#RideMore 4, 5,& 6. Summer 2016.

DimExcuses Surf

It took a while but after making a resolution to just #RideMore (bikes, boards and waves) finally I am out nearly every day. Unfortunately this has meant the blog has suffered and not seen enough updates. So with no more delays here is what I have been doing. A late improvement in summer weather saw me surfing Sker Beach within Kenfig National Nature Reserve. It was the usual hard walk to the remote beach I regularly surf.

How to get to Sker Beach

No photos of the beach this time, but here are some shots of the Nature Reserve.

Kenfig Nature Reserve

Since getting our French Bulldog, Boston Terrier cross, Molly my mountainbike riding has suffered. Her little legs, as fast as they are, can’t keep up with a bike for long. So instead of riding I spend most of my time walking the Gower beaches with Molly. Here she is.

Frenchton Molly

But in August I was able to get out on the bike in Pembrey Country Park. Here is the fine steed.

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Molly was not impressed that she was being left out of the adventures.

Dim riding for Molly

Pembrey Country Park is great for a bike ride as it is relatively flat and perfectly positioned on the Millennium Coastal Path, a fantastic bike friendly section of the Wales Coastal Path. There is a viewpoint you can cycle up to and see all the way across to Gower, Rhossili Bay, and Wormshead.

View of Gower from Pembrey Park

Even though Molly didn’t come on the ride she was still as tired as us when we finished riding.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

With a surf and ride under my belt my #RideMore plan was finally starting to come together. Next I headed to Newgale, Pembrokeshire with my girlfriend Sharon’s family. I have surfed Newgale many times, but this time I was teaching the kids and had my waterproof camera with me. Helping the DimExcuses next generation get the bug for surfing.

DimExcuses Surf next gen

Newgale is a great place to learn to surf, with consistent ride-able waves breaking into a safe sandy bay. The best way to teach learners is to push them into waves and let then experience riding the wave all the way in lying down. This helps the learner truly understand what the exhilaration of riding  a wave feels like. To catch a wave you need to be travelling as fast or faster that that wave is moving when it gets to you. Learners often can’t get that speed and a little push can get them on the wave.

Learning to Surf

The kids were keen to learn, look at the concentration on his little face below.

DimExcuses Surf School

It wasn’t long before they were catching waves all on their own.

Surf Newgale

With the surfing stoke passed on to the next generation we sat down to watch a fabulous Pembrokeshire sunset over Newgale Bay.

Newgale Sunset

So two surfs, one ride and a whole load of fun at the end of summer. I also intend to #RideMore as we get into Autumn and my favorite month Surftember, DimExcuses.

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The Old Oak. DimExcuses MTB Ride, Derwen Trail, Brechfa.

Raven's Wings

This is just a glimpse of my favourite and trusted trail, ‘Y Dderwen’ (Welsh for ‘The Oak’) trail in Brechfa, Carmarthenshire.  It is only a glimpse as I forgot my phone and couldn’t map the trail on GPS for you.  The trail is situated in the Brechfa Trial Centre in wild west Wales and can be found on the Cognation website.  The trail centre also hosts the Gorlech red trail and the famous Raven black trail.  The Raven shares the same car park and linking fire roads as the Derwen trail we were riding.  The Gorlech trail can be found further up the road with its own car park at Abergorlech.  The fantastic Raven’s Wings sculpture is in the carpark for weekend warriors to get their facebook and blog photos (above), ahem…

The Derwen is in two parts and is ideal for entry level rider or a family.  The first part is the green loop that is 9 km long with some moderate climbs and descents.  At the midway point in the green loop you can opt for the more challenging blue  route.  This adds an additional 5 km to the ride, a challenging climb and incredibly fun rollercoaster decent.  A group of differing abilities could split into two at this point with some doing the blue run and the others waiting further on at one of the picnic benches and shelters provided.  Below is one of the much needed bench stops.

Bench stop

Here we are below at the summit of blue trail.  Myself and first time DimExcuses riders Sam Donaldson and Paul Jones.

us brave few...

We were lucky with the weather, but I would class this as an all weather trail for the hardy rider.  Obviously the wetter it is the more technical the riding becomes, especially over loose stone sections and areas where puddles develop.

Bench

It is a great ride, designed and built by Rowan Sorrel.  He has a great understanding of trails, and I find is green / blue routes designed to really flow.  A slower rider can easily follow the track, while a more experienced rider can get a lot out of the berms and table tops along the way.

Post ride

I find the 15 km of both trails combined  a perfect length for the less regular rider looking for a day out.  We were around the trail and back at the carpark in less than 2 hours.  It was then a case of heading up the road to Abergorlech for some home cooked local food in the Black Lion Pub.  We must be charmed because just as our food was being served along with a well earned pint of IPA ale, the heavens opened and in came the weekend’s heavy rain showers.

Rain at the Black Lion

As the Derwen is my favourite route, and one I like to share with people new to trail centres, I will soon be back and this time I may remember my phone, DimExcuses.

Second Ride. Darren Fawr Mountain Bike Trails, Garw Valley.

