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Snowdonia

We spent a weekend in early July 2009 mountain-biking in Snowdonia in July 2009. We did two routes in the rain on the Saturday and a bigger one in dry conditions on the Sunday. Our Saturday rides were based on information from Pete Bursnall’s North Wales Mountain Bike Guide, Ernest Press 1995. All routes can be seen on OL17. We were staying at Capel Garmon.

Beddgelert Forest – Cwm Pennant

Forest tracks, over a pass, quarries. This is based on the off-road parts of Pete Bursnall’s Moel Hebog circuit. 576509–557513–545492–534479–540492–557513–576509. Note that ‘they’ have been monkeying around with the rights of way here. At 545492 the route briefly coincides with a disused quarry tramline which is deliciously ridable. Not much of it is bridleway, but it would be intriguing to know how far we could have followed it.

After a heatwave, the weather broke, and if it’s going to rain anywhere it will rain in Snowdonia. We thought we could tough it out. We started in Beddgelert forest at the car park, and rode up along the bridleway following forest tracks. The true bridleway leaves at a T-junction and going up steeply and rockily, we missed it and found ourselves on the forest track curving round. It was nice, but wrong. Back on the right bridleway, we didn’t ride an awful lot because wet slate is dodgy.
Out of the trees it’s rideable and you cross a pass. You drop into a steep quarried area, even in this wet wetaher attractive in its own way; the ruins covered in lichen, submerged in purple heather and deep bracken, black wet slate gleaming. We failed to find any sort of convincing path but didn’t much care, as whatever we did had some sort of entertainment value; past the reservoir it is more obvious and there are signs. You drop on mostly rideable grassy singletrack to a farm and the road.

We returned much the same way. Up the road to the end and then followed what used to be a bridleway, now a footpath, often a push. The descent may have been more rideable and interesting if dry. We crossed paths with some cagoules on the forest tracks, after three hours without seeing a single other person.

Snowdon Ranger – Telegraph road

A challenging and varied route – ‘Maesgwm’ in Bursnall’s book. 565551–573553–577579–551598–565551.

Park somewhere on the road near Llyn Cwellyn. Follow the Snowdon Ranger path up the zigzags; we managed to ride them and this is fun. Quite a few walkers. At some point there’s a junction and here you go left. Although the Snowdon Ranger path is a bridleway, there’s a voluntary ban on mtbs on the remainder of the route. Climb steeply then eases off to the pass; great views below of the lake.

Great long descent now, quite a few obstacles in the form of raised rain gullies, some exciting fast runs; views back to the clouds hugging Snowdon and also of the little train puffing up the mountain. Pass a Thing. Keep left on whatever most resembles a track, all quite varied and interesting. Becomes more of a track, I think; you cross the ridge and it’s a rough forest road, then tar into the village. Main road back to the car.

Roman Road and Drum

This was drier – either because the weather had improved or because we were in the rain-shadow of the hills. The route is unmentioned by Bursnall, though it’s better than the ones in his book (and also harder: 46km, 1500m ascent, 5 hours’ riding time for us). Again ‘they’ have been messing around with the rights of way (and our maps were old), but (apart from the descent to Llanfairfechan) it can all be ridden with a clear conscience. The parts we describe as RUPP may have been downgraded to footpath.

There is said to be a bridlepath descent from the crossroads at 693723 to Llanfairfechan but we lost our way and ended up on the footpath (as we had done on a previous visit). There are no signposts to help. The grassy descent at the end of the footpath is great fun, but speeding cyclists have caused problems for walkers here and there are stiles you have to lift over, so the bridlepath is better if you can find it.

You could start anywhere, but clockwise is much better than anticlockwise. 767690–721716–693723–708696–693723–Llanfairfechan–698747–732753–746758–750770–752774–766777–766773-nettley track to 771764–767690. The nettley track was not a good idea.

Park at Tal-y-Bont, ride up the Llanbedr road. After 10 minutes, sigh oh dear. Continue climbing. Stop at every junction to confirm the right direction, not that we are tired, oh no. Continue climbing. Marvel at how this road manages to conjure up yet more climbing when there is surely nothing more above you. Here is a wide valley with three runs of pylons. Tar turns to track with a sign forbidding motors, and the gradient finally eases off. This is all quite easy and pleasant.

