So, here we are in Wales; in August 2021.
Not a great time to go in the peak holiday season with the British and Welsh public emerging hell for leather from serial lockdowns – but we did.
I know we’ve missed out the rest of Scotland (completed in September) and north west England (tried to complete but caught COVID so had to get home quickly!)
Wales was do-able in the time we had and so in early August we set off for Queensferry on the river Dee. Got as far as the Mumbles, went home, and…..
And here we are again in October to finish off Wales!
We had no pre-conceptions about Wales, beyond Snowdon and hilly Pembrokeshire from a previous trip, so we approached with an open mind and three or four campsites booked. The rest we would make up as we went along.
So how would we sum up Wales?
- “Beautiful beaches”
- “Interesting people/strong identity”.
- “Industrial legacy”
And its under those remarks that we will talk about our time in Wales.
We’re used to hills – the Alps, Pyrenees, Scotland, New Zealand. But continuous short (not always) very sharp (25%)? It sort of grinds you down. And they mostly seemed to be on NCN routes as they headed merrily inland saying bye bye to the flat coastal main roads with a cheery wave and a sinister laugh!
There is also a lack of signposts inland – is there a wartime “need to know” thing going on? But it’s so easy to get lost – Mike did try once and after several 20% gradients and missing signposts he gave up and battled with the traffic.
To pick out one hill it has to be the Stwlan Dam road – short at not much more than 4km but an AVERAGE gradient of 10% with even some alpine style hairpins thrown in for good measure. Nice to have ridden it – big tick!
I think we said this about Scotland, and Northumberland, so now Wales. I guess if you think about it we have fabulous beaches everywhere in the United Kingdom – but as many people add “if you get the weather!” But you don’t need 30 degrees and clear blue skies to appreciate a great beach – the best can shine through even in a winter storm.
So what were the beach highlights – immediately coming to mind is the beach at Borth especially when you throw in a fabulous sunset; but all along Cardigan Bay from Harlech down to New Quay there were magnificent beaches around every headland.
And unlike the packed beaches of Rhyl etc in North Wales most on the west coast were empty – or so big that the crowds could lose themselves.
Interesting people/Strong identity
It’s not just the old adage about switching to Welsh when an English person comes into a shop – that’s an old-fashioned view – but it is about the teaching of and IN Welsh. It’s about pride in being Welsh. Does it all go back to the English in the 15th century never capturing Owen Glandur and the mystery of what happened to the last Welsh Prince of Wales? Maybe the guy with the jeep was a descendant?
OK, so the signposts are puzzling and slightly annoying when you try to read it and then realise you are reading the Welsh!
We restarted Wales in October where we left off at the Mumbles ( to be honest it started with Fiona cycling from Frampton on Severn to Chepstow along – besides – rivers and canals), just outside Swansea. Had a night in the Mumbles car park before Mike set off trying to follow NCN 4 through Swansea docklands and into the industrial “legacy” that is Port Talbot with the steel works still pumping out fumes with the hills and valleys off to the left – very atmospheric.
More industry from Newport to Chepstow with the old LLanwern steelworks. Indeed there was so many derelict buildings that it was difficult to know which was working, which mothballed and which long gone. All you can say is that most buildings bore the name Tata and Liberty (of Greensill fame). A sad time for the people and livelihoods.
On then through Bristol – nice overnight at Kings Weston House for free – to Weston-super-Mare…then home for the winter!
Depends on the weather. Could be the West Country before the tourist season starts but may be at Storm Zebede by then!!