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Lord Hereford’s Knob, Gwent and Tredegar, 26 August 2012

October 14, 2012

Lord Hereford’s Knob, Gwent and Tredegar, 26 August 2012

To South East Wales I was forced to flee
And now I have no job
That’s why tonight I’m sitting on top of Lord Hereford’s Knob

Lord Hereford’s Knob

I’ve got a cousin in Tredegar
But he’s unreliable
And undeniably a rank buffoon

Secret Gig

I’ve been to Kent, Gwent and Senegal
I’ve even been to look for Jim Rosenthal

Bob Wilson, Anchorman

Over breakfast, we’re mistaken for proper cyclists by a book-obsessed French couple – inbetween stories about world statesmen shooting wild boar, they suggest that we’d have no trouble at all cycling through the Pyrenees.  As it is, it’s enough of a struggle climbing out of Hay up the Gospel Pass into the Black Mountains.  It’s brilliant at the top though – fantastic views, and also an ice cream van.  With Lord Hereford’s Knob, aka Twmpa (‘Twmpa Twmpa, you’re gonna need a jumper’) in sight, and under no illusion that the Judging Panel will let us get away with not sitting on top of it, we chain up our bikes at the car park. 

At this point, we’re joined by an exceptionally friendly dog, who drops a ball at my feet and persuades me into a high-stakes game of ‘fetch’.  As he seems to be tiring of my five-yard throws, I toss the ball a bit further, my blood freezing when I see it start bouncing hundreds of feet towards the bottom of the valley.  Fortunately, it stops on a ledge, and I avoid being responsible for another furry death (when I was a sleep-walking eight-year-old, I let the hamster out of his cage and the cat got him).

On the trek to the summit, we spot an ominous figure atop a distant peak, and realise immediately that he or she is a member of the Judging Panel, closely monitoring our progress. Nick, who has undertaken detailed research in the area, informs us that JP members have historically gone under the name of ‘the Wripple Vetivers’, and like the Gubba Lookalikes they seem to be everywhere.   But they’ve got nothing on us today – the top of Lord Hereford’s Knob is clearly marked with a cairn, and we’re quite clearly sitting on it.

On our descent, jubilation soon turns to despondency, as we speculate that our bikes have probably been stolen, and that if they have, we’ll all have to kill ourselves. But they haven’t, and we get to ride them down into the Vale of Ewyas to stop for lunch at the Half Moon Inn – apparently highly recommended by Nick’s uncle. It’s a strange and melancholic place where a child practises mournful tunes on a piano, the world’s saddest looking towel hangs in the toilets, and surly staff serve us chilli with baked beans in it.  Post-tour research reveals that we should have visited the Llanthony Priory hotel instead, where the towels are sure to be pristine and happy, and any piano-playing children would be qualified to at least Grade 5.

Over lunch, we decide to avoid another steep climb through Mynydd Llangatwg  by taking a short cut through Abergavenny.  This involves cycling along the A465 “Heads of the Valleys Road”, which turns out to be the most soul-destroying stretch of highway in the British Isles.  Progress is slow, and we suffer abuse from uncouth motorcyclists. The only vague bright spot is that we pass (in the opposite direction, obviously) proper cyclists on the Junior Tour of Wales, who shoot us admiring glances. My blood sugar is dropping, and I’m starting to think I won’t be able to make it the whole way, so we stop at a bus stop to eat sweets and discuss our seething hatred of Welsh motorcyclists.

Passing through a series of grim post-industrial towns that could provide cost-efficient backdrops for Ridley Scott’s forthcoming Blade Runner sequel, we eventually make it to Tredegar, refusing to go a yard beyond the sign. Ticking off one of the trickier HMHB destinations boosts morale, and we turn our bikes back round to head back east towards the border.  Deciding that we need another break, I insist that we stop off in Blaenavon, which, according to the sign on the way, is a World Heritage Site, leading us to seriously question the integrity of the WHS selection committee.  I spot a great-looking pub (it’s got Sky Sports – what more do you want?!) but have to overcome stiff opposition from David and Nick, who are dubious about the safety of our bicycles outside.  I’m forced to admit they may have a point: the clientele all have shit arms and bad tattoos, and the men aren’t much better.  David overhears one of them in the toilet, proclaiming how much he’d like to “fuck my mate’s wife in here”.

As the evening sun goes down, we plod on towards Dingestow, near Monmouth — surely a destination that deserves to be immortalised by HMHB.  There’s a moment of unbearable tension when it emerges that we may be too late for dinner, but Nick employs some of the negotiating skills that have made him one of the finest media sales operatives in the luxury yacht business. After dinner, and having treated the two other customers to our jukebox selections, it takes us a while to find the B&B in the dark, and we almost collide with a badger, but another day ends in triumph, with sixty miles, a mountain range and two more destinations under our belts.

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