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.

 

Hit the Road Jac

I have a confession.  I enjoy road cycling as much if not more so than mountain biking.  I didn’t feel that way when we lived in South London where I endured and survived a 7 mile commute into central London everyday and weekend rides into Kent meant a 20 minute slog through South London’s Mean Streets.  I don’t cycle as far as I used to and all day epics are a thing of the past – I blame that dog – but a 30 mile ride can be just as worthwhile and rewarding.  The roads around here are so quiet that we can cycle for miles without seeing a car and there are very few roundabouts or traffic lights to break the rhythm.  Bala’s driving test centre is famous, and much in demand, as one of the few centres where a test doesn’t involve such things.  I took my driving test a couple of years ago in Bala, not having the need for a car when living in London.  The first time I negotiated a roundabout and dual carriageway behind a wheel was driving to Chester and back to visit Richard in hospital after he broke his hand.  But that’s another story.

The weather last week was great so we had no excuse not to get out on the bikes.  Sunday was a 32 mile ride (with 3000ft of climbing) over Bwlch y Groes, down to Lake Vyrnwy and back over Rhosygwalia.  Monday was another 30 mile ride through Llandderfel to the top of the Berwyn before turning round and heading back to Bala with a detour around Llyn Tegid.  We had planned to ride over the Berwyns to Llangynog and then Vyrnwy, Bwlch y Groes back to Bala but realised we would be late for our Welsh conversational class in Stori, or ‘siarad caci tarw yn Gymraeg’ as we like to call it, so we cut the ride short. Thursday is chaingang night, a 20 mile thrash starting and finishing at the Bryntirion.

Road Cycling North Wales

Road Cycling Snowdonia

Road cycling Berwyns

Wild Wales Challenge

Entries to the Wild Wales Challenge are now open.  As the organisers say, it’s not a sportive, nor is it a race (shame).  It is a challenge.

We are both Wild Wales veterans, sort of.  I have ridden it about five times, Richard once.  I was even the first female finisher one year, although as it has been said, it is not a race.  I used to travel up from South London in a mini bus with a motley crew of cyclists and stay in the White Lion Royal Hotel and latterly Bala Backpackers. It was how I came to know and love Bala.  There is no irony here. I did have a nice collection of commemorative slates but they were lost in one of my many house moves.

The challenge starts and finishes in Bala and we can offer you the ultimate in bike friendly accommodation at Ty Beic.  We have secure bike storage, workshop facilities, a bike wash and hosts who can give you the lowdown on the local area and who will be delighted to listen to tales of your exploits and triumphs after you have completed the ride.  We may also give you a beer.

Each cottage is available for a special rate Wild Wales Challenge rate of £70 per night.  If you want to make a weekend of it, we have a special rate of 3 nights for £200.  There are further discounts available if you book both cottages together. Use the contact form in Prices and availability to make a booking.  Please mention Wild Wales Challenge when booking.

And start training so you can see this view on your way back to Bala… Cadair Idris and Barmouth Bridge