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The Final Thursday

 

The final springtime Thursday Training ride saw eight brave souls set out for the Greenham Common Control Tower and its museum about the airbase and the cold war, not to mention its coffee, cakes and breakfast baps. Nev had to leave us halfway, but seven of us did the round trip of 37.8 mi, making it our highest cumulative mileage (264.6 mi) so far.

The busy climb from Thatcham to Upper Bucklebury was one we probably don’t want to repeat, but there were compensations with lovely descents to Thatcham, and from Bucklebury Common to the Pang.

The six Thursday rides ranged in length from 24 mi (The Blackbird) to 47 mi (Stokenchurch), taking in five cafes not normally open on Mondays, and one that does open Mondays but which none of us had been to before.

On a personal note, it was great to have the company and encouragement to assist with my training preparations for the Audax Challenge ride next week. The training has gone pretty much to plan, with the notable exception of the last week in March, when the weather took a serious dive back into wintriness. Fortunately this coincided with a need for some serious bike maintenance.

 My rule of thumb from previous years of cycle touring is that one should get 500 mi in the legs before embarking on a tour, so this bodes well. I did one ride (just) over 70 mi, so I know I can do it, now I’m just hoping for decent weather on 23 April. 

(This Could Be) The Last Time

It’s likely that this Thursday training ride will be the last I organise, at least for a while. Thursday next week is only two days before my challenge ride, so subject to the purdah that real athletes refer to as “tapering”, recreational cyclists as “taking it easy”. As well as the lack of incentive to carry on training after The Ride, it’s also the beginning of the boating season, when a volunteer’s thoughts turn to lockkeeping, and Thursday is my regular day.

Shorter and not as hilly as last week’s outing to Stokenchurch, it’s another opportunity to bag a café that is not open on Mondays.

Getting the Wind Up

This week’s Thursday ride was the longest training ride for which I’ve had company, and very welcome it was too.  Special thanks to Phil, Chris, Alun and Steve for the craic. There’s no scenic picture to grace the top of the blog post, as the most salient feature of the day was the wind, for which the Met Office issued a Yellow Warning 35 minutes after we set out.

Normally  you only notice when the wind is against you, not behind you, but today we felt the benefit of it pushing us up from North Stoke, and from Ewelme all the way along the Chiltern foothills to Postcombe. After bidding farewell to Phil near Watlington, we had a good view of the Stokenchurch telecoms tower ahead of us. Steve E said it reminded him of Mount Ventoux , the way it looms up ahead but never seems to get any closer.  The A40 climb from Aston Rowant up through Aston Wood may not compare to the ascent of Mount Ventoux, but it has a feeling of the long steady climbs common on the continent. Climbing for 1.8 miles at around 4-5%, it’s good mental training as much as physical.

From the top of climb, the next 10 miles to Hambleden Mill were nearly all downhill, largely still with the wind behind. After our stop at Coffee On The Green in Stokenchurch we said goodbye to Chris, who went off to High Wycombe to find a bus he could fold his bike into for the journey home. Turning westwards at Hambleden for the journey home via Henley we were into the wind, but much of the route was sheltered by the leafy Chilterns. Approaching Henley Bridge, at least one of us was still alert enough to notice one of our Olympic heroes, Sir Steve Redgrave, emerging from the Royal Regatta building.

Home at last and time to put our feet up after 47.2 miles, and a 2022 PB for Alun. Chapeau!


 

Coffee On The Green

BJ (the bike) is looking shiny and ready to go after last week’s sojourn in the garage away from the snow and north winds, with a new chainset, cassette and tyres. Hopefully the motor is also showing the advantages of a week off.

The hilliness of rides can be assessed by measuring the amount of climbing relative to distance. Gromils rides vary from the low 30s (Tour des Clumps is 34) to over 80 (Twin Peaks of Streatley and Whitchurch is 80, as is Catsbrain and Gatehampton for a much shorter ride). This ride checks out at 33 ft/mi, at the flatter end of the range.

