‘You do the photos, and I’ll do the words’
Well, time to hold up my end of the bargain…
Born out of a conversation on one of our usual Sunday rides, the idea was simple. Get a group of like minded friends together for a weekend of riding and wild camping on Anglesey. An introduction, for a few of us, to the strange world of bivvying and a great opportunity for my good friend Steve to share his knowledge and love for the island. He would, quite rightly, take up the role of Captain for this trip.
After several weeks of weather watching and missed opportunities a date was set. Due to the usual mix of family and work commitments we unfortunately lost a few of the planned group at the last minute, but thankfully, three of us were packed and raring to go early on Saturday morning. Myself, Steve and Will.
First task was the 2.5 hour drive from home (Manchester) to the chosen meeting spot, the sleepy coastal village of Cemaes. The most northerly village in Wales, sitting very prettily on Cemaes Bay which is a designated ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’ it was a fittingly picturesque start point for our mini adventure and a wonderful introduction to the island for myself and Will. After a spot of fettling and equipment checking we were on our way.
Heading north from the harbour the road immediately rose up to greet our wheels, and legs. A definite sign of things to come. The roads and lanes of Anglesey are punctuated by small climbs and rolling hills, nothing too taxing, just enough to make cycling there a rewarding challenge and perfect for riding of a more relaxed nature. The added bonus of a distinct lack of cars makes for even more enjoyable riding conditions.
It wasn’t long before we were treated to the lanes and views we’d all been looking forward to, and to our delight, an abundance of green lanes with grass up the middle.
Surely the holy grail for any discerning green laner!
Anglesey is dotted with places of historical interest and old buildings to explore and we soon came upon a beautiful old church by the roadside which seemed like the perfect spot for a first stop.
The church was sadly boarded up and we couldn’t find any markings, so it unfortunately goes unknown, making it that much more mysterious and atmospheric.
Back on the road again, we headed for Parys Mountain. Just a few miles south of the town of Amlwch it is the site of a large copper mine that was extensively exploited in the late 18th century, but mining there dates back to the Bronze Age.
Like turning off the road onto the surface of a strange alien world the bare and heavily mined landscape mixed with the high level of contaminated soil on the site creates a very unique atmosphere. The colours were amazing, due in large part to the bacteria and plants hardy enough to thrive there.
Unsurprisingly the Mountain has been used as a filming location in numerous movies and sci-fi TV programs.
Heading back to earth, we set off again in search of more green lanes…
Looming on the horizon whilst we meandered through the countryside was Mynydd Bodafon, the main island’s highest point and our biggest obstacle of the day. The climb up is a challenge, but an enjoyable one that we take our time with. Just a few miles from the coastal town of Moelfre, with an almost alpine feel at the top, the mountain offers spectacular views and is well worth the effort. The descent back onto the surrounding lanes is a beauty!
Lunch time found us in the town of Amlwch and as the sun was shining we took a seat outside at a local cafe for some refreshments. Nothing too heavy, as the promise of fish & chips for dinner was on all of our minds! Although that said, the homemade flapjack definitely deserved further investigation (one reason on a list of many to return to the island for future adventures) We were joined for lunch by a family of stray cats which made for lots of smiles and some unexpected photo opportunities.
Heading west along the coastal road with sugar, salt and liquid levels topped up we took advantage of the stunning Bull Bay and plonked ourselves down in the grass for a first proper look at the sea.
The island of East Mouse sits in the bay, the coastline of which is extremely rocky and contains many caves. Some of these rocks are believed to be around 570 million years old, making them amongst the oldest in Wales.
After a longing look out to sea and some more photos it was a brief stint on the coastal A-road before heading down more quiet lanes towards the village community of Llanbadrig. Llanbadrig translates as ‘Church of Saint Patrick’ and it is the Church we’ve come to see.
Believed to have been founded by Saint Patrick himself in 440AD both the church and its surrounding landscape are absolutely stunning and we take a very respectful break from riding to soak in the atmosphere and explore.
