Live from the Comedy Store – Bryn & Trefor on tour (now with photos!)

The day started badly when our pre-arranged 8 o’clock breakfast was only an ingredient in the cupboard for mein host! Anyway, within half an hour we were ‘cooking on gas’ – well we weren’t, but she was! In the event, a super breakfast was produced and our very kind hostess, on hearing of our charitable endeavours, made a cash donation to the cause. So we left the Drovers Arms in high spirits – only to have them dampened almost immediately by the usual problem of which road out of town to take? We toured Carmarthen examining in detail each road sign before deciding on our exit strategy which, in the event  like on so many previous occasions, turned out to be up a bloody great hill! We valiantly  struggled to the the top of the hill, immediately stripped off a couple of layers, and carried on our way. Several miles up the road, having already taken a wrong turning Bry discovered he’d lost his mitt ( one mitt mind – he was wearing the other one!) and his watch. He sets off to retrace his steps – whilst I sensibly wait for him. Twenty minutes later he reappears, triumphant, having found his mitt in the hedge and his watch in the road. We then descend down to the coast to the village of Ferryside and follow the National Cycle Network route 4 to Kidwelly. By this time  it was clear that our planned rendezvous for lunch with a friend and former colleague in Swansea was beginning to look decidedly dodgy. We ploughed on, still following the ‘4’, across a disused airfield, around the estuary,  through miles of pine woods before emerging onto the coastal path. It was after noon by this stage and a 0ne o’clock lunch in Sainsbury’s, 13 miles away, was hastily put back by an hour. We thrashed on, mile after mile, with the Gower peninsular and Rhossili Down, a familiar landscape from former family holidays, in the background. Following the ‘4’ was proving to be difficult and at one particularly tricky junction I completely mis-judged the route, came to a grinding halt, couldn’t get my feet out of the clips, wobbled and then went crashing to the ground – to the obvious amazement of a nearby party of cyclists from Swansea. Bruised and grazed but nothing broken we continued on our way. A long leafy run in to Swansea bay and then along the water front to our two o’clock lunch appointment. By this time we’d clocked up over 45 miles  and our end was no where near in sight yet. A much deserved lunch and catch-up chat and we were on our way again. The ‘4’ now follows a route that was difficult to follow and even more difficult to describe. It turned out to be a tour of most of the back-alleys and railway sidings of the greater Port Talbot area. The path continued relentless on in the general direction of Porthcawl, with the notable cultural highlight being the abbey at Margam. Six miles from our destination roadside signs kept appearing saying ‘Road ahead closed’ – we both concluded that this couldn’t possibly be the case and we carried on! When we got to the spot and found the road was indeed closed we briefly considered the possibility of cycling back up hill for two miles before investigating alternative means through the fenced off obstacle! As the actions which now followed were, we were later informed by the security guard, captured on cctv I won’t go into too much detail – suffice it to say that we were invited to leave the site via a couple of locked gates, a herd of cows and several farmers fields!  The last few miles seemed to fly by before we reached the sanctuary of our nights lodgings! What in theory should have been a relatively easy and straightforward day turned out to be anything but!

The grim statistics of todays ride are presented below:

Birding highlight from today, and yes the were a few, included Reed Warbler Lesser Whitethroat, Jay and Little Egret.


Lost already…and we’re not even out of Carmarthen!

View from the National Cycle Network route 4, looking down hill towards Carmarthen. It was on this verge that Bryan disgarded his mitt and watch.

Fabulous view up the estuary towards Ferryside

Kidwelly castle from the church yard – brought back happy memories of past family holidays, as did views of Rhossili Down where Joseph ran away, and the ‘pitch & putt’ on Swansea sea front where Daniel almost scored a hole in one!

We encounter all manner of obstacles on the ‘4’!

…and another one – what do they think we are, trick cyclists?

View along Port Talbot beach

One of the less scenic bits of the ‘4’!

Nw this was a nice surprise, Margam Abbey, nestling on the wooded hillside above the former steel works.

And finally…five miles before the finish, a slight diversion following an alleged Health & Safety incident!

