Ty Gwyn Cider

Well worth a visit – about a 25 minute drive from Granary Cottage

Ty Gwyn Cider, Pen Y Lan Farm, Rowlestone, Pontrilas HR2 0DL Tel: 01981 241 181 http://www.tygwyncider.co.uk   

Ty Gwyn Cider are a craft cider company run by cider maker Alex Culpin from Pen Y Lan Farm near Rowlestone, a great location with 360 degree views just off the A465 Abergavenny-Hereford road.  They have a farm cider shop and bar with a license so you can have a cider or two on site.  If the weather is nice they have a lovely deck with outside seating and lovely views of nearby Garway Hill.   Alex and his other half Laura offer free tastings to all visitors and sell a range of bottled lightly sparkling ciders as well as still draught cider and perry to take away in flagons.   The farm has fabulous views of Garway Hill and in the opposite direction, the Black Mountains, Sugar Loaf and Skirrid.  Fans of local produce will be delighted to learn that they also sell local ales, jams, chutneys and Alex’s mother’s award winning blackcurrant coulis.  They also do teas, coffees and bar snacks.  Just farther along on the same road are award winning ice cream makers Rowlestone Ice Cream. 

Fans of early 90s indie music may be interested to learn that Alex was once the bass player in the band Tiny Monroe, who’s C.V. includes prestigious appearances at Glastonbury and Reading festivals in ’94 and a support slot on the Pretenders ‘Last of the Independents’ tour as well as numerous mentions in the music press of the day. 

Their cider has won many awards and they are acknowledged as being one of the UK craft cider scene’s best known names.  All their cider is made from 100% juice and is naturally fermented for a minimum of seven months.  The shop is open from Wed – Sat 10am til 6pm and Sun 11am til 5pm.  Open Bank Holiday Mondays.  Closed in January. 

three bottle pic

Pilates & Yoga near Dorstone

If you’re a keen yogi or a regular pilates-practicer, you may be missing it while on your hols at the cottage. I recently scoured the internet for information on classes but could not find much, turns out a good old fashioned cafe notice board is the best way to find out what’s going on. I found these adverts on the board in Shepherd’s in Hay on 21/07/15.

I made contact with Emma and was made to feel very welcome at her Friday morning pilates class in Hay Parish Hall (the hall could do with a lick of paint, but does have a gorgeous parquet floor and a certain charm!). Emma also does classes at Booth’s Books, and she tells me the rooms there are beautiful. Find Emma’s contact details here, and Booth’s information here.

Gardens to visit not far from the Granary

Check websites for opening times, or telephone

Brobury House just over the river from Bredwardine with it’s church of ‘Kilvert’s Diaries’ note.   Delightful gardens, a stone’s throw from the river bank – a great place for picnic-ing and paddling.  Brobury HR3 6BS  01981 550 229

Bookworms go to The Kilvert Society. The church is usually open and welcomes visitors.

For sustenance go to The Red Lion Hotel, Bredwardine  HR3 6BU 01981 500303

The Weir (National Trust)
Interesting river-side gardens – unencumbered by cafe or shop! Swainshill HR4 7QF  01981 590

Lower House, Cusop Dingle
A gem of a garden with woodland walk, close to Hay – viewing by appointment only, April to mid-September. Cusop HR3 5RQ  01494 820 773.

also

The Old Railway Line 
Garden Centre not far from Hay, with Restaurant and Farm Shop – lots of local products. Three Cocks, LD3 0SG  01497 847 055

Mountain biking around Hay Bluff

What better way to start a new year than with an invigorating mountain bike ride in the Brecon Beacons? Probably pretty fun every other time of the year too!

We hired bikes from Wild Rides, collecting them from Drover Cycles in Hay. We are keen road cyclists but not regular mountain bikers, so our skills were somewhat rusty. Please note this route can be done by anyone but only if willing to push down, and up, in places!

Distance: 30km
Elevation climbed: 1000m

The Route:
This route starts with a lot of up. Up up up on the road for about 8km from Hay to Hay Bluff. At the Gospel Pass car park you turn off road and have to push up for about 1km (even the most hardy will push!). This would have been quite pleasant for us had it not been blowing a howling gale. But the views all around the Bluff are magnificent so it was hard to complain up there. As you near Hay Bluff‘s summit you can hop on and start to get your MTB legs going!

