So far I had enjoyed sub-zero temperatures, snow, sleet, fog, high wind and heavy rain as not a little sunshine. Unremarkable for late winter in the north of England. Indeed I’d gained much satisfaction from cycling in all conditions. A Gore-Tex outer layer and breathable merino wool bottom layer allowed me to take it all in my stride.
On my seventh day the weather gave me pause for thought.
BBC Breakfast reported heavy snow fall across the country causing severe disruption. Where were they reporting from? Mold, north Wales. Exactly the direction I was heading.
The snow fell steadily if unspectacularly all that day and night but come the morning I was off through a Liverpool shrouded in white. The roads were slushy but clear and it wasn't long before I was ferrying across the Mersey towards Birkenhead. By 10:30 I was racing across the Wirral singing Beatles songs, travelling well gritted A-roads, making good progress. I was only slightly unnerved by the signs every 500 meters announcing “Caution 259 traffic deaths on this stretch of road” like some sort of score card. I more than slightly unnerved by finding myself on a rather unsuitable stretch of road with three lanes which looked worryingly like a motorway so decided to stop for an early Lunch in a small pub just outside Queensferry – Gateway to Wales - where I found a radiator to dry my cold, wet feet.
As I ate my home made sandwiches and sipped an ale the talk in the pub buzzed with locals indulging in that most English of pastimes; bemoaning the weather. Talk of treacherous trips to the shops, days off work and snowed in cars. That I’d cycled from Liverpool elicited surprise. That I planned on cycling to Llangollen drew concern. Undeterred by the wimpy locals, and with toasty feet, I set off with the snow falling gently around me.
Nearing Mold the snow banks grew but the main roads remained clear as I’d expected. The side roads weren’t so lucky as the gritters had only pushed in more snow. The second time I stopped to lend a hand to a stranded cars we chatted and the earlier Queensferry scepticism hardened into warnings that the Horseshoe Pass into Lllangollen would be impassable. With a ring of my bell and a wry smile at the advantages of a bicycle as a snow vehicle I continued to push on confident that just like every road I’d been warned about to that point, it wouldn’t be a problem.
Alas it was not to be and later, as I began the climb out toward the Horseshoe Pass, I was met by a police car who told me in no uncertain terms to turn around.
With the hostel in Llangollen now out of reach I rolled back to Mold and stopped for a late afternoon pint. A quick google later I’d discovered a pub with rooms for rent a few miles out of town. After a slightly wobbly ride in the gathering dark I arrived at the Antelope an odd place run by an odd family in the middle of nowhere. It was cheap, had a bed and a roof and I was thankful.
Keen to make up for lost time, reach my aunt in Lllanbister in time to see her and not spend more money on accommodation I revised my plans. An early start and a largely downhill run to Wrexham and a train to Welshpool put me within striking distance of my destination. Slowly winding up into the Powys Hills, hardly any traffic, the bright white valleys shinning, birds chirping, it was positively pleasant.
Things were about to get a bit less tame.