Saturday, 25 October 2014

The 'Old Coach Road' (U3132 & U2236) - a little bit of history...

The 'Old Coach Road' is one of the few iconic trails left in Cumbria, it's not technically very difficult, it sees lots of traffic from paraglider pilots, walkers, cyclists, runners as well as the trail user community, all of whom generally seem to get on well & show a bit of respect for each other... long may that continue!

As I've used this lane a lot over the years whilst participating in several activities enjoying the Cumbrian countryside, I've become  intrigued about it's origins & history, so I thought I'd share a bit of what I've found out about it here... These days the line of the road is classified as two Unclassified County Roads, designated U3132 at the eastern end and U2236 at the western end.

Of course, when you look into one specific area you suddenly find everything is interlinked, so forgive the side trips & rambles as I have found out lots more info about other venues as well as a lot of information about the actual history of the Cumbrian working landscape...

Excerpt taken from the Threlkeld web pages
Threlkeld is the largest settlement along the trail & that village has seen human activity for at least 2,700 years as evidenced by the Iron Age settlement below Threlkeld Knotts. This was a substantial establishment with some 40 hut circles as well as the enclosures above the Quarry.

Threlkeld Village from the Coach Road
At that time the valley will have been totally different. There would have been trees covering the valley bottom. There may still have been the remains of a post glacial lake, dammed by the ridge between Wesco and Burns, but now drained by the gorge of the River Greta.
The valley remained heavily wooded until it was cleared for farming and the coming of charcoal burners and sheep. The charcoal burners used the wood (normally by coppicing methods) for smelt and other works, and the sheep prevented re-growth unless they were fenced out of the wooded areas.
The name Threlkeld is Norse and is said to be derived from: "Thrall" - a feudal term for a man bound in service and "keld" a spring or well. Old spellings have been Trellekeld, Threlekelde, and Threlcot.

There is an excellent website that has tried to summarise the various bits of history & information that is floating around into a broad timeline overview, using standard periods of time in history such as the Roman period, the Dark Ages etc... This is called the Industrial History of Cumbria. The Coach Road isn't mentioned particularly but there is a description about a road described as 'another major east-west route from Brougham or Old Penrith to the north to Moresby (Whitehaven) via Keswick (fort yet to located)'. Is this the first mention of the current Coach Road? More investigation needed me thinks...

One things is for sure, there are mines all over this area, there are several quarries that are passed as you traverse the Coach Road. These mines have been around for centuries and a random chat with the owner of the Threlkeld Mining Museum recently, whilst out on the Coach Road, confirmed a lot fascinating geological history to the lane as well as it's industrial history within the quarries.

With lots of folding and jointing in the rock strata below ground, links have been created between the Helvellyn Ridge, via White Pike and Clough Head, to Skiddaw and Blencathra. Studies have gotten lost in the extremely complicated geology on the hillsides. The quarries along the lane edges have taken out the stone which has then been used to build local houses and farms, lay tracks and paths and road and bridge foundations for the modern A66 and the old railway that ran from Penrith to Keswick and beyond.

From what I gather there is currently an application to fence off several areas of the lane for more stock grazing, I missed seeing the plans as they were only available in one place for period of time, which was a shame, time will tell what impact this has upon this famous lane I guess, probably more gates & fences...

What this does show is an ongoing usage of this working landscape. The quarries are either now abandoned to go back to nature or are now used for climbing & trials/mountain bike practice by the locals, there has been new vegetation & a complete new set of ecology systems that are growing in these unused man affected pieces of landscape. Much like the rest of the UK natural environment really.

Several uses have been suggested for lanes like the Coach Road, as it runs west to east, so from it's early inception, it would have linked the odd village etc, but before the Roman period, there seems to have been actually little need for the local communities to travel as the villages were self sufficient.

However some small tracks were established for various trading needs, mining & seasonal livestock movements etc. The Romans improved the existing roads to facilitate their need to supply forts & the growing towns. Maryport, on the west coast was a Roman Fort & it's history starts there, geographically it's easier to move through an area that roughly mirrors the current A66, was the Coach Road used to help establish this port?

