Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Day 7: Brecon to Cardiff and the finish line!

Friday 9 September: Brecon to Cardiff Bay (60 miles, 630 m ascent)

Our last day’s cycling was to be the longest of the week. It started frustratingly while cycling on the canal tow-path which marks the north end of the Taff Trail when David’s bike had a tyre puncture.

Supervised by a friendly sheepdog, we repaired the puncture and carried on but a few miles later another punctured tyre, this time on John’s bike, meant that we were becoming well practised at changing inner tubes! Now in Breconshire’s red sandstone country, the scenery, and indeed the weather, was lovely. We soon started a five mile long ascent past Talybont Reservoir along the gravel track of the former Brecon and Merthyr Junction Railway. Between well grown trees alongside the route great vistas opened up occasionally giving us marvellous views across the Brecon Beacons. The gradient, which had been moderate for several miles, finally increased significantly before we reached the mountain road coming up from Glyn Collwyn and the 440 m highest point on Lon Las Cymru South.

A long descent then took us into the Taf Fechan Forest, past the Pentwyn Reservoir and eventually to the northern end of the Pontsticill Reservoir.

After a brief stop at the Red Cow pub in Pontsticill for tea and soup we set off for Merthyr Tydfil. Passing the remains of the six blast furnaces of the old Cyfarthfa Ironworks, we soon entered Merthyr town centre where we picked up the River Taff. We cycled past the birthplace of Joseph Parry, the famous Welsh composer, and onwards through one of the most historic and industrialised areas of Wales towards Cardiff. The cycle route, alongside the Taff, is surprisingly leafy considering the history of the area, but we were never far from the busy A470 and crossed through a number of its underpasses which are not readily visible from a car.

 The Taff Trail then took us along the Penydarren Tramway, between Merthyr and Abercynon, which was used in the early 19C by Trevithick’s pioneering steam locomotive. Soon we entered Pontypridd where, in Ynysangharad Park, we saw the James memorial which commemorates the father and son composers of the national anthem Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. Passing Glyntaff cemetery we reached Nantgarw and skirted Castell Coch before completing the final eight or so miles alongside the River Taff to Cardiff. We eventually reached the city through leafy parkland, by now we were passing lots of other cyclists out for a late Friday afternoon ride.

The Millenium Stadium was a welcome and familiar landmark and we continued to follow Route 8 signs until we lost them somewhere between the City Centre and the Bay. Crossing the bridge to the Bay towards Techniquest we finally found our way to the Millenium Centre, and the end of our cycle challenge, where we were met by Gill and Steffan (John’s wife and son) who treated us to some celebratory beers!


The three of us thoroughly enjoyed every minute of this 260 mile cycling challenge, as well as each other’s company; in particular we have been delighted with the generous response of many friends and family who have sponsored us by contributing to our three chosen charities.

There is no doubt that the Lon Las Cymru cycle route is challenging, especially with weighty panniers on board, but, despite wind and rain for of much of the week, we saw wonderful views of rural and industrial Wales which are rarely seen from a car. Last, but not least, Kate, fuelled by Mars bars and Kendal mint cake, set a good pace on the ascents while two, sixty-three year olds, proved that there is still plenty of life in the old dogs!

John, Kate and David Harries
September 2011

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