Grumpy’s in Wales
Four of the club arrived; Roger, Roy and Dave accompanied my dad Allan on the trip, with Dave (with characteristic behaviour) riding his Bantam down from Berkshire to Bwlch. I’d already picked up the other bikes on trailer the previous week,
This years bikes, were the three Bantam’s from last year (though Roger’s was now more traditional black rather than last years orange) and my DT175 which I’d brought back from Belgium. Roy had a 4-stroke ex-WD BSA, which was by far the most powerful bike, but was nicely shod in trials tyres.
Whilst Dave was riding down, (5 hours + including diversions as a result of a gas leak in Abergavenny), the others arrived by car, prepped the bikes and set off. I was working so caught up with them after a trip to Crickhowell, across Llangynidr mountain and then back to Llangorse and a bacon sandwich at the cafe there. A nice warm up ride and then back to Bwlch to meet with Dave whilst I think made chicken curry before adjourning to the New Inn. A disappointing pint if truth be told and some discussion about the weather for the week. Tomorrow was going to be the finest day by far and so get out and get some riding in.
A route planned to take the team out over Mynnyd Eppynt and then across the Cambrian’s to Llyn Brianne was the order of the day.
View Grumpy Club Route 1 in a larger
I needed to fix a laptop before we left, but luckily it turned up early and we set off with some sunshine (not seen for a few weeks). Down the back way into Brecon and through town and on the excellent B road through Lower and Upper Chapel, before taking the left-fork across the Army ranges towards Llangammarch Wells.
Quick stop on what used to be the Drover’s Pub, not functional since 1940, when the Epynt was cleared of people to make an artillery firing range. Interestingly (and not known until I was writing this up, it seems that this was also the home of Mainland TT races in 1940’s and 50’s . Now a remote spot, once a thriving community and a lifestyle lost.
Over the top and down the escarpment on into Beulah. Refueling not needed as we headed up the long single track lane through to Abergwesyn and the road across to Tregaron. it’s a brilliant route across the Cambrian Mountains and the steep inclines (1:4 / 25%) and sharp bends make it interesting on a small two-stroke. A few forestry lorries around to keep you on your toes, who must be well coordinated in order to prevent interesting roadblocks.
We took the road down round Soar y Mynnyd (where there is a good green lane route across to Llandewi Brefi), before continue towards Tregaron (this deviating from the original route, based on the fact it was a nice day and we were going well). A packed lunch had been provided for the Grumpies and we stop in a forestry picnic spot, which was nicely away from the road. The DT reverted to it’s previous starting problems and it was back to dropping fuel down the plug hole to get it running. Not perfect.
The petrol station in Tregaron sums up the place really, Attended Service with a slight attitude, but nothing menacing or overtly hostile (unlike a cricket match I played there in 1994)
Roger’s Bantam decided to play up a bit after refueling so a bit of a delay as we headed down towards Llandewi Brefi. A scan of the map (and for this type of trip I can recommend the very good, cheap Ordnance Survey touring map of Mid & South Wales and noticed a mountain road I’d not been over, going from Llandewi to Ffarmers (where I’d once been to a party where someone turned up just wearing woad, unfortunately I a guy in his 50’s).
A quick sighter of a council notice confirmed my suspicions (around by the Road Closed sign) that the road was officially closed. Decided to press on anyway, as the detour meant going all the way down into Lampeter and then round. The road has plenty of gravel on it and is broken up in places, but easily passable on a bike (old and new) and it crosses over a great part of Wales.
Getting to Ffarmers and noticed that we’d lost my dad, who was a couple of miles back with a misfire and then a non-running bike. Quick diagnosis of closed-up points gap, a fix and then fixed. Roger’s bike wasn’t being exactly lively either and was pretty slow out of the hill from Pumsaint (where the National Trust were looking for tenants for the pub there). We made good time across to Llandovery and a cup of tea and the well known bikes haunt at the West End Cafe. Parked the DT between a couple of large trail bikes and went in for a very nice cup-of-tea.
Further discussions on Roger’s bike, specifically around timing advance,points gap etc and decided to do a quick fettle before starting the journey back. Rather than going for the A40 (which from Llandovery to Trecastle is excellent on a modern bike), decided on the back roads, initially going up through Myddfai to the Red Kite feeding centre in Llanduessant, before turning left towards Trecastle.
