Wednesday, 30 December 2020
Monday, 28 December 2020
We couldn't meet at Cleopatra's, as Wales was subject to the latest strict set of lockdown rules. My telephone enquiry earlier in the week to Alison's in Tattenhall was met with a warm and welcoming response. Alison was happy to accommodate us in relative safety. There was a heater on the covered patio if we preferred to have our coffee al fresco. It was a cold but brilliantly sunny start to Christmas Eve. I wasn't sure if anyone would turn up, with Covid cases rising, family demands and last minute domestic preparations being made. I thought Neil would make it, as he is a consistent lobbyist for Alison's. In fact, it is said that when he's not cycling or playing golf, he can sometimes be seen walking along the pavement in Tattenhall wearing an Alison's sandwich board around his neck. I wonder though, if his advocacy for this admittedly admirable establishment may have something to do with the fact that he has only to fall out of bed and he's there? He, no doubt, would have had an enjoyable, clean(!) route to suggest, with the excellent local knowledge that he has now acquired. Also, I had forgotten that Dave Matthews had let me know that he would be attending, but not riding if there was any chance of icy roads. Neil did send me an email later to say that he couldn't be with us, as he was riding with his son, which seems a smashing thing to do at Christmas.
It was good to see Nick, who had cycled out to deliver season's greetings, but generally had been doing little riding. He said that his local lanes were in a potentially dangerous state for cycling, and this wasn't helped by large tractors speeding around them. He felt that concentrating on trying to stay safe was preventing him from relaxing and enjoying his riding as normal. Jim had made the effort, but only in civvies as he had afternoon commitments. John, Ivan and Clive had ridden out from Chester, and as far as I understood, had no ambitious ride plans, as they were intending to return home handily. As far as a moderate ride goes, I had conjured up a route to The Horse and Jockey at Grindley Brook, and provisionally booked for lunch for four. However, a solo ride was now my only option, and having decided that eating alone for lunch didn't appeal, it seemed easier to drive home and ride locally, without having to think about novel routes, or falling off alone down some rarely used lane. Dave Matthews intended to do the same, as he felt that there was less chance of icy patches by the beginning of the afternoon. One thing I have reflected on this year is that we all have our own reasons, thresholds and judgements when it comes to assessing risk. I remember Ray Hardman, who used to be a key lead rider when I joined the club, cycling something like 13,000 miles well before the year was up, but he would never risk riding if there was ice about. For what it's worth, as long as you stayed alert, I didn't feel that the conditions were very risky on Thursday, although there was plenty of ice about on Christmas Day. I have given up looking for photographs of us cycling in the snow, but I do recall many wintry excursions on club rides. If you scroll back on the website to December 29th, 2016 to Daresbury; January 5th 2017 to Rhuddlan (-4C); December 28th 2017 to Overton, and March 1st 2018, all provide interesting evidence of our past willingness to take on challenging winter conditions, thankfully without any serious incidents. Reckless or resilient?
Whilst sifting through the archives I came across a report written by Macca which supports my aversion to cycling to Malpas, as he informs us that “mal” is Norman for “poor” and “pas” for roads! I can recommend “The Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive” by Isola Press for brilliant, evocative photographs of cycling in all conditions and environments on ordinary road and touring bikes. Dave Pipe would enjoy this book; it even features some of his favourite oilskin capes.
Anyway, to get back to the reason I started to write up the ride that didn't happen, was to acknowledge the camaraderie of friends making the effort to enjoy a coffee and a chat at Alison's despite Covid and it being Christmas Eve. This is why it is such a pleasure to be a member of this club.
Friday, 18 December 2020
It was a pleasant surprise to have a good turnout at this time of year, Covid and all. Clive was back from his faraway rural idyll; Dave Matthews, Neil, Trevor, Ray, Jim and myself made up The Magnificent Seven. Ray was doing his own thing, and Jim had injured his back through practising Tantric sex, or bringing the coal up from the cellar (he wasn't sure). I learnt later that Peter tried to join us but had left home late. Perhaps an electric motor for his bike is no longer enough, and he now requires one to get his backside into gear. Rose Farm had duly provided a table each which enabled safe distancing.
