If we haven’t already mentioned it enough, Wales is a stunningly beautiful place and an absolute dream to explore by bike. With so much to see and do, where do you start?
Fortunately, Abergavenny-based author Jack Thurston has done much of the leg work for us and produced a book, Lost Lanes Wales.
Truth be told, we’ve had this book in our possession for some time, since before Jack came to our Cardiff Cycle City Christmas bash. We’re not happy with ourselves that it has taken this long to publish something about this excellent book.
However, in our defence it has been a particularly dark, cold and very wet winter and the prospect of getting out and exploring the lanes and back roads of our fair country seemed a lifetime away.
Now, the evenings are getting longer and the fruits of many winter commuting miles is starting to pay off, so it’s time to start planning the summer. Enter, Lost Lanes Wales.
A bucket-list book
As the tag-line suggests, there are 36 routes in this book with many of them concentrated around the Gwent valleys and up along the border to Church Stretton. There’s also a further 10 routes in the area north-west of Machynlleth and surprisingly only around three in West Wales. Perhaps most surprising of all is that there are no Vale routes either.
The routes range from around 17 miles (27km) and go up to 46 miles (73km), representing a mix of challenges. Helpfully Jack has ranked them all according to difficultly, ranging from easy to one that is “very challenging”. The very challenging route starts in Machynlleth and climbs a total of 1338 metres along its 43 mile/69km length. We know this because Jack has also, very helpfully provided an “at a glance” section.
The routes closest to us in Cardiff start in Bargoed and in Newport, both of which sound very interesting indeed. The Bargoed route is classed as challenging, as it climbs over 800m, but is a comfortable 26 miles in total. However, it’s an 18 mile ride from Bute Park if you wanted to do that, but you could also get the train from Queen Street.
From Bargoed it heads up to Rhymney, Tredegar & back down to Bargoed, taking in such sights as the Cefn Golau cholera cemetery, the Nye Bevan Memorial Stones and Bedwellty House.
However, just like every other route in the book, it is presented alongside some beautiful photography, an in-depth description of the route and the history of the area and includes notes on stopping places and eateries along the way.
To top it off, each route includes an easy-to-follow URL to a webpage where you can find the GPX file, a PDF list of directions and an interactive map, so there’s no excuse for getting lost.
Now that much of winter is behind us and a season of long summer rides is ahead of us, this book is going to prove its worth. It has already provided much inspiration on this quiet Sunday afternoon and fits in quite nicely with an earlier article on going on a weekend away by bike. Definitely pick this up if you are looking to get some touring done this summer.