The fast lads were absent. I believe they had been to Macclesfield on Tuesday. Dave Matthews had turned up for coffee and a chat, but had workmen in, so wasn't riding. He is riding in Majorca soon with Andy; sounds a great idea. Keith had been embroiled in decorating, but had managed to tear himself away. Clive and Macca were still in recovery mode, and it was good that they had made the effort to turn up for coffee. Macca sounds as if he has “been through the wars”, but now appears well on the mend. George had returned, and Mike arrived having hot-wheeled it from Shotton. Steve H was preparing for more peak-conquering in Scotland, so wasn't riding for once. Conversation with Steve revealed the unlikely fact that our spouses would be inside Styal Prison on successive days. Only one of them for abusing their partner.
We set off late for The Dog, which I had booked the night before. I took the back route past the attractive Norley Hall. Mike punctured at Crowton: something to do with a repaired tyre split and pumping it up too hard. Sounded like the Dave Pipe School of How to Fettle Your Old Cycle Gear Like a Yorkshireman. We headed for Acton Bridge, then north to Frandley, passing Cogshall Hall by the way of the quiet Hall Lane. I had intended to meander around the pretty, narrow lanes of Arley, but we were running late, so took the most direct route to Knutsford, via Antrobus, Bate Heath and Tabley Hill. The weather was better than had seemed likely, and reasonably warm, despite heading into an easterly breeze. Tatton Park was picturesque as ever as we headed north in the direction of Rostherne. We were now in untried territory, as we used the quiet Marsh Lane to reach Ashley and then headed south east for Knolls Green, and on to Marthall. It had been a long first leg to The Dog, thirty-three miles, and as we had been running late, it was close to two o'clock. We were well ready for a rest, a drink and a plate of decent grub! True to form, despite the pub initially being very busy, we all received a plate of very decent grub in short order. One of our quartet fell for the waitress. Can you guess which one?
|Photo by Mike G|
I calculated, correctly, as it turned out, that our slightly wind assisted return would be ten miles shorter, and reassuringly quicker than our outward journey. As we cruised through 'Cheshire Set' prime real estate, Keith wondered why there were no polo clubs in Runcorn. We were soon flying down Plumley Moor Road, and reached the difficult to negotiate A556. Although I had anticipated this, one way or another we finished up like ducklings trying to cross a motorway, as we tried to reach Linnard's Lane for Higher Wincham and Pickmere. Jose Mourinho is not the only leader that needs to reflect, learn and change their ways! Lessons: if you have not had chance to reconnoitre a dangerous area of your route, at least be physically in the lead so that your instant decisions for safety can be followed, rather than shouting to those in front over the noise of traffic; if it’s really bad, take the lead onto the pavement, and cross at the lights as a pedestrian. We passed the lane down to Pick Mere where we used to take the kids on the fair. It had a big cafe, a lake 'steamer', dodgems, a ghost train, and even a helter-skelter back in the day. We continued to Great Budworth down Westage Lane which was closed to traffic because it was undermined by badgers or moles. We reached Acton Bridge by way of Little Leigh; Onston and Norley Bank followed. Keith, my fellow not so quite heavyweight, can be glad he missed these final climbs, having headed for home earlier along his favourite Marsh Lane. There was a final twist in the tail, as Mike had a second puncture at Delamere. I had a long- promised package to deliver to George (1967-1969 copies of Penthouse), so having checked that Mike was managing, and didn't require an extra inner tube, drove to where George was parked on Delamere Lane. On returning, Mike was up and running for Chester Station. 56 miles is further than I've been for some time. Agreeable company and a relaxed atmosphere made the day.
See route map and/or gpx file download