History is all around us (2) Shakespeare’s 450 birthday

2014 is Shakespeare’s 450th birthday and as a universal poet – its not surprising that events in the Welsh borderlands inspired his work…so here are  some more historical events to think about as you cycle and walk through the borderlands of England and & Wales.

1402 – Owain Glyndwr sacks Knighton and defeats the English at Pilleth,near Whitton.  Cycle through this landscape on the Welsh Border Tour, and visualise the big battle at Pilleth.  The big Wellingtonia trees on the hillside are planted over a mass burial pit.  It was a a significant battle – Shakespeare  wote about it in Henry IV Part 1

“ the noble Mortimer,
Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight,
Against the wild and irregular Glendower,
Was by the rude hand of that Welshman taken,
A thousand of his people butchered”

Welsh Border Cycling

Welsh Border Cycling

1461 – The Battle of Mortimers Cross -won by Edward duke of York (from Mortimer Castle, was very nearly scuppered at the outset,when troops saw a Sundog (The Parhelion), rise in the morning of the battle  – it looked like 3  suns were rising – a bad omen.  But Edward of York convinced them it was the sign of the Trinity, and they went on to win the battle  and the throne for Edward.   You can look out for this & other astrological signs in our clear starry skies, on the Easy Cycle Tour to Wales.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York.

Unknown

1527 – Birth of John Dee, astrologer, magician, spy at Whitton.  Shakespeare again  – John Dee was the model for Prospero in The Tempest.  He probably visited another Elizabethan courtier who lived at the Radnorshire arms, where you stay on The Easy Tour to Wales.  He is also reputed to have drafted the Abracadabra Charm at Cascob church (which you can also visit on this tour) .

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Cascob church

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Welsh Remembrance day – Dragons not poppies

Twitter is a wonderful thing – I asked why a dragon had suddenly appeared in Presteigne during the summer

WW1 Welsh Remembrance Day Dragon sculpture in Presteigne

WW1 Welsh Remembrance Day Dragon sculpture in Presteigne

St Michaels Church at Discoed had the answer – the sculpture was designed to commemorate the Welsh men who fought in WW1 by artist Peter Smith.  You can find out all about the design on his website  , but here is his moving explanation of why he designed a dragon sculpture to commemorate Welsh sacrifice. (and very appropriate – because locally there is a legend that the last Welsh dragon sleeps in the Radnor hills, guarded by the ring of churches dedicated to St Michael)  Find out all about it on our welsh cycle tours

Welsh Sleeping Dragon

Welsh Sleeping Dragon

Sleeping Dragon, Artist Statement
When I was growing up in the early 1950s, the First World War was still very much a living memory to many. Today it is history, with no survivors left to tell the living tale. This transition point in time, from live memory to history, is upon us. This is the point where we must now translate, somehow, what took place, in such a way that it is clear to all that this war must be remembered and learned from.
We have chosen a sleeping dragon for the memorial instead of the heraldic Welsh dragon that we all know and love. The reasoning for this is that the traditional Welsh dragon has a very “up front” attitude with an aggressive stance and unflattering sharp lines, most suitable in war.

The Welsh dragon flying on its standard would have raised the morale of any Welshman fighting for what he believed in. Sadly, many a good Welshman died doing just that, sometimes in lands far off, sometimes for reasons too complex to reason with. Where ever and for whatever, Welshman have always been distinguished in battle. However, there is another side to all of this and that is the Welshman who sang and who is now silent, the Welshman who loved his valleys and hills but will never again walk there, the Welshman who told his children bedtime myths and tales of dragons in Wales. His legacy being the continuation of the culture of Wales. All so proud to be Welsh and all died so. This is the soft underside of our loss. This is the real loss. It is this loss that the sleeping dragon reflects, the soft inner being of all those sleeping Welshman who rest so far from the country they loved, in the fields of World War One.

