Day 6 Hay on Wye, Edward Thomas and the Gospel Pass

I have seen some beautiful country during this week but none to touch the lovely valley down from the Gospel Pass past Llanthony Priory and down to Abergavenny. 20 miles of deciduous forest, tinkling streams and lovely walking routes. I chatted with an elderly gentleman who’d driven over from Cheltenham to walk there for the day. And it was a downhill bike ride almost all the way. Heaven! Llanthony priory is mid valley and has beautiful ruins in local stone.

I worked hard to get there with a fearful climb up from Hay on Wye, the strange, pretty little town that lives for its annual literary festival, and for books. I bought a souvenir, a little Edward Thomas book on Keats. Keats, Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas is sometimes thought of as  Welsh War poet. IMO he is not really either of these: although born on Anglesey his adult life was in England and his work describes the English countryside and the way of life that was ending. His work came in a flurry in the mid War years, before his death in action on the Western Front. This little book is Thomas, by then an acknowledged literary reviewer and prose writer, learning from the master poets ; perhaps plucking up courage to begin writing his own verse, very special work to me.

Tomorrow I will be back over the Severn in England. I would like to express my gratitude to Sustrans and to the genius who stitched together this marvellous route through the heart of Wales.

I must also thank the friends and family who have encouraged me all the way with phone calls, text and other messages, while providing the all-important motivation of sponsorship for MLGS. It has been a hard road at times, but basically a lot of fun. I hope this wacky blog has conveyed that and has made you smile.

I haven’t quite finished ….

 

Day 5 : Jake the Yorkipoo, Llanidloes and Builth Wells 

I bid farewell to host Katrina and (head of security) Jake: a picture was essential and represents a desperate attempt to get a “like plus comment” (in my dreams) for my blog:

  

 He was going to the vet later….Awww!

So on to the bike gingerly pedalling in low low gears to Clive Powell cycles in Rhayader who fixed my bike : new chain..and new cassette (ouch!) with new extra big granny/grandad gear for Welsh mountains. Oh yes.. and a chain splitter spoke fixer Topeak multitool was another bargain buy from this Aladdins cave of a bike shop which is also a pub!

 

I’m told bike nerds are my only audience for contributions on bike parts and settings (thank you readers, all feedback appreciated) so you will have to wait for a ‘tech’ wash-up post for details on my wonderful new chain.

Now I must share my bird watching highlights of this sunny blustery day in the Wye and Élan valleys : first, a mousey little tree creeper . Then both kinds of woodpecker within a few minutes. And last but not least, majestic Red kites !! Shockingly large brightly coloured hawks with forked tails that shift about the skies at great speed. Still a little hard to believe they are indigenous. My iPhone Red Kite video is a triumph (but could be any bird and is not uploaded : Ed)

After several days without meeting fellow pilgrims I’ve had quite a day of it. There was a delightful man who’d walked from Cornwall – just 15 miles a day with plenty of rests. And looking very well on it.

Later a couple from Bristol doing Lon las on a tandem! I was amazed at the climbing power of their machine, but fear a little for them on the rough stretches and the steep North Wales hills.  

And most enigmatic was a hi-visibility Man who’d come from Lands End and apparently lost the power of speech somewhere on the way. In his defence he had just been warned by the lady in Llangurig post office that it got proper hilly from here on. He would have passed a sign saying he had just reached the highest village in Wales (1000ft above sea level) and had probably been looking forward to coasting downhill the rest of the way. I stopped my bike as he approached : he returned my good morning without slowing, and raced past. Llangurig (literally, church of St Curig) is said to date back to the 7th (seventh!) C ( AD), and was supported by the monks of Strata Florida Abbey 13 miles to the West. The present church is contemporary by comparison having been built in 15th century (not long before Strata Florida was ‘dissolved’).

  

Another taste of history was the ancient coach road between Rhayader and Newbridge on Wye. Overhung by trees, stony and undulating;  a Dick Turpin kind of woodland highway.  

 

The Builth Wells healing waters are, unfortunately, a thing of the Victorian past so I have had to be content with ibuprofen for creaking 200 mile legs. At least I can resort to a little prayer if knees allow in one of Builth’s many churches. 

Sicycling : Lon las day -4 ; rationalisation and extra rations

So my new short snappy blog title is indicative of where my mind is with only 4 days to go. It’s time to be pragmatic, with 1 more prep day tomorrow (3 day weekend working nearly done). I need to rest a bit, as I’m pretty tired with 8 straight days working behind me. I need to nail the last few items of my preparation : see later. I need to eat lots as I’m going to burn some calories next week. Great excuse to eat 3 M and S YumYums in 24 hours (among other foodstuffs). I missed lunch yesterday and did a 2 YumYum ride taking the long way home from work. 20 miles and about 1000 ft. climbed. 

The bike is sorted and minus the crossbar bottle cage: (annoying) is in its final fit-out:  

   Eagle eyes will note the reappearance of the rear mudguard after a rummage in the garage unearthed some flexible rack mounts that fix the Axiom nicely leaving just enough room for the crudcatcher in tail down conformation. Dry back, dry bar bag but wet shoes after several cloudbursts en route yesterday. More coming I fear so MayDay 10% sale purchases at Tredz.co.uk this evening included new shoe covers. some new waterproof socks and lightweight Endura waterproof trousers as a treat! I’ve never had proper waterproof cycle trousers and felt the lack a few too many times last winter.  

 Another cycling bargain: and another cycling £100 gone!! 

So some sleep, some packing and charging of electronic gizmos is about all I have time for. And of course there’s eating!!

Lon las training day-19 to day -17

Somerset from Elworthy Beacon The Giant at 1500ft

Saturday and yesterday were crystal clear easterly kind of days with a chilly wind out to get you, yet warm as summer in sheltered spots. Azure sky with no cloud. Both offered chances for rides to start emulating my hilliest riding days across Wales in just over 2 weeks time. So I managed two 30 mile rides up onto Exmoor with 2100 and 2500 feet climbing. both were great experiences, with brilliant views, not many cars and feeling pretty good most of the time. I’ve been working on my use of the Garmin 800 which I failed spectacularly with on my trip across to Amsterdam in 2013. Now I’m saving activities onto my SD card, and have just followed a great post  http://www.forgot.co.uk/garmin-edge-navigation/edge-800/ to set up a new 16 GB microSD card (for the price of 2 pints!)  with downloaded OpenStreetMaps of UK. These downloaded pretty well even with my rubbish broadband and transferred across onto the Garmin and worked straight off – easy peasy! No risk of a ‘seized Garmin’ as occurred somewhere near Luton airport in 2013! But I have the back up of ride with GPS on my iPhone if this fails, and a set of paper maps for most of my route from good old Sustrans.

On blogging

No I will not enter the hot debate on “why blog?”. I think I know where I stand on this!  More clearly than where I stand in 3 weeks’ time with the little pencil on a string in my hand, I hasten to add. No thanks to David Dimbleby tonight who let things slip a little, I fear. No I’m just wrestling with the “How to” which provokes images of a learning curve of the slippery kind on the end of elastic (It’s a Knockout..). 2 steps forward and maybe 3 back. I hope that readers can see and comment on my posts and have linked to Twitter just in case that’s the only ear listening. Settings may have defeated me  …..! Delighted to receive feedback. The experiment continues……..