Monday, 25 August 2014

Curry at Caernarfon

Last year on the August Bank Holiday Sunday Kath introduced some of the Chester riders to lanes around Cernarfon, where she was brought up.  It was so enjoyable, that we added it to the rides list for this year (although brought forward from the original date in September due to light and other events that day)

added bonus on Kath's rides - sharing biscuits
or flapjacks at the start!

So people either made their way directly to Caernarfon, or met up at Broughton to share lifts.  The A55 makes it a very quick and straightforward journey to the other side of Snowdonia, and we were assembled in the car park ready to go by 10am. 

First port of call was the loos, after the journey.  Then we headed to the Lon Eifion, Sustrans route 8 path alongside the Welsh Highland Railway.

We followed this route, then came off (somewhere!) and followed up a hill and through a cobbled farm yard, with a row of peacocks sitting near the barn.  There were so many blackberries, Richard and I picked a couple of handfuls before setting off again (putting me at the back of the group where I pretty much stayed all day!)

We climbed up to Rhyd-Ddu, a tiny hamlet after Snowdon Ranger that includes Ty Mawr tea rooms - run by a dutch couple serving dutch pancakes, apple pie and strong coffee (among other things!).  We just about squeezed in with a couple of families, and enjoyed a leisurely break as service is quite slow (takes a while to cook everything!).  It also tipped it down with rain while we were in there, so we were not in a hurry.

When we finally left the cafe, we donned raincoats as it was still damp, and we had a long descent into Beddgelert next.  During which it really came on wet again, but a lovely road and super descent.  Beddgelert was very busy (bank holiday Sunday!) and we popped along to see Gelerts Grave while we were there.

Gelerts Grave

Waiting for the train (welsh Highland)
 - but not due in for 20 mins so we set off again.

Dropping down Pass of Aberglaslyn (A498)
from Beddgelert

We continued past Tremadoc rocks and Eric Jones cafe, and along to Criccieth, where a layby gave us an ideal photo stop with views across the bay and to the castle.

This is when the sun came back out, and we dropped into Criccieth, locked up our steeds and headed to the Blue China cafe.

After this break we climbed up out of Criccieth by the castle and followed some lovely little lanes back across the breadth of the Lleyn Peninsular, picking up route 8 again.  

Passing through Llanystumdwy

Finally we arrived back in Caernarfon, after following the coastline with views across the straits to Newborough forest on Anglesey.

But the day was not over!  After a few farewells, and some quick changes, we headed back into Caernarfon, for a quick drink in The Black Boy pub, followed by a curry in the Bengal Spice.  

Same time and place next year?

Monday, 18 August 2014

The Old Vets 100 Route.

Many CTC groups hold what they call a Vets ride ('veterans, age 50+) for riders, and usually I think they are 100 miles (in 12 hours).  For many years our (Chester & North Wales) event ran from Kinnerton to Llynclys, before it moved for various reasons to its current location at Bickerton.  
Ray - official photographer!

Last year Stu led an informal ride following the old route, and it was popular enough to make it to the rides list this year.  Here is his account, with photos by Ray.

Bob gives the thumbs up
"The weather forecast for Sunday 17th of August was not good, heavy showers and very windy, which is probably why only twelve of us set off at 8.30am from Kinnerton on the old vets 100 route down to Melverley. In truth the weather was not that bad, only two lightish showers all day, the first just this side of Overton on the way out and the second the other side of Ellesmere on the way back, and because the route is quite flat and the lanes reasonably sheltered the wind was not such a problem either, also the wind was a westerly and we were riding mostly north to south and back again which helped as we only had a headwind for short periods when we cycled towards the west.

Starting line up

CTC winged wheel, dating from circa 1888.
The route took us through Doddleston, Holt, Shocklach, Overton, and down to Ellesmere for morning coffee at Coco, the cafe with the CTC winged wheel above the door, they are not normally open on Sundays but the proprietor Julie kindly agreed to open specially for us and served up some excellent tea, coffee, bacon butties and cake etc... before we set off once again to ride through Queens Head, West Felton, Llanymynech, Four Crosses and Llandrinio which is where the lunch stop is on the official vets 100 route at the village hall but we carried on another few miles to Crew Green where we stopped at the Fir Tree Inn and had either sausage or fish fingers and chips in a basket with bread and butter enjoyed outside in the sunshine all for three quid a head, can’t help feeling that we wus robbed though as last year it was only £2.50!! 
All outside Cafe Co Co, with winged wheel high on the front wall.

