Following the River Wye from Monmouth to Hay-On-Wye, the road climbed gently for 7 miles to Coleford before turning off towards Lydbrook. Lydbrook is a charming little town with lots of history, nestled down on the banks of the Wye. From there, I skirted past Kern Bridge to Ross-On-Wye and found some scenic lanes to Hereford that ran directly adjacent to the river, although slow going, a little rough, and hilly.
From Hereford to Hay, approaching half way was the most gruelling part of the ride. Facing a fair headwind with nearly empty energy levels, I couldn’t wait to reach The Town of Books for a gooey chocolate brownie and mocha. Despite the damp weather, crowds of literary folk were out and about, giving the town its unique atmosphere. I couldn’t help but be slighty anxious about whether or not my tired legs would carry me out of Hay-On-Wye and up the 2000 ft Hay Bluff climb. But they hadn’t failed me yet and reaching the dramatic peaks still capped with snow, I had more energy than the start of my ride. Nothing like a mountain to lift ones spirits.
From there on was a long descent along the single track lane through Capel-Y-Ffin and down past Llantony Priory. This was Rob Penn country and I enjoyed every second of it, feeling very surreal about having reached the Black Mountains since cycling in the Forest of Dean just hours earlier. I couldn’t believe how far my own legs and determination had carried me. People often ask me; ‘Why do I want to cycle for so long?’ and ‘What do I think about whilst out on the bike for 7 hours?’. I set out on this ride with the idea of knowing my land. The Wye Valley and Monmouth is my home and I wanted to hug the river from there to Hay, discovering its meandering bends and over looked, under treasured view points. That day, lacking any company, the river felt like a friend. Also, I’m sure 80 per cent of my cycling pleasure comes from the mountains. They simply fuel a desire in me and it’s mostly the environment in which I ride I am thinking of; taking in all its beauty, feeling its currents, sighs and moans, sharing its Spring revelry and fresh winds. I appreciate it and feel a sense of stewardship; it belongs to all of us and is there to be loved. A day spent out on the bike is heaven to me.
Leaving the mountains behind, I was homeward bound passing through Abergavenny and taking the old road back to Monmouth where a steaming bath would be waiting for me. I’m beginning to think it’s not all about the bike Mr.Penn; it’s all about the mountains.