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.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Barry's Island Blast

Quite simply... I had to get out. The day was cold and grey, but after two months of freezing temperatures mixed with occasional snow the weather was supposed to relax a bit. In my desire to break from the madness, I made a dash for the coast.

Can you see me in this photo?

This route is great because you get a bit of both the mountains and the sea. The ride down to Cardiff Bay rolls easily down through the valleys and he ride back takes you up through the Vale of Glamorgan.I hadn't planned to take any photos, but I was so glad to be out, I just photographed whatever sparked my interest.

Note: The Milleneum Centre is at the heart of Cardiff Bay and it's here that the Taff Trail starts. However, I couldn't find the Taff Trail marker that's shown in Wikipedia?

I first went down to Cardiff and had a bit of a wander around the bay. It's roughly 10 miles across NCN Route 47 to Quakers Yard where I hop on the Taff Trail. It's then an easy 22 mile ride south on mostly traffic-free cycle paths to the bay. (More on the Taff Trail is to come... stay tuned!)

Old and new sit side by side throughout much of Cardiff, but the Grade I listed Pierhead Building is the centre piece of the bay front.

Cardiff offers everything you'd expect from a national capital city, but in a much smaller package. With a population of roughly 360,000 and an area of 54 square miles - it's tiny! (Raleigh, NC is approximately 145 square miles with a population of nearly 500,000.)

The Norwegian Arts Centre and Penarth in the far distance (on the hill).

ROUTE COLOUR KEY:  Traffic-free  Shared Use  Quiet Road  Steep Hill

Looking back at bay from the new cycle & walking path.

The wind picked up and the temperature dropped significantly, but this only added to the atmosphere cycling across the barrage.

Despite the kids being out from school for half-term, the skate park was empty.

I did't purposely shoot images without people, it just happened that hardly anyone was out. It felt very odd?!? Crossing the barrage takes you directly to the trendy town of Penarth.

You can't hardly go a mile without finding something of historical significance. Here we have the memorial to Robert Falcon Scott and his fateful trip to reach the South Pole in 1910. The sails are a tribute to his ship; the Terra Nova.

This area is usually crowded with tourists walking or cycling and boats passing through the locks. Check out: Things to do in Cardiff Bay.

I really dig the big machines used to operate the gates and move cargo. It's a short ride across the bay, but there's such a diversity of buildings.

Smooth cycling today... all three bridges are down.

Stately even in disrepair...

Re-purposed into a fabulous restaurant and hotel.

Looking back at the barrage and across the bay.

If you noticed from the previous photos, Penarth sits high above the bay, but the council have built the best set of switch-backs to reach the top.

Just about at the top... two more turns to make.

It's cute. It's trendy. It's full of young lovely people. The architecture is classical Victorian and well-groomed. And everything is over-priced.

Penarth reminds me of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

It's an unassuming start and not marked well at all, but just below the Railway Hotel, tucked in s small alley is the start of the route to Barry Island.

Railway Walk

Apparently the locals put up quite a fight against having this made into an official cycle route (NCN Route 88). The old railway line hadn't been used for years and the residents were worried that the pedestrian traffic would turn this into an "escape route" for vandals?!?

You do get some glares from pedestrians and folks seem bothered when they hear a bell politely ringing behind them (you've seen the type that just stop and turn around, standing where they are, usually in the middle of the path, fully aware of what the ringing bell implies... and then they just look at you), but despite the surly locals, it's a stunning little section to start out on.

Before reaching the town of Barry, you pass through the super-sleepy villages of Swanbridge and Sully. Blink and you'll miss'em, but they're terribly cute and rather posh.

Sully Island

Sully Island connecting to the mainland at low-tide.

I should have photographed some of the route from Sully to Barry because it's interesting in places as it moves through the docks... but coming into town, you get this magnificent building. In fact, the story of David "Top Sawyer" Davies and his family legacy is an interesting read.

The cycle route goes past right in front...

The statue of David Davies standing proud in front of his offices.

To fully appreciate Wales and the Valleys, you simply must watch the television sitcom Gavin & Stacey. I named this ride "Barry's Island" in homage to James Gordon's character; Smithy who always got the name wrong. It's actually Barry Island (without the 's).

Gavin & Stacey
I haven't ever included a video in one of my ride reports, but because this show set in Barry Island and was so surprising when I first came to Wales, I just had to share. Plus, it is so unlike anything American. I just fell in love with the characters and the quaint (yet quite vulgar!) stories. And yes... this is very Welsh. A sublime treat.

As I was writing this report, I began looking back over the enormous amount of photos I've embedded in the article and I asked myself if I was losing something about the ride... that is; the ride itself?!?!

