The day continued on a second loop starting from Penybont, through New Radnor and Gladestry before dropping down into the Wye Valley and Rhydsence and Gasbury, then back up into the high country, and eventually back home. We were mainly on upland trails, deeply rutted by 4 x 4s (by deep, think of lagoons), but fortunately, most had fairly firm bottoms, so provided the bow wave didn’t swamp you or the bike, they were good fun. Its ‘big country’ up here, and the views are fantastic, especially on the clear sunny day we had. We got back about 6 o’clock, 107 miles done, worn out but very happy. After refuelling, chain greasing and emergency maintenance, bikes were put to bed and riders hosed down, it was time to hit the town for a few beers and curry (well, rude not to). Imagination being a lot greater than reality, relatively little alcohol was consumed, and most were tucked up in bed by 11 o’clock, snoring soundly.
Sunday dawned and stiff bodies were eased into thankfully warm dry riding gear and boots, thanks to the hotel boiler room. The weather was not as kind as the day before, and got progressively wetter as the day wore on. We set off in the opposite direction, following the Wye valley, and after a fair bit of tarmac, headed up into forests and steep valleys around Beulah. The infamous area of Strata Florida and the aptly named Devils Staircase, provided some challenging riding and snorkelling opportunities. One drowned CrossTrainer and a sputtering DRZ later, we emerged back out into civilisation (sort of….) at Pontrhydfendigaid.
A couple of interesting loops around Devils Bridge and Abeffrwd took us to Ffair Rhos, where we returned to the high country with epic vista’s and long, unbroken trails. We then dropped down to a series of reservoirs, including the largest, Claerwen, that had an unbroken 8 mile lane around its northern shore. The Elan River finally brought us back home, after another 100+ mile day, tired, wet and very happy.
Our guide, Peter (never did get his surname) had wanted to do another 20 mile loop, but with 5 hour drives home to look forward too, we all decided to wimp out. Next year, and with the benefit of hindsight, I think it would be wise to stay at the Lion Royal for the Sunday night.
It was a brilliant weekend, well worth the very reasonable cost of the local guide, and one that will be done again. Mary Collard’s legacy of bonhomie for Trail Riders lives on at the Lion Royal and the area of Rhayader really is a place you must ride.