Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Carsington Water

Le lac de Carsington a velo.

Derbyshire's largest man made lake, Carsington Water was constructed over 20 years ago and has become a very popular destination for a variety of outdoor enthusiasts, anglers, birdwatchers, 
walkers and cyclists, and Severn Trent have done an excellent job in providing facilities for all of these. The Visitor Centre caters for all these groups and it also has cafes and shops.

The path around the reservoir is about 9 miles long, so within the scope of most cyclists, but it is not a flat ride as you might imagine.

It has multiple undulations on the East side and has many sharp turns, so care is needed, especially since much of the surface is stones and gravel.  Around the Visitor Centre and across the top of the dam the surface is level, but more exposed to the wind as there is little shelter from trees unlike the East side.

There are several Pay & Display car parks, the one at the Visitor Centre being the largest and the most expensive. The nicest and cheapest car parking is at Millfields, on the South corner of the lake.
The cost here is £2.50 per day. 

The entrance to Millfields Car Park where there are toilets in the building (top right).

Good views from this car park especially on the top terrace towards the exit.

This is the cycle track  from the car park. A good surface initially.

Typical undulations and bends through the woods.

With occasional views of the water. Behind the tower is the top of the dam and our return route.

                                                                                                        On through more wooded sections.

Having turned back Southwards we head towards the Visitor Centre.

Part of this route is the National Cycle Network Route 547.

Some man made islands in the lake.

Here the Visitor Centre, not to be missed.

Outside a model of the lake.

And inside cafes, shops and toilets.

Best place to eat with a view, The Gallery marked X.

This being the view, and access by these steps.
Ahead is Stones Island, which is not actually an island, but a peninsular, and you can cycle round it.
Again not to be missed. 

View looking Northwards from whence we came. Looks like some exotic location abroad.

 This is Stones "Island", an interesting diversion from the basic ride.
Although it isn't actually an island, there are plenty of stones.

Following the shoreline from the Visitor Centre, we come onto the path across the top of the dam.

View below the dam looking in the direction of Ashbourne.

Looking back from the end of the dam.

And forward towards Millfields Car Park, completing the 8.7 mile ride.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Mawddach Trail

This ride is on one of the most beautiful off road routes on the National Cycle Network. It's length is about ten miles, running along the South side of the Mawddach Estuary between the seaside town of Barmouth inland to Dolgellau.
From Barmouth we have to cross the wide mouth of the estuary on the railway bridge which has a pedestrian (cycling) boardwalk alongside the single rail track.
Firstly a look at Barmouth itself, a slightly old fashioned place with lots of places to stay, to eat and to drink. A nice little harbour for (mainly) pleasure boats and it boasts a railway station, from which trains run North and South along the coast giving the option of visiting a variety of interesting places. with or without your bike. Be aware that Arriva Wales Trains have limited room for bikes and you cannot obtain a cycle ticket in advance.  Also note that, away from the coast you are soon in the mountains of Wales and it can be very hilly, so take plenty of food, drink and low gears. Oh, and don't forget the walking boots, as some of the hills are 1 in 5 (20%).

    Barmouth Harbour. Note the bridge which carries the railway across the harbour and on to the longer bridge over the estuary.

                 The beaches are part sand and part pebbles with an area of sand dunes as well.

                The Bath House, a cafe, stands in a prominent position looking out over Cardigan Bay.

On with the ride now and first we have to follow the Dolgellau road past the harbour to get onto the railway bridge.

     This is the path down to the bridge, which is a grade 2 listed structure and has a length of 700 m.
            It was opened in 1867 and remains one of the longest wooden viaducts still in use in the UK
 Until 2013 tolls were payable at the toll booth, but the charge was only 15p for cyclists.

There are approximately 3500 wooden planks forming the walkway, which is described by a friend of mine as "the world's longest xylophone", This is true since the planks are not quite the same thickness and bikes play a rudimentary tune as they are ridden across the bridge.
Please see comments about potential closure of this walkway.

 Now on the South side of the estuary, the path runs through woodland initially, and the live railway runs on to Fairbourne. The original station toilets remain however.

 A pleasant enough run through the woodland.

But the views open up as we come alongside the water.

 The stunning views are at their best when both the tide and the sun are out.

Cyclists approaching Penmaenpool.

 At Penmaenpool there is the George the Third Hotel, a toll bridge crossing the river, and a bird life centre in the old signal box. So a good place to stop for a while.

Opposite were once gold mines where a limited amount of the precious metal was found, most of it going into Royal wedding rings.
           On now to Dolgellau, over this metal girder bridge below which the water is crystal clear.

And more wooded surroundings.

 We cross this bridge turning left on the far side towards Dolgellau.

 And the path opens out to pass through this park.

 In Dolgellau, the solid buildings of Welsh granite look as though they were built to last a thousand years, and probably will.

Pity about the plastic bins. Granite ones would look better but hardly practical.

Lots of places for refreshment and this one recommended.