TwoLegsTwoWheels

A record of my cycling trips in Britain and abroad

Jun
03

Lon Las Cymru (3)

I decided to split this trip up into three chunks, as one would be too long, but as the half days at either end (we took from Friday afternoon to Monday afternoon for the trip) wouldn’t quite warrant a full page on their own.

So the story resumes at a campsite just short of Hay on Wye…

…where the literature festival was taking place. Had we known this initially, we might have avoided it - it took many phone calls to find a campsite with space! But in the end, ours was half empty. And a very nice site it was too, if somewhat pricey; but the quality of the showers, the space for each tent, and the view across to the hills made it worth it. A leisurely, and, I feel, well-earned, dinner of eggs and cous-cous with sundried tomato and garlic seasoning followed, cooked over the pocket rocket stove. The stove is certainly light and small, but it can struggle in the wind.

The next day dawned very still and slightly misty. After packing and having breakfast, we were under way through the village of Hay. Apart from the bunting, there wasn’t much sign of the festival; I imagine most of the festival-goers were still asleep at that time. Almost straight after leaving the village, we were into one of the hardest climbs of the trip (at least on paper): Gospel Pass. This looked like we could have had fantastic views - if only the mist hadn’t closed in as we climbed. We even put our lights on at the summit! The summit itself might have been a disappointment had the weather been clear, as the road dipped between two high banks. As it was, we could barely see 50 yards anyway. We did, however, see a stone marking the line of Offa’s Dyke; there wasn’t much of the actual dyke in evidence at this point though.

From the top, we descended (obviously we did! That’’s the only way to go from the top!). In a typical Welsh way, this wasn’t a single descent, but rather a gradual loss of height, the road rising again many times for short stretches before dropping slightly further. As we continued on, the road gradually opened out and became less steep, until eventually we were rolling along the valley floor with wide, sweeping bends and a good surface.

The rain started again on the final big climb, perhaps 15 miles from our finish point in Chepstow. This climb was unexpectedly tough; I think I may have found it the toughest of the whole trip, and not just because it came at the end and I was more tired. It was neither the steepest nor the longest, but there were no points where it levelled out to allow the tired rider to catch even the smallest breather. it was utterly unrelenting. By the time we reached the top I was thoughroughly soaked, having taken the (foolish) decision not to stop on the climb to put on waterproofs. Eventually, with less than 10 miles to got, I caved in: we stopped in a bus shelter, where I changed into a dry tshirt and put on my jacket. At least it was summer and relatively warm!

On arriving in Chepstow, we found a cafe open. I eschewed my traditional end-of-ride espresso, tempted by the two-for-one milkshake offer… And thus, I think, ends the account of the trip. 240 miles or so, in almost exactly 3 days end-to-end, finishing as we did at around 3pm on the Monday. And what a wonderful trip it was! Varied, challenging, scenic, and above all - great fun! :)

Epilogue: avoid ‘Cross Country’ trains like plague if you possibly can. They have stupid hanging spaces for bikes, which are completely unusable if you have either deep section rims, or wide handlebars, or if another bike on the train has wide handlebars. I like the idea of going on holiday by train with my bike, but sadly the reality is mostly so awkward (not to mention expensive) that I’ll probably be going by car in the future when I can.