In Usk: Tintern Abbey - The Seven Year Itch - CycleBlaze

June 8, 2024

In Usk: Tintern Abbey

Later, Rachael will lodge a complaint that I misled her when I warned her that the out and back to Tintern Abbey came with a significant climb near the start of the ride.  I had told her that after that it got easier.  Somehow she interpreted this as meaning ‘easy’.

Still later she’ll acknowledge that it really was easier after that first climb, and that nothing else matched its 20% bit of agony.  And that it was worth it to see the famous ruined abbey.  And that she appreciated the rescue.

Another beautiful day to ride.
Heart 2 Comment 0
I promised Rachael that if she came along with me I’d keep camera stops to a minimum, so she wonders why I’m using one up before we even leave town. This attractive red sandstone building seemed worth a shot though, even though later we’ll learn it’s a men’s prison.
Heart 2 Comment 0
We get sucked in by a pleasant, easy two miles as we follow the Usk River south out of town. We’re not thinking about the fact that we’ll probably be climbing those attractive hills ahead soon.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Still cruising along in La La Land.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Rachael tells me I should slow down and smell the flowers, but I remind her that I can’t smell.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Here’s that 17% bit I warned her about, although I didn’t quote a number. I just said it was a climb. Maybe I should have been clearer.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Make that 20. Memo to the biking gods: this wasn’t really what I meant when I said that 20 is plenty a few days ago.
Heart 2 Comment 0

That steep bit is enough to drive us both out of the saddle of course, but at least it’s reasonably short.  We rise about six hundred feet in a mile and a half, much of which gets walked.  After that though the ride profile looks easy the rest of the way to the abbey: we’re basically riding at elevation for the next seven miles and then have a five mile drop to the abbey.

The profile is misleading though, because those first seven miles come with more pain than it looks like they might.  Even though we stay within a narrow hundred foot vertical band the whole way we’re climbing up and down almost constantly - at times gradually, at other times not.  There may have been times where we left the saddle from this, but I’m not sure - other, of course, for the times we definitely needed to leave the saddle and squeeze against the side of the narrow road to skirt the rare passing vehicle.

And true to my word, I took very few photos here.  To get a feel for this part of the ride you really should look at the video, but note that it’s a little misleading because it only shows the level and downhill splits.

Aah! The worst is behind us now, as I remind Rachael.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Plenty of room! Looks scary, but it’s fine. Drivers like this just stop and wait for you to squeeze past them. The only risk is that you’ll brush up against the nettles or brambles on the green side.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Even when it’s not uphill the going is often still slow because of conditions like this. At one point there’s an anguished complaint heard that we’re nearly two hours into the ride and have only gone seven miles. It will get better though - we’re past the worst part.
Heart 2 Comment 1
Patrick O'Hara"It will get better though - we’re past the worst part.".....so you say?
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago

This is the third time TA has come to the U.K.    On the first, in 2005, we started in Edinburgh and biked through the borderlands on the way to Hadrian’s Wall and were awed by the quartet of ruined abbeys we passed by: Kelso, Dryburgh, Melrose and Jedburgh.  We’ve learned since then that even though they’re exceptional in one sense, they’re not exceptional in another in that there are many of them scattered all over the country.  We’ve seen several more since then, and I’ve got an eye out for them now because I find them all riveting.  There’s something about all those exposed skeletons with archways and windows open to the sky that captures my imagination.  

Tintern Abbey was founded in 1131 on the Welsh bank of the River Wye, the river we’ve just dropped four miles to (and will climb back up from soon, but we aren’t thinking about that now).  It was the second Cistercian abbey in the U.K., and the first in Wales.  Its ruination came only four centuries later in the Dissolution of the Monasteries, thanks to Henry VIII - it’s him we have to thank for causing all of these evocative ruins scattered around the island. 

Tintern Abbey.
Heart 5 Comment 0
How many photos do we need of a place like this? It seems disrespectful to only include a few.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Tintern Abbey.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Tintern Abbey.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Tintern Abbey.
Heart 3 Comment 0
Tintern Abbey.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Tintern Abbey. It’s a nice day to view it, more dramatic and brooding than with a flat blue sky behind.
Heart 5 Comment 3
Michael HutchingWell done on getting down to the Abbey! We visited in the 70s but to our shame, in 2018 when heading up the other side of the Wye from you, we chickened out on making the ride down and up again- something a teacher of English Literature should be ashamed to admit to! Enjoy the ride. Michael
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Scott AndersonTo Michael HutchingI’d never heard of this abbey, and just came to it by looking at the map for promising day rides. Prompted by your comment though I looked up literary references to it and came across Wordsworth’s poem, one I’m sure I’ve never read before. I was surprised to see that nowhere in it does he mention the abbey itself.

