Bike and Hike

Bike and Hike

This post is basically in two parts; the first part is about our Volt Metro LS electric folding bicycles and the second part is not about our bicycles so if you are not the slightest bit interested about electric folding bicycles then skip to the second part.

We bought two Volt Metro LS bicycles earlier this year and haven’t ridden them much so far because we still have to become used to them and that takes time especially when we are fairweather cyclists. This shows one in ‘ready to ride’ mode and the other folded.

They have advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages: Being electric they take little effort to ride. My longest trip so far is 10 miles in about an hour. The only after effects were related to a slight soreness caused by the saddle as I don’t have much padding in the right places. They, obviously, can be folded but there is no built in mechanism to keep them securely folded. We have purchased, at no great cost, two Velcro straps, one for each bicycle, that can be wrapped around the folded frame to stop it flapping about when being moved in the folded mode.

Disadvantages: They are very heavy at 40 pounds (21.7 kg) each. I find that I cannot lift one into the car on my own (remember I’m 83) and even with the two of us I wouldn’t call it easy. They are difficult,when riding, to keep on a narrow track and, sometimes seem to have a mind of their own when it comes to steering. This, I am told, is because of the small (20″) wheel size.

General: They have derailleur type gears, 8 in all, and the changing mechanism is very easy to use. It is also possible to vary the battery power output and, from experience, ‘Low’ is normally sufficient for an easy ride leaving ‘Medium’, ‘High’ and ‘Power’ in reserve for the worst (steep) hills.

I set off for my second test run this morning intending to go from home in Knighton to a village called Leintwardine where Amanda was to be waiting for me in her car and we were then intending to go into the local tearoom for cake and coffee. The journey would be around 10 miles.

A lot of my journey would be on back roads such as Weston Road out of Knighton to Bucknell. Then a short spell on a main road until I, once again, moved on to a back road. One trouble with back roads is that the surface can vary considerably from reasonable, like this one

to pretty poor like this one.

You may also notice the road width. It is about one vehicle wide and if you meet someone coming the other way or someone coming up behind you’ll need to find a passing place.

I did, finally, meet Amanda at Leintwardine at around 10:30 and we went into the Wood ‘n’ Ribbon Tea Room for refreshments.

After we had coffee and cake (very nice) we left at about 11:30 to walk along a nearby public footpath as far as Jay Bridge. Setting off down the side of the tea room it wasn’t long before we spotted something interesting.

You may notice some ‘lumps’ hanging in the tree in the picture above; they are Mistletoe.

Soon we emerged into a rather nice meadow which was covered in a pinkish grass – Bent Grass.

We reached Jay bridge to find that it wasn’t at all attractive but purely utilitarian. Still, never mind, it was a lovely walk and the scenery by the bridge (second picture) was delightful.

Standing on the bridge afforded the view of the River Clun below which was the reason for the bridge of course. The original bridge was probably wooden and, I imagine, has been replaced a number of times.

We covered just over a mile, which took us about 30 minutes, to reach the bridge (we were dawdling and looking at the plants and butterflies) and the same to get back. It was now around lunchtime, 12:30, so we went back into the Wood ‘n’ Ribbon Tea Room and had some lunch (again very nice). It’s a hard life.

My bicycle was folded, put into the back of the car and we drove home.

1 Trip, 2 Bays, 3 Waterfalls

1 Trip, 2 Bays, 3 Waterfalls

We had to go to Swansea recently and decided to add a couple of extra days for amusing ourselves. We had rented a flat for this stay overlooking Swansea Bay and this was the view from our balcony. It’s a pity it was cloudy.

The weather on the third (last) day was better.

The morning of the second day was when our trip began to get interesting. We drove to Rhossili Bay at the end of the Gower Peninsula. The weather was cloudy but dry which was not good for photography but there was little we could do about it.

Having parked the car we walked to the cliff top and we couldn’t really miss seeing Rhossili Bay could we?

We started walking roughly west along the cliff top (that’s left out of the picture above) but not too near the edge you understand. These cliffs are fairly high and the rocks are steeply bedded. It is very unlikely that one of those figures in the picture below is likely to be me.

As we walked along, on our left away from the sea, there were some meadows which were covered in Dog Daisies but, looking a little closer, one could see that there were a variety of wild flowers growing in among the daisies. Lovely!