I had sounded out The Bhurtpore in advance, in order to see if we could lunch, warm and dry, inside. So it was, that five of us headed out via Tarporley and picturesque Tilstone Bank (where Dave Matthews had once lived). Ray appeared from behind a hedge a few miles south of Bunbury, and joined us for a while before heading for No Mans Heath. On reaching Brindley, we had time to add on a loop taking in Ravensmoor and Sound. This would have necessitated me swopping from OS map 117 to 118, and just checking the mini maze of lanes for a minute to ensure that I had it right in my head. My new customised map is in the post, so I won't have the map changing hassle in this area again. In this instance, Dave 'The Knowledge' Matthews saved me the trouble, as he could take us to Sound blindfolded. There was still a chance to play safe at Sound and cut off for Aston, but I calculated that we could get a few more miles in, on what had become a lovely sunny morning. We crossed the main Whitchurch to Nantwich road and headed past the moated Hall o'Coole, before joining the familiar back route south towards Audlem, and then cutting back north-west at Brickwall Farm. We arrived at the Bhurtpore bang on my booked time of 12.30. True as their word they gave us a table each, indeed the whole back room was exclusively ours.
Talk at lunch included riding through floods, and Clive recalled Runcorn Roy riding through calf high water to see if they could all get through. Clive's daughter had sent a picture to his phone of a rider nearly up to his crossbar, which given Clive's previous penchant for off-piste cycling environments we assumed was him. My glass of local cider was very moreish, and the food was good. They were a bit slow taking our food order, which meant enough time had passed for us to miss some very heavy rain before our return.
The troops wanted to return by way of Wrenbury and Cholmondeley, and then some would carry on over Harthill, and I would follow Dave Matthews along his 'secret lane' in the direction of Peckforton. Eventually, there was an informal decision for riders to crack on as required, as I was the only one riding back to Rose Farm, and it was better to be safely home before dusk on a short winter's day. Neil had waited, and I had eased off in order to keep the group together as much as possible. I had a hairy moment, trapped on the inside of a passing artic, as I sped down the main road by The Bickerton Poacher. Another juggernaught came around the corner ahead, and fortunately braked, so avoiding a head-on crash, or me becoming sausage meat in the gutter. I returned solo via Beeston Castle, Wharton's Lock and Birch Heath. Just Rose Farm there and back was about 38 miles. Another enjoyable day in good company, somewhat against the odds.
Tuesday, 15 December 2020
The Three Muskateers turned up again, but this time joined by a Celtic raider, and all four arrived on two wheels and keen for action. Spiros and his partner were glad to see us at The Gallery Tea Rooms. They had been very enterprising in offering a successful Greek cuisine takeaway service in order to survive strict Welsh Covid restrictions. It is rumoured that before Christmas Mark Drakeford is likely to rule out drinking Baileys after 1p.m., and sleeping with a girl from the next village at any time. So it was, that Mike Gilbert, Jim, Dave Matthews and myself had wound ourselves up to Hawarden for tea and toast. Dave and Spiros traded some consultant- level insights into managing heart conditions. One piece of advice must have been “never rush your tea and toast, and remember, that it’s good to talk”, because it was a quarter to eleven before we set off.
