So, I left the warm community of Pont-Rhyd-Y-Groes back out into the rain. I was pretty much expecting minor road all the way to Rhayader now, albeit 25-odd miles of it! However, it wasn’t long before the ‘Lon Cambria’ route directed me onto some forest track. It started out pretty rough but soon turned into firetrack as good as a road but without the traffic (well, not much anyway!) After a little longer than I had expected, I eventually got to Cymystwyth to be greeted by a sign stating the distance to Rhayader…still a long way to go!
Time was not on my side but it is at this point that the decision to use the road bike came into its own. The miles simply disappeared travelling along what I think is one of the most beautiful roads in the World. I remembered being here about 20 years before on holiday with my family listening to the new ‘Radiohead’ album in the car as we drove it and catching Depeche Mode filming a video for their new single in the derelict slate mine works outside!
As I got to the head of the Elan Valley I knew it wasn’t far now to Rhayader but had to make a difficult decision as to whether to complete the final off road section round the reservoirs or head back on the (shorter) road. Well, luckily I’d packed my powerful night-riding lights I use for mountain biking (just to get from home to the station the night before!) so I stuck to the plan. I’m glad I did but as I eventually got to the Elan Valley Visitor Centre I was wishing this was my destination! Eventually I glimpsed the lights of the town with quite some relief although was astounded to find it was only 6:00pm; it felt like it had been dark for hours!
I was pleased to find superbly comfortable accommodation at ‘Ty Morgans’ Bistro complete with a room that would have been big enough for the whole family plus a much-needed ‘spa’ bath! You’ll know what I mean if you’ve been in a similar scenario but I didn’t really fancy the amazing looking food on offer and opted for an evening meal at the pub across the road which was perfect; great value, basic and plentiful!
Anyway, I got to try the Bistro food the next morning with their amazing ‘small’ Welsh Breakfast. This set me up well for the day and was amusing as some local Rugby boys were nursing their hangovers and laughing at a larger-than-life local ‘Julian’. A much nicer day, I was still in the mood for a bit more ‘adventure’ and after some discussion with local ‘roadies’ I accosted and the owner of the local bike shop I left stocking up on a spare inner-tube in anticipation of rough tracks en-route to my chosen destination for the return train to Shrewsbury; ‘Llandridnod Wells’. The bike shop owner was not convinced I had the right equipment to tackle the ‘mountain bike’ section of ‘Route 8’; however, I persevered.
True, the old ‘coaching road’ would have been fine for a horse and carriage but posed the first ‘un-ridable’ section of the entire route for me. Fortunately it was no more than 50 metres before I plucked up the courage to hop back on the bike and I was away; racing towards my target time of 1:30pm to catch the train (one of only two that whole day!)
I made it after some fast road sections grabbed a pasty and hopped on the train back, pleased to be heading home but privileged to have had the simple opportunity to complete the adventure I’d just undertaken! Over 50 miles in two days all-in-all. Hope to do something similar again soon…