The Maryport Town Council website has it's own history pages, an excerpt from that states 'The known history of Maryport starts in Roman times with the founding of Alauna, a fort constructed as part of the “Western Sea Defenses” on the Western edge of Hadrian’s Wall. The fort was constructed by legionaries of both the Second and Twentieth legions at some point around 122AD, during the reign of Emperor Hadrian.
The fort was much larger than necessary leading historians to speculate that it may have been the administrative center for the whole of the Western Sea Defenses. It was a close personal friend of Emperor Hadrian, Marcus Maenius Agrippa that was the forts first commander. He commanded first and most frequent roman unit to occupy the fort was the “Cohors 1 Hispanorum Equitata” a five hundred strong part mounted unit recruited from the Roman Spanish provinces.'

As we move inland westwards, Cockermouth is the next main town which owes it's history to the Romans, or more accurately Papcastle... 'Cockermouth owes it existence to the river system. The nearby Roman camp of Dervenitio, modern Papcastle, was situated at the northern end of a crossing of the river Derwent, which flows from east to west just north of the present town centre. Here was an important road junction in the back-up to Hadrian's Wall. Also originating in the central Lakeland fells, the Cocker flows from the south to enter the Derwent here, hence the name of the town. At this confluence grew the normal and medieval settlements, a natural administrative and trading centre for a number of converging valleys' 

Continuing west the next main habitation is Keswick, a place I've lived & worked in for nearly 20 years now. Up until starting this little history project, I thought I had a good understanding of the local history of this town, but now I have to be honest & admit I knew very little about it... mmm

Anyhow, back to the history bits... I found out various bits about the Keswick story which actually started with a lesson in geology... Keswick is where it is because it's a mid point on various trading routes, some on water, some over fell roads, some because the local bedrocks provided venues for various mining  operations. Skiddaw has lots of mud based slate, there are various ore mines all nearby. The Herdwick Sheep appear to have come from the Norse invasion & the name of Keswick actually means 'Cheese Town', (Amongst some of the things I never knew!!)

The Stone Circle is said to be the origins of Keswick, this overlooks to the west the Coach Road heading towards Penrith, to the south, it looks at Dunmail Raise heading down to Ambleside & Kendal, to the north it is dominated by the mountains of Skiddaw & Blencathra, however sandwiched between the two is the Glendaterra Valley, home to several mines & a lot of upland grazing areas. This is also an access route to the northern region and Scotland where cattle used to be brought across the Solway to avoid paying tolls. The Information Britain website gives loads more in-depth info for anybody wanting to know more...

The Stone Circle at Castlerigg
After this we have Threlkeld, then it's on to Penrith, which was a major trading town, apparently over 80,000 sheep were moved through Penrith heading south from Scotland, it also handled the ores & various other commodities that came out of the northern Lakes throughout history. Cattle were moved from Scotland past Carlisle Castle or across the Solway, (to avoid the tolls) and taken as far south as London. The natural line when avoiding the toll routes was

Penrith Castle ruins
When you put all of this together it seems fairly obvious to me that the Coach Road grew from a local access track to a major thoroughfare over several hundreds of years. Common sense would surmise that virtually everything from farm goods & animals through to all other kinds of commodity has traveled along this trail at one time or another. But there seems to be very little actual proof specific to this lane, except for vague references, so the question for me still stands alongside the question of it's name, the 'Coach Road', this totally suggests that it was a throughfare. The problem is that so far this is still all conjecture on my part... more digging needed!

High ground was a natural route choice in the early years, which is why we have the High Street trail, the Walna Scar road, the Gatesgarth Pass etc. The Coach road isn't as high as some of these routes, but it gains a fair amount of height on it's traverse & is an obvious line through the valley. It also reduces the amount of river crossings that could be found in the bottom of the valley, thus removing both a hazard & speed impediment. A really interesting website is the site with it's list of highest roads in the UK.

This list has been compiled by it's author based upon the criteria of 'A high road or road pass is a public road historically open to vehicles (vehicles includes pedal bicycles), which connects two valleys, settlements, or other roads, by way of crossing a hill, col, or ridge between. The road must be, or have been, metalled for all, or substantially most, of its length. The minimum height of a ‘high road’ is 1,400 feet, but an historic road pass that is lower may be included if it is of interest to the traveller. Where a high road or pass branches into two or more alternatives, only one shall be listed unless each has a character or name of its own. Where there are alternatives the test shall be applied: highest is best; most historic is best; and rougher is better. The editor’s decision is final. Readers are invited to submit comments and corrections."

