Gower Peninsula. 6th June 2012
Despite the awful weather forecast, rain and more rain we set out after breakfast, when it had stopped raining. As it was a circular tour from our hotel opposite Swansea railway station we left our panniers behind. What a joy! Even I was climbing up the first few hills where we reversed our route into Swansea the previous night to get back to Gowerton. Although the roads were still wet it looked as though the weather was going to be better than yesterday as the clouds were much higher and we could see much further. Initially we had good views across the flats to where we had cycled yesterday. This contrasted to the previous day when we could not see the Gower peninsula. There was a lot of traffic to start with until we for past the village of Penclawdd, then it thinned out. At the village of Crofty we turned off the main road onto a little side road which was idyllic. It was right down on the flats and we felt as though we were right in amongst the landscape, along with the sheep and ponies, the reeds and the yellow water irises. There were a blissful few miles of this along the northern edge until we had to turn inland and up to the village of Llanrhidian and past Weobley Castle, which I initially misread as Wembley Castle! We turned off onto what looked like a tiny single track road, but there was a surprising amount of traffic, including a bus which had to back up for a car. The road went across the top and then we cut across to Burry. Around here the landscape felt more like the moorlands of Exmoor, with lovely views across the hills and the sheep roaming freely. We then turned back towards Swansea. And headed for the South coast. Unfortunately we had to go along the A road for a while, which was fairly narrow and pretty busy. It was a relief to turn off it, except it was month a very steep narrow road that I had to push the bike up. Stephen’s route at the top took in what was like a farm track and reminded me of why I would never do mountain biking. We descended down into Caswell Bay, and as I pushed up the other side a bus pulled alongside me and the driver offered me a lift to the top. What a sweetie! Reluctantly I had to decline and plodded on! Through a quiet residential area and then a view of the Mumbles and the chimneys of Port Talbot in the misty distance. The road was cut through the rocks and then the whole of Swansea Bay opened before us with great views across it. And to finish off a great cycle ride a cycle path right along the sea front which we sped along at between 20 and 25 kph. What a difference from yesterday when I struggled to reach 12kph despite working 3 times as hard! If only the ride through the Millennium park had been as good. Weaves around a bit through Swansea’s streets until we were back at the hotel with time to pick up the panniers and get drinks etc. before catching the 14.27 back to London.
Dist: 59.41. Total Dist: 241.46. Ave: 15.3 Max: 44.00. Odo: 5204.2. Time: 3.52.30
Carmarthen to Swansea. June 5th 2012
What a difference a day makes! Yesterday warm sunny intervals and white clouds and no wind. Today grey or black clouds, varying intensities of rain, and a fierce Easterly which meant a headwind. A tough day, but not because of the distance or terrain!
It very easily out of Carmarthen onto route 4 heading south. At this point we had drizzly rain, so it wasn’t too bad. But, after a short flattish bit there was a very long drag up of over a mile, including 4 separate arrows! At the top we did seem to be higher than most of the surrounding land. One bit was along a very little country road with moss on the road, and dandelions peeking through the Tarmac on occasions! After a short section on the main road we turned off and hoped for a downhill to Ferryside, but as with the rest of the day, hopes were dashed! There were several more ups before a final descent to Ferryside. Saw a sign saying road liable to flooding, not surprising as there was a tunnel from the road under the railway line straight onto the beach. I had hoped it would be flat near the railway, but not yet. At the end of Ferryside there was a vicious little climb and bend to take us up above the flat, coast hugging rail line. We then rode along the undulating narrow single track road with passing places, and I came to a halt whilst a milk tanker, a 4×4, another car and a car towing a Horse-box tried to sort themselves out. Then it was down into, and quickly through Kidwelly. After Kidwelly route 4 turned away from the main road onto a dyke with a paved way on the top. It was through a flat wetlands area which had a great atmosphere. The only slight downside were the mud and cowpeas from the 2 Herefords and their calves chewing the cud as we cycled path, startling a large flock of starlings as we went. The path then went along forest tracks, and the wind seemed stronger, really fierce as we tried to cycle east, and the rain got heavier. After several miles through the Pembrey Forest we came out onto the start of the route through the Millennium coastal path. I am sure it is generally beautiful there, with views across to the Gower peninsula, barely visible through the rain and cloud. The fierce heading as meant that it was a struggle to cycle more than 12 km per hour. Finally we took refuge and had lunch, a warming bowl of soup, and a some warmth indoors. When we reappeared the rain was back to a drizzle, although that didn’t last. We carried on along the path, which turned out to be more than 20 km off road. Maybe next time the weather will be nicer! There were some smart new flats being built by the coast, but they didn’t look very appealing today, and there was no-one on the golf course. We had intended to go around the Gower peninsula, but the weather carried on being miserable, and time was moving on so we headed straight to Swansea, through lots of grey housing. Why paint them grey? Finally the centre of Swansea and a hotel where a hot shower beckoned.