Saint Patrick is said to have been shipwrecked on nearby Middle Mouse Island and, managing to make his way to shore, survived inside a cave in the rocks.
Steve had planned the route as a winding loop on this first day and late afternoon found us back in Cemaes Bay which proved a perfect place to stop for a late afternoon pint (or two) at the wonderfully named ‘Ye Olde Vigour Inn’. We then took a lazy roll down to the harbour to sit and watch the tide come in and most interestingly, watch a group of local enthusiasts take out the ‘Charles Henry Ashley’ a 38ft Watson designed RNLI lifeboat. Built in 1907 and taken out of official service in 1932, this beautiful boat was fully renovated in 2009 and is now a major attraction to visitors of the area. All great entertainment as we waited in anticipation for the local fish & chip shop to open.
With full bellies and very happy faces we left Cemaes in search of evening provisions and our secret bivvy spot, but before settling down for the night Steve had another treat in store as we descended into Cemlyn Bay and lagoon. A site of ‘Special scientific interest’ the Lagoon and its immediate surroundings are part of the Cemlyn Nature Reserve.
After a good few minutes, and laughs, skimming stones on the pebble beach we rode out for the head of the bay on the dirt path across the lagoon, past the ominous looking Bryn Aber, a large house wrapped in an imposing double wall which creates a very mysterious atmosphere. Built in the 1930’s by Captain Vivian Hewitt, a keen bird watcher and pretty handy pilot who was instrumental in establishing the bird sanctuary here.
It was then time to head off to our bivvy spot.
Being new to the experience Will and I had the advantage of having a well seasoned bivvy-er in Steve for company, that mixed with a relatively balmy evening meant that we both slept far better than we had originally expected. I can’t say I’d be keen to do it in the winter, but I thoroughly enjoyed my first bivvy and will definitely be doing more.
A disappointingly overcast morning denied us a dramatic sunrise, but we were all in good spirits after wiping the sleep from our eyes and enjoying some camp coffee, so we slowly packed up our gear and set off for breakfast at the Wavecrest Cafe in Church Bay, 20-30 minutes ride from camp.
A very steep climb greeted us around the first corner and the hills didn’t stop all the way to the cafe, which to our dismay wouldn’t be open for another 1.5 hours!!! Luckily the local campsite had a breakfast van serving hot food and drinks where we fueled ourselves heartily for the day ahead.
Undeterred by the slight drizzle in the air we climbed out of Church Bay with enthusiasm. More stunning scenery and wind swept coastal lanes rewarded our efforts as we made our way to Holy Island and the busy ferry port of Holyhead.
The aim, coffee and cake at the cafe in Breakwater Country Park. Created in 1990 on the site of an old quarry that originally supplied the stone to build the Holyhead Breakwater between 1846-1873 the park is a peaceful retreat, and a very beautiful one, from the hustle and bustle of the town below.
After a smashing slice of Coffee & Walnut cake we retraced our steps back onto the quiet lanes of the main island where the clouds still held back the sun, but thankfully resisted the urge to rain down on us!
A more ‘make it up as you go along’ route allowed for some lazy riding and the discovery of some new lanes for Steve to add to his collection. At the point where lunch was becoming a priority we were luckily approaching Llynnon Mill.
Built in 1775 it is the only working windmill in Wales. The cafe there serves a fabulous ham sandwich with fresh bread made with the flour ground by the mill and accompanied by a very handsome chutney, lunch was delicious.
After a few more hours of green laning we were back at the meetup point in Cemaes by 3 o’clock. With tiring legs and a night spent out in the open starting to take effect it was time to pack up the bikes, say our goodbyes and head home.
First impressions of Anglesey? Go. It’s wonderful.
First impressions of bivvying? Better than expected!
Words – Paul Rance
Pictures – Steve Makin & Paul Rance
Stylish ease whilst pedalling uphill – Will House
Frame & forks – Surly Cross Check.
