On Wednesday I had a mission. To take photographs for a piece I’m doing for Cycling World on riding along the ridge top of Offa’s Dyke in Flintshire. The road is the B5101 from Treuddyn to FFrith Hall. It’s only about four miles but it has two unique features. There are few sections of the original Offa’s Dyke that have been metalled so vehicles can travel along it, and to my knowledge it might be the only stretch that hasn’t been widened with the original ditches on either side. King Offa, in the 8thcentury, built the ditch either as a boundary, defensive line, or as a power statement to his Welsh adversaries. Generally it runs between England and Wales and was formed by digging a ditch and piling up the waste dirt and rocks into a ridge. The B5101 – I wish it had a more grandiose name. For example in Coedpoeth is Heol Offa, which also runs along the dyke though it isn’t so obvious. The second point of interest in this road is a red sign warning drivers of “Cyclist in road – Beicwyr ar y fford” wonderful. I want one – preferably two suspended in front and behind me! Not seen a notice like that before. The lane is so narrow there, because of it being perched on top of Offa’s Dyke, that there are traffic lights to permit vehicles in one direction at a time. The lights change too fast for my short fat hairy legs, and obviously for other cyclists too, hence the sign.
I filled my digital camera with views of the road – enhanced by blue skies and gorgeous woodland and hillsides, plus the two pretty villages of Llanfynydd and Ffrith – with its going-nowhere-mineral-railway viaduct.
The photo here is of a wider section of the B5101 and there are ditches either side behind the trees. I love the way the tree branches curve over as if to meet and grab passing cyclists…
At the T-junction with the Minera Road I veered right to Coedpoeth to see if my pal, John Marchant, and his wife, Rita were in. We had a long chat during which he effused about how wonderful the Escape Velocity: The Anthology was – see earlier blog. Heading away from Coedpoeth, through Minera, I tackled the steep lane up World’s End. Love the bleak treeless landscape on the plateau – it’s like going from Deciduous woodland below to the tundra in just a few miles. A few years ago on the way up I felt a wind fly past me and saw it was Chris Boardman and his North Wirral Velo cycling club. They all helloed as I puffed up the incline and waved back. My brakes held as I whizzed down through the water ford at World’s End.
In Llangollen I couldn’t go to the YHA hostel because it’s one of the hostels sold off – along with all the others in a 20 miles radius, including Chester, Bala, Corwen… so sad. However, there is an independent hostel – Llangollen Hostel. No chores, friendly staff, reasonable rates, clean duvets, well-equipped lounge, kitchen and dining room. Breakfast is thrown in. I met Peter Williams, who had cycled from Chapel-en-le-Frith (this Frith, Ffrith business is getting well used in this blog – wonder what it means?). Some of his route coincided with mine from Chester to Nottingham so we had much in common. After the proprietor (I suppose he’s not a warden as in YHA?) left – we thought to go shopping or whatever – we also left to get some tea. Problem. We didn’t know the code to get back in! Never mind we assumed it wouldn’t be long before the owner returned. It was on my way to the shops when I realised I’d lost my wallet. The hostel was prepaid but I always carry some spare coins. I had 6 pounds to buy enough for dinner, supper, midnight snack and the next day’s sports drinks and food. I guessed that my wallet fell out of my rear pocket near the Royal Oak in Kinnerton when I stripped to remove my vest. Do I use some valuable rare coins to report the card to Lloyds bank, but I don’t have the number of the card, nor of Lloyds – all would take even more money especially as Vodaphone have no signals in Llangollen. I bought some food and returned to the hostel. Peter and I arranged to leave the door ajar but someone had closed it. I assumed he was still in town, maybe gone to a restaurant or a pub. I knocked but no reply. A note on the door said to call a landline number if no one was in. So the min charge of 60p of my diminishing cash called said number – voice mail. Back to the hostel. I knocked and waited for two hours.
What would you do? Suppose, as actually happened, the ‘warden’ had left until breakfast and you had insufficient funds for another hotel? It was getting cold and my bike and belongings were locked up. I could a) find a bush to sleep under, b) report myself as destitute to the local police, or phone home. I’m sure my wife would have loved to arrive home after a long day in London, to jump in the car to drive the 20 odd miles to get me. And I would have had to return the next day to collect my bike. Eventually another guest turned up and he had the door code. Then I wondered about Peter. How would he get in? I stayed in the lounge writing up my SF story, Target Practice, until 11pm then shrugged and went to bed. At breakfast he said he was already back in the hostel when I’d returned but didn’t hear my knocking. Hah. Oh well.
Hey, thanks to the man who picked up my wallet in Kinnerton. He phoned my wife, so she did have a journey to make for me after all. Life, eh?
My first published fiction story was called World’s End, and involves a cyclist and spot of mystery. Read it free here.