Tag Archives: pontypool

Ride Report: Return to the Iron Mountain

For some bizarre reason, people started to turn up just after 9am for a 10am ride. It’s possible it had something to do with them camping in the Brecon Beacons the night before and being up early but I’d like to think they were equally as eager to get on the ride.
As the name suggests, we’ve been here before – riding the descent off the Blorenge and battling the ferns and hidden rocks down to the Punchbowl has been well documented in previous ride reports. We have tackled the Blorenge from Blaenavon (2014 – The Ponds The Pit and The Punchbowl); and we rode to the Punchbowl all the way from Pontypool (2016 – The Full Ponty); this time we were approaching our goal from 500m below summit in Abergavenny and essentially starting the day with a 500m climb.
MB Swindon visit the Iron Mountain
We set off in good spirits, even though I had fully briefed the gang in the car park about what we had in store: “See that up there? We are pedalling up it!”
After a gentle start along Sustrans National Route 46, we soon began to climb Gilwern Hill. For the most part it was a road surface so it was a simple mater of getting on with it and pedalling. But as we left the road, aiming for the old service road along the side of the hill, my preparation of this section of the route failed me a little, resulting in a short hike-a-bike to the level ground. After a little laugh at the situation, a snack and well earned leg rest, a nervous ride leader began wondering if he was going to make it home without being lynched so we set off again.
The landscape is amazing. To one side we have views of the Black Mountains and on the other the rugged and scarred landscape of the industrial revolution and Blaenavon’s World Heritage Site. The weather was very kind to us and from the high points of our ride we could see the River Severn and across to England.
Before our first bit of downwards related fun, we had a puncture in the group that was fixed while the back marker took the opportunity to have an ice cream from a nearby van! We had been climbing and pedalling for almost 2 hours so we all took a knee and had a bite to eat.
Some great downhill and singletrack fun followed a brief warning about the next section, as this had been the location of a rather nasty shoulder injury for a rider in 2014 and I was a little nervous of any repetition!
A compulsory visit to the BMX track preceded our climb up to The Keepers Pond and then we hit the Iron Mountain itself for some proper off road fun.  Rock gardens, steep hill side trails and deep ferns accomanied us to the PunchBowl where we all stopped for a snack and refuel before the gruelling climb out.
But there was more fun to be had by way of a bridleway connecting our exit from the Punchbowl with the Nant Llanelen stream – cutting through some steep fields and only spoilt by a few gates. At the bottom of the descent we had a slight diversion and added a cheeky little 100m road climb in to drain the last of the reserves from our legs. But there was one more surprise in store.
I had eyed up a little segment on Strava through Ffrwd Wood for a finale of down hill fun; what we found was a sweet little trail on the hill side that kept us on our toes and our brakes, as locals had dug all sorts of jumps and drops in to the steep banks.
By the time we reached the bottom, the nasty road climb had been forgotten (at least I hoped it had) and we were all smiling and excitedly reliving the trail as we rode back to the car park, this time finishing off with a gentle ride along the canal and another Sustrans cycle route.
A round of drinks in the Angel Hotel topped off an awesome ride which saw us ride a little over 30km and climb just under 1000m.
I am already scheming some new routes in the area. Who’s in?
You can see Tim’s Iron Mountain video here.

Ride Report: The Full Ponty

Just ride up there for me will you...
Just ride up there for me will you…

After a successful first effort in 2014, a recce of a much longer route and a false start last year – it was time to revisit Blaenafon and get The Full Ponty underway.

As per usual the week leading up to a ride in Wales the weather was always going to be a factor, but it looked like we might just catch a lucky break and the magnificent 7 set off from a car park in Pontypool right on schedule at 10am.

Within 2 mins and before we could even appoint a back marker for the day, we realised that we had left someone behind. Matt had done a loop of his car and found an open window and we had disappeared around the corner.  A quick about face and we were together again and off past the rugby ground (“They’ll never believe it in Pontypool!”), through Pontypool Park and beginning our epic journey.

The plan was a gentle start to warm us up with around 15km of very novice friendly canal and cycle track. At the first “hurdle” ie negotiating a left turn up a little bank we had a broken chain. This could become a long day but Jonathan fixed it and off we sped. Oh yes I said “sped”. The gentle cycle track start turned in a bit of a race – with the likes of Michael Duller and Graham Burgess in our party there was only going to be one pace for this section.

