WEST WALES QUEST ... AND SOUTH .... PART TWO
Mark Jacobson continues his quest for BCQ clues ...
Llanybri is a small hill-top village. Leaving the campsite under a grey formless sky, I took the bus route towards Carmarthen. With an absence of direction signs and some lanes not marked on the OS map, I rode on in ignorance of direction and, just 40 minutes later, ascended a very long, steep (14%) climb … to pass the camp site!
Rethinking my way, I finally came down to Llansteffan and the B4312 for Carmarthen, a frustrating loss of time and energy. Here a bakers provided a breakfast snack and I proceeded out of the built-up area by following NCN4, a good move excepting for the very hilly section where it follows a lane, missing out on the loop of the A484, which has virtually no cycle path.
At Pwll I took to the Millennium Cycle Path, a very pleasant coastal route through to Llanelli and beyond to Swansea Bay, where I made a tea stop. I then tried to find a lane to lead me towards Neath Abbey, avoiding the unknown NCN4 route or the busy A-roads: this went awry as I finished up on a track alongside the canal but, taking advice from a dog-walker, this proved to be an excellent way to reach Skeven where, being left at an unsigned T-junction when following cycle route signs, further advice from a shop-keeper put me on track for my next camp site at Ty Canol Farm, at the end of Penyard Road in Neath Abbey. It had not been a good day for navigation!
One thing of particular note while riding in these very wet conditions between the high banks either side of the road was the strong scent of garlic; looking carefully at the vegetation, I could see that wild garlic plants lined the road at the base of the banks, the scent emanating form that source.
Next day I left early to avoid too much traffic on my way through Neath to Afan Forest Park, It was raining by the time I got there, so I did not linger, just continuing to climb to Cymer, where the roads split in an unusual way, and I could begin my downhill valley route along the A4063 by making a steep climb.
Dropping into Maesteg gave me the opportunity for a refreshment stop, and to get advice on my continued route to avoid the now heavier traffic which funnels into this deep valley. On reaching Tondu I found my turn-off along the B4281 which climbed up quite a way before a lane which cut across to Laleston and a short stretch of the busy A48. After less than a mile I could leave that for the lane through Merthyr Mawr to join the B4265 for Llantwit Major; here I had an early lunch and found the Quest clue, as well as getting information on trains to Merthyr Tydfil.
Although the train journey and initial wait would not really save any time on cycling there, it would certainly save a great deal of energy! So I took the train to arrive at Merthyr by 3 pm, three hours from my lunch! Arriving at Merthyr station I saw no signs for the Taff Trail and stopped briefly for shopping in Tesco before trying to find my way out of town, avoiding the very busy roads, to the Brecon Mountain Railway: this proved quite difficult but, eventually, I found someone who actually knew which way I should go!
Finally climbing to Dowlais I missed the turn for a quiet lane as its only sign was for a Catholic Church! In consequence I reached the roundabout on the A485, where the sign gave the necessary information: I had to stay on this for less than half a mile, but rode fast downhill, only getting hooted at by a taxi driver!
I reached the Railway tearoom by 16:20 to find them still open - a welcome refreshment stop. Quest done, I then took to the road parts of NCN8, past the reservoirs and climbing over the divide to rush down to Aber. Although a camp site is shown on my OS map, there was no indication of this so I proceeded to Talybont-0n-Usk where, to my relief, I saw the sign for Talybont Farm Camping and Caravanning! Arriving at 5:50 pm, I was glad to have a rest.
Keeping to the lane west of the River Usk until Llangynidr, I stopped for a while at the very narrow bridge, where some cars could only just get through. It is not a bridge one would want to get stuck on. Not far beyond the crossing, I turned south along a very narrow lane: the hedges had been cut well, leaving just a car's width for use. Eventually dropping down near the river it then ascended to Tretower along a Victorian avenue with extremely tall sequoia trees along one side. After finding the Quest clue in Tretower, I joined the A40 for two miles to Crickhowell where the family baker has an excellent tea room and fantastic display of in-house cakes and pies!
From here is a cross-country lane, inevitably hilly, eastwards, meeting at its end the road from Abergavenny for Llanthony Priory, my next Quest site.
From there I had a choice to make: 11 miles south for Abergavenny and lunch, followed by at least 15 hilly miles to Tintern Abbey for a Quest, and then about ten miles for a camp site, or 10 miles northwards over the Gospel Pass to Hay-on-Wye for lunch and a camp site at Clyro, omitting the Tintern Abbey Quest for another trip.
Judging by the weather, the Gospel Pass won out! As expected, the ascent was slow and quite hard, but, also as anticipated, the descent was particularly difficult, being steep, windy and of fairly poor surface. A slow pace had to be maintained all the way down. Arriving in time for a good lunch at the Granary Café, I was even given an extra bowl of salad with my meal! After shopping for the evening meal, I rode on to Radnor's End camp site (used previously about twenty years earlier) and set up camp. The name of this site comes from 1973 in the knowledge that the county of Radnorshire would soon disappear ing the reorganisation of 1974. I slept a while and woke to find another lightweight camper resting alongside his tent. He proved to be Lewis Flanagan, from Bedworth, walking the End to End and using part of Offa's Dyke, as a fund-raising walk for charity, in his case, the Birmingham Children’s' Hospital.
Setting off from Radnor's End, I missed the heavy showers and the (unsigned) lane for Old Radnor, instead reaching the A44, which climbed for about a mile to the next turn for Pencraig, to give it its Welsh name: from this it would obviously be a hilltop village. So, after the climb, the Quest, and then back down the descent to the A44, I soon crossed for the B4357 to Knighton, a rather hilly route. To avoid the final hill crossing, I turned off that lane to the B4356/A488, a longer but kinder road, reaching Knighton for lunch. Stopping at the George & Dragon pub for lunch and an ale, I passed some time. However, after that I was still in advance of my train home by some four hours.
So now I have just two Welsh Quests to complete!
Camp sites used:
Ty Canol Farm Camping And Caravan Site, Penyard Road, Neath Abbey, Neath, SA10 7EY
Tel: 01792 814172
Talybont Farm Caravan & Camping, Talybont Farm, Talybont On Usk, LD3 7YJ
Tel: 01874 676674
Radnors End Campsite, Radnors End, Hay On Wye, HR3 5RS
Tel: 01497 820780
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2016