Solva to Swansea via St David’s
There was no breakfast to be had. I knew that when I booked. There was the option of a cooked breakfast from the café downstairs but it didn’t have any opening times displayed and I was keen to get going. As a result I was on the road at 06:30, having eaten a couple of cereal bars. I figured I could always stop at a café in St David’s, a few miles up the road.
The sky was clear and it looked like it was going to be another glorious day. The wind was still strong and, unfortunately still easterly. That would be great for the first few miles but then I would be turning 180o and riding into it for the rest of the day. That, however, was in a few miles. Right then I had a more immediate challenge, a steep climb, touching 15%, almost directly from the start line.
After the cold start of the previous day I had wrapped up in my arm and leg warmers and was soon regretting the decision, sweating and swearing within 2 minutes of setting off – a new record! The record was assisted by my forgetting that my bottom two gears were out of commission. I changed down only to have them slip, unbalancing me and nearly tipping off the bike before I quickly changed back up and regained some traction.
At the top of the hill was a small shop with an alarming sign – It’s the end of the world. Panic buy here! Now, I knew I had been a bit removed from world events over the last few days and last night I had suffered an almost total communication black out, but surely things couldn’t have become that bad in such a short time. Unless the lack of mobile signal was because it was being blocked by an alien invasion fleet!
Or perhaps the shop keeper was just trying to drum up some trade. Either way, I managed to bring a smile to my face after the wake up climb.
The road bounced up and down, but not as severely as the initial climb, and before I knew it I was in St David’s.
Tah Dah! Hooray! Hoorah!
Strangely I didn’t feel that at all. I took a photo of the street sign to show I had made it, turned around and pedalled off in the opposite direction. I had no great desire to pedal into Britain’s smallest city – I had been there before and the main point of interest was the cathedral that makes it a city, and that wouldn’t be open for hours. Nor would any cafés, it was still before 7am.
Perhaps my lack of emotional response was because I actually hadn’t quite completed my mission. Firstly I had to follow Route 4 back to Carmarthen before I could say I had ridden the Sustrans route the whole way across the widest part of the country. And secondly, I was supposed to be cycling home, so I still had 3 days of cycling before me. But most likely it was the simple fact that I had only been cycling for 4 miles that day and still had 106 to go, so it just didn’t feel like I had reached ‘the end’. If I had finished in St David’s the night before I would no doubt have felt a bit more Tah Dah! Hooray! Hoorah!
Having made the turn the headwind was an unwelcomed experience after 2 day with a blasting tailwind. I am sure that was all that had kept me going towards the end of each day when my legs were failing. I was suddenly reminded what the first three days had been like, constantly pushing against an invisible barrier. “And that aggravating constant roar of the wind in your ears will soon tip you over the edge,” pointed out the troll. “If the ticking doesn’t get to you first.”
My head was not in a particularly good place. What I needed was a few miles of flat to let my body get into a nice steady rhythm and to allow me to feel I was making some progress so that my head could relax.
“No chance mate! You saw the profile. It looks like the grin of a great white shark in bad need of a corrective brace. You won’t see any flat for the next 70 miles.”
“Well, at least the last 35 will be pretty flat. That section from Swansea to Carmarthen was easy going.” I pointed out.
“Yeh, with a massive tailwind. How easy was pan flat Suffolk with a headwind?”
Scowling I shouted, “I really don’t know what you are doing on this trip, troll. I didn’t invite you. If you don’t like it, bugger off home!”
“I’m trying to mate,” he said, all too reasonably, “but I can’t get home without you can I? Tell you what, cycle to Carmarthen and then do us both a favour and catch a train. You’ll have completed your mission by then.”
“I’ll think about it,” I grunted, grudgingly.
I had no intention of thinking about it at all but hopefully it would get him off my back. Why should I get on the train, just because he wanted to go home? I was looking forward to the experience of cycling to my door, down miles of familiar roads after so long on unfamiliar ones. So what if that was nearly 3 days away? No. I wasn’t going to give any thought to trains what so ever.
3 days. Funny, 3 days ago I was lost in London, trying to find my way to Hampton Court. It felt like a lot longer. I had cycled a long way since then. About 370 miles! I wouldn’t really fancy riding that again, especially with my legs being more raddled than they had felt for years. But the fact that I had nearly as far to go to get home was no reason to get on a super-fast train that could have me home this very evening.
