Climate Explorers

A Very Wet Weekend in Wales: Pedal 4 Parks Training Update

This weekend the Pedal 4 Parks team have been battling with the elements to train for the 1,200 mile expedition that they will be completing this June. Cycling 90 miles a day for a fortnight will be no easy feat, so these training weekends are crucial. The team must be prepared for all conditions and come rain or shine the show must go on! Although our cyclists have been training hard individually, it is also essential that they get used to cycling together. The Welsh outdoors also has a wealth of green spaces and tricky terrains that give the team the challenge they need before setting off from the starting line.

This picture pretty much sums up the lovely weekend weather…  Photo taken by: Daniel Williams 

Day One

After a night camping at Alex Egan’s South Wales home, the team were welcomed by a rainy 6.30am start. Once fuelled with a good breakfast it was time to stretch it out with Liz, the team’s personal trainer, working to minimise the risk of injury and keep the team safe! Once the team and their bikes were prepped, it was time to head off to Cardiff Bay on their first cycling stint of the weekend. 

During their 50km morning trip the team cycled alongside the River Taff, spending some time cycling through the urban green spaces and nature reserves that Cardiff has to offer. One of these was the Forest Farm Country Park and Glamorganshire Canal Nature Reserve. This conservation centre has a focus to preserve the woodland and promote the reintroduction of flora and fauna into the natural environment. Over the past 20 years the Forest Farm group have expanded this area to over 150 acres and have created various ponds, scrapes and wetlands to accommodate these species. The Long Wood Nature Reserve and canal are also a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), highlighting its importance within the local environment. The Forest Farm “Friends” also run a volunteering session once a month to help with the upkeep of the park and host a monthly guided walk around the park to introduce interested visitors to the wildlife. Be sure to check their website here or if you are in the Cardiff area you can take your own ride along some of their nature trails.

The team came across a number of urban green spaces in the city, cycling along Bute Park to get down to the bay. Cardiff has recently teamed up with the National Parks City Foundation to encourage the development and use of their urban green spaces. This foundation is working to make cities across the globe into National Park Cities, raising awareness for the rich wildlife these urban landscapes can still offer and benefits they have to us humans. They are aiming to start a movement of enthusiastic people who want to make their cities greener, healthier, wilder, fairer and more beautiful. An organisation definitely in line with the Pedal 4 Parks ambitions and message! Follow Cardiff city on their journey to becoming a National Park City on Twitter and see what you can do to help.

After a quick lunch break it was now time for the team to tackle some elevation! Given that they will be cycling TWICE the height of Everest in elevation on the expedition it is important they spend some time utilising the hilly Welsh terrain. As the day went on the wind and rain only got worse… but rest assured the smiles only continued!

It will take a lot more than some rain to wear down the team morale!  Photo taken by: Daniel Williams 

Now soaked through and aching, the team finally headed home for a well deserved shower and hot coffee (freshly prepared by the support crew upon their arrival!). Once refreshed it was time to plan the next day’s itinerary and prepare for another challenging day on the bikes!

Day Two

Come Sunday morning there was still no rest for our team. Up at 6am, they were out on their bikes before breakfast to tackle what our very own Alex Egan has dubbed “the worst hill in Wales”, and he is talking from a lot of experience! Although a tough journey there were some stunning views to keep their minds off the pain, as well as the promise of fresh pancakes for when they got back!

Photo taken by: Liz (Team Personal Trainer) as she bumped into the team on her morning run!

The main focus of the day was to get out on the water bikes as most of the team have had very few opportunities to get to grips with them. The team water bike collection has grown since the last training day, bringing the total up to four. This is great for training as it means we can get more people out on the water practicing for the real thing. Once the water bikes had been checked over and packed up it was time to head off to Pontsticill Reservoir to put them to the test. 

The rain decided to hold off for most of the day and the biggest problem was the wind out on the water. When cycling across the water at the start and end of the expedition, the team will be fully exposed to the powerful sea winds. The stretch of water between the Orkney Islands and Scotland has been reported as one of the most dangerous sections of water in the UK, so our team will be dealing with considerably windy conditions, among the many other risks. Being able to test the bikes out in the windy conditions was actually a good thing for our team as they could see just how hard they will need to work to make it across the water. Once the support crew had taken the bikes for a quick spin, four of the five expeditionists headed out on the water for a 5km ride around the reservoir, getting used to the different challenges the water will bring. Having spent an extended time using the bikes, the team compared riding on the water to cycling up an endless incline. It might look and sound like fun, but don’t forget that on the final expedition it will take the team approximately 10 hours to reach the Isles of Scilly… and that’s without any rest!

Speedy Sal taking the lead!  Photo taken by: Daniel Williams 

Other than being the now preferred training spot for our water biking endeavours, the Pontsticill Reservoir more popularly attracts hikers and fishing enthusiasts to its shores. Sitting just inside the Brecon Beacons National Park, the reservoir is a landmark on the popular 55-mile Taff Trail, which was actually a part of the team’s Saturday morning cycle into Cardiff! Although this is a great way to get out into nature, it also has its disadvantages. Just in the small area that hosted our team for the day, we were able to fill THREE bags of rubbish left by previous visitors. Littering is a prominent and dangerous impact of human interference in the environment and this problem has only worsened over the pandemic as more people have been using green spaces. The clean up mission took no longer than five minutes and showed that if we all started to make a conscious effort to clean up after ourselves (or others), we can make a big step in promoting a clean and thriving natural environment. 

With all their training complete the team headed back for a quick interview with the Copa Project, and to finally change out of their wet clothes for good! The Copa Project is a charitable start-up business run by a group of enthusiastic and adventurous triathletes also looking to make a difference in a sustainable way. “Copa” translates to “Summit” in Welsh and sums up the ambitions the group have in marketing sustainable products that fund their chosen charities and prove that consumer products can be made sustainably here in the UK. Like our team, the business was started by like-minded and determined individuals will an appreciation for nature. If you’re interested have a look at their website here and keep an eye out for their blog on Pedal 4 Parks coming soon.

This weekend has proven that the team can power on no matter what conditions nature deals on the day. Finally being able to cycle as a team has given them a huge boost of motivation and as the expedition draws closer the excitement only continues to grow! With less than two months until the team set off from the Orkney Islands we have lots of exciting training weekends lined up, so keep an eye out for more updates soon!

What you can do to help…

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Also be sure to check out our photographer Daniel Williams who captures most of our awesome shots! (WebsiteInstagram)

Check out our previous blogs:

Keen to Keep Green: Pedal 4 Parks goes 14 Days South

Meet the Team: The Five Eco-Warrior’s Cycling for Change

Pedaling North to South: The Route of our Environmental Pursuit

This post was brought to you by media team member Emily, follow the links to her socials for more! (InstagramTwitterLinkedIn)