The proposed route had been discussed on the 'phone by me and Jim in the week. I had volunteered to write the ride report if Jim was prepared to lead. In the end we were happy deferring to 'no maps' Matthew's nearly eighty years’ experience of selecting dirty little lanes in Chester and outlying districts, to seek a route to Holt. Dave felt that it would be safer passing the usual steep and rough track alongside Bilberry Wood, and continuing our ascent on the smooth, meandering main road tarmac to the A55 roundabout. We then cut back left before crossing the footbridge on our regular route, higher than Higher Kinnerton. It is always pleasant bowling along this flattish stretch with pleasing views across the Dee valley. There was some discussion about mudguard safety, and Mike pointed out his gobbets of Evo Stik ensuring that his stay nuts could not be rattled loose. Dave and I prefer a drop of locktite threadlock to do the same job neatly. Each to their own, “What wurks” as Labour used to say. We were soon heading down by Golly(!) and crossing over the A483, skirting the back of Rossett, and passing “the pub I've never been in” at Trevalyn. A bit of a slog into a bit of a headwind, ameliorated by some drafting, took us to the junction for Holt. We weren't sure of the situation at Cleopatra's, or Lewis' at Farndon, and we were too lazy to dismount and find out if they would allow us to be served spaced out inside. Dave Matthews had highly recommended Lily's village shop and cafe at Aldford, so we thought we would explore this potential new coffee or lunch venue. We tried to ignore the likelihood that any drink or snack would have to be taken in the outside courtyard. The shop and cafe were very attractive, the staff welcoming and my toastie was delicious, Unfortunately, for the first time it was feeling properly cold, and our hoped for table in a sheltered corner didn't exist, with the wind blowing in from the open end of the square. Dave Matthews was taking his leave at this stage, as we contemplated moving the Christmas trees for sale to form a screen from the cold draught. Mike had brought his own Welsh buttie, probably lamb and leek. He was getting in a bit of a mess, perhaps trying to smuggle his imported food behind his Welsh flag decorated Covid mask? Anyway, he bore a close resemblance to Father Jack Hackett from 'Father Ted' trying to eat a takeaway with his hands whilst drunk. Mike tells me that he has now lived in Wales for longer than anywhere else in his life. I think he's gone native: he'll be burning down English holiday homes next (if Mr. Drakeford allows anyone out to buy 'non-essential' firelighters). This village store and cafe with its special cakes, and fine foods would make a lovely summer stop on a drive through the Cheshire countryside, with your partner in your Morgan with the hood down. Nevertheless, after a strong coffee, you may still have to be prepared to pee behind a hedge on the way home, as we had to, because there were no toilet facilities!
We tried to warm up again on a very familiar route for Jim to his home in Guilden Sutton, where I had also parked my car in order to ride to Hawarden with him earlier. Having duly made a comfort stop two younger guys cruised past me. I belatedly gave chase, as Mike and Jim were now out of my sight after the pit stops. I began to enjoy reeling the two strangers in, although I regretted leaving my aspirin back home on the kitchen top, as I felt that a heart attack was a distinct possibility. I finally caught them up (and Jim) on the short sharp climb at Saighton. It was hardly a John Wilkie paced attack by me, but it gave some hope that my fitness could return to my previously modest levels before lockdowns, gym closures and suspension of club rides. The three of us then drifted in through Waverton, Christleton and Vicars Cross. Mike had to get back to Shotton where, I believe, he had parked. I had to get back to take my daughter's dog out, and Jim could save a few bob by having Lady Di putting the kettle on, jamming a scone and providing a leg massage for him at home, so we passed on a final coffee at Meadow Lea. About 36 miles covered, and a very enjoyable day out with friends, despite our cold refreshment stop. It is good to see Mike back in good shape, and I appreciate his effort to join us all the way from Rhos.
Friday, 23 October 2020
A small group of 5 riders met at Lewis’s in Farndon, to be joined by Ray and Dave M who were out for a short ride. The five, Neil, Eric, Keith, Dave H and myself decided on a meandering route to the Swan at Marbury, and we duly set off towards Churton. Turning south we followed the lanes down to Barton and Tilston before skirting the eastern edge of Bickerton Hill. Here we turned south for Cholmondley, crossing the A49 towards Wrenbury. After a few miles we turned right onto an interesting little lane, well up to Clive’s standard. In fact we were very pleased that the weather was dry or there might have been some ‘incidents’ in the inch deep soil covering the whole surface. However, we reached Marbury unscathed and soon arrived at the Swan, almost exactly 20 miles from Farndon.