Anyway, it wasn’t so far. In fact it was only just over 300 miles. Although, as the troll had pointed out, that was into a headwind, not with the tailwind I had benefitted from for the last 2 days. The train wouldn’t be slowed by a headwind, at least not so that I would notice, cocooned inside, warm and safe on a nice comfy seat, watching the miles flit by.
But watching the miles flit by wasn’t the point. The whole idea of the cycle was to see the country up close and personal. To experience everything first hand. To use all of my senses to appreciate the beauty that is Britain. I didn’t want to be huddled away from the full experience. The train was not an option and I was not going to give it credence by even considering it for a moment.
It was getting hot as the sun started to climb slowly higher in the sky. It was my sixth day of unbroken sun but the forecast for the next couple of days was not so bright. In fact all the rain that hadn’t fallen for the last couple of weeks was due to be dumped in a torrent. If I was unlucky it might even break this afternoon. Rain was the one thing I hadn’t suffered from on this trip. I had not had a single drop of rain. I had managed to put out of my mind how miserable cycling can be in the rain. It wouldn’t be much fun cycling home in the wet. It wouldn’t be a novel experience at all, I’ve done it too many times in the past. Trains are dry. Maybe…
Had I but turned around I would have seen the troll smirking from his perch on the top of the saddlebag [when he wasn’t on my back or sat on my shoulder chewing my ear]. He, no doubt, was monitoring my alternating positive outlook, as I freewheeled down a hill, compared to my gloomy reflections as I clawed my way up the next.
Not thinking about taking a train home had at least taken my mind off the constant up and down. Almost to the point that I nearly missed the hobbit house I had spent so long searching for in Scotland on my second end to end trip [recounted in Land’s End to John O’Groats – Cycling the Google Route]. For reason’s best put down to fatigue I had decided that the true Scot was descended from Hobbit stock and I had been searching for a hobbit house to prove the matter. The best evidence I had discovered was a half overgrown house and an Iron Age cairn house, not too far from John O’Groats. Now, peering over a low hedge, I had found a true hobbit home, dug into the ground. It blended so seamlessly with the nature around it that I had almost missed it. In fact, I had missed it the first time around because I cycled down this road the night before and hadn’t spotted it. That might have something to do with the fact that I was descending at 30 mph not climbing at 5 mph though. So, Hobbits are amongst us but have moved to Wales. No wonder I couldn’t find any in Scotland.
I took the photo at 08:03 so had covered 15 miles in the first 1½ hours, bang on my average 10 mph. It was not great considering I hadn’t lost time on any significant stops yet, but not awful, bearing in mind the profile – barely a 100 flat metres together so far.
Unfortunately it was about to get worse. There followed a very steep climb, that had me walking, and one with a slightly less punishing gradient but which dragged on for a couple of miles. It was the same hill I had descended towards the coast after climbing out of Haverfordwest the evening before.
At the bottom of the descent, on the outskirts of Haverfordwest, I followed Route 4 to the right, turning away from the route I had followed from Carmarthen to that point the day before. I would now follow Route 4 to Carmarthen, completing the main part of the mission. Remembering the nightmare of the A40 I knew this had to be better and was looking forward to it.
Starting uphill, the route followed a tarmacked footpath which was poles apart from the relentlessly hectic panic of riding on the A40. It climbed gradually but fairly constantly for 3 miles before peaking at the beginning of a cycle path on an old railway line. Leading to it was a long swath of the brightest, most garish cycle path paint I have ever seen. It was a ghastly orangey red and slightly fluorescent, although I appreciate that this will not come across in the picture if you are reading the paperback, with its black and white pictures [sadly it is cost prohibitive to print in colour at Amazon – it would escalate the cover price 6 fold!].
It also boasted a peculiar sign stating ‘No Shooting – No Firearms Beyond this Point’. So any guns toting cyclist had better just turn around and cycle on all those other paths were firearms are, by deduction, welcome. Luckily I hadn’t ordered that 007 missile launching upgrade I had been tempted by to deal with obnoxious drivers so could continue without risking the wrath of Pembrokeshire District Council.
Thanks to the local authorities diligence I didn’t come under fire on the 3 mile descent. Fortunately, neither did I come upon any soft mud but at the bottom I did discover that the cycle route ascended a large number of steps. They climbed 25 metres up to the A477 to cross the Cleddau Ddu into Pembroke Dock.
I stopped on the bridge to take a picture of the view towards Neyland and noted that I had been on the road for almost exactly 3 hours. Having covered 32 miles I was a fraction ahead of my 10 mph average but would soon lose that because I needed to find a shop to top up on drinks and food. I had yet to find the breakfast I had promised myself, instead munching through the supply of cereal bars in my saddlebag, which I tried to keep constantly topped up.
