CYCLING IN DYSYNNI WORLD
Long tours grab attention, but Steve Dyster, for one, has missed the short rides in beautiful places, as much as the multi-day trips, during the Covid lockdown. Here’s an old favourite, to be, hopefully, revisited soon.
The world of the Dyssynni: no Mickey Mouse ride, but no points for endurance either. A potter around the lovely Dysynni valley on a sunny day, covering a few miles, is amongst the best value scenery-to-effort rides around. With only a couple of short ascents, despite being amongst the foothills of Cader Idris, puritanicalriders should feel guilty at the thought of so much pleasure with so little pain.
The Afon Dysynni pours out of Tal-y-llyn Lake and descends, as mountain streams do, in bursts of foaming energy and lazy stretches of recovery. A very pleasant – and none too busy – road follows along. Even better, the Dysynni is that it has a sudden surprise. It looks as if it is destined for Tywyn the easy way. Then, at Abergynolwen, it suddenly twists northward and the valley-sides press in. A side road climbs steeply, but not for long, soon levelling out and descending through woodland. The feeling is that of crossing into another valley – but down to the left the swirling river can still be seen. Road and river then emerge in a wide, flat-bottomed valley, of the type that is especially pleasing to teachers of physical geography; steep sides and fertile floor. From here to the sea, and up to the head of what is technically a side valley, is to be had as much fine riding as one may find in many more hard-earned miles elsewhere.
NCR8 runs up the valley from Tywyn and, though staying in Abergynolwen, this is the way my route went the first time I headed along the lower Dysynni. NCR8 leaves the main coast road at Bryncrug, having passed the pastures and salt marsh around the estuary. The sea used to wash the base of Craig yr Aderyn (prosaically Bird Rock, in English) – the shapely “rock “ that draws the eye from many parts of the valley. As far as Craig yr Aderyn the watery past is evident from the rough, scrubby grazing amidst the drainage channels.
The little lane – fortunately the refuse collection lorry came round the corner at a junction where there was space to pull over – confronts the rider with Craig yr Aderyn with surprising suddenness, this side-road having kept the rider close in to the valley side thus far. With little warning, the crags pile up to the skyline as they leap from the flat farmland without the hesitation of a gentle grassy run up. Unsurprisingly, this eminence is believed to be the only inland home to a colony of cormorants in the UK.
NCR8 turns left here, towards Llanegryn, a village seemingly full of chapels and former chapels, then turns up a road that becomes a track as it heads over the hills and out of the valley as it goes to Arthog, on the Mawddach estuary, or Dolgellau. On the way, it crosses the River Dysynni in its constricted channel, overhung by trees, passing gently on the way to the sea or rushing in spate.
Keeping right at Craig yr Aderyn takes the cyclist – and but one car was seen that afternoon – past neat farms and isolated cottages. Crossing streams and winding along to reach a pair of left turns: one a short dead end, the other a longer cul de sac for a road bike, though a determined mountain bike rider may get further.
All will easily reach the prominent mound upon which stands Castell-y-Bere. Initially well camouflaged, the walls merge almost seamlessly with the rock on which they were built, until a closer view is gained. There is a small car park next to the bike stands and picnic table. The castle is surprisingly large and well worth exploring. Built by Llewellyn the Great it was the last of the Welsh castles to be captured by the invading English when Edward I finally managed to impose his imperialist designs. Even if history is not the thing, the castle provides such a panoramic viewpoint that it should not be missed. Free entrance, too!
Further up the valley are Llanfihangel-y-pennant and Tyn-y-ddol. Both are associated with Mary Jones, a girl whose twenty-five mile hill-walk to Bala to get a Welsh-language Bible, is said to have lead to the formation of the Foreign Bible Society. Even riding round the valley twice will not match that distance.
From there a mountain biker might keep on ahead The potterer will probably turn back, either to ride the lanes in the opposite direction or head up the Dysynni to the café or pub in Abergynolwen, or wherever fancy takes.
If the bike stands along the valley came as a surprise at first, they were soon explained by the presence in the café at Abergynolwen of a leaflet on cycling in the Dysynni Valley, This route started at Tywyn and did not take in Tal-y-llyn Lake or the road that runs for a short distance along a balcony above Abergynolwen. For the experienced rider, it will pose little challenge, However, if, as the years fly by, I am surprised that at the end of a short day I have a feeling of satisfied well-being that is normally reserved for grander things, I will just remember my little tour of the Dysynni.
PUBLISHED MARCH 2021