We veered south-east at the trig point and suddenly found ourselves in a blissful wind-less silence where we could hear our tyres gripping the great terrain. The stretch from Hay Bluff trig to the Black Hill trig is generally wide and flat, with no drops on either side, just fields of heather and peaty bogs to fall into should you come a cropper. We stopped at the intersection with Offa’s Dyke path, for quick snack break and to direct some lost Americans (“Could you show me the path back to my car?” !).

A few km onwards, now slightly around the east side of the Black Hill, the track got a little trickier – bumpier and lumpier. We kept our eyes peeled for the bridle path to take us down into the Olchon Valley. We found the path marked with a little pile of stones, but nerves got the better of us. On the map it looked like a very steep descent, and time was ticking on so we past the mini cairn, swearing we’d return to tackle that descent another day. We were into the deafening wind again and the Black Hill ridge started to get a bit more downward-seeming. We were all familiar with walking the Black Hill and decided the ‘Diagonal Path’ off it was preferable to the Cat’s Back descent. (The Cat’s Back gets very narrow and rocky with drops to the side). The Diagonal was unridable at the top – too steep/narrow/muddy – but we hopped on about half way down for a rip-roaring plummet to the gate.

We opted for the road to the Bulls Head pub, knowing that the drovers track alternative is mud bath at the best of times. The pub was shut for its winter break (it was Jan 2nd) so we pumped on round to the tiny Craswall Church. Just past the church entrance there is a farm drive that leads to a bridle path. This path takes you through muddy, boggy fields, lots of gates, and over a stream or two so it was a hard slog, but it kept us off the road and had us thoroughly exhausted by the time we popped out on the road, 6km from Hay – and all downhill.

Hay Bluff Mountain Biking

The green line follows are plans. Please do take a proper map with you!!

You can also see our route here: https://www.strava.com/activities/235745463.

Other routes:

We underestimated how long the route would take, so we missed out the last section I had planned to take us through New House Wood and back to Hay on a different road. The next day we hiked through this forest and all agreed the wide gravely tracks would have been perfect on a bike.

In a different direction altogether (east of Hay), Wild Rides suggested Begwns Moor as a good MTB location – maybe next time!

Local cycle routes (& the all-important cafe stops)

Granary Cottage is a great base for both for mountain bikers and for roadies. Last weekend Sam and I took to the roads for a bit of an explore. On recent visits we have stuck to our old faithful route, the “Llanthony Lap” but this time we thought it was time to venture further afield. Dorstone’s location near the Brecons but not actually in them does give us the best of both worlds – you can choose to go for the big climbs or you can choose the kinder rolly ones and just enjoy the great views of the Brecons. Having said that, those ‘rolly’ ones can still pack a punch – there’s a 25%’er out of Dorstone to Arthur’s Stone!

Ras de Cymru

Ras de Cymru coming through near Glasbury

See the links below for our routes (and I’ve included the Llanthony Lap too).

The Back and Beyond of Hay on Wye http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5459956
60km, 650m of climbing. Some good long flats on decent surface. Great views of the Brecons. Great river crossings.

Herefordshire Rollies http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5297737
58km, 850m of climbing. Some steep sections! Whitney Toll Bridge is 10p for cyclists to cross – we genuinely didn’t know and cycled on through, no one chased us!

The Llanthony Lap http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5218761
70km, 1000m of climbing
This is an awesome route either way around. Llanthony Priory is a must-see and has a great little pub in the old cellar – check opening times before you go.

While out in the wonderful isolation of the Powys/Herefordshire countryside, it’s still good to know where you can stop for refreshment. I haven’t tried and tested all these places but they were all open and looking lively when we past them (July 2014):

The River Cafe, Glasbury 
The Honey Cafe, Bronllys
The Wye Knot Stop
Whitney Farm Shop
Whitney Toll Bridge – tea and coffee and snacks available

A few snaps from our rides: