Travel StoriesSouth Wales 2017
Bracing Winds And Wobbly Hobbits
By Ren Withnell
It's been another wet night, very wet. As I poke my nose out the tent I fear I may find both bikes lying on their sides due to the waterlogged grass.
Today we ride south once more, down along the coast and to the city of St Davids. I've been told the route is beautiful, magnificent and blah blah blah so I'm hoping it will live up to the hype.
By the time we're packed and loaded and lubricated and adjusted the rain has all but stopped. We follow the route south back through Aberdovey then break new ground into Machynlleth and the A487 to Aberystwyth. I'm just a tiny little bit excited about going to Aberystwyth.
Why? Hinterland (Y Gwyll in Welsh). My Dad steered me to this dark "noir" style Welsh detective murder mystery series. I became embroiled in the plots and subplots, the characters and the scenery. Being "noir" the Welsh countryside was portrayed as grey, menacing, mysterious and ominous. Now here I am riding through it and with the merest hint of sun it is lush, green, fertile and in places heartily enticing.
The scenery is mysterious and wonderful as the rain comes and goes.
I find the promenade in Aberystwyth and we park the bikes. I consult the internet and learn that pure serendipity has lead us to be near the building used as the police station in the series. I'm rarely starstruck or bothered by such things but this, this I really want to see. The building is covered in scaffolding in preparation for a very much needed restoration yet I must get Sharon to photograph me on the steps where the characters Tom and Mared came and went so often.
Scruffy DI Ren - The Ed here to solve mechanical mysteries and look mean and moody.
Sharon seems quite enthused by Aberystwyth. The sun is out which always helps but yes, yes it has a certain quality about it. Large enough to have hotels, cafes, a beach and plenty of shops but not so large as to be daunting. It feels well kept without suffering the ostentatiousness of excess wealth. There's nothing amazing, just good enough and good enough is good enough. We sit on a bench and eat sandwiches and crisps from a nearby shop.
Sharon's positively beaming at Aberystwyth.
The coast road is also good enough, perhaps more so. The sea makes a regular appearance be it next to beaches or cliffs or sea defences. It wendles its way gracefully then as we pass the "Welcome To Pembrokeshire" sign the heavens open with great aplomb. Thanks for the wet welcome Pembrokeshire, much appreciated I'm sure.
The Lower Town of Fishguard has a harbour that is enticing enough to warrant a stop, it must be time for a brew by now. Save for the bracing wind rattling the ropes on the small yachts the harbour is pretty, not at all what I expected and most welcome. The little cafe we're pointed to gives us shelter, a smile, tea and some tips on where to visit from the lady in charge. Before we depart we go to the harbour wall, the rain has stopped although the wind is still full force.
Lower Town's Harbour at Fishguard.
Strumble Head Lighthouse is, logically enough, also on the coast and also receiving the full attention of the wind. As we take our photographs a lady offers to snap Sharon and I together. She's German, retired and touring the area in her VW Golf estate. She's staying at a campsite I've considered and her recommendation is good so we agree to meet her there.
A very rare picture of both myself and Sharon together.
Caerfai Bay Campsite (not to be confused with Caerfai Farm next door) is indeed everything our Germanic friend has promised and more. There's not one but two camper's kitchens, 3 toilet blocks, phone charging facilities, family rooms in the showers and all this for an acceptable price. Like every other blasted campsite though the campers who most require the kitchens and the toilets are the ones ousted to the far reaches of the fields. Why oh why oh why oh why oh why...
The view across the bay is stunning. The price for this view is we're right in the path of the wind that's been battering us most of the day. It's not a disaster and the tent is up to the task. I don't mind at all but Sharon prefers not to be blown off her feet while making her way to the loo. Fussy, darn fussy I tell you.
Life on the road is sure tough innit.
After a brief chat once again with our new found Germanic lady friend and a bite to eat it's bedtime. Tomorrow we take on the sprawling metropolis of the city of St Davids.
By Sharon Parker
Today is a de-camp, we are on the move again. The rain stops for a brief interval in the morning so it is a dash to get things packed up. I almost complete the task but the rain starts again just before I have finished. The wind is also blustery, that be the waterproofs on again.
Today we are heading for St Davids, it has been highly recommended by my friend in work. I trust her judgement and look forward to what St Davids will reveal. The rain stops for a while and we have a pleasant ride stopping at Aberystwyth for a break. Having a look along the sea front it reminds me of Douglas in the Isle of Man. I am not a particular fan of seaside towns but this one is one of the better ones. I surprise myself by actually quite liking it.