The Cromlech links us back many thousands of years in Welsh history to the Stone Age. Cromlechs usually have solar alignments attached to them and this Cromlech is set to align with the rising sun on the Equinox. The Cromlech itself is low enough for an adult and for a child raised up by an adult, to see and touch the dragon, giving the connectivity to reinforce the point of the memorial. A child raised up to touch the dragon thus, may not yet understand, but will remember and perhaps in time, understand. As time passes the dragon will hopefully develop a hand worn nose from the many hands that will gently stroke it. That human hand polished area, will shine in the sun as a testament to all those who have visited and touched the dragon and remembered. This physical connection by touching is to be much encouraged.

The dragon sleeping peacefully on its ancient stone is only a temporary installation for the four years duration of World War One. During those four years it is hoped by all involved with the dragon’s creation that many people will come and see, touch and connect with the sleeping Welsh dragon and return home, somehow inexplicably enhanced by the experience. Perhaps there is some truth in the stories of dragons, our sleeping Welshman left his children!

Pete Smith, August 1st 2014

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History is all around us (1)

Our cycling holidays are a brilliant way of exploring the countryside.  Not only do you get to hear the birdsong, feel the sun on your back and smell the pine and honeysuckle, you can relive the events of the past – if you know where to look.  here’s some ideas, from some of the local significant historical events.

50ad – defeat and capture of Caractacus by the Romans at Coxall Knoll and the River Red lake (named because it ran red with the blood of Romans).  On the Quietest Cycle Tour under the Sun or the Explorers Country House Tour

c500ad – marriage of King Arthur and queen Guinevere at Knucklas castle on the Welsh Border Cycle Tour (legend or not? there’re are lots of other Arthur connections in the welsh borderlands)

Knucklas viaduct in the shadow of Knucklas Castle ruins

Knucklas viaduct in the shadow of Knucklas Castle ruins

C785ad  – construction of offa’s Dyke earthwork by King Offa of Mercia.  Can you imagine the amount of earth shifting with early tools needed for this task? -think about it as you walk along on our Offa’s Dyke & Kerry Ridgway walking tour.  Was the Dyke used for defence – or to extract tolls/ taxes from the cattle drovers from Wales

Walk offas dyke

Walk offas dyke

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Cycling the Radnor Ring

We’ve been doing some more research on this fab route…. and here’s some photos of the deserted lanes, outstanding vistas and lonely farmhouses, you will encounter on this route

 

Cycling in the hills of the Radnor Ring Cycle route (2)

Cycling in the hills of the Radnor Ring Cycle route (2)

Cycling in the hills of the Radnor Ring Cycle route (3)

Cycling in the hills of the Radnor Ring Cycle route (3)

Hergest Court near Kington on Radnor Ring Cycle Route

Hergest Court near Kington on Radnor Ring Cycle Route

Come soon and find out the reason this is fast becoming one of our most popular tours….probably because of the the hot showers, warm comfortable bed & great food & drink at the end of each days’ challenging cycling.  all the details at Radnor Ring Cycle Challenge

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Filming with the BBC – why cyclists should escape to the country

Lots going on this summer, including a day spent filming with the BBC. “Escape to the Country” helps people decide where to move to …this couple were planning a move to Shropshire & were keen cyclists – so Chris was cycling expert for the day – showing them some of the great routes around here -

Filming / Cycling with the BBC at  the Severn Valley Railway

Filming / Cycling with the BBC at the Severn Valley Railway

Like the Mercian Way, which runs alongside the Severn Valley Railway.

Mercian Way Cycle route by  Severn Valley Railway

Mercian Way Cycle route by Severn Valley Railway

I’m sure this couple will have a great time cycling in Shropshire  – we “escaped” here 20 odd years ago & have never looked back.  See our cycling holidays for suggestions on where to cycle in Shropshire

 

Filming Escape to the Country with BBC

Filming Escape to the Country with BBC

Just waiting to hear – when this film is going to be broadcast!

BBC Cameraman with Escape to the Country

BBC Cameraman with Escape to the Country

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The Quietest Cycle Tour under the sun – Photo blog by the Fearnleys

Photos and Trip Advisor comments supplied by the Fearnley’s (many thanks)

 

 

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Talking Japanese in Herefordshire

For 10 years , a Japanese Professor of Green Tourism at Tokyo University & his party have been visiting Herefordshire B&B Lowe Farm run by Juliet Williams twice a year.