One of the best types of road for cycling is a former trunk road that is not bypassed by a motorway or dual carriageway, as it tends to be wide, well-surfaced (at least formerly) and relatively quiet. In the case of the A40 from Postcombe to Stokenchurch it’s also a well-graded steady climb, much easier than the Kingston Blount ascent parallel to it.

This week’s Thursday ride heads to a café that was popular with Gromils before it stopped opening on Mondays – Coffee On The Green in Stokenchurch. This was formerly known as the Back Street Café, before it moved from a back street to The Green. It’s a 40-something mile ride that takes in one of the easiest climbs up the Chilterns Escarpment and one of the most delightful descents on the dip slope. From the junction at the top of Kingston Hill to the bottom of the Hambleden Valley there’s 10 miles of near-continuous downhill. The route takes full advantage of the forecast westerly wind for much of the distance, with the final stretch sheltering in Chiltern lanes from Henley to Goring.

For those not wanting to do the whole distance, return by bus from Stokenchurch is possible with a bus-friendly bike. Alternatively you could return by train from Saunderton, a mere 6.5 miles from the café. You’d need £37 for the fare though, and it could be quicker to cycle. There’s also the options of bus or train back from Henley.

 

It’s also about the bike

One of the key training principles that fitness experts trot out is “Listen to your body”, so you give it adequate rest and don’t overtrain. After setting out for what could have been a 50+ mi training ride in the cold, cloudy gloom of yesterday morning, my body said it wanted to go to Stoke Row for a coffee rather than drag itself up to Bledlow Ridge and beyond. And a lovely coffee it was, enhanced by a slice of Simnel cake and a chance meeting and chat with Steve E.

It’s not just your body you need to listen to. When the chain started chattering a couple of weeks ago, I measured it and found it had stretched to the recommended limit for replacement. I had a spare in stock, so fitted that. The chattering continued, as did the unique cycling phenomenon of chain suck, where the bottom of the chain stays attached to the chain ring and attempts to make a second circuit. This is a sign that the bike wants to have a shiny new chainset and gear cassette. Checking the maintenance log, I found that the bike had done 7,400 miles since I last replaced the whole drive chain, which experts reckon should last at least 4,000 miles – so definitely overdue.

Finding a 3-ring chainset and 9-speed cassette for a 20 year old bike is not straightforward, but eventually I sourced one via the internet, even if it came with the warning “Due to new regulations imposed by the Brexit trade agreement, your package may take 3-5 working days to clear customs checks in the UK.” Customs must not have been very interested, as it turned up today.

Meanwhile I had casually mentioned to the female cyclists in the family that my rear tyre looked quite worn, so I was planning to swap it with the front, to even the wear. They were both adamant that I did not want to have a puncture a long way from home, so should replace both. SJS Cycles in Bridgwater had the legendary Schwalbe Marathons in stock, and they’ve now been sitting in our garage for a week or so.

As luck would have it, the weather forecast for tomorrow is 1C at 8 am, rising to 4C at 2pm, when there’s also a 60% chance of rain. In other words, an ideal day to give the bike some TLC. Let’s hope all the bits fit.

Training Update

The sunny March weather means I’ve been able to get some miles into the legs, ready for the Audax Challenge ride a month today. I’ve also managed to increase the distance each week by 10 miles or so, so that today’s ride was 53 miles and feels like decent progress (apart from the aching legs). This distance is long enough to get beyond the normal Goring Gap Cycling stomping grounds – beyond Wantage in fact, to a pretty village called Childrey.

The attraction of Childrey for a cyclists not the pretty village pond, but rather the village shop and cafe which does a very good cappuccino and flapjack.

The route outward to Childrey is hilly, bouncing along the dip slope of the North Wessex Downs in sight of The Ridgeway. Streatley Hill is optional. I opted out by taking the back way via Stichens Green, adding two miles to the ride by giving the legs an easier warm up. Most of the homeward half is slightly downhill, following the Vale of White Horse towards the River Thames. This is a delightful ride on a day when there’s a steady westerly wind pressing on one’s back. On a day with a March easterly it’s a different story. Like banging your head against a brick wall, it’s nice when you stop.

