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2013 Taith Cymru

Welcome to our first report of the 2013 season of HRCR Scenic Tours, sponsored by Clayton Classics.

The event had received a very good entry of 55 classic cars, the oldest of these being a Triumph Roadster dating back to 1949 and crewed by Edward and Barbara McLaren. The start venue was the Brecon Theatre, situated on the picturesque canal side, an ideal place for scrutineering, documentation - and of course the wonderful bacon baps that are becoming traditional at the start of a tour. Car 1 started at 09.30 hours, the others following on at minute intervals.

Dippy and crew were given a start number of 10. The car is now much quieter after a little winter fettling and the addition of a new exhaust manifold, courtesy of Tipton Garage in Devon. The route left in an easterly direction towards the village of Pencelli, from where we viewed the first snow-capped mountains. The organisers had advised that all the roads on the route would have been cleared of the snowdrifts - only time would tell! Certainly, the roads around the Talybont and Pontsticill reservoirs were clear – and absolutely stunning!

Skirting the north side of Merthyr Tydfil, the tour route now turned north across the Brecon Beacons National Park to the village of Crai. After passing tulip 29, which was the first PC of the tour, we headed across the fringe of the Black Mountains in a southwesterly direction. At tulip 40, the note was to look out for Red Kites - the feathered variety of course – and, right on time, one appeared, circling above us. What lengths these organisers will go to these days to make the perfect tour!

The route then turned north, to the village of Myddfai. This scenery on this section was more like that one would find in Austria - fantastic views, even with snowdrops and daffodils braving the late winter we have had. Continuing north, we headed for the car park behind the Castle Hotel in Llandovery. Many happy memories here for the crew of Dippy, with much time having been spent here working on the Quinton Stages Rally in the years when it had its Rally HQ in the town. We had now covered 60 plus miles and had the opportunity for a lunch break and a stretch of the legs in Llandovery.

Continuing further north and onto map 147 through the village of Rhandirmwyn, we came to the Llyn Brianne Reservoir car park. Time here to get out of the car and admire the fantastic views across the waters. At the exit to the car park was the second PC of the tour, at tulip 59. Leaving the PC behind, we followed the road along the side of reservoir. The water here was almost black in colour; a wonderful contrast to the snow-capped backdrop.

The route now entered the Tywi Forest for a clockwise loop of the tree-lined roads. At the most northerly point, we now turned due south to tackle the Devil’s Staircase. Ask any road rally crew from the 60’s and 70’s about this famous stretch of black tarmac - they will all have memories of it – some good and some not so good! This was the first time in all the years that we had passed along this road in daylight - and the question went through the mind, “Did we really travel along here at those speeds in an 850cc Mini - with drum brakes?” Perhaps we should not dwell too much on that subject!

Emerging at the village of Abergwesyn, we continued towards Beulah. The only problem here was a sheep jam - they did not want to leave the warm tarmac for the snowy banks! A little patience and they moved in their own time of course - after all it is their home! Still travelling east, we passed through Garth and Cilmeri and on to Builth Wells. Builth is another town with lots of rally history, with club events through to Wales Rally GB all using the showground here as a base. From Builth, we travelled to the south-east, using a very pretty road along the side of the River Wye. Just by Erwood Tea Rooms was the last PC of the day, which was situated on a now-tarmac section of a disused railway line - not an easy slot to find. Ace navigator Malcolm Oxborrow reliably informed us at the finish that this stretch of road was regularly used on road rallies as it did not feature on the old maps as a road. Local knowledge clearly required here!

After crossing the river on the narrow single-track bridge, we joined the main A470 for a short distance, before passing through more forest areas to Brechfa Common. Again another superb piece of road - that had spring and winter all in one view. Next came Llangors and Bwlch, followed by the climb over Mynydd Llangynidr. This B road has a top spot height of 484 metres, that enabled yet more stunning views. Dropping down to the town of Beaufort, we headed roughly south-east, past the old industrial areas of Brynmawr, to Blaenavon. A tricky tulip direction here of “Turn right at the 2 blue seats” did require the use of all four eyes in the car. A short section of very interesting yellow roads, passing by Upper Llanover and Llanover, brought us to a crossing of the River Usk. Another stunning old bridge took us over the water and to the Alice Springs Golf Club for the final control and finishers’ awards. The second half of the route had added another 87 miles to the tour.

Congratulations to Peter Hurst and his team! A superb tour that used some of the best and quietest roads available on maps 147, 160 and 161. Apart from on the main roads, we encountered more cyclists than cars during the event. The paperwork was excellent and the 3-course meal at the finish really did finish off a perfect day.

Our sincere thanks to Peter Fieldhouse for all his with editing of this report.

Hilary and Mike Stratton plus Dippy.