This is my love letter to Wales. I am fascinated with it's rich history and rugged landscape. Within 50 miles I can travel over 5000 years. The Bronze and Iron Ages, the Middle Ages, and the not so distant Industrial Revolution all huddle beside each other amongst the verdant Southeast Valleys. This is where I ride and this is why I write.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Daffodils & Disasters

I first wrote this report for Ride with GPS in the Spring of 2017, so it's not only important to get a version posted to my site, but it's incredibly fitting to point out the extremely different weather we're having this year.

This overall route includes three distinct parts: Manmoel, Quoits Wood, and Sirhowy Country Park. I generally cycle this route as part of short warm-up on the day before I make a longer ride. This report focuses on the section down to and through Sirhowy Park.

There's an old quary by the side of the road heading through Gelligroes.

Compared to the US, there are not a lot of roads in Wales. Of course, this country is tiny. It's fairly close to the size of Connecticut and has a population of just over three million.

It's dark and murky and smells funky... salamander and toad nirvana.

Many of the old main roads have been superseded with dual-lane elevated motorways. It's quite a good solution, because it takes the busy thru-traffic away from the villages and keeps the small roads quiet and quaint villages intact. Also, there just isn't a lot room to build roads... this one simply couldn't be much wider without taking down a mountain or moving a river.

This was once the main road, but there's not much traffic now... the Sirhowy River flows along the opposite side.

The South Wales Valleys are steep, long and narrow. They generally run north from the southeastern coast up to the Brecon Beacons. All of the original roads were built for horse and wagons, whilst many of the cycle paths I follow were once dram ways or later; rail lines.

He was just a 25 year-old boy with a homemade wireless up in a tree.

You can't go far without seeing something of historical merit in this country. In 1912 a young man who lived and worked at this mill was the first in the UK to hear the distress signal from the HMS Titanic. It's an interesting read; Arti Moore.

The old road is cut off just past the bridge, but fortunately I can make my way up this charming little path to continue.

The topography of this part of Wales is defined by rivers and valleys. If you look down at your hand and imagine your fingers as the ridges and the spaces between as the valleys, you'd have a pretty good idea of the landscape. Most everyone lives in small towns or villages along the valleys and the ridges are often barren, but for sheep (and now wind turbines).

This is the new main road heading down Sirhowy Valley. Gelligroes is below on the right.

Many valleys had two train lines running up and down on opposite sides; one for coal and the other for passenger service. There was generally one main road that connected the villages and followed the river. When I get down to the bottom of this road, I'll cross over the Sirhowy River and head back up the other side through Sirhowy Country Park.

Avoiding rush hour combined with speed limits of 30 mph makes scooting through the villages a pleasure.

I love Wales. It's so damn cute. It's like living in a model railway. It's got every imaginable land and water feature - all packed into one small space. I can cycle from the mountains of the Brecon Beacons to the coast in 50 miles. Its mind-boggling to see so much diversity in such a short distance. And all this was cut by glaciers, so it's rough and rugged with deep gorges and rocky outcrops. Plus, there is so much history. It just oozes old, old world.

Looking west across Sirhowy Valley... you can make out the country park route as it runs along below the rock face.

Across the river and heading back north through Sirhowy Country Park on what was once an old dram way.

Now on the other side of the valley and looking across toward the back side of Wattsville.

The Sirhowy River

Yup... there's four uninterupted miles to this gem...

In 2013 the Welsh Government passed the "Active Travel Act" which "creates new duties for local governments and highways authorities to address the needs of walkers and cyclists and make better provision for them..." As part of the National Cycle Network, NCN 47 passes through Sirhowy Country Park and is a showcase example of cycling & walking paths outlined for use in Wales.

Loads of interesting things to see, explore and wonder...

Looking back down the valley...

Passing under an abandoned bridge at the top of the park... just about to head out.

As I was finishing this report, I realized that I should have thought about writing this in three parts to reflect the three sections of the ride. But since I have already written about Manmoel, that kinda foils my grand idea. Regardless, if you are reading my reports, you might notice that some of the common routes are often included in the larger/longer maps.

Thanks again for stopping by. cheers! cm

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