Day 9. Bristol to Tal y Bont on Usk. 92km and 1050m climbing

Today was a day of bridges and rivers – over the Avon, Severn and criss-crossing the river Usk. 

We left Bristol in sunshine after saying our goodbyes and we were soon crossing the first bridge of the day – Clifton Suspension bridge. As usual leaving a city was fairly slow but we were soon out of Bristol and making our way to the old Severn Bridge after 20km where we left England for Wales at Chepstow.  The wind was against us but we had spectacular views down the Severn estuary towards the southern (and newer) bridge.  There were lots of signs advertising the Samaritans – hopefully a better option than the long drop to the water 50m below.

Our wonderful hosts
The Clifton Suspension Bridge
Looking across to the southern Severn Bridge

There was then a long but beautiful climb over the hills to Usk. Steepish at the bottom but then a gentle gradient and lovely views.  It was only marred by some problems with my front mec and gear changing yet again. A lovely descent into the pretty (but busy with traffic) town of Usk.  There was a very high pub quotient but low café quotient; however it does have a lovely bakery/deli which did take away coffees and steak and stilton pasties that were to die for.  We sat by the Usk river bridge and filled our stomachs for the afternoon.

The bridge over the River Usk in Usk
Just beautiful flowers

We then criss crossed the Usk along lovely quiet roads to Abergavenny, where a fifth bike shop had a go at my gears. Although they were choc-a-block with bike repairs they turfed one bike off the stand to look at mine and the chap there was friendly and knowledgeable.  The problem, he explained, is that the new front mec that was put on back in Ringwood was for 9 speed and not 10 speed, but like every other shop they did not have the right part and said that getting bike parts at the moment was impossible.  So he did the best he could and so far so good. We were grateful for his time.

As we headed along after Abergavenny it began to cloud up and by the time we got to Crickhowell it started to rain – not the short showers we were used to, but good old Welsh rain.  It then alternated between drizzle and heavy rain (with large puddles on the road)! Such a shame as the scenery was spectacular but we had our heads down to get to Tal y Bont as quickly as tired legs would allow.

The river Usk at Talybont

We briefly considered trying to get a room but a quick look at the forecast showed it should clear up to a sunny evening.  We decided to believe the forecast and found our campsite dripping from top to toe.  The campsite was divided into several fields – lovely soft flat grass.  Luckily in our section there was a shelter and as no one else was foolish enough to turn up without a car, we had it to ourselves.  We concocted a method of putting up our tent in the shelter and then moving it onto the field fully constructed with fly sheet so it would not get wet. Showers were hot and we could brew up under the shelter and we soon warmed up in the tent. Then as promised the sun came out to a beautiful evening with wonderful evening light on the surrounding hills.

Putting up the tent under cover in the rain
The scenery – after the rain

David cooked up a meal and I am now in a lovely old pub while typing this up. 92km feels a long way but we are tired but not totally exhausted.  Perhaps our fitness is really starting come back, at least a bit.  It feels like a lovely end to a really good day and we are looking forward to a challenging day through the Brecon Beacons tomorrow.

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