The Dragon Hotel sits high above the town square of Montgomery. Built in the 17th century as a coaching Inn, its black and white half timbered exterior is striking,
The reception area shows the marks of the coach wheels though now behind doors. It has 20 bedrooms, a large bar and a bistro which is certainly one up on the average pub restaurant. Having missed lunch I was hungry so chose a main course of excellently prepared spaghetti carbonara with mushrooms as my primi and followed it with the intriguingly entitled Sicilian Mackerel;. The proved to be two fillets of mackerel, preserved rather than fresh, served with a cauliflower puree, roasted new potatoes. pea shoots and lemon. It sort of worked but would have been much nicer with fresh mackerel and I’m not sure what qualified it to be Sicilian. I was sort of expecting sarde a beccafico using mackerel but this was totally different than the “stuffed sardinians” that I have eaten in Sicily. Anyway it was ok. The pudding, raspberry cheesecake with peanut butter ice-cream was extremely toothsome and all in all it was a good meal and sent me off to the blog in a good mood.
The bed was ok, not the most comfortable I’ve slept in, but perfectly acceptable and a working radiator dried my clothes overnight. Breakfast at 8am had been ordered the night before to best comply with Covid regulations. I chose alpen (no yoghurt available), orange juice, tea and a full breakfast. All perfectly fine but I do miss the help yourself breakfast buffet, banter with the waiting staff and ability to talk with fellow guests at a communal table.
My original plan had been to follow the English-Welsh border as closely as possible but when I looked at the topography this was unrealistic, so I chose a route that roughly followed the line but kept climbing down to reasonable levels. I left the hotel about ten past nine and the first four miles was downhill or on the level. I turned off the B4385 and the climbing started. I was well aware that it was going to be punchy, up to 13% pitches for a couple of miles, and I accepted that when necessary I would GOAP which is what duly happened. I pushed for about 200 yards and then remounted until I reached almost the peak of the climb at about 1100 feet. I pulled in to catch my breath and was rewarded with a spectacular view, hard to reproduce with a photo, but here it is anyway
What goes up must come down and I had about 7 miles of largely downhill run before I reached the town of Clun which is in Shropshire and has given its name to a medium sized dark faced sheep that was popular in the 50s and 60s but has declined in Britain in favour of the continental breeds, although interest has grown in North America.
I crossed the river over a narrow stone bridge
with something of a traffic jam as an oil tanker had a standoff with a Land Rover, but it was all sorted out and I was into a climb for about a mile, nothing like the first of the day, just a steady grind up slopes of about 4-5% and rather enjoyable, especially rewarded, as I was, with some more spectacular vistas on the way down to Knighton.
It was about midday when I reached Knighton and spotted a very unassuming Co-op behind a filling station so thought I would stop for supplies: what an extraordinary experience. The entrance was full of displays of confectionary and as you went on and threaded your way through passageways the whole place opened up into a large warehouse, much bigger than most Co-op stores. I bought some super ripe plums, a packet of Jaffa cakes and a rather revolting energy drink to keep me going until supper.
Straight into another climb, again not too strenuous but my saddle sore doesn’t appreciate climbing and I have to stand up regularly to keep the discomfort at bay. Over the top at the highest point of the day at over 1200 feet, and dropping down through tree clad valleys to Presteigne, never quite sure which country I was in, though the Araf signs definitely showed when I was in Wales.
I was about half way and the main climbing was over though there were still plenty of ups and downs. Once more I turned off the main road and crossed a pretty stream so thought I’d take a picture.
By this point I was in Herefordshire and there were plenty of orchards, both apple and pear to demonstrate the fact.
At Whitney-on Wye, still in England, I crossed the river by way of a toll bridge, free to cycles. It was stone built but with a worn timber carriageway and only open to one vehicle at a time. For a punster it was hard to resist the picture.
The water meadows for the next half a mile or so had been mown for a late silage crop. There must have been at least 60 acres of good looking grass being rowed up. It wasn’t until I looked at my photograph later that I noticed the effective vapour trails.
At Hay-on-Wye, famous for its book festival and full of bookshops, I passed back into Wales and stayed there until I reached my destination at Glasbury about five miles later. I shall be in Wales for most of tomorrow until I cross the Severn by the same bridge that I left England by 15 days and about 1000 miles ago.
Having kept ahead of the locked down Covid hotspots in Wales by a matter of days I shall be passing perilously close to Blaenau Gwent at Abergavenny, but unless they change the rules overnight I should be OK.
It’s been a good day, lovely autumnal weather and scenery and not as taxing as I thought it might be.