See my YouTube of this trip here
Even though I’d been camping and riding the previous weekend, and was still a little tired, with the promise of another sunny weekend, us in the UK have to take advantage of it!
So I left work, popped home to pick-up my camp food, as I didn’t want to leave it in the car as it was so hot that day, which wasted around half an hour, then set off for Wales.
I’d booked a pitch, last minute as usual, at a campsite named Middle Ninfa Farm & Bunkhouse. From the website you can see it’s a little different than other campsites, but I wasn’t expecting what I found!
It wasn’t difficult to find, it’s around fifteen minutes out of Abergavenny. The only tricky part is following what the satnav says and turning right onto a very narrow road that looks like someone’s driveway! You follow this tight, twisty, steeply uphill, tarmac mountain road through woodland for around ten minutes. Middle Ninfa is one of the farms on your right.
Driving up to the farmhouse, a lady checked me in, she was in the middle of her evening meal, so it was a quick whizz around, which suited me as I was tired and hungry.
Middle Ninfa camping is different inasmuch there isn’t a large camping field. The land is undulating, with many hidden paddocks all on different levels, on their 20+ acre piece of land. With lots of trees, and small wooded areas.
Each pitch has a name, as you can see from their website here
I was booked into the Skirrid View pitch, but there had been an admin error and I had to have Hollow Beech, I’m so glad that happened, it was the best pitch there! With fantastic views over the farm, a forest, Abergavenny and the Skirrid.
The paddock Hollow Beech is in is quite large, and the pitch itself is fenced-off within this paddock, which is grazing for a pony.
The routine here is that you park up at the farm house, unload your car and wheelbarrow your camping gear up to your pitch, then drive back down the hill and park in a field on the right.
Pushing three wheelbarrow loads from the farmhouse to Hollow Beech, uphill, over meadow trails, sometimes quite bumpy, was quite strenuous and certainly wouldn’t suit everyone. It’s a damn good workout though!
I’d arrived at around 8pm and was setup and cooking my dinner by 9:30pm, it takes quite a bit longer than at a ‘normal’ campsite. But for me, it was so so worth the effort.
On my first barrow load up I got attacked by a lot of horse-flies, luckily they seemed less prevalent on my subsequent two push-ups. Perhaps it was the time of night, or perhaps I had known to expect them and shush them away.
That Friday night the setting sun had caused a beautiful orangy-pink hue across the horizon, over the Skirrid and distant hills. It was beautiful. I had a fantastic sleep that night, although was woken by the pony that decided to come and chomp grass just outside my little fenced off area, it wasn’t noisy, I’m just a light sleeper. So, I got up, made a cup of tea and gazed at the starry sky, and the views across a street-light lit Abergavenny.
There are two wash-blocks, the one further away from my pitch has a shower and drinking water as well as a compost toilet and wash-up sink. This would be around a five minute undulating walk away. Slightly nearer, perhaps a three minute walk away was a block with a toilet and wash-up sink only and is the one I used. Although they are compost toilets, they're not stinky at all really, well perhaps a little bit!
The site suits the minimalist camper, you could bring everything but the kitchen sink, but you’d have to haul it all up the hills, which would be quite tiresome. It was perfect for me.
I woke early Saturday, it was a very chilly misty morning. With the top of the surrounding hills shrouded in cloud. By 10am the mist had cleared and revealed yet another beautifully sunny day.
I was going to just sit and chill, but with all the hills around I was tempted to go ride my trail bike. There are three small hiking mountains, all part of a multi-peak challenge type thing; Sugar Loaf, Skirrid and Blorenge, all within easy reach of my camp. In fact the campsite is kind of on the slopes of Blorenge, so I decided to go take a look at it on my bike. And couldn’t resist going to the top!
So much for my chill and rest day! Turning right out of Middle Ninfa, and continuing up the tarmac road, which goes up and up and was quite hard pedalling, but I did pedal it! Eventually you take a right turn onto a bridle path up to the Blorenge summit. This is sign-posted, and was too steep for me to pedal, so mostly I pushed my bike to the top. This trail goes mainly uphill, like the tarmac road, there are a few not-so-steep downs as well. The terrain is mostly earth, with sporadic rocky parts, and mostly is on a corridor through heavy bracken.
It was so beautiful and sunny, the views, both local and distant were scenic and it really was an enjoyable push-up.
I’d installed the Komoot GPS navigation onto an old phone, and was using that to navigate, which was very useful, and I would definitely have got more lost without it. I didn’t actually get lost, but Komoot kept telling me I was on the wrong path right near the summit, and it was probably right, as it was very rocky the way I went, and I had to carry the bike.
There’s a large summit area, and on it is a large pile of rocks around 10 metres in diameter, which I climbed up, and although only perhaps two metres high, it was incredibly windy. Beware, some of the rocks wobbly around, I fell a couple of times, whilst swatting away wasps and horse-flies!
