Stranger Than Paradise

The snow’s gone, spring is in the air and normal service has resumed so here’s a reminder about who we are, what we do and why we are here.

We moved to North Wales in 2013 after living in South East London for nearly 20 years.  We have always been cycling obsessed.  We met while both members of Dulwich Paragon cycling round the lanes of Kent and the North Downs and later getting our arses handed to us on a plate at Crystal Palace Crits.  At the time I was the only single female in the cycling club so I had the pick of the club and Richard didn’t.  Make of that what you will.

criteriums

That’s me in 2009, 2nd in line looking a little chunky

After years of city living and spending many weekends escaping London to find good places to ride we decided to make a permanent move.  I left my job of running a classical concert venue in central London, Richard re-located his furniture making business and we moved to Sarnau near Bala.

We knew the area well.  Richard’s family is originally from near Llangollen and he spent many a family holiday in the Tanat Valley riding his BMX or ancient Peugeot MTB around what is now the Revolution Bike Park.  I used to come here most summers with a ragtag group of cyclists from Southwark to attempt the Wild Wales Challenge.

I handed in my notice in March 2013 and by the end of June we were living in Ty Hen.  We found the house from a small ad in the local paper.  We didn’t immediately fall in love with the place but there was a lot that we liked, including the views of the Berwyn mountains, and we thought we could make it work for us.

The first job was to build a workshop for Richard so he could continue with his business (www.catchweasel.com) and work on converting the derelict outbuildings into holiday cottages.  The workshop is the Swiss style chalet behind the house.  One of our friends in Bala once said we would make more money from it as a holiday let than a workshop.  He may be right.

Work began on the barn conversions in November 2014.  We wouldn’t have chosen to start work then but we needed to get going as time and money were running out.  It was not a labour of love.  It was very, very hard work and I never want to do anything like that again.  We finished the Barn in August 2015 (4 hours before our first guests) and the Stable in December 2015.

Barn from field

The cottages are designed to appeal to cyclists as cycling is our passion.  We provide secure bike storage, bike wash, workstand and tools and can give advice about the best routes, rides and bike parks.  One of the reasons we chose to live here is that we are no more than a 40 minute drive from about eight trail centres and mountain bike trails.  One of our first guests described the area as Singletrack Epicentre which is about right and since moving here we have discovered that there are also some great natural trails in the hills behind us and over on the Berwyn.  Last year we started to build a bike track in the large, steep field at the front of the property.

The road riding is exceptional with quiet roads, challenging climbs and exhilarating descents.  We can go out for a 30 mile ride, pick the right roads and not see a car.

North Wales Road cycling

After about a year of living here we acquired a dog.  Jac (spelt the Welsh way without a ‘k’) is the photogenic Labrador you see in nearly all of our photos.  As we like dogs so much it seemed daft not to allow dogs to stay in our cottages so we made one of the them, the Stable, pet friendly.  Dogs love roaming around the grounds and playing in the field and Jac gets on with everyone and everything.  We’ve also had cats to stay and Jac didn’t eat them.

Jac the labrador

 

Our cottages are not your normal barn conversions.  We both have unusual and quirky taste and have a habit of picking things up in junk and charity shops.  These have found their way into the cottages along with some of Richard’s creations.

nut job

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Stranger than paradise

door handle

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Neutral they are not.  They’re also much nicer and much warmer than our house.  We wish we lived in one of them.

 

Welsh Trail Centre Watery Loveliness

“It’s always nice here in September – the trails pretty much reach their best by then”

I said this in late June to friend who has visited us quite a few times at Ty Beic in North Wales. Taking me at my word, he booked to stay for a week in September. Cue the wettest July, August and September that we can remember. Oh dear.

Well, not all bad. This was a sort of test of our experiment of moving to Bala – the thesis that there is varied year-round riding whatever the weather. Certainly, the natural riding wasn’t going to be very rewarding unless wrestling your bike out of a sucking bog is a favourite part of your XC action. But…

We have trail centres galore – and each one has its own character. Penmachno is always wet – but when I joined Paul for the two loops the water was in deep standing puddles. Luxury! You know Penmachno is really wet when the puddles join up and the whole trail is flowing – not in the overused flowy sense but in the having an actual watery current sense. It was a glorious day – we got wet from below and sunburnt from above.Penmachno viewLlandegla – mucky but only a light spray of filth. Sort of filth that looks like it’s been sprayed onto new bikes for a photoshoot. I hadn’t ridden here for ages and I had forgotten how much fun it can be.Oneplanet llandeglaCoed y Brenin – quite a few times. All rideable in all its majesty and the bike came back cleaner than it went out.Coed y BreninA quick blast round Brenig and Alwen reservoirs – often overlooked round here as there’s minimal (no) gnar, but taken at speed it’s a pretty thrash round some large bits of water (rather than through it).Alwen reservoirLlyn BrenigPaul also picked a couple of outliers – he made the trip from Bala to Nant yr Arian, which he seemed to enjoy and also took a spin along the Llangollen Canal to Chirk, taking in the World Heritage site of the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct. He topped off his week here with a rip round Cannock Chase on the way home to Essex.Aberystwyth mist and bikemonkey trail cannock chaseSo in spite of my useless advice and the crap weather Paul still crammed well over 150 miles of offroad riding into his six days here. Not bad. The experiment in all year round rideability is proving worthwhile.

