climb testing, but the tailwind on the meandering route down to Lake Vyrnwy was just awesome. With no vehicle traffic and just a few sheep to dodge it was up there as one of the best descents on a bike I have ever experienced.
Lake Vyrnwy is a reservoir, created by the impounding of water from the rivers Vyrnwy, Marchnant and Afon Cowny and started delivering water to the city of Liverpool in 1892. It has been doing so ever since.
I stopped for a sausage sandwich breakfast by the dam and watched a few couples and families arrive to hire bikes for a spin around the lake. Bearing in mind that the road that circumnavigates it is completely flat it was interesting to note the number of adults electing for an electric bike!
The rest of the day was a pleasant undulating ride on mostly country lanes via Montgomery, Bishop’s Castle and Leintwardine. At Montgomery I made a cafe stop in front of the impressive town hall and in Leintwardine later in the day waited a few minutes for the fish and chip shop to open. Really glad I did as it was excellent. Fish and chips is always so much better when consumed in the evening sunshine using a wooden fork at a picnic bench beside a river .
I thought I’d done the hardest climb of the day first thing in the morning, but no! Just 5km before access to showers and a much needed rest at the end of a 121km ride there was the small matter of a little climb from Elton up to The Goggin. My word, what a kick (20% for a bit) and not helped by being a very narrow road and meeting a minibus coming down in the opposite direction. Thankfully the driver slowed and I was able to squeeze through ducking my head under the wing mirror. Stopping was not an option!
I’d met up with relatives that night at the campsite and spent a few hours catching up before hitting the sleeping mat. Next morning it was damp and I knew more rain was gathering in the west and so after a hasty breakfast I packed up and made a swift exit to head the 136km home; happy days though, I had a tailwind all the way to Shrewsbury.
I didn’t quite make it to Shrewsbury before the heavens opened. On the run in I had been passed by some of the Shrewsbury Paramount CRT out on their club ride and on routing through the one way system to the west of the town I spotted some of them in the Orchard Cafe next to the Cathedral. Getting out of the rain for an early lunch seemed an excellent idea and I spent a very pleasant hour drying out and chatting to fellow cyclists over coffee, baked potato with Coronation Chicken and a sticky Chelsea Bun.
By the time I arrived home in Cheshire the sun was back out and I could dry out the still damp tent. It’s the one item I shall look at replacing for the coming season. Not because it’s too heavy, it isn’t, but because it’s the wrong shape on the bike. It’s an old back packers tent and so designed to fit vertically in a rucksack so the aluminium poles make the bag rather long on the bike.
This was a great first proper attempt at cycle touring. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though in reflecting I could have done a few things to make it even more enjoyable. The distance cycled each day was perhaps a bit long. It was partly out of necessity, as I was meeting up with relatives for the second night, but averaging 125km (75miles) each day does not leave much time to explore and more exploring time is something I plan to build into an idea I have been developing over the winter as a longer term plan. A seed has been planted, but more on that in my next post.