667-12 Llantwit Major to Swansea

Circle complete, so returning to the start with the same rant. Wrexham a City? Fine scruffy wee town it may be: it had some things going for it when I went there regularly with work, but City no. Chester, very nearby, is what you call a proper City. And it’s not until the Jubilee so 667 is correct, leaving space for future tours. (As an aside, Wrexham does have a Catholic Cathedral).

A nice tailish wind speed us through the leafy lanes of the Vale. To the outskirts of Bridgend and through Pyle towards Port Talbot. Familiar territory all this, nicely framed be the ever impressive scale of the steel works. The tide is in in Aberavon which alters the feel of the usually bustling sea front.

Neath Canal, and home. Been a lovely wee trip, time for the shed fairy to wave the washing wand.

Neath canal

667-11 Caerleon to Llantwit Major

Cities 6 Cathedrals 6 and a few more castles

Today’s musings. Llan once meant meeting place. So Llantwit Major? We’ve entered the Glamorgan Heritage Coast. Heritage as distinct from non heritage coast? Who ever thinks up these definitions needs a good talking too.

The same can be said of whoever is responsible for the current mess that is Newport City centre. We’d reached there via a lovely cycle route along the Usk. Perhaps it was reaching traffic after so long which tempers views. Glassworks cottages: a clue to a former factory? Our last major puncture saga was in Newport, close to the spot today where a cyclist was mending his saying “careful glass”.

Newport City and St Woolos Cathedral, the latter at the top of a fine steep hill which must have killed a few horses drawing hearses in their day, then onto the Gwent levels. Here we stick to the minor road which weaves its way along the old Roman ditches. All too soon Cardiff.

The City Halls are those befitting a city, the civic buildings in Cathays a joy. The Llandaff Cathedral isn’t bad either. We follow the Taf for a bit though newish housing, cross the River Ely to go through Penarth. A fifteenth different county don’t you know: the Vale of Glamorgan.

Barry is interesting. The statue of David Davies reminds you it was the world’s largest coal exporting docks in 1913. 11.5million tons of coal. Yet more fascinating is its small ruined Norman castle just sitting there at the side of the road.

Llantwit Major (we can’t find the Minor) is our final stop on this mini tour. Wales’ oldest church (St Illtyd) watches over proceedings. Tomorrow the homeward leg.

667-10 Talgarth to Caerleon

Cities 4 Cathedrals 4 (Brecon)

Leaving the Wye Valley we enter the Usk Valley via Brecon. The cafe is closed and we discover an excellent one in St Mary’s Church. A good use the building, coffee with a prayer.

Following the Usk you can see why the Brecon canal is kept going (I think it’s the most heavily subsidised canal in the UK). It’s a beautiful valley. The road undulations work up an appetite for the excesses of Crickhowell.

We’d been on many of these roads before. The route down to Caerleon via Usk is new territory. Carefully avoiding the faster route via the new Heads of Valley extension, the quite roads are a delight. Even a windmill makes a surprise appearance.

Doing our best to get lost in Usk, a new song there, we’re left wondering about its association with Alfred Russell Wallace. Surely he’s Neath’s claim to fame? Need to investigate.

Tonight Roman Caerleon. Tomorrow starts with Newport. We do like contrasts.

667-9 Wentnor to Talgarth

Tydryngton cnyll(e)’hillock’)??. Today started throwing place names at us as we snaked through the border settlements (from 1 House to a hamlet to a village). So where do places get their names from I mused? Titterton, perhaps after the once common surname Tydryngton. I used to visit Bracknell: we passed through Bucknell: what does nell mean? An [exhaustive] search implies it is from cnyll, meaning hillock / knoll in Anglo Saxon.

The first Earl of Powis must have had similar musings when he erected his impressive sign post in 1800. Yet that begs more questions of I and y. Powis swapped its i for a y: Llanelly its y for an i. Y not?

Hopton Castle is a surprise find.  Once a border manor, it was the site of a nasty Cromwell civil war skirmish. How did they navigate then?

The route is pretty. Gently undulating across worked meadows along quiet lanes.  You cross a rickety toll bridge to enter Wales. No bell tolls for cyclists. We save our pennies for an enforced cake stop for delicious sticky ginger cake at the delightful Electric Cafe in Hay on Wye. Ah that’s it,  we’ve been in the Wye Valley today. Lush!

667-8 Llanarmon-yn-Ial to Wentnor

We left this pretty wee (working) village to go back up the slope we’d entered it by. We reached our destination via another sharp we hill. The first sight is of a graveyard and church: cyclists must have passed through here before.

Today was the border country at its best and showing many faces. Green, misty, grey, sunny, wet. Never flat. Apart from the section along the lovely Llangollen canal that is. That had enough bumps on towpath to keep things interesting.

The Pontcysyllte aqueduct impresses on many levels. Today we looked up at it, realising of course we were cycling up to meet it on the other side. The Dee Valley was very picturesque. We’d reached it via the Horseshoe Pass shrouded in misty cloud: we missed the viewpoint.

Garlic and bluebells returned: a sign of hedgerows and shade. As on other days we largely enjoyed these by ourselves: very quiet. They canal barges were the busiest area of activity.

A busy border day. Denbighshire, Powys, Wrexham, Shropshire, Wales, England, Wentnor is lovely and quiet: the Long Mynd’s quieter companion valley. The pies in the Castle are reason enough to come here!