27 miles, 4,135 feet of climbing
Accommodation: Elan Valley Hotel, Elan Valley, Powys
With no shops to buy food for lunch and faced with a particularly remote day, we ask the hotel proprietor if he can do us a packed lunch … and with our appetites we need a whole loaf’s worth. The proprietor sensed an opportunity – let’s just say Paul wasn’t too impressed when I told him he’d charged us 20 quid for a few sandwiches!
Once riding we then, to add insult to injury, get lost in the woods, confusing newly forged forestry tracks with old ones on the map. After a couple of hours traipsing up nearby peaks in an attempt to locate ourselves, we resort to using my phone’s GPS to find our position. Until now we’d been navigating purely with map and compass, as we were trying to conserve phone battery – plus we had our male pride! Once back on route we churn our way through some deep bogs as we leave the woods of Coed Bwylchgwallter before emerging onto open moorland across which we ride for hours, toward the Elan Valley reservoirs. I’m struck by just how remote it feels here and it occurs to me that often on this ride, ever since Conwy, we see no one else for hours on end. How on earth the local communities manage to survive when road access is so tortuously slow and rail virtually non-existent in many areas, I don’t know. Today we don’t meet another soul for almost 8 hours.
After a tarmac stint the track turns to jagged rock at which – oh no! – Paul’s tyre explodes! He’s shredded the sidewall. A patch-up job with tyre boots ensues and, after a few false starts, we’re underway again. Steady as she goes. I like the Elan Valley with its certain kind of barren beauty, and have happy memories of rides here with friends back in the old days when I rode a rigid, cantilever-braked steel colossus. And so, for old times sake, I leave Paul to take some photos by the reservoirs and head up over Rhos y Gelynnen and then down the locally infamous ‘Black Run’ – I wonder how on earth I managed this steep boulder-strewn descent back in the day on said old steed! Reunited with Paul we phone ahead, for it’s getting late now, and check when the kitchen shuts … 8.45pm is the reply, so we up the speed along the final tarmac stretch to our hotel. Wow, this place is a find! Our room is sumptuous and as my head hits my pillow, and ensconced in a sumptuous duvet, I drift off into the arms of Morpheus.