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Llangammarch to Rhayader and back

A mostly road ride – the weather wasn’t encouraging – with short stretches of tracks. No great long traverses, but some pleasant riding and some to avoid. Landranger map 147. The first of two rides in a cycling weekend in late March 2009, staying at Llangammarch Wells.

The morning was almost entirely lanes, following what may be a Sustrans route. We took the B-road to Newbridge, turning left just before we reached it, then heading along the good track above the Wye which starts at 008603 and turns into road at 989624. We also did the mile or so of the Elan valley cycle path that runs parallel to the B4518. Pleasant but it helps if you like gates.

The afternoon showed less inclination to rain, hail etc. We took the lane towards Elan village and then the fork towards Llanwrthwl, delightful woods with trees thick with mosses and lichens. Then the bridleway starting at 957638 which traverses the shoulder above Llanwrthwl. I think it may be missing a signpost, but the track is obvious where it romps steeply up the hillside. We did not ride the first bit, but it is a lovely grassy path and eventually relents to a more manageable gradient. It descends to 971631, then we turned right on the dead-end road which climbs into moorland, becomes a track, which stops near the top. It’s thrillingly remote, but we were now faced with a soft and boggy surface, and where there must have been a track once, had been deeply cut by motor vehicles. Great scenery but not much riding.

Tarmac is regained at 948594 at good quiet lanes with farms and cottages picturesquely tucked into corners. We took the track from 944573 that takes a long way round Y Garth and through a sweetly hidden valley (932360, 943555). Some more lanes to Dolderwen and then Garth bank. The bridleway we had intended to take had been diverted so that the start was away from the house there but we managed to get back onto it, forest track then pasture. (It’s shown on our antiquated map as starting at 954512, but actually starts a little to the west.) Now a laugh. There’s a small suspension bridge to cross the river, with a sign saying use at your own risk. It is very, very swingy. You reach the road at 941498. Finally up through Coed Clunmelyn – a nice track up from 940495 but there are hawthorns – and an utterly horrid rutty descent to 923482.

Llanwrtyd to Tregaron and back

More stream than track. The roughstuff is on LR147, but LR146 is needed for the roads around Tregaron. The second ride in late March 2009.

We had seen an enticing track via Moel Prysgau to Strata Florida marked as a cycle route and I rather imagined it to be another Sustrans creation. We drove and parked at one of the Pwllbo car-parks and warmed up with the Devil’s Staircase. The so-called cycle route is not really well signposted but there aren’t many tracks here so it’s not hard to find. It starts happily enough (805569) by running up the valley. There were a few deep puddles. It had been a cold winter by recent standards but not I think particularly wet, nevertheless there was plenty of water here. Moreover the puddles were muddy so we had no idea how deep nor what boulders, shopping trolleys or other traps lay within them. As for the rest of scenery, when we weren’t concentrating on what was under our wheels; well, we went in and out of the forest but no great views.

The track showed an obvious liking for the stream, but never quite made its mind up as to whether it preferred the right or the left side: in fact as we came to realise, it was so fond of the stream that it liked best of all to go straight up the middle of it. Some of the fords were really quite deep, and even Colin couldn’t ride all of them. I confess that I was getting a little fed up with all this as it was eating into lunchtime. There was at last an end to it – the track ascends, curves to the left and there’s an unsignposted track through a gate which is the right one for Strata Florida. Great views now, and a good descent. Tarmac at 955646. Some road miles to Tregaron.

We came back on the road; we didn’t really have the time for any more roughstuff. My bike was making alarmingly sloshing noises.

The Doethie valley

A classic bridleway, done one Sunday while staying at Llanwrtyd Wells in September ’09 (having ridden the Beacons on the preceding day). ‘Explorer’ 187 is the best map.

Take the road from LLanwrtyd Wells to Abergwesyn and along the perpetually delightful Irfon valley. Cross the Devil’s Staircase and turn left at the foot to follow the Tywi valley southwards. Cross the river at the bridge at 805537 and cross westwards to the next valley, the Camddwr. Turn left and wiggle across the stream on a bridge at Soar y Mynydd, climbing a stony track which is mostly ridable. It eases off and decends to the Doethie valley, and you turn left on a bridlepath before reaching the bottom.

The next few miles are unalloyed pleasure as you pick your way along narrow singletrack traversing the steepish slopes of the valley. (Take it gently: you could easily have a nasty fall here.) At one point a signpost seems to tell you you have to turn left and climb out of the valley, but it lies. Carry on undaunted to the farmhouse at Troed-rhiw-ruddwen where you regain tarmac and continue south.

We stopped for lunch at the pub at Rhandirmwyn and basked in its sunny garden.

We continued southwards in the afternoon as far as 781422 and turned left, climbing to a cunning roughstuff shortcut connecting 786418 to 783407: this turned out to be largely ruts and puddles. Tracey could have done with less lateral thinking at this point.

You emerge in a well kept rockery (well, it puts ours to shame) and turn left onto a lane which reaches the A4096 near Cynghordy. We turned right at the junction and followed it for a couple of hundred yards until we turned left onto a minor road built by the Romans in one of their contour-ignoring moods. We climbed steadily, overtaken by a fleet of 4x4s bedecked with all the macho accoutrements yob money can buy. At 842414 the tarmac bears right but the Roman road continues straight on, stony but easily ridable. At a boggy patch we encountered the fleet of 4x4s now stationary, one of them with its bonnet open emitting steam. It was the last we saw of them.

The gradient changed to descent and we soon reached tarmac. We tried another short cut at Pantioityn but couldn’t find a way through, so it was road all the way back to Llanwrtyd Wells.

Notes: 64km, 1300m ascent, 5 ¼ hours in the saddle.

Variant

A compact circuit can be made if you get here by car.

Starting at the bridge at 805537, follow the route described above as far as Troed-rhiw-ruddwen farmhouse at the southern end of the bridlepath (772479), then follow the track north-east (steep, especially at the end) until you skirt Llyn Brianne to the south, emerging at the car park near the dam. Follow the rollercoaster road to your starting point.

Notes: 29km, 760m ascent, about 3 hours.

Disrecommended routes

From just before the woollen mill at 883474 a good track proceeds north to Gilfach and may be followed further through woods, becoming a bridleway. It’s easy to get lost, and when Colin did this on his own he eventually emerged at Bwlch-y-gorllyym-isaf (874573) without really knowing how he got there and without having enjoyed much of it.

A bridlepath connects Abergwesyn with the southern end of Llyn Brianne, making a natural circuit with the Devil’s Staircase. Ride along the driveway to the former hotel at Llwynderw (846518) and head south west along the bridleway. CTC signs offer occasional encouragement but the path is often invisible and you push almost all the way.

Cilycwm horseshoe. From the junction at 739395 follow a good but steep track NNW to a col (785412), then take the bridlepath which heads initially W, then veers NW and N to a field boundary at about 712435. So far pleasant riding on an attractive rounded ridge with no real difficulties (but not recommended in poor visibility without GPS). If you were to head down on the track to Cwrt-y-cadno you could look back on a rewarding journey.

But if you were to make a circuit by following the bridlepath NE and then E, you would find that the visible track soon disappeared and that you were left with a soul-destroying push through endless heather over featureless hills.

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