If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow,
don’t be alarmed now…
Hedgerows line the single lane country roads commonly used for the networks of trails of the National Cycle Routes through Wales. Most of the main thoroughfares run along river valleys banked by steep hillsides dotted with thousands of sheep. The farms are accessed by narrow, neatly groomed hedge-lined country lanes which run straight up the hillside over the top and down the back. It is on these lanes we are traveling. Always up, over and down.
The ride from Shrewsbury started out gently through small villages along low laying hay farms. About 10 miles in, ironically on the Wales border, the hills started with an aptly named rise – Long Hill- long and hilly it was. Just when you think the hill is ending and you can let lose on the downhill, another uphill begins. And so it goes.
We are using the Sustrans National Cycle Network maps. These maps are really nice with lots of details about camping, lodging, pubs and terrain. In addition to the contour lines the route is marked with a series of symbols indicated up or down hill. If the direction of travel is then > indicates downhill and < means uphill. If these symbols appear on the map- then you know you are in for a long and steep up or down hill section. On the ride from Shrewsbury, just before we rolled into Welshpool we had our very first >>. Luckily it was downhill, this time.
Camping is not as easy to find as some bloggers have indicated. The townfolk in Newton basically laughed at us for suggesting we can camp on a farmers lot or in a green area off a pub. One pub owner wanted to let us camp in his green area but was concerned about the crime and drugs that went on in the establishment next doors. He indicated that “he wouldn’t be comfortable staying in the green area over night”. So we “camped” at Yesterdays, a very nice, clean, comfortable bed and breakfast just above the Severn River. The owners were pleasant and helpful, the lodge was clean, warm and friendly and the full English breakfast got us off to a good start. If you stay in Yesterdays – ask for room #4. Fabulous.
Leaving Newton, the route immediately takes you into the steep valley wall hills. There a few > sections on this leg that were only marked with one > and I am pretty sure they deserved two. Once you pass Landiloes you are deep in to sheep country. As we rounded one corner a young lad came running out of an
opening in the hedgerow, yelling for us to stop. We stopped just in time for a large flock of sheep to pass directly in front of us, followed by four beautiful border collies and their owners. The country lanes often meander right through sheep pastures, you have to watch around every corner as the sheep like to sleep on the warm tarmac.
We rolled into Rhayder to nearly sunny skies- the first sun we have seen for awhile. I am sitting in our tent typing this blog as internet is now accessible in just about all of Wales. The gentle gurgling of the River Wye and the soft pitter patter of rain on the tent is lulling me to sleep. Tomorrow we head west to the Coastal University town of Aberystwyth.