There was ample room on the patio but little sun to provide warmth, and we were left musing how much longer we could go on eating outside. Perhaps we need a change of plan fairly soon. The service was excellent and the food very welcome after only a short wait. It was a pleasure though to go inside to the Gents for a warm! Back in the saddle for a shorter return journey, we crossed the canal towards Bickley, then No Mans Heath, before skirting the edge of Malpas along Mates Lane. The long downhill back to Tilston was very welcome and we were soon on Wetreins Lane heading for Crewe. Back in Farndon Eric and Neil continued on for home, Keith took some time to inspect a very interesting field of grass, and Dave and myself returned to the café.
Regular readers of this blog will know that most ride reports feature an incident where Dave loses his car keys, hat, gloves ,glasses or map. No such thing happened today. However, Dave did have a little trouble locating his credit card in the café and did a quick circumnavigation of the premises to try and track it down. Fortunately a kind member of the public had found it on the floor and handed it in at the till. Another problem solved then!
Not a long ride - a touch under 35 miles, but very pleasant, and at least we kept dry.
Monday, 19 October 2020
Saturday, 17 October 2020
With the ever increasing restrictions on CER members travelling, a small number of moderates and brisk riders gathered in the feeble sun outside the station café in Delamere. As I had not ridden with the group for some time I had already decided on a shortened version of Daves ride to Little Bollington, but as there was only myself and Dave H riding we both decided to head towards Comberbach and the oddly named Spinner and Bergamot. (must find out what that means sometime) We set off along Station Lane and as we turned the corner towards Norley Peter was waiting for us, which made us a threesome. We took the usual route down Norley Lane and through the farm lanes to Acton Bridge,up the hill and over the canal to Little Leigh. Cumberbach is only from here, but not the way we went! It was such a nice pleasant sunny day that we meandered through the lanes enjoying good riding on quiet lanes through Antrobus and the suburbs of Little Budworth. Eventually the speedo was creeping close to 19 miles so we set off for the pub. Dave had rung ahead and we were expected, but as it was warm enough (just) we opted to sit outside. Service was good, we had our temperatures taken and were passed suitable to serve. Food was good and wholesome, but the intermittent cloud meant we didn’t want to lounge around too long. We chose a more direct route back, mainly as I had another 10 miles to do from Delamere. From Acton Bridge we followed the track along the weaver and then up towards Norley. Back up Norley Lane to the crossroads at Hatchmere
Where we parted company. Dave back to the car while Peter and myself set off through the forest to Ashton and the Greenway.
Saturday, 10 October 2020
Sadly, all our Welsh contingent were confined to their own council areas due to Covid restrictions. Nevertheless, it was a very reasonable turnout at Meadow Lea, our chosen alternative to Chirk. It was great to see Steve Futcher again, and he and Erik chose to ride with the Fast Lads. Clive had been delayed by a puncture, but Ivan and John appeared around 10.30 to collect Steve and Erik and rejoin Clive for their ride.
Mike Dodds was making a welcome return to the group after living in Germany for a while, and then quarantining. The moderate group consisted of Steve Tan, Trevor, Neil, Mike and myself. Dave Matthews rang to say that he had been delayed by a puncture, but he intended to join us, so we arranged to meet at Waverton. I had planned to have lunch at The Farmer's Arms at Ravensmoor, an old favourite of Mike Morley's. I discovered that although the bar was open, the kitchen was still closed, so, instead, I had pre-booked The Bhurtpore, a bit further on. There were a couple of groans about a so, so familiar destination, but Neil had never been, and it is a reliable venue in uncertain times.
My intended route had some quirks. Firstly, we went out past Ivan's house to Vicars Cross, and then crossed the canal and A41 to Rowton before reaching Waverton by Moor Lane, which surprised Dave Matthews, who then met us at the primary school. We made good progress alongside the Shropshire Union Canal, before heading for Beeston via Huxley and Brassey Green. Dave Matthews had his second puncture of the day before we reached the A49, and as he had his car to pick up later, decided to sort it out and return home. Our route was then familiar, riding south-west of Bunbury. But we took an unusual excursion to Haughton Hall, and south of Brindley headed east before crossing the Llangollen Canal and turning right for Ravensmoor and Sound. We had clocked up a good few wind-assisted miles by this stage, so headed for Wrenbury and Aston, instead of trying to do the Hall o'Coole loop. Neil was interested in taking a left straight to the pub as we approached Woodcotthill Lane. I explained that you needed paddy-field waders and a big shovel to cross the River Weaver half way down. Clive enjoyed it in his Brown Period, but the last time I used it as a “short-cut” I was ten minutes behind the others at the end, and my machete was blunt.