I can well guess there will be several people foaming at the mouth about this list but hey, (interestingly this list is compiled on a mountain bike website)...

Another fascinating page on a website that has recorded the history of the southern UK road systems is on  the British History Online website, its says:
'Saxon and medieval roads grew gradually and wound from settlement to settlement: old English law concerned roads which, in a 12th-century phrase, led 'from cities to cities, from boroughs to boroughs, by which men go to markets, or about their other affairs'. (fn. 9) For a time the concept of great through routes covering England was almost lost; the tradition of four main roads or 'Streets' on which travellers enjoyed the king's special peace had emerged,' 
and also:
'The kings' itineraries and trade records indicate which were the most important routes through the county, but not the exact course of the roads.To a certain extent the course of the roads was determined by the existence of fords and places where it was possible to build bridges.'

Roads that were fit for 'wheeled' vehicles apparently started to appear around the late 18th century as both technology & traffic increased, prior to this Cumbria possessed roads that were described as 'a most confused mixture of rocks and bogs'.

The Cartographic Perspectives, No 72 (2012) has a good page that even has a poem about roads, whisky & travel on it, but importantly for me is the picture of a more well heeled & romantic horse drawn carriage below.

The Turnpike period is the first time a specific mention of a road between Penrith & Keswick seems to be mentioned. In 1762 a list of Turnpike Roads was complied for Cumbria & this was listed upon. The roads used in this period of time were, for the most part, existing roads, now they were just given an official status within a Trust, that was made responsible for maintenance etc. Modernisation had started & this allowed for routes to be re-routed to suit the new methods of transport for both people & goods. By improving the road surface, the travel times were reduced & as a direct result the volume of traffic started to increase... err doesn't all of this sound like something we know a lot about currently???

'Enclosure Roads' appeared in the late 1700's, these had a massive effect upon the landscape & the road network. Essentially, common land was now ring fenced by 'owned' land in a grid pattern, this affected a large proportion of Cumbria & dramatically affected the existing road system, almost as much as the Turnpike process. Ironically the landscape in Cumbria helped to save a totally uniform approach to this, as it only worked on the flatter lands & there isn't a lot of that in Cumbria. The landowners had to rethink the process a little but they just adapted things to suit their needs really, the land that was most accessible & usable came into their ownership & the 'common land' became the upland areas that were more difficult to access & manage. Due to this, fences & gates appeared all over the place & remain today with an ever increasing propensity according to the latest Parliament Amendments.

Below are some map images kindly passed on to me to use on this page by Alan Kind, a true guru of ancient lanes. From these you can see the road has existed on paper since the late 1700's. It is also recorded in several other areas prior to this and the fact that it ran, at one point from Threlkeld upto the 'settlement' above the quarries and then onto Matterdale usually signifies 'a route of antiquity' according to Alan.

Hodkinson & Donald Map 1770

Cary Map 1795

Ordnance Survey 1897
Since then, it seems things have changed very slowly, the responsibility for the roads has passed to the local authorities, who are cash strapped to say the least, so they are always looking to save money wherever they can. Improvements have been made though with things like the A66 trunk road & the M6 extending to the Scottish Border. The Lakes have been reclassified as a National Park & the Lake District National Park was established

For the Coach Road, it has been reclassified at the moment as an Unclassified Road, It appears to be broken down into two sections & numbered as U2236 & U3132. There are no restrictions on access currently that I'm aware of & it is used by all parties, from walkers to 4x4 enthusiasts.

I have heard that there are plans to close this route to mechanised vehicles, a route of choice that the the National Park seems to prefer given the recent history of several of the other fell roads in the National Park.

From my point of view there is no need for this, but then I have to admit that I don't understand the mentality of the UK management processes in general, which appears to be antagonistic to all activities & only sees a benefit in things if there is either a cash benefit or a publicly visual positive slant. 'No' is usually the first answer to any question in this country... Hey hey, rant over!! :-)

Meanwhile, The Coach Road is a great ancient route in the UK, the history, the weather, the landscape & the ever changing panorama makes it endlessly enjoyable for anybody who takes the time to use it & after all whatever it's origins, it always satisfies a need, be that travel, enjoyment or work. What more can you ask for of a man-made edifice?

