Monday, 27 August 2012

Beacons and bothies

With the holiday makers safely returned we crossed to Talybont on Usk where the excellent new facilities at the village camp site ensured a comfortable few days despite the early and noisy departures of a couple of DoE groups. On the Tuesday we cycled along the tow path to Crickhowell passing the muddy remains of the Green Man festival's partying and enjoyed a pint in sunny Crickhowell. Wednesday saw a foray up to a bothy in the Black Mountains passing the dam wall I and a mate had perhaps foolishly free climbed twenty plus years ago. The bothy was in good order and provided shelter for lunch on a blustery day - soon after a particularly vicious hail storm saw us seeking cover beneath my storm shelter on our return down the valley. A good meal and catch up at Jan and Ian's with Amber dozing quietly by the wood burner preceded us dropping in to Brecon for my regular badminton session. A walk on the Beacons in fine weather earned us the right to a slap up meal in the Star before we followed the quiet valley up to inspiring Llanthony Abbey and out on to the lofty commons at the top of the Gospel Pass with good views west along the Beacons' escarpments.
Hay on Wye's charms entertained us before Penny headed to Shropshire and I crossed mid Wales to reach the bothy above Dolgellau. Here a few of us regulars were joined by 3 lads from Dudley who set to with enthusiasm on Saturday morning. Large quantities of timber, sheeting and fixings were soon used to enclose the stairwell as part of a fire safety review and the usual banter enhanced excellent catering by our tame chef of Aberstan fame.
With most of the planned work completed I set off on a glorious Sunday to complete the 40km Coed Y Brenin Beast in training for its Brecon namesake in two weeks time. Half way round the sharp rocks of the 'Morticia' section ripped apart my tyre so a temporary repair was effected using part of the old tube to enable me return via forest tracks to the van and replace the tyre and tube. Setting off again I enjoyed almost four hours of fire road and single track with spirits soaring on some of the superbly designed sections as the bike took to the air - mostly with me still attached. A second puncture was soon dealt with and I returned to the van after 6 hours in the saddle and sat very still for the rest of the evening.
After cleaning out the bothy gutters and devouring a bacon sarnie I have now headed across to Shropshire to catch up with my brother and his family before heading to Bristol for the HU  (details here) meet via Brecon.
An amusing diversion whilst doing this post arrived in the shape of a breakdown truck that offloaded a vehicle alongside me only to end up with a flat battery himself - trusty power pack to the ready and all was sorted - good to return the favours granted to me many years ago when my aircooled Type 2 was regularly relayed from Scotland in the early hours.
Location here courtesy of SPOT and piccies here as ever - names of those involved in the various activities removed to protect the seriously guilty!
Slides randomly look back at adventures in NZ - it is almost 3 years now since we packed the van off in Southampton!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Bristol Round Up

A pleasant week in Bristol saw a number of tasks completed including replacing the van horn, giving the bike a good clean and check over in advance of the Brecon Beast in 3 weeks time, seeing various friends and enjoying the for me now rather novel concept of living in a house. The dogs soon got used to my presence on their walks as we ambled along the Avon to greet the swans, moorhens, free ranging pigs and an assortment of other canine companions.

Out at Portishead I enjoyed an excellent meal with old friends with the new housing and cafe culture surrounding the former power station and dock site reminding me perhaps surprisingly of Perth in WA.
A good friend from my nursing training days joined me for the weekend and we enjoyed a bike ride out to Bath along the converted railway line with the restoration enthusiasts at Bitton manning a good cafe and running a diesel loco from the '70's. The Kennet and Avon canal took us through the heart of Bath to a pub for lunch before we returned stopping in Bristol to look at the terraced property I first purchased in 1983.
Arnos Vale's 50 acre cemetery containing some 50,000 graves was a peaceful and moving experience with the volunteers facing a mammoth task of keeping the undergrowth at bay and preserving the tombs and headstones that help chart the expansion of Bristol over many generations. Our cycling continued with a ride through Bristol's waterfront attractions and out towards the Bristol Channel along the Avon. The graceful Clifton suspension bridge soared above us and Portishead yet again provided a sun drenched spot for refreshment.
Our final day has been spent admiring the street art in the city centre, sourcing guides to Turkey and eastern Europe in anticipation of my next trip and being suitably impressed by the displays at the University of Bristol Botanic Garden up on the Downs.
Having just enjoyed a night at the pictures I am now lurking in the early hours under the flight path at Bristol Airport to collect the returning holidaymakers with a transfer over to the Brecon Beacons tomorrow for more cycling and hopefully some tops if the weather holds.
Piccies lurk here and my whereabouts will soon reappear here.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Bristol Revisited

