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Getting To Gwern

Ride Date 5 April 2019

By Ren Withnell

Erm yeah. It's only been 3 weeks since I was at Shell Island with my friends, and that didn't quite go to plan (Shell Island - It Only Pours). And now I'm off back to North Wales for another weekend's camping. Let's hope this one is more, erm, normal?

Ren's tunnel tent with one of the poles snapped and collapsed from the last trip to Wales
'Twere a tad breezy last time I was in North Wales.

The tent has a new section of fibreglass pole and I have 4 spares with me. The forecast is not quite 100% wall to wall glorious sunshine but there is the hope of acceptable climatic conditions. I'll have her ladyship with me, the occasionally honorable Madam Parker. 

Of course I'm at Lymm services first, I always am. Much to my surprise though Sharon arrives a whole quarter hour before the alloted time and without getting lost either. I am beginning to wonder if she's been replaced with an alien duplicate that contains internal sat-nav and a functioning chronometer. If she has then great! The rest of the gang arrives in dribs and drabs.

Sharon is looking stylish and cool in shades and bike gear in the sun of Spain
Own bike, smiling, navigating, on time. Definitely an alien.

I'd like to say the run down is uneventful, but that would be an untruth. One pair of glasses left on the car park, flattened then straightened out. One motorcycle with a trailer that is legally limited to 60mph on the motorway which disappears off into the distance. Sharon's eyeballs are floating by the time our now small group reaches Ruthin and a suitable potty emergency stop. Anyone who's ridden with friends will have similar tales I'm sure.

I must, surely, definitely, absolutely and certainly ridden this part of the A5. And yet it all seems new and  - in spite of the grey skies - quite impressive. There's a few corners to play with and rugged rocky hilltops to admire. Considering this is a major highway the road feels remote and wild. I wasn't expecting that.

If you are looking for a campsite with 5 star facilities, swish marble toilet facilities, on site cafe, a restaurant and manicured lawns then Gwern Gof Isaf is not your place. The sheep keep the grass short (and fertilised), the toilets are "functional", there is hot water but only in the small washing up area and that barely trickles. This is essentially wild camping with a toilet and clean water. 

What it lacks in executive facilities and polished chrome trimmings it makes up for with it's surroundings. There's been a touch of snow this week creating the icing on the prodigiously prominent mountain tops. Please insert all your favourite mountain region superlatives in here, start with "monumental".  Again I ponder, I must surely have ridden through here yet this is all new and impressive to me. Maybe it was misty and raining when I last passed through? Shame, it is a veritable wonder I seem to have missed.

Snow and rocks atop huge graggy mountains on the a5 in North Wales
Cor! Where did that come from?

Bernard has a big tent. He also has a stove in this tent. This means as the night draws in and the temperature falls we gather within the tee-pee. There is drink and merriment and teasing and banter. In fact by 2300 there's just a tad too much drink flowing so Sharon and I being totally sober depart for bed. There's a plan for a walk tomorrow at 1100, I'm not sure all the hangovers will have cleared by then.

Withing the hardy grasses and hills we can see the top of Bernard's large tee-pee tent
Bernard and the party tent.


Share your camping tale on Bikes And Travels - contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Getting To Gwern Ren is hoping this trip goes better than the last one. Sharon has been replaced by aliens. Just another ordinary weekend then.
The Ikea Effect, Breathlessly. Ren is getting Zen as well as realising he's not the man he still thinks he used to be. Is appreciation relative to effort?
Coming Home How did Ren never realise what a great road the A5 is? Anyway, he'd best get home.

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