Spring has sprung and we're out and about taking our guests around beautiful Mid Wales and the Wye Valley. Check here regularly to find out what's been going on at Exploring Mid Wales. The archive has our activities for the whole of the year.
30th May - Paddles in Paradise. Boughrood - Whitney on Wye.
Hay Festival is rocking, the sun is shining and the Wye is calling. To get away from the crowds and pressure of a sunny Bank Holiday, what better than to take to the water? This gentle paddle took us down past Glasbury and Hay-on-Wye across the border to the pretty Whitney Toll Bridge in Herefordshire. Trout were rising, goosanders diving and swans majestically passing by. A balm for stress. For more information on our canoe tours click here.
Thursday 26th May - Brecon Beacons Geofest 2016 : A Landscape in flux: Limestone stories.
The Brecon Beacons National Park organise an annual Geofest to celebrate the FForest Fawr Geopark which is rich in geological and landscape diversity. Today's walk started at Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydfil where once ironmasters, the Crawshays, could look down over their ironworks from the oppulent splendour of their mock gothic mansion. Today the castle and its park is a wonderful place to enjoy and is only a few steps from glorious countryside, steeped in industrial archaeology, geological interest and botanical richness. We were led by the experts, walking up Cwm Taf Fechan along the leat that still serves the castle's lake, under the Heads of the Valleys viaduct and into a beautiful limestone landscape cut through by the energetic Afon Taf Fechan, tumbling down from the Brecon Beacons. A superb four hours, I would recommend checking out Geofest 2016. Guided tours of the Geopark are avaliable with Exploring Mid Wales , click here for more details.
22nd May - Pride comes before a Tumble!
What should have been a pleasant 40 mile cycle today become rather an epic due to torrential, sluicing rain that hit me a thousand feet up and ill-prepared for such a downpour. The plan was a warm up around Abergavenny and then The Tumble, the 6km, 300m, 10% gradient climb up out of the Usk valley. The road was closed as I passed through in preparation for today's Welsh Velathon so I had a traffic free ascent and, helpfully, an ambulance posted at the top of the climb! When I descended to Blaenavon, the World Heritage Site, that the rain hit me. I carried on to brynmawr and what would have been a delightful "belvedere" route high above the Usk, overlooking the shapely Sugar loaf and Table Mountain. Except I wasn't looking as I concentrated on putting my wheel on the wet tarmac. A sharp, steep lane got me down to Llangattock and then the scenic "back road" brought me to Llangynidr, Talybont and Pencelli before a sprint to arrive in Brecon in time for church and a cup of tea! Funnily enough I didn't take any pictures but here's what it should have looked like!
16th May Wye Valley Walk 4 Pontrhydgaled - Llangurig
The fourth episode in our re-walk of the Wye Valley Walk saw us cover the 7 miles down to Llangurig. Alternating between river side walking and forest sections, the walk culiminates in some stiff climbing and subsequent far-reaching views.
13th May On the tracks of famous wheels
The South Wales valleys once abounded in railway lines, carrying coal and iron down to the Bristol Channel ports. But the very first tramroad in the world to see a steam engine hauling waggons took place in 1804 on the Penydarren Tramway, powered by Richard Trevithick's pioneer locomotive.
Today the route is part of National Cycle Route 477 as it runs down the Taff Vale from Merthyr Tydfil to Quaker's Yard. We had a great 30 mile cycle, nearly all of which was on traffic free cycle paths, built on former railway lines, and so easily graded. Route 47 took us over to the Rhymney valley where we eventually found Route 468 which threaded up the narrow and beautiful valley to Bargoed.
The Rhymney Bargoed valley is particularly well wooded and the old railway line, Route 469, boasts Parc Cwm Daren which is well worth a visit. For us, the fact that it sold a mug of tea and a toasted bun for £2.20 seemed uppermost in our minds.
Finally up to Fochriw and over the hills and enormous opencast site brought us back to Merthyr and a well earned rest! If you'd fancy a cycle day out but not sure where to go - get in touch!