Speculate about the weather, optimistically, and take a chance on Drum. It is a long drag up, reasonably good most of the way but with the odd steep (ie 20%) or rocky section; we made a better job of it than last time. It’s great mountainbiking, very quiet, big open expanses of mountain, and a track that’s just challenging enough to be interesting. Once at the top it’s a surprise to look back and see the sea to one side and the ranges of Snowdonia to the other.

Enjoy descent. Keep straight on at the next junction and enjoy this grassy hummocky descent even more. I think you follow the waymarked route but at some point you get to a stile and gate in a wall. The footpath continues through, and there are nicely challenging zigzags taking you down to a farmhouse.

From Penmaenmawr there’s a road which forks: Valley Road or Mount Road, guess which is ours. It climbs steeply and when you reach the top it climbs even more steeply. You get to a farm and follow the bridleway along bracken and hawthorn and then out onto clear moorland. Lovely grassy and flat. To the left, seawards, the hillside slopes steeply down and the track descends. If however you follow the narrower walkers’ path trending upwards you will get to a stone circle, and another larger one a little further on.

The path is designated as the North Wales path or something. Mostly it follows bridleway or Rupp, sometimes they diverge but on one stretch you can’t find the rupp. This is all excellent riding, rises and falls and a lot of fun. It gets better. There’s a stretch through deep heather and here, after a gate thorugh a wall, the b-way and path do diverge. Do take the b-way, as there is a sort of bomb-hole drop and ascent. It was hugely fun.

You come out in the Sychnant pass; small but packs in as good a spectacle as anywhere [there may be an element of exaggeration in this – CJC]. Follow the road opposite, it’s as steep as it looks, and follow tracks towards Conwy, there are lots of forks but it’s pretty obvious.

The Berwyns, June 2010

We had a weekend June 2010, based near Bala. Great weather on the Saturday, which we made the most of, riding ourselves into the ground.

Rhanneg-Llandrillo

A short and pleasant loop to occupy some of the morning

Steep lane from 985365, to meet B4391. Immediately after cattle grid, there's a BW sp'd to the left, which is fairly distinct. Meet a track, then roughly right then left off the track - it is straightforward to follow. We then just followed the most obvious path, though there may have been alternatives. You then meet another track near some forest. The map shows the BW as continuing at the head of a small valley and following to the left of this valley. We didn't find any trace of a path here but instead followed a path that started higher up the track (south). At some point this follows the fence of some pasture, then heads down to meet the white-road to Llandrillo, which is a lovely descent. Our weekend, we had pinkish hawthorn blossom, gorse, and cuckoos.

Wayfarer's Pass

The classic route but starting from a track to the south.

We started from 043385, skiving off some work by doing much of the climbing on tar. It becomes gravelly, I think, then there's a fork at a gate where you come into open moorland, and your track is left past a copse. It was all rideable, though a little steep in places so not too easy. Marvellous expansive views of the Berwyn ridge. We took turns opening gates with the farmer on a tractor. After you meet the main track there is a steep and rough section, which was the most challenging part.

We naughtily tried a little of the ridge path, which was quite fun, but not really all that rideable.

Descent is straightforward, with some large puddles to negociate. The scenery is a little drab higher up, but the valley narrows prettily towards the end.

Llanarmon DC has two pubs both with similar posh-pub food. If you sit in the garden of the West Arms you have an intimidating view of what you are going to have to lug your chip-filled stomach up. But beware that the veggie tart does not come with potatoes. We suspect some pubs think the veggie option is for people who don't want to eat.

Bryn Du, Ceirog Ddu.

An interesting and very quiet alternative to Wayfarer's. Some of this is footpath but we met a farmer along it who didn't mind at all us being there.

