Black Mountains Anyone?

Discussion in 'General Cycling Discussions' started by cosmicbike, 4 Feb 2018.

  1. cosmicbike

    cosmicbike Perhaps This One..... Staff Member

    I've been kind of invited on a group ride in April into the Black Mountains, Wales. Apparently it's a little hilly and will include 'The Tumble', and 'Gospel Pass' amongst a couple of others.
    Given I haven't even done Box Hill which is local to me, wondering if anyone has experience of this neck of the woods?
    It's a twice annual thing, and looking at the Strava route for last year, a nicely paced ride.
  2. StuAff

    StuAff Silencing his legs regularly

    Gospel Pass is awesome, ridden up and down it twice. Tumble I've never ridden, but it's got a reputation…
    Box Hill is a pussycat in comparison to that neck of the woods!!
    Edit: The view from the Gospel…
    Last edited: 4 Feb 2018
    theclaud and cosmicbike like this.
  3. GrumpyGregry

    GrumpyGregry non-contributing ex-member

    Gospel Pass is a must do. I've ridden it several times. Two close shaves on the descents cause by drivers who think bikes should ride in the gutter and get out of the way of those in cars.
    cosmicbike likes this.
  4. Banjo

    Banjo Fuelled with Jelly Babies

    South Wales
    Both go above 500 meters neither are extremely steep but are still long climbs.

    I prefer to climb Gospel Pass from the Hay on Wye end as you then have a long descent all the way to Abergavenny.
    Spartak and cosmicbike like this.
  5. bpsmith

    bpsmith Veteran

    Never done Gospel Pass, but have done the Tumble a few times. Great climb. Not steep but a steady decent percentage which keeps on going. Amazing views from the top!
    cosmicbike likes this.
  6. Ajax Bay

    Ajax Bay Veteran

    East Devon
    Well go and do Box Hill then, and see how you go from there. There's one chevron on the road up to Gospel Pass from Hay, but otherwise they're all long climbs: Gospel Pass from south or north, and the Tumble, but pretty steady.
    mgs315 and cosmicbike like this.
  7. Gospel Pass is beautiful. It's years since I rode up there though.

    Long, long ago I used to live near the bottom of the Tumble. I never heard it referred to as such, it was generally called the Fiddlers Elbow or just the Fiddlers. I never cycled up it as I never wanted to go to Blaenavon, but I have done so since. It's got some steepness at the bottom but after that it's a long smooth incline with a view of Cwm Llanwenarth to the right (look out for historic tramroads) and the Sugar loaf behind. At the top is Keepers pond and the grave of a horse called Foxhunter

    Both are way longer than Box Hill, but at a guess neither is steeper than the steep bits of Leith Hill or White Down.

    Neither is a huge challenge unless the aim is to get up them quickly, in which case they will be no fun at all.
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  8. Aravis

    Aravis White-Haired Trundler

    I know them both well, although I haven't ridden either for over quarter of a century. A few years ago I was driving down the Tumble, probably after visiting the Big Pit with my family, and I astonished my kids by saying I was once able to cycle up this. At the time I was sure my cycling days were over and I couldn't believe it either.

    Apart from the well-known B-road from Abergavenny to Blaenavon, there are two other minor road routes up the Tumble. I don't know the route from the east, but from the map it looks the most challenging option. The westerly approach, beginning at Govilon has spectacular views up Cwm Clydach which you won't see any other way, and for a while runs along the edge of an unfenced vertical precipice. So well worth checking out if that's your thing. I may be heading out that way later this week (not on my bike) and I'll try to get some photographic evidence.

    I've only ridden the Gospel from the south. Most say it's an easy climb. Certainly it climbs gently for mile after mile, but don't be deceived; just when you think it's going to be a doddle all the way there's a sharp kick up to what you hope is the summit. It isn't, but a least when you get there you can see what's left.

    If you get the weather, it's fantastic:


    There a two other routes across the Black Mountains to Hay roughly parallel to the Gospel. Neither is quite as high, but they're great too, and I'd expect them to be quieter. From what the OP said, he might be experiencing at least one of those as well.

    Edit: I've straightened out my easts and wests. Too cold for my brain this morning.
    Last edited: 5 Feb 2018
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  9. Cuchilo

    Cuchilo Prize winning member X2

    Care to share the strava route ?
  10. Back in the day I must have walked every inch of the roads around Gilwern Hill and Cwm Llanwenarth and the Clydach with the late great Cleo, our Beagle.

    The road up from Govilon is what's known by cyclists as "The Tumble". Coming from the Clydach side, round Gilwern Hill goes past old limestone quarries. There's also disused railway tunnel that you can walk through further up the Clydach (although they've probably blocked it off by now). The road heading off towards the West goes over the shoulder of the Blorenge before dropping steeply down to the canal near Llanfoist. There used to be a pub (maybe still is) on that road that does food, I can't remember exactly where.

    The area is exceptionally rich in industrial archeology. When I was last there plans were well advanced for converting the Heads of the Valleys road to dual carriageway up the Clydach and were underway in Gilwern. I fear that there may be quite a bit of destruction up the Clydach to do this.
    Aravis, theclaud and cosmicbike like this.
  11. Donger

    Donger Convoi Exceptionnel

    Quedgeley, Glos.
    I did the Tumble from Abergavenny last year with @Banjo . He was kind enough to pretend he hadn't wanted to go any faster, but I had to stop a few times on the way up. Nice to find an ice cream van stationed by the little lake at the top and to take in the well-earned views. A great descent back down into Blaenavon, with views of the Bristol Channel in the distance.

    As for the Gospel Pass, unlike @Banjo, I really don't like the look of the climb out of Hay. (Too steep for my liking). From Brecon, it would also be a killer (we came down one 25% bit with my brakes squealing and my hands were white with squeezing the bejeezus out of the levers. I was still doing over 10mph and seriously deciding which hedge to aim for if I met a car coming the other way! I did the Gospel Pass Northwards last year and really enjoyed it. Apparently it is the highest paved road in Wales, so it's a good one to bag. It is a long, but not too arduous climb northwards up the valley, with the chance to stop for tea at Llanthony Priory. Most of the climb is in the trees, but with nice views to the right across the valley. Cars can be a bit bothersome in the Summer, as the road is narrow and can get quite busy at times. It all opens up at the cattle grid near the top, and gets steep for a short while before opening up fantastic views at the top. I would choose to drop down to Hay on Wye next time for a café stop.

    I think you will enjoy them both.
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  12. Tilley

    Tilley Well-Known Member

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  13. OP

    cosmicbike Perhaps This One..... Staff Member

    I don't know how to! I'd prefer not to link to the organisers Strava account which is the only place I've seen it...
  14. Aravis

    Aravis White-Haired Trundler

    It looked a bit of mess when I was there a few months ago, but no doubt it will heal in time. It's certainly a massive project. As recently as the early 2000s I used to enjoy riding both up and down the main road in the Clydach Gorge, sometimes continuing on the Heads of the Valley road. It seemed a perfectly natural thing to do at the time, but sadly it will never be allowed again. I can't imagine a closed road sportive choosing to go that way.

    One hill in the area I never touched on a bike is Llanelly Hill. Anyone who thinks the Tumble is too easy...
    Dogtrousers likes this.
  15. bpsmith

    bpsmith Veteran

    Can’t see Llanelly Hill on this list @Aravis. Is it called anything else?

    Would have thought it would figure amongst those contenders.
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