We were a little late for our booked reservation at the Bhurtpore. Not that it mattered, as we were given the usual friendly reception, and the choice of where to sit. We chose two tables in the deserted back room. The food was fine, and the conversation ranged from the pub's connection with the British Empire in India, to the importance of circadian rhythms (Mike), and conjecture about who could possibly have managed the coronavirus epidemic worse than Boris? The young staff were very pleasant, but seemed inexperienced: I think something was nearly thrown over Neil, and we had to work out our own bills from the till slip. I finished up paying for two “1/2 Squashes” with my curry, and I don't think any of us ordered a Squash! Anyway, I did have a drink, and nobody appeared to feel “ripped-off”.
Our return ride threatened to be mostly into a headwind. Mike had a sniper's shot puncture near Chorley, and too many cooks managed to sort it, but with some difficulty, and not enough distancing. Short of the beautifully bricked Old School House, we deviated left down the tiny lanes near Spurstow Lower Hall, and approached a deep flood. We all managed to plough through it and shortly after were applauded by two ladies. Not that Neil was too impressed with my sock soaking choice of route. At Spurstow, Mike's tyre made a loud noise again, and was instantaneously flat. I found a large hole in the cover, and on proper examination the tyre had the strength of ancient papyrus. Steve magicked up two tyre patches, which were doubled up. Neil has nine discarded tyres on his garage floor, so he has had plenty of practice changing tyres, and gave a You Tube demonstration of how to do so, slickly. He just needed persuading, that perhaps less air pressure than normal may help avoid another high-pressure explosion. Mike was very apologetic, but most of us have been there, sadly, sometimes more than once, in overlooking a tyre that was too worn. Sure, sometimes it's old git meaness to get our moneysworth, but often it's just that bike tyres haven't been one of life's priorities recently. The remainder of the route went well via Peckforton, Beeston, Newton, Greenlooms, Waverton and Stamford Heath. Neil peeled off for home along the way. 56 miles covered, more for most. Quite a stretch for a moderate ride at this time of year, but it will have done us good.
Thursday, 8 October 2020
|Ivan can't resist trains - with his next bike in the window behind him!|
Saturday, 3 October 2020
After numerous recounts by Dave (to be fair people kept coming and going), which did make it difficult, however, he cracked it, once he took his shoes and socks off.
One pair of cold feet later, Dave decides on 2 moderate groups, due to the pandemic restrictions :-( By this time, the fast boys were already leaving. I therefore offered to lead one group, as I had a route ready (to the Dusty Miller pub in Wrenbury)
So, off we pedal: - Fiona, Alan, Eric, Steve & a tearful Elwyn (surplus to requirement, from the fast boys)- he’ll gain some mates, one day -lol.
Photo by Alan
“Where are we heading to?” (from over my shoulder), to which I therefore enlightened my little ‘posse’ on our deliberate outward loop from Bunbury toward Oulton Park race circuit and back to Bunbury again, not repeating any lanes, which are some of my favourite bits of smooth tarmac.
I initially kept the pace down, as Fiona had informed me that she was still tired from her 100 miler on Sunday (well done by the way & Elwyn, who apparently took the wind, on the front, for 80% of the ride (that’s 80 miles for those still thinking) - Dave put those socks back on- lol
After a couple of minor overshoots, which, would you believe, were due to a Crane Fly! Landing on my Garmin screen. I had swatted it away, whilst maintaining my balance and not disrupting the rhythm of the ride-lol. That said and unbeknownst to me, a single leg got left behind on my screen, which looked just like a road on the map, as it would of course (could happen to anybody, I thought - not sure anybody bought that one)
Anyway, we arrive at the Dusty Miller pub. After a brief spell of musical bikes, involving 3 or 4 tiers of steps, we finally settle on an acceptable spot for the bikes and entered the pub. Somewhat disappointed, we discover they only had a ‘Pandemic sandwich menu’, of limited choice, but to be fair, they were good.
