Monday, 3 August 2015

Mountain Biking the Hill Boundary of Powys - Day 9

25 years ago today I set off with a good friend; Mark, on the ninth 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 9

03.08.90 – Hay-on-Wye – Radnor Forest – Llanfair Waterdine     

We were now on our return leg home as it was almost a direct northern route back to our starting point at the Welsh / English border on top of the Long Mountain.  The doubts and worries from the start of our trip were a thing of the past as we had almost completed our set challenge.  However, we still had one mountain range to get over, and miles of cycling lay ahead, but the main worry was the temperature as by the time we surfaced from the tent it was incredibly hot.  Today would prove to be the warming day ever recorded in Britain (up until this date, it was exceeded in August 2003).

We set off after breakfast and headed north-west toward Clyro before finding our designated narrow country lane which gained height at an alarming rate.  Mark and I had to take our time on these uphill road sections as we were literally sizzling in the heat.  The narrow lane took us to a B road that heads from Painscastle to Gladestry. Beyond this we joined the A44 for a short ride before turning off of it onto another welcome minor road.  All of this section from our camp site on the outskirts of Hay-on-Wye to Kinnerton, where we rested and had lunch, was swelteringly warm, the only consolation was that we created a breeze when cycling and that an alternative to the heat could be heavy summer rain.

We met Barry and Hazel in Kinnerton where we rested, sought shelter from the sun and had a bite to eat.  It felt as if the whole land was ablaze with heat, the highest temperature recorded during the day was 98.8º Fahrenheit (37.1º Celsius) in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, with 95.4º Fahrenheit (35.2º Celsius) recorded at Hawarden Bridge in Flintshire and 94.6º Fahrenheit (34.8º Celsius) recorded at Newport in Shropshire, the route we cycled on today was mid-way between Gloucestershire and Shropshire / Flintshire and therefore the temperature probably exceeded 95 - 97º Fahrenheit (35 – 36º Celsius) during our route toward and over the Radnor Forest.  It was forbiddingly warm and we cycled over 40 miles during the day with over 3,000ft of ascent, no wonder we felt poleaxed!

After lunch Barry joined us for our last hill of the journey, this was Great Rhos in the Radnor Forest, earlier in the year Mark and I had scouted the best route up this hill for a mountain bike and had driven miles on forest tracks finding where each went and what was the best route of access, we opted for the track that leaves the lane north of Kinnerton, this gave relatively easy access to the high point of Great Rhos.

Mark and Barry on the lower part of the forest track which Mark and I had driven up earlier in the year

The forest track weaved its way around the northern part of Bache Hill and Black Mixen

It was great to have Barry with us for our last hill, Barry was an avid cyclist and hill walker, and in his youth he had been a time trialist.  We made good progress up the hill on its forest tracks and even encountered some mud on the enclosed section through the conifers as we left the forest track to head out onto open hillside.

Breaking through the conifers just north of the summit of Great Rhos

All that remained was to push and cycle the last few metres toward the trig pillar at the summit of Great Rhos, as we arrived at the trig there were no great celebration as we still had a long way to ride to get to the top of the Long Mountain and the end of our journey, but we had done it!  We had got the bikes to the summit of each of the eight 2,000ft hill ranges that are within the county of Powys, and all within nine days.  We rested next to the trig pillar happy in the knowledge that the next 30 minutes would be a careering journey downhill on forest tracks – YYIIIPPPPEEEEEE!!!!!!!

Barry and Mark resting beside the trig pillar on Great Rhos

Beside the trig pillar at the summit of Great Rhos.  Eight down, no more to go

We headed down the same way as we had come up and zoomed down the forest track, all the uphill effort seemed to be over quickly as the downhill galloped past.  We met Hazel where we had left her; she was doing her utmost to keep out of the early afternoon sun which seemed to have increased in its intensity.

Another well earned rest back at the van

Barry joined Hazel in the back-up vehicle for the journey to our campsite, whilst Mark and I continued in the afternoon heat on the B 4357 through the small community of Whitton and eventually into Knighton.

Beyond Knighton we joined the B 4355 as it kept to a low level and thankfully a relatively flat route beside the River Teme.  As we cycled through Knucklas I started to think that the journey was very nearly over as we only had a mile or so to Llanfair Waterdine where we hoped to find a place to pitch the tent, and tomorrow was the last stretch on roads back to our starting point.

Our last night in the tent on the outskirts of Llanfair Waterdine

We spent part of the evening in a pub relaxing and having a drink before bedding down, me and Mark in the tent and Barry and Hazel in their camper van.  Tomorrow we had about 55 miles to cycle, all of this was on roads or tracks, no hills remained, we were almost there.

Tomorrow:  Llanfair Waterdine – Kerry Ridgeway – Long Mountain     

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