Lunch is the thing when the neck, back, bottom and just about everything else is not quite right…… and a cunning piece of bike jiggery to turn the handle bars ….. and we are off finally when I thought we might have had to abort the whole mission!
Ollie sped off at such a lick along the beautiful canal path that I had to work really hard to catch up and then just when I was gaining ground (at least 12mph), without warning he suddenly stopped on a sixpence to attend to a maddening little itch …… under ton loads of luggage and with the stopping speed of a tanker at sea, I was about to flatten him but the other option was to veer sideways from the narrow single track and either lose my back wheel or tip into the canal. . . . you can’t always tell what a boy is going to do….. this went on in several variations until I had the sense to hang back a little and not mind too much about him being out of sight (it is a big responsibility to let a full-blooded 8 year old get a long way ahead, but probably better not to crash)
12 miles or so with stunning countryside to our right as we hurtled in spasms along the tow path. Skirrid with its unique outline swinging from dark shadow to being brightly in the sun and neighbouring Sugar Loaf to beckon us on.
All too soon, it was time to dismount and Rohan kindly whisked our bags up to our camp site at Ninfa Farm while we toiled up an extremely steep hillside.
Middle Ninfa Farm is in the ‘Tiny Campsite’ book and is in a most beautiful setting high up above Llanfoist with access straight from the Monmouth and Brecon canal tow path. Richard and Rohan were so welcoming and made us immediately at home.
The tent went up just before the hail storm and I cooked in freezing rain while Ollie sorted out the bedding. I gather he was as warm as toast, while during the night I tried to pack the cold patch with an inner liner AND a fleece wrap. So much for my high-tech, high-priced down bag…. boo!
Crisp sheet ice and more freezing rain in the morning, but breakfast plus a boy equals cartwheels and more speeding and scratching.
Most impressively, at the last uphill, Ollie just puffed out his chest and pedalled steeply up and back to our B n B. I have no problem mixing adversity with luxury and by contrast to Friday night, Saturday’s bed was meltingly warm and cosy. In fact I had to throw off the covers several times! Kerry and Keith also made us so welcome at their Usk Valley B & B in Bettws Newydd, along with Riley (a loving labradoodle) several hens and 2 sonorous donkeys.
Sunday was a day for sightseeing not cycling. Deeply impressive was Big Pit ….. the vast coal mine in Blaenavon.
We were taken underground at, I quote, 10 metres per second ( can that possibly right?) to 300 hundred feet below ground. We then had some of the details of life in the pit graphically described to us. For example, children younger than Ollie would sit in total darkness for up to 12 hours a day, minding the doors to let the pit ponies through and then closing them again to ensure even distribution of air throughout the tunnels.
In the simulation, a vigorous Welshman spoke passionately about the camaraderie, friendships and community…. the pride of what it was to bring coal out of the mines. The hardship and loyalty that bound whole communities together.
I found it very moving and illuminating.
Too much to write about and it is getting late. The tent is hanging up to dry. My hot water bottle is calling.
So here in pictures is the gist of our little adventure!