A Micro Adventure in Wales
Wednesday 21 March
An Easter Bikepacking pilgrimage.
Not far from where we live in Mid Wales is a bothy called Claerddu. It is managed by the Elan Valley trust and is unusual in that it has a flushing toilet as well as a sink with running water. We had been wanting to go and stay in it for a while and just before the Easter break we realised that we had a small window of opportunity to do it. We had already spent a few evenings hovering over the OS map figuring out our route. Our self set brief was to be able to ride there and back from our house with as much offroad as possible. Choosing the route was the fun bit. We pieced together bridlepaths and byways, some we knew existed and some we werent so sure of. We decided to ride across what is called The Monks Trod, an ancient pilgrimage route across the Cambrian mountains connecting the monastaries of Abbey Cwm Hir and Strata Florida. It is a BOAT (Byway open to all traffic) but has had restrictions put on it stopping motor vehicles from using it. This route would drop us down onto a track that leads to the Teifi Pools and our home for the night.
The weather forecast for Good Friday wasn’t definitely not good! We loaded our bikes up the night before using Alpkit bike luggage as well as improvising with various bits of velcro and gaffa tape. We packed as light as we could, taking the bare minimum of supplies. Knowing that despite our excellent waterproofs we were likely to arrive drenched, a full set of dry clothes went into a dry bag and was attached to the handlebars of our bikes.
We headed off, having to negotiate a busy main road for a few miles before veering off onto some lovely quiet country lanes that follow the river wye south towards Rhayader. After that we pushed and rode up a steep grassy climb, followed by an entertaining sheep track descent through long grass down towards the Monks Trod.
Once on track we were in familiar territory having ridden this section dozens of times over the years of guiding the TransCambrian. It didn’t take us too long from there to reach the bothy, both desperately hoping that it wasn’t completely full.
After dropping down past some huge wind turbines I realised that I am extremely hungry and have eaten everything in my possession! That big climb had really sapped my energy and I needed food! We pressed onwards knowing we were still a few hours away from anything resembling civilization but just trying to keep a positive attitude and keeping each other going. Its good to get to those places where you feel like you can’t go on but have to, that’s where we learn resilience (and to pack more food next time!!).
We finally arrived in Llangurig and headed straight to the Blue Bell for a pint of beer and fish and chips which we literally inhaled like some deranged people before riding the few miles back home feeling tired but very happy.
We had escaped for a few days, left the world behind and had only had to think about turning the pedals. We didn’t go to distant countries but we did discover places near home we had never seen. We hadn’t had to spend vast amounts of money on kit or flights and we hadn’t had to take any time off work either. I highly recommend grabbing an OS map of your area, making a plan with a friend and seeing what sort of mini adventure you can find out there!