After a bite to eat and some photo posing I headed down. There were a few pedally bits, but for the main part it was downhill. I’d gone out without any protection on at all, so pushed down the rockier areas as I didn’t want a fall onto my bare knees!
I forked off the bridle path after a while and rode the singletrack trail, I’m not sure if it’s for bikes or not but there was no sign saying no bikes, so I guess it’s OK.
I had a bit of a bush-nap, the trail is raised about a metre higher than the bracken running either side of it, I clipped a rock and ended up in the bracken. In falling, my bike seat got tangled in my shorts, and it took around five minutes to extricate myself not only from the bike, but up to the higher trail! No damage done though, a couple of bruises that's all.
After that I realised I’d left my bike seat in the high position, I thought I felt a bit uncomfortable on the way down! From that point on I didn’t get any GoPro footage as I did my usual thing of turning it off when I thought I was turning it on and vice-versa!
It was a fun ride, I’d like to do it again with some protection on my knees at least. Even the tarmac country lanes were fun, I got up some good speed but was always mindful that I had no protection on, and that cars could be coming on the singletrack road.
After a rest and some food I drove to Abergavenny and picked up my friend Maria, returning to Middle Ninfa, where we sat in the shade and chatted all afternoon, whilst drinking tea! It was quite lovely.
I’ve known Maria since 2001, we met under very sad circumstances. Her son (Anders) Magnus Jones was a young designer at Arrows Grand Prix where we were both working. He had a promising career ahead of him, he was a bright, lovely, fun lad. For sure, he would have become a Chief Designer one day. Alas on the fateful summers day of the 14th of September 2001 a car pulled out in front of his Westfield car on a country lane, whilst he was driving to work, and unfortunately, he was fatally injured.
It was such a shockingly sad sad day for all of us at Arrows, but obviously more so for his family. We all have fond memories of our Magnatroid, a nickname given to him by another designer, rest easy Jones, as I called him.
After taking Maria back to Abergavenny, I had to park my car higher up in the field, in very long grass, as more cars had turned up. I didn’t think anything of it.
I had a nice chilled evening, and managed to light a rather good campfire, something I’d failed at the night before! It didn’t get fully dark until gone 10:30pm. Again, I had another wonderful night’s sleep.
I was up early Sunday morning, as I needed to pack-up, get three wheelbarrow loads back to my car and be at the Black Mountain Bike Park for 10am. Luckily, I was well organised with a lot of time to spare. This paid dividends, when I went to pull out of the field, and found my car was stuck! I tried all sorts to budge it, resulting in clouds of white clutch smoke. I emptied all my bikes, camping stuff and other crap out of the car to lighten it. It started to move, around a metre, then it slew sideways, getting very close to the car next to it! At that point I went to see the campsite owner, who had a carpet to put down under my wheels. With a few pushers as well, I finally got it out of the rut, I reloaded and was on my way.
I was so glad I managed to get out of the car park, as my breakdown cover had run out at midnight the night before! I wonder how many cars get stuck there, it must be bad in wet weather.
Because the campsite have problems with campers running over their neighbours grass as they turn sharp right out of the field, you must turn left out of the car park, drive up to the farmhouse, turn around and go back down, that way negating the need to take the turn and run over the neighbours small grass verge. Something of nothing if you ask me, it’s a manky small triangle of grass. Why they can’t come to an amicable agreement to allow it to be used I don’t know! Getting up the drive to the farmhouse is difficult as it’s very steep and there’s water running down part of it, I failed to get up it a couple of times. Doing this every time you want to go out is a bit of a chore. But anyway, I’m a rule follower and I did it!
Anyway, I arrived at Black Mountains around 10am. There’s no shelter from the sun in the car park, so I was glad of some clouds coming over now and again, it was very hot though.
The uplift is different to other bike parks, they use tractors to pull a trailer which is much higher than the normal uplift trailers. I couldn’t lift Desmond that high, so had to get willing volunteers to lift him up for me. But it’s a good service, it takes quite a while for the tractor to get up to the top, perhaps 20 to 30 minutes. I was glad of the time it took as it gave me a rest before the next run, and I think it also gives good spacing between rider groups, and you never come across other riders, and they don't come across you, on the trail, which is good.
I did four full runs of the blue trails, Rabbit Run onto Missing Link onto Well Oiled Weasel to the bottom. It’s a really busy trail with little time to rest, I was bonked half way down Well Oiled Weasel every time, I need to get fitter! But no matter, it’s such a good run, and you can’t help but smile all the way down, and back to the car park!
I couldn’t be arsed with wearing my protective top and elbow pads as it was so hot, so I took it relatively easy. The only damage I sustained was a major pedal scrape on the bruise I’d got on my shin when I fell on the Blorenge! Which wouldn’t be so bad if it was whilst riding, but I did it whilst trying to get Desmond on the trailer!