YouTube Vids of the Coach Road
The Coach Road in the rain - Part 1
The Coach Road in the rain - Part 2
The Coach Road in the sun- C/O MuleKTM

Useful Links for the area:

Low Todd Rigg - beautiful accommodation near Penruddock
Lake District Trail Routes Information

NB: I've added links to the relevant pages as I've found more information, this is a bit of a work in progress at the moment, all very adhoc, so it'll grow & pad out in detail as time allows me to do more research, but it's a but dependent upon how much I let loose my naturally geeky nature & how much Lucy takes the pee out of me for being geeky again... (err ask Lucy about road surfaces if you meet her!! :-)...). Anyway, I've left the comments bit open on his post for once, so if you know much about this lane or know where i can find more specific info I'd be interested to have a look, especially at some of the old maps, which might require a visit to the council offices one day... hey ho... have fun....

Link: Cumbria Industry/Roads

Thursday, 23 October 2014

KTM 250 EXC-F 2007

Lucy recently bought one of these bikes from a bike shop in Lincoln, B+B Motorcycles, when we test rode it, the bike ran fine, but felt a little bouncy on the road at the front end, still it was a nice bike & seemed pretty well looked after, so she bought it, trading in her little Honda XR125 for £1000, which made this bike a bit more affordable.

KTM 250EXC-F 2007

Since she bought the KTM, it's fair to say her riding has come on loads, she's climbing up things better, rolling over rocky bits with more confidence & on the whole just seems much more positive about her riding.

The trip to Wales, riding the Strata Florida with a good bunch of experienced riders helped loads, but the bike has also made a huge difference, both with its lightweight package & the power delivery.

Since we got this bike, it's had a few mods & a couple of additions, we've had to have the carb serviced, it was jetted for an aftermarket end can of some sort which was no longer on the bike & it would stall at every opportunity, which is a royal pain in the arse, so we booked the bike in with Triple D at Kendal.

They are the Cumbrian KTM dealership & they specialise in the off road models, so there is a lot of knowledge there for us to tap into. Their first comments weren't encouraging though, the bike was labelled as 'old', (It's the newest vehicle either of us have ever owned!!), then there were comments saying this was a common problem with these models, they had had one in previously that had a similar problem & it turns out there is a hidden gasket in the middle of the carb that can blow, KTM do not stock this gasket either, so it's a new carb, a mere £800!. We left the bike with them & us with some worries on our mind of huge repair bills!

When we collected the bike however, the fork seals had been replaced, the forks fully serviced, the fork bleed valves attached, the carbs re-balanced, the standard jets made the bike run really rough apparently, so the existing ones were put back in, the carbs were then sonic cleaned & the bike now at least ran at idle, although we found we had to increase the tick over to get it to stop cutting out.

Ben, the mechanic there, gave us a list of both the standard settings & the current settings for the carb, so that's a useful bit of info to store for future reference. This information plus the moving of the breather hoses on the carb so that they breathe via the airbox have made a huge difference to the running of this bike.

We paid up, packed the bike into the van & headed home, where I finished off the fitting of the indicators & added a tool bag & tubes etc to the rear of the bike. I also did an oil change, one of the things I'd noticed on sports bikes is that some bikes change into neutral easier with semi synthetic oil rather than the fully synthetic oils, as this was an ongoing & very frustrating problem with the KTM, I'd decided to try this option...

Unfortunately I made a really stupid & nearly catastrophic mistake for the bike, as I thought the drain plug was the obvious hex bolt at the bottom of the engine, so opened this, drained the oil into a part full oil container & then topped the engine back up... turns out this is just an inline oil filter & only a trickle of oil comes out from here, (common on race bikes apparently), so when I'd refilled it' I'd actually doubled the amount of oil in the engine, which of course it didn't like, so began chucking out tonnes of white smoke from the exhaust the first time Lucy rode it...

