Aberystwyth to Caersws
I had spent an age staring at the map. Fearing the mountains that rise up from the coast of Wales. The big lumps that lie between the Sea and home. Planning is a double edged sword. I want to know where I am going and yet that ‘knowing’ is where the fear lies. It’s hard not to focus on the lumps. Anticipating the effort required, it leads to doubt, anxiety and it can snowball. I begin to justify why I shouldn’t go, looking for alternatives – anything to quieten the fear.
Often the answer to fear is – don’t think, just do it!
The plan was clear. We would get the train to Aberystwyth and ride route 81 until we had had enough. When Mary and I did the Wrynose Pass and Hardknott pass the easiest way to commit was to just purchase the rail tickets. That wasn’t an option this time. Wales was ‘shut’ due to the pandemic and we weren’t sure if we could get a train. So, the planning continued and the anxiety continued. Eventually we were close enough to the trip to buy train tickets and it was a done deal, we were going.
Hills are hard, physical work. It is that simple. The land rises up, and up. A looming barrier, hills slow progress to a crawl, steal the air and the joy from life. Hills make your muscles scream whilst whispering in your ear: ‘stop, turn around, down is easier, no good can come from this toil’.
Then suddenly, it stops. My lungs are easier to fill, my thumping heart slows, my skin goes cold as I feel the breeze, the pedals spin easier and the whoosh of blood quietens as I tune back into the sound of the world and I am presented with the reward. Hills don’t last forever.
The upwards toil is not only rewarded by the downhill but by the spectacular views and scenery.
Out of Aberystwyth the only way is up but NCN route 81 is a pleasure to cycle. Following old railway lines and country lanes it is challenging in places as it wends through the wonderful Welsh landscape.
We found a spectacular wild camp site on the bank of Afon Ystwyth in the Grogwynion Nature Reserve where we spent a relaxing few hours, eating our dinner before putting our tent up and bedding down for the night.
The stars were spectacular. The constant river made for a fitful night’s sleep and neither of us awoke particularly refreshed but the sun was shining and it was setting up to be a spectacular, if windy, day.
Onwards and Upwards
The wind had been at our backs yesterday but as the trail turned we were soon heading straight into the wind and it made for hard cycling, especially as it didn’t allow us a respite on the downhills.
As we pushed dipping down into the spectacular Hafod Estate. We stopped here for our morning coffee and porridge. Mary was really starting to feel all the climbing so it was a welcome stop with a beautiful view over the river Valley.
We cycled through Cwmystwyth and up into the mountains. A treeless, barren landscape scarred by the old metal mines that litter the landscape with spoil heaps. Towards the top of the valles we decided to take an old remote gravel road, route 818, over into Llangurig. Bypassing Rhyader and the Elan Valley, leaving it for another adventure.
This was the most incredible route. A really hard push up a steep and crumbling gravel road, flooded in parts, with nothing but the sheep for company. It was an amazing place and felt like a proper adventure.
The final descent into the Wye Valley and Llangurig was deserved and very welcome. Thankfully the Bluebell Inn was open and we had a hot meal.
Out of Llangurig we followed route 8 over the hill into the Severn Valley and the lovely town of Llandiloes where we found a campsite on the banks of the infant River Severn. We set up the tent and rode back into town unladen, to do some shopping for our tea.
The very lumpy route continued. The sun was out and the landscape was beautiful. We only had a few miles to get to Caersws where we planned to get our train home.
We had cycled around 50 miles in total but they were tough miles. Spectacular, remote, windy, hilly and incredible.
Thank you for reading
See you out there
Sarah & Mary
A cup of tea for Mary & me
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