The Coast > Coast >
A CRABs misguided tour
|Introduction||Yarmouth to Barmouth '98||Yarmouth to Charmouth '99||Charmouth to Barmouth|
May 27th – June 2nd 2000
CLICK here for index of Charmouth to Barmouth pix
Hares:: CRABs' Misguided Tours Inc.
|Getting there had been a bit of an ordeal – shitty weather in London – waving to Rita from the train at Tisbury (see Yar to Char '99) except for Schoolboy's Dream who slept all the way as she was still recovering from some rather unpleasant tropical diseases. The climb up from Axminster was even wetter, but the Dorset road signs gave some amusement (five consecutive junctions reading "Charmouth 1½ miles"!).|
Pedalling out of Charmouth in the morning we were into the hill-climbing immediately - Seaborough Hill gave us our first walk of the week. Route finding was a hit-and-miss affair, but we found Crewkerne eventually and soon after, our lunch stop. . .
. . . the Brewers Arms at South Petherton, which by a happy coincidence was hosting a beer festival that day - 14 different pints was a definite pissabolity! We made surprisingly good progress that afternoon in spite of a geographical uncertainty (O.K. we got lost!) in the fens of Somerset.
Arriving at the Shapwick Hotel by 4.30 we poured ourselves a complementary sherry (Oh that all hotels were this civilised!), showered, and decided to go out on the town - well the next village actually! Boy named Siew refused to phone for the taxi on the grounds that his stateside drawl would mark him out as a tourist and we'd be charged double, and when GoldFlinger tried one company in Street he was told that Shapwick was a bit too far out for them (check the map - it must be all of five miles!)
Some gratuitous climbing up
I was puzzled as to why we had to pay the 75p pier entrance fee in spite of the fact that we had pre-paid reservations for the boat - just how else were we supposed to get to the boat, swim out to it? Included in the service however, was a visit from the pier lady to tell us to drink our pints "bloody quick, the boat's coming."
|What a splendid vessel is the Balmoral. Not only did her crew manage to dock the tiny thing in a tempest that threatened to blow us clean off the pier, but they helped the ladies up the gangplank with their bikes, and then served us an excellent pint of Guinness to quell any uneasiness we may have about the safety of our voyage to Penarth.|
|The similarities with Fawlty Towers were obvious from the moment we arrived at the Royal Hotel. It was six o'clock, and our rooms were not quite ready - would we mind waiting a half hour or so over a beer or two? We of course needed no second bidding. There followed a rollicking evening of beer, curry and Mantovani on the jukebox.|
Waking up the next morning in our far from faultless rooms to views of the council flats, we were well prepared for more Royal Hotel idiosyncrasies. We would not be disappointed as GoldFlinger spent breakfast time wrestling with a faulty window blind to no avail. The nutty sisters in charge of this establishment served us without doubt the finest "full English" (or should that be full Welsh?) of the week and we set off past the exotic birds of Penarth (some in cages and some on street corners), to find the start of the Taff Trail. It being a Bonk Holiday the tourist office didn't open till 10.30, so our favourite tourist (Boy Named Siew) threw a wobbly and was forced to set off without a personal copy of the trail map. Crabbo lent him his, but it was faulty.
Past the Millennium Stadium, and some of the less salubrious areas of Cardiff, the Taff Trail signs soon became harder to find. The first of many false trails was actually the prettiest part of the trip. Up a steeply wooded road to a hilltop overlooking Caerphilly, where a large group of mountain bikers stopped to pass the time of day and help us find our desired route. When we found it again, far from hurtling off at full pelt into the valleys, Sooz developed a fault of the puncture variety which no amount of pumping and green slime could seal. Much time was wasted changing the tube and protecting the new one from rim damage. No sooner had we found the Taff Trail again than Crabbo got what turned out to be the only other puncture of the week, caused by a three inch nail placed on the path no doubt by a Welsh saboteur. Lunch was taken early and a few pints of Hancock's in the Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd soon put all faults right. After shopping in the adjacent Halfords for a birthday present for Schoolboy's Dream, we set off through the gypsy encampment for Merthyr Tydfyl, where Beaver had a repeat of the fault with her chain - it kept falling off. "Dam!" said Beaver. From here it was a gentle downhill on the main road to Gilwern - but then UPHILL again on several tiny little roads before we found our overnight accommodation - grrr!
The day's riding started with a shockingly steep one in four, head-over-the-handlebars descent to the Monmouth to Brecon Canal towpath. It was sunny and bright as Crabbo spun us left and we set to the task of passing forty odd bridges, and some not odd bridges, on the way to our planned lunch destination of Brecon. Despite attempts at running repairs GoldFlinger's bike continued to squeak like a mouse and he was banished to the front of the pack to avoid annoying the shit out of everybody. Stating the blindingly obvious, canal towpaths are flat, which means that there are no hills, no down bits to rest on, which means that the cycling is unrelenting and which after a couple of hours led Checkpoint to suggest that a bit more of the Taff trail and its undulations would be top banana. So top banana it was and we left the enchantingly shaded tranquil 1800's world of canal towpaths until we rejoined it for the last few miles of the morning. Meanwhile Boy Named Siew vociferously remarked that he was not behaving anything like a Japanese tourist as he was engaged in recording the scenery in his mind rather than on celluloid, and any way he has a delightful wife who loves taking photographs.
For lunch in Brecon we repaired to the Clarence Inn downing a couple of well earned pints of beautifully kept draft Boddingtons and feasting on the scrumptious ham, eggs and chips daily special which included apple pie swamped with cream, ice-cream or custard. Miss Beaver spent five pence extra and lashed out on the a la carte menu.