One we’ve not done already

As a bit of a change this Thursday, here’s a ride to a new cafe, but one that is also open on Mondays. The Gromils have not been to it before, because we didn’t know it was there. I found out about it when I met some other cyclists at the Bucklebury Ford, and we got to swapping notes on where we had come from etc.

As with rides we have done to Bramley, the route is fairly flat apart from getting over Gatehampton (outwards) and Upper Basildon (homewards). At only 27 ft/mi, this route is even flatter than the Tour des Clumps (34 ft/mi), making it an easy way to get used to some extra mileage. The cafe is actually only just over a mile from Bramley Bakery, where we have been before. The return leg of the route passes within half a mile of Bramley railway station, making it an option for anyone wanting a shorter ride or an earlier finish.

Thursday Three – The day we went to Bagnor

Distance today51.3 mi
Distance since 1 March320.0 mi

Thanks to the good weather, training has been going quite well. The longest ride this week was 40+ miles, to go with 30 something last week and 20 something the week before. The additional miles have increased the appetite, but not yet had a significant impact on the second part of the power to weight ratio.

As with the last two Thursdays, I was happy to be joined by some cycling friends (aka the Goring Gromils) to seek out a cafe that is not open on Mondays. Today’s cafe was Honnesty at Donnington, near Newbury, which has to be one of the smallest venues in the Honnesty stable. Cunning route planning enabled me to offer a round trip that was less than 40 miles. The figure of eight shape of the route also enabled those who wanted to do the first quarter of the route followed by the last quarter. It gave a shorter journey, but missed the best scenery.

Thursday Two – Touring the Clumps

Distance today51.3 mi
Distance since 1 March320.0 mi

One of the places on the list of cafés not open Mondays is the Crazy Bear Farm Shop at Stadhampton. Conveniently this is just off the route of the Tour des Clumps, a favourite ride from Mondays. It has the distinction of being one of flattest 30 mile rides one can do from Goring. This makes it a good choice for springtime, when you feel like you ought to go further but don’t have the legs to go steeper.

This was the winter version of the tour route, taking the pavement cycle path along the busy A415 from Clifton Hampden to Dorchester, rather than using the bridleway across the fields from Day’s Lock. The Wittenham Clumps themselves are visible on the right much of the time when tackling the route clockwise, giving an encouraging feeling of accomplishment as you look across from the higher ground between Ewelme and Ipsden on the home stretch.

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Thursday Training

Distance today51.3 mi
Distance since 1 March320.0 mi

What better way to get in some training miles than to spend it on a ride with some friends? A ride to one of your favourite cafes, that’s what.

I usually go cycling with local friends every Monday morning, and The Blackbird at Chapel Row used to be one of our favourite destinations – until it stopped opening on Mondays. Just now Storm Eunice has indirectly stopped me cycling on Mondays, as it took the roof off my granddaughter’s daycare centre. Now my wife and I have been (very willingly) pressed into service to cuddle and care for the darling one-year old. Ironically the target for the daycare to be fixed is roughly the same date as my Audax ride at the end of April. So now it’s Training Thursdays, with friends welcome and a hit-list of local cafes that don’t open on Mondays.

Audax Challenge for Launchpad

Back in 1982 I was living in Canada. No email or social media, so I used to get those flimsy blue airmail letters from my parents. In one of these my Dad told me that he’d celebrated his 70th year by going for a 70 mile bike ride. He seemed quite please, and I was very impressed, even though I knew he’d been a keen amateur cyclist in his younger days.

Dad in 1947

Fast-forward 40 years and it’s now my turn. Although I’ve never been a competitive cyclist I do enjoy it (when it’s not raining!) and think it’s a great way to keep fit and healthy. So when I saw an advert for an Audax fundraising challenge ride for Launchpad Reading , I thought this is something I should do.

Launchpad is Reading’s homeless charity. Originally founded in the 1970s by students as a soup kitchen, it’s now evolved to provide a comprehensive service of advice and support for homeless people. None of this comes cheap, of course…

I worked in Reading for over 20 years and often saw homeless people huddling in doorways and begging for cash. The wise advice was never to give cash as it would likely go on drugs, but to help them via a suitable charity, which is where Launchpad comes in.