Lunch conversation was varied and understandably with a ‘pandemic’ slant, although the initial conversation was from Steve & Eric? Regarding the lengthy, slight incline, but directly into a wind. Suffice it to say, it took a bit of effort, despite Fiona calling Elwyn forward, in order for him to slice through the wind with those incredible legs (not really jealous of his power)
The most memorable conversation was the story about the annoying phone calls, during a recent visit to the ‘Lake District’. Apparently, somebody has a mother who is somewhat ’koo koo kachoo’ or words to that effect (something about, hearing voices in the laundry basket- sounds perfectly normal to me) So! no intellectual political conversations on this ride- lol.
After that sobering revelation, it was time to set off again, once the canal bridge was lowered of course, which gave the slow starters more time (no names-lol).
No sooner had we got started, when I realise I am ‘Billy no mates’, after only a mile. I turn back to find ‘the posse’ having a smoke break, while pretending to fix a puncture and basking in the sun. Elwyn proceeded to show us how not to use a gas pump (I believe I heard “bless him” from a concerned bystander guess who-lol))
To be fair he did have a crap gas pump, as was proven when Steve? eventually came to his aid, with a descent one, much to Fiona’s astonishment, although I had offered mine, but it seemed to go right over Elwyn’s head, much like his own gas pump - gasp! horror!-lol.
So! We finally get going for our 10 mile leg back to Alison's. I tap out a little bit of pace, as I was aware of the impending threat of rain, due at 3pm, which, unfortunately (I later find out), F&E caught in Holt, after leaving us at the top of Harthill. The rest of us went right to Burwardsley, just to provide a last little sting in the legs before the downhill run into Tattenhall-lol.
We arrived at Alisons, nice and dry, dead on 3pm, just in time for closing -lol.
Finally: well done all, as the average speed was unexpectedly quicker than normal moderate pace, at 15.5mph (Alison's, door to door at 45 miles)
Not sure the pace was my fault though, as I was simply trying to keep a safe distance from the bike behind- lol. Fiona must have been bluffing about being tired- lol.
Cheers everybody - Neil.
Friday, 2 October 2020
The turnout was surprisingly good at Alison's, and the service was friendly and efficient. Despite Wednesday's awful weather, and impending additional lockdown restrictions, riders appeared to have had faith in the much-improved weather forecast for Thursday. And they were not wrong! We sat in the open air with the sun on our faces supping our coffees. We had about four spaced tables, and were careful to maintain reasonable social distancing, but a couple of riders stayed on the outside of the fenced patio, and Ivan and John arrived later for a brisk ride, having decided some time ago, to give the group gathering a miss. Oh, for the carefree times of only a few months ago! It was good to meet up with Jim again, although he was not able to join us for the day. Anyway, thanks to the usual goodwill, we managed to organise ourselves into three groups with three leaders and three different planned destinations.
My moderate group consisted of Steve Tan, Andy Barber, Dave Matthews and Mike Gilbert. It was great to have Mike back, and in good nick. Dave was trying to stuff jam teacakes down as it was time to go. We headed for Beeston Castle before turning south alongside the Peckforton Hills, and then left to Spurstow. Dave suggested a tiny lane route to Brindley, which initially required a short dash down the A49, but was then a quiet, delightful change. We were on familiar lanes to Larden Green, Chorley and Wrenbury, but it is unusual for us to ride them on the way out. At Wrenbury we turned right and headed south through Pinsley Green, then left under the railway, and stayed east in this hummocky topography. Dave Matthews caught a puncture, but Steve Rocket Robin Hood Tan and Barber The Beast had forged ahead, well beyond hailing distance by this time. This would never have happened in Ray Hardman's day! I rang the pre-booked Black Bear to tell them that we were five not four and were going to be a little late. Our split quintet managed to, eventually, make phone contact with each other, and I met Steve and Andy riding back from the edge of Whitchurch, with Dave and Mike behind, now on their way again.
