My goal for Christmas 2016 was to cycle. I planned to get on my bike and ride the Rapha Festive 500. I think this is a great challenge in many many ways but as not many of my friends and family cycle I had to choose whether I would spend my time with them or all my time on my bike. It would have been really fantastic to do the challenge but it would have been at the sacrifice of seeing my friends and family – some of which I hadn’t caught up with in over a year. Now – it may just be me – but I value keeping up with these ties more than hitting a number on the Garmin.
Instead, I got outside for some other adventures.
Walk One: the Begwyns
The weather was cold and crisp; the conditions were perfect for walking and not to be ignored. Walking is one of the best ways to catch up with old friends and I was thrilled when Beth (one of my oldest friends) said yes to going for a walk. We bundled the dog into the car and set off into the hills. Our destination was the Begwyns, a small common overlooking the Painscastle hills to the north and the Black Mountains roughly to the south with Hay on Wye in the valley below. It’s not a well-known place considering how busy Hay gets with tourists – consequently the locals love it. Park above Clyro and you have rolling hills lying in front of you. It’s not a strenuous walk and you can cover about six miles without any serious climbs or tricky ground. It’s easy walking considering how high you are. The views are simply spectacular, too. The Black Mountains can be seen clearly and on a fine day you can see all the way out to Pen Y Fan and Corn Du in the Brecon Beacons. It’s truly a hidden gem.
Unfortunately, I was too busy chatting and catching up with Beth that I forgot to take more photos…
Walk Two: Twmpa
Because one walk is never enough, I set out on a family jaunt in the Black Mountains in the afternoon. I simply could not resist after seeing them looking so fine from afar that very morning. Parking at Gospel Pass we set out to the summit of Twmpa for the sunset. It’s only a short walk from the car park and not difficult. The wind had other ideas though – freezing our faces and hands. We were glad to have wrapped up very warm. I was hugely grateful for my Berghaus Ramche jacket – a jacket designed for extreme conditions (not a afternoon stroll). It’s insulating capabilities were certainly needed as the sun had belied just how bitterly cold it was. The Boxing Day crowds had disappeared though and we had the hill to ourselves. I’ve always loved having the mountain to myself and enjoying the peace but it was wonderful to share this with my family. It was so lovely to see the dogs bouncing and happy to be somewhere new with lots of new interesting smells.
The sunset was worth it and made us feel good for having made the effort to come out. It’s far too easy when you’re among family to be persuaded to stay around to drink and eat instead.
Walk Three: the Beech Tree
Driving home was tough. I never like leaving the mountains behind me but I also couldn’t wait to be going back to the boyfriend. That afternoon we set out on another walk – I’m a sucker for the clear, cold and frosty days. We walked to the most beautiful old Beech tree. It was huge! You could imagine that you’d accidentally just walked in to Narnia, or the like. There was a special feel to the place; it felt full of life but ancient at the same time. This tree had obviously been a special place for many. Although out of the way to walk to, there was an old swing set up and engravings made by loved up couples as old as the 1800s, which now stood high in the tree.
The bike: King’s Cliffe
The next day came icy and cold again. It was a truly beautiful morning and I decided to make the most of it and head out on my bike. Ice covered the road making me nervous on my very old bald tires. I really need to buy some winter tires as had I hit a slippery bit of road, I could well have been on the floor. I went steadily, enjoying the sun on my body and the frost covering the landscape. It was a beautiful day.
Although I didn’t succeed in getting out for the Festive 500 I feel content that I still had my dose of fresh air, while seeing friends and family. I see little enough of them all year that I didn’t want to compromise my time with them while I had the opportunity, too.