Ride up the totally sick hill out of Llanarmon. When the gradient relents it becomes a track and follows a wood. Then there's a gate and you follow the track through moorland. Drop into a small valley and climb out again. Soon there is a gate on the track, and a gate in the fence on the left with an access land sign. There is a faint double track. Follow this to another gate. Shortly after, the double-track becomes impossible to ride because it's too overgrown with heather and bilberries, but there is a fork to the right. This is not very convincing but it is more rideable and genuinely is the bridleway. Indeed you should pass BW posts. It is mostly downhill and really rather fun. You head down gradually towards the valley bottom and follow the obvious way across to the vehicle track entering the woods.

Shortly after there is a fork. You take the left, the lower and obviously older track which has a few puddles. Then exits the woods. It is track for a little while and when this peters out, what we did was to follow the path heading up the hillside to the right. It is better defined than the footpath straight on. I think on the 1:25000 map it is marked as a sort of track, and with some imagination you could believe it is double-track. It is not very rideable as the ruts are deep and narrow and your feet get caught in the scrub. You get to a T-junction with a better track, and follow the left, which I seem to remeber as being rideable. The pass gives great views of Snowdonia in the distance. Decent was the same sort of rutty scrub but it's ok descending on this. Steeper stony track into the forest, then follow the forest track to the road and down to Cynwyd.

Llandrillo-Pennant-Milltir Gerrig

A little extra to end the day. SJ034371-018303.

From Llandrillo you ride pleasantly up the valley. The tar ends at Blaen-y-cwm and the gradient begins. We managed the bends but after that it's too steep and stony, certainly for the end of a hard day. It does relent when you are past the woods and you ride through open moorland to the road. We imagined the road would be all downhill but it isn't. This is one for the other direction. The sofas were calling.

TyCerrig - Bwlch-y-Fenni - Aber Hirnant

978361-958325

This is shown as white road but it is tar all the way, if a little gravelly. It is steep both ways and there are rather a lot of gates but it is a wonderfully scenic quiet road. Maes-hir on the southern side is a fairly grand place with a heavy and troublesome gate.

Cwm Hirnant ridge track

946274-988288-978293-962317

This is an obvious one to try. You do almost all the climbing on road (easy!) then you have all the fun and views from a good long ridge ride. Well, that's what it seems on the map. There is a fair bit of up and down on the track and although it's a boring wide vehicle track, it is rocky enough in places to keep you awake. We had a spot of rain up here but I think it ought to be a good ride in fine weather. The stretch down into the forest is steep and probably not rideable up. We took the right at the first fork in the forest, a slightly more meandering track than the left-hand way.

We drove to Llangynog. There are two pubs here, the New Inn and the other one, both more down to earth than those in Llanarmon and you're guaranteed to get plenty of carbo here - the lasagne comes with chips, bread and pasta salad.

Llangynog - Cwm Rhiwarth- Cwm Pennant

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Ride up nice road which barely climbs and enjoy the relaxing cycling, while trying not to look at the B-road climbing intently up the valley side above you. Don't worry, as it will soon be out of sight. At the end of the road there's a farm and a signpost to the right. Cross the ford, then groan as the track flings itself skyward. Some of this is may be rideable if you are fresh. It is undeniably pretty with hawthorn and gorse, rocky outcrops and a waterfall.

At the top a track joins from the right and you continue through a small fod. Then the track peters out. The BW must diverge before the track completely finishes - there is a small footbridge you cross. Now the path is very indistinct. The BW should follow to the right of the next small valley, but this is all through heather and scrub. We followed an unconvincing sheep path before finding a narrow track that had occasional footprints, tyre marks and horse hoofmarks. There was a small rise in the peat and you could see where people had gone up. It was not very easy to follow. There was a patch where the heather had been cleared and we couldn't see the path across, but we managed to find where it entered the heather again. Then there's a fence with a gate, and a bunch of firebeaters. The track was more distinct now, to another gate. Now you are over the summit and into sheep pasture. It took a while to work out where to go but it seems you can follow the fence - there is a sort of line of old track - to where there is another gate in the fence on your left. Now the path is pretty clear. Descend gradually at first, then a steeper wide grassy track and an even steeper rockier track, fun.

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