Before I start a quick congratulations to Will and Louisa, my brother and sister-in-law, on the birth of their daughter Anna Constance on 02 August, which is easy to remember because it was Lucy and I’s wedding anniversary. Being an Uncle to a niece as well as nephew is pretty exciting!
28 June 2013
The not unusual sound of rain hitting my tent greeted me when I awoke, so I decided to have breakfast in bed and hoped it would stop. It did eventually so I clambered out, receiving my first shower of the morning as cold rain water ran off the canvas and down my neck. Now thoroughly awake I checked my bike and discovered another broken spoke I hadn’t noticed the day before. Luckily I had spares so I swapped in a new one. This was the first time I’d changed a spoke without assistance, and I followed Simon from Topmark’s advice; the bike shop I’d stopped at in Barrow-in-Furness.
I was able to remove the old spoke, leaving the nipple in the rim, and then thread in a new spoke and join it up, so I didn’t have to disassemble the entire wheel, bonus! I had to bend things around a bit but it worked fine, and after about 20 minutes of adjustments I was satisfied the wheel was straight and nothing was going to rub.
The rain and bike maintenance, followed by a shower and packing up, meant I didn’t leave the campsite until 10.30ish, bidding goodbye to the only other campers post a quick chat. The little girl wanted to know if I’d been woken up by the police sirens in the night, or the drumming, I hadn’t, having a tendency to sleep quite deeply once wrapped up in my tent. I hoped the weather improved for them.
I rode towards Abergele, joining the A547 along the coast. I wanted to avoid the busy and potentially dangerous A55 after yesterday’s experiences on dual carriageways. Just outside Abergele lies an impressive looking castle, which I subsequently learned is Gwrych Castle. It was built between 1812 and 1822, and is currently undergoing restoration with a view to converting it into a hotel – not sure how that work is going. Unfortunately I didn’t get any decent photos of it from the road, due the high curtain wall, so the one below is from google.
It fell into a bit of a derelict state after a succession of owners, then being vandalised, lived in by travellers, and suffering from collapsed floors, ceilings and the odd fire, so it obviously needs a lot of work. It could look like a fairy tale castle, with its follys and extensive grounds, so hopefully something good will happen. If I won the lottery, or earned loads of money somehow, I’d consider buying it if it wasn’t so far away from everywhere.
Continuing on my way I pedalled around to Colwyn Bay, having to negotiate at least one hill in the process.
I rode along the promenade to Rhos-on-Sea, before rejoining the road to Llandudno.
Up until Llandudno there’d been few hills to contend with, and the rain had mostly held off aside from the odd patch of drizzle, so things were looking promising. Llandudno itself seemed a pleasant place, with a wide promenade you can cycle along to Great Orme’s Head, which looms over the town.
I stopped in Llandudno for a bite to eat, and took advantage of some wifi to check my route and schedule. I reckoned I had around 1,300 miles left to get around to London, as long as I didn’t throw in any more islands or detours, which was just about doable by 17 July. As usual I’d make up my route as I went along, and stop when I found somewhere nice, that’s about as far as my advanced planning goes really. I only needed to keep the coast on my right, and ensure I averaged around 75 miles a day.
Unfortunately the rain set in post post Llandudno, coming down pretty hard, and I was quickly drenched – not that my shoes had had chance to dry out anyway. My waterproof had definitely seen better days and was leaking in several places, serving only to trap a layer of warmish water close to my skin, which I guess was better than being cold.
I rode over the bridge to Conwy and Conwy Castle, and opted to take the old suspension bridge into town.
The bridge is run by the National Trust, having originally been built by Thomas Telford in the early 19th century as part of the large scale road improvements between Chester and Bangor.
I enjoy looking at old feats of engineering and majestic buildings such as Conwy Castle, and often wish we put as much effort into elegant construction these days as our forebears did in past centuries.
The castle was built in the late 13th century, by that old favourite Edward I, during his conquest of Wales; he certainly liked his wars. It saw fairly active service over the years, before being partially slighted after the English Civil war and subsequently falling into ruin. It’s been restored since, and stands proud above the River Conwy as a World Heritage Site.
