Wales North to South Coast to Coast (Off-road) - 270 miles (April 2003)
by Pete, Jay (& Gary for day 1!)
Jay, Gary & Pete (Conway Castle Walls).
Sarn Helen Trail, Tim Woodcock (http://www.mbruk.co.uk/)
Mountain Bikes Used
Tools and Spares
OS Maps Required
Two weekends before Easter 2003, seemed a suitable date that fitted in with Pete, Jay and myself. Others would have joined the adventure if alternative dates had been chosen. The transport worked well, in that Pete's car was left at Worms Head and myself and Carrie picked Pete up Saturday lunch time (had a rip-off lunch at Shepherds - a third of a meal for three times the price!) and drove to stay at the Wellingborough Mountaineering Club cottage in North Wales. We picked Jay up from Bangor station on arrival in North Wales. The plan was for Pete to deposit me home again, if and when we were successful. How long was a little more difficult, but given the choice of accommodation along the route was fortunately limited to what we saw as the following options/possibilities:
Option 1: 8 days (too long).
Option 2: 5 days, too short and ends in Neath (not by the coast).
Option 3: 5 days with a long first two days.
Option 4: 5 days with a good initial day and the rest reasonably similar distances (also the best coloured table!).
We decided that the fourth option seemed the best for distances per day and the amount of ascent expected.
Next the relevant maps had been bought and the various routes plotted from our research (The mbr route is listed at the end).
Deposited at Conway Castle 783775 (by Carrie) for a 09:15 start Gary, Jay and Pete re-assembled the bikes for the off.
Photo 1: Day 1: Conway Castle
Leaving Conway on the B5106 we soon turned right and headed for Henryd along the small un-classified road. We contiued the back road meandering as far as Llanbedr-y-cennin before dropping (East) back down to the B5106 at Tal-y-bont. Straight back up the hill on the back roads heading past Coedty Reservoir 754666 to the first off road climb (The mbr route went straight to Trefriw on the B5106 781631).
Photo 2: Day 1: First off road Climb from Coedty Reservoir
Photo 3a & 3b: Day 1: Top of Climb from Coedty Reservoir heading towards Llyn Cowlyd
Once over the climb from Coedty Reservoir we dropped down to the pipeline below Llyn Cowlyd.
Photo 4a & b: Day 1: Pipe from Llyn Cowlyd
Then we Joined the boggy bridleway along the shoreline of Llyn Cowlyd bridleway 736637.
Photo 5a & b: Day 1: Llyn Cowlyd; delightfully technical riding past the lake
The Llyn Cowlyd bridleway was followed to the head of the valley 718612 with numerous bog hopping experiences. Gary managed to fall downhill into one bog up to his armpits!
Photo 6: Day 1: Far end of Llyn Cowlyd
From the head of the valley 718612 above Llyn Cowlyd the bridleway drops down a fairly damp descent to the A5 719589 and a short ride East into Capel Curig for some refreshments e.g. Gary bought a pint of milk, 6 hot cross buns and 2 of the excellent flapjacks for his snack!
After a quick breather the route continues along the A5 East through Capel Curig until a right turn up the a minor road to join a rocky track 737567 past what looks like an old Methodist hall (Gary stayed there once with the East Grinstead Climbing Club!). The rocky track through the trees soon tops out into the open.
Photo 7: Day 1: Leaving Capel
We were treated with an excellent view (looking back) of Moel Siabod as the bridleway turns into a firm forest track.
Photo 8: Day 1: Moel Siabod
The fast forest track eventually drops down to meet the A470 738525 just East of Dolwyddelan. Turning right (West) on the A470 we headed into Pentre-bont, turned left in the vilage and joined a small bridleway 738520. It would be best to follow the wide track to the left, instead of pushing up the bridleway (The mbr route goes due South 738520). We continued in a South Easterly direction towards Penmachno, keeping the Afon Bwlch y Groes stream on our right. The main track continues to the top of Bwylch-y-Gros. Remember to take a left turn just through a gate, heading for the woods. We wished we had.