There were a couple of nasty climbs to negotiate through the streets of Pembroke Dock as I made my way into Pembroke and I was thankful to stop at the local Asda supermarket. Whilst I was paying for my multi pack of freshly made sausage rolls, cereal bars, family bag of crisps, carton of orange juice and litre of water, the shopping assistant asked where I had cycled from. When I replied St David’s she responded, “That’s good, all downhill from there then.” I looked her in the eye to try and determine whether she was taking the piss and realised she was being serious. This was clearly someone who had never cycled between St David’s and Pembroke. Lost for words all I could do was nod and smile as I fought the urge to grab the Garmin and show her the 798 metres I had climbed so far in just 33 miles. It wouldn’t have meant anything to her anyway. And I suppose she was half right: half of the day had been downhill, it was the other half than had been causing me all the trouble.
I sat on the wall of the carpark and masticated. The locals looked on a little surprised that I would do such a thing in public but I was hungry and munched my way through four sausage rolls in very little time at all. I washed them down by draining my bottles and then refilled them with a 50/50 solution of orange juice and water.
Whilst the whole exercise of shopping and eating had only taken about 15 minutes my muscles had cooled considerably, despite the rapidly soaring temperature, and protested loudly when I remounted the bike. Fortunately I had 4 miles of relative flat, to and through Lamphey, to persuade them back into action before the road turned vertical again, up and down and then up again before plunging precipitously down to the seafront at Saundersfoot.
On the first of those descents I showed the first major sign of fatigue and loneliness. Having climbed to the point of dropping, in both senses, I missed a turn on the descent. Slamming on the brakes I spoke out loud. I didn’t swear out loud, which was perfectly normal behaviour that I had been practicing for days; I spoke as if I had someone with me [other than the troll], “Oh no! I’ve missed it! All that speed lost!” It wasn’t a good sign. If I wasn’t careful I’d be singing soon.
There was some respite from the hills for a mile or so, but that was purely down to a couple of tunnels that had been hacked through the cliffs, otherwise there would have been a two more horrendous climbs. The tunnels were a brief respite from the heat of the day, in counterpoint to the hellish atmosphere inside, created by the strange choice of red lighting. “Hey, troll, why don’t you set up home here? It would suit you!”
The tunnels were not long but must have taken considerable effort to cut, an effort I was grateful for. Regrettably there was no tunnel to save me from the climb out of town. The road pitched upward and I was forewarned of worse to come by a 14% sign. The ARAF SLOW painted on the road was clearly not directed at me, unless it was a statement of fact rather than a direction.
It was a tough test with no bottom two gears and inevitably as I ground my way higher my head began to sink. It might have had something to do with the troll (who I had been stupid enough to wake up) being sat on my head, forcing it down to look at my Garmin. “You’re off route!” he giggled.
It was true. I was no longer following the pink line. I seemed to have parted company with it about a ¼ of a mile back. It was running almost parallel but the gap was slowly widening.
“You’re going to have to go back and climb the hill again. Up the right road this time!” He sounded horribly happy at the prospect.
“I’m sure the roads will converge!” I snapped. I certainly didn’t want to have to backtrack and climb again.
“Are you?” countered the troll. “You don’t know they will and without a map you can’t check. Go back now before it gets worse. What if you get to the top, descend again and then find they don’t meet up. You’ll have to climb all the way back over the hill then.”
“And if I go back I might find they met up just around the next…wait! There’s a footpath!”
“So,” scowled the troll.
“It’s heading in the right direction. I’ll follow that to the other road!”
“Like the one you followed around in a circle back near Bath?” asked the troll, voice dripping with sarcasm.
Ignoring him I climbed off the bike, up a steep bank and over a style into a field.
“There’s bound to be a bull,” grumbled the troll, peering around, hoping to spot one hiding behind a thistle.
There were no bovine beasts to be seen but on the other side of the field I spied another style. Grinning at the troll I set off across the rutted grass towards it. After clambering over the style I was reunited with the route and the troll retreated to the saddlebag in disgust. As a bonus this road was no longer climbing but dived back down towards the shoreline.
There was a certain amount of inevitability that the road would have to climb again from the shore and it did so in spectacular fashion. It rose very severely for 125 metres, then dropped off a little only to climb another 75. It was a good thing that there were no cars on the narrow, single track lanes because I was starting to meander, weaving up the steepest ramps, trying to cut some of the severity from the slope.