The final few days over in Ireland passed quickly with a brief dry spell followed by a return to more changeable weather as I tucked away in the Knockmealdown mountains after visiting the remarkable Rock of Cashel and its mediaeval buildings. 
A calm crossing returned me to Pembrokeshire where a meeting with Sarah seemed to confirm that our separation will be permanent and formalised - this will be achieved as smoothly and speedily as possible so should be resolved by Christmas.
The lifting of all the uncertainty is in itself a relief to me although I would of course have preferred a different outcome but plans can now be made for 2012/13 building on the new opportunities that have arisen.
I saw various friends around Brecon and enjoyed a ride along Sarn Helen as I need to start getting fit for September's event - the poor weather in Ireland limited the overall activity levels so there is some catching up to be done!
After a brief trip to Coventry to see family and deal with mail I have taken up residence in Bristol for ten days - the city I left 22 years ago to begin life on the farm. An interesting bike ride along the Severn to Sharpness and beyond introduced me to an area I had overlooked whilst living there, the boat graveyard was fascinating and the pub's pork pie somewhat daunting - still with 27 miles covered we worked most of it off - honest. A walk high above Cheddar offered excellent views across the Somerset levels on a warm afternoon before the following morning I taxied friends to the airport and then gave the van a good clean both inside and out and investigated the options for a clutch replacement in Bristol in a couple of months time -  post MOT and in advance of my next extended trip.
Planning for this is underway and I have collected together my various guides to Europe and sourced maps from the excellent branch of Stanfords in Bristol. My plan once the divorce paperwork is signed off is to follow the coast of France, northern Spain, western and southern Portugal, revisit the Sierra Nevada and Alpujarras in Spain, follow the coastal perimeter of Italy to include Sicily and then cross the Ionian Sea for Greece, Turkey and a return via eastern Europe with the latter stages depending on my rate of progress by next summer/autumn. The odd flight back may be required to obtain repeat prescriptions although once I pass the first anniversary in early December some of my current meds. can be discontinued - hurrah.
A glorious day today enabled me to explore the new (to me at least) attractions of central Bristol with the colourful and vibrant Floating Harbour and wharves providing a wealth of interest. The Mshed museum provided a respite from the heat and the revamped shopping precincts of Broadmead showed little obvious signs of a recession.
The two terriers in my charge enjoyed their usual romp down by the Avon and the rest of the week promises more socialising as the weather deteriorates once more. The looming bank holiday will be spent in southern Snowdonia on an MBA work party - all welcome, check out - and as it sits on the route of the excellent Coed y Brenin mountain bike trails I hope to thrash around a couple of those in between bouts of nailing and tea sampling.
The HU meet on the Mendips in early September has a promising array of presenters lined up already and should be another excellent event  - with limited space available register here now if you are tempted.

The slide show gremlins seem to have gone on their summer recess so the content rewinds a calendar year - lots of water under lots of bridges!

A new post should appear next week when I return to the Beacons and from where I will resume spotty Spot - so this time its piccies only here

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Connemara Revisited

Ireland's new and almost empty motorway network soon had us over on the west coast where the simple pleasures of the Renvyle campsite met our every need. There were superb views from the sweeping beach across to our planned walks as the sun set and we had a relatively early night in anticipation of a hard day.
This encompassed a return for me to the classic 12 Bens ridge enjoyed this time in even better conditions and with good company. Strong winds required concentration on the rocky descents but the day remained largely dry and sunny and we all enjoyed the stunning views and sense of isolation. Leaving the bike at the finish avoided the need to walk back along the road and after an exhilerating day we were content to retire to the cosy pub in Tully Cross.
Monday dawned clear and sunny despite the forecast so we headed round to Leenan and Killary to climb Ben Gorm, this time continuing along the ridge to drop down at Loch Doo where again the bike was used to retrieve the van. Some of the finest views of the trip were enjoyed looking across to the Mweelrhea Horsehoe walk with Clare and Achill islands sitting in a deep blue sea and a fast steep descent over grassy slopes resulted in the demise of various shorts and trousers.
Tuesday saw a return to the unsettled conditions that had dogged the early part of this trip but we explored the coast around to Cliffden with a walk at low tide across to Omey Island which seemed a world apart from  normal civilisation. The Sky Road near Cliffden provided good views across the west coast in between heavy rain showers before we returned to Renvyle and a celebratory meal out after an excellent trip.
Torrential overnight rain cleared as we packed up and headed back to Galway stopping to enjoy the restored silver mine at Glengowla - a credit to the owner's enthusiasm and energy. Additional interest was provided by their seismology station which constantly recorded the surprisingly frequent earthquake activity around the world. The Galway Races traffic caused a slight delay en route to Dublin where a spacious camp site provide a final night's accommodation in easy reach of the airport.
It was lovely to have such good company and I would like to thank the team for making the effort to get over here and provide such happy memories - good on yer!
The van provided practical transport for all of us and our kit and continuing comfort for me and Pete's photos of Croatia have given me ideas and inspiration for early next Spring. I have also just signed up for another HU meeting, this time on the Mendips in early September which looks promising. The Beast follows a week later with a number of other activities through until mid December to keep me busy - as ever they will be digitally recorded and displayed here with my whereabouts similarly available here