12th May "It's a Boma!"
Mid Wales is more accessible than you may think - with a Boma! Let me introduce you to Boswell The Boma - named after the intrepid traveller, no doubt. The property of Alison & Peter Kidd and based in Pencelli, near Brecon, Boswell allows those of limited access to reach the parts most people with disabilities fail to reach. So if you'd like to get off road but do not have full mobility then we may have the answer. Contact Exploring Mid Wales and we'll see if we can design a day for you using the immensely capable Boswell. He's already done the Ten Tors Challenge on Dartmoor and climbed Pen y Fan, so you're in capable hands!
12th May - a cycle ride in Three Part harmony
Talybont-on-Usk is a fantastic centre for exploring the Brecon Beacons National Park, be it walking, mountain biking, canoeing, trekking or boating. Following my encounter with Boswell (see below) I took a few hours out to explore a hidden valley, discover the route of an historic tramroad and to circumnavigate the thrusting peak of Tor y Foel.
7th May - A paddle down the Wye
Saturday saw us take Mike and Adina, from Brecon, for their first canoe trip on a British river. We escorted them down from Glasbury to Hay-on-Wye during a beautiful May afternoon. Enjoying Sarah's famous packed lunches on our own little island, we had a great time. Mike and Adina hired their open Canadian canoe from Wye Valley Canoes in Glasbury (£20pp). For more canoeing ideas click here.
6th May - Elan Valley Tour
Joan & Jim were out again Exploring Mid Wales. Today we headed from Hereford up to one of the prettiest villages in England, Eardisland. We were told that it was always raining in Wales but actually it was hot and sunny as we reached the market town of Rhayader. Having looked around this characterful town on the Wye, we headed for the hills taking the scenic "Aberystwyth Mountain Road". Enjoying widespread views across Mid Wales, we eventully decended into the Elan valley and explored the series of dams built by the Victorian engineers of Birmingham Corporation. Highlights included meeting a Welsh speaking couple from Capel Dewi, near Aberystwyth, who explained how important the language was to their family's life and work. We lunched at the isolated, beautiful cottage of Penbont House, nestling beneath Penygarreg Dam.
That afternoon we discovered the Claerwen valley and its links with Shelley, the excellent Elan Valley Visitor Centre, the route of the "EV10" run, St Gwrthwl's Church and sacrificial stone and, finally, the willow globe theatre run by Phil & Sue at Shakespeare Link. Our American guests had even see these two thespians perform in Chicago! Every tour we do is individually tailored for our guests. Joan & Jim enjoy literature and the theatre so we sought out those aspects on our tour.
For more information on Elan Valley tours, click here.
4th May - the Classic Wye Valley Tour
Joan and Jim, from Chicago, Illinois, joined Rob on this classic beauty of a tour. Picking up in Hereford, we travelled down to Ross-on-Wye to see the quay where Gilpin and many early "Wye Tourists" embarked on their cruise down "this sylvan Wye". Goodrich Castle was our next stop where we admired the beauty and location of this twelth century Norman fortress. Next up was Yat Rock, endowed with stunning views of the Wye Gorge. Leaving the car behind we set forth on foot, descending to the river and crossing the bouncy suspension bridge at Biblins. Here, far from roads, we could really appreciate the silence, only broken by birdsong, that the eighteenth century visitors would have appreciated. A hand-pulled rope ferry brought us over to Symond's Yat and lunch at The Saracen's Head Inn.
The afternoon saw us high above the Wyeside village of Llandogo, retracing the steps of Wordsworth as we located the "Bread and Cheese stones" the presumed site of the inspiration of his "Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey" (1798). The tour culminated in that spectacular, yet romantic, ruin of Tintern Abbey. The scale and majesty of the buildings is only matched by the wanton folly of its destruction back in 1536. Refreshment was taken at the beautiful Lindors Country House above Bigsweir Bridge. A great and memorable day out.