Tuesday, 4 August 2015

As High as Snowdon

Up into those Hills

Week 6

Since starting my biking experience I having been quietly applauding myself how well I was doing for someone who barely cycled 5 or 6 miles with the children a few months ago to doing 40+ miles at one go.  But really the routes I have been taking have been relatively flat, in Welsh terms.  If you know Wales you will understand what I mean if not Wales is famous for it's mountains and hills.  In fact there is hardly a corner of Wales where you do not come across a hill or a mountain that needs to be climbed if you want to get anywhere.

So this week I have bitten the bullet and set myself a target of climbing the infamous Horse Shoe Pass that needs to be crossed if travelling from Ruthin to Llangollen. From my house coming back through Corwen, a 48 mile route with an ascent of over 3,564ft (that is as nearly as high as Snowdon)

Three Pigeons Pub Graigfechen
My appointed day arrived, a damp chilly start to this Sunday morning.  My wife and youngest daughter had flow out to Italy for the weekend with friends and my eldest daughter was as usual tucked up in bed.

The route started off gently enough through Llanbedr to Graigfechan past the Three Pigeon Pub (famous for it's Real Ale) but at the end of the village I took a left and from here on in the road climbed and climbed and climbed.

In fact I was pleasantly surprised that I coped reasonably well on these uphill climbs.  My new bike helped with it's thin road tires and 14 gears but all that training was actually paying dividends.  If truth be know I was quite enjoying myself in the exhilaration of the climb. Before I new it I was at the Dafarn Dywyrch Farm (which sells Rosie's cider) http://www.rosiescider.co.uk/ which is more or less the last building before the final push up to the Pass.

Cider for Sale
I crossed the roundabout and there is a short downhill descent before the final climb.  The road from here zig zags up the mountain and at times, the weather being what it was, felt as if I was going up into the clouds.
Horse Shoe Pass in the distance
At the top of the pass and out of the mist the Ponderosa Cafe appeared.  This is no log cabin and you are highly unlikely to see Hoss or Little Joe riding by and being 8am hardly anybody else either.  It was too early even for a cup of tea.
Ponderosa Cafe
Just at that moment the clouds lifted and I was rewarded by the magnificent view of Llangollen in the distance nested in the Dee Valley.
View down to Llangollen
After a quick bite of my chocolate bar and a drink of water and a quick text to my daughter to tell her where I was, not that she would probably see it for another hour or so, I jumped back on my bike and headed down towards Llangollen.
Way down to Llangollen
If the ascent is long the descent is short and fast a true test of my bikes breaks.  With the wind whistling in my ears I shot down the side of the mountain passing the many sheep that freely roam the mountain side
View of road leading down to Llangollen
After a few miles the road starts to level out and takes me past the well preserved Valle Crucis Abbey which dates back to 1201 and was home to Cistercian Monks.

Valle Crucis Abbey
Finally after a descent of nearly 4 miles I enter Llangollen itself passing the entrance to the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod.  For one week every year this is home to competitors from around the world who have been coming here since 1947.  The festival has also attracted famous artist such as Pavarotti, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jose Carreras and not to forget our own Bryn Terfel who have performed in the Gala nights

Llangollen Eisteddfod Entrance
Less than 1/2 mile later on I arrived in Llangollen passing firstly the Railway Station on my right with the sound of clanking of carriages as volunteers that run this preserved steam line get engines ready for the days activities.
Llangollen Stream Railway Station
Going pass the station I cross over the Dee River using the aptly named Dee Bridge which was built in 1345 by Bishop Trevor of Trevor Hall.  The bridge on this day was festooned with flags of many nationalities to celebrate the International Eisteddfod.
Dee Bridge
Crossing the bridge and looking to my right is the impressive Dee river which at this point cascades over Trevor Rocks located between the station and the Corn Mill Restaurant on the opposite bank. This rapid is much favoured by canoeists for it's challenges.
River Dee

Once over the river and through the town I end up on the A5 heading for Corwen.  For most of the route between the two towns I follow the River Dee and the railway line with many stunning views round virtually every corner.
Llangollen Railway following the Dee River

View towards Corwen

By the time I arrived in Corwen, just after 9am, I was famished.  I new that the Rhug Estate shop and cafe would be open which is located a couple of miles beyond Corwen.  My hunger drove me on and I was torn on my arrival as to what to have, a bacon sandwich or an organic Aberdeen Angus burger. The burger won and was devoured in seconds.
Rhug Estate Cafe and Shop http://www.rhug.co.uk/
Replenished I jumped back on my bike and headed off towards Ruthin and home, a road which I was becoming familiar with by now.  I arrived home around 10.30am and much to my surprise my daughter was up munching away at her breakfast.

Cold, Dawn, Hare

During the previous few days leading up to my Horse Shoe Pass challenge I completed a couple of smaller 12 to 14 miles bike rides.  But as I have described some of those previously I won't bore you will the details here.  
Llnarhaeadr Church
There is one route I would like to describe which happened on the Thursday before the Llangollen trip.  I was up ridiculously early at 5.00am and decided to go for a quick bike ride.  I threw on my gear and headed out.  For a July morning it was very cold, 6C. but as I climbed up above my village towards Prion and then doubling back towards Cyffylliog I was rewarded by a magnificent dawn breaking over the Clwydian Range.

And then in the field in front of me a Hare broke cover racing away at a breathtaking speed.  I waited a few moment more and much to my delight two more hares appeared before darting away into a long patch of grass.  These now rare animals are truly a wonder to see and a sight I have not observed for at least 20 years.

Hare - not the one I saw but one kindly supplied by Wikipedia
It had been worth the effort to get up so early firstly to see such a wonderful dawn but also to observe this rare creature.  Being able to see these sights made me realise why I was making all this effort to get fit so that I can get out and about into areas I would not usually visit.

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