Fir Tree pub at Crewe Green

Bob "where's me bike" (next to you...)

Gathered after lunch and ready to leave

After lunch we crossed the river Severn just below where the river Vyrnwy joins it at Melverley where we stopped to have a look around St Peters church which is an old black and white timber construction dating back around 1000 years, well worth seeing.  Next stop was the village of Knockin but being Sunday afternoon the shop was unfortunately closed as it’s not every ride where you get to visit a church and a Knockin shop on the same day!! 

Another line up at St Peter's in Melverley.

We then came back through West Felton and around the old airfield at Rednal before Ellesmere again then afternoon tea at the White Horse in Overton. The final leg took us back home via Bangor on Dee, Worthenbury, through the back lanes to Tilston then Farndon, Rossett and finally Kinnerton where we all enjoyed a well earned pint or two at the Swan."

Same time same place
next year anyone?

All the photos can be seen on Richard's Flickr account - you do not have to have an account to view them.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Windsor Chester Windsor Control point

At several points through the cycling year we hold local Audax rides - usually 50-60k, 100 or 200k distances.  They are part of the AUK (Audax UK) calender of events, which are held all over the country, all through the year.  AUK is the Long Distance Cycling organisation, and events are organised by local clubs and organisations.

That is not helping!

I volunteered with a few other Chester and North Wales members, to help man (or woman!) the control for the inaugural (or re-in statement) of the Windsor-Chester-Windsor 600k Randonnee.  The control opened at 6pm, and stayed open until 3:20am (I think).

I have a few friends who have ridden and ride long distance rides, so have heard tales of people sleeping under tables or under hedges, getting lost and other misadventures that can occur in the wee hours after riding relatively non-stop for 100+ miles!

Lowri grating more carrots
that you have ever seen before!

This event was ably organised by Daniel Webb, from Todmorden, who has himself ridden long distances and so by experience knows what the guys (only two women took part) would be going through.  There was a small team of us, making soup, sandwiches, cutting cake (from the large box full of excellent cake) making tea and then washing up through the evening and into the night.

I did not keep a close track of time (if staying till very early in the morning, I did not really want to watch time creep by slowly!), so I am guessing in this account.

Early arrivals coming in along A41
The first rider to arrive was still in daylight, so must've been about 9-9:10.  Rob was watching outside to be sure no-one went past (two riders nearly did) and to direct them in.  The riders arrived very slowly, two guys from Kingston were next, and then Joe from Chester Road Club (we had been conversing on facebook the day before about it).  At this point we still had more volunteers than riders, so I was able to chat to them.

Many dynamos, and proper (what I would call) Touring bikes, with small Carradice saddlebags.  The whole scene appeals to my old fashioned side - and I do not mean 'retro', but the cycling that I was first introduced to in the late '80's.
Early in the evening, first riders
(including Joe from Chester Road Club)

I got caught at the sink washing up at one point, while Daniel blew up four air beds with blankets for any riders who wanted to catch a few winks.  Then there was the chap who had not eaten all day, this was his first food (at 300k - 180 miles) - he maintained that his body worked best that way.  I can't do more than 30 miles without needing a little something!

unwrapping more food as the
evening progressed...
homemade soup, fresh butties
and fantastic selection of cakes!

We welcomed them in,and waved them off.  As the night wore on, about midnight, the riders were a little more bedraggled and weary (the weather forecast was to deteriorate and the remains of Hurricane Bertha was allegedly heading to the UK for Sunday)  Poor Rob was stood outside in the rain all night.  Daniel saved some of the nicer food - homemade sausage rolls- for the latecomers, as he reckoned their need would be greater!

By this time all the beds were taken (yes, even a few beds provided), one chap was accommodated across a few chairs at the side of the room, and another just rested his head on his arms at the table.  We cleared cups bowls and plates quietly from around them.  Yet another rider came in - he did not need to sleep as he had already had a snooze in a bus shelter!

I left at 00:45, with them still waiting for two riders and to wake the sleeping riders at 1:30. I felt quite special to be able to help out with this event.  Part of me is in awe and would love to be able to do that - I was thinking of the riders through Sunday wondering where they were up to - but another part of me thinks they are nutty as anything to do this!!!!
Persuaded Joe to get a badge -
who wouldn't!!!!!

