Ox Stones – Throwback Thursday

Last August I went on a Peak District photography workshop, with James Grant. I had a great day, and took some images I was really happy with. The only problem was that it was only a few days before we left for our summer road trip, so I did not get round to processing the photos. Fast forward to the present day, and I am arranging a bike ride with Partho, and I notice that we would be passing close to the Ox Stones, which reminded me about the unprocessed photos in my Lightroom catalog, and I processed them.

The portrait version was my first composition, and I think it is my favourite of the two, despite the sky in the landscape shot being better. In the landscape composition I had tried to use the clumps of heather as a leading line, but I feel the foreground works better on the portrait shot, with the nicer light on the heather. Hopefully I will be able to share a few more processed photos from the workshop soon.

Wales with Owen

A few weeks ago Owen and I finally made it to Bike Park Wales, we have been wanting to go for ages, but various things had got in the way. We came close to going last year, we had passes and a hotel booked, but then Owen had to go to hospital. Earlier in the year we won a competition, on the Little Rippers Facebook group, for a “parent and child pass” at Bike Park Wales, which is a new offer which makes it cheaper to ride there with kids. One of the dates coincided with an Orange Bikes event, also in South Wales, so a plan was formed.

Owen and I drove down the afternoon before, taking a detour to Porthcawl for fish and chips, and some photophotography/playing on the beach. The fish and chips from Beales were good and we enjoyed exploring the seafront. I got a couple of good photos. Owen had play on the beach, but unfortunately he missed out on his favourite seaside activity, as the arcades did not take contactless and I had left my wallet in the van. We stayed at the Premier Inn at Caerphilly, ready to hit Mountain View Bike Park in the morning.

After a fairly restrained visit to the breakfast buffet, we drove the short distance to the Orange Gathering at Mountain View Bike Park. We got there early, before the event started, and hit the pumptrack after signing on. Owen managed about three laps before ending up on the floor. Not the start we wanted, especially as we still had the main event later in the day. We thought it best to leave the pumptrack and explore the trails, the short green loop went well, so we added on the “8 ball” blue trail, which was a bit rougher. Owen seemed to be struggling, he was not feeling 100%, but I could also tell that he had not been riding his bike much. He should have been fine on the trail, he has ridden worse, but his confidence was knocked. Fortunately, after a rest, and a look at the Orange bikes back at the event, a session on the skills area, practising drop offs, helped, and Owen rode really well on the “Twister” blue trail, which to me felt harder than “8 ball”. As we climbed back up to the start we noticed another trail, alongside the huge jump lines that looked fun. It was the “Jamming” red trail, and after another family told us that it was fun, we decided to give it a try. Owen loved it! We did another lap of “Twister” and “Jamming”, then went back to the event for pizza before the short drive to Bike Park Wales.

I was not sure what to expect at the Orange Gathering, but must admit that I came away slightly underwhelmed. I had hoped that they would have some merch on sale, but it just seemed like they had their demo fleet to test and I definitely do not need another Orange bike! The new, made in the UK, MsIsle hardtail looked great though. And seeing the bikes in different colours has made me rethink my plans for the Clockwork Evo, which I was going to get powder coated in “Norlando Grey” to match my Four. Now I think I will go for a brighter colour. There did not seem to need too many other Orange riders at the bike park, but maybe the afternoon was busier. However, I was really impressed with Mountain View Bike Park, the trails were compact, but well maintained and the cafe/bike shop were nice. If we were ever in South Wales again I would call in for an afternoon. I thought that it would be an ideal place to break the journey if we went to Bluestone again.

As good as Mountain View Bike Park was, we were both excited for our afternoon at Bike Park Wales. As we arrived we saw people parking on the approach road, but decided to risk driving up nearer to the car park, hoping to find a space, which we did. We also got checked in quickly, I guess most people had been there since the park opened at 10:00. The deck outside office/cafe/shop was buzzing with people, it reminded me of spring days at a European ski resort. The food looked good too, but we had already eaten and we were there to ride!

We took the green trail down to the uplift pick up point, which was further away from the cafe etc than I had expected. There was a push/climb to get to the uplift too, which was also unexpected. I was pleasantly surprised that despite it being a sunny, sold-out, day, we got straight onto an uplift bus without waiting. The system they have in place is very efficient. The uplift seemed to go on forever, much longer than at 417 Bike Park, which is my only previous experience. From the top of the uplift there was also a short, fairly flat, pedal to get to the trailhead.

We chose the green-graded “Kermit” trail for our first descent, as it is the easiest trail in the bike park, but also one of the longest. After dropping in we had the trail to ourselves. It started off twisting between lines, then there was a traverse out in the open, with scenic(?) views over Merthyr Tydfil. With a few more curves before a sneaky short uphill section which spat us out at the terrace. As unwelcome as the sudden climb was, it showed how much thought had gone into the park, as it slows the riders right down before joining a busy area.

We rode straight back to the uplift pickup for another lap, discussing which trails we would ride, settling on “Melted Welly” into “Roller Disco” into “Blue Belle”, all blue-graded flow trails. As we were about to drop in, Owen said that he was not feeling well and that he did not want to do another lap after this one, which as disappointing, but not surprising as he had not seemed himself all day. We enjoyed our second run down the hill, well maybe not the surprise climb on “Melted Welly”, but the downhill bits were great. It was a shame that we had to leave after only two runs, but Bike Park Wales was even better than I had expected, and I had very high expectations! I am sure that we will be back there later in the year to do some more runs!