Ren is excited to find we are close to some building in some TV programme he watches. I am more interested in the small bike shop at the corner. We have a quick look in the shop and then Ren enjoys having a photo by the his chosen building. The sun comes out and it is so warm we strip off the waterproofs and sit on a bench in the sunshine eating our lunch. It is very pleasant, I upset Ren by smiling too much but fear not for oh hang on is that the familiar pit pat of rain I can feel on my skin?
We decide it is going to be one of those days, when you just do not know what the weather is going to do, so we pull on the waterproofs again as we head back to the bikes. We have a brief chat with another couple of bikers who are also touring the area but they have a friend's cottage to stay in, nice. I am just putting a call out for anyone out there to anyone with a nice cottages in South Wales. Hello can I be your friend, I can come look after your cottage sometime.
It has a certain charm I was not expecting does Aberystwyth
Just as well we waterproofed up as the rain soon comes again in earnest but the road is lovely and I am really enjoying the ride. Next stop is Fishguard and the rain once again stops as patches of blue sky begin to struggle through the clouds.
The car park is on a bit of a slope and a bit gravely and I make parking up into a big effort. I do not know what is up with me at the moment. Riding the bike I am fine but parking up on any kind of slope or gravel I am all jittery. The wind is strong and it does not help me by blowing me side to side as a move around on tip toes. Surely the drop on the way home from Scotland is still not bothering me? I am just not feeling too confident.
I do get the bike parked up eventually and I am totally charmed by Fishguard. Now this is my kind of seaside village. Trees and woods surrounding the harbour. Ren loves the sea, I love trees and this little place has both. Perfect.
The charming Fishguard
Fishguard is another place recommended by my friend and she is right it really is quite lovely. The cafe provides shelter from the wind as we sip tea.They do not provide coffee so if you want that you're out of luck. However this lack is made up with the friendly and informative chatter with one of the owners. She tells us of must see places and there are far too numerous for us to visit them all. We make mental notes of some of them. It would appear that Pembrokeshire is not short of beaches and coves to keep even the most demanding visitor happy.
We continue on and find ourselves winding out way down a twisty narrow single track. I have no idea where we are going I am just following Ren's lead. Suddenly as we emerge from a bend there appears in the distance the unmistakable shape of a large white lighthouse. This must be Strumble Head. Haa that be another of my friend's places to visit ticked off the list then.
Ren begins to slow down and I spy to my right a small slopped gravely car park. Please do not stop Ren, just carry on ahead, oh bugger he is parking up which means I too shall have to park up. I can feel the panic begin to set in. I feel ridiculous but there is no doubt about it this bike comes with both joy but also restrictions for me.
I have already learned the hard way that I cannot blindly follow Ren. I can not just park this bike anywhere like he can or with the ease I have on my 125cc. I have to consider stopping and parking on this bike carefully. Not being able to flat foot this bike makes parking problematic at times. I have to stop and consider. I am not happy to try this one until Ren gets off his bike and stands next to me in case my feet slip or do not touch the floor.
I carefully and slowly back it into place. There is a brief moment where my feet do not touch the ground but with my heart banging the task is completed. I try not to get frustrated with myself or the bike but I really hate the fact I do not feel confident parking this bike. If I was on my own then what would I have done? I certainly could not have risked parking it solo. Never before has my hobbit size bothered me as much as it is at this moment.
Everyone will tell you that tip toes is fine on a bike. Well no it is not. It is fine on the flat, on smooth tarmac but it is simply not fine on rough, uneven sloping ground. It is bloody scary because you are always on a knife edge of whether you will tip over or not.
We have parked up by a friendly German lady who offers to take out photo together and whom we have a brief chat with. She is staying at one of the campsites we were considering at St Davids, Caerfai Bay and she highly recommends it. There are several campsites to choose from in St Davids so this recommendation makes it simple to just choose this one.
It would appear this is actually the end of the road so it is back the way we have just come. The German lady is nervous of these single track roads and was hoping another vehicle would be leaving so she could drive behind them. It makes me feel a little better somehow to know I am not the only one with a few nerves in them today. Being a secret gentleman Ren offers our services. We shall ride in front and escort our foreign visitor back to the main road.
Once again actually riding the bike is an absolute pleasure and I am sorry when we get to the campsite because I am in the mood for more riding today. I am also somewhat disconcerted when I stop the bike to hear my fan making an awful grating sound. It does not sound good at all. Ren agrees, it will need a dose of looking at.
