Day 13 – Heading south through Shropshire

The Premier Inn at Gresford, near Wrexham is typical of its kind. A large enough room to take the bike, a good bathroom with powerful shower and infinite hot water and an extremely comfortable bed. Across the car park from the accommodation is The Beeches restaurant which serves good wholesome Whitbread food and drink. I had the broccoli based soup and a Steak and ale pie with mash and veg. Both were well prepared and hot and so filling I didn’t need a pudding. A couple of pints of Doombar washed it all down. The deal was bed, an evening meal and breakfast for £69.99 which is very good value for money. The breakfast this morning was cereal, toast and a full cooked breakfast with orange juice and tea which set me up for the day.

I cleared the room and wheeled the bike out by 0900 and suddenly realised that I didn’t have my helmet. I was sure that I had taken everything from the room but went back and checked to be certain – no helmet. I went back to reception and reported to the lady behind the perspex screen – “Oh is it the one on the table over there?” says she and sure enough I had left it there overnight. Anyway fully clothed I got away at 0915.

There had been heavy rain during the night but the morning was bright and clear, although cold, and I was wearing three layers and my thick gloves. The first 10 miles were either downhill or flat to Bangor-on-Dee where I had stayed the night at Buck House Hotel when I was doing my tour of the County Towns of England in 2016 – slightly ironic in that it is in Wales and not a county town, but it was convenient. You enter the town by means of a lovely old stone bridge with a cobbled surface.

Bangor-on-Dee

I then climbed out of the valley past the racecourse up quite a testing slope before it levelled out for a short while and then a steady slope as I entered England for the first time in 13 days. I was soon on very small back roads and at one point was faced with an impossible climb out of the valley of a small stream, so first GOAP of the day, though only about 50 yards.

I crossed the A5 at a roundabout just north of Henlle Park Golf Club, owned by a friend with whom I had stayed on my Lands End to John O’Groats trip in 2014 and then the climbing started getting serious. I managed to pedal to within about 200 yards of the village of Sellatyn but gravity won and caused the second GOAP of the day. Once through the village the road kept rising for another couple of miles, though it was manageable and I then had a long descent, with occasional climbs to keep me honest, through some lovely countryside.

England/Wales border country

I had gone back into Wales during the descent. It’s remarkable how keen the Welsh are on ARAF/SLOW signs in the road. The English don’t seem quite so bothered.

I was trying to follow the border but I now had a dilemma. The climbing I had already done had been wearing and, looking at what was to come, I suspected that I would struggle badly later in the day when I was due to climb up to 1250 feet, by a long way the highest I have been on this trip. My mind was made up by a bad piece of planning. The navigators wanted me to take a road that didn’t seem to exist and the alternatives were to continue on a road that would take me much further west than I wanted or to double back and join the A493 from Wrexham to Welshpool which would eventually join up with my original route. Although it is a main road it’s reasonably wide and the traffic was not heavy on a Saturday. The major bonus was that it was downhill or flat for about ten miles. There was one idiot in a truck who passed way too close but otherwise it was trouble-free.

I turned off just short of Welshpool and had some ups and downs before I linked up with my original route for the last four miles. Montgomery, or Trefaldwyn in Welsh, is, as its name implies, the former County Town of Montgomeryshire which no longer exists as a local authority. It lies part way up a steep hill that tested me for the last mile or so. The Dragon Hotel, a black and white half timbered building which is where I am staying, is in a town square with an impressive looking Georgian former town hall, which can be hired for functions (though not at present), complete with clocktower.

Montgomery

Because of my short cuts I arrived before 4pm so was able to unwind a bit more than usual before supper. I’m going to adopt a similar approach tomorrow. My original route is much too strenuous and, although I won’t be following the border as closely as I could, I think it’ll be good enough and I should arrive in a reasonable state.

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