Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Weekend report: South Wales 22-24 July Day 2 – Doethie Valley and Cwm Rhaeadr

Posted by Matt | July 26, 2010 | 8 comments so far

Llyn Brianne reservoir
Having survived our first day in Wales at the Cwmcarn DH course, our second day saw us travelling north and west to ride some real trails for a change. The Doethie Valley and Llyn Brianne reservoir provides plenty of riding which hasn’t seen the hand of man for a long time.

In fact, it hasn’t seen much of anything for a long time!

Before all that though, we had to get to our accommodation in Llandeilo which was a great find by D’Andy. It’s quite a trek from Cwmcarn to Llandeilo, so we stopped on the motorway for food for our evening ‘meal’. While the others tucked into a Burger King, I made use of the Waitrose and Starbucks concessions to fix myself up with a pasta salad, yoghurt and double shot cappuccino. D’Andy went for a Tall, Double Shot, Caramel Machiato, proving that while you can take a man out of Surrey…

Our base for the next two days was the stunning Tregib B&B in Llandeilo, a place I would wholeheartedly recommend for anyone in the area, whether it’s mountain bike related or not. It’s a quiet converted barn and outbuildings just a short walk from the town with a standard of decor that I’d be chuffed to achieve at my own place; all well looked after and clean. At £50 for a twin room per night it was an absolute bargain and breakfast was substantial. Highly recommended.

The next morning saw us climbing back into the cars for a drive northwards toward the Doethie Valley. It takes you through some lovely scenery across what must be some of the least populated parts of the country before you arrive at the spectacular Llyn Brianne reservoir.

After a spot of faffage we were ready to set off, joined for today by Tony who was staying with his in-laws in Abergavenny. He is such a great son-in-law! So the eight of us set off round the reservoir along some non-technical fireroads, climbing gently and soon working up a sweat in the humid atmosphere.

After a few miles of that, sighting the odd Kite on our way, pretty soon we were discarding the height we’d gained down a fast stony descent which brought us out at Capel Soar y Mynydd, the most remote chapel in Wales. Well, there was no-one there when we passed!

Capel Soar y Mynydd

It marked the start of a long and technical climb of heroic proportions which had us all gasping and eventually, pushing, as the gradient, loose stone and unrelenting length of the climb made itself felt. We amused ourselves by betting on the outcome of the one of the sections which saw me end up a few quid better off as I managed to clean a good chunk of the most difficult part of the climb.

After that the climb continued at a steep but more rideable gradient for a mile or two before we could start to take the rewards for our efforts.

Starting off with very fast stony fireroad we lost a lot of height rapidly before finally turning off onto the Doethie Valley singletrack which is described as some of the finest in the country.

It’s certainly long, mile after mile of a contouring ribbon of track through predominantly braken clad moorland that caused us all a good few problems with staying on course. It’s steadily downhill following the Doethie, at time’s high and sheer above the river, at others coming down quite close to the water and all the while surrounded by miles of beautiful unspoilt hills and moor.

What it soon let us know in no uncertain terms was that this was a trail not to be taken for granted. Boggy in places, it could throw you off quicker than you can think and some parts were simply unrideable as DaveC and Tony almost found out, to their cost and our amusement.

Dave in the bog

There were many small stream crossings, some of which required a hike-a-bike and careful footwork not to snap ankles with glassy-soled MTB shoes, some of which could be ridden with skill and some of which just dumped you on your arse, as a few of us discovered, myself included.

Eventually though we arrived back in a semblance of civilisation, at a farm which marked the start of the long, long climb back up to the reservoir. By this stage we still hadn’t seen anyone at all on our ride and this continued until we were back at the car park.

But in between was that climb. It was a typical slow burner with several false summits which started to break us as the climb wore on. I’d started first and kept it in the middle ring until the final bend where it was time to deploy the granny ring and dig in.

I knew Tony was close by and I knew he was serious as he’d was trying a stealth approach to catching me, just occassionally I could hear his wheels dislodge stones behind. But I hung on until I was forced to stop near the summit, to finally put my saddle up two inches to where I’d wanted it in the first place! But we’d made the climb and I’d kept Tony 20 yards back so I was happy.

Behind us, carnage reined, D’Andy resorted to his night club tactics (going for the granny [ring] early), while Colin had got off and walked a good chunk of it before throwing down his bike in disgust. Mark surprisingly showed signs of enjoying this climbing lark as he made it up without stopping but DaveC was suffering worst of all with the effects of a sugar bonk. For a time things looked a bit dodgy but fortunately we were close to home.

A few easy miles followed which brought us back to the car park where we took advantage of a very hospitable family offering us plenty of cake from their picnic. At times like this it’s a joy to find some people can be so generous.

After recharging in the excellent Ty Te Twm in Rhandirmwyn which provided some really great and cheap hot food we set off for our mid afternoon visit to Cwm Rhaeadr near Cilycwm. Cwm Rhaeadr means valley of the waterfall after the spectacular 22 metre Cwm Rhaeadr waterfall you see as you climb the fireroad.

