Sunday, 8 June 2014

A bike ride around Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid), North Wales.

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Bala is known as an activity destination to the lover of the outdoors with the Lake at the southern end of town being the beauty spot attraction. The weekend I signed up for with the group of people I was partly acquainted with, but largely didn't know, was an activity weekend involving canoeing, cycling and badminton. The accommodation we were staying at offered Table Tennis, Volleyball and Putting.
As there was enough focus, time and expense on the first three afore mentioned activities, the group gave the nearby exciting White water rafting (www.ukrafting.co.uk) a miss this time.

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I shared a room with another three men, one from Manchester who liked his bed !!, he had a friend who seemed illusive to his room and everybody else and someone from Leicester who liked early morning walks amongst the other sports activities he indulged in.

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On the saturday morning, as I was rousing from under the duvet, I heard Leicester lad rustle out of the room at an unearthly hour ... well it was a long car journey the previous day and social interaction with so many new people (that seem to know each other from past experiences) can be tiring after a day like that.

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He returned later with excitement in his voice as I was about to leave the room for an amble down to breakfast. Recognising that I had been wielding a camera on images of the house (previous Bala post), he inspired me to get up sooner the following morning to watch the mist burn off the lake with the rising sun.

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I was inspired enough to join him for an early morning sunday walk and share in the additional spectacle of Bala Lake beauty.

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The assistant co - host for the weekend joined him for an early morning chat at a picnic table while I was otherwise engaged !!

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Along with the title image, the last shots before breakfast.

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My Saturday morning machine !
Just to fill you in on some biographical background, My walking friend that I have referred to in many posts (aka The Scarborough Sandcastle manager !) had not only encouraged me to go on different social walks as opposed to the mountainous solo routes I did, but he also encouraged me to buy a bike on numerous occasions over the years. He had an idea in his head that a group of us could go cycling for the day in nearby countryside.

I had the thought in my head of buying a bike when I moved house in early 2006 as I was 5 minutes ride away from a long distance cycle track. However the pressures with house renovation, refurbishment and regular trips to Bristol at the time kept the reality at a distance for quite a few years. I had a bit more time on my hands in 2010 and caught up with both some serious solo and group walking, a bit more with the camera and ... errr ...  I started writing a blog ... haha. (so many blogposts in that last sentence !!)

This advertised activity weekend appealed to me as it included the optional bike ride around Bala Lake. The number of people were limited proportionally to the amount of bikes hired from R.H. Roberts Cycles (7-9 High Street, Bala). At the time of booking the weekend those requesting the bike ride were allocated into groups of three half day sessions by the organiser and because I booked late, I was fortunate enough to get a cancellation on the saturday morning as a few more opted for the only session of canoeing. As I made a day of travelling to Bala on the friday, I arrived earlier than most at the accommodation and was asked by the weekend organiser to go and help collect the bikes just before the shop closed at 5pm. It wasn't the experience I had wanted to ease myself gently into ... cycling down Bala High street in ... errr ... rush hour as it had been more than half a life time since I was last on a bike !!

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There are many cycle routes from Bala, the professional would probably prefer the circular tough route over the hill to Lake Vyrnwy but as this was a sampler for a mix of grades, including myself as the least experienced, a 10 - 14 mile (depending on which guide you read) clockwise tour of Bala lake was on the agenda.

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The direction of travel was chosen so that riders could get used to the bike on the quieter roads before a half way coffee break, returning on sections of a main road where there were occasionally no adjacent cycle paths. All of the lake shots were taken in the first third of the journey where the views seemed more interesting, ideal stops for those unfamiliar with cycling !!

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It may be a surprise to know that this beauty spot has links with the industrial revolution as Thomas Telford had his hands on it. It was at one time the largest natural lake in Wales until he raised the level to assist the water flow of the Ellesmere canal. Not an obvious thought considering the Shropshire Union canal system is miles away and essentially in another country !! Regular readers will remember from previous posts that the engineer Thomas Telford was no stranger to Wales. There's a link to him in the right hand side bar of this blog under "Labels : general" with two pages of posts.

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In keeping with the engineering theme, that leads me nicely into the scenic Bala Lake railway running along the south east lakeshore. The only other occasion I have been in this location was when I pushed my holiday day tripping to the limit back in 1992. I just caught the train with 5 minutes to spare travelling from Llandudno by car.

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Slate mining was at one time one of the most common industries in North and Mid Wales. Railways were built to transport the slate on narrow gauge track. There are at least 10 of these narrow gauge railways throughout Wales (http://greatlittletrainsofwales.co.uk) that now give the tourist a different kind of day out whilst attracting steam enthusiasts from further afield. Bala Lake railway doesn't quite fall into that category as it was once a conventional railway that was closed due to the infamous Beeching report of 1963.

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These days railway preservation is taking off as more than just a weekend hobby for engineers, but back in the day (1972), an engineer and a councillor had the foresight to see the potential in using nearby regional abandoned narrow gauge slate mining railway stock to start a business.

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Time for that half time coffee break at Llanuwchllyn  !

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Signal box moment
We left refreshed and ready for our assault on the main road back which I was now prepared for in many ways.

The journey to a bike purchase was a little more difficult as it wasn't a case of picking one from off the shelf. It was some time later when I could meet up with my friend and spend a day looking in bike shops. Other than my knowledge of a mountain bike versus a racing bike, it was a whole new world I was introduced to of the hybrid, the hybrid road and the hybrid off road. The first shop essentially had mountain bikes, the second had two suitable bikes, a budget version and a one well outside what I expected to pay. The final shop was packed with bikes but apparently none were suitable except one that I could buy from the internet site for trial ... I wasn't keen on that idea as I felt pressure to purchase. I was a bit despondent about it all and put the issue behind me as other life concerns raised their heads.

