Words and photos by Tim Norris.
I tried really really hard to deter people from coming on this ride. I told them I hadn’t ridden it. I said we may get lost. I put it on in the middle of October. And I even said there would be no cake. But they came. List it and they will come, and they will expect to be entertained and have a blooming good time. I was up for the challenge.
Perhaps downloading the GPX to my Garmin would have been a good start or bringing a map that started at our start point. How can it actually be to follow a cycle path up the valley anyway? Turns out it was easy, really easy in fact to follow the WRONG cycle path for 3 miles!
So we turned back and I don’t think anyone noticed.
The weather was typically Welsh and autumnal – sunny and dry – and our pedal up the sort of clearly way marked Sustrans Route 465 was really pretty. We rode through some typical Welsh villages and parks, a rugby ground in Abertillery all the while admiring the autumn colours on the trees and on the ground.
At Nantyglo we diverted so everyone could get a look at the “roundhouses”. Oh how they nagged and begged to see these 19th century fortified homes! I hope some one took a picture as I didn’t!
After this we began our ascent of Mulfran. Mulfran is the 5,217th highest peak in the British isles and the 446th tallest in Wales. I’m sure I remember someone asking me for this info as we made our way up the track.
Here’s where things started to get interesting. My map, and GPS and Jay’s (thanks Jay) GPS didn’t all exactly agree on where the bridleway was atop of Mynydd James so as we at first fought our way through mud and motorcross ruts we then made our own way through the wild grassy hill top trying to find a way down.
What we did find was a cool rock fissure and decided it was a good place for a snack and to take a 100 or so photos.
After leaving the at least one or two of the gang down a hole in the ground we sort of found our way off the hill by way of a storm/water gully that feeds the Cwmtillery lakes. Getting to the lakes meant we would be back on my planned route so there was only one thing for it! Bobsleigh time!
It probably wasn’t the most sensible way off the side of the mountain but, no one got hurt (seriously at least) and we had bagged a special moment that all will remember!
A short climb and hike out the other side of the valley had us on our homeward stretch as we traversed the hills side above Pen Y Bont towards Abertillery. With one final climb in our sights and the Welsh sun (it was Welsh sun) shining on us we headed up for one final treat!
The Penrhiwgarreg woods delivered one final treat as we dropped down through the trees, twisting and turning on a mix of woodland trails and tracks following some sort of memory I had from some Strava research. With a mixed ability group it delivered enough to challenge but not too much to scare and we all arrived at the bottom without any issues.
What a finale to a great day!
I’m already planning another visit.