I estimate I’ve travelled 513 miles so far and about the same to go. It’s certainly been exhausting but I hope I’ll make it before we go into complete lockdown again.
The Glengower Hotel is on the north promenade of the University town of Aberystwyth. It describes itself as a seaside pub with rooms, of which it has 16 spread over three floors. I’m pleased to say that I was on the first floor as there is no lift and my panniers are heavy and the stairs are narrow. When I booked I was told that, being Sunday, I would only get pizza and it was only served until 6pm so I booked a table for 5.30. In the event I arrived at about 4pm to find the bar and restaurant very busy but as a bonus they were serving a full menu. Having done my washing, which I hung up in front of the portable fan (dry by the time I got back from supper) I went down and enjoyed chicken goujons with a dipping sauce, 5 bean chilli, 2 pints of Butty Bach ale and chocolate fudge cake. All nicely cooked and presented and served by smiling waitresses. Unfortunately the bed was not as comfortable as it should have been and I slept badly even though it was nice and quiet. Full Welsh breakfast this morning was very good and, I suppose, £90 for everything was not bad for the time of year in a holiday resort.
There was a touch of la passeggiata on the prom after supper, with hundreds of people walking up and down, generally observing social distancing and watching the world go by. There were still people on the beach, one group having lit a fire to watch the sun go down in a crystal clear sky.
I set off this morning knowing that the most testing part of the day would be the first 7 miles which involved some very stiff climbing up to 400 feet, down to sea level again and up another 350 feet before hitting the coast again at Borth. I was thankful not to be doing it in the opposite direction with 25% signs going down into Borth. In the event I pushed some of the way up the main road in Aberystwyth but thereafter peddled all day. Although the sun shone all day it was quite hazy so photographs are not great
The journey could have been reduced by a good 15 miles if there had been a way across the mouth of the Dyfi River but there is no bridge or ferry so the only way is to go upstream to Machynletth and then back down the other bank of the estuary.
Machynletth is a market town that was the seat of Owain Glendwr’s Parliament in the early fifteenth century. He was the last welsh born Prince of Wales and fought fiercely for Welsh Independence against Henry IV and his son Henry V who was, perhaps ironically, welsh born himself in Monmouth Castle. Nowadays the town is perhaps best known for the Centre of Alternative Technology (CAT) which is dedicated to teaching and demonstrating sustainable development. I have toyed with the idea of booking a course there in the past but it has come to nothing. Unfortunately with Covid in the air it isn’t possible to drop in and look around so I crossed the Dyfi bridge, stone built and narrow with no traffic controls, although quite short and turned left down the Dyfi Estuary. Apparently the bridge is to be replaced further upstream due to the amount of traffic it takes and the damage it has sustained because of poor sightlines.
I immediately found myself climbing through thick woodland, up and down until I reached Cwrt which deserves to be the top line of a welsh typewriter but which, I’m sure, is pronounced court. The road now dropped to sea level and the Dyfi estuary opened before me.
The railway, which I had been following off and on since the start of the journey, snaked along the side of the estuary below me and on the far side I could hear geese honking in the RSPB reserve. I was soon in Aberdyfi town (literally the estuary of the Dyfi), a pretty little village bustling with people enjoying lunch in the many pubs. I stopped and took a picture and ate the remains of the Jaffa Cakes I had bought in the Co-op in Machynletth, not being particularly hungry.
I kept going on fairly flat roads to Tywyn, western terminus of the Talyllyn Railway, a narrow guage heritage railway that was built to carry slate from the quarries seven miles inland to the junction with the main railway which still runs along the coast. There was an engine in the station as I crossed the road bridge, ready to take passengers up to Nant Gwernol.
The Railway series of books, film and TV about Thomas the Tank Engine and friends by Rev Wilbert Awdry drew some inspiration from Talyllyn of which the author was a supporter.
From Tywyn there is a two mile cycle path, alongside the main railway, that crosses the Afon Dysynni by way of a footbridge before joining up with backroads that switchback their way to the main A493. I passed a group of people sprawled on the ground in the sunshine, waiting for a train at Tonfanau station and took a picture of a large solar farm in the foothills.
Now climbing again, steeply in places up over 200 feet above sea level and looking down on the railway below and at Barmouth in the distance. If only they had thought to put a cycle track alongside the railway it would have saved me a great deal of energy.
At Barmouth the railtrack crosses the Mawddach river by way of a timber viaduct, at 699 metres the longest of its kind in Wales. There is a timber roadway which is now part of the National Cycle network and can be used by foot passengers.
As I was crossing a train came in the opposite direction making the bridge shake. There were plenty of walkers which slowed my progress and at the Barmouth end, where the track rises steeply to the road I nearly mowed down a pedestrian who stood in the middle of the exit talking and not concentrating. Once I had committed to the slope there was no stopping and I was fortunate not to hit him.
Barmouth was busy with tourists and the food stalls were doing good business. The cycle track takes to the promenade for a mile or so before crossing the railway and joining the A496 by a very steep track where I had to GOAP.
I was now about 6 miles from my destination at Llanbedr. The main road had a cycle track most of the way but it occasionally ran out and I had to take to the not very busy road. On the seaward side were several caravan and trailer parks. I was quite amused to see that they were painted green as if they would melt into the surroundings: no doubt a planning regulation that has achieved very little
I arrived at my hotel at about 4pm in plenty of time to get everything washed before dinner. Apart from the initial climbs out of Aberystwyth it has been relatively benign but I am feeling uncomfortable due to a large saddle sore which makes it less enjoyable. Plenty of chamois cream and Ibuprofen is the only respite.