The city of Nice seen from the surrounding hillside bathed in sunshine

Home Travel StoriesLlangollen Lockdown

The Old Folks Climb a Hill

Ride Date 26 July 2020

By Ren Withnell

One thing that hasn't changed since my last camping trip aeons ago is my inability to get comfy and sleep properly in a tent. It wasn't cold in the night, there weren't any unusual noises, I didn't have a rock jutting into my back nor did we get flooded out. Everything was as good as I could hope. It's just me. Me and thin airbeds and sleeping bags and camping in general. 

I'm obviously nesh, soft, not tough enough, too much of a home boy and all them sort of things. Sharon on the other hand sleeps like the dead but then she could sleep on a washing line while a battle ensued around her. She likes nice sheets and fluffy pillows and pretty wallpaper and delicate ornaments and colourful flowers but she could outslumber the hardiest of arctic adventurers or wilderness explorers. Life is never fair is it.

There is definitely something wrong with her though. Regular readers will know I rise early, particularly when camping due to me lacking any innate camper skills. They will also know that waking Sharon in any situation at all is a dangerous affair fraught with the risk of rude words, potential violence, extreme time wastage and evil witchcraft. And yet at 0600 she slowly, calmly, gently awakes as I muster myself.

I can only presume the real Sharon is being probed on a spaceship by aliens. To be frank first off it's the aliens I feel sorry for as the real Sharon will be giving them hell, especially if they woke her up too soon. Secondly I think I prefer the alien facsimile. This one was ready to ride yesterday and this morning has been, well, you know, a lot safer? 

My new alien partner and I plan to walk up to "Castell Dinas Brân", the ruin of a castle on the hill above the tent. It can't be more than a 3/4 mile from here so it should take, I dunno, 20, maybe 25 minutes to get there as it's all uphill. 

Th outline of castle ruin atop a hill, a lane runs into the trees heading towards the castle
It's not far at all to the Castle, shouldn't take long.

We depart after a brew and a croissant (the aliens got that part right at least). Up this road for a few hundred metres, check the map, yes, up this road sweetie. 
"By golly it's steep! puff, pant, wheeze..."
"Yes ffffft fffft wheeze fffft it is..."
"Hang on a mom... herrrr herrrr herrrr... ent, that's a... phew... nice... fern"
"... wheeze wheeeze... can't be far... keep going... we can... wheeeeeze do this"

The 20 and 25 minute marks come and go. We can see the ruins above us, not far away. We're now on a gravel and rock path better suited to crampons and ropes as a young family pass us, their children skipping by. Oh dear. Oh deary me. We, well it's true, we are getting old. Maybe we are old. Old and unfit.

A little closer to the ruins there's just the top of the hill ahead
"Puuffff, wheeze, not puuffff, far, cough cough, now"

I can't decide which is more exhilarating. The grand views across the hills heading west and north, the small town of Llangollen down in the valley south and the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to our east. Or my newfound ability to catch my breath now we've stopped climbing. 

It was a climb but it was most certainly worth it. I cherish my motorcycling greatly and I'm not a huge walking fan but there is no other way to truly explore a place and see what it has to offer. I did not know this was here, I'd have missed this scene and forever been just a little less fulfilled if I'd not made the effort. The ruins, while merely remnants, enhance and add a nuance of mystery to the hills and valleys laid out before us.

Mountains, some pointy some round, stretching away into the distance under heavy skies
Wonderful scenery under the dramatic skies, worthy of the effort.

The journey back down the hill is treacherous although considerably less tiring. We take another route to the north west and eventually find tarmac. I lead us back across a field or two and feeling just a little foot weary we get back to the tent. I thought this would be an easy hour's walk with a gentle climb. It's taken us 2 and a half hours. It's now 1100 and we need to be off site by 1200. I'm going to be stiff and sore tomorrow morning I'm sure.

Sharon smiles, behind her are tall almost prehistoric ferns
David Attenborough - "Here we find the lesser spotted pigmy Sharon in her natural jungle environment."

We're on the road and rolling just before 1200. Once again I manage to get us joyfully lost around Acrefair and Penycae, taking us round a convoluted loop unintentionally back to where we started. We stop for a brew and fuel at Ruabon then I give up and catch the main A483 back to Wrexham, Chester and the motorway. 

This was not a big trip to foreign lands as yet unexplored. No ferries were harmed in the making of this journey. I didn't need to learn a new language nor did our passports venture out from our houses. This time it's been about relativity. After 3 months of strict lockdown and another month or so of restrictions this simple night away has felt relatively akin to a trip to the moon.

The talk now is of tighter restrictions, local lockdowns and there is no end in sight. Our future trip to Northern Ireland hangs in the balance and Europe seems as remote as the Mongolian Steppe presently. I hope we find a solution both selfishly as I like to travel and humanely as pestilence touches us all sadly. 

I'll recommend Llangollen to you all. Try to pick a time when it's likely to be quieter as I know it can be a chaotic tourist trap in season and/or a nice weekend. There's only really an afternoon's exploring to be found in town but it should be a great base for a week to explore the area.   

Down in the valley below the castle we see the small town of Llangollen
It's not a bad little town is that there Llangollen.


If you'd like to advertise with Bikes And Travels contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Meandering Into Llangollen In search of the thrill of exploration and pushing the boundaries of human endeavour, the Dynamic Muppets travel somewhere they've been before. However Llangollen still has much to reveal.
The Old Folks Climb a Hill After a night under canvas our intrepid explorers take a genteel stroll up a hill to see an old castle. Well that's what Ren thinks it'll be like anyhow.

Reader's Comments

Knulp said :-
I absolutely love this stuff! Just found your blog(s), and already I'm a complete convert. It's humane, funny, really really honest and very, very...relatable.

If I were a person of influence, I'd sign you up this instant. As it is, I am but a humble geriatric wanna-be biker. But I shall keep tuning in, that's for sure.

Keep on blogging, (And slogging. Up those hills.)
23/08/2020 10:07:08 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Cheers Knulp. So you don't work for a big marketing company? You aren't the CEO of a large multinational motorcycle manufacturer? You're not a TV celebrity? Gosh darn it! I've been waiting to be discovered and catapulted to a life of wealth and fame, I suppose I'll have to wait a while longer. Back to work Sharon...

You're welcome to read and comment away Knulp. I'm guessing you don't ride ("wanna-be biker")? Maybe there's good reasons you don't, some things just ain't possible. You're welcome to virtually join us on our rides via the blog.

I try to put 2 new posts up each week and with the help of the contributors I aim to share a broad range of experiences although I veer away from the illegal high speed wheelies and on street racing mentality. Of course if anyone has any legal racing tales to share that's an aspect of motorcycling that's not been covered.


24/08/2020 08:06:24 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Oh gawd, someone paid him a complement, we'll never hear the last of it.
Knulp........please desist such complementary behaviour. It won't end well.
Obviously Madame Moisture deserves full credit for all her endeavours, but enough already.
For those interested in Meteorology and Fauna, that's fluffy things and rain to you Ed, the first Arctic migratory gooses went overhead yesterday making very goosey noises as they headed to the coast. You know what that means it's officially not summer.
Upt'North.
KNULP, no more, you hear. No more.
24/08/2020 11:14:57 UTC

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