Dist: 68.01. Ave: 12.7 Max: 40.4 Odo: 5144.7: Time: 5.21.02
Pembroke Dock to Carmarthen. 4th June 2012
Strictly speaking starting the day before as the train arrived at 4.29; over 8 hours since leaving Tadworth. 1 other person still left on the train with us. Got off the train and the first thing we saw was a washed out street party, with loads of bunting up for the Jubilee. That was a surprise, as there was bunting all over the place for the next couple of days, lots of union jacks and lots of Welsh Dragons! Short 3.6 km ride into Pembroke itself, including a short bit around the moat, or rather waterway around Pembroke Castle. Then onto the Hotel, the old Kings Arms, which we had booked on the train. Pembroke itself looked as though it had seen better times and there were houses for sale from £50,000, which seemed a real sign of a depressed area.
Started out the next morning on the peninsula to the South West of Pembroke, along little country lanes. Got held up at one farm where the cows were going back to the field after milking. They all seemed interested in Stephen’s bike and panniers as they walked past. We were very surprised to see a bull going back with the cows. We had climbed up and found ourselves riding along the top. It felt a bit like the ride into Land’s End when you’re up on a ridge with sea on both sides and the sea in front. Then it was down to Castlemartin beach, which was lovely. A wide expanse of sand and exposed rocks and pools, not commercialisation at all, and a few cars and camper vans and surfers and walkers on the beach. The was sand on the road and it seemed like a secret hideaway. It was soon upwards again and across the top before heading down to Stackpole and Freshwater East, then along little narrow lanes to Manorbier, where we had a delicious lunch in a tearoom baguette for 1 that turned out to be big enough for 2. Soon after Manorbier we had to join an A road for a while into Penally. Just after Penally joined Sustrans route 4, which led us into Tenby which was absolutely humming with life. Masses of people out enjoying the day. Got lost in the crowds in the centre. Lots of people on the beach too. Followed the route to Saundersfoot. Could tell it was Wales going through a holiday camp; the playing fields had rugby posts rather than footballs ones! Then into Saundersfoot, which was equally full of people enjoying the fine weather. Both Tenby and Saundersfoot looked really appealing, much more so than Pembroke! The route out of Saundersfoot followed a disused railway line, which included going through several dark tunnels right beside the seawall. Continued along the coast to Amroth, past Amroth Castle and then it was up and inland a bit along route 4 before we turned off to Pendine, right on the coast, and a search for some chocolate to revitalise me. From Pendine we had to take an A road, but as it ended in Pendine there wasn’t much traffic on it. The first 3 miles or so out of Pendine were quick and flat, which made us realise how hilly the rest was, but then, inevitably it was uphill again, before descending into Laugharne, where we managed not to see Dylan Thomas’ boathouse. Then again back on an A road, this time to St Clears, a bit. User now, it still not too bad. The map showed a proposed new and shorter route, which we took, even lifting bikes and panniers over a gate, before coming to some large locked gates from Welsh Water. A footpath was signposted across a field, so it was back to the road, lifting the bikes and panniers over the gate again! The new alternative route managed to miss the town by following the river and then briefly joining the main road before turning off onto a small side road once again heading south to go around a small spit between 2 rivers. The small roads were constantly up and down, but to compensate there wasn’t much traffic and the views were great. Came down into Llansteffan,, and felt that once there must have been a ferry from there as the small place on the opposite river bank was called Ferryside. We then turned north for a beautiful evening cycle the 7 miles or so to Carmarthen in the evening sun. It had been a hard slog, but we both felt great to have made it all the way there in a day, despite the hills and my comparative lack of fitness! Found a lovely hotel, The Ivy Bush, at a reasonable rate with king size beds and great food. Just what was needed as we didn’t get there till 7.30! Just time for a quick shower and meal before falling into bed for a deep long sleep.