Carmarthen to Porthcawl

Caught myself thinking, whilst starring in the shaving mirror, that working was easier than this – but don’t worry, I quickly came to my senses! Woke this morning to another sunny day and a promising forecast. Todays 100k ride is almost entirely on cycle paths, to avoid main roads and some of the less scenic aspects of this otherwise delightful country. A day of visiting old family holiday haunts and seeing old friends. The route is given below:

Croeso i Gymru (working title)

On the outline itinerary todays ride looked a breeze – two minutes from our digs to the ferry, all morning on the boat, off at one o’clock and a gentle ride through the West Wales countryside to Carmarthen and our over-night accommodation. Now that was something to look forward to, particularly as the weather in Wales promised to be significantly better than it had been in Ireland. Well you know what thought did don’t you – it turned out to be one of our most challenging days of the whole trip, with 46 miles covered and nearly 3,500ft total ascent in half a day! The crossing went to schedule with the sea being flat calm for the entire trip. A slight hiccough at Fishguard when we were required to produce our passports but we were soon on our way up an enormous hill which is the exit route from the harbour. Once on the right road the going was initially easy – picturesque country lanes, stunning scenery, an abundance of wild flowers and warm sun on our backs – and then the hills began! Their pattern becoming wearily familiar – a long steady incline, down through the gears, grind away in bottom until over the crest, followed by a helter-skelter descent round a couple of bends, over a stone bridge and around the next bend the hill began again! We did this for twenty odd miles, at one point in the company of a load of fellow cyclists participating in a 50 sportive, before stopping in the town of Narberth for a much needed cuppa and cake. The very nice couple running the cafe were interested in what we were up to and when we came to pay the guy gave us a donation (thanks mate)! We set off on the second half refreshed but with ever increasing aching legs. The pattern of the first half was to be repeated for most of the remaining 25 miles. At one point I was in bottom gear and out of the saddle to maintain forward momentum – I wish I hadn’t bothered! At Red Roses, where we turned on to the A477, we encountered the ‘Carten contingent’ – hundreds of mad riders cycling from Cardiff to Tenby! Well done you guys, it puts our efforts for the day into perspective. The final dozen or so miles were on the busy A40 dual-carridgeway into Carmarthen, where we arrived at the Drovers Arms at 17.50.

Leaving Ireland on the Rosslare ferry

Bry catching up on his beauty sleep

Approaching the Welsh coast, with the Bishops & Clerks Isles in the background

Enjoying a change of scenery and some warm weather for a change

Views over the  West Wales countryside

A poor picture of a magnificent orchid – Early Purple, to my untutored eye?

Check-point on the Carten route, at the summit of a sustained climb

Todays stats – usual error factors included!

A better day on the birding front. Plenty of sea birds from the ferry, including Fulmar which was new for the trip. But perhaps the greatest surprise was a singing male Redstart in the wood yard where we stopped for a break after the first big hill.

Lean, mean fighting machine

Every morning it’s the same, I wake up expecting to have been transformed by this E2E process into a lean, mean fighting machine – eating up ever-increasing daily mileage, sailing up hills, my bodys intake in perfect harmony with it’s out-goings, skin and muscle toned to perfection. And every morning is the same sense of disappointment! The truth is that my legs, particularly my thighs, ache as much if not more than on our second day, my skin in cracking whereever it’s exposed to fresh air (and there’s been plenty of that), those tiny bites I reported over a week ago have multiplied and each is the size of a 5p piece and I swear I’m putting on weight, despite Bry saying we’re definitely into a ‘fat burning’ regime. If I have lost any weight at all it’s off my frontal lobe! Speaking of Bry he appears to be in remarkably good form – though does say occasionally that his fight is a mental one – ‘wrestling with daemons’ as he describes it. Anyway, with just one week to go,  I’m going to have to rely on that old adage ‘if it’s not hurting it’s not working’ – well it’s bloody hurting, so it’d better start working!

Off to catch a boat….

