Resident green lane expert Mike Beddows leads us along some of the best trails in Wales
25: Mid Wales – Claerwen Reservoir – 8.44 miles
This trail is fairly straightforward and is most suited to beginners. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it is suitable for any adventure-style bike and if care is taken any tyre will be suitable.
The trail is a mix of compacted hardcore/slate type stone for the duration. Although it is easy, care still needs to be taken. There are loose stones that can cause the bike to bounce around, and then drops down to the reservoir along the way are steep. I would suggest doing the trail in good ‘warm’ conditions.
The area is very exposed to the elements and in a downpour, it can be very unpleasant. This only adds to the danger as it’s far too easy to build up speed and lose concentration. Something you don’t want to do on this trail. The area is also very remote and if you break down in the middle it’s a long walk out.
The area is fantastic for viewing red kites, and you are likely to see several throughout the trail. Gigrin Farm Red Kite Feeding and Rehabilitation Centre is located near Rhayader where between 200 and 500 kites visit per day. There are a lot in the local area.
Start the trail at the dam. On a wet day, the overspill from the reservoir down the dam wall is very impressive. Ride along the trail as it winds its way around the side of the Claerwen Reservoir. Cross over a bridge at point 2. This is a single car width with a large drop to stream below. Take care, there are no barriers to stop an out of control bike from going over the edge.
Continue riding to the next bridge over the stream below. Again this is very similar to the previous bridge. Take care.
You are quite high up the side of the reservoir along this section now and the views are impressive. You will again approach a bridge with a stream below. Ahead and to the right you will see a very remote farmhouse. Imagine living in an area such as this. In winter I would expect this farm to be completely cut off when it snows.
Continue on a long section. The trail hasn’t really altered since you left the dam wall a few miles previous. Continue to a gate which is just before another very remote farm.
Continue over a wooden bridge. Take care as the wood can be very slippery in the wet. The trail alters now and is less loose slate rock and more of a hard compacted stony muddy trail. It still isn’t difficult.
Here you will see the start of the old byway, the Monks Trod. See ‘Did you know’ below.
Continue along the trail until you reach a sizeable ford. It is not difficult and is about knee-deep. It can be fast flowing after rainfall. It has a loose stone base. Take care. Continue along the trail to the end where it meets the tarmac road.
Did you know?
The Monks Trod is an ancient track that was developed originally by Cistercian monks between the twelfth-century abbeys of Cwm-Hir, near Llandrindod Wells, and Strata Florida, near Tregaron, Ceredigion. The trail runs for more than 6 miles and passes over a natural peat moorland, designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI).
In 1990, as a result of widespread damage, a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) was placed on the Monks’ Trod, banning four-wheeled vehicles only. In 2002 a TRO was imposed, banning all motor traffic, including motorcycles. Do not ride this trail no matter how tempting as you pass the entrance on the Claerwen Reservoir trail.
It’s a real shame as with no traffic this route will eventually be lost forever. It is so remote and the local area has open access for walkers that it is unlikely people will walk the Trod on the exact route the monks used to take.
26: North Wales – Cyffylliog Trails – 7.83 miles
Although these trails are only approximately five miles from the market town of Ruthin this area does feel like the deepest darkest Wales.
There are not a lot of food stop opportunities in this part of North Wales, however, there is a quaint pub called The Red Lion in Cyffylliog just as you pass over the bridge.
The pub also has a small shop adjacent to it. These do not normally open until 12 noon (weekend), but if you are passing earlier it’s worth a knock on the door to see if the owner (a friendly Indian Brummie) will let you in the shop.
The pub serves excellent bacon sandwiches and is a great stop before you reach the trail. The trails are fairly straightforward and depending on the weather will determine the grading.
There is a steep descent (6-7) so do not attempt this if you think you are at a grade 2 level, and also miss the section 9-10 unless you are an advanced rider.
These trails can be done in both directions so to go to the end and back will take about an hour at a leisurely pace.
The byway is signposted and starts off as a farm access track. There’s plenty of mud, puddles and compacted rocks, but the going is easy and should not trouble anyone.
Proceed through the gate, the farmers track continues straight on. Do not take this as it only leads into the farmer’s field. Instead, follow the legal trail to the right. The trail becomes rockier and you proceed up through the farmer’s field. Continue to the next gate.
You now continue along a rocky trail with gorse on either side that soon gives way to grassland on either side. The ruts get deeper and there are plenty of puddles. Take care as some of the ruts can cause the footpegs to scrape on the sides, there’s a danger your foot may get caught on low clearance bikes.
Continue through the gate as you enter the woods. The track soon turns into a forest trail as you approach the ‘T’ junction. Turn right and proceed down the forest trail. At the three-way junction, you will see a small trail heading off into the forest in front. This is the route. Do not take the forest track to the right or left.
Head into the forest along the single-track route. As you proceed downhill the track will turn sharply to the right. Take the right-hand turn, do not go straight on. Continue downhill until you meet the forest track. Take care as you exit onto the forest track in case there is any traffic about.
Continue straight on and proceed down a steep loose rocky section. This is the hardest section. At the bottom, if you fancy a challenge turn around and head back up. Be warned, do not stop, if you do getting traction again is hard.
Continue along the single track muddy route until you once again meet the forest track. There is the end of a downhill mountain bike course on the left. Take care in case there are mountain bikes around. Although it’s not technically legal, I have seen cars travelling down the forest track to the bottom of the mountain bike course. I see no reason why this section cannot be missed out if you are not a confident rider.
Proceed down the forest track to the bottom if required and at your own risk.
Take the right-hand fork heading downwards. Go through two shallow fords until you meet the tarmac road, there’s a farm on the left. This is where this trail ends.
Turn right and head along the tarmac road until you reach the start of the next trail.
Please be aware this section is not very easy to find and is graded 4. It is a very tight, overgrown, very rocky and rutty section. Once you start there are only a few places it is possible to turn around. Make sure you are comfortable at riding technical tight trails before considering this. I have done this section up and down on a fully loaded 950 Adventure.
Proceed along the tarmac road.
Turn left past a ‘no through road’. Just before the turning to the farm on the right, you will see a small tight trail heading straight on. This is the correct route.
Proceed up the tight trail between hedgerows, it looks a lot more difficult than it actually is. At the top, there is a gate. Turn left onto the farm track.
Proceed through the next gate and enjoy splashing through numerous puddles as you got through the farmer’s field. At the next gate continue straight on along a broken tarmac road. At the next road turn right.
Continue along the tarmac road passing the farm. Take care as you ride past the farm. Straight after the farm, you will see a lot of sheep pens on the left. There is a byway sign.
Follow the muddy trail as it leaves the road and heads uphill through the farmer’s field. Take care as there are normally lots of sheep in this field.
Follow a rutted muddy grassy trail through the field all the way to the next gate.
Continue straight on after the gate. This section used to be really messy, with lots of deep water-filled ruts, but has now all been graded. The going is fairly straightforward along a well-compacted trail mixed with forest trail sections.
This section used to be fairly difficult to navigate but there are now plenty of ‘no motorbike signs’ everywhere. Just don’t take one of the ‘no motorbike’ routes and you will stay on the legal trail until you reach the tarmac road at the end.
Did you know?
Ruthin (Welsh: Rhuthun) is a country town about 5 miles from the start of these trails. The name ‘Ruthin’ comes from the Welsh words rhudd (red) and din (fort) and refers to the colour of the new red sandstone which forms the geologic basis of the area, and from which the castle was constructed in 1277-1284.
The original name of Rhuthin was ‘Castell Coch yng Ngwern-fôr’ (red castle in the sea-swamps).