The Dragon’s Breath

15 12 2008

“Doethie“, say it.  A soft, gentle name, smooth over the tongue.  But listen closely.  Can you hear the warning, the edgy Welsh timbre of this remote valley?  “Doethie“, whisper it.  Can you sense its harsh beauty, the rock strewn sides and dark brook cutting though it?  And then, spot the single track.  A thin, very thin, twisting line picking its way down the side, over the rocks, beside the brook and off, way off, beyond your line of sight.  Looks challenging doesn’t it?  But oh, so appealing.  Can you resist or does it tempt you in?  Do you want to try it?  Well do you?  Come on now, don’t be shy


And so it was that four Muddy @rsers: Lisa, Rick, Rich and Donna were lured out into the wild Welsh weather to ride this beckoning single track.  Stepping out of the nice warm car into the cold, wind and rain showed guts, if not a little masochistic tendency, particularly from Lisa who was still nursing a massive dent in her shin from the ride the day before.


The climb up and into the valley was far more brutal than our usual Sussex and Surrey Downs.  Despite brave attempts all round, not one of us cleared the steep, loose, Welsh hill.  And as if that wasn’t hard enough, Lisa plied Rick with a rock to carry up in his backpack.  Why, you may ask?  Because it looked like the number seven. (??!!)


The drop down the other side was fast and furious, giving us a shot of adrenalin and a demonic smile to our faces. 


And then there we were, at the gates of the Doethie Valley.  An awe-inspiring view: not a soul in sight, a valley lost in time, natural and imposing.  The narrow ribbon of bridleway clearly marked our route.  So we mounted our bikes, locked onto the track and did our best to hang on whilst the mud, rocks and slope did their best to try and knock us off course.


Point of no return ...

Point of no return ...


Thanks to the weekend’s rain it was good and slippy under tyre.   Rich led the way, picking his way adeptly through the boulders and tussocks.  As the trail dropped down to a small marshy crossing, he got his weight back, dropped the front wheel in and, unexpectedly, found himself suspended in mid air doing a massive endo. 


His front wheel had caught a submerged stone and so he balanced precariously there for five seconds before, sadly, comically, he fell into the bog, head first. 


We were so concerned for Rich’s well being that we spent several minutes laughing our heads off before we took some photographs of his perched bike, tip-toed carefully across the boggy section, and rode off, waving a few consolatory remarks in his direction.


Then we were back on the line with the hillside dropping sharply to the right.  The mind focussed.  Balancing carefully, desperately keeping the front wheel from wandering off the track.  There were water crosses to tackle, sharp climbs to nail and where it went flat, marshes to wade.


With the wintry conditions we made slow, tiring progress.  The trail was demanding both physically and mentally.  So it was a relief when the trail started to ease up a little and the line choice broaden.


But there was a final sting in the tail.  A factor that we had hereto overlooked.  What time was it now?  How far back to the car?  Oh-o, we were going to be “be-nighted“; caught out in the mountains with no lights when the night falls.


Using all our remaining brain power (and not a little female guile), we decided that the men would forge on ahead, climb the two mile hill back to the car, whilst we women carefully made our way off the hill and waited on the road-side until they came and collected us. 


It was an excellent plan to end our most memorable day in the mountains.  It left the guys feeling like heroes and the girls like damsels as they rescued us from the owl-hooting, coal-black woods.  And with glee in our hearts from having chanced our luck and pulled it off, we made it back down into civilisation for hot showers, tea and, of course, cake.


…So tell me now, how was it for you?  A mixture of pleasure and pain.  Do you yearn for more?  Did you feel my presence burning red in the valley watching over your tired, numb bodies?  Will I see you again in this precious valley?  I do hope so.


                                                          The Doethie Dragon x x x

                                                         (aka Donna)



Rich and Donna attempt to sketch the Doethie Dragon…dragon-one




Here’s some photos and video footage of the weekend’s antics at THE REAL ALE WOBBLE, Llanwrtydd Wells, Wales, 15 November 2008.




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