Photo 9a & 9b: Day 1: Jay full of first-day-youthful-determination on Bwylch-y-Gros
Photo 10: Day 1: Amused at ending up far too high on the Bwylch-y-Gros climb
The descent down to Penmachno is really fast. Jay took an off road option on one of the bends and managed to stay on. Gary managed the maximum speed of the day registered at 50mph!
Photo 11: Day 1: Penmachno
A quick refreshment stop in Penmachno, before heading the 3 miles South East to Cwm Penmachno and the walk through the disused Manod and Craig ddu Quarries on the footpath 752472 (unlike the mbr route that approach from the North at 736477).
Photo 12: Day 1: Quarry above Cwm Penmachno on the way to Ffestiniog
The old quarry track is eventually joined 732467 heading south into Ffestiniog. We managed to walk up an inclined plane to the top. The surface descent following the Afon Teigl was the homeward freewheel to the B&B at Ffestiniog.
So, with 36 of the 37 miles covered and only 1 mile down hill to the B&B in Llan Ffestiniog. Gary, freewheeling down the hill at 30+mph, had a momentary lax in concentration and was off over the bars.
Photo 13a & 13b: Day 1: Accident Scene. Furthest splash in the mud is where Gary went over the handle bars. Second splash where Gary and the bike landed. Unfortunately, his shouder hit the edge of the road first - ouch!
Brian & Gwen, at the Moranydd Guest House were excellent, friendly hosts. They provided us with tea and biscuits on arrival, plus savlon, tea tree oil and sympathy to Gary. The bikes had been dully stored in the garage and we were off into Llan Festiniog in search of food. Ali in the Public House opposite the Pengwyn eventually sought help from the landlord Keith, who rustled up a Chilli, fantastic! Jackie at the bar had kindly offered to cook us bacon buttys round her house if Keith had been unable to help. After a few nice pints of Rev. James and a belly full of chilli we returned to our beds.
Photo 1: Day 2: Gary struggling to get his left hand to reach the handlebar, with tears of pain, but still smiling!
Photo 2: Day 2: Approaching Coed y Brenin, Jay breaks into song.
Photo 3: Day 2: Looking towards Barmouth from Dolgellau
Photo 4: Day 2: Looking back half way up the long Cader climb.
Photo 5: Day 2: Barmouth railway bridge
Photo 6: Day 2: Last climb of the day was up the delightful Nant Braich
Photo 7: Day 2: The climb was all rideable
Photo 8: Day 2: Jay has visions of starring on Junior KickStart ...
Photo 9: Day 2:... and cleans the section in fine style
Photo 10: Day 2: A rocky section to finish off the climb
Photo 11: Day 2: Looking back north towards Cader from the top of the Braick
Photo 12: Day 2: Pete relaxing by the river at Machynlleth
Day 2 was to be an easier day - 56 flattish miles, compared to 36, which were much harder on Sunday. Cold but dry all day, finished by 4pm. Unfortunately group now down to just Pete B and Jay, as Gary Hill's shoulder too bad to continue.
Hard day tomorrow (Tuesday) - more interminable bog slogging."
For Jay and Pete, it was probably the easiest day of the trip; they had too much time to reflect on Gary's unlucky demise.
Although 56 miles the tracks were fast and relatively flat.
Note on Gary: He returned to Northampton around 4pm and after a visit to Northampton General Hospital A&E he was diagnosed with a damaged deltoid muscle in his right shoulder. For this he was given double dose of opiates and NAIDs (Non-opiate anti-inflammatory drugs) to reduce the pain and muscle spasms. The hospital booked him in for Physio to try and help and signed him off work for a week, initially.
Photo 1: Day 3: The initial climb from Rhayader up Plynlimon
Photo 2: Day 3: The climb became a push
Photo 3: Day 3: The view on from the top of the climb
Photo 4: Day 3: The track was initially very good ...
