Thursday, 26 September 2013

A DIFFICULT TIME
Suddenly but peacefully my beloved, generous and inspirational father passed away last week. His loss has come as a huge shock to all his family, friends, former colleagues and acquaintances from across the broad spectrum of his many interests.
We have all been deeply touched by the many warm and heartfelt expressions of sympathy and the flowers received add hope to a sombre household.
Mum has amazed us all with her strength and composure in the face of the loss of a husband and partner of nearly 60 years.
We celebrate his life on Friday the 27th of September with a simple humanist service for close family only but would ask that you spare us a thought mid-afternoon.
My extended adventures are on indefinite hold for the forseeable future but Mum is already insisting that I should get back on the road from time to time.
Thus bear with me if posts become less frequent for a while and click the link below for a piece of music - the words to which form part of my personal tribute to a wonderful man.

 






Monday, 9 September 2013

Welsh Favourites

Whilst calling in to check up on Nant Rhys bothy in mid Wales my rear wheel collapsed, tore off the derailleur and required a temporary fix to get me back to the comforts of Miss Pope's C&CC site near Llangurig. After a decision to replace rather than repair the bike I dropped back to Brecon where Jason at Biped Cycles fixed me up with a KTM hard tail with 27.5 inch wheels that was also slightly lighter than the old bike which had served me well for many years. Considering it had sat on the back of the van for 8 years during trips to Oz, NZ, Morocco and the recent Scandinavian journey as well as around the UK and Europe in all weathers it was due for replacement so I turned north once more for a Bank Holiday weekend of bothy maintenance, looking forward to a few test rides.
Penrhos bothy lies half way round one of Coed y Brennin's black routes and thus starting there gives you a chance to ride the tracks ahead of other visitors. After partially rebuilding a dry stone boundary wall two of us headed over to the compact Arenig bothy which had been damaged by some idiot leaving a gas cylinder on the fire. New perspex was placed in the window frame and everywhere given a good tidy out before we dropped back to Penrhos via a possible new project for a quiet night, in contrast to the crowds reported to have descended on Snowdon. Monday saw me giving the new wheels a good test on the 40 km long black route before I found a superb location above Nant y Moch reservoir for a quiet night.
At the new Elan Valley project I spent a useful day repointing the fireplace prior to the stove installation planned for early October and again marvelled at the achievement of all involved in its renovation before returning to the comforts of Llangurig for a much needed shower.
A good walk near Shrewsbury with Penny was followed by a meet up with members of Bedworth 4x4 Club who are involved with the Adventure Overland Show at the end of September - it promises to offer plenty of sources of advice and information about future trips and vehicle options.

A trip to the GP extracted a scrip for 9 months of ticker pills and after a catch up with family I headed down to Bristol to collect a trailer for the forthcoming Beast mountain bike event in Brecon.
A very peaceful long weekend near Abercrave at a fellow smallholder's property gave me another chance to test the bike with a ride through my old farm which sadly looks slightly run down before I followed the superb Sarn Helen off road track up to Sennybridge and back to Abercrave - a tiring but exhilarating ride.
In contrast the ride down the Swansea Valley to Mumbles the next day was a relaxed affair - the bay looked almost Mediterranean in the hot sunshine and that evening I enjoyed a good Chinese takeaway with friends near Neath.
Down at Henrhyd Falls the setting sun produced an idyllic scene - this location features as the waterfall entrance to the Batcave in the film 'The Dark Knight Rises' - but I only saw a robin.
Wednesday saw me collect most of the signage needed for our event and the work began in earnest on Thursday with 3 of us signing the steep climb to Fan Ghyrich, the estate track to Ystradfellte and the mountain route back to Brecon. Hot sunshine and good company made for another memorable day in stunning scenery and I enjoyed my temporary camp at the leisure centre compound with power, showers, internet and TV. Friday saw a whole range of tasks completed with more signing of the 100km of route, 900 T shirts collected, 1000 litres of water and 400 kilos of fruit stockpiled, two 4x4 pickups and a quad delivered, the camping and parking organised and marshals given their instructions. At the event pavillion another hard working team prepared to register riders, record their safe return and issue the T shirts and other sponsored rewards, as well as coordinating the course marshals, safety riders, mountain rescue cover and so on
A friend from Bristol joined me on the Saturday to provide invaluable assistance in delivering 2 tonnes of water, 8 barrels and 300 kilos of fruit to the first feed station just beneath the summit of Fan Ghyrich where all 600 plus riders would arrive after 25km of riding and a climb to 700m ASL. We then checked the previous day's signing as in previous years the odd act of selfish stupidity has occurred but all was well and we had enough time to deliver the remaining water and fruit to the second feed station aimed solely at those tackling the full 100km route via the infamous Gap Road east of Cribin which reaches 600m ASL.
After an excellent pizza we turned in early as a couple of hundred campers checked their bikes in readiness for the big event.
After some traffic duties first thing Dale and I were away to our marshalling points on Fan G. and within one hour of the start the first rider appeared followed over the next two by the rest of the riders who were grateful for a brief stop and refreshments. Two broken collar bones a little further along the mountain section kept Brecon Mountain Rescue (a major recipient of our funds raised) busy and once the last rider had passed through we relocated unused fruit to further round the course before removing signs, tidying up and heading back to base. Once the second 4x4 was available again we retrieved the now considerably lighter trailer from Fan G. and descended cautiously as rain had made parts of the track quite slippery.
A steady stream of tired but happy riders arrived back during the afternoon and we retrieved the second feed station, removed signs and returned to Brecon to soak up the positive vibes and sense of achievement expressed all round.
Monday was spent cleaning vehicles, returning equipment and tidying up - all in good weather and I again felt very proud to have been involved in such a worthwhile cause where the willingness and enthusiasm of the volunteers echoed that shown for the bothy restoration. The thanks and appreciation from many riders was heart warming - for some it was their first and rewarding if gruelling introduction to a part Wales that has given me over 30 years of very special memories.
A few photos sit here but things were so busy over the event that the camera remained largely unused - something I will rectify over the next few weeks as other excitement unfolds.
Click here to see where I am most days.