Fantastic views
Fantastic views

After winding our way not so slowly up the valley, gaining a steady bit of height, we left the safety of the cycle track and began our mountain bike ride proper.  Parts of the route were a little vague and over grown since my last visit so we found ourselves on a short hike a bike until we eventually found ourselves admiring our first view of the day from Mynnyd Farteg Fach, looking bck down the valley we had ridden and with fantastic visibility all the way across the River Severn. Perfect.

If the cycle track (Sustrans Route 492 for those interested) was tame in terms of skill required the Coity Mountain track was going to require some patience, balance and poise in order to navigate the puddles and ruts.

This bit was mostly flat
This bit was mostly flat

After a rather bumpy traverse for around 5km, the rain showing its face and a few short descents we had passed Big Pit and were heading up the Dyne Steel Incline.  This was a steam-powered tramroad that carried tram loads of cast iron up and over the hill between the Blaenavon Ironworks and Pwll Du.  Today it served as  grassy climb, to our lunch stop before our second “mechanical” by way of a puncture, and before we headed through the tip spoils and towards The Keepers Pond.

Only a little bit boggy
Only a little bit boggy

After a brief explanation of the history of the Keepers Pond (this was where you might find your missing stolen car 20-30 years), the gang headed onto the Blorenge. The Blorenge mountain is just so much fun!  Starting with some small rock gardens, we made our way to the fun descent that eventually leads us down to the Punchbowl.

Lunch
Lunch

This downhill is a real treat and a highlight from the last trip to the area, this time the ferns were not as high and it was slightly easier to navigate. Though it is impossible to remember the location of all the rocks and it keeps you on your toes all the way to the bottom.  From here it was a simple matter of following the trail around the mountain to the next, slightly steeper descent to the Punchbowl.

IMG_1236

At some point along this section yours truly caught a pedal on a rock and was thrown off the bike, neatly landing with my knee on a soft bed of thistle that was to make my knee tingle for the rest of the day. No real harm done though, so I caught my breath and we set off again to find that my pedal was now a little wobbly as I had bent the spindle hitting the rock.

I have been to the Punch Bowl many times and it never rains for me when I am there. Its like a sun trap or some sort of oasis smelling only a little bit of sheep poo. Its a lovely spot and don’t worry we’ll go back again soon.

After climbing (literally) back out and making our way up to the masts above Blaenafon, we had past our halfway mark and were heading for fun-ville! Time for some action among the tip spoils – one of my favourite parts of the ride we did in 2014, but also the spot were we broke a rider who ended up in hospital with a broken shoulder.  So a quick “be careful” briefing was followed by grins and skids as we twisted our way through the waste land to Balls Pond and for a lap of the BMX track. What a great day we were having!

Blaenavon BMX Track
Blaenavon BMX Track

After topping up with some snacks and water at a garage we then continued on the journey back to Pontypool via the moorland above Cwmavon Woods and onto Mynydd Garn-wen.  A recently maintained mountain bridle way was our route for the next few miles.  Some drainage treatment and a few token piles of stones to ease the boggy bits, made it passable and fun.

The skies were clearing of clouds and we could see clearly the route we had traversed along the along the other side of the valley and we could now see Pontypool as we were getting close to the start.  The Folly Tower in Trevethin was a welcome sight as I knew this marked the top of our final descent. The views from here are stunning and the smiles on our faces grew as we headed off down hill towards Pontypool Park and the twisty downhill runs by the ski slope.

Folly Tower
Folly Tower

The trails are a scruffy criss cross of berms and jumps through dark woods making it both exciting and tricky to follow. Still we had a great time and all arrived back safely at the car park.

I’d like to thank Jonathan, Graham, Gary, Matt, Michael and Chris for coming along and making it such a good day out. A good proper mountain bike ride which I believe had just about everything we could have wished for, especially some sun shine!

Mr Blue Sky
Mr Blue Sky

CANCELLED – The Iron Mountain

23 July: This ride has now been cancelled. Apologies for the short notice.

For those that missed last year’s The Pond’s, The Pit and The Punchbowl ride led by Tim, now is your chance to have a go. And this revisit to Blaenavon promises to be bigger and better.

A longer ride to the start will wind us a few miles on a traffic free cycle track, up the valley from Pontypool to Blaenavon, where we’ll join the route of year’s ride, with some alterations. We won’t be missing out the best bits; hopefully we will be adding some more highlights! Then the journey back will take in Mynydd Garn-Wen with interesting buildings and maybe even a Holy Well.

If the weather is kind we should get some stunning views and great riding conditions.

Please note that the increased distance and amount of climbing to be done mean that this ride is suited to the fitter or more experienced rider.