Third day in the bag. The keen eyed among you will notice that I have started including climbing as well as distance travelled in the title. That kind of sums up the day. Honestly, it’s been a tough one.
Rivers and valleys
Started in Llanidloes, which is the first town on the River Severn (or Hafren), as measured from the source on Plynlimon, the highest point in the central range of the Cambrian mountains.
The Roman name for Hafren was Sabrina and Celtic legend holds that she was one of three water nymphs (sisters apparently) who disagreed about the quickest way to get to the sea from the top of Plynlimon.
Ystwyth headed west (we are due to meet her in about a week or so). Varga (the Wye) headed South. And Sabrina, who loved the land, headed east, ultimately becoming the UK’s longest river and presumably losing the bet with her siblings. Incidentally, I love Celtic mythology, it’s proper nuts. Expect more.
I said goodbye to Sabrina and followed her sister south, crisscrossing multiple times and ultimately landing at Glasbury, a town on the banks of the river Wye. One of the crossings was particularly scary (I was very brave though).
Here’s the thing I noticed about rivers today: they’re not canals. They share some characteristics with canals, notably that they are both bodies of water. Yet rivers lack the flat towpaths that delight the cyclist and which lulled me into such a false sense of optimism yesterday.
Rivers are in valleys, which have big steep sides that you have to cycle up and down and up again. It’s an obvious point, but one that I had a lot of time to reflect on today as I cycled very, very slowly.
Interesting aside on rivers is that apparently the Wye is incredibly low at the moment due to the absence of rainfall. That is impacting the river activities industry here in Glasbury who are having to drive budding canoeists miles down stream to get their kicks.
The ride report
Today was (sort of) meant to be a rest day. It was anything but.
The original plan was to cycle 58km to Llanfaredd. I knew there were a couple of tough climbs in the mix, but I wasn’t anywhere near prepared for what was to come.
In the end, I climbed over 1,000m, which is the same height as Snowdon. Now I know that lots of cyclists do much more climbing and don’t write blogs about it. But all things are relative and this was tough for me.
By 11 am, I was mentally writing psalms and holy texts for the new religion I was going to found (let’s call it Canalism), which would inspire its devotees to cover the whole of Wales with a network of canals and – crucially – towpaths for cyclists.
By midday, I was seriously contemplating the role that human sacrifice could play in accelerating the spread of Canalism. Then I had a guava bar (thanks sister) and focused on spinning my legs instead. Sleep easy, for now.
Spent lots of the day on cycle route 8, which is a corker. Lots of tarmac, but traffic free, and a decent smattering of gravel tracks and off road sections.
The valleys were incredible and photos don’t even begin to capture their scale. The landscape changed as I entered deepest mid-Wales, with forests and ferns taking over from farmlands.
Made it to Builth Wells about 2 pm, grabbed some food and decided to push on to Glasbury. Mostly to try and minimise the riding on day 4.
As I crossed over the last hill before Glasbury I got my first glimpse of the Brecon Beacons, which I am meant to be cycling over tomorrow. If Komoot is to be trusted (and I have my doubts) that includes an uninterrupted 10km climb that will see me ascend 300m (one of many such climbs tomorrow). I am feeling suitably daunted.
Lovely Chats with folks today. Lots of Duke of Edinburgh award leaders, one of which called my blog “posh” which I quite liked.
The award though goes to Viv and Stu, retired grandparents and camper-van aficionados. Spending retirement caring for grandchildren and whenever they can visiting the parts of Wales that they don’t know yet in their van. A very British version of Nomadland. They also made a donation to support Llamau. Legends.
All the gear, no idea
Today’s featured gear is the humble zip tie. Multi tool extraordinaire. Recommended by Adam. I packed a load with no idea how they could possibly be useful.
This morning I saw that the screw holes in my forks, which hold my fork mounted luggage, had broken. No serious damage to the forks but annoying and raised the possibility of having to rethink the whole packing scheme. Three zip ties later and it feels firmly attached again.
Keep the donations coming
We are doing an amazing job raising funds for Llamau. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated already and helped to spread the word.
We’ve already raised £3,400 and I know that we do even better.
Here is the link to my Just Giving page. Let’s help Llamau end homelessness in Wales.