We quickly turned round & crept back home, where Gaz & I re-examined the bottom of the bike & found another nut, facing the back wheel & higher up, we opened this & sure enough out pops a load of oil... that was a near miss... lesson learned.

Once we'd got the correct amount back into the bike, we then set off for our planned ride to the Central Lakes, only to be rained off as it sheeted down tonnes of water... very impressive but also scary! So we bailed to the old favourite of the Coach Road & a loop back home, we still got soaked but at least we weren't miles from home!! Some days just aren't meant to be!!

Whilst out on this test ride, the KTM still would not run at tick over, cutting out at junctions & on tricky terrain, really not good & winding Lucy up a treat! Eventually we tried upping the tick over level & this seemed to cure it, the bike even went into neutral much easier, so maybe that's the answer, time will tell.

Update 1st November: Lucy rode the bike again today, I had played around with bleeding the clutch, (the fluid was a milky colour when it came out... mmm not good!), this seemed to one of the things that helped to make a massive difference with the tick over ironically, although it's still running a bit fast, it now idles at a fast tick over, goes into neutral easier & seems to click into gear much smoother & not jump forward when you hook first gear, resulting in Lucy being more relaxed on the bike & so riding better. There is nothing more frustrating than waiting for a bike to stall everytime you're trying to do a maneuver!

The only other fault on this bike seems to be that it weeps oil from the left hand side of the engine, we've replaced the gasket but it's still seeping, maybe a crack somewhere... so that is the next issue to resolve. Finally got this sorted, it turns out that there is a copper compression washer on the sump plug, (there wasn't one on it when I changed the oil so I never fitted a replacement). I put on a standard flat one & that still seemed to leak, so swapped it to a compression style washer, leak stopped, so guess that's the answer!

From a riding point of view this is a great bike, I can see why so many people have them. They do seem to be temperamental & high maintenance but it's still early days at the moment & even my trusty old DR needed some additions & revamps to get it right! The nature of dirt bikes I reckon...

Things I like about the bike are:
Height, Handling, Suspension, Brakes, Power & weight...

Things I really dislike are:
Air intake design is ridiculous on a dirt bike, no key, so can't leave it anywhere, clocks are shite, lights are shite, indicators are not fitted onto the bike as standard, err it's a road bike???

In comparison, the DR350 is a much older bike, (1998), the suspension & brakes are very much more inferior, the power delivery is of it's time & although the bike hasn't done much mileage, (according to it's clocks), it still handles the British green lanes in a very admirable way & it certainly handles the wet better, that said would I prefer a KTM to an older bike based upon the bikes I've seen so far? The answer is yes I'm afraid, the weight alone makes up the difference in my book, bring on Team Orange!

Other bikes that I've come across that are also worth a look seem to be the Husaberg FE250 or 450, I gather KTM bought this company out & closed it down as it was a bit too good, mmm . One of the lads on the Strata Florida trip had the 450 & he loved it, that & the DR were the only bikes to make the river crossings without having to drain water from the engine!!

A really useful resource for anybody with a KTM is the forum, check it out...

More toys to look at!!

I'll pop the Carb settings onto here when I get chance...

KTM have their manuals online here

Oil changes for this bike...

There are 3 oil filters, 2 mesh ones & 1 paper paper one. The paper one on the 2007 EXC-F is on the left side above the footpeg, there is a mesh one below the gear lever, hidden behind a bolt. The other mesh one is underneath, behind the sump guard & uses an 8mm allen key. The sump drain plug is at the rear of the engine block, facing the back wheel & is a 13mm socket.

The oil needs to be changed regularly, (KTM say every 15 hours), The paper filter I change about every 30 - 45 hours as it doesn't have such a hard life that it would have if it was a race bike. The mesh ones get taken out & rinsed through with clean oil & any debris cleaned off as advised by our KTM dealer.

I do change the O rings though as they perish fairly quickly along with the copper sump plug washer.

Bottom mesh oil filter

Paper filter home

Sump drain plug
This bike takes 900ml of oil at a straight oil change &1.1L with a paper filter change. I make sure to measure it accurately as the gear change becomes stiff when it's not the right level. I use fully synthetic at 10/60 weight.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Lakes Green Laning: More fun on some new trails

We had a visit from Mark this last weekend, so after a day of prepping bikes & sorting out a few things for Lucy's KTM which meant all day Saturday was taken up, (it kept raining anyway!!) we opted for all day Sunday as our play day... which was a good idea in hindsight as it was nearly 10pm when Mark had finished with the DR650...
Nighttime DR tyre fitting

Roughly 120 miles of a loop around the North & Eastern Lakes with a few new lanes thrown in for good measure, happy days...