Wheels & Tyres- 36h H plus + Son TB14 Rims laced to a Son 28 dynamo hub up front and a Velo Orange Grand Cru hub out back. Compass Barlow Pass standard casing tyres 700x38mm.
Gearing – Stronglight Impact double cranks (48×34), 9 speed Shimano cassette (12-36), Shimano XT long cage shadow rear mech, vintage Gian Sport front mech, Rivendell Silver friction shifters.
Braking – Tektro CR720 cantilever brakes, Shimano R400 aero levers.
Finishing kit – Velo Orange stem, headset and bb. Nitto Noodle 48cm bars, Velox cloth tape,Thomson elite seatpost, Brooks Swift titanium saddle, Gilles Berthoud stainless steel mudguards with flaps.
Lights – Son Edelux II front lamp wired up to dynamo, Busch & Muller Secula rear light (battery version) mounted to rear mudguard.
Racks & Bags – Surly 8 pack rack with Carradice longflap Camper up front (loaded with clothing, tools and essentials), Carradice bagman support with folding sleeping mat, bivvy and sleeping bag lashed on out back.
Sleeping kit – Army issue 2 season sleeping bag, Alpkit bivvy bag, Karrimor folding sleeping mat.
Semi pimp build of stuff I had knocking around and new as required
Hope/SP dynamo on Velocity Blunts, XT/Ultegra/Dura Ace bar ends, Thomson post and stem, genetic flare bars, Chris King headset, Velo Orange Drillium cranks, Shimano bb, Soma Cazadero tyres.
Upfront – Surly 8 pack rack and Ironweed rando bag for coffee gear and clothes (jetboil, spork, coffee, primaloft jacket, rain jacket, arm warmers, knee warmers, full finger gloves)
I’nt middle – Wildcat frame bag for assorted crap that’s always needed, but never used! (Swiss army knife, puncture kit, multitool, spare chain link, tyre boot, lock,cache battery, spare camera battery, spare glasses, musette) Revelate gas tank bag (Sony RX100, chain lube, chapstick)
Out back – Revelate Viscacha seat bag for sleeping stuff (Cumulus quilt, Neo air mat, Hunka bivvy bag, Marmot air pillow, beanie, buff)
Frame & forks – Self made, brass brazed, long point lugged, Reynolds 631 Semi oversize MTB spec. Front triangle – 28.6 top tube, 31.8 downtube. Columbus rear triangle. All built around a Surly Disc Trucker fork.
Wheels & tyres – 650b 32h Velocity Blunt SL laced to Hope Pro 2 Evo hubs, Compass Babyshoe Pass standard casing tyres, Schwalbe lightweight tubes.
Gearing – SunXCD double cranks (46/34), 10 speed Shimano Ultegra 6700 cassette (12-30) polished Shimano 105 5600 long cage rear mech with 10t CNC jockey wheels, Shimano front mech, SRAM 1070 chain, Shimano Dura Ace bar end shifters.
Braking – TRP Spyre SLC calipers, Dia Compe aero levers with Jagwire Road Pro XL compression-less cables.
Finishing kit – Velo Orange stem, M Part Pro headset, Compass Maes Parallel 31.8 bars, Velox cloth tape, Nitto S65 seatpost, Brooks B17 Special saddle, Velo Orange Snakeskin mudguards, Self dyed and cut cowhide flaps, Spur stem mounted bell, Speedplay frog pedals.
Lights – Emergency battery powered Knog’s.
Racks & bags – Gilles Berthoud GB25 bar bag, Velo Orange decaleur, BLB front rack – carrying food, tools, stove and associated. (Borrowed from Andy K) Carradice Super C panniers for clothing and sleeping kit.
Sleeping kit – Mountain Hardwear Lamina 20 sleeping bag, Alpkit Hunka XL bivvy bag, Vango self-inflating sleeping mattress.