This Issue: The Mach Loop Trail and the Wye Valley, in Mid Wales
Mach Loop Trail, Wales
This is a fantastic seven-mile long trail, with the option to extend a further couple of miles if desired, which loops around lush Welsh moorlands and hills. I always make a point of riding this loop when I’m in the area. It’s fairly straightforward for its entirety with only one optional short uphill rocky section.
There is a slightly deep ford crossing but it isn’t wide and you shouldn’t have any issues with it. Although you are fairly close to civilisation on this trail, you get a real sense of remoteness whilst riding. If you’re lucky, you may see occasional military aircraft in the area, although this Mach Loop Trail shouldn’t be confused with the military training Mach Loop, which is slightly north of this location, and where low-level flying exercises take place.
Leave the tarmac and immediately head through a gate and onto the trail. This is countryside riding at its best. You follow a wide solid-based track with a few puddles and fantastic hillside views. The track consists of a few loose stones but nothing troublesome. Soon you pass through the ford. It’s fairly shallow with even sized stones at the base. Head through the next gate.
You now head slightly uphill. The track remains the same and the riding is easy. You are constantly climbing up a shallow gradient. As you get higher, more ferns come into show. Proceed up a rocky short section to the top. You have now entered the moorland section.
The route turns into a great moorland track and it’s still fairly easy riding. There’s a couple of rocky uphill bits, but the rocks are solid, not loose. Occasionally there’s a water splash but nothing too deep and you now get some cracking views. The track continues winding its way on as your eyes feast on the stunning landscape you ride through. You’ll see the track winding up the hill in the distance. It’s wide with occasionally grassy bits in the middle. Pass a track to the right, keep left as you continue. A trail joins from the right. It’s hard to know which is the legal route here, but my guess is both are legal. They both appear to be well used. You are now at the top.
It’s all downhill from here. The riding surface remains similar, but with a few more water splashes. Proceed through a gate and slowly downhill. The riding continues to be fairly easy and straightforward and you can get some speed up on this section. Head through another gate. You now have a choice, left or straight on.
Go left. This next section is the hardest on the trail. You can see what to expect from the bottom. It’s fairly steep with lots of loose rocks but it’s only for 50m or so. If in any doubt, feel free to head right here and meet the route at point 8. Once you’ve negotiated the steep section, the track returns to a similar surface as earlier with a few puddles, grass, and stones until you reach a tarmac section. Head through a gate at the end.
A short tarmac section along the side of the reservoir.
Leave the tarmac and head onto a well-defined graded track. There’s plenty of small loose stones and a few puddles as you proceed. The scenery is fantastic and consists of rolling moorland hills. Continue through a gate. There are plenty of water splashes but nothing too deep. Meet the track at the bottom (if you chose to skip the last section, you will meet the track from point 5 here). Turn left.
It’s easy going now along a wide track with occasional grassy areas growing in the middle. There are lots of puddles. Get to a gate with a ford after it. You have no choice but to go through the ford. There is a foot bridge but you can’t get a bike over it. Be warned though, this section can get fairly deep, especially after rainfall. ink knee deep and higher. Stay right for the shallowest way across.
More of the same now, all the way to the tarmac at the end. See a lake come into view. Don’t be tempted to try and go off-piste. At the end, turn right and follow the broken tarmac past the lake (lake on your right). Go through a gate.
At the next junction, take a left and follow the track to the tarmac at the end. (or feel free to turn right and follow the Mach Loop Trail for a further 2.5 miles). The surface is pretty similar to what you
7 or 9.5 miles
Aberystwyth (West), Machynlleth (North)
Explorer 213 – Aberystwyth and Cwm Rheidol
Start/End grid reference:
SN695873 / SN718842
There are some fantastic trails in the nearby location. The Trans Euro Trail takes in a lot of the best trails in the area.
Wye Valley Walk, Mid Wales
This is a fairly easy and straightforward track, not too far from the Mid Wales market town of Rhayader. There are a few other trails in the area that have previously been documented in this magazine, including Piano Steps, Claerwen Reservoir (one section that isn’t 100% legal so be aware) and the Strata Florida. This is another great lane not too far away that you could link into for a few hours riding in the area. The lane starts by taking you uphill and it is at its most difficult for the first couple of hundred meters.
But be assured, this isn’t really that difficult and this lane would suit a beginner wanting to take their first steps into trail riding (if you have concerns, you may prefer to do the trail in reverse, leaving the short descent for the end of the ride). It’s an up and over trail which means a long climb to the top with a gradual descent all the way back to the valley floor. Between the breaks in the trees, there are some magnificent views to be.
Start by proceeding through the gate and heading uphill on a well-defined track which is littered with small stones. You may need to duck down occasionally as there are a few low-hanging branches. They normally appear right when you need to be on the pegs for this short uphill section. The first couple of hundred metres are the toughest this trail has to offer, but it’s not all about the technical bits. This is a cracking trail to ride with some spectacular views when they materialise between the trees. You have a drystone wall to your left, which is needed as the drop off becomes significant as you gain elevation.
The trail now starts to level off. The going is still easy on a fairly straight, wide track which is clear of debris for the most part. You’ll have a good view of the way ahead but be careful not to pick up too much speed. The views now open up to the valley floor below and it’s worth stopping to admire the world around you.
The track doesn’t change much and continues to be an easy and pleasant ride with a wide, solid compact surface. Once you reach the top, it’s all downhill from here. You are soon back among the trees and the stone wall is replaced with a wire fence. This can be a bit daunting as it’s a steep drop-off down to the river below. Take care.
You’ll come out of the woods again but the track stays the same. There’s a bit more grass growing but nothing that can’t be dodged with ease. At the gate, continue straight ahead. At the next gate you are virtually back to the valley floor. The trail turns into a typical farm access track at this point. It ends when you reach the tarmac just before a small humpback bridge.
Rhayader (North), Llandrindod Wells (East)
200 Llandrindod Wells and Elan Valley
Start/End grid reference:
SN989624 / SO009604
Close to Rhayader where there are some fantastic trails such as Golf Links, Piano Steps and the Claerwen Reservoir byway.