I wonder if his sycamore still stands?
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Patrick O'HaraIncredible....almost a thousand years ago!
Reply to this comment
2 weeks ago
Tintern Abbey.
Heart 1 Comment 0
Tintern Abbey.
Heart 2 Comment 0
Tintern Abbey.
Heart 2 Comment 0
There. That’s enough. Feels respectful without being overkill.
Heart 2 Comment 0

Tintern Abbey is a gated attraction, coming with an admission fee.  We could do that, but we get a good enough look from the outside so that we don’t feel the need; and besides, we’ve still got fifteen miles left with some easier climbing to be done.  Were pretty happy to sit on some stones and take a break, long enough for me to enjoy an ice cream cone and Rachael to have something I’ve forgotten so I ask just as I’m writing this: “Ooh, it was a piece of lemon cake.  It was delicious!  It was too cold for ice cream.”

After that we have one more last stop before climbing back up the ridge: a short detour to the pedestrian bridge across the Wye, where we get a view back at the abbey from across the water.

The River Wye. The abbey isn’t there though, so don’t strain your eyes looking for it.
Heart 2 Comment 0

 

It’s in this direction.
Heart 2 Comment 0

The return ride really is easier, as Rachael grudgingly acknowledges later.  That rippling along the top is about the same, but the primary climb is much easier, staying in the 3-5% range nearly the whole way.  There’s a huge difference between gaining six hundred feet in under a mile and a half and doing it in five miles.

That doesn’t mean there’s no drama though, and this climb comes with a double rescue.  The first comes when I see a flash of red out of the corner of my eye and Rachael calls out that it’s a bird.  It’s a great spotted woodpecker, frantically trying to find a way out of the mesh hood covering some strawberry plants that it’s somehow gotten inside of.

It’s a much better look than the first one I got of this species back in Dartmoor. I can’t take much pleasure from it though, watching the poor thing frantically flying back and forth beating its wings against the mesh.
Heart 2 Comment 0

Rachael continues the climb while I watch for a few seconds, and then I realize I need to rescue it.  I go to the house next door to tell them they’ve got a bird trapped in their garden that needs rescuing, but no one’s home.  So I find a gate into their garden and then look for where the bird managed to get inside.  Finally it sinks in that it’s a hood, and I can just lift it up.  I think the bird must have been scavenging on the ground and worked his way under the lip somehow.

As I’m biking away I see a couple taking tea in their garden on the opposite side of the road.  I stop to ask if it’s their garden (it is), and then tell them what’s happened just in case they saw someone wandering around in it.  They’re fine with that - they see birders in their field all the time - but they startle me by saying I should have shot it.  Those birds steal everything.  They were just joking, I’m sure.

Rescue scene. Rescue #1, that is.
Heart 1 Comment 0

I’m about five minutes behind Rachael by now so I’m sure she’s well ahead.  I assume she’ll just be waiting at the top when I get there, but I keep a good pace so she won’t be too impatient when I finally arrive.  I can’t see her on the Garmin though, which puzzles me.  After a mile though a canned text message pops up on it: “Send help”.  As soon as I come to a pull-off between the hedgerows I give her a call, and she has that panicked edge to her voice that I immediately recognize by now.  She’s lost or disoriented, and hasn’t been able to call me because we don’t have reception.  She can’t see where I am on her Garmin either.

After talking this through and staring at the Garmin some more, I find her - surprisingly, she’s a mile behind me, not up ahead like I’d assumed.  In fact she’s not far from the scene of Rescue #1.  Very puzzling - how did I miss her?  She’s unsure where to go so I tell her to stay where she is and I bike back down to her: Rescue #2.

Biking back down, it’s clear what happened.  There’s a stretch where there are two parallel roads down either side of a small reservoir.  We biked up and down one side because it’s the obvious one, but the route I mapped on the Garmin was on the other side.  When she came to this intersection on the way up the hill she saw the Garmin had two paths marked.  She picked the one less traveled, and that made all the difference.

Together again.
Heart 0 Comment 0

After that, the rest of the ride goes without incident -which is not to say some work wasn’t required.  Some additional pushing may have been occurred, but I can’t recall for sure now.

The day ends with an excellent dinner at the Three Salmons Hotel where Rachael loved her Mediterranean chicken skewers with couscous, and I had the beef stroganoff - and an excellent, well deserved pint of  Butty Bach.

The view from the top, looking east toward Bristol Bay.
Heart 2 Comment 0

Video sound track: Everyday, by Classic Dream Orchestra

Celebrating Double Rescue Day in the Wye Valley.
Heart 5 Comment 0
Heart 0 Comment 0

Today's ride: 34 miles (55 km)
Total: 1,979 miles (3,185 km)

Rate this entry's writing Heart 10
Comment on this entry Comment 0