It was the longest climb of the day and I cursed the new back wheel that was not only about half a kilo heavier but was also preventing me from seeking the relief of my two lowest gears. The troll whispered of trains at Carmarthen, when the main job was done, and I ground onwards and upwards.
Eventually the top came and I stopped for a rest and a call of nature at a public convenience. It was very public, exposed on all sides, but the sign was clear enough. I had noticed from the various signs in Wales that some words are similar in both languages and this was no exception, for instance: Castle – Castell; Gate – Giât; Café – Caffi; Shop – Siop; Public Convenience – Pissing Place.
After a long descent and another shorter climb I was alarmed to note that I was fast approaching a busy road. It was with some trepidation that I crossed a familiar looking dual carriageway and turned onto the road I had used to try and escape the A40 the day before.
My fears were realised as I was directed down the slip road and into the traffic. The only safety the road had to offer was that bumpy solid white line, designed to wake up drowsy drivers. I cycled as far behind it as I could and pounded the pedals, wishing to get the 8 miles to Carmarthen over with as quickly as possible.
I found it hard to believe that Route 4 would have brought me down this road after so many miles of traffic free track and virtually traffic free roads all the way from Lowestoft. When I got home I discovered I was correct. With the slip of a mouse I must have dragged the route onto the A40 when creating the gpx files. Route 4 did pick up the A40 about 3 miles outside of Carmarthen but at that point there was a separate cycle path alongside the road, which I was enormously thankful to reach.
Almost immediately I pulled into a services and took a break, refilling my bottles and topping up on food. I checked my phone and discovered that I had missed a call from home. I dialled and spoke through a mouthful of pasty when it was answered. Things were not well at home. My 10 year old son was being pushed hard at school and suffering as a result. Trying to improve its league position the school was putting on extra lessons for the brighter pupils trying to get them to pass level 6 SATS. Basically, these are papers set at a level that an average 14 year should pass. It was kind of crazy to expect students to operate at a level 4 years above them and this has now been recognised with them being abolished, just too late.
So, my son was stressed out and suffering from ragey fits. Thus the stress was being passed on to the rest of the family and my wife was having difficulty keeping everything going at home.
My stress had been relieved considerably now that I had a separate cycle path and I mulled things over as I cruised towards Carmarthen. I knew that the bulk of the hills were behind me, although I was aware that there must be a big climb out of Carmarthen, because I had enjoyed a descent into it.
Approaching the point at which I had joined the A40 the day before, the route swung around a massive roundabout, taking the third exit. I stuck to the cycle path but realised that Route 4 was not pointing the same way as the line on my Garmin. That was taking me down another dual carriageway with no cycle path and this time no white line to hide behind.
I pulled onto the verge to work out what to do. I now remembered that from Carmarthen I had allowed Google to route me, thinking it would be a good job. But the route from Carmarthen along the A40 had been terrible. What if it had routed me along all the busiest roads? I couldn’t face another 40 odd miles of that!
“Train!” It was the merest whisper, so low I was almost unaware of it.
I had passed a railway station coming into Carmarthen. It was up the turn from the roundabout that Route 4 had taken.
Pushing the bike back along the verge to the roundabout I suddenly recognised exactly where I was. I had been here the day before, looking for a way back down to the cycle path. I descended the bank and took the path back the way I had come from the day before, towards the station, leaving the pink line behind me.
On reaching the station I purchased a ticket and went and relaxed on the station platform. It all made perfect sense: things were going wrong at home and I shouldn’t be out on the road enjoying myself whilst my wife struggled; I had completed the main part of my mission; Google had probably set me an horrendous route home; and I was bloody knackered.
After 5 minutes of calm my mind became a little clearer. Of course Google hadn’t sent me down all the main roads, I had checked it against Route 4 and for the most part they were the same all the way to Bristol. From there I was following my own Land’s End to John O’Groats route to Taunton and I knew the way home from that point. That little excursion along the dual carriageway was probably just a slip, a shortcut across the 90o turn I would be about to make from the railway station.
5 minutes after that I suddenly remembered I hadn’t reserved my bike on the train and went to speak to the lady in the ticket office. She managed to reserve me on the train to Bristol but couldn’t get a reservation from there to Plymouth. Disaster! The train was getting in to Bristol quite late and I didn’t want to risk being stranded on the platform all night because I couldn’t get my bike on a train.
Well, I had a pre-booked B&B for tonight. All I had to do was cycle to Swansea. Then I could get an early train from there and be home only a little later than if I became stranded at Bristol all night.