Audax is not a term familiar to many non-cyclists, but it’s been around for over 100 years. It’s a non-competitive form of cycling in which participants attempt to cycle long distances within a pre-defined time limit. I’ve done Audax rides in the past, but not usually more than 100 km, which is the distance I’ve signed up for on this challenge ride. The last one I did was five years ago, so some serious training is called for.

The challenge route is Caversham to Farmoor (near Oxford) and back, which is advertised as 110 km, and will probably turn out to be about 70 miles in practice. Less than 8 weeks to go and the furthest I’ve ridden so far this year is 28 miles.

To donate to Launchpad Reading, go to my JustGiving page.

For details on the ride itself (or even to register and come along as well), go to https://www.tributeaudax.uk/

To follow my training progress, click here to get updates via Email.

Looking for Bluebells

With Covid restrictions still at the “Rule of Six” stage, the seven Gromils riding did so in two groups. This April is likely to be one of the driest on record and also the coldest since the 1970s, providing ideal conditions for off-road riding. But not so much for seeing bluebells. Whether the weather meant they are not as good this year, or just that they are late, the result is that the display was not on a par with last year – or perhaps it just felt that way because of the temperature.

The two groups had different interpretations of the route to take. The A team of Andrew, Phil and Steve (so named because they were first to depart) had the advantage that Steve had plotted the route and had the map on this handlebars courtesy of ViewRanger. The B team of Alun, Chris, Neville and Simon took a more intuitive approach, including a turn around Collins End. No reports on whether Collin objected.

Last year: in the Satwell Woods
This year: Team A at Kingwood Common
This year: Team B somewhere

The Third Monday

Our third virtual ride. Here’s what people got up to. The answers to Neville’s Spring Quiz are now available. Find out who scored what at the virtual coffee stop.

Phil

Did the latest route this morning (Sunday), excellent with more cyclists than cars.

Andrew
Tom and I did the reverse route as far as Pangbourne and then back along the bridle path by the river. About half the official route but no accidents and a really lovely day. Also Tom managed to cycle all the way up Icknield Road which is a first.

Simon
Another fabulous ride in the glorious sunshine yesterday. Sadly, I was nearly at the top of ‘The Hill’ via the golf course and then fell off as the bike mysteriously changed gear. That’s 5 – nil to The Hill. I arrived home just as Phil set out but much slower than him as follows (if you believe a very old Garmin Forerunner 405):

Time: 2.25.55, Distance 28.11, Av Speed: 11.6mph, Elev Gain: 1,372ft.

Sorry no hope with Nev’s quiz. I’ve certainly never seen most of the places in the photos – too busy trying to keep up.

Neville

Did the route as far as Pangbourne and then walked back from there. The walk took about the same time as the ride. Streatley hill was quiet and I managed my 9th fastest time up it

Chris

As the virtual ride’s a bit too far from me, I’ve already done my own thing.

Slightly longer than the prescribed ride, but a bit less ascent. Again, my average speed surprised me (13.3mph) but the main roads were as quiet as expected, and stainless Moulton’s benefiting from its recent tweaks. A cyclist in harlequin lycra passed at my southernmost point
(while I was snacking) I later caught him up in Wantage centre.

I’ve just finished lacing my Brompton Mk2 rear wheel, though it took 3 attempts to achieve diverging spokes at the valve hole (due to constraints imposed by the additional split flange) Hoping it won’t all go pear-shaped once I put tension into the spokes… thankfully, there’s no rush!

I still need to make a new disc rotor mount, and figure out how to actuate the rotary gear selector (the supplied S-A item won’t fit…)

Alun

Breeda and l completed ride today in glorious sunshine, 38km in 2hr 45min. Great downhill stretch from 4 points to Bradfield.

Steve

I did a slightly longer distance than most, as I thought it would be an idea to do a bit of a warm-up before tackling Streatley Hill. It didn’t make it much easier.
On the way home I discovered that Woodcote was now subject to lockdown, with a formidable barrier across the top of Long Toll. Later reports from Andrew indicated that it happened just before he and Tom got there.