It has massive defensive walls, which explains how it withstood sieges successfully. Must have been daunting to assault those walls with the defenders hurling things at you.
Conwy itself is a nice looking town, with its own wall, and with lots of holiday makers wandering about its attractive streets.
Avoiding the A55 I was able to ride along a cycle path for the next stage, which was handy given the road was very busy, with a lot of spray being kicked up by the traffic. Even off the main road it was a hard ride down the coast, with a fierce headwind at times, and the continuing rain soaking me further.
The cycle path had a few exciting sections as it tracked the coast road, which itself passed through tunnels through the hills. I road up over cycle bridges, crossing the A55 on suspended walk/cycle ways that felt a little exposed in the wind. The track wound around, up and over the hills, rather than going through them like the road. This meant a few significant but fun climbs, despite the rain, and wind which when gusting nearly stopped me dead a couple of times. I had my head down as I was fighting into the wind, and nearly ran into a cyclist coming the other way at one point. Luckily he shouted a warning and I moved over; I think we were both pretty surprised to see someone else out in these conditions.
Continuing along the coast, thoroughly drenched again, I took shelter out of the wind and rain for a bit in a roofed seating area. It was a relief not to have the wind blasting me for a few minutes, and I had a few biscuits to top up energy levels.
Riding on along a bit of promenade I approached a group of mallard ducks, sitting stoically in the rain by the side of the road. They looked quite content, until suddenly alarmed they took flight as a couple of terriers emerged from the bushes behind them, barking and dashing about in an animated fashion. The dogs obviously thought it was great fun, however the ducks were less than impressed as was evident from their disdainful quacking. They also flew directly into my path, and due to their low trajectory I was subject to a few wing buffets and close encounters with beaks. A high velocity duck quacking in your face can be quite alarming, however they were soon out of my way, and landed 50 yards away keeping an eye on the dogs who’d been hastily summoned by their owners.
The dog owners were somewhat apologetic, although they were laughing – it was quite funny. Given the abundance of signs on British roads I was surprised there wasn’t one warning of low flying ducks. On the subject of road signs, I do get rather irritated by how many there are. Do you really need signs warning that there aren’t any road markings. If you can’t see that there aren’t any road markings you probably shouldn’t be driving. Even more disturbing are the ones that tell you that cat’s eyes have been removed, I mean what kind of sicko goes around doing that. There are just so many signs you end up getting sign overload and start ignoring all of them, which defeats the purpose of the whole thing. Is there a bureaucrat somewhere trying to use up their sign budget or something, in case it gets slashed next year? Anyway, enough of slipping into grumpy old man mode, I’m still relatively young dammit.
The next section took me down a few country roads as I looped inland to avoid the main road, on my way to Bangor.
The route would have been lovely on a different day, with nicer weather, but it was just too wet and windy to enjoy today. I still however took satisfaction from the fact I was making good progress despite the conditions, and pressed on to Bangor.
I eventually made it to Bangor, which is a bit confusing road wise. I somehow completely missed the city centre, but decided not to loop back, and rode on to Anglesey which I’d opted to include despite my earlier thoughts on not doing any more islands. I reckoned I could just about include Anglesey, or Ynys Mon in Welsh, and still make it round in time for Latitude. I might just need to add on a few miles to some other legs.
I wanted to see the fabled island of the Druids, which was attacked by the Romans back in AD60 who wanted to break their hold over the Celtic tribes. General Gaius Suetonius Paulinus and his amphibious Batavian contingent were apparently successfully in vanquishing them, putting many to the sword and destroying shrines and sacred groves. These Romans obviously had no intention of preserving sites of archaeological interest for future generations. Still, General Paulinus had to retreat before he could consolidate his victory due to Boudica and the Iceni revolting in the east (good old boys (and girls) as they say in Norfolk), just down the road from where I live, so I kind of hope some of the Druids survived to pass on their culture and history to future generations. It’s nice to think that maybe a little bit of magic and wonder of a different kind existed back then, however I suspect the Druids were pretty terrifying in their own right, and relied on superstition, rituals and fear to keep control. I could draw certain parallels with some modern religious institutions at this stage, but I won’t.