Juliet Williams, Lowe Farm B&B, Herefordshire

Juliet Williams, Lowe Farm B&B, Herefordshire

He wanted to demonstrate to Japan how a woman in farming was supporting farm diversity and actioning green tourism to a high standard.  Following that visit, Juliet was hosted for a series of five symposiums across Japan where she spoke on the benefits and intricacies of creating a rural business to 800 people in south Japan, 500 at Tokyo University, 600 in north Japan and back to Toyko and a further 500 delegates, attracting much media attention along the way,  Juliet’s talk topics included discussion on DEFRA grants, Business training, Green Tourism, Farmstay B&Bs and farm diversification.

Japanese delegates & Herefordshire rural businesses

Japanese delegates & Herefordshire rural businesses

Its quite an amazing story & we know that Juliet is committed to an excellent service – because she has looked after some of our cycling holiday customers too.  At a celebration meal to celebrate the 10 year anniversary we met up over japanese & local food (sushi & hereford beef & strawberries!) to learn more about Japanese culture.  As well as a cooking demonstration, origami, Japanese folk songs and much pantomime in trying to communicate without a common language we had a great time.  

Wheely Wonderful Cycling learning how to cook sushi

Wheely Wonderful Cycling learning how to cook sushi

The tsunami might have receded in our memory – but its very much at the front of this group’s thoughts – they were selling crafts to help raise funds for tsunami homeless, their ideas about green tourism were aimed at encouraging Japanese rural youth to stay & run businesses rather than move to the city.

It made me immediately go & find out about cycling in Japan & once again, my image of urban Japan, was shattered… Here are 7 reasons to Cycle in Japan (from the podium cafe) – all of which surprised me….

Cycling culture -“Think cycling culture and I think of the Netherlands or Denmark. Countries where the bike is a deeply engrained in day-to-day life to go to the shops, to go to work, to get around. Japan is pretty similar. Almost anywhere you go you’ll find kids, workers and grannies tottering around on bikes as part of their everyday life. Not in the ordered way of northern Europe. Cyclists ride without helmets or lights.” 

The convenience  -“Everywhere you go in Japan you will see vending machines and convenience stores. Some might view these as blots on the landscape but for cyclists they are life-savers”

Japanese cycling

Japanese cycling

Hot Springs -Japan is a volcanic place. Alongside the molten rock, hot springs burst out of the ground across the country. The Japanese like nothing more than bathing in these onsen so across the country you’ll find bathhouses and hotels where you can soak and relax

The Scenery -Mountains, rugged coastlines and cherry blossoms. Japan has an awfully large amount of natural beauty. Doing a ride like my fourth day over the shoulders of Fuji-san was as spectacular as any day I’ve ridden in the Alps or Pyrenees

The Food -“A cyclist rides on his stomach”. Or something like that. A cyclist can also stuff himself silly in the knowledge he’ll burn the calories – this is one of the pleasures of riding. In Japan it is particularly amazing as the food is outstanding.

The roads -“From 1991 to 2000 (and arguably longer) Japan plunged into a lost decade of economic output. Spurred on by the construction lobby the country undertook a vast programme of public works in an attempt to rekindle growth. Some of this was deeply harmful such as the canalisation of rivers and the billions spent on pointless coastal defence schemes. But it has also left a network of brilliant roads criss-crossing the country.

The trains – “Jump on a train to the countryside ride to another station and cruise home. If only it were so simple in the UK…”  to see the whole article

So Herefordshire cycling is missing out on a few of these (the trains, convenience, hot springs, cycle routes). But like Japan, Herefordshire excels at the Food & Scenery (we also have cherry orchards & blossom)…So what is it that draws the Japanese to Herefordshire? – It is the farming community, the hospitality and the architecture… come on our Black & White Villages Cycle Tour and find out for yourself.  