It was a wrench to leave the old world charm of Brecon and we soon found out why the Beacons were so named. Miss Beaver and GoldFlinger egged each other up and down the big sky-long slopes of the Beacons occasionally catching the rest of the PACK for jelly baby stops and mis-directions.
Once, but not twice, in the Danger Zone of an MOD firing range and having not seen anybody else for an hour or so Miss Beaver decided to take a leak in a small hollow at the side of the road. It was exactly the right moment to moon a truck load of Squadies who had materialised out of nowhere. Shortly afterwards a girl and two boy Squadies told us they were going in to the woods to check things out which proves that conversation with Squadies is futile. Suddenly we were on a huge 40mph descent on a writhing country road in to Llangammarch Wells whilst we watched happily a huge storm circle us and hoorah, go away.
Late afternoon and we were stood by the side of the road chatting to our Llanwrtyd Wells guru . She told us yes, they still had the railway station with three trains a day at 11, 4 and 7 to Shrewsbury and Swansea, bog snorkelling was big 'ere, then there's the wobble, asked and was disappointed that we were not staying for man against horse this coming Saturday mind. Then added with some disdain that our destination was past the red house, you can't miss it!!!, past the red kite with the Drovers Inn on our left and Barclays on our right and then the Stonecroft Inn will be down yonder. Luckily "down yonder" was not a country mile but less than a hundred yards.
Schoolboy's Dream greeted us with the first of many pints that evening to celebrate a wonderful day's riding. No excuses were needed as we stuffed the coffers of the other pubs in the smallest town in Britain.
Rain, shopping, washing (bikes, clothes and peolple), walking, resting, watching telly and drinking.
Sunshine, Sunshine, Happy days...
Back at the Stonecroft Inn, there was life ready for bacon sandwiches (with extra PIG for School Boy's Dream). The washing machine was tested and then proceeded to churn for the rest of the morning. The sun invited us all to lounge outside reading the days papers except for Crabbo who decided that after all the sitting down he had done for the last few days that he needed to stretch his legs and hence disappeared off up the mountain side.
'Oh, Miss Beaver? Will you come into the bathroom?' came the cry out of the window down to the garden. Up the stairs she dashed, to the rescue of Goldflinger : 'My eyes are dim I can not see, I have not brought my specs with me...' In other words a contact lens had jumped off his eyeball and landed somewhere. The offending lens was found by Miss Beaver in the bottom of the sink.
Even on our rest day, the bikes beckoned us. The hose-pipe was located along with the washing-up liquid and toothbrushes ready for cleaning the gunk off chains and gears. Fortunately Goldflinger didn't quite catch the washing on the line though he made a darn good stab at it.
The clock struck noon - pub's open! Crabbo, Goldflinger, School Boy's Dream and Checkpoint could not be kept away from the pub a moment longer. Off they trotted to the New Inn for the Castle Eden. Miss Beaver and Boy Named Siew opted for a cheese sandwich and welsh cake whilst watching 'The Court Jester' on TV.
Crabbo and Checkpoint returned after a couple of pints. Crabbo proceeded to snore through the film but luckily the volume button worked on the remote control (Miss Beaver certainly wasn't going to exert too much energy on her day off). Checkpoint meanwhile found the iron...
Well, Welsh weather men are far better than their English counterparts: the sun disappeared behind by clouds that grew and grew before it drizzled and then later poured.
School Boy's Dream and Goldflinger had a stressful afternoon trying to drink enough beer in the New Inn, to persuade the Landlady that it was in her interests to remain open. The exact number this required was a little unclear when they were questioned later. But after one for the road, they moved on towards Stonecroft (the intention was to have a nap apparently but as the pub was now open they had to have another for the road...)
By 5pm, Miss Beaver needed some beer. Boy Named Siew, Checkpoint and Crabbo were too comfortable in the lounge doing crosswords and reading the paper, hence Miss Beaver headed next door for a pint on her own. In the pub, she found Goldflinger and School Boy's Dream drinking a pint of 'Liquidized Cowshit' (unfortunately they didn't offer Miss Beaver this description until after she had also got a pint). The three of them dutifully drank it (can't waste beer even if it does taste grim) before ordering pints of Butty Bach (AKA Bacon Butty) to wash away the taste of the cow shit. The first ever episode of Star Trek was about to begin... The quality of the beer was sacrificed by allowing the pints to be watered down by the rain as we rushed back to join the others in front of the TV - what people will do for Star Trek, eh?
Afterwards we headed back next door in dribs and drabs. When Checkpoint arrived and tried to order the liquidized cowshit, even the barman curled up his nose and suggested she took her friends' advice and try a different pint! Given that there were other fine ales on tap (discounted as it was Stonecroft's birthday) Checkpoint seemed to survive. The evening progressed after eating with many beers. Goldflinger and Crabbo liased with the DJ who struggled with some requests but was helped to find a jolly selection. (Unfortunately Queen's 'I want to ride my bicycle' wasn't available). After more beers, the buffet was put out: 'spring rolls and chocolate cake anyone?' Amazing how hungry you can get sitting down all evening drinking beer!
Miss Beaver retired early - just couldn't hack the pace of the old farts - escorted by Boy Named Siew. [Further details omitted for the sake of decency]
The beers kept flowing on demand from School Boy's Dream. The dancing commenced as the alcohol took away self-consciousness. And so the evening continued...
Beer tally by the end of the day: School Boy's Dream: 13 - 15 (any advances???)
On!On! Miss Beaver
Wet! Hangovers, hills, the Devil's Staircase, then mountains, fords and Devil's Bridge. Late lunch at the village shop (bikers welcome) in Pontrhydfendigaid - so unpronounceable that even the locals had to abbreviate it.
Copy awaited, but I'm told by the scribe that Schoolboy's Dream said Bollocks quite a lot! pics here