The Welsh city of Cardiff seemed desolate and empty at 8am on a Saturday morning. Grey skies loomed overhead as I helped untie the bicycles from the back of the car. The air was chilly as my boyfriend and I cycled to the bus station with our panniers squashed with extra clothes just incase it rained. Once aboard the toasty warmth of the Brecon bike bus, with our bicycles on a trailer attached to the back, the bus plodded towards the town of Brecon. We were about to cycle a part of Sustrans Route 8, a 55 mile journey from Brecon to Cardiff, otherwise known as ‘ The Taff Trail ‘. It is named this because it follows the course of the River Taff. We were looking forward to cycling through small towns that had Welsh names that were difficult to pronounce. It was going to be fun trying to say them!
As we stepped off the bus I noticed the skies had turned a spooky shade of black. The bus pulled away leaving us by the side of the road in Brecon with only our trusty bicycles for company. We cycled around looking for signs that would guide us to the trail and eventually we were on route… cycling along a canal then down tiny country roads feeling squashed in by hedges that seemed the height of giants.
The frightening clouds above began to bully us, releasing tiny drops of rain. We ignored them and hoped our waterproof clothing would protect us. The trail took us away from Brecon and into the majestic Brecon Beacon National Park. We kept up a steady cycling pace which kept us warm from the drizzle of cold rain. We soon approached the Talybont reservoir and thoughts of the miserable weather quickly disappeared. What a scenic spot! Greeted by a hanging mist hovering in the air, we happily cycled over the dam glancing into the dark waters of the reservoir which were hugged by leafy trees. I could imagine a Loch-ness type creature lurking below its murky depths.
With the chilly rain continuing to fall our focus was drawn to the make-up of the trail. The rain had made it extremely muddy and the rocky gravel was beginning to expose more of itself than it should. With determination we gripped our handlebars and pushed onwards and upwards as the ascent up Torpantau hill began. The mist wrapped itself around our cold bodies as we huffed and puffed like trains up the steady incline of the trail.
It was tough going as our wheels sunk into the soft soil. We survived big puddles and jutting rocks only to have the rain unexpectedly turn from a light drizzle to heavy pellets of non-stop water.
Soaked through, I breathed in the view around me. Huge Pine trees had closed in on us while drops of rain were soaked up by spongy moss sitting collectively on the edges of the trail. We finally reached the summit and as by magic the trees suddenly disappeared from view and were replaced with open fields of lush green grass. Through the wispy mist I spotted a huddle of horses munching away ignorant of our noisy appearance. The trail narrowed and weaved itself around mounds of muddy earth as it gladly sprayed our skin with it. The sight of bellowing steam and a loud blow of a whistle could be heard, a train chugged hidden from view above us. We tried to find it, chase it, but it played hide and seek very well.
The Pontsticill Reservoir certainly wasn’t hiding. This reservoir we cycled upon was doing the complete opposite. It was sitting proud in the eerie mist, looking as beautiful as a bird of paradise trying to impress anyone who came its way. The rain continued to fall – our clothes were saturated and our skin prickled with cold from the fresh mountain air. Even though the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful we finally acknowledged that we needed to find somewhere to stay before we caught the death of cold. Our day ride had to be cut short as we cycled onwards, desperate to get to the town of Merthyr Tydfil in search of shelter…