Mick

Image preview

Went out on Tuesday – what a beautiful day! Went up Streatley around the golf course. Walked the last bit. Met Nev again doing the route in the opposite direction. Chopped the last bit off as feeling a bit peckish – swooped down Elvendon Road from Wodecote.

Monday’s Exercise

The results are in (or they should be). In no particular order, this is how people got on with the Tour des Clumps yesterday. Once again Alun gets kudos as the only person to submit a photo, even if the location is not strictly on the route 😉

Andrew and Tom

Short cold ride with Tom anti-clockwise round the Tour des Clumps route. Met Neville and then Phil coming the other way, unfortunately after cycling cautiously for his whole life, Tom decided to go for it big time down the slope towards Ipsden post office (yes, the narrow, steep one with no visibility, gravel everywhere and on this occasion also damp). Cue a moving car at the bottom and then of all things a cyclist coming the other way and Tom exits the road into a field at impressive speed and with a lot of choice language. He was fine and after finding and refitting the rear derailleur shifter, so was his bike. Called it a day after that and did the Cwizz in the warm with Google and paper maps…

Phil

Neville

I got as far as the A4130 then the drizzle started, so I abandoned ‘Le Tour’ and headed up to Nuffield and home via Furniture Hill – 16 miles instead of 33. Brixton Hill is a popular segment (and the Gromils did it on the 9th March which now seems like an age ago), this time I achieved almost my slowest time ever

Simon

I had the brilliant idea of going round the wrong way in the hope of spying a Gromil at a safe 2m distance. Sadly no Gromils encountered and with the clumps always on my right and all quiz questions backwards, I’m hoping the quiz will be cancelled and results will be based on earlier quiz results at Christmas, possibly moderated by the exam boards? I gather Chris knew all the answers from his armchair so at least a stewards enquiry?

The route was absolutely wonderful – very flat, no traffic and only light rain once – not as pretty as last week but no Bix Hill to spoil the day.


Alun

Dear all, Breeda and l completed the entire ride of 55km this morning over 4 hrs from 10.45am. Wind was very cold. Came across Ron in South Moreton. He rode as far as Clifton Hampden before heading back to Didcot. Had some trouble finding the bridge over the bypass in Dorchester and initially turned left instead of right after crossing bypass so ended up in Berinsfield so had to turn back to Drayton St L. Otherwise no problems. Stopped outside Dorchester Abbey for photo but sadly no picnic. Hope you enjoyed your rides.

Steve

This must have been my shortest Gromil ride of the year. Cold, with a nasty northerly wind. As I went up Icknield Road I saw another cyclist in front, who turned out to be Phil when I eventually caught up with him. Coming down the hill it started to rain a bit, so I wimped out at the Lonely Crossroads and returned home via South Stoke. According to ViewRanger I only managed 8 mph downhill, slower than on the flat!. However I did manage to ride the whole route on Saturday to take photos. There’s still time to enter the Clumps Cwizz, which closes on Wednesday. Results and virtually no prizes via Zoom on Thursday.

Chris
Looks like Chris did the Tour d’Oxford rather than the Tour des Clumps

I got home before the showers,
and managed to average 12.3mph!
Stainless Moulton wasn’t handling quite right, I found some play in rear wheel bearings, which I’m about to fix.
Lots of vans out today…

Ron
Hi Gromils,
I hope you enjoyed yesterdays ride.
I started from Blewbury and rode up to Long Wittenham and then Clifton
Hampden. I deviated and visited Little Wittenham to get a better view of
the clumps.
On the way back, I cycled through Cholsey then followed Papist Way down to
the river by the Cholsey Marsh nature reserve. Then back to Blewbury.
Not much traffic, but rather a lot of fast vans!
All the best,
Ron

Mick

Here is my modified route and stats. I went out today (Tuesday). Good weather apart from headwind. Bumped into Nev doing the anti-clockwise direction – pleasant surprise. Haven’t looked at the cwizz yet – suspect I’ll do dreadfully. See you at the Zoom coffee meeting .