Roger’s bike was now flying up the hills and the haze of blue smoke reduced. Hard on the heels of the DT, which was now suffering the consequences of ‘mixing by eye’ the two-stroke oil.
Through onto Crai and then other the next hill or two into Heol Senni and then to the A470 Libanus. A quick turn right, took us through the foothills of the Brecon Beacons and then to Talybont-on-Usk. Here, we took refreshment at The Star Inn , still one of the better pubs in the area, still serving really nice real ale.
After a nice pint of pale ale, back to Bwlch, but only after I ran out of fuel and suppressed the nice taste of beer with that of petrol siphoned out of Dave’s Bantam
Whilst I nipped down to the airport (in by now pouring rain) to pick up Sophie, I dropped the Grumpy’s back at the Star for dinner and participation in the quiz night (where they didn’t too bad).
A rainy day, saw the senior members leave me doing some work and then head of a wet tour of the Black Mountains. Not sure exactly where they went, but neither did they.
They retired to The Bear Hotel in Crickhowell, along with Sophie, for drinks, before a steak dinner back in Bwlch.
Weather not good, with heavy rain returning in the morning (wettest June since records began etc etc). A quick phone call and we booked a place on the tour of Penderyn distillery , the place where Welsh Whisky is made.
Dave needed to be back in Berkshire to present his koi carp, so he set off on the Bantam, with heavy clouds and a cold wind the air. He’d need the heated grips he’d installed on the bike.
The rest of us, with jackets on, overtrousers ready, headed off into Brecon for fuel and then on the lanes over past the Brecon Beacons Mountain Centre and then over the pass from Heol Senni to Ystradfellte. The DT struggled but Roger’s Bantam was still going well up the single tracked hairpins.
The road here forms part of Sarn Helen, the ancient road that runs through parts of mid and west Wales. It’s a great spot , though the weather wasn’t helping the views. The Sarn Helen route is a well-known green lane for the off-road fraternity and I’m still not sure what it’s legal status is, as there are plenty of notices proclaiming no access for motor vehicles.
Down the valley into Ystrafellte and across the river and up and onwards onto Penderyn (more rain) and arrived at the distillery at spot on 1pm and at the same Sophie turned up in the van, The tour is interesting, and though the distillery is small compared with some of the Scottish ones, its worth stopping for a visit. They one use a single still and distilling process(compared with two in Scotland and three in Ireland), but get high strength alcohol from it. They also don’t seem to do the top-and-tailing that you see in Scotland (well at the Talisker distillery anyway).
After the tour ended up in the cafe in Hirwaun which has a practical , if somehwhat robust selection of cheap food for those passing through.
Sophie headed back to Brecon in the van, whilst I proceeded to get everyone lost as I tried to find a back-way out of Hirwaun. Ended up back on the road to Penderyn and then right on the small road through Cwm Cadlan. A great area (with some interesting caves and limestone morphology) though the tranquil peace of the area was shattered by Roger as the end cap, then the baffle detached from his exhaust. Roy picked up the baffle but after a 20 minute search back up the lane, no sign.
Now sounding like something from lightweight TT circa 1963, we all set off towards Cefn Coed (a brief bit on the A470) and then across towards Talybont-on-Usk, via Ponsticill and the mountain road. Weather still crap, but road great and the steep pull across Torpantau had the DT struggling again. Nice run down by the reservoir though and it looked like the weather was clearing up.
Back in Star in Talybont, a plan was hatched with Roy keen for a quick circumnavigation of the Black Mountains, via Forest Coat Pit, Llanthony, Gospel Pass and back via Talgarth. My Dad and Roger repaired to Bwlch, and as the heavens opened, Roy and I played a game of psychological ‘chicken’ in Llangynidyr, as both thinking each other wanted to still do the trip.
Needless to say, we got through some big puddles, heavy rainstorms, and the cold of Gospel Pass (was this June?), before heading back with all haste towards Bwlch. Not been so cold on a bike for a while and following a nice shower, we retired for dinner in the Bear Hotel in Crickhowell.
One day good weather, two not so good, but some good trips over some excellent roads. As has been said before (probably on these pages) going slower on a bike is sometimes a lot better than going quickly and a lot better than being in a car. You see a lot more.