It was a cool, grey, gloomily dark and rather drizzly Welsh day when 7 hardy CER souls descended on Alyn Waters to test the Welsh hills. Erm, please do tell why we decided in our recent collective wisdom to dispense with Alyn Waters as a venue? But chose to include Delamere Forest instead? [For clarity: Delamere will replace Manley Mere, and Chirk will replace Alyn Waters for winter meets; effective only when blog is updated - SH] At Alyn the coffees and teas are great, the breakfasts are a joy and the prices are easy on the pocket. Yes, the hills are a bit of a challenge, but if you want to go to the edge of exultation you have to look the snake in the eye, don’tcha? Anyway, having garbed up against the cold (a soul-less 8 degrees!), clipped on the lights and donned the hi viz, Kate, Ray, Andy, Dave Pipe, Brian Mac, Steve H and Jon B set off.
|Photos by Macca|
Intrepid Andy led by default since it’s his home patch, but all were astonished by Dave Pipe’s choice of fixed wheel after recently returning from holiday and falling off his tandem! Some people know only pain… It was an uneventful drift down a single-track lane to the day’s first semi-serious climb! No holding mountain goats Andy and Ray as they powered effortlessly away leaving lesser mortals to battle with the challenging gradient. But bliss came quickly as we turned right into a racy descent during which we were blithely informed, as everyone clung gingerly to their bars and brakes, had a narrow bridge at the bottom!! And yes, it sure did!
Rain fell steadily, although Macca was quick to tell all that since we were so high and among the clouds it wasn’t rain – it was merely water droplets condensing … but it sure felt like rain to us! There were many points of discussion about which way to turn to avoid the arduous hills and since it wasn’t a day for seeing the vista laid out before us we chose easier options. Or so we thought.
We sauntered gaily down quiet Welsh lanes until we came suddenly upon a very sharp, short but challenging hill, with a gentle s-bend and two descending walkers coming down the leaf strewn road. Most tried. Some succeeded. A few climbed off. And one fell off! It was at that point that I thought we had come to Little Switzerland! Apart from a brush or two with a couple of articulated trucks at narrow island points on a long uphill drag there was nothing else to report until we reached the pub for lunch … which blithely informed us they didn’t do food! Argh! [Note: Apparently the publican is selling-up. This is one of our favoured lunch spots, so will need to be removed from that list. SH]
Thus the group split with several riding off to Loggerheads café in search of sustenance and others taking a welcome and well-earned draught at the pub. Conversation bounced around from crosswords to Kate’s six-year cycle of bike servicing! (Not recommended!) Etymology was also a point of interest on a somewhat wet day with the general agreement that the original word for an umbrella = a bumbershoot – should still be in use … a bit like Alyn Waters! The group compacted at Loggerheads where they do a mean curried parsnip soup and we rode gently home, assured by Andy that the “worst was over”.
Me, I’m always astonished at how much new building work is being undertaken as we ride around the countryside, often in the most remote and isolated places. We toiled up a few more hills and the “condensation” thankfully stayed away, although the gloomy darkness made lights a must-have on the wooded, wet lanes. But the best was yet to come with a thrilling Alpine descent, a real eyeballs out and bum firmly gripping saddle riot of a downhill into Frith. Scary but distinctly satisfying!
After which point the “locals” left and I marvelled still at Dave’s tenaciously gutsy performance on the fixed wheel machine knowing how my legs felt on a bike that offered 17 other options! Back to base then with just a last sting in the tail of a(nother) testing short, sharp climb.
We’d battled the condensation, beaten the cold, compromised over lunch, ridden gamely and been led wisely. We’d churned out 32 excellent miles at a steady 11.3 mph average, climbed 2,800 feet and thoroughly enjoyed the day and the company. Andy set off on his second lap and Ray went to find some harder hills. The rest of us went home stirred and fully sated by the day’s challenge.