Looking out over the Aeron valley
A steep hill
Cycling in west Wales is never less than hard work. Despite my best efforts and hours spent poring over the relevant Landranger map in the hope of finding flat roads, I have only managed to identify one route I can realistically describe as “moderate” in terms of the amount of climbing involved.
There are, of course, flat roads to be found. They tend to run alongside rivers, the largest in the area being the Aeron and Teifi. Trouble is, they rarely run alongside rivers for very far, as anyone attempting the ride from Lampeter to Cardigan will find to their cost.
Instead, Welsh roads of the region, upon meeting a hill, invariably attack it head on. Actually that’s not quite true; there are at least two climbs on that particular stretch of road – one in each direction – that have what might be called a traverse with a bend at each end.
So, even my moderate route is only moderate in stretches. The bit into Tregaron is one, the road back down to Lampeter through Llanddewi Brefi the other. That’s more or less it; some 10 miles out of the 35 on my two-hour route, which can be stretched out to three with the addition of a loop around the top of the Cors Caron nature reserve and bog. This is flat between Tregaron and Pontrhydfendigaid, where one may make a short detour to the ruined abbey of Strata Florida, but makes up for it on the far side with a series of short but savage dips either side of Swyddffynnon.
It’s worth it every time, however, for the traffic-free roads and lovely scenery of the area. On a sunny late autumn morning, with the prospect of international rugby to watch as the sun is setting, there can be few more delightful rides. Head into the lanes and there is nothing for company but red kites, buzzards, rabbits and, of course, sheep, which with their unpredictable escape trajectories are more dangerous when they escape on to the road than the average farm dog.
A long, sweeping descent completes the ride. Such a descent completes any ride I do in the area arriving back from any direction, meaning that I start any and every ride with a long, hard climb. Even the moderate one. Better than the other way around, I guess.