The ticket lady was able to book my bike all the way through for the next day and within minutes my original ticket was cancelled and the new one issued.
Despite the thought of the extra work involved, having spent 10 minutes on the platform enjoying the peace of being finished, I was really looking forward to the 40 miles to Swansea. Although I was not going to be cycling home and would miss the last two days of my planned adventure it would give me some kind of closure rather than this knee jerk decision to quit.
To celebrate I stopped at the same McDonald’s I had on the way to St David’s and ate not one but two Big Macs. It was really hot now and even sat outside in the shade it was 29.5oc.
The heat didn’t help on the long drag out of Carmarthen but I was buoyed with new spirit and also the certainty that by the end of the day my efforts would be over. All I had to do the next day was cycle to Swansea Railway Station and throw myself on the vagaries of the train service.
Whilst the Google route was not as bad as the A40, it did keep hoping on and off of the A484 for 10 miles, until just after Kidwelly. From my experience it seems that the algorithms driving Google cycle routing pick as direct a line between two points as possible using fragments of recognised cycle paths, connecting them with the shortest possible road links, regardless of how busy those road links might be. Hence Sustrans spends a few extra miles looping around on quiet roads whilst Google charges down the middle, picking up all the cycle paths possible on the way, providing they do not cause too much of a diversion.
From Kidwelly, Google picked up Route 4 at the horrible, part flooded mud footpath into Burry Port. The first time through I hadn’t noticed the sign to Pinged and wondered if I had also missed one to Ponged. Maybe it’s down by the sewage outlet, a mile away on the coast.
Most of the rest of the day was spent retracing my tyre tracks back to Swansea. The flat was not as fast as the previous day because the wind was in the opposite direction and my legs were far more tired, partly because it was later in the day and partly because they had suffered from 150 miles of fairly severe hills since last being on it.
Strangely I think I enjoyed the wooded climb and subsequent descent on the old railway line over the neck of the Gower Peninsula more than the flat. Certainly, when I emerged on the seafront the other side, the flat run into Swansea looked an awfully long way, with the wind wiping up breakers even at low tide.
It was a slog but I tried not to fight the wind and eased off just a little. Going faster would only save a matter of minutes and I was in no great rush. I could see Swansea and all I had to do was get there. Still, I was envious of the cyclists ripping by the other way.
When I reached Swansea I have to admit to feeling a little pissed off that my Garmin was telling me I still had 7 miles to go. Then I remembered that I hadn’t been able to book a B&B in Swansea and had selected one on the outskirts. At the time I had been quite pleased with my choice. It looked plush in the website and had an ensuite, something that I had only enjoyed at 2 other stops on this trip. I had also reasoned that an extra few miles would mean less mileage the next day. Except that now there wasn’t going to be a next day. Or at least only to the station, which I now realised was going to be a 7 mile cycle.
Whilst in Swansea I thought that perhaps I had better get some directions to the station. That way if I couldn’t access the internet at the B&B I would have some idea where it was in the morning. I hailed some bloke walking down the pavement and stopped. Immediately I wished I hadn’t: he was bladdered. If I had been a little more alert I might have noticed his meandering path or even the can of Special Brew in one hand and the obligatory white plastic bag containing its siblings swinging from the other.
It felt rude just to ride off so I asked him anyway. He had great difficulty focusing on me. I could tell by the way he swayed backwards and forwards trying to bring me into view. He also had great difficulty focusing on the question. A mix of puzzlement and concentrated effort crossed his face. Eventually he answered, “Blu!”
This sounded very much like a prelude to, “Blueeerrrrggghhh!” so I quickly sidled out of any potential blast radius.
My drunken friend staggered sideways, a frown forming on his brow, perhaps a little confused as to where I had gone. After a few seconds thought he turned and wandered off the way he had been going before I stopped him.
Feeling that perhaps I had somehow managed to dodge a bullet I was much more circumspect when approaching my next potential informant, an older lady with one of those push along shopping bags cum walking frames. She gave a very good impression of not understanding a word of English and I gave up. Perhaps she was having a great joke at my expense but I couldn’t be sure. It had surprised me that the main language I had heard spoken since entering Wales was Welsh. That may seem a bit obvious but on previous trips, admittedly the last being nearly 20 years previously, I hadn’t heard anyone speaking it. Now everyone was. Shop keepers would greet me in Welsh and then smoothly switch to English on hearing my apologies for not knowing the native tongue. Snippets of conversations picked up when cycling by were in Welsh. Even the school kids were all jabbering away in their own language. It was clearly a massive success for the Welsh speaking campaigners who, it seems, had brought their language back from the brink of extinction. Hats off to them. Perhaps the English should now try and reclaim their language from the American that is taking over.