And the winner is…

Highest road
1 Gospel Pass 549 m
2 Bwlch-y-Groes 545 m
3 ?

Steepest Road
1 Start of the Devil’s Staircase
2 Bwlch-y-Groes near the top, next to the safety barriers
3 Climb out of the Tywi valley,  a couple of miles beyond the Devil’s Staircase

Best Descent
Gospel Pass, towards Hay. Silky – smooth surface, wonderful views.  Doing it in company with another cyclist made it special.

Best Ascent
Nant Gwynant.  Not too steep, steady gradient, wonderful scenery

Best Cafe
Great Oak Wholefood Cafe, Llanidloes.
Friendly service, great meal, free Wifi and battery charging -excellent value.

Best Campsite
Tie between Riverside Camping at Caernarfon and Blackthorn Farm near Holyhead. Both were very friendly and welcoming and had excellent facilities, including an on site cafe at Riverside and a B&B at Blackthorn, both of which serve breakfast.  Beautiful riverside location (providing it’s not in flood) or coastal views (providing it’s not blowing a gale) respectively.  Riverside sneaks it with free Wifi.

Getting to the End.

I was always somewhat ambivalent about finishing this trip in Caernarfon or Holyhead.  By Caernarfon I would have done all the mountains and reached the sea. What more was needed? Well, Caernarfon doesn’t have the right sort of railway station so I would have had to cycle to Bangor anyway, and my editor encouraged me to finish with a photo of South Stack lighthouse.
So what was there to see? Magnificent views of the Menai Straits from the smooth tarmac of the bike path along the old Caernarfon to Bangor railway line.  Close-up views of Telford’s wonderful suspension bridge and The Swellies, the tidal rapids between Telford’s bridge and Stephenson’s Brittania bridge. And Llanfair PG.
I won’t try typing out the full version of the village with the longest name on a mobile phone keypad.  I recall hearing a story that the reason for the long name was basically a tourist attraction.  When I were a lad you could buy a four-inch long cardboard platform ticket at the station.  Tastes change but the tradition continues.  In what used to be the station yard is now Shopping World, what passes for a tourist attraction these days.  It had certainly attracted coaches from as far away as Great Yarmouth. For the passing cyclist
at the end of a tour it was a useful place to pick up the obligatory box of Welsh fudge to take back to work.
There’s an old folk tale (which I just made up) that when Duw had finished creating Wales, he had some bits left over. Not enough for a big mountain range or majestic moorland, mostly just the twisty-turny bits of country lanes that wouldn’t fit anywhere else.  Being short of time he dumped them down in the sea just a bit away from the mainland.  Not quite flat, with surprisingly many steep ups and downs. That’s why the best thing about cycling in Anglesey is the view of the mainland. 
And what a view it is! From the Carneddau to Bardsey the whole of Snowdonia was stretched out on my left as I pushed my way into the stiff westerly that was trying to keep me from Holyhead.
Anglesey does have its own little mountain, and my campsite was halfway up it. This had the advantage that it wasn’t much further to South Stack lighthouse, which really was the end of the road. Time to press-gang a couple from Somerset into taking my photo and admire the views.  From the top of the headland one could see the Wicklow mountains.

Shelter from the storm

My ID may be RocknTroll, but I don’t often post from beneath bridges. I had heard the storm coming for some time, from the thunder rumbling over Rhobell Fawr to my left.
When I saw lightning, I knew it was time to take shelter. There was one more steep stretch to climb before the descent to Trawsfynydd, but I could see the road ahead across open moorland.  Seeing a clump of trees beside road I pulled over.
On closer inspection there was astream in the trees and the stream ran under the road. There’s almost enough headroom to stand upright and it’s dry apart from under foot.
Half an hour and two blogs.  I hope it stops soon.

