Guest blog: Hackney to Snowdonia - A Pedal-Powered Adventure!
Ever have the urge to swing a leg over your bike and see where the road takes you for a few days or more?
Chris Luche, a keen cyclist and adventurer from England likes to spend his time doing exactly that! Bikepacking is growing in popularity across the world right now with more people pedalling off into the sunset than every before to locations near and far. Read on below for an account from Chris, who recently packed up and headed for the hills of Wales in a joint venture with Outdoor People, a London-based social enterprise.
I first discovered Outdoor People while wandering around Broadway Market, where Kitty (founder and director) was working on a stall selling a fine array of outdoor equipment. Anyone who knows me will know that it is impossible for me to pass up an opportunity to spend money on such things, and in an instant I was the proud owner of an Elephant Box (a stainless steel eco-lunchbox) and a titanium spork. Kitty told me all about the work that Outdoor People were doing in the local community, helping families to access and experience the great outdoors. This was definitely a cause that I could relate to, and I decided that I would like to be involved.
I signed up to their 'My First Mountain' trip to Snowdonia, and provisionally booked a week's holiday from work. As the time approached, it became apparent that I would not need to be in Snowdonia until the Wednesday. This presented an excellent opportunity for me to cycle to Snowdonia!
So the day after my friend's wedding, with my head still pounding, I packed my kit (including my tried and tested DD SuperLight Tarp S) jumped on a train to London and deposited my walking kit with Tom at the Outdoor People shop. Apart from my final destination, I had no idea about which route I would take. Looking back, this element of uncertainty definitely made the trip more enjoyable.
The first leg on my journey did not start until about 16:00, and given the hangover I did not make it very far! After following the cycle path along the River Lee out of London, I soon found myself on relatively quiet roads, surrounded by fields and made my way along a westward cycle path into a forest. After a mile or so, I found a path leading out of the forest into a field. It was already dark, so I wasn't about to be too fussy about where I slept! Luckily the tarp is easy to set up, so in no time at all I was tucked up in bed.
It must have been 07:00 by the time I woke up, and as I was packing away my kit a dog walker approached. We had a brief chat and he told me about a local village where I could get some coffee. The day's route began with a definite urban tone, passing through Luton and Milton Keynes. I was learning about the pros and cons of the cycle setting on Google Maps; great when in rural areas as it tends to stick to roads, however when approaching large towns and cities, you often end up on canal paths and other segregated cycle routes. These are great for local trips, but when you are trying to make progress, they can be very frustrating.
Dinner was in Warwick, after a peek around the castle. I put in about 5 miles after dinner, and found a nice flat field to sleep in, right by the side of the road.
The next morning I woke to cloudy skies, and this was to be the theme of the day, accompanied by rain. The highlight of the morning was eating my breakfast in Droitwich Spa while listening to a World War 2 veterans signing wartime songs.
By the time I arrived in Ludlow, the rain was really coming down, and I took refuge in a cafe in the town centre. After spending as much time as I dared, I went back out into the downpour, only to find that I was unable to change gear! The cable had not snapped, but with my limited mechanical skills I could not figure out what the problem was. Luckily, I was able to hunt down a cycle shop on the edge of town. It took them 5 minutes to fix the problem, and I was back out on the wet road once again!
I took refuge in a petrol station on the outskirts of Shrewsbury to dry off and refuel.
The final destination for the day was Knockin, not far from the Welsh border. I stumbled into the Bradform Arms and stayed as long as I could, and the once the landlord realised that I had not booked anywhere to stay, he tried to organise a local campsite for me, but to no avail. Instead, he offered for me to sleep on the football pitch behing the pub. Perfect! No cycling around in the dark looking for a place to bivvy! The tarp was easy to attach to the goal posts.
When morning came, I was greeted with a most glorious sight - sunshine! I whipped down the tarp and packed away my kit as fast as I could; I didn't know how long the good weather would last! I had heard that the road to Bala was a good one to cycle on, and the rumours were indeed true! The climb went up to 470m, with stunning views out into Wales and back into England. There was plenty of time and not a great distance to cover, and with no sign of rain I made me leisurely way down into Bala for some lunch. I eventually arrived at Plas y Brenin outdoor activity centre in Capel Curig. I was early by about 3 hours. This meant I got the drying room all to myself, which was great because I pretty much filled it up.
While in Snowdonia, we spent a day at Conwy Castle, climbed Snowdon and had a trip to the sea-side. This really was a trip to remember - sharing the experience with families who had never climbed a mountain was incredibly special, and we were treated to a cloud inversion and a brocken-spectre on the summit!
Want to know more about the amazing work of Outdoor People? Take a look at www.outdoorpeople.org.uk or better still, head over to their amazing shop in Netil Market, right next to London Fields in Hackney for a chat and a browse of the range of DD Hammocks and Tarps in stock.
Looking for some lightweight bikepacking kit of your own? Why not check out the DD SuperLight Range of hammocks, tarps and tents for the perfect products to pack into your frame bags or panniers without weighing you down whilst you spin up those hills!
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About the writer
Chris Luche is an avid cyclist and outdoor lover - most commonly seen exploring the picturesque lanes and scenery of the UK, or even further afield amongst the high mountains of Europe and beyond!