Elenydd – the Green Desert of Wales

…there is only so much you can do.
But, if you do that much
then you really do get somewhere….

…time was passing by showing no mercy and I was still looking for an opportunity to try out how my bike would handle in terrain while loaded. Time, commitments, weather… none of them seemed deigned to cooperate with the rest or even be wiling to meet halfway, when suddenly… all this faded into significance.  It was then that time appeared out of nowhere, forecast didn’t seem as grim and commitments ended up tied up in the basement. I was heading out!
It was supposed to be a day trip leading me around the Tywi Forest in Mid Wales and stretch between the Brianne and Claerwen reservoirs. A loop that would allow me to examine my setup in different conditions while keeping me entertained with sightseeing at the same time. Although the forecast was not in favor of longer errands, on Saturday morning I loaded up my bike with “dead weight” worth a couple of days riding and threw it in my car boot to head in the direction of Llandovery. 

Loaded up and just waiting to start. 

Arriving on site I was welcomed with rather foul weather – for the last hour of my drive I have been alternately crossing under rain shedding clouds and hovering over sun spells thrown upon hills and valleys. It was to late to turn back and… I wanted to get out and cycle a bit!
Clipped in, calves tense, I enjoyed an immense beginning. Tarmac quickly gave way to rubble roads climbing alongside the forest and – from time to time – offering views of a land known by its ancient name of Elenydd. Weather gave up the constant raining and was serving lazy spells now and then.

This will be the last view of my starting point for that day.

Currently the stunning area I was traveling through is more often referred to as the Green Desert of Wales – which well describes the desolate and unfriendly, but beautiful moorland surrounding me – it truly is impossible to leave this place having dry feet…

Plenty of those around so I didn’t mind stopping to take a picture.

While planning my trip I decided to tackle a moorland crossing, underestimating the mischievous nature of these hills yet another time. My first encounter happened exactly one year ago in Elan Valley when the Old Monks’ Trod  welcomed me with a bath in one of the smelly and boggy puddles which first pulled half of my front wheel into its abyss then myself shortly thereafter. This time I decided to play it safe, especially since after two weeks of constant rain the trails were completely soaked. Then again, the crossing consisted mainly out of pushing and carrying my bike and took well over 2 hours. What I got in return were the most stunning empty spaces emerging from behind every hill I passed on my way, even the weather favored me with clear sunny skies for the hole duration of the moorland travel.

Pain for legs, gain for eyes.

Averaging single km/h has slowed my advance considerably and the sun already started its decent some time ago. After reaching the paved section at the Claerwen reservoir and decided for another moorland crossing instead of circumnavigating the reservoir as planned. The second moorland outing proved even worse – or maybe it was my fatigue – and the initially great track first deteriorated, then scattered into many a direction and finally disappeared under water as if it was an old Welsh custom.

Panorama somewhere around Drum Yr Eira (Snow Peak) during the first moorland crossing.
And so the sunset caught me in the middle of wilderness where I made good use of all the “ballast” I was carrying. Fortunately I was prepared and everything needed to get a good night’s sleep, before heading out home the next day, was at hand.
The night was calm and windless and the morning welcomed me with low hanging clouds, almost laying featherbed-like on the surrounding hillsides. I have swapped my dry pajamas for lightly damp cycling shorts reluctantly, and even more so slipped my hard earned warm feet into cold and completely wet shoes. What mattered the most was lack of rain, allowing me to break camp without any rush – only my stiff with cold fingers reminded me that I’m on a time schedule.

Sun rising above Elenydd.

Packing up and loading my bike went pretty fast and soon I was on my way through the last meters parting me from hard packed trails. Suddenly I realized that my  drybag has a strap allowing me to take all the load of my bike’s front and onto my back making carrying a lot easier… better late than never i guess. This is how I travel the last 2 kilometers to the gate at Carreg Wen Fawr.

There’s no pushing on the other side Dorothy.

Unfortunately above is the last picture before my battery died but since it was raining for most of the time I wouldn’t take many photographs.
A short downhill and forest road section get me to a trail locally known as “Water Splashes” – i guess it’s because of all the puddles you meet on your way. After the first hour of pedaling the lack of food and cold rain start to pester me badly. Uphills debilitate me and the wind on the downhills chills my feet into something wooden-block-like… I walk more often… stumbling ahead… above… like Pinocchio *clack*clack*.
Magnificent views don’t stop on the second day and I pass by one of the most remote chapels in Wales Soar-y-mynydd.

Ogwyn Davies Soar y mynydd

I reach my car soaked, cold and famished for food but happy with my trip as well. It definitely was fine – Wales is full of such places – and  my setup gear came up  (even exceeded) my expectations letting me enjoy two days out in beautiful wilderness.
It was good, at times hard… next time I’ll skip the moorlands.




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