A Fanfare of Pheasant

Up early after my first decent night’s sleep, to be greeted by a spectacular sunrise over Llyn Efyrnwy (Lake Vyrnwy). This was the last day of my Berwyn tour, and though I had a good many miles to cover, I allowed myself half an hour to just sit and savour the stillness and splendour of dawn over the lake, before washing breakfasting, packing and striking out for what promised to be another glorious day.

Dawn over Lake Vyrnwy

Two images of Lake Vyrnwy dam, the top and the faceFeat of Engineering
I knew there was a dam at the end of Llyn Efyrnwy, but I had no idea what an architectural wonder it is. When it was built in the 1880s, it was the largest masonry dam in Britain, and most amazing of all, it supplied water via a 68 mile aqueduct to Liverpool—and still does!

Short But Sweet
Leaving Vyrnwy behind, and passing straight through the hamlet of Abertridwr, I headed northeast for an off-road track, which on the map, looked like it would probably be a beautiful ride. Obviously my map reading must have improved as it was a beautiful ride.

woodland track in northeast Wales

It starts with a kilometre of narrow tarmacked lane that serves a few farms, then transitions into a track ascending gently through a leafy woodland. Out of the woodland, it continues to rise steadily up the side of a valley until it levels for a few hundred meters, before beginning a deHill track in northeast Walesscent through a pine forest. The gentle climb (relative to the climbs of the two previous days), with the changing scenery of cool, dappled woodland, pastoral charm and zingy fresh pine forest, on such a beautiful day, combined to make this the highlight of the tour for me. It was simply fantastic riding. How wonderful it would be if the whole of Britain were criss-crossed with thousands of such tracks!

I stopped for a break in the second forest, followed by an exhilirating descent to Penygarnedd and the Tanat Valley. Hurtling down the forestry track, my clattering bike startled the native population of pheasant, of which there must have been hundreds! They startled me too, breaking cover from left and right, each flying to the opposite side—like dolphins riding a bow wave only not as good—all the way down the track in a frenzied, flapping, fanfare. It’s a wonder I didn’t get one jammed in the spokes.

Pistyll Rhaedr WaterfallThe Englishman Who Went up to a Waterfall . . .
After passing swiftly through Penygarnedd, I made my way north to the very pretty village of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, where the movie that my sub-heading alludes to was filmed. From there I followed the river Rhaedr northwest to one of the seven wonders of Wales, according to an anonymous rhyme, and Britain’s tallest, single drop waterfall: Pistyll Rhaeadr.

Best Breakfast
Though I ought to wax lyrical about this wondrous waterfall, this cascading cataract that roars over the precipice, carelessly plunging through its narrow, rugged defile to shatter on the dark depths below, only to rise again, a ghostly, ethereal mist . . . I shan’t. Come and see it for yourself. It’s definitely worth a visit, whilst the Tan-y-Pistyll café, within viewing distance of the falls, serves excellent food and drink; the full English breakfast I had for brunch was almost worth the long ride on its own, waterfall or no.

Full breakfast at Tan-y-Pistyll

Homeward Bound
The journey back to Chirk was along B roads, and though not unattractive, isn’t worth a description. A word or warning though: it’s almost 20 miles to Chirk and there’s 450 meters of ascent which you’re adding to the 13 miles and 400 meters of ascent from Vyrnwy to Pistyll Rhaedr. There are places to stay, both at Pistyll Rhaedr and Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, so that might be worth considering if you were to try this route.

Map of the route from Vyrnwy to Pistyll Rhaedr

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011

Despite this arduous tour, and my utter exhaustion by the time I got home, the overwhelming feeling, one that is still with me as I write this five days later, is of profound satisfaction and a sense of having had an experience, albeit short, that will remain with me for many years to come.

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3 responses to “A Fanfare of Pheasant

  1. Pingback: Valley of the Long Stream | Ruff Stuff

  2. Pingback: On / Off Seasons | Ruff Stuff

  3. beware the lady of the lake whilst washing

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