Strata Florida. It’s got a ring to it don’t you think? The name , derived from the Welsh “Ystrad Fflur” meaning valley of, or river of the flowers, is the site of a once important Abbey which was one of the main seats of power in Wales. Built around 1160 AD, the Abbey fell victim to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries during the tudor period and was closed in 1540 eventually falling into ruin, the remains of which can still be seen today.
Strata Florida is also the name given to one of the most infamous trails in the UK; a meandering boulder-strewn trail riding icon which winds its way north past the Twyi forest incorporating no less than nine deep fords . Hard in summer and nigh-on impassable in winter, the Strata has a reputation for punishing the unwary; an unfortunate passenger in a 4×4 drowned during a treacherous river crossing not so long ago. In short, the Strata needs treating with respect and its remote location means that a traveling partner is essential just in case things go awry and help needs to be summoned.
My pal Mike is always up for a trail ride and he was quick to accept my invitation to tackle the trail. We set off confidently from the Twyi forest visitor centre in hot sunny weather . With hardly any rain for a week just how hard could it be to tackle a ten mile trail?
As it turned out, quite hard ! Despite perfect riding conditions and low water levels in the river the trail is still a very challenging route. It’s surface is predominately rock and this tends to hold water long after the rains have gone. You can ride through two or three long, crystal-clear puddles holding barely nine inches of water and then plunge into a slightly murky one and watch your front wheel disappear into a two foot pot hole such as this one….
Here be dragons……. Welsh dragons of course.
The nine river crossings were fine and we both managed to get across without any drama but an innocuous looking puddle eventually caught me out and the bike went under momentarily gulping in a carbful of muddy water. It delayed us for about 45 minutes whilst we drained the carb and purged the crankcase of contaminated mixture. This wouldn’t have been particularly difficult save for the baking midday sun and I was glad for the reassuring presence of Mike lending a hand. Imagine being stuck out there on your own with a dead bike and having to walk miles to civilisation in heavy trail riding gear and then come back to retrieve the bike. It doesn’t bear thinking about. Or worse still , being stuck on a cold winter day with the light failing. Nope, if you tackle the Strata you need at least one buddy with you.
Having done it, I would rate the Strata as one of the best trails I’ve ever ridden. It’s got the lot. Stunning scenery, dramatic settings and some of the toughest technical challenges you’ll find on a UK green lane. Highly recommended but my advice is have a go before the winter sets in. This vid shows a group of wild Welsh lads tackling it when the rivers are in flood. Sooner them than me.