I am not however disappointed with the campsite. It is lovely. The facilities are top rate. The views are vast and the skies are blue. Well they are when we first arrive. We just about get to pitch up before the rain comes in once more. Oh well be grateful for small mercies. I am a little concerned that such a view affords us no shelter from the wind that is still blowing with some force. Ren assures me all will be well so that sets my mind to rest. Just let me go pray to the gods that the rain and wind to spare us in the night then.
Caefai Bay has a stunning location.
Do not worry dear reader as you can see those blue skies have been replaced by grey. Rain on the way, normal service has been resumed.
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Not Even Wales!
With a storm set to cause havoc across the UK is this day the best day to set out on a camping holiday? Maybe not.
Finally Sharon and Ren get themselves out of the house and onto the road. They've set out, but have they got everything?
Exploring Around Tywyn
Mid Wales provides an engaging, gorgeous and sometimes challenging landscape to explore. With all the sea, hills, mountains, valleys and single track lanes that go nowhere, our explorers are exploring.
Bracing Winds And Wobbly Hobbits
Between the rain and the beauty Sharon's riding is creating mixed emotions for her and Ren is getting giddy over a TV programme.
Exploring St Davids - On Foot
It is time to leave the bikes for just one day and set out on foot to explore the tiny city of St Davids. The city is small and pleasant, the cathedral is just sheer delight.
Exploring Around St Davids
In the land of a thousand coves Sharon and Ren are looking into a handful of them. There's a chance Ren's 500 might not be getting out of one of them though.
Is Tenby Really Utopia?
Tenby has been much lauded to both Sharon and Ren but now it's time to see if the reality will live up to the hype. Will Tenby be amazing or an amazing flop?
Exploring Around Tenby
Between the endless cute coves, splendid coastal resorts and curiosities there's time for some field repairs. The big worry now is the forthcoming weather.
Spoiled Rotten In Gower
Sharon is for once actually preying for rain and Ren is wondering if Sharon is going to kill him. What on earth is going on?
Exploring The Gower Peninsula
Considering the day was supposed to be a washout Sharon and Ren get to look around the Gower Peninsula in good conditions. There's only one problem with Sharon's perfect beach - the walk back.
New Friends And Llandovery
While the weather is very much against them Sharon and Ren enjoy the day with new friends and a lot of hot tea. They're heading a little North in South Wales.
Exploring The Brecon Beacons
After yesterday's deluge will the soggy campers get chance to dry out and actually see The Brecon Beacons? Sharon is bleating out some awful sheep puns too.
Epilogue - South Wales 2017
Once again another trip comes to an end and it is time to return to the reality of everyday life. Neither Sharon or Ren are ready for it to be over.
Andy Gray said :-
Great reading about your travels to the same areas I've been.
Wish I'd known about the wooden bridge near Barmouth, the inland drive is boring!
When you were on the campsite at Caefai, directly south is another right on the other side of the bay. West Hook Farm in Marloes - basic, exposed but has wonderful views!
12/10/2017 6:09:12 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
The old rickety bridge at Penmaenpool isn't always open Andy. There's just one chap in a little booth and I imagine he'd like to have some kind of a life. It is a dinky little shortcut though.
We must have been past West Hook Farm and you can read about that in the next exciting episode...!
13/10/2017 8:29:26 AM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
You mention worrying about the bike stands sinking into the ground, and I see from the campsite picture that there's nothing under the stand. I always carry one of those spreader things that I got free somewhere although I'm sure you could make one out of the left over bits of plastic / plywood from another job......
16/10/2017 1:41:43 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Puck - I've always known then as pucks.
Both bikes are on pucks otherwise they wouldn't stand even on dry solid grass. I have, in the past, experienced ground soft enough to see the puck slowly but definitely sinking into the grass and soil under the pressure of a heavily loaded NTV600 Revere. Oddly enough, that was the last time we were in South Wales when we just passed through.
16/10/2017 2:21:30 PM UTC
Doug said :-
You say potayto, I say potarto, you say puck, I say "first beer can" :-)
26/10/2017 9:32:02 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Quite so Doug. 2 problems for me though. First I usually need the puck or can on arrival, second I don't drink beer or any alcohol! I have to borrow an empty can so I can look all butch and manly.
26/10/2017 9:58:10 PM UTC
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Travel StoriesSouth Wales 2017