Feed my lambs

“En Pommerol on dort jus’qua midi” – “at Pommerol one sleeps til midday” was the caption on a child’s drawing in the Reception at Pomerol, the most tranquil campsite i stayed at in France. Celyn Brithion at Minllyn near Dinas Maddwy is its Welsh equivalent. 
Turning off the main road there is a clear sign for tourers to your left and tents to the right. The tents have the best of it — smooth, manicured lawn set about with picnic tables, garden armchair, free range hens — and a boat on a trailer.
When the owner returned from wherever he was, he  disappeared into the house, to re-emerge a few minutes later carrying four baby’s drinking bottles. He had four orphan lambs he was looking after for his daughter,  one of them only two days old.
Helping feed a lamb was a reminder of how strongly such delicate – looking creatures could push, pull and suck.
Once fed, the lambs explored the garden, including my tent. 
The owner told me how the didn’t get as many campers these days. First it was foot-and-mouth, then a run of bad summers and the recession.  He reckoned that your typical camper is part of the sqeezed middle, with less disposable income to spend on a weekend away.
It’s a shame, as it’s a lovely site. In the silence of the evening it’s hard to believe it’s adjacent to the A470, Wales’ main north – south route.  Oh, and I slept for eleven hours.

The Mountain Road

The road from Llanidloes to Machynlleth gets a lot of billing as “The Mountain Road”. Even the road signs say “via narrow mountain road”. As I turned left for Machynlleth just beyond the delightfully-named Staylittle I was amazed by the width.
It was here I met Richard and Phyllis.  I stopped in a layby to take a photo of the view down the Dylife Gorge. They were parked higher up in the layby. After taking a photo I wandered over and asked if they’d mind taking one with me in it. This led on to an offer of a cup of tea, which I gladly accepted.  (My first free cup of tea of the trip was from Dot, a resident of the leisure park near Builth).
Beyond Dylife there was a road narrows sign, and it did get somewhat narrower, but there was still room for two cars to pass without difficulty. The County Council needs to apply to the EU for funding to upgrade the signs to match the roads.
Earlier in the morning I had passed a very old sign, one that said “Unsuitable for Motor Vehicles”. It certainly was. Whereas many farm tracks have two bands of tarmac with a strip of grass down the middle, this had a narrow central band of tarmac and two gullies either side deeper even than Oxfordshire’s potholes. Sustrans followers with vertigo would be advised not to use it. This would have a better claim to be THE Mountain Road, if only it were a road.
My average speed for today was 9.3 mph. Yesterday it was 8.4. Abergwesyn to Tregaron is THE mountain road.

Here be dragons

Last night the dragons were out. Even with my eyes shut I sensed the flash of their fiery breath swaddled in my sleeping bag. The echoes of their roars resounded all across the valley from Moelwyns to Manod, until eventually they rumbled away into the distance.
This morning the thunder had gone but it ws still raining, as befits a campsite in one of Wales’ best examples of temperate rain forest, otherwise known as the Vale of Ffestiniog.
The rain eased up before I reached the first climb, past the station at Tan-y-Bwlch. Llyn Mair was quite still, with perfect reflections of the oak woodland on the hillside beyond.
It was too early in the day to see a train on the Ffestiniog Railway, though I did hear one before I started the descent to Garreg. Garreg has a wonderful shop/cafe, the sort that every village should have. I restocked on flapjacks, Anglesey sea salt fudge and other cyclist’s essentials while my coffee was being made. I even practised my Welsh.

image

After leaving the cafe I saw one of the steel dragons that inhabit the Welsh Highland Railway and took a photo of it.
I also stopped to take one of the down train as it crossed the river at the top of Aberglaslyn pass.
Nant Gwynant was a lovely ride, and one of the highlights of the trip.  Unlike most other Welsh roads it had been engineered and is a steady gradient throughout, so much so that it would not be out of place in the Alps.  It was easy to get into a rhythm and enjoy the views – first Llyn Dinas, then Llyn Gwynant, the Glyders, Crib Goch and finally Yr Wyddfa itself, peeking through the dragons’ smoke.
After the zoom down Llanberis pass there was a glimpse of a modern dragon’s lair, the entrance to the Dinorwic power station. Inside the mountain is a cavern the size of a cathedral. I remember visiting when it was under construction and seeing a man sitting inside one of the Francis turbines fitting the rotor blades. This modern dragon can breathe xxGW at xx seconds’ notice.