In all Cwm Rhaeadr is just 7kms long and a good two fifths of that is on fireroad which allows you to winch yourself slowly to the top. The final few hundred metres reduces down to some quite technical singletrack which is narrow and doubles back on itself to get you ready for the descent.

Tony climbing the Cwm Rhaeadr switchbacks

We had ample time to take in the breathtaking views from here while we waited (and waited) for Tony to sort out a puncture but soon we were underway again.

What a mental descent! Within a few short yards you’ve been treated to a multitude of small humps and bumps to hop off before being confronted by a massive tabletop that leads into tight but flowing corners, off big-ish drops and many, many more small jumps. You have to choose when to fly and when to soak up the punishment if you want to make the bermy turns.

Stringing together long sections of left-right-left turns you’re then lead into a short uphill section which kills your rhythm but is a final necessary evil that spits you onto an astonishing section of giant berms and roll-able drops which you whoosh down at speed, eyes wide open.

Orange Five on the Cwm Rhaeadr singletrack

Finally there’s respite as you spit out into a wide clearing and you think it’s all over. But no. It is, almost, but there’s still a half mile or so of yet more technical singletrack that eventually rolls you back out into the car park, ready for another lap if you have the energy.

For us, it was getting late and with Cwmcarn and the Doethie Valley already behind us it was time to call it a day. I reckon I had another climb in me quite easily but I don’t think I had another descent like that in me at that point.

So we headed back to the Tregib B&B where I would have been happy with a bottle of wine and good book to unwind with. Instead, after a shower it was into Llandeilo for a few pints, fish and chips and preparation for the highlight of the weekend the next day, Brechfa.

But that, as they say, is another story…

Filed under Rides in July 2010


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 8 comments on ‘Weekend report: South Wales 22-24 July Day 2 – Doethie Valley and Cwm Rhaeadr’

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  1. james pro says:

    Matt it looks like you all had an epic ride. Nice write up, you should get a column in singletrack. See you Wednesday ride.

  2. DandyC says:

    Grandé, triple shot, to be pedantic, Matt.

    The Doethie Valley ride was a welcome change from the man-made or ‘enhanced’ singletrack that we’re used to. The views alone were worth the climbs, but with fantastic trails as well it was a great day.

    I did add to my tally of equipment damage again, following the severe dents to my rear rim from some over enthusiastic landings at Cwmcarn the day before. Here I came down heavily on my saddle in a compression and bent the saddle rails badly.

    With the cracking views from the top of the Cwm Rhaeadr trail, and with Friday providing the best of the weather, we did see some great scenery.

    I really fancied another crack at the Cwm Rhaeadr trail, but the lure of a pint in the Neuadd Arms at Cilycwm proved too great (I convinced myself I was saving my legs for the next day’s Brechfa epic).

  3. paul901 says:

    I prefer accurate to pedantic 😉

    Macchiato: an Italian word meaning “marked” or “stained”

    Caffè macchiato: literally “espresso stained/marked with milk” traditionally a shot of espresso and a small amount of added milk or foam

    Only Charbucks could use the name for a pint of milk slop, half a bottle of caramel sauce and a bagful of toffee pieces. I once came came close to ordering a Starbucks Macchiato on the assumption I finally spotted something from there I could drink but I bottled it and ordered my usual cup of tea instead. The interest of my companion was piqued though as I had described what a macchiato is (or rather should be) so they sat there with this pint of fairground confectionary literally speechless. I couldn’t stop laughing.

    Last week when Colin called round I offered him a coffee. No thanks, he said, I’ve got a Charbucks in the car but as we did not go indoors he was unaware of the set-up just out of sight. I never said anything.

  4. DandyC says:

    Thread hijack alert !!!

    Despite the quality of the coffee (or lack of), the riding was still fantastic.

    I’m looking forward to my “pint of milk slop, half a bottle of caramel sauce and a bagful of toffee pieces” with a pain au raisin in an hour’s time 😉

  5. JamesPro says:

    Paul, I’m in love, I would love to try you coffee, I indeed have a espresso machine, not expresso as others say!!!! Love a good cup and agree that Starbutts is the American version of coffee we know and love. Prefer to get my coffee from a small Italian coffee shop. Macdonalds even do a better coffee than Starbutts

  6. paul901 says:

    Sincere apologies D’Andy (and others), I hope there are a lot more comments about the trip because I expect I would love the XC even if kamikaze descents are not my thing.

    I suppose you could bring a bottle of toffee sauce around but even if chocolate I could always reluctantly make you one of these (normally reserved for aunts – or americans 😉 )

    Tell you what, bring some lime sauce round and I’ll even make you one to match your bike :-0

  7. DandyC says:

    If I bring lime around, hold the coffee and break out the tequila. Now if you can mix a perfect Margarita, Paul ???

    Margarita green, what a colour name. Definitely prefer that to khaki.

  8. TurnerGuy says:

    Very jealous – the scenery looks fantastic and the climbs sound daunting.

    Not so jealous of the downhills though…

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