A little further along we had our first sighting of Worms Head which is accessible only at low tide and for a limited time so if you get it wrong you’ll be spending the night there.

There were a lot of wild flowers around, which attracted butterflies, and I managed to sneak up on this Painted Lady without frightening it away.

When we reached the coastguard lookout station overlooking Worms Head there was a path which wound down to beach level so, of course, we had to follow it. We did end up on the shore and had a different view of Worms Head. I suppose I should call it the shore rather than the beach as it is all rock here – not a sign of sand.

We huffed and puffed our way back up the path and thence back to our car. We arrived back at our flat in the late afternoon and, being so near the beach, we decided to go and have a look at the sea.

As you can see we had to fight our way through the holidaymakers packed onto the beach but we did manage to make our way down the beach towards the sea. On the way we passed a number of bands of shells which included Oyster shells and I thought that they looked rather attractive so I picked some up. We finally arrived at the waters edge and I found myself carrying about 12 Oyster shells. Those shells are now at home and all I need is to think of something to do with them. The following photograph is a sample.

Just to prove that we finally reached the sea.

That tower is the Meridian Tower and we had dinner there in the evening in the Grape and Olive restaurant on the top, 29th, floor. This is supposed to be the highest building in wales.

The following morning dawned fine and sunny – well it would wouldn’t it because today is the day we go home. However we may be going home but we are planning a few visits on the way and our first stop was Neath a short 15 minute drive from Swansea.

Here we are by the Tennant Canal in Neath. But, wait, what is that peeking over the trees at us? It’s Neath Abbey of course; yet another ruined abbey, one of many that litter this country, under the stewardship of CADW.

Founded in 1130 this is not a small place and along with Llanthony Priory and Tintern Abbey, the ruins of Neath Abbey are the most important and impressive monastic remains in south-east Wales.

There was some restoration in progress when we were there and a large part of the abbey was covered in scaffolding so I didn’t photograph any of that.

Just as we were about to leave Amanda spotted a swarm of bees on one of the walls.

Having had a good look around we set off for our next destination which, again, was only a short drive away.

This is Aberdulais Falls owned by the National Trust and, although the falls are very picturesque, it is more that just a waterfall.

This narrow gorge at the mouth of the Dulais River outside Neath has been at the heart of the Welsh industrial story, thanks to its bountiful supplies of coal, timber and, of course, water.

It all started with copper-smelting which gave way to ironworking, the milling of textiles and grain and, most significant of all, the manufacture of 19th century tinplate. It is a truly picturesque scene now and it is difficult to imagine the heat, dust, noise and dirt that must have dominated the scene back then.

There is a very large waterwheel which can often be seen running but they had had to stop it before we got there, naturally, because a blackbird had decided to set up its nest in the wheel.

The waterwheel can be seen in context with the remains of some of the old furnaces and the smoke stack.

This is the highest (up river) of the falls and was quite spectacular even though it hasn’t been particularly wet lately and just below it are the next waterfalls.

There is a tea room and toilets here which is rather handy so we made use of both and left for our next destination which, you may have guessed, was just a short drive away. This was the village of Melincourt and we parked in the sign-posted car park (free) and followed the sign-posted path for about 15 minutes. This is what we came to see.

The path up follows the stream valley and makes a pleasant walk to the falls but, having seen the falls, it was time to walk back to the car and proceed to our final destination. This time it was more than a short drive so lets get on with it.

After driving along a narrow lane, one cars width, for what seemed like forever we finally spotted the National Trust car park. Although this is owned by the National Trust entry is not controlled and one can come and go as one pleases. We parked and started off down the path which turned out to be nowhere as near straight-forward as the previous destination.

The path was steep and one eventually arrives a a point where it seems to level off and gives one hope that this must be near the bottom – but no. We had to climb a bit and then descend again and the route included these steps and a bridge.

That’s Amanda down there on the bridge – wait for me!

We did get there in the end.

This is Henrhyd Waterfall and that tiny figure on the ledge behind the water is Amanda.

This was our last call of the day so it was time to go home but first we have to go back UP that path. It wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be and we arrived at the car without having to crawl the last few yards.

We were still south of Brecon so we still had an hour and fifteen minutes to drive home. We got there. Until next time.

