Monday, January 16, 2012

Wales - Brecon Beacons & 5th Anniversary

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Wales - 50 miles, Thursday, July 21

We encountered a bit of rain this afternoon as we climbed and descended some ungodly graded hills. With the hope of seeing more castles we crept on and were eventually rewarded with ten miles of a tailwind, winding down two valleys.

We're in the town of Llandovery on the edge of Brecon Beacons National Park. If the weather holds we'd like to hike for our 5th anniversary.

Photo credit: Traditional Games
Photo credit: Wikipedia
In town we watched lawn bowling. The playing field is a green rectangle, a suitably hard surface. The black balls are asymmetrical. Players underhand pitch the balls trying to hit a tiny white ball at the far end. As the ball closes in on its target, it curves and falls on its flat side.

We now set up the campsite with efficiency. Andy and I each have our designated sides of the tent. I throw my stuff in my area and his on the other. Within a half hour the tent is erected, bedding set up, bikes locked, and the stove is hissing, waiting for water to boil.

Wales - 35 miles, Friday, July 22

We left the campsite by 9 a.m., earlier than some days. After talking with fellow English campers who touted Monet's Giverny Gardens and the Impressionist works in Paris we left with lofty thoughts of France as we climbed a road along a river. We look forward to our first country on the European continent.

Anglican Church.

On a plateau in the morning sunshine, an old stone church begged exploration. One end is a square castle tower. We poked around the property, gingerly stepping among the early 19th century gravestones, so commonly sighted around these old edifices. Some markers are broken and propped against the walls. We read epitaphs and are struck by the close proximity of gravesites, as if burying space was at a premium. The old churches in Wales are still in use as evidenced by the shiny plaque listing all pastors past and present.

Typical Welsh scenery - a patchwork of farming.
After buying lunch food and extracting money from an ATM to get us through the weekend, we cycled to Brecon Beacons National Park. The visitor's center was located on an open slope with a view of the balding Brecon mountains. Once covered by forest, the land was timbered in 1300 for grazing. Cattle and sheep still roam the hills. The summit ridges are colored in red soil, reminding me of the Painted Hills in central Oregon.

Scenery from the visitors center. Photo credit: Europe a la Carte
Unlike U.S. National Parks, this one is relatively new, started in 1957 and encompasses existing farmland with right-of-ways over three mountain ranges. Our walk followed tractor ruts, a bushwhack through a young forest, a newly mown path through a swath of ferns, over stiles, etc. - a civilized hike, you might say, commonplace for long walks in Britain. As we tread through sheep pastures, the animals bleated from the ruts, apparently taking refuge from the hot sun.

Fishermen's Pie. Photo credit: Travel in Wales
To celebrate our anniversary we had dinner at a restaurant in Brecon. Andy had spinach lasagna while I tried a regional dish - fisherman's pie. It was a delicious soup bowl of fish, potatoes, and mushrooms in a creamy wine sauce. On the side I had vinegar chips (French fries). It was a fitting end to a wonderful day; cycling and hiking are our loves and an inherent part of who we are as a couple.

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