ROUTE COLOUR KEY:  Traffic-free  Shared Use  Quiet Road  Steep Hill

I had cycled roughly 45 miles in total by the time I reached Barry Island. It's an easy jaunt to be honest. There are a couple of short sections where you have some busy traffic, but honestly if you have a family that is accustomed to longer rides; I'd recommend this route.

I've said numerous times... and I swear by it; if flying to the UK, Cardiff is THE best airport to use. It's surprisingly small for an international airport. Getting through customs and baggage claim is a breeze. I've flown to Wales three times with a bike and I checked in/out in less than 30 minutes.

I'll probably write/record a trip just about arriving at the airport and cycling the short 15 miles to Cardiff. It's a great starting point and far, far better than trying to use a London or Bristol airport. Meanwhile, let's get back to pottering around lovely Barry Island.

The wind picked up and the temperature dropped as soon as I stopped, but there were still some folks out wandering the beach.

I quickly had my lunch and coffee then hopped back on my bike for the return trip home.

There are loads of wide walking & cycling paths that lead you all over the island. It's tiny, but a great place to explore with three distinct bays each having unique looks and attractions.

How long have they laid in the bay. How much longer will they lie? Everywhere you look there are markers from another time.

And then turning back across the main road from the island, there's another hidden bit of architecture to remind you of the layers of history embedded throughout this country.

It was early afternoon; time to start heading back. There's a shorter route through the Vale of Glamorgan that's a bit of a climb, but it's lovely in places and sits high above the coast.

ROUTE COLOUR KEY:  Traffic-free  Shared Use  Quiet Road  Steep Hill

Looking back toward Barry and the Bristol Channel the clouds are thick and the air felt heavy. It's a fairly tough 10 miles to the top of the ridge. I had more traffic than I was expecting... plus I was getting tired.

A somber view...

... nothing but the wind whispering over the grass

Back on quiet roads... empty and lovely.

Of course there are some grand estates about (this is just a gatehouse...). It's 's also wine country!

Farms in the "High Country"...

Coming down from the high country, you first drop into the adorable little village of Miskin. I just love the architecture. It's so incredibly quaint.

Just as I was shooting a few photos, two (seperate) ladies popped their heads out their front doors and asked if I needed help and if I was lost. Makes me laugh to think of these little ladies watching out their windows and wondering; "what is he doing out there?"

Nosy Nora!... are you in there?

The ride home from Miskin was back on a cycle path. Though it's not listed as part of the NCN, I've heard rumours that it might be the new route 4? It's a great route and much easier than the existing mountain monster out of Pontypridd.

The first section runs for 3.5 miles from Llantrisant (just past Miskin) to Church Village. It can be a little tricky to follow as it passes the roundabouts for the A473

But once at Church Village the next 3.5 miles are a breeze... all the way into Pontypridd.

Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd is a great place to take a break. It sits along eastern side of the River Taff while on the western side is the Pontypridd High Street with every convenience you'd want or need.

It's also here that I rejoin the Taff Trail (NCN Route 8) to make my way home just a I came. At Quakers Yard I change to NCN Route 47 and turn east to cycle the last 10 miles to Oakdale.

Report Card
Ride Name: Barrys Island Blast
Start Date: Sat. Apr. 12, 2018
Starts in: Oakdale, Wales, GB
Departed: 8:40 AM
Distance: 82.1 / 132.1 km
Elevation: + 4557 / - 4553 ft
Max Grade: 9.4%
Total Duration: 09:24:28
Moving Time: 07:05:43
Stopped Time: 02:18:45
Max. Speed: 31.8 mph
Avg. Speed: 11.6 mph
Weather: cloudy
Temperature: 10°c / 50°f

To summarise this ride I should first point out that this was only the second solitaire I've made this year when it didn't rain. It was fabulous to be dry for the entire day.

Secondly, this trip deserves to be made when the weather is nice; ie. the sun is shining. Cardiff is a fabulous capital with a lovely skyline, enchanting city park, and many, many interesting places to showcase. Penarth has a wonderful beach front and pier - which I missed completely and deserves more attention. Then my photos fail to capture the quirkiness, the vintage feel, and the overall romantic side to Barry Island.

I didn't set out to make this a big ride. Essentially, I just wanted to go for a long ride, but the dark skies and lack of people made it quite unique, so I spent more time wandering about and taking photos.

Thanks as always for visiting...

Cheers! - cm

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Gallery: 2016 Barry Island
I first cycled to Barry Island back in the summer of 2016. I shot
a few photographs which you can view in a small gallery.

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