Wanderings through County Wexford

With the sun shining for the first time since we arrived in Ireland, we soon finished our breakfast and departed from the Woodenbridge hotel, bound for Arklow. With smooth downhill roads, the gentle breeze on our backs soon conveyed us to what should have been our point of departure for todays ride. Navigating our way on minor roads to avoid the motorway, with only the Garmin GPS to assist, proved difficult at times, but using the same principle as before of following the general direction and keeping the sea to our left we headed steadily through the Wicklow and Wexford countryside, towards our destination. I’d been thinking ‘coffee break’ for the previous couple of miles when I noticed my front wheel was feeling decidedly lumpy – well flat actually! This turned out remarkably to be our first puncture of the journey, but like Bry said if you are going to have one, make sure it’s in the front wheel and near to a cafe – and so it was! So whilst Bry set about with the mechanicals, I went inside and secured two pots of coffee. I won’t bore you with the details, but we were making very little progress on replacing the tyre until Bryan produced his ‘magic tool’ – this seemed to fix the problem in no time. Back on the road again we made our way through yet more countryside until an enticing sign for the ‘Trading Post hot deli’ saw us swing into a remote petrol station forecourt, somewhere near the village of Blackwater. Our hunger and thirst thoroughly sated by the gastronomic offerings of this humble yet hospitable abode, we departed for Wexford Town some 18k distant. Wexford has a special place in the hearts of ‘folkies’ – unfortunately the reality is much less alluring. In fact, if it hadn’t have been for the sudden hail storm that struck us just as we were crossing the Wexford harbour bridge, we probably wouldn’t have stopped off at the Potato Market cafe for tea and cakes at all! Sated for the second time in as many hours we made a determined effort to get to our final destination, the Ferryport House Hotel, Rosslare, which we comfortable achieved by  4.30.  We went to the ferry terminal to book tomorrows passage, eat at one of the very few hostelries in the district – an eclectic culinary mix of Irish and Chinese, bought some ‘carry out’ and here we are in the hotel lounge blogging – what more can I say….

Stats from todays route:

The Woodenbridge Hotel,  reputedly Irelands oldest

Call for Puncture Repair Man and his Magic Tool!

The lunch-time stop..

An interesting water mill restoration project, in the heart of the Wexford countryside

…and a very imaginative colour scheme to go with it!

Fishing boat in Wexford harbour….after the hail storm (there was one, honest!)

On a slightly different note, whilst we’re obviously very pleased with the way the financial donations continue to mount up, the ‘pledges’ on TheDoNation appear to have ‘flat-lined’! Can you please help by giving this entirely worthwhile enterprise your support? By making a pledge (actions not money) you can contribute to a more sustainable future for ourselves and generations to come. As an example, we’ve calculated that, had we have done this same journey by car (equivalent perhaps to a family holiday or business trip), we would have produced an extra 624kgs of carbon ( nearly 2/3rds of a tonne)! Even if you pledge to do something, on a much smaller scale, your contribution will make a significant difference. Sign up now!

More blogging tomorrow, as we set sail for country number three…

T’ree soft days…and now sun!

It had to happen, on our last day in Ireland the sun has finally put in an appearance! Following an average but expensive evening meal and the disappointment of the ‘Irish’ band, which we’d been led to believe would be playing a medley of traditional music but which turned out to be a mixture of ‘songs from the shows’, country & western and Karaoke, we retired for an early night. However, as on so many previous occasions, the slowness of the internet meant it was gone ten before we turned in. The drunken Welsh golfers, returning from a late session in the bar, woke Bry but I slept soundly on. Anyway enough of the trivia I hear you say, what’s on todays ‘bill of fare’? The answer, a relatively moderate undulating route of around 85k to the ferry terminal at Rosslare, via Wexford (though wether we’ll get to see the Slobs, I’m not sure!). The route is given below:

Scottish gallery

Here are some of the Scottish pictures that never made it into the daily blogs. Enjoy!