Dist: 114.05. Ave: 12.9. Max: 42.8 Odo: 5076.7. Time: 8.50.19
Trip to North Wales. 23rd August 2013
An eventful journey up to North Wales. Got to Euston early. When time for loading came there seemed to be a lot of bikes, but we put ours on. Stephen was told to leave them, so we found our carriage, on a very crowded train, started. Sorting out, and then heard over the intercom that any one with banks should go to bikes otherwise they could be unloaded and left behind! Apparently Virgin had issued 6 bike tickets for 4 spaces, and as our bikes weren’t in the positions the very officious virgin person said they would have to be unloaded. Protestations were made, and then we were told we could put our bikes on the other half of the train, which divided at Chester! Then Stephen loaded the bikes onto the other half of the train while I ran back to collect our luggage and run down the platform with it! At least the conductor on that half of the train let us sit in 1st class and gave us a free drink. Had to get off at Chester and which the Virgin train go! Went onto an Arriva Wales train. Both its bike places were taken, but that conductor let another 3 bikes on! Arriva trains 1 – Virgin 0.
Bangor to Colwyn Bay. 24th August 2013
Started with the 9.09 train to Bangor, and arrived back at Bangor station. Headed straight down to the coast and picked up Sustrans route 5. It started beautifully up a little valley along an old railway line going North. Then onto small side roads which crossed over and back along the very busy A55. The road was well paved, a bit up and down, and skirted the edge of Snowdonia National Park. Then after about 8 miles around Llanfairfechan dropped down to the seaside. The cycle path was great, and obviously a lot of work had been done on it, including new cycle bridges over the A55 and railway. At one point we were obviously on the old road that predates the 1933 tunnel! Great views out to sea and along coast. Rounded headland and approached Conwy along quiet and pretty shared path, then went through old city walls and complete change of atmosphere! Loads of people. Pretty quayside, and walked past Britain’s smallest house, with a lady in full traditional Welsh dress outside. The castle and walls dominated the town and it was pretty.
After lunch cycled down to revisit Caer Rhun. The road was busy, and hilly! Not a great deal of fun to cycle, but it was good to see the old place. It looked far more imposing than we remembered. Then it was back along the same road to Conwy, with beautiful views out over the valley.
Turned down to cycle alongside the river Conwy heading towards Llandudno. It was a it more difficult as there was a bit of a headwind. Had to go clockwise around the Great Orme, so cut across to the north side. The cycle around the Great Orme was brilliant, if hillier than I expected! It was on a toll road, £2.50 per car, so not that many of them, very quiet and great views out to sea, with several wind farms visible. It was brilliant having views back along the coast we had ridden along, and also of Anglesey. S rode to the top, but I stayed on the coast road. Saw lots of white goats, wondered if they were albino? On another day I would have liked to see the pre-historic mines there, but on with the cycling. Back through Llandudno and along the promenade. We’ve seen quite a few Welsh seaside towns whose better days were clearly behind them. Llandudno was most definitely not one of them. It looked very smart, with lots of appealing looking hotels, and a great wide promenade to cycle along.