My interest was rekindled with the bike hire from Oban last year to Island of Kerrera (blog post ... A plane trip and bike ride) and my friend later gave me a magazine from a cycle chain store with an article about a budget version. I followed it through on my own but chose the next model up which took six weeks to arrive from the initial order.

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2013 ... investment !
Little did I know that the extras fitted onto the bike cost half the price of the bike again ... so much for the budget. Was I tricked ? ... my friend said it was an investment but I was pleased to wait for the better version.

In conclusion, buying a bike is never quite what it seems in the same way that I learned an inversely proportional lesson in photographing my first heron on the Bala bike day ...

I was maintaining a comfortable speed cycling into Llanuwchllyn looking for the railway station when all of a sudden I spotted a large heron in a field standing next to the river bank. Trying to bring the bike to a halt quickly, I just about fell off with excitement. I retraced my tracks quickly by about 20 - 30 metres and was delighted to notice it was still there, surely it would fly off as I got my camera out .... no, it was still there ....

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Then I noticed something about it that wasn't quite right, I had been tricked ... it was a plastic one !

17 comments:

  1. Nice that the room mate gave you the tip of watching the mist burn off of the lake. Really a nice shot. I have no doubt you will put your new bike investment to good use :)

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    1. Michelle ... Thanks, it was obviously worth getting out of bed, shame I haven't seen Leicester lad again, he hasn't turned up to anything else since.

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  2. The lake is superb. It is eclipsed by the signal box and the popped loco. What a feast for the eyes. Thank you.

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    1. Adrian ... thanks, the popped loco looked better than the ordinary landscape scene that it stood in. A group of us were allowed into the signal box. It did seem a bit surreal having that kind of equipment for a narrow gauge railway.

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  3. Nice one! Loved the shots of the lake with the early morning mist, and the unfolding tale. It strikes me that buying a bike is at least as complicated as buying a cup of coffee these days! Looking forward to future posts. Thank you very much for visiting A Bit About Britain and your unjustifiably kind comments. All the best.

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    1. Mike ... thanks, the bike purchase was a process and a half, look forward to reading more of your material too.

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  4. PS You're not the only one to be caught out by a plastic heron. But it would be fun to see another heron being fooled!

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    1. Mike ... pleased I'm not the only one and wondering if the heron is more or less likely to be fooled !

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  5. Such great photos, J. Love the early-morning shots of the mist rising from the lake. That's my time of morning. Looks like northern Minnesota, complete with [probably not loons, huh]. And of course the signal box photo is one of my favorites!

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    1. I was sold the experience of getting out of bed soon, I know it's the photography I should do more of. The signal box moment was unexpected and I suppose I put it in the set for more variety, something I always strive for.

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  6. Your photographs of your tour of Bala are spectacular. I also enjoyed your journey on choosing a bicycle. I know that is not easy, I bought one around 10 years ago and was not happy with the result (a hybrid mountain bike). It was not a joy to ride so after my initial burst of cycling enthusiasm it has languished in my garage ever since.

    On my recent visit to Mechelen I was inspired to get cycling again by the traditional dutch style bicycles that were whizzing around all over place. I knew that would mean a new bicycle of the type I would enjoy cycling.

    I did my research and found that a local shop stocked a range of the style of bicycle I was interested in and they offered my a test cycle. I was taken into the local park where I enjoyed a sunny half hour trying out three different bicycles. I came away with the following one (in white), which is a joy to ride:

    http://www.pashley.co.uk/news/2010/02/from-pashley-with-love/

    I have enjoying taking it for a spin on the local estate roads and the local cycle paths. If I decide to go for longer rides I can remove the basket on the front and add a rack on the back with panniers instead. The best of all possible worlds (for me) ;-)

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    1. Cherry Pie ... Pleased you are happier with your new bike. It's good that you tried them out. I bought mine from a specialised store that is unfortunately near a rough part of town and even though I was given two bikes to try, I had a conscience about riding them away from the shop. The assistant said that I had a trusting face :-)
      It's good that your bike is versatile as well. My current problem is finding the time to ride it as the garden needs doing after long spells away in May.

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  7. J, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how you explore your possibilities, try new things and get back to the known but abandoned ones... That morning walk was a great opportunity to capture the lake differently, I like its misty atmosphere. The morning light is so much softer. From your ride I particularly like the shot with the gate, it appeals to me very much.

    I had to smile when reading about that heron, I had been tricked similarly. While driving home, I caught a glimpse of a white stork staying at the edge of the wood situated by the village where I live. I felt intrigued and told everybody at home. When I saw the stork standing at the same spot next day, I started to be suspicious because that would be highly improbable so the following day I paid close attention to it and... you must know already... the stork was a plastic one! :)

    Wishing you many happy kilometres covered on your new bike!

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  8. Petra ... thanks, pleased you enjoyed it, Biographical material seems to be a rarity here at times, but love writing biographical posts.I could have made a better job of the gate photo with the reflection but was taken from the bike ... didn't want to get left too far behind or hold up the others. I like your stork story and pleased that it's not just me.

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  9. I like the photo with misty waters!

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  10. The photos of the lake make me day dream! Stunning photographs!

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