One Old, One New – Day 2

One Old, One New – Day 2

After breakfast at the hotel we collected our possessions and put everything in the car. We were ready for a new day and a new place.

After a short drive of around 30 minutes we arrived, paid our entrance fee and went in. This piece of modern art is where it all starts.

We are near a little village called Llanarthne which is home to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales, first opened in 2000, but which was originally part of the Middleton Estate which started some 400 years ago.

But before we venture through this artwork and down that path you may notice some water to the right. We went to the top edge of that lake because of something very strange.

There were a lot of tadpoles (frog lavae). Well I should say that there were an extraordinarily great number of tadpoles in fact more than I have ever seen in my life in one place.

And at one end they formed a fairly sharp diagonal line.

I cannot say why they formed such a sharp edge unless there was a current of water there. I can, however, say why there were probably so many tadpoles. There are no hungry fish in this lake which would normally mean the end of the majority of these tadpoles.

We went back to the path, headed into the gardens, and this is the first feature we came across.

If you look at the path beyond you should notice a dark line running this way. That is a little artificial rivulet which is what forms the spiral in this feature. Once it gets to that central pond it disappears underground.

Following that rivulet uphill along the path we see that it feeds into the top of each of a number of display areas, passes through, and continues on.

You may notice in the distance what is obviously a large artificial dome. That is the largest single span glasshouse in the world and that is where we are headed.

This place is HUGE! Along the left-hand edge there are a few facilities – an Information Point, toilets and a little cafe which has no ‘inside’ seating because it doesn’t need any. Outside the cafe, within the dome, there are some tables and chairs where one can sit with whatever has been purchased from the cafe and you will find that you become very popular with the local sparrows if you have something that they can eat.

The sub-tropical glasshouse is divided into areas each of which represent a different country. There are pathways throughout the glasshouse which allows you to see all the different plants and there are a lot of different plants.

In a glasshouse of this size there are some very tall plants.

There is a pond at the far end, with a seat nearby, which is home to a number of large goldfish and the seat is for people not the goldfish.

We finally decided that we had seen enough in the glasshouse so we went back outside where we could see Principality House with its garden at the back.

Principality House is all that remains of the original Middleton Estate Mansion which was partly destroyed by fire in 1931 but there seemed to be little of interest inside so we moved on to the Double Walled Garden.

This walled garden is unusual in that it has a double wall with a space between walls about the width of three cars. It is supposed to be better than just one wall.

The Botanical Gardens themselves describe it thus:

“It is divided into four quadrants, each with its own distinctive pathway.

Quadrants 1, 2 and 3 tell the story of the evolution of flowering plants, and is based on the latest DNA and microscopic research. From primitive water lilies at the centre of the garden to the latest cultivars by the outer walls, you can travel though 150 million years of botanic history.”

One of the quadrants is set up as a modern kitchen garden. In the south-west quadrant there is a large Tropical Butterfy House which we were interested in seeing.

After going inside My first impressions were that there was nothing flying about but then I started to see the occasional butterfly and eventually I could see a number of them. The number of butterflies will vary depending on how many have hatched (they breed their own) and the species will also vary depending on what has recently hatched.

These butterflies seem to have a rather weak, fluttery flight, compared to the butterflies one sees in Great Britain.

One of the things worth noting is that the damned things won’t stay still for long and are thus difficult to photograph. There was a large one that I wanted to photograph but it kept fluttering around roof level and wouldn’t come down. We eventually had our fill of butterlies and my patience had run out so we decided to have a light lunch in the little cafe by the garden entrance and then make our way home.

On the way down to the entrance I spotted this nice bench seat just in front of a stand of Bamboo and thought it worth a photograph. You may decide otherwise.

We wanted to be home around 4 o’clock so we had to leave about 2 o’clock which we did and we were home two hours later. Now we have to think of somewhere else to go next time.

One Old, One New – Day 1

One Old, One New – Day 1

We were sitting in the No. 2 bus in a traffic jam, with the sea on our left, wondering whether it would be quicker to get out and walk but we decided that, as we were averaging about walking pace, we might as well sit and let the bus do the work.

Perhaps we should go back earlier today to give you the full story.

It was forecast to be a sunny day today and tomorrow but cloudy thereafter so we hoped to take advantage of that short sunny spell and go on a little trip. We left home at about 08:30 AM and drove two and a half hours to Swansea. You may remember we came here before but travelled by train ( The Other End – Day 2 ) whereas this time it would be by car.