Fettled & ready to play...
We headed down to Latrigg to ride up there, the views were fabulous, the light really lit up the hills & lakes around us, what a great day to be out! After a quick pass through Keswick we headed round to the Coach Road where Lucy got to try out the new bike on the tricky uphill section that has been her nemesis on the old Honda... She cleaned it up easily, shows how much her riding has come on recently plus how much easier the KTM is to ride off road compared to what was really a road bike.

Mark with a sparkle at his fingertips...

Team Orange member No:1
The Coach Road has changed a fair bit since the last time we rode it, the recent heavy rain has left it's mark with several runnels changing & deepening although surprisingly there was very little standing water on the trail.

From here we headed to Great Mell Fell where we'd discovered a new lane but not had time to ride it last trip out, so unfinished business which is always good to tick off! What a little cracker this turned out to be, narrow, technical & a little ford too... great stuff!

We headed to Pooley Bridge for a sandwich lunch then off to Melmerby for the next new lane, this links into several others so we had a fair old time rolling around quiet lanes with the sound of bikes & cars heading up Hartside Pass to the cafe on this beautiful Sunday of fun.

The Chicken & the Turtle came out to play properly today & we found a Pelican for Mark, which he's christened Paula, she's now mounted onto the front mudguard so she can see all that goes on as they ride out together...
Paula the Pelican
The Gang saying hi...

We retraced some old known lanes for the afternoon, doing them in reverse to our normal route, which made them seem new before a final blast back home so that Mark could get back home & ready for work on Monday, another great day out on the bikes in a beautiful part of the UK!

Lucy has decided she is totally in love with her bike...

Geoff has just bought a KTM 450EXC-F, so he's member number two of Club Orange at the moment... once he's got it sorted to his liking we're planning a trip to the North York Moors for some muddy fun... can't wait!

We've also got a new member to the crew, although it could be awhile till he's out playing as he lives in Spain! Graham has just bought a Yamaha XT 600, it needs a lowering kit as he's missing about 6 inches off the bottom of his legs, (It's a birth thing... :-)) otherwise it's a lovely looking mint bike, Morocco trip maybe???

Keep on rolling!!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Wales Green Laning: The Wayfarer

After an easier day, we decided to head North and check out the Wayfarer near Llangollen. On our morning of departure from Llanerchindda Farm we got chatting to a nice guy from Mold who marked up a route on our map of the Llangollen area.

The rain had been pouring down all night and as we drove north, it continued to pour down.  We couldn't decide if we were just being soft or if we were being sensible heading out considering the absolute soaking we got the day before. We settled on a compromise of just doing the Wayfarer and seeing how it went...... We'd been told this was an all weather route & so it turned out to be, we're glad to say...

The start of the Wayfarer from Llandrillo

We headed through the gate and didn't read the sign post correctly and ended up heading straight on which took us to a gate with a no entry sign as the area is a SSSI. It was pretty harsh saying if permission had not been gained from the landowner, bikes would be seized by the police...ok better check the map then!!

It was back down to the sign post and we took the left fork. The track goes over some lovely fells & headed upto a little col with some very good views of desolate moorland & rocky tors... the grey clouds & wind added to the moodiness of the day but things were brightened up by bumping into a few lads on their bikes who sounded like they were having a mild epic, with several punctures & falls... they were currently debating the best way back to tarmac as one of them were struggling with his latest puncture & hot tea was calling!!

They were in such good spirits though, totally having a laugh & taking the piss out of each other, it was great to see such camaraderie!!

After the little col we started to head down to the end of the lane, none of the riding was technical or difficult & Lucy seemed to just flow over the loose rocky stuff, thoroughly enjoying herself... Once at the bottom, we turned around & returned the way we'd come as it was so good...

