Saturday, April 14, 2007

Weekend at Afan Forest Park

Afan Forest Park covers an area of 11,000 hectares and lies to the south of the Breacon Beacons in Wales. Most of this is woodland and is part of the 30,000 hectare Valleys Forest, the largest urban forest in Europe. The Forest Park is a popular destination for walking, cycling, orienteering and camping. We deliberately chose a campsite that allowed open fires to get the true outdoor camping experience. Billybob will be pleased to hear we successfully utilized the Swiss-fire starter on numerous occasions – Ray Meares style!

Back to the biking - Afan Forest Park is renowned for its dedicated mountain bike trails and its twisty, rooty, rocky and in places wildly exposed single tracks which are the enthusiasts (that’s us!) dream. What they say: "The trails here have been carved out of hillsides into 4 world class mountain biking trails; ‘Penhydd’, ‘The Wall’, ‘Skyline’ and ‘White’s Level’, boasting over 100 km of single track heaven" (below, click to enlarge).

Our weekend got off to a spectacular start - the morning dawned bright and clear and we all emerged from our tents to find a campfire roaring and the kettle on thanks to Charlie-man! After a hefty breakfast to fortify us for the day ahead we travelled to the much anticipated start of the Penydd Trail. We turned up with expectations of a challenging and adrenaline pumping ride - and that’s exactly what we got! We started off on an up hill fire track; Sophie and Scott on a tandem, veterans of the trail. Charlie-girl, Jenny, Jess, Charile-boy and Ed (all Namibian Dustbadgers and virgin TCA riders) had dusted off their bikes for the occasion. TCA regualrs Jon, Ad and Jules also made the trip (below).

With S and S in the lead we started the slow incline up the first part of the trail with spectacular views over the forest. The going was hard, the weather hot and the pace slow. Riding with S and S, Julie had a lone biker in her sights and took off to overtake him, only to find on the way past that he was middle aged and overweight, no points there then! After a refreshing break at one of the corners the crew took off again this time with Charlie and Jen in the lead.

The Terrible Tandem

The up-hill seemed to go on forever – Jon was in his element and once the top was reached we were more than ready for the first downhill stretch - aptly named Desolation. Jess, Jen and Charlie-girl took a shortened route to the top of ‘a ridge too far’. The rest took the single track by storm, S and S in the lead, then Charlie-man then A.D. Ed, anticipating getting some serious speed up, hung back to give himself some space and Julie brought up the rear, having no hope in hell of catching up with Evil Kinevil Ed.

Near the bottom of the track A.D called out a warning to Ed. This was interpreted as ‘if you speed up you can jump it!’ and E.D came flying down the hill, faster than a speeding bullet, and slammed, full speed, into the ground. Barely pausing for breath he was back up and on his bike before the rest of us could recover from the shock.

We met up with the others at the top of the ridge and tackled the first technical section of track – a jaw clenching, adrenaline pumping descent littered with switchbacks, rocks and tree roots. Charlie-man, always prepared, had a mini cam on his helmet and filmed the dangerous descent. It was during this section that Julie’s bike branded her with a classic chain mark after she misjudged a section of bank. Blood was drawn but unfortunately none vial-ed in order that the official TCA membership form could be signed in blood by the two founding members (who, coincidentally, were both absent from this particular outing).

More uphill ensued and before we knew it we were at the top of the next downhill section. This was technically easier than the previous descent and was enjoyed by all, most especially Jess who loved the tight and twisty singletrack through Side Winder. We had a breather at the bottom, grinning widely after the rocky, rollercoaster ride.

It was discovered that Jen’s water bottle had become dislodged during the arduous, arm-jarring descent. A.D bravely volunteered for the task after a rider came down and told us that it was only 100 yards up the track. The boys really got into the spirit of the ride, and took off down Dead Sheep Gulley, racing round the corners to keep up with the terrible tandem, descending at breakneck speed.

Ad's desperate attempt to impress the executive committee.

We went up and over one more hill before coming to a favourite of Stu’s – the river crossing. The descent to the stream saw A.D tip head over heals over the handlebars, but not into the drink. After evidence of blood was produced it was decided he too probably had now attained membership to the TCA . The going was relatively straight forward back to the car park and it was a happy group that pulled up to the cars, ready for lunch and a break!

(Posted by: Julie)

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At 2:03 pm, April 27, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

If only it were so simple that a drop or two of blood were enough to suffice entry into the hallowed realms of membership! Unfortunately membership is not attained, only bestowed, and this after a strict nomination process and careful consideration by the associate inner sanctum.

See TCA Rules & Regulations section 8b, subsection ii.

TCA Executive

At 11:27 pm, April 27, 2007, Blogger TCA said...

Afhan looks a good mtn bike venue! What a top place, a TCA worthy trip if ever there was one. Good to see a few 'minor' cuts and grazes on route. Hey, that Tandem looks a bit mean with it's suspension! Good write up Jules and glad to hear that light stick is seeing some action.


At 10:52 am, April 28, 2007, Anonymous Mrs.BB said...

SOunds a great expedition! Wish we culd have been there! I'm particularly envious about the campfire.....Good on you guys!


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