Sunday, 14 April 2013

St David's Day 10km

Back on the 3rd March Michael and myself thought it would be a good idea to have a go at the St David's Day 10km Run around Cardiff's parkland's.  We booked on 10 days before the race, which didn't give us much of a chance to do any training.
Pre-race picture on the cold morning in Cardiff.  We were both hoping for times under 1hr and I came in at 48 mins and Mike just after me at 51 mins.  Very happy with the time considering we both haven't run much since the half marathon in October.
We downed a few pints later in the pub to celebrate.  I haven't run much since but I think there's another run planned before the Cardiff half again later in the year.

Historic Ride through the Vale

Strong winds and wet weather persist this weekend so I opt for a short ride around the rural Vale.  I start from my front door in St Athan and head for the back lanes leading to the rural village of Llancarfan.
Ford at Llancarfan
For the first 13 miles it's mostly up hill, climbing to the highest point of 429ft.  On the plus side it has some great views over the rural Vale countryside.  From Llancarfan I head for Dyffryn and my first stop of the trip... 
St Lythans Burial Chamber
St Lythans burial chamber is set imposingly on higher ground a short walk from the road.  It is all that remains of a once larger Neolithic burial monument dating back some 5,000-6,000 years.  Legend says the wedge shaped cap stone spins three times each Midsummers eve, which fits in with the Welsh name for the chamber 'Maes-y-Felin', which translates to Mill of the Meadow.  On the same night the stones are said to go bathing in the river. 
A short ride up the road past Duffryn Gardens is my next stop at Tinkinswood bruial chamber.  The last time I visited here was around 10 years ago where I was conducting a survey of all the neolithic burial mounds and stone circles, whilst studying Archaeology at University 
The Quary, Tinkinswood
It's a slightly longer walk to the burial chamber, on the way passing what is known as The Quary, where the stones for the chamber were originally thought to have originated.
Tinkinswood burial chamber
The tomb at Tinkinswood is capped with an enormous 40 tonne limestone capstone, thought to be the largest in Britain.  The covering mound is more prominent than St Lythans and has been well excavated.   Some 920 humans bones were found within the chamber.
St Quintins Castle 
From Tinkinswood I took the main carriageway through Cowbrigde (what was once a roman road) and onto Llanblethian to visit my last stop of the trip at St Quintins Castle.  This rather large fortification is hidden away on top of a natural steep embankment at the back of Llanblethian village.  The stone keep which stands on an earlier timber fortification was built in the late 12th century.   
 This is the first time I have visited the castle sine I have lived in the area and I was surprised at the size of it.  From here it was a very steep climb through the lanes back to St Athan.  A nice slow paced 23 mile hilly ride exploring the histories of the Vale of Glamorgan.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Green Bridge of Wales

 It's been a while since I've got the boat out, almost three months in fact, my longest 'dry' spell.  A few reasons.  The obvious one being the weather, I've also had and still have an elbow injury, and simply a lack of enthusiasm.  Finally however halfway through April, for one day only, it feels a little like Spring.  After a 5am wakeup call I join James, Gareth, Marcus, Simon, Gerwyn and Gary for a long awaited trip along the southern Pembrokeshire Coast.
A low water launch from Freshwater West makes for a very long carry.  Notice those who brought trolleys have began to launch while Gerwyn and myself carry our heavily laden boats the entire distance of the beach.
James above breaks through the surf to the calm waters beyond to begin our trip, which will eventually see us finishing at Stackpole Quay.
Almost this entire trip is within the military firing range, notice the various military buildings above the sands.
Around Linney Head and the limestone cliffs rise steeply out of the water preventing any chance of escape from the elements of the sea for quite some miles ahead.  What a fantastic start to the journey...
James clearly dwarfed by the 350 million year old rock.

Various stacks and arches reached out into the sea up ahead.
A gentle swell allowed us to get up close and explore the nooks and crannies while allowing for a little fun... 

Time to explore some caves and this one was absolutely huge and passed right through the cliff.

Above Simon waited patiently beneath this huge overhang, clearly waiting for a few subjects for a photo opportunity...
..And what a photo it made!  A natural iconic landmark of Pembrokeshire usually photographed from above, The Green Arch of Wales.

You may have to look very closely in some of today's pictures to spot the kayakers dwarfed beneath the huge towering cliffs. 
Just beyond the Green Bridge tower the Elegug Stacks...

I struggled to get a good shot of the stacks because they were so huge so I paddled quite a way out to get this shot above, again spot the kayaks.  

This section of coast just kept giving and giving.  This narrow causeway was spectacular, again rising high out of photographic reach.
It then led into a cave like entrance.
 Looking back I don't know really what to call it, a causeway within a collapsed cave?
Further along Marcus spots a cave but paddling in reveals it's a collapsed cave (cave without a roof) with emerald green waters.
Further along the coast is Huntsman's Leap, where tradition has it that a horseman jumped the gap, only to look back and die of shock from what he saw.
You can spot the kayaker, Gareth, above but can you spot the two climbers?
A short distance in a small cove is St Govan's Chapel, built in the 13th Century on a site of a holly well that once attracted pilgrims.   
Around St Govan's Head we make our way into Broad Haven for a long awaited lunch stop, by now I had my breakfast 9 hours ago.
Back on the water in the bay of Broad Haven with Church Rock on the horizon.
It was only a short paddle to Stackpole Head and we were able to pass though two of the caves through the headland, popular with nesting sea birds.   

We glide now through glassy waters in the afternoon sun past the beautiful Barafundle Bay and though this sculptured small arch and onto our destination at Stackpole Quay.

We finally land after 5 hours on the water at Stackpole Quay, originally built for the export of Limestone for a nearby quarry.  We get out of our damp kit and relax in the sun outside the tea room with a warm drink.
I take a short stole up the coast path with superb views to the east as far as Caldey Island near Tenby while the rest of the group go back to pick up the cars. 
A track our our paddle off my phone app which I usually use for mapping my running and cycling but seems to work well with the paddling also.  A brilliant paddle once again made all the better for the great company. Not quite sure if it beats the Witches Cauldron paddle but definitely up there with the best.