I had received detailed instructions on how to reach the house. (In this part of Wales postcodes can cover 10’s of square miles.)
“Left at the old school sign. Follow road up and over the first hill, all the way down to the cattle grid, up a bigger hill on the other side and turn right at the top.”
Two minutes after taking what I assumed was the turn (no road names here) I was off the saddle and pushing the bike up a steep hill covered in ice and snow. Reaching a fork in the track I tried to divine which way was straight on (reasoning that the directions hadn't mentioned a turn) but with the road marking covered it was guesswork. Having made my decision I continued on my way up into the hills with sheep and striking views for company. The snow was so deep and the bleats so pitiful that I spent a good few minutes trying to dig out some grass for the lambs but they were more perturbed by my presence than grateful so I pressed on.
Having crested the hill I began the slippery descent with one foot on a pedal scooting along only vaguely in control as the snow rendered my brakes void but ensured any fall would be cushioned. As I reached the bottom of the hill with no cattle grid in sight I began to question my earlier choice. Well out of mobile range and beginning to dither I lucked on a range rover coming the other way. While he didn't recognise my aunt’s name he was able to assure me that no farmhouse fitting my description was up ahead. With the weather closing in I did a 180 and put my back into heaving my bike back up the hill.
Having retraced my steps to the fork I began a new climb with the possibility that I had made the wrong turn off the main road to begin crouched at the back of my mind.
Fortunately as I crawled past a farmhouse a dog cam bounding through the snow to greet me followed by his owner. He was happy to confirm that there was indeed a place meeting my description up ahead but warned that from here on vehicles hadn't made it through the drifts and made me promise to come back and see him if I couldn't make it through.
Ha! Very kind but not a chance. I was in high spirits, enjoying the adventure, excited to arrive and determined not to let any amount of deepening snow stop me.
With typical directness Celia had informed me that the second hill was bigger than the first As I crossed the cattle grid I could see she was correct.
This picture doesn't do it justice.
Nothing for it but to put my head down, arms outstretched on the handlebars and slowly trudge upwards. It was in just this pose that my cousin Emma spied me from above having kindly come looking for me. It had been well over an hour since I had called Celia from the local shop offering to buy milk and reporting that I would see them shortly.
With Emma by my side and trying hard to chat while heaving the bike upwards it wasn't long before we were turning left and heading for the farm house where a warm welcome awaited.
Safe and sound
Cavala is a magical place and I spent a wonderful 2 days there. Helping (hindering?) with the horses; digging out driveways; adventuring back down to the shop with Emma, Celia, Willow the dog and sled and generally eating, drinking and making merry.
My departure was if anything tougher than my entrance as the winds had heaped the snow higher and I choose to go the back way where it was clear no vehicle had ventured.
You can see the path I had plowed stretching behind me and this handy sign confirming that this was a perfect path for cycling...
But it was a lot of fun I carrying as much as pushing the bike through drifts up to my waist confident that there wasn't much that could stop me.
But some sections were tough. Those drifts are at least four feet.
As I reached the road after a couple of miles it was very gratifying to be greeted by a local farmer who seemed pretty bemused to see me emerging from the snow!
Now heading for England I had the wind at my back rolling down frosted hills
The 50 miles between me and Herefordshire fell away easily and I was soon rolling into Fownhope where my good friend Nick’s parents had kindly agreed to put me up for a night. But not before enjoying some lovely views and nosing round pretty villages and seemingly abandoned churches.
My detour to Wales had been joyous with the snowy weather only serving to make the beautiful country even more memorable.