Arklow via the Wicklow mountains

There’s nothing ‘low’ about these ‘bad boys’ I can assure you! From the moment we set off from the Times Hostel in Dublin we were going up hill. It took us about an hour to clear the city and then the climbing really began. This was a lung-busting, heart-thumping, eye-popping, thigh-throbbing, calf-clenching, relentless, unremitting, ‘shit bucket’ of a climb! The sort of climb that is steep enough to make you doubt yourself from the outset, which winds around the hill-side never really showing itself, testing you with sharp rises, never giving you respite, drawing you in then blowing you off. All done in a long, drawn-out kind of a way without ever giving you the real satisfaction of ‘arriving’. By the time you’ve reached the ‘top’ you’re rolling down the other side again! Well actually you emerge onto a barren plateau which goes on for several miles, gently rising and falling, before the real descent beginnings. It was misling when we set off, raining when we reached the outskirts of Dublin and it continued to pour down most the way to the top, some 25k later. The descent to our lunch-time stop was hampered by poor road surfaces, which were running with water ,and a stiffening head wind. By the time we reached the cafe at Laragh it was nearly one o’clock, having taken nearly four hours to do the 45k. We were dripping wet, exhausted and ready for a break. The glorified shed that was the cafe, doubled as a general store of sorts and a rather surprisingly well stocked wine merchants. The food,  all home-made and ‘organic’, was superb – soup with home-made bread, followed by filled rolls, washed down with excellent coffee soon lifted our spirits, whilst our clothing gently steamed away on our feet and backs! Refreshed and invigorated we set off on the remaining 25k or so to our overnight accommodation, the Woodbridge Hotel – reputed to be the oldest hotel in Ireland. Having arrived early and in the middle of another cloud burst, we decided to dry out (again!) over a beer. The very friendly and engaging company at the bar, having enquired as to our purpose, quickly made a donation to our funds. You meet some of the nicest, certainly most generous, folk in pubs!

Bryan enjoying a slightly more modest breakfast than we’re accustomed to..

Ready for the ‘off’ from the excellent Times Hostel.

Three hours later, at what serves as the ‘summit’ of the Wicklow Mountain road.

A slightly better view than we had of the Mourne mountains.

Bry finishing lunch at the slightly curious but excellent Laragh cafe cum wine merchants!

A view!

The stats for todays ride. Some of the data is a bit dodgy since I forgot to turn it on and off when I should have!

On the birding front, not a lot happening I’m afraid – only Reed Bunting added to the list. Rather bizarrely appearing to nest close to the top of the mountains!

If the internet continues to behave itself I hope to be publishing a ‘gallery’ of previously unseen Scottish pictures shortly – don’t worry, nothing too racy!

Wilde about Dublin

Sorry for the late post – all these young back-packers on their lap tops. Yesterday morning Jane and I first went in pursuit of the antiques quarter, which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment  as most of the shops were either closed or only sold ‘fine art’ objets d’art. We then wandered  across the river Liffey to visit the Dublin Writers Museum, which turned out to be much more interesting than the name might imply. Lunch at the oldest pub in Dublin, The Brazen Head, followed by a bit of R&R back at the hostel. By late afternoon we were off again on the culture trail, first to Trinity college, home of the The Book of Kells, c. AD800, and then on to the home of Oscar Wilde. A tour through the fine Georgian streets and squares ended at the Porterhouse, one of the few Dublin pubs selling a variety of ‘craft ales’. Sierra Nevada, Harvest took top prize with O’Hara IPA coming a close second. A fish supper at Mallone’s rounded off a truly relaxing rest day.  A few pictures which capture the experience:

Dublin has more pubs and bars per square mile than anywhere in the ..’western world’ (note the short literary ref!)

St Audeon’s church yard

City Gallery

Commemorative window in the Dublin Writers Museum

Enjoying chicken tikka panini (international cuisine gone mad), in the oldest pub in Dublin, the Brazen Head

Oscar Wilde in the gardens opposite his Dublin residence.  ‘ I have nothing to declare but my grimace’ – too much lying about on that rock  I guess Oscar!

Anyway, enough of all that,  back to the business in hand – a certain cycle ride. Todays route, which you can see below, breaks us back in gently – up several large mountains and down the other side. But fortunately  there’s plenty of rain forecast to keep us cool! Meanwhile Jane is flying home on one of the five tickets purchased for her journey – but that’s another story…!

See you in Arklow…bye for now!

Day off in Dublin

We’ve reached the half-way point of our epic ride, 953.4k covered, but plenty still to do. Legs feeling surprisingly good after yesterday’s mammoth stage, if a little stiff. Jane and I are off to do ‘the sights’ whilst Bry has a ‘domestic’ morning and fixes up his bike after the bashing it’s received since leaving John O”Groats.

Looks like it might need a bit more work than he thought!