We were away early, arriving at Bangor station ten minutes before the 07:07 to Birmingham rolled up, loaded our bikes into the guards van and we were off. This is one of the few remaining services on this line with space for more than two bikes. Today there were five, their owners being a roadie and an older couple on their way to Fort William. Changing at New Street was uncharacteristically easy, no change of platform and the train arrived 15 minutes before departure, giving us plenty of time to remove our luggage and squeeze them into the tiny bike space.
The morning cloud had burned off so we applied suntan lotion before commencing the steep hot climb out of town. Approaching Usk, we met a young couple on day 40 of a 60 day national tour. They’d started at Aviemore, ridden up to John O’Groats, down the western side of Scotland via a few islands and through England into Wales, walking up Snowdon before cycling south.
The roads were very quiet until Abergavenny, where we had a spot of trouble finding our way out of town, but then we were climbing again towards Llanthony Abbey and along the Vale of Ewyas, enjoying wonderful panoramic views from the Gospel Pass. We dropped steeply down into Hay on Wye, famous for its secondhand bookshops and literary festival, and called in on our friends Bill and Linda.
After a pleasant evening and a leisurely Saturday breakfast, we cycled west through quiet lanes in the warm sunshine to stay with more friends, Angela and Paul, near Brecon. After lunch we walked up to the remains of a Roman fort, and the following day we enjoyed a seven hour walk in the Brecon Beacons.