Then it was up and over past little Orme Head. The weather had been supposed to improve as the day went on, but by now it was feeling cold and windy. Ten it was along the front and back to the hotel. It felt like a great day’s cycling.
Dist: 71.67 Ave. speed: 13.4 Max: 43.4 Odo: 7602.9 Time: 5.20.09
Colwyn Bay to Liverpool. 25th August 2013
Managed to leave by 9, which was good going for us. Cycled the 50 or so metres down to the promenade and joined the cycle path there. It was lovely. The tide was out, and there were lots of sandy beaches with a very few people out. The wind was behind us and we sailed along. It was all along the promenades and shore on a good cycle path all the way to Gornant. There were signs every 5k showing a 30 k route from Llandudno to Prestatyn, a really good way of encouraging people to cycle. It was also noticeable that there were a lot of cyclists, ranging from people who looked like club cyclists to lots of families. The route did cross the A55 and railway, and it was obvious a lot of money had been spent at some points creating a new bridge over them both. When out of town alongside the A55 there had been major works to the seafront, looked like flood prevention, and alongside they had put in a brilliant new cycle path right by the sea.
The kilometres went past pretty quickly past Abegele, where we could see the castle up above the town. As we made our way along, there were great views back along the coast all the way to Llandudno. Now the A55 had turned inland, but our lovely cycle path continued, with a minor detour onto the main road just before Rhyl. The cycle path came to a dead end and we had to turn back onto the road, but as we cycled on we could see a brand new purpose built cycle and pedestrian bridge was almost finished. It looked a serious piece of engineering that must have cost a lot. We were probably a couple of months early. Rhyl itself seemed pretty unappealing, tacky and a big concrete wall along the seafront, the car park wall! Still the route carried onto Prestatyn, past Pontins and along a pretty path through a golf club, then it was onto the road, and up and up. Followed Sustrans route 5 rather than the main road, and it was hilly. I did climb better without luggage, but there was still quite a lot of walking. Went through a few villages, including Llanlass, which had a plaque showing it had been the best kept village in Wales several times. We were getting fed up with the climbing and dropped down to Holywell hoping to find a cafe for lunch. No luck so ended with me eating a sandwich in the car park atLidl.
Had a bit on road, but mainly on cycle route to and through Flint, then off road along the river at Connah’s Quay and over the Dee beside the railway bridge. A network of cycle paths had been developed around here and there were loads of people out, including a German riding a Moulton. Then followed signs to Neston on the Wirral. Seemed to cycle for ages, ut the distance didn’t seem to changed much, kept saying Neston 3. The route was nearest the coast, with a firing range and the sheep and also wild areas. At Nestojoined the Wirral way, which turned out to be an old railway line; my favourite cycling, which also afforded some protection from the strong winds. Stopped for cake en route, and then followed the old train line all the way to West Kirby, where we ended up back on the road, and walking along a one way street to find there was only a footpath on the beach and no cycle path, so back to the road to Hoylake. Stopped for photo outside the golf club. Our 4th Open venue. Then along the prom on an excellent cycle path around the north of the peninsula, saw a catamaran from Isle of Man and the ferry from Belfast pass. Down to the Mersey ferry. Arrived around 6, which was lucky as last ferry was at 6.30! We had assumed they would be running all the time, but obviously no longer since the tunnel opened. Tried to buy a ticket, but was told they’d already cashed up! Welcome to Liverpool! It was the right way to approach the city with the Liver building in full view.
Ferry arrived to the strains of a rock concert. The city centre was humming and buzzing, thronged with people. Walked and cycled to the hotel, the streets were full, the bars were full. It was just as we would have imagined. Found the hotel, test match finely poised, so settled down to watch, till the umpires took the teams off for bad light! Very popular not!
Lovely meal in the hotel and sleep.
Dist: 110.4 Total. 182.16 Ave. 14.4 Max. 36.8 Odo. 7713.4 Time. 7.39.29