Maybe I will try to do a few more 100 and 200's.  I do actually have my AUK card from a 200k in 1988, fully signed - so I think I am allowed to class myself as a Randonneur, and I did attempt the National 400k once - see photo!  However, after cycling 200k around Cheshire (mostly Cheshire Cycleway), we then headed into Wales, lighting up inLlangollen, watching the moon over Bala and being pushed the last bit from Barmouth to Tywyn (before caving in to the option of my boyfriends car).  We snoozed and woke at dawn as our riders came past - and we met them in a cafe in Bryneglwys (no longer there) for breakfast, where we chatted about cycling exploits.  Maybe one day I will do 400k.....

Monday, 4 August 2014

The Three Pigeons at Graigfechan

My turn to inflict hills on the Chester section!  The way that I plan a route is basically just using 'yellow' roads on the map, and joining them together.  My plan for today was to introduce Chester to the two (relatively) small hills that make up the hill climb and freewheel competitions (usually held in October); with additional coffee shop used for the treasure hunt and map reading held in May and to visit the Stone Zoo which I have not been to in a while.  Furthermore, I did not want to repeat roads and lanes used by Dave only two weeks ago

We met at the Little Roodee car park, me with my brand spanking new and very shiny frame.  A hardy 7 set off, fairly directly down Lache Lane and even more directly down Wrexham Road due to level crossing and road closure at Pulford.  It was not too busy, but nice to pull out of the wind and onto the little lane from Marford that parallels the main A483 and sneaks around the back to Llay.

Bob passing what I think are
Horsetail ferns (

One little hill and we picked up Alyn Waters country park, retracing some of the treasure hunt route I did earlier this year.  After Bradley it was a short road then to the cafe.

I planned to mostly re do the route I plotted for the map reading in May, although I seemed to remember it went up, up and up again.  And so it did.  Diane was heading home early as they were going out for lunch with the family, so after we dropped and climbed out of Moss Valley, we sent her off along a B-road to find her husband.

We instead climbed again up to Brynteg, with Dave and Bob happily plotting the old railway courses and bridges that made up this industrial area (shame a few bridges don't remain, to save dropping down and climbing again!).  We climbed up to Brymbo and then passed Penrhos Engine House.  There are many relics in this area, of the old mine workings and quarries, and a long industrial heritage.

After crossing the B5102 we climbed again into Bwlchgwyn - highest village in Wales did someone say?  (Some contention, OS Maps name Garn Yr Erw near Blaenavon in the Valleys is higher, but only looks like two rows of houses).  We followed a nice little road that passes the Llandegla Moutain bike Centre, before charging down a bit of the A525 (again fortunately not too busy) to enjoy a super descent down the Nant Y Garth Pass.

At the bottom, I took the group to the start of the Hill Climb road - a short mile of deceivingly steep and prolonged climbing, culminating in a flat 'sprint' (if you have any puff left!).  We then followed the lanes left (Left Bob, Left - no the other left!) and mostly down (excellent descents!) to stop everyone and show them the freewheel - down the hill to the pub without pedaling.

Lunch at last!  Sat in the beer garden, with fab views across the valley, perched on the edge of the Clwydian Range.  Sunshine and a couple of wasps - well it is August now!

After lunch we had to back track up the freewheel hill, nearly all the way with a tiny hidden lane off to the left.  As it levelled, I came face to face with a majestic peacock (who had shed a couple of tail feathers - Ray and I both took one - although they are a little large and delicate to transport on a bike, but Ray managed to attach his to his saddlebag, so that it stood up like his own tail feather!

View over your right shoulder
as you climb from Graigfechan

This is a lovely lane, that doubles back after about a mile, and follows a lovely 'shelf' road, with stupendous views across the Vale of Clwyd (over your right shoulder).  At the top I had lost them (I am too slow to lead a hilly ride!) and had to phone Dave and bring them back down to join me on a little track past the Fisheries and into Llanarmon.  Cracking little track, really good value and very rideable!

From Llanarmon I was now heading to the Stone Zoo.  As we headed along,Bob says 'oh yes, we passed that on my April Ride...'.  Humph!  No-one told me (and there were no photos) so we had a proper tourist stop and took photos!  The property in the 1920's was owned by Hunter Seeds of Chester, and apparently was heavily involved in trials recognising farm animal breeds and cereal trials. The hall also had a significant airfield, parts of which can still be seen.

The next road,after descending to the B5101, climbed again up Hope Mountain - to the very top.  It did mean we passed a few very old landrovers (especially for Bob!).

On top of Hope Mountain

Then a fantastic drop, with views now from Buckley and Deeside, and picking up Pigeon House Lane skirting Hope and dropping around Kinnerton.  Final run home from there!

60 miles by the time I got home, which was fairly late!