Black & White villages cycle tour

Black & White villages cycle tour

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Make the most of the Indian Summer

The forecast is still looking good for the next week or so…so here are a few events & reasons to come & hire a bike & explore the wonderfully quiet lanes around our area.

Ludlow Food Festival is on this weekend – 12 to 14th September – The oldest, biggest & best UK Food Festival.  Try the sausage trail…. as a reward for cycling from our base to Ludlow.Screen shot 2014-09-10 at 16.50.43

H.art – Herefordshire & borders open art studios – open this weekend – until the 14th.  Cycle to Brampton Bryan for the exhibition at Aardvark books & the parish hall (visit the Leintwardine studios on the way) or Lingen to the remote Royal George pub and a another grouping of studios.  Lastly, make a day of it & cycle to Kingsland  and Yarpole churches – both have big exhibitions & outstanding architecture.  Finally cycle over the Goggin to Tania Pearson’s Studio

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Or try a Cycling and Canoeing holiday – we still have availability until the end of September

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Autumn Epic

The Autumn Epic is a European-style cyclosportive, starting in Knighton in the Welsh Marches and taking cyclists through the superb scenery of the ancient county of Radnorshire.

Entering its eighth year, the Epic is held on Sunday, October 5 and is an ideal way to round off a cyclist’s season and make great use of summer fitness.

The Autumn Epic cycle challenge

The Autumn Epic cycle challenge

Radnorshire – the central part of the huge county of Powys – offers near perfect cycling territory, with its unspoilt countryside and peaceful roads.

The Autumn Epic route takes riders on a 155km grand tour – or 133km shortcut – from the Welsh Marches and into the start of the Cambrian Mountains.

Wye Valley near Rhayader - cycling holiday with Wheely Wonderful Cycling

Wye Valley near Rhayader – cycling holiday with Wheely Wonderful Cycling

The entire ride takes place on public roads, most of which are very quiet country lanes. The scenery is stunning and offers some of the finest road riding anywhere in the country, but if riders like it flat then they should probably look elsewhere!

Glascwm Hill

Glascwm Hill

The ride climbs from the first mile and highlights include the Elan Valley reservoirs and mountain road, Glascwm and Abbey Cwm Hir climbs. The route does include a few of gentler interludes, which provide riders with the chance to recover and spin their legs before taking on the next upland range.

Élan valley

Élan valley

The Autumn Epic has been ranked the number one UK sportive for two years running by subscribers to http://www.cyclosport.org. For more information about the route and how to register visit http://www.cyclosportives.co.uk/

So where do we come in?  Well if you don’t want to do it on one day…you can spread it over 3 days on our Radnor Ring Challenge or if you have friends who want to support you – but don’t want to do the whole challenge, they could cycle our Country House Explorers Cycle Tour – based around Knighton – they’ll have a bike and easy cycle route – & can cycle to support you at the start & finish of your ride.

 

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The Best Pubs in the world ….(to visit on a cycling holiday) The White Horse Clun

Here’s another pub to visit in the Shropshire borders.  The White Horse in Clun is one of those pubs you always hope to come across.

The White Horse Inn, Clun, welcomes cyclists on our Shropshire Cycling holidays

The White Horse Inn, Clun, welcomes cyclists on our Shropshire Cycling holidays

Real beer, friendly landlord, people to talk to, no sign of this “gastro pub” nonsense…. but the food is good,  Clun is a wonderful place to stay…and you can cycle & stay on many of our cycling holidays.  If you are really keen on your beer, then cycle our Kerry Ridgeway Cycle Tour (you get to stay at Bishops Castle too, and drink at the Three Tuns), and time it to co incide with the Bishops Castle Real Ale Festival on 11-12 July or the Clun Valley Beer Festival on 3-5 October.

One of the oldest Breweries in the country.  The Three Tuns Brewery can be visited on our Kerry Ridgeway Cycling Holiday

One of the oldest Breweries in the country. The Three Tuns Brewery can be visited on our Kerry Ridgeway Cycling Holiday

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