Photo 5: Day 3: ... but soon deteriorated to exciting virgin moor
Photo 6: Day 3: The valley was mainly rideable along poorly defined singletrack
Photo 7: Day 3: But a few sections required footwork
Photo 8: Day 3: Crossing the Hengwn involved wet feet for Jay
Photo 9: Day 3: Pete's forks after exploring a few boggy sections
Photo 10: Day 3: We lost our way a bit pushing up to Devils Bridge
Photo 11: Day 3: Another puncture north of Devils Birdge
Photo 12: Day 3: Start of the Afon Claerwen Ford track
Photo 13: Day 3: Looking down onto the Claerwen reservoir before truning back onto the track around the lake
Photo 1: Day 4: Crossing a wobbly suspension bridge slowly at Rhayader
Photo 2: Day 4: Pleasant tracks south of Builth
Photo 3: Day 4: Gratuitous climb just before Brecon
Photo 4: Day 4: Climbing into the hills after Brecon
Photo 5: Day 4: The first Sarn Helen sign
Photo 6: Day 4: Sarn Helen appears not to have been repared since Roman times
Photo 1: Day 5: The day started with a monster climb from Abercraf
Photo 2: Day 5: South Wales Coast
Photo 3: Day 5: Swansea Bay
Photo 4: Day 5: Climb Rhossili
Photo 5: Day 5: Rhosilli Bay
Photo 6: Day 5: Worms Head
Well we finished the complete route on schedule at 4.00 PM.
A delightful experience (except for Gary's crash), during which we saw just one other mountain biker! It really does take in some stunning remote scenery.
Pete: Specialized, 2001 Stumpjumper M4 18" (27 sp.)
Jay: Not sure, but now has a new front tyre!
2 Inner tubes per person
3 Puncture repair kits
2 rear light and 1 front light
Brian & Gwen. Excellent, friendly hosts. Supplied the team with tea and biscuits on arrival, plus savlon, tea tree oil and simpathy to Gary. Garage for bike storage and monster full breakfast. Well recommended.
Machynlleth Day 2: Monday 7th April 2003
Maenllwyd Guest House,
Powys SY20 8EY
Tel: 01654 702928 Fax: 01654 702928
Rhayader Day 3: Tuesday 8th April 2003
Rhayader TIC 01597 810591
Brynteg 01597 810052 bike lock up
BRYNTEG BED AND BREAKFAST
East Street, Rhayader, Powys LD6 5EA.
Tel: 01597 810052
Mrs Barbara Lawrence
Ystradfellte Day 4: Wednesday 9th April 2003
Merthyr Tydfil TIC 01685 379884
The Copper Beech Inn
133, Heol Tawe Abercrave
Swansea West Glamorgan
Tel: 01639 730269
115 Snowdon & surrounding area
124 Dolgellau & surrounding area
135 Aberystwyth & Machynlleth
147 Elan Valley & Builth Wells
160 Brecon Beacons
170 Vale of Glamorgan
159 Swansea, Gower & surrounding area
Trip Report at http://www.offroadadventures-online.com/rr015.html
Tim Woodcock Guides at http://www.mbruk.co.uk/
mbr, Cross Cymru, November 1999, pp34-43
mbr route (1999)
Bike Shops near the route
East End Cycles
93 Abergeley Road
Tel: 01492 533834
West End Cycles
121 Conway Road
Tel: 01429 530269
Builth Wells Cycles
Tel: 01982 552923
Unit 2 Maesydre
Tel: 01591 610710
Bi Ped Cycles
The Old Kings Arms Vaults
4 Free Street
Brecon Cycle Centre
9 Ship Street
Tel: 01874 622651
Dare Valley Cycles
30 Tanybryn Street
Tel: 01685 881157
2/3 Commercial Street
Vale Of Neath Retail Park
SA10 7LB, Wales
Rhondda Cycle Centre
35 High Street
Taff Vale Cycles
34 S O Davies Square
29 Green Street
Swansea Enterprise Park
Tel: 01792 702555
Swansea Cycle Centre Ltd
10 Wyndham Street
Tel: 01792 410710
West Wales Cycles
101 Clase Road
Tel: 01792 534030
Kingsway,Swansea West Ind Park
UNIT 3/4 CASTELL CLOSE