April 17th - Newport International Sports Village to the seawall at Clifton Common Goldcliff
After a delayed start due to inclement weather, the monthly programme of cycle rides got underway with a 15 mile ride across of the Levels. Starting at Spytty Indoor Sports Centre on an overcast and breezy April day, the Group followed the cycle track through Great Traston Meadows Nature Reserve to Pye Corner. From there they followed Broadstreet Common for a short distance before turning into Straits Lane. Cycling on these lanes is particularly enjoyable as they are lightly trafficked and so you can take in the rural scenery. This time of year the lambs are out in the fields and the odd swan can be seen gliding along the reens.

We cycled through Nash before turning onto the Coastal Path at the RSPB Wetlands Nature Reserve. The reed beds were quiet but an early season house martin was spotted skimming overhead. We continued along the seawall, stopping at the Lighthouse before dropping down and out of the wind to Saltmarsh Lane. Here we stopped to admire close up a large buzzard which had flapped up into a tree across the reen. It seemed unconcerned by our presence but soon attracted the attention of some magpies and moved on.

Onward through Goldcliff to the Seawall Café which never disappoints, before returning via Nash Road to the starting off point.

May 15th - A 13.3 mile ride along the canal towpath from 14 Locks to Cwmcarn and then up to the Forest Drive Visitor Centre
We picked the best day of the year so far for this ride. Under a cloudless sky the route followed a high contour along the eastern side of the valley, affording crystal clear views across to the hills beyond. On the canal, groups of baby moorhens were frantically paddling to keep up with their mothers.

At one point we left our bikes and crossed the canal via one of the quaint hump back bridges to visit a burial ground for some of the miners killed by a huge underground explosion at the Black Vein mine back in 1860. The mine closed in the 1920s but looking across the valley to the wooded hillside opposite, we could see a clump of fir trees, that probably mark the site of the mine. Looking more closely the straight lines of an incline, used to take coal from the mines down to a tramroad, could be seen between the trees. The canal has become a great legacy of this industrial age, now providing us with a beautiful route for walking and cycling but also opening a window to a very different past.

We continued to the end of the canal at Cwmcarn before taking the road up to the Forest Drive Visitor Centre for a well earned cup of tea.

June 19th - A ride across the Caldicot Levels out to Redwick
The June ride took in the Mediaeval Ship exhibition, the cycle route along the new road to Magor, Redwick village and some quiet roads across the Levels.

We met at Newport Velodrome and our first port of call was the Ship exhibition which is housed in a unit on Queensway Meadows Industrial Estate. Mr Phil Cox, Chairman of The Friends of the Newport Ship, gave us a very interesting guided tour. Most of the timbers are now going through a specialist preservation process in York, due to be completed at the end of 2019. By then it is hoped that a permanent resting place will have been found in Newport, to display the reconstructed remains of the ship. It was discovered during construction of the Riverfront Centre in 2002, after having laid under the mud banks of the River Usk for over 500 years. A fascinating story has emerged from the recovery process, about the ship's construction, life aboard for the crew (probably about 30 sailors), where it came from and the trade it was engaged in, and the probable reason why it was abandoned on the banks of an inlet. This was explained in a most interesting way and illustrated by the display panels and original artefacts and replicas that make up the exhibition.

From Newport's distant past we got glimpse of the future as we followed the cycle path along the new road that skirts the vast redevelopment site that was once part of the steelworks. Work is on-going on land reclamation, roads, housing and a huge business park. It was something of a relief to get away from the noise of lorries and fast moving traffic as we turned onto the road leading down to Redwick village. We stopped at the Rose Inn for refreshments, before continuing along the peaceful back roads for our return journey, where we could hear the sound of birdsong and smell the new mown hay.

July 17th - Ride through the Sirhowy, Pennallta and Taff Bargoed Country Parks.
This ride followed National Cycle Routes 47 and 476 through three Country Parks in the Western Valleys . It was the longest ride undertaken so far and was enjoyed by all.

The weather was hot, so it was good to be in the shade of trees as we set off along a disused railway track above the Sirhowy river. It is now tarmaced for the use of walkers and cyclists. Emerging from the woods we followed the Cross Valleys road before turning off onto another section of disused railway line, which took us to the monumental Hengoed Viaduct. We stopped here to admire the views up and down the Rhymney valley, then continued into Hengoed, for welcome refreshments at Gaffacinnos café (highly recommended).

The rest of the ride was off road, passing through the Pennallta and Taff Bargoed Country Parks. These are on land reclaimed from collieries and now incorporate water cascades and lakes and are punctuated by interesting art installations. On one section wayside markers named the coal seams passing underneath and gave their depth and thickness. A great job has been done here in reclaiming this land, once scarred by heavy industry, for recreational use.


August 14th - A ride across the Wentloog Levels to the seawall at Peterstone
This is an 8 mile ride, starting at the Asda car park at Duffryn (NP10 8XL). Following the Cycle Route through the Celtic Horizons estate and onto Percoed Lane through to Marshfield and on to the coast at Peterstone. Returning to the Tredegar House café for refreshments.

September 11th - A canal towpath ride from Pontnewydd to Goetre Wharf
A ride of around 11 miles, meeting at Pontnewyyd Park Cwmbran (NP44 1BD) then cycling along the towpath to Goetre Wharf, where we can take a refreshment break, then back to Pontnewyyd Park.

October 9th - Caerleon to Newbridge on Usk and back
A ride of about 11 miles starting at the car park opposite the amphitheatre. Then continuing along Isca Road and Bullmore Road to Newbridge on Usk where we can stop at the Inn for refreshments. Returning to Caerleon via Bullmore Road.

Any queries contact John Dainton on 01633 212349 or Martin Shepherd on 01633 663289

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