The excellent mountain bike trails at Afan Argoed saw the start of my training in earnest for the forthcoming Beast - some old favourites are closed due to felling but will be reinstated in 2013 but the Wall provided some memorably fast descents on single track.
A return to the small bothy in the Black Mountains with a new broom left it looking spick and span after a brisk walk in from the north as gliders coasted silently overhead.
I then headed off to the Horizons Unlimited meeting high on the Mendips where again an excellent variety of presentations triggered more inspiration for future trips. Perhaps the severest journey undertaken was that by a Polish guy during the hard 2011 winter when in the January he headed to the furthest reaches of Norway arriving in deep snow and temperatures of -34 at the Nordkapp. Using very basic camping equipment and 'cooking' burgers with a blow torch he completed a remarkable journey that few unsupported groups would undertake.
'London to Beijing on Two Sh*t Mopeds' proved to be an appropriate title for an account of another remarkable journey undertaken by two lasses from London and captivating images of Mongolia from other talks sowed ideas in my mind before an evening of chat around the fire pit.
Sunday saw a good cycle round the Sustran's routes of Wiltshire, the Kennet and Avon Canal and then the back lanes in to Frome after which I headed way out west to overnight at Ceibwr in Pembrokeshire as my 3 monthly bag of tablets was due.
Monday afternoon was spent enjoying the trails in Brechfa Forest with Tuesday morning spent at Halfway where preparations for next week's motor rally reduced the choices available. As a result I decided to return to an old favourite - the Sarn Helen Roman road starting near my former home. The track was in better condition as a result of its closure to 4x4s but still provided a challenge as it dropped to cross the nascent Nedd and then climbed to the Ystradfellte road. Dropping through Pont Melin Fach and then reaching the Inter Valley Road I decided to travel down memory lane and pass through Cwmnanthir. Sadly the new owners have to my mind at least somewhat spoiled the place with unsightly new livestock sheds and some rather crude alterations to the house itself. Slightly disappointed at the general air of neglect I passed through anonymously and returned to Coelbren on the green lane that had surprisingly been much improved by the spreading of thousands of tons of hardcore - surely the Banwen bypass isn't imminent?
After a clean report from the dentist I headed to Brecon for an energetic session of badminton where Jan broke the sad but not unexpected news that good old Amber had slipped away that day. True to fashion she had gone with no fuss at the guesstimated grand old age of 18 - coincidentally 3 years exactly since she had gone to live contentedly north of Brecon.
Yesterday and today have seen plenty of hard work by the usual team in preparation for the 2012 Brecon Beast this Sunday. With our largest number of entries to date the need for clear signage is even more important so much effort went in to informing local communities, putting up directions for riders and safety warnings for other road users. Careful planning and co-ordination saw the bulk of the work completed in good time although disappointingly some petty disruption confirmed that as ever a mean spirited minority (very likely just one individual in fact) have only their own selfish agenda to work to. However the support and goodwill from everyone we actually met was heartening and set the mood for what promises to be a busy but ultimately highly rewarding and satisfying weekend of fund raising.
I hope to report on a successful completion of the full course on Monday evening and will endeavour to affix the SPOT device to my helmet so logging on here during Sunday should allow you to follow what I hope will be steady progress.
A few photos are available here.
With fond memories the video below is a touch of self indulgence - turn up your volume and enjoy.