27 miles, 4,135 feet of climbing
Accommodation: Elan Valley Hotel, Elan Valley, Powys
With no shop in the Devil’s Bridge village, and, faced with a particularly remote day where we couldn’t see any obvious food shops en route not to mention that we were starting to get a bit tired of cold toast half-inched from breakfast we ask if the proprietor of the hotel if he can do us a packed lunch … suffice to say that with our appetites we asked for almost a loaf each, only to find that the cost was astronomical! Granted, the price of the bread for sandwiches that could could otherwise have been sold to other customers needed to be factored in but let’s just say Paul wasn’t too impressed when I told him the lunch bill!
Once we 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 of traipsing through the woods and up to nearby peaks in an attempt to relocate ourselves we resort – sadly – to GPS to double-check our position. Until now we’d been navigating purely with map and compass. Once back on the correct route we churn our way through some deep bogs as we leave to woods of Coed Bwylchgwallter before emerging on to open moorland on which we ride for hours on end, 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 under way 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’ as I wonder at how on earth I managed the steep boulder-strewn descent back in the day on said old steed! Back together we ring ahead, for it’s getting late now, and check when the kitchen shuts … 8.45pm is the reply, and we up the speed along the final tarmac stretch making our hotel in time. Wow, this place is a find! Our room is sumptuous and as my head hits my pillow, ensconced in a sumptuous duvet, I drift off, and in to the arms of Morpheus.