I rode over the Menai Bridge to the Isle, stopping to take in the view as the rain began to stop.
My dad was apparently stationed on or near Anglesey when he was in the RAF, and many antics were got up to, some of which involved the bridge. I believe at least one of my god fathers was also involved, but probably shouldn’t go into any more detail in case warrants are still outstanding.
I wasn’t going to do the whole coast of the island, but wanted to do a circuit to see what it was like, so rode up the A5025 towards Amlwch. There are lots of campsites on Anglesey so I wasn’t worried about finding a place to pitch up later, and if the worst came to the worst I was sure there’d be a quiet spot off the beaten track I could stop at for the night.
The rain stopped as I rode on, finally, and it turned into a lovely ride despite the initial heavy traffic on the road. Anglesey is by no means flat, but neither is it very hilly, the road just undulates a lot.
I stopped in Benllech to pick up a few supplies at a small supermarket, stuffing down a doughnut to get some energy back, followed by a banana for good measure, and a chocolate bar to be sure. The road continued on to Amlwch, which is lacking in any vowels, but that isn’t unusual in Wales. I didn’t know how you pronounced it, but tried rolling the word around my mouth a few times. I don’t know how you pronounce a lot of place names in Welsh so I’d be useless if anyone asked for directions. It was nice to hear people speaking Welsh though, which has a musical quality to it.
With the evening stretching on, but the sun making an appearance for the first time in a while, I pedalled along the coast from Amlwch to Cemaes Bay before turning south down towards Holyhead.
I passed a signpost to Church Bay where my dad used to go on holiday as a child, which potentially would have been a good place to stop for the night, but I decided to get a few more miles done.
I didn’t go all the way to Holyhead, it basically being a sprawling ferry port where boats go to and from Ireland. Instead I turned back towards the Menai Bridge on the A5. I’d found a promising looking campsite via the web earlier, but was having trouble locating it on my map, and I didn’t have enough reception to use my phone. This meant I ended up riding slightly later than anticipated, via a more convoluted route.
I pedalled through more very Welsh sounding villages, although I guess they may well have Irish origins, the Irish having invaded in the early 5th century before being defeated in 470 by some Scots who popped down for a rumble.
After passing through Bryngwran, Gwalchmai and Llanrhyddlad I arrived at the Tally Ho campsite just off the B4422, not far from Bodorgan. It’s a nice small Camping and Caravaning site, with friendly owners and a quiet camping field. You can order breakfast from them for the morning too, but I’d just bought a load of supplies which I needed to eat, regrettably. A bacon roll or two would have been most welcome. The campsite was £10 a night so averagely priced, with a decent but small toilet and shower block.
I’d arrived about 21.30, so was quite hungry, and set up my tent quickly before settling down to a meal of bread, cheese and BBQ’d chicken I’d bought earlier, accompanied by crisps, tomatoes and fruit. I saved some of the bread and a pork pie or two for the morning, before a dessert of chocolate buttons and a can of cider for good measure.
It was pretty late by the time I was all fed and watered, so after a quick call to my parents I retreated into my tent to write my journal, although I kept falling asleep so had trouble finishing it. The bleating of many sheep helped keep me vaguely awake, a kind of fiendish evening chorus on their part. Aside from the livestock it was a fairly quiet site, with several groups camped up in either tents or caravans. The lack of wind and rain meant sleep came fairly quickly once I’d stopped trying to write, although I was a somewhat preoccupied with how I could dry my shoes which where in danger of giving me a case of trench foot.
Having done 84 miles today I was in a good place to finish Anglesey tomorrow, before continuing along the coast to Caernarfon, and then further west to the Lleyn Peninsula. I was aiming to be up early in the morning for another longish leg, to keep my average mileage at a respectable score. The sky was clear so it looked like the weather would be better tomorrow; some heat would be nice to dry off a few things.
Bonuit tout le monde 🙂