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I was so impressed with my first ride of the new Darren Fawr mountain bike trials, I just had to get back there with bigger tyres, an idea what to expect and my video camera (now helmet mounted.  I also had to bring along a couple of friends,  long time DimExcuses rider Matt Seager and new to the DimExcuses experienced but accomplished rider Matt Bailey.

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It was a lovely sunny Wales day (I am beginning to think is there any other sort of day in the Garw Valley) and warmer than predicted.  I guess I am just lucky.  The car park was full of riders who had come into the area for the day, they must have read my blog.  There was a really friendly atmosphere and the local kids were whizzing about on their bikes in the car park asking lots of questions.

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So we set off up the blue loop which is quite a pleasant climb.  This time I remembered to GPS the route.  You can see the map here.

The black climb was as hard as I remembered and according to the map we climbed to 1300 feet (the carpark is at 600 feet, so only 700 feet of climb)!  This time I got a photo at the top.

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I was determined to get some better video footage than last time, so I had moved away from a chest camera to a helmet mounted one.  The video I took is of the black / blue decent.  It has been more cut than Jessica Ennis’ abs, and is edited down to 5 minutes.  Keep an eye out for small dog that nearly got run over halfway.  Luckily Matt B herded it out of the way.  Music Crystal Method.

It really is a great ride.  It was then back to the car park to dump my heavy rucksack and mount my camera to the handlebars.  A quick chat with the other guys in the car park and it was back off for another 2 laps of the blue loop, or 3 in Matt B’s case (we like is DimExcuses attitude).  Here is my handle bar footage of the blue loop set a bit loudly to Skrillex ‘Weekends’.

All in all a great ride that is a welcome addition to Wales’ MTB Trails.  DimExcuses.

Darren Fawr, Garw Valley Mountain Bike Trails. First Ride Review.

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I was pleased to hear this month that the Garw Valley had completed their new mountain bike trails.  So armed with my new video camera I had to try them out.  Firstly I drove up the Garw Valley from the M4 Junction 36.  Following signs for Bryngarw I drove up to the top of Bryngarw village.  Parc Calon Lan is well signposted, and has a good sized car park next to a small wooden visitor centre.  They were several riders in the car park and a good atmosphere, plus it was a great afternoon for a ride in the rare winter sun.

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The trails are very well designed.  You can find a map here, on the Garw Valley Community Council website.  There are two loops, both 3km, that can be joined to make one big loop 6km.   The format is very similar to Brechfa’s Derwen green / blue trail, but this ride is very different to that. You start of on the blue loop with a moderate climb up gravel single track.  You soon get to the pinnacle of the blue route.  At this point you can take the blue descent completing the blue run, or head up the black climb.  You could do the blue route several times and have fun.

I took the black route, and it is proper black.  I suppose if you ask for black in a famous coal mining valley you will get pitch black, you can’t see your hand in front of your face underground black.  I must admit i had to push in parts.  As this is Dim Excuses I won’t say it was the first ride of the year, my thin tyres were struggling over the stones, I was recovering from a cold and a goat ate my homework.  There is a further option for a halfway shortcut on the black trail.  I continued to the top where there is a sign saying ‘well done you are at the top. Yeee Haa’!

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All the signage is excellent and bilingual, da iawn!   It is then pretty much all downhill single track.  The top has some really challenging rock garden sections.   This is a very technical track.  Several sections got the better of me (sorry about the moment the trail made me swear in the video).  Once down the black descent you seamlessly crossover to the blue descent, which is very flowing and great fun.  If you are coming with the family or inexperienced riders I would just do a few laps of the blue, as I said before the black is challenging.  All in all, a great addition to the South Wales MTB trails, well done Garw Valley, I will definitely be back soon.

So here is the video edit, sorry about the riding, filming and editing.  I will try better next time.  It is a chest mounted camera, I will try helmet mounted next time.  Music in the video is by Crystal Method.

Shw mae

Welcome to my blog.  I am currently working in rural development and one of my many ?hats? is helping community groups publicise their activities and develop a web presence.  To do this I need to learn a lot more about WordPress and blogging.  I guess that the best way to learn is by doing.  Therefore this blog is a training tool for me to learn, and hopefully if it goes OK it will be a showcase for how community groups can develop their own sites.

So what is in it for you the reader?  Well I hope to publish some interesting content.  Firstly some local guides to beaches, forests, valleys and mountains of South and West Wales.  I also hope to advertise events going on so you can get involved and enjoy the Welsh outdoors.

I hope to promote walking, by putting some of my personal favourite walks on here complete with GPS files you can follow.  My speciality is the Gower where I grew up.  And all this will lead up to the Bridgend Love2Walk Festival with has its own blog at www.love2walkwales.wordpress.com

I will touch on running and be at my usual spot at Blackpill for Swansea Bay 10k photographing the runners.  I shall also be submitting content on surfing and mountain-biking (MTB) in South Wales.  Finally I won?t be doing that in silence so I also will be blogging on music, local bands and highlighting any gigs that are going on in the area.

Thanks for reading.