Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Mountain Biking the Hill Boundary of Powys - Day 3

25 years ago today I set off with a good friend; Mark, on the third day of our attempt to circumnavigate by bicycle Wales’ largest county; Powys.  To add interest to the venture we planned on visiting the highest point of each of the eight 2,000ft hill ranges within the county, which are all situated around its periphery, bikes included.  We were backed up by Hazel and Barry; without whom our little adventure would not have taken place.  Prior to setting off and during our trip we raised money for the British Heart Foundation and the Ystradgynlais Mountain Rescue team.

The following is an account of this ten day expedition with each day’s journey appearing on the Mapping Mountains blog 25 years after it had taken place.

The county of Powys with the eight 2,000ft hill ranges positioned around its periphery

Day 3

28.07.90 – Dinas Mawddwy – Machynlleth – below Pumlumon

Today dawned fine with sun pouring out of a blue sky, this was a welcome contrast to the rain and mist of yesterday.  I set off cycling a little late and thinking that Mark and Barry were ahead of me I rode as quickly as I could, I only stopped when I couldn’t find them, I waited and a few minutes later they miraculously appeared behind me!

Today was probably going to be the easiest of the trip as we weren’t heading over any mountains, our aim was to reach the base of Pumlumon and to get there we left Dinas Mawddwy on the minor road that runs parallel with the Afon Dyfi on its western side, this narrow road was perfect as we spent the remainder of the morning on it and hardly saw a car.

Mark on the road heading toward Machynlleth

We passed through Aberangell and continued toward Machynlleth with Hazel going ahead driving the back-up vehicle.  The lane led onto the B 4404 which again was quiet, after four miles this road met the A 487 and we joined a multitude of cars heading into Machynlleth.

We soon met Hazel and then hunted out the local bike shop for running repairs; here we found a copy of the County Times which had run an article entitled ‘Cyclists set sights high for charity’ all about the journey we were now on.  Mark left his Spitfire at the bike shop for a service whilst we visited the town.  Wandering around Machynlleth felt surreal as there were so many people who were all busying themselves with their daily routines, we had only been cycling for under two full days and yet we were already in tune with a quieter way of life, and one that had very little association with that of a busy, albeit small, mid-Walian town.

Outside the bike shop with a copy of the local newspaper

We had a great dinner before getting back on our bikes, this next part of the journey consisted of the longest continuous stretch on an A road throughout the whole trip, when including the mile or so into Machynlleth we were on the A 487 for 12 continuous miles, it was like another world with an almost constant hum of fast moving vehicles passing in both directions.  We stopped occasionally to look out over the Afon Dyfi to the Tarennydd beyond.  The great majority of these 12 miles were cycled in single file with each of us swapping the lead every couple of miles or so.  When we entered Tal-y-bont and left this road it was a relief.

Barry joined us for the cycle up the mountain road from Tal-y-bont, this road marches confidently above the Afon Ceulan, which was down on our left.  It felt exhilarating to be away from the busy A 487 and back amongst the hills.  The narrow road gained height at a good gradient with Mark showing off his cycling skills as he pulled wheelies going uphill.

I've never been able to pull a wheelie, let alone doing it when cycling uphill

Toward the top of the road Hazel had found a small lay-by and we stopped for a few minutes, admiring the view as we did so, with the Cambrian coast stretching southward to what I thought to be the Preseli hills far off in the distance.  It was proving a blissful afternoon.

Mark taking a brief rest beside the back-up vehicle

As we crested the top of the road we left the coastal views behind and swung around the northern flank of Bryn Mawr, and shortly afterward we entered part of the conifer plantation that stretches in a south – north orientation and which is on the far western tip of Nant-y-moch Reservoir.  It was this reservoir that we planned to set up camp beside.

Nant -y-moch Reservoir with tomorrow's objective; Pumlumon, in the distance

We continued around the western and southern part of the reservoir, passing over its dam and finding an ideal spot for the night’s camp close to where the track, which we planned on taking tomorrow morning, led off from this narrow road up into the hills.

The next four hours was magical as we sorted our gear and relaxed in the evening sun with copious amounts of food and mugs of tea appearing from the camper van.  We aired a lot of the gear in the sun before finally setting the tent up.

Setting up camp beside Nant-y-moch Reservoir

A wonderful place to spend the night

Before the sun set in the western sky we washed ourselves in the reservoir as a herd of cattle visited the camp.  We needed this time to relax and enjoy the setting as tomorrow’s planned route took us over Pumlumon and into the wilds of the Elenydd.

They took a bit of a battering during the trip and remarkably withstood everything that we threw at them

Hazel being visited by a herd of friendly cows

Taking a dip as the evening light fades

Before bedding down for the night I stood outside with not a breath of evening breeze and watched the moon rise over Nant-y-moch as the sky turned a darkening deep blue.  It had been a magical day and hopefully tomorrow would be more of the same. 

Tomorrow:  Pumlumon – Devil’s Bridge – below Drygarn Fawr     

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