Posted by: titaniumparts | August 28, 2008

Discovering South Wales

At the top of the Gospel Pass

It seems that I’m often the last person to know about many things and this certainly appears to be the case with the extraordinary motorcycling resource that is the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains region of South Wales.

Although no stranger to South Wales, I only visited the Brecon Beacons for the first time just a few weeks ago and I can’t believe that I’ve been oblivious to it all this time, sitting there a mere 45 minutes ride from Bristol.

However, having since been back several times, it’s now clear that this motorcycling nirvana is anything but a well-kept secret, as attested by the number of bikes in evidence everywhere. I’m always inclined to nod a greeting to other bikers passing in the opposite direction, but riding around here you find you’re doing it so frequently that it begins to take on the characteristics of a nervous tic.

Of course this area, bounded to the east by Abergavenny, and with the town of Brecon, its namesake, at the top, is a National Park, so as you might expect the scenery is spectacular. However you may need to make a conscious effort to take in the views, because it is the primary A-roads that skirt its northern edge (A40) and criss-cross it (A470, A4067, and especially the A4069) that become the main focus of your attention, offering mile after mile of the kind of smooth, sweeping curves that are the very essence of riding satisfaction.

For sheer spectacle though, it’s hard to beat the B4560. For the best effect approach from the A465 to the south, turning off to follow the sign for Llangynidr. At first this briefly takes you through an innocuous residential area, but shortly after you cross a cattle grid and suddenly find yourself in open heathland. This road is an absolute jewel; a sinuous ribbon undulating across the rocky landscape, just like the ones you used to see in car adverts (or indeed Top Gear and Fifth Gear, who film around here from time to time). Remaining mindful of the very real possibility of encountering sheep in the road around any corner, you eventually reach a crest and are presented with a stunning panorama. From here the road dives off down the hillside and into a series of hairpins that would be an untrammeled delight, were it not for the fact that the tarmac on each apex is alternatingly ridged, shiny and dusted with gravel, thus deserving a measure of caution.

The town of Abergavenny presents a natural gateway to this area, and in its central car, bus and coach park there’s a tea and snack bar that is a well-established destination where bikers gather (on a weekend it seems there can be literally hundreds here – a kind of Box Hill west), making it an ideal start or end point to a circuit of the area.

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