The whole trip was a bit like riding the Coach Road in the Lakes, great views, nice riding & a great sense of isolation from the rest of the busy UK... Excellent stuff

From here we headed back home to play around the Lakes, a great few days in Wales, we'll be bcak to look for more off road fun asap!!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Wales Green Laning: Strata Florida - Can bikes swim really??

Wet, wet, wet... that's the best description of this day!! 3 x KTM's upside down draining water from the cylinder, one lad riding with a torn shoulder, one had not long recovered from a triple heart bypass, me with sciatica... what a bunch of old farts... Lucy was the only little flower in the bunch!! :-) & we nearly broke her & her new bike over the day... oops... :-)

Chris, Carl, Neil & the bald one!! We never found out his name :-)

Lucy & I headed south on Monday to get to Llanerchindda Farm near Llandovery in Mid Wales, a great little spot with loads of knowledge about the plentiful local lanes & very near to both the Strata Florida & the Sarn Helen, (two of the longer classic Welsh green lanes),. A 5 hour easy drive got us there in the early evening, we checked in & got to drinking beer fairly quickly...

Lucy got chatting to a few fellas, who had been staying at the farm for a few days, fishing for info & we got an invite to tag along with them the following day to ride the Strata Florida, a no brainer for us really as they had all ridden it a few times before & were all really nice guys from the South Midlands.

So we all kitted up in the morning, one bike had a new chain fitted in about 20 mins, no chain splitter handy, so a pair of pliers, several thumps, the odd swear word or two & we were off...

A bit of road riding took us to the start, an nice introduction of firm stony lane with some good puddles led us into the first river crossing... a tricky little number that has a rock step down into a deep pool, then with a spinning back wheel you lurch across to the other side trying hard not to fall in... Lucy didn't quite manage the latter part of that equation!! hee hee

This is where we find out KTM's don't like water!!
Re-routing the carb breather hoses!!
The new little KTM didn't like the dunking at all, it coughed, spluttered & died quickly, Lucy was soaked but smiling happily, (she is a bit strange that way!), the guys knew a fair bit about KTM's & it was decided that a quick re routing of two of the breather hoses on the carb was needed, turns out this has been done before too as the airbox had two perfect sized holes in it to take these hoses!!

From here there are loads more rivers, all of the boys except for two fell in, at about the fourth one we had all but one of the KTM's upside down on the trail, draining water from the cylinder & drying off the spark plug, once drained though they all started again & we were off to find more rivers... what was that song?? 'There are many rivers to cross' etc etc... 

The Bald One...

Bothy on the Strata Florida
Lucy seemed to get the hang of them after a few & didn't fall of again all day, well done lass... once done on the official Strata route, we headed off towards Claerwen Reservoir, where there is an easy track that runs west to east along the shore, some great views & a fab part of the day. 

Claerwen Reservoir
At the end of this there is a rather technical length of lane that starts with a ford, a fairly deep one too! It then progresses on to mud pools, rock steps etc before finishing at the base of Caban-coch Reservoir. 

Here we had planned to head north on the eastern side of the Carreg ddu reservoir to try a lane that none of the guys had done before, but by now we'd got one guy with a slow puncture & Lucy's bike was running really badly & cutting out a lot, so we took the road to Rhayader where there is a great little dirt bike dealership called E T James & Sons, they have parts for all kinds of bikes & fuel for both the bikes & us too!! Great little spot & so friendly too...

Lucy's bike turned out to have water in the airbox which was getting sucked into the carbs every now & then plus we changed the spark plug as a precaution & the other KTM, Neils bike, had new rubber & some Moose put into the tyres to stop punctures for the future... I've not tried this so maybe worth a look sometime...

From here we took some lovely little lanes & the road back to Llanerchindda farm including a great little forest section with some rocky steps & puddles galore....

We were all soaked but what a great day, we were really lucky to have met the guys, Chris, Neil, Carl & the Bald One, (We never did actually find out his name!!) hey ho, some cool people, a great place to stay & above all some superb riding!!

It has to be mentioned in the foot notes just to keep the records straight you know... the trusty DR & the Husaberg 450 were the only bikes to have no problems on our day out... I'm sure this will change but have I found the modern replacement for my lovely DR??? mmm time will tell, no hurry yet awhile though!

The Husaberg 250 FE...