Wild Wales 2006 – Pam Fern

This year we had decided to go down to Wales for almost a fortnight (with the Wild Wales Challenge to fall in the middle of our holiday) but due to family health problems we had to shorten it to about a week.

Anyway, we left home on the Wednesday morning, before the rush hour, and we were sat having a cup of tea in the caravan, with the awning up, by 11am in lovely warm sunshine. We had gone back to the site we have stayed at for the last few years as it is a lovely spot by the river Twrch with views of the surrounding mountains, near the village of Llanuwchllyn. We had chosen a pitch in a slightly different area this year as it was particularly quiet. After lunch while we were both sat relaxing, Gareth, the site owner turned up in his car and came over to say hello. However, he also came to tell us that this area of the site had been reserved for a 30th Birthday Party and would we mind moving. It was basically up to us where we moved to but he did warn us that they might be noisy and had been advising most arrivals to pitch well away from the revellers. He said that as they weren’t expected to start arriving until Thursday we could stay where we were for the night but we decided to move there and then. So down came the awning and we moved just a few metres up the site (in actual fact to where we usually pitch) and settled ourselves in again.

The Thursday dawned bright and sunny and Phil picked our cycle route for the day. We left the site to join the A494 heading towards Bala for a couple of miles. We turned left for Parc and continued for about 1 ½ miles to turn right dropping steeply down, crossing the river and turning left for our first climb of the day. We followed this twisting road with fabulous views of the mountains for approximately 3 miles and turned left, again on a minor road. From here we had a gentle climb onto the open moorland where Phil stopped to take a photo of the heather covered mountains bathed in glorious sunshine (and chance for a piece of flapjack). No sooner had we set off again when Phil shouted out in pain (blasphemed really). Not knowing what his problem was we both stopped and he quickly pulled the leg of his cycling shorts up. He had been stung or bitten by something (a few inches higher and it could have been really nasty!!!!). I wonder what the passing motorists thought he was up to.

Anyway, we set off again to follow the road to where it meets the A4212, which we crossed and joined the B4301 following it to Ffestiniog. We had (wrongly) thought we would get lunch in Ffestiniog. There was just one small shop open where we bought a packet of Eccles Cakes. The shopkeeper said the nearest place we would get something to eat would be at Trawsfynydd approximately 7 miles away (along the A470). The café in the village was not very thrilling but as we were both hungry we had no choice. A quick toasted sandwich and off. After leaving the café we more or less crossed the A470 south of the village to join the mountain road which would take us back to the Llanuwchllyn. This road climbs gently for about 3 miles, follows the river valley for a couple of miles then climbs again (starting gently and getting progressively steeper until you reach the summit). From the top there are lovely views in all directions. The next 8 miles were generally downhill but as this stretch of road was gated (and the gates are on bends or on steep stretches) you can’t go too fast. Just before we reached the main (A494) road again we spotted a very healthy crop of blackberries so we stopped to pick some. We had gone prepared as I had taken some crumble mixture from home – so for our pudding that evening we had freshly made blackberry crumble (and ice cream). Lovely.

The Friday dawned grey and as we hadn’t intended riding the bikes that day we went out in the car and did some shopping. By the time we got back to the site the 30th Birthday Revellers had started arriving in their droves and although they weren’t too bad we did need the ear plugs in so that we could sleep that night. I was hoping they wouldn’t be worse on the Saturday as I knew I would need a good nights sleep before the ‘Challenge’

On Saturday lunchtime we were joined by Fred Potter, Rob Sharpe and Terry Crosswell. They had booked in at a B&B just outside the village. We had sandwiches and birthday cake for lunch at our caravan (it was Fred’s birthday). The 30th party revellers, all in fancy dress, were already well intoxicated – how much sleep were we to get that night!!!

We had planned a hardish ride of about 35 miles for the Saturday afternoon (which Phil and I did last year). After lunch we left the site and took the Trawsfynydd Road (which we came back on on Thursday) climbing for the 8 miles (I don’t think Terry believed me, at first, when I told him how far the climb was). After about 14 miles we took a left and followed this road which had several hard climbs and drops before a long gentle drop through the Coed y Brenin Forest (which, although it was a lovely sunny day was very cool in the trees).

Terry, Fred, Rob and Pam

At the south end of the forest we took a left turn up a short steep climb to Llanfachreth, went straight through the village then took the first right, followed this road and crossed the A494 at Bont Newydd climbing up the B4416, taking the first left then left again and following this minor gated road for about 5 miles. We rejoined the A494 and with a tail wind were very soon back at Llanuwchllyn where Fred, Rob & Terry went back to the B&B and we went back to the caravan. We had arranged to meet at the pub in the village (The Eagles Inn) for a, very welcome, evening meal. Phil and I had walked up to the pub and on our return to the caravan we were pleasantly surprised how quiet the site was.

