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Crossing Wales

Call it what you want, ozone, global warming... who knows. But it's fair to say that Spring is now officially Summer so if you don't want to miss out strike early. With endless settled weather forecasts, crystal blue skies and long days the first plan of Spring (Summer) was hatched, time to hit the road !

We set out on our road touring bikes from Shrewsbury, as lightly loaded as possible, on route to Mynydd Mawr, the furthest point west on the Lleyn Peninsula. The aim to avoid main roads and include some of the highest road/track passes in Wales, away from the tourist spots of Snowdonia.

As a "warm up" first day for my pensioner riding partner, actually a good excuse for me, we headed south over the Stiperstones towards Bishops Castle and then along the Kerry Ridgeway for an over night bunkhouse stop, 25 miles.

Next day winding our way through the tranquil scenery of deep cut hills via LLanfair Caeireinion, Dolanog, along Lake Vyrnwy to the top of the Bwlch y Groes pass (highest road pass in Wales) then down for a well deserved pint and their famous "lamb & leek" pie meal at the Red Lion in Dinas Mawddwy. Also overnighting at the Red Lion was the long distance walker Ian Whyte. Ian's quest is to walk from Land's End to John O'Graots via the highest point in each of the 84 counties of mainland Britain, 3,500 miles, for Cancer Research UK. Our unexpected Crossing Wales of paths was one to celebrate and remember. Averaging 35 kms(20+ miles) per day Ian started his walk in March and hopes to complete sometime in September with only one day off in every ten! You can track his progress at his website. We parted offering a promise to sponsor him by sending his next pair of favoured MeindlBorneo walking boots to wherever he was out on route with our compliments, the least High Sports can do to support this incredible effort.

Please also help to spur Ian along by donating on line at www.allinone-walk.org.uk

Not exactly an adventure I'd relish but Ian's quest provided the inspiration to get our stiff legs moving after a hard previous day. In glorious fresh morning sunshine we climbed, and often pushed our bikes, up out of Dinas Mawddwy up almost vertical lanes through mountainous forest country eventually down to the slate mining village of Corris. Then gated lanes beside Tal-y-Llyn lake, and into the delightful Dysynni valley and along below Bird Rock. From here a long climb via a narrow tarmac lane leads up the SW flanks of Cadair Idris, eventually the tarmac turns to a rideable dirt road and a high mountain pass. Following a high valley dirt road for a few miles you're finally rewarded for all the mega effort; a spectacular view point at a gate by a forest over looking Fairbourne, the Barmouth estuary, Cardigan Bay and the last part of our trip the Lleyn Peninsula. Rough to start the descent soon turns to blasting down endless winding lanes, past picturesque tarns, crossing the estuary by the wooden railway bridge to Barmouth. From there on the only unavoidable section of main road to Harlech. Luckily it was early evening, the traffic was light and a strong tail wind pushed us swiftly along to Tremadoc, fish & chips and a nights bunkhouse stop at "me old mate Eric Jones cafe".  Expecting a lift to the nearest pub from the man, we arrived only to discover he'd been rushed to Bangor hospital for emergency treatment, post knee surgery operation a few days earlier which had gone wrong, inconvenient or what ! (Pleased to say he's well on the way to riding his bike again and serving the best All Day Breakfast). 129 miles clocked since leaving Shrewsbury.

An early bed on a soft mattress in Eric's bunkhouse, loads of tea and an early full English in the cafe, was only ruined by some guy whittering on about "how he'd recently split from his wife, lucky lady, had to find meaningful solitude by retreating to a deserted island in Scotland, poor listening sheep". Combined it had us fully revived, but pedalling fast out of Tremadoc to avoid the onset of depression on such a beautiful morning, our fourth day of sunshine.

So far the wild flowers, typical of Spring, along the way had been a wonderful distraction from sore arse pedalling and occasional vertical uphill walking but now on the Lleynwe were being treated to something special. Relentless banks of roadside primary colours stood out on a vividly backdrop of the perfect cow munching Kerry Gold butter making lush green grass. An absolute pageant of varieties around every corner, all intensified by a clear blue coastal sky and sun. The coconut smell of gorse blossom mixed with bluebell was unforgettable as we breezed along the lanes heading west. Springtime on the Lleyn Peninsula has a uniqueness which I doubt can be bettered and the display only builds as you head further and further west to the eventual journeys end on the summit road of Mynnyd Mawr and a final bonus view back along the Peninsula. Whatever you do don't drive the LLeyn, cycle it, and get the full benefit of our Spring (Summer). Running short of time we had a "panic ride" to get us back to Pwllheli and our 5.38pm train home. 4 days and 198 miles.

The excellent value train journey back to Shrewsbury takes 4 hours, cost us £20 (bikes go free). This journey has to rank as one of the world's best train rides. The track hugs the coast, a treat of stunning views and bridge crossings all the way to Machynlleth, then winds its way inland through the beautiful hills of the Marches to Shrewsbury.  If you never do our bike ride, then do the train trip with your bike, then amble about the Lleyn in Spring time (Summer) you'll not be disappointed !

Thanks to Laurie Dempsey my faithful pedalling partner, the UK Spring time and Wales for making the miles so memorable !   24-28th May 2010.

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