Singletrack Epicentre

Jenny, Richard and Oscar the dog stayed with us in December 2015 after winning a weekend’s stay through the very nice people at Singletrack.  Jenny wrote a few words about her stay….

Trail dog

“The last time I won a competition was in 1989 when I won a pair of curtains for my composition entitled “Penguin with a hat on because he is cold” in the medium of Crayola. I was rather more impressed when my husband told me he had won a weekend break at Ty Beic just by virtue of being a Singletrack subscriber. The owners of the converted barns at Ty Beic are riders themselves and have designed the accommodation with riders in mind. There’s a secure bike store, bike wash, drying cupboard, laundry, a great shower, and cosy underfloor heating. Indeed, I had to prise the dog off the floor in the morning and practically drag him outside for his morning constitutional.

We started the weekend at Penmachno having read some great reviews about the trails. We hadn’t factored in Storm Desmond making an appearance which lead to some “challenging” conditions. The water was so deep on the trail that it was hard to tell what was a drop-off and what was just a small puddle until you piled into it (piled in being a common theme of the day). I’m lead to believe the final descent is a really fast, whoopy, chute; however Desmond was blowing a 67mph head wind at us which meant pedalling flat out downhill just to prevent being blown back up the hill. The two 30ft trees that had been blown down on to the track should have been a warning to us but we carried on regardless. Back at the accommodation we settled down with a locally brewed beer from the craft beer shop in Bala, and an enormous steak cooked in the well equipped kitchen in the barn. After dinner (and with another one of those craft beers) we used the handy guide the owners have made to plan our ride for the next day.

Ty Beic is situated in the singletrack epicentre: less than 45mins from Coed Llandegla, Penmachno, Coed y Brenin, The Marin Trail and Antur Stiniog. I am strongly motivated by cake and so Llandegla is one of my favourite trail centres on account of the superior quality – and portion size – of the cake. Luckily my husband knows what’s good for him and agreed to go there (happy wife, happy life). Desmond had moved on to ravage the Highlands of Scotland by this point so we were left with distinctly better conditions. Llandegla never fails to disappoint [sic] and we had an enjoyable blast around the trail before I got to tuck into a large slice of the good stuff.

We will definitely be back, and with friends next time – both converted barns can be rented together for a discount. I’m going to admit defeat and pack away the Crayola and leave my husband to the competition entries from now on.”

mountain biking

shorts were a bad idea

This article originally appeared on singletrackworld. Words and pics courtesy of Jenny.  Craft beers courtesy of Stori.  Mud and gales courtesy of Desmond.

Tinsel, Turkey and Trails

Christmas Holiday Cottage

Fancy doing something different this Christmas?

We have two warm and cosy cottages, decorated in our own idiosyncratic style and with stunning views, six trail centres within a 30 minute drive and Christmas lunch in a 17th Century traditional Welsh pub.

Our local, the Bryntirion in Llandderfel, is open on Christmas Day and is offering a very special Christmas Day 7 course lunch.  Yes, that’s 7 courses.  We have booked ours and have reserved a further 4 places for our guests.  For only £320 your can enjoy 3 nights in one of our cottages and a Christmas Day lunch at the Bryn for two people.  You can even bring your faithful hound if you book into the Stable.

If you don’t want to eat out, no problem.  Our kitchens are fully equipped for you to cook at home and we’ll even order a turkey for you from one of Bala’s two award winning butchers if you ask nicely and give us plently of notice.

You’ll want to work off that Christmas lunch with a bike ride.  Natural trails never close, but can be a little muddy this time of year, especially after the battering Abigail, Kate and Barney have just dished out, but the trail centres are rideable all year round.  Coed y Brenin Visitor Centre is closed Christmas Day and Boxing Day but the trails are open so if you are planning to visit then, take a picnic.  And some warm clothes.  Oneplanet Adventure at Llandegla closes on Christmas Day but is open at all other times.  Penmachno and Marin trails never close.

Booking closes for the Christmas Special on 11 December.  Email me if you’re interested.

Have a look at our Prices and Availability page for other bookings.

So, that’s Christmas sorted.