Maps, maps, maps... Perhaps the biggest issue facing many cyclists is; "where ya gonna go?" In this section I will showcase a selection of my personal rides along the National Cycle Network in Southeast Wales.

Carreg Tegernacus

The original plan to meet the Green Ladies for a group ride was canceled; so I rolled on. And sometimes without warning the most amazing cycling experiences just unfold... this day became one of those wonderful and epic rides.

Heading up toward the high ridge top...

I cycled up the valley, past Parc Cwm Darren and through the sleepy little village of Fochriw. At the edge of town, I turned right and climbed further up a small hill toward the ridge top planning to head over to the village of Pontlottyn on the far side. It was as I started down toward the village that a rough road on my right actually caught my eye... because even though it was heading south, it went higher up the ridge!
Ride Report
Date: 12 / 05 / 2013
Ride Time: 7 hrs. 15 mins.
Weather: High Winds/Light Showers/Sun/Clouds
Temperature: 7c / 45f

Hello adventure! Time to do some explorin'! So I set off riding up another steep hill, climbing even higher up the ridge between Fochriw and Pontlottyn.

I climbed the broken little road and the wind intensified as I became increasingly exposed. I was giggling like a little girl as I literally sailed up the the steep hill with hardly any effort. (This section of my ride is indicated with the blue line in the map below.) At this point I was completely without any protection from the wind and rain. I leaned my bike over in the grass and wandered haphazardly around the wide-open hillside in awe. This is what blows my mind about Wales. This is what I love.

Looking back toward Fochriw...

Up on top...

Heading off across the ridge...

The wind was enormous. I could hardly stand to take any photos... in fact, the wind gusts blew the camera right out of my hands and I had to chase the darn thing as it tumbled across the grassy field! It was crazy. It was ridiculous. It was marvelous. It was laugh out-loud spectacular... screaming head-long into the wind... arms stretched-out-wide fun!

You cannot make this stuff up. You cannot plan this kind of wonder. Only through exploring and discovery can you get this type of excitement.

Look at that road ahead! See how the land drops off to either side...

Top of the world...

And then... then... over the top!

What are these... paddocks?

And suddenly the sky started to clear...

And the wind began to soften...

And the sun appeared...

I could see it immediately that this was a special place. I could feel it. I rode over a short drop and then there were trees... the wind died down, though I could hear it in the leaves... there were birds... and the sun. I had ridden from a barren, wind-swept plateau onto a lush green hillside.

I found a sign...

and a stone...

This was a Roman place. 2000 years ago they were here... they saw it, they knew. They built something here... was it just a road? A fort? What? I see that Tegernacus died here because they placed a monument to him... but why? Who was he? Was this the place of a long forgotten battle?

What I can tell you and what I think anyone who visits this place will agree... it that it is special. There is a connection between the landscape and the sky... the weather is affected by land and the land has been shaped by the sky. You can feel it.

There is also no disputing the history... the stones themselves show that many others have also found this place unique. It oozes spirituality.

Heading down the southern end toward Bargoed...

on a Roman road.

And its the notion of spirituality that makes Wales so fascinating. It embodies a power... an inner strength. It is a land of moss covered stone carved by the many passions of history. The hills and valleys are full of surprising mystery and depth. A land of many questions... of rich quiet character.

And then I rode away down a steep hill, quickly and suddenly, back to civilization... Bargoed seemed like a thriving metropolis. It was shocking and looking back it was as if I had been in another world... in another time. And writing about it now, thinking back... looking at my photos... I was in another world.

Area Description: To understand the landscape of Southeast Wales, envision the valleys like the back of your hand; your fingers being the ridges running north, while the spaces between your fingers are the valleys. At the tip of your fingers imagine a high ridge that connects everything together... this connecting ridge is called; The Heads of the Valleys. Above this ridge lies a vast range of mountains; the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Most all of the ridges running north (your fingers) are long, barren, grass covered "balds" used mainly for grazing sheep and cattle. Occasionally you'll see a signal tower of some sort or occasionally a small grove of trees. Mostly it is wide open moors falling off to the valleys on both sides. Running down the narrow valleys between these high ridges (sthe spaces between your fingers...) are the rivers for which the valleys are named (the Rhymney, the Sirhowy, The Ebbw, etc...) and nestled along the rivers are the small towns and villages of Southeast Wales.

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