A broad smile spreads quickly across our guide’s face as he takes us up the pitted road from the Adventure Experience’s main building.
The rolling Brecon Beacons loom large in the background, as he opens a mechanised gate leading to the multitude of routes and trails.
Words: Jim Levack
“One of the world’s hidden gems”
Our guide is Adventure Experience head instructor Nick Plumb and his grin suggests he’s not letting us in on everything about this tucked away pocket of land in south west Wales. So it would be rude not to ask.
“This place is one of the world’s hidden gems. This is where the magic happens,” is his only response. He says no more, knowing that the landscape about to unfold before our eyes will do his talking for him.
Panoramic mountain views greet us, vast, wide-open spaces, narrow woodland trails, stream crossings and endless grasslands. It’s an adventure rider’s dream.
“It’s breathtaking, right?” asks Nick, but it’s more of a statement as he prepares to drive us deeper and deeper into another world that we couldn’t have imagined moments earlier.
Within seconds we’re in the midst of the kind of scene that promoted Neil Armstrong’s ‘one small step for man’ speech as he made his lunar landing. Open stretches of ground-down black coal perfect for Tigers are flanked by mini craters and rises that demand to be conquered on two wheels.
That alone would be enough to tempt any self-respecting adventure rider here – just to say ‘yeah, I’ve ridden on the moon’.
We power across the undulating land and leave ‘space, the final frontier’ behind to dip down a deep rutted mad track. Nick notices I’m a little nervous, he chuckles and matter-of-factly adds “what’s the worst that can happen?”
Tailor-made for Triumph’s Tiger
The routes and trails range from easy, sweeping beginner stages to rough stuff that would challenge even the most seasoned adventurer. We move on, this time in the shape of what looks like a Scandinavian pine forest and endless run-offs, all tailor-made for Triumph’s Tigers and Scramblers.
“We’re discovering new tracks every day, some of them barely wider than a Scrambler, some of them steep, some gentler and a few of them ending up in glorious dead ends. We got stuck in one the other day and some of the guys had to do a 35-point turn. I just spun it back the right way in one on the mud. My little moment of glory,” beams Nick.
Nick lives two mountain tops away from the Centre and, despite the fact that he refers to the new purpose-built Triumph Adventure HQ in nearby Ystradgynlais as “work”, we both know that when he’s out here it’s anything but.
Next up is one of the most spectacular parts of the whole place… the jaw-dropping ‘360’ area – the summit of the mountain.
From here you can see for miles. Pen Y Fan, one of Wales’ highest mountains, and the Cribarth or Sleeping Giant, a hill that resembles the very same in the Brecon Beacons National Park, are two of the landmarks.
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From high above it’s hard to take in the scale of this man-made landscape, tiny diggers picking up the last of the black gold scraped from clearly visible layers in the exposed pit wall the only real clue. As they scurry off to take it to a nearby washery, it’s the sweeping black two-lane curves above this vast black hole – like a secret motorway – that really catch the eye.
Nick says: “Imagine riding around this? Now you can see why I was smiling before.”
Sheep scatter as we surge upwards along a scar of black rubble that you’re more likely to find on Iceland’s Northern Circle, before reaching the brow of a typically Welsh green hillside. Nick powers forward, and as the hill repeatedly dips away it looks like the end of our adventure, but he knows this area well and it smooths out again to my unspoken relief.
It’s been an incredible taster of a landscape more varied than I could have imagined. We leave the same way Nick arrived – with grins, because we’ve been let in on the secret and because we know it will be even better when we return for the full Adventure Experience.