We arrived at Morgan’s Hotel near the Waterfront, where we had stayed on our previous trip, and parked in their car park then announced our arrival at Reception. We then walked the short distance to the bus station and caught the No. 2 bus to Oystermouth although we weren’t going that far. We intended to alight at Clyne Gardens for a second visit which is how we ended up in that traffic jam. We didn’t want to drive to Clyne Gardens although there is a small car park by the entrance because we couldn’t be sure of finding a space and the charge was £3 for 3 hours and there wasn’t any other option.

The bus did eventually get us to Clyne Gardens 15 minutes late on a 15 minute journey. We were here to see the Rhododendrons again and we weren’t disappointed.

When we were here last time I photographed ‘The Tower’ which was included on the main web site pages but not in the Blog post. I repeat that image here so that you can see how badly lit the tower is such that it’s not at all easy to interpret what you’re seeing. We were significantly later in the day on this visit and I photographed it again. The lighting is much better and the detail on the tower is much clearer. That shows what a difference to a photograph the time of day can make.

As we were about 2 weeks later on this visit some of the Rhododendrons were shedding their petals which was a shame in one way but also a benefit in that it produced a carpet of colour.

As we were walking along we spotted this little Tree Fern which was one of a number in the garden. There are lots of other plants in this garden besides Rhododendrons and Azaleas.

One of the reasons we came here again was the colour and it was here in profusion. You want colour? We can give you colour.

Amanda did like the mega-rhubarb which is properly called Giant or Elephant Rhubarb and that’s it on the left next to her.

This is it underneath showing a strange looking flower.

And finally showing how much taller it is than Amanda.

Some of those leaves were about 6 feet across but that pales into insignificance compared with other species that have leaves up to 12 feet across. Put that in a pie if you can.

Another interesting example of how conditions can change a view. On our first visit here I took this photograph of Swansea Bay from the high ground in Clyne Gardens which does look a little murky.

But on this trip the photograph from the same view point is obviously clearer.

This, of course, has nothing to do with the time of year but depends on the atmospheric conditions which can change at any time.

On our way back towards the exit we spotted this mega-tree. Well it would be hard to miss wouldn’t it? It appears to be a conifer but I can’t tell you which one.

And finally I looked in a mirror.

Well that was the end of our Clyne Gardens trip and we went back to our hotel briefly then walked to the waterfront for a cup of tea/coffee. We sat outside next to the Marina in the sun hoping that those seagulls wheeling overhead were not going to drop something on us that we would possibly find unpleasant. Luckily they didn’t.

Back to the hotel for dinner and thence to bed. In the morning we finish our repeat of an old trip and start something new.

A Wild Flower Walk

A Wild Flower Walk

We decided to walk around Garth Hill (our local hill) today, as we have done before, and I recorded the wild flowers we saw on the way.

The most prolific flower at this time of year is the Dandelion (the gardeners nightmare) and they were alongside the path near the beginning of the walk

and this was a closeup of a rather nice bunch together with some stitchwort

and they were alongside the lane near the end. They do get absolutely everywhere.

Common Dog Violet
Wood Sorrel
Cuckoo Flower
Wood Anemone
Red Campion
Wild Strawberries
Yellow Archangel

Bluebells are only just beginning to appear. They will not be at their best for another week or two.

Lesser Stitchwort
Ground Ivy

The interesting thing about this time of year is that in perhaps two weeks the available flowers can change dramatically from what we see here to something quite different.

Till next time then.

Cold, and Yellow Trumpets

Cold, and Yellow Trumpets

You may remember that in my previous post I showed a photograph of a solitary wild daffodil on the Croft Castle Estate and said that were more plants round about and that we may come back in a few weeks time for another look.

In the meantime I have managed to develop a stinking cold so I’m not feeling terribly bright. However we decided to go back to Croft Castle and see if I could manage the walk. Well I could.

There were more daffodils with their trumpet-like flowers as we suspected in two separate areas and the picture below is one of those areas.

This is the second area.

It is possible that there could be even more in flower in a week or so. Remember that these are wild daffodils which are about half the size of the garden variety.

I managed to stagger back uphill to the National Trust restaurant were we had some lunch and went home.