*UK, Wales: The Border Kingdom of the Bike

Touring pleasures of the Welsh-English border between Shrewsbury and Llandrindod Wells

The richly tapestried borderlands of England and Wales come close to cycling paradise. By bike or by train, you encounter a landscape which rises regally from the lush lowlands of England to the soaring uplands of Wales. All trains on the Heart of Wales line are stopping trains, and rail-rover tickets are available. This train is the starting point for adventures with map, guide book and bicycle. National rail connections to Shrewsbury are good, and it is from here that the Heart of Wales Line sets off through a string of delightful towns and villages.

Shrewsbury's old town occupies an almost perfect defensive position almost completely surrounded by a huge loop of the Severn, with the castle dominating a narrow neck of land. But the best approach is to ride from Shrewsbury with a copy of Housman's Shropshire Lad in the bar bag, aiming to stop at Ludlow. Both towns are heaped high with history. South from Shrewsbury, you ride through a series of long belts of scarps with vales in between, the most impressive of which is Wenlock Edge, running for about 17 miles, forming an unbroken wall crossed by only one major road.

The minor cycling roads wind up the wooded face, and offer stunning views of the area.

Drop into Corve Dale and visit the old church of Tugford to and try to spot the two small, rude and pagan Sheila-na-gig stone fertility carvings on the door jamb. Then sweep through the Clee hills and Clee St Margaret (where a stream runs down the road), before heading for Ludlow. Ludlow is set defensively inside a bend of the river Teme with its castle presenting a steep curtain wall to the west. Protected by the town walls are Ludlow's famous black and white half-timbered buildings and sober brick houses

After a stay in Ludlow, cycle on west to Knighton to explore Offa's Dyke.

Llandrindrod Wells is the home of the National Cycle Museum. It was a 110 years ago that Tom Norton established his cycle business in the High Street. Later, to accommodate his business's growth into cars and motor bikes, he built the Automobile Palace, a fine example of the airy, modern, early 20th Century architecture which housed the wonders of the twentieth Century from cinemas and garages to airports. There are now over 120 cycles on display in his Palace.

Llandrindrod Wells is only about 18 miles from Knighton, but the roads, high hedged and narrow, can be as long as you like. At Builth Road, the next station from Llandrindrod Wells, you can connect to the Welsh National Cycle Route by going west to Rhayader,to cycle up the west side of the Wye Valley. You can explore the whole route to Bangor and Holyhead, or make your way back to Shrewsbury via Trefeglwys, Caersws, Montgomery and Priestweston. History, beauty, wide open spaces: you might imagine that Mid-Wales was made for cycling pleasure.

Follow the course of the River Teme westward to cross the line of Offa's Dyke, an earthwork as imposing as Hadrians Wall, built to re enforce the boundary between Mercia and the Welsh kingdoms. For many miles it traces a course across open mountain sides.

The flag of morn in conqueror's state

Enters at the English gate:

The vanquished eve, as night prevails,

Bleeds upon the road to Wales

 

The Welsh Marches, A.E. Housman

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