On the morning of Sunday 27th August we were up and about very early and at the Bala Sports Pavilion before 8am ready for signing on for ‘The Wild Wales Challenge 2006’. Ray McCarthy met up with us at the Pavilion (he was staying at Betws-y-coed) and although Fred and Terry were riding with us Rob Sharpe had arranged to do the ride with his old clubmate from South Lancs, Richard Thomas.

We left the Pavilion heading NE on the A494 for about 3 miles then turned left at Cefn-ddwyssarn following this minor undulating road for about 4 ½ miles to turn right onto the A5 then left in another ¾ mile back onto the minor roads. We followed this lane through Bettws Gwerfil Goch and Melin-y-Wig up a short steep climb through Tai-teg and continued on to Clawdd-newydd where we had our first ‘control’. At this stage I had averaged over 10 miles an hour (which is good for me on a hilly ride) so I was feeling quite pleased with myself.

Cards marked and refreshments taken we left the control and very soon we were going up-hill (again) on the B5105. We followed this road, eventually dropping down a steep hill and round a sharp left hand bend into Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr. Here we crossed the river and turned right following the river valley for about 1½ miles taking a left and continuing uphill to go right onto the B4501. From here we climbed, dropped and climbed again through the Alwen Forest and past Llyn Brenig to join the A543. Terry had to mend a puncture here and we also realised that Fred wasn’t with us. The last time we had seen him he was ahead of us. At this point the original route would have sent us left and then past Llyn Aled and Aled Isaf but due to a land slide on that section of the route the organisers had had to make last minute alterations – and we were directed right. After about ¼ mile we took a left. The first section of this detour was lovely, the sun was out, the road was quiet, twisting and undulating with nice views too. Little did I know what was to come – this detour turned out to be hard. It was along this road where we decided to stop and eat our lunch. We found a trailer at the side of the road, to sit on and ‘tucked into our sandwiches’. Knowing how difficult it can be to find somewhere to eat we had decided to carry our own. Lunch eaten, we set off again continuing down a steep hill, round a hairpin bend and up a steep climb. It was here I had my first walk. Back on the bike we took the next left near Llansannan and I had another walk. At the top of this hill we rejoined the original route by going right at Tan-y-foel continuing on until we went left onto the B5384 which we followed to Gwytherin. From here we took a minor road with some hard climbs where we eventually had some fantastic views of the Snowdon Mountain Range before dropping down to Llanrwst to the 2nd ‘Control’. Here we found Fred waiting for us. He had been there about ¾ hour. No refreshments at this ‘control’ so we topped our drink bottles up at the nearby café.

From Llanrwst we took the B5106 to Betws-y coed along the river valley (I was ready for this easier stretch), turned left in Betws-y-coed onto the A5, then right onto a minor road which runs parallel with an A road for about 1 ½ miles. Then we went right and left to cross the A470 onto a ‘very green’ lane. This narrow, gated, lane climbed and climbed getting steeper and steeper – another walk. At the top of this steep stretch we came across a car which had dropped its offside into a ditch (perhaps they had moved over to let cyclists pass). They were waiting for help. As I was riding up the next climb I could hear the sound of car tyres spinning somewhere ahead of me. A little further up this hill was another vehicle that had gone off-road. They had moved over to let a cyclist in front of Terry pass and dropped down a ditch. This vehicle was resting on its subframe with its two nearside wheels in the ditch, one offside wheel in midair and the other on the tarmac. Unfortunately you couldn’t see the ditch at the side of the road as the grass was level with the road surface. Continuing on we had a steep drop down to Penmachno where we passed a tractor which looked as if it was on a ‘rescue mission’.

From here we followed the road to Carrog where it soon began to climb. It was at this stage that I really felt I had had enough but continued to plod on very slowly, sometimes walking on the steeper sections. By the time we reached the B4407 there was a little bit of moisture in the air and it was feeling somewhat cooler so we put our jackets on for the drop down to the Ffestiniog road. At the junction with the B4391 Phil went right for Ffestiniog and I went left for Bala. I could not face the short loop to the last ‘control’ so I gave Phil my Record Card and asked him to tell them that I was going straight back to Bala.

It took me just over an hour to get back to Bala. I knew there were just a couple more climbs on the last stretch back but knew I could go at my own pace. I arrived back at the Pavilion at about 7pm. I had ridden just over 81 miles and averaged 8.7 mph (slower than last year but I knew I wasn’t quite as fit). Phil, Terry, Fred and Ray arrived back about 7.40pm.

A hard day, but an achievement – thanks to the organisers and helpers for all the hard work they put in

After a bite to eat we loaded up the car and went back to our caravan while the others went home.

On Monday we had decided to have a well earned rest and stay by the caravan. The weather wasn’t too bad although there was the odd heavy shower. We were treated to several low fly-pasts by two Hercules.

Tuesday was wet and windy. We had originally planned to ride over to Lake Vyrnwy but the weather was so awful we stayed put at the caravan and came home on the Wednesday.

Pam Fern

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    See the result here.