A big personal benefit from the proliferation of spoken Welsh was that it left me with a feeling that I was on a foreign tour but with the advantage that everyone spoke English. Except old ladies with walking frame bags.
Third time lucky, I was given some vague directions and felt satisfied that I at least knew what part of the city the station was in.
That last 7 miles from Swansea was a real drag. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I should already be finished. It was also totally uninspiring being the stretch alongside the A483, past Amazon. Eventually I approached the turn off from Route 4 only to find that Google had routed me direct from a huge flyover road bridge onto a footpath about 20 metres directly underneath it!
Having no abseiling equipment with me I had to go on. After the bridge I negotiated my way over a footbridge, which required mounting far too many narrow steps with a bike on my shoulder and then heading the wrong way down a one way system to re-join the route.
By the time I reached the B&B I was ready to drop. I just want to get into my room and collapse. But that was not to be. The owner was not there although her middle aged son was waiting to show me in. At least I eventually found him in the back garden when ringing the doorbell had failed to get anyone’s attention and I had gone around the back trying to find a back door to knock on.
He said he had been expecting me and then launched in to a long tirade about the divorce he was going through. Contrary to my thoughts I expressed some sympathy and gave a few hints about being knackered. This started him on another angle about how tiring it was going through a divorce. I tried to distract him by asking if there was anywhere to store my bike. He showed me to the lockable metal shed and waxed lyrical about the bike, and all the other things, he had lost during his divorce.
It took some persuasion to entice him into showing me where my room was but we eventually made it up the stairs. He pointed out that if I needed anything he was in room 2, where he now had to live because he had lost his home during his divorce. I assured him, with great conviction, that I wouldn’t need anything and politely but firmly closed the door. And locked it. What was a surprise to me was that anyone had ever married him. It was little wonder his mother was out. She probably spent as much time out as possible.
Now that I was alone I could reflect upon the plush B&B I had selected for myself. I can only say that the website had lied outrageously. It was a bit of a pit, as you might deduce from the view out of the window pictured. Incidentally, although it is hard to spot, I have circled a cat sat on a window ledge. It was later called in through the small window above it. It was a pretty tough route to get into the house and certainly not one for when he gets a bit older and his legs don’t work so well. Was it a simile for me undertaking multi day cycles of 100 miles and more a day? Perhaps as I get older I should plan shorter days. Or maybe I should spend a bit more time training!
On the plus side the B&B did have an ensuite with hot water and a bed that was adequately comfortable. I didn’t care anyway: I had made it. All I had to do was shower, Skype, eat, blog and crash.
Tah Dah! Hooray! Hoorah!
Today I managed to reach St David’s! No big thing – it was only about 4 miles down the road. Or perhaps up the road. From the door it was immediately up a climb touching 15%. In fact 100 metres of climbing in the first mile. Not the best wake up for tired legs.
With a strong headwind from the turn onward I was anticipating slow progress and I was right. 110 miles took 12.5 hours, about 9 mph. I set off at 6:30 so still got in early evening, hence time to type this after washing kit, eating etc.
The 75 miles from St David’s are by far the hilliest on the whole route. In fact, other than the odd hill and a cluster of hills around Bristol and Chepstow, it contains all the hills. So cycling it both ways in two days has been pretty rough: not so much the total climb but the steep gradients, most touching over 10%, many over 15%.
In contrast, once you drop out of the hills it is virtually pan flat for miles, all along the sea front on wide cycle paths. Yesterday it was easy riding bringing up my average speed with very little effort, thanks to a strong tail wind. Today, with the wind still in the same direction my speed was quite a bit less for more effort.
I routed one way using Sustrans Route 4 and the other using Google. Some of it was the same but where there were differences I have to say Sustrans won. Google was more direct involving a shorter distance but the route was not so cycle friendly. Sustrans is virtually traffic free.
Sadly a family crisis means I have to stop the journey early and have to head home on the train tomorrow. Fortunately I did complete the main mission of cycling from Lowestoft to St David’s.
Day 6 Statistics
Av heart rate:
Note: A very jagged first 75 miles (120 km) where most of the 2,103 metres of climbing took place. The hills were particularly vicious with most gradients in double figures.
Day 6 Elevation Profile