The route home was planned to be a few miles shorter than our morning meandering. We headed out the usual route - the wrong way down a one way street! Past the hospital we wound our way up to Wirswall. Mike took a picture of the lovely views across the countryside from the top of the climb. We crossed the A49 to Bickley, then, unusually, took the small lane through Hetherson Green. Dave “I don’t need maps” Matthews and Mike, a former orienteering star, were invaluable in ensuring we went the correct way at strange junctions, whilst exploring. We swooped past Egerton Hall and battered up the bank to Hampton Post, before turning right and making the long climb to Broxton Old Hall. Dave had taken his leave by then to cut across for home. Earlier, Steve and Mike had joked that we should call our group Team Farmacia, because of the amount of medicines stored within our bodies (and because we liked pasta?). Actually, I was the only one of the five of us not having to manage a serious medical condition. It says a lot that Mike has not finished his course of treatment, but has for weeks been building up his mileage alone, in order to regain his fitness, and Steve was in hospital during the week, prescribed beta blockers, and still turned up to ride strongly a couple of days later. I really respect the positivity and determination of my four friends. We completed the ride via Brown Knoll and the climb to Bolesworth Castle, with the “patients” outpacing me. Plenty of sunshine, relaxing company and a downhill finish. A bonus, a bathe in the last light and warmth of a summer thought over.
Thursday, 1 October 2020
A bright autumn day was in prospect, and so it was except for an occasional black cloud that thankfully did not rain on us Brisk Six. Ivan and John W arrived last at Alisons, and Nick, Ray and John M made up the sextet today.
After a 100 mile ride on Tuesday (see below) four of us were happy to address the 46 miler to Hanmer that I had proposed. So off via Huxley we head down through Peckforton and Bickerton on our way to Bickley Moss. Marbury comes up quickly and soon it is in and out of Whitchurch heading for Alkington to Hanmer via Fenn Bank.
Try as I might not to do so, I seemed to have picked the very best of the worst road surfaces today. At Bronington , the lanes get worse in that they are plastered with wet field run off. Nearing Hanmer, I deviate north to get onto the dry and smooth A roads to enter Hanmer.
The Hanmer Post Office is busy especially as only two are allowed in at any time. So it takes a while to get our lunch purchased - also there wasn't so much of a choice today. So we sit looking at the mere topping up the calories and fluid levels.
The route back is going to be short at 16 miles as we have already ridden 30 miles. So we set off riding more badly surfaced roads towards Worthenbury. None of us want to actually go back to Tattenhall, so I suggest "Let's go to Cleopatra's as we probably will not be able to do this again for a while". So we plough along the familiar road to Shocklach where Nick heads home for Tilston.
We sit in the sun with our hot drinks outside Cleopatra's cafe and then John suggests we head home via Rossett, Dodleston and Saltney Ferry bridge. A good idea as this tops up the out-and-back mileage to a respectable 70 miles today.
So apologies to the Brisk group today for loading up their bikes with excess mud, but this is likely to be the norm going forward now as Autumn starts to turn to Winter.
Photo by JW
Ivan designed and led this ride which started via car assist in Stretton. After a cold and foggy foray through several suburban landscapes, we arrive in sunny Standish for a late breakfast. After a necessary detour via Rufford (a bridge was being removed over a river) we plough across the fenland and ride the whole length of Southport prom. We then grab cake and a drink at the MeCycle shop in Ainsdale.The route back is shorter, but we now have the going-home traffic to contend with in Warrington. A great day out for Nick, John W, Ivan and myself with 102 miles ridden at 16 mph average speed. Thanks Ivan!
Sunday, 27 September 2020
I have consciously decided that café meets and large groups are not for me until we are over this current plague. Therefore, I suggested to John W and in agreement with me, we decided to start later and ride straight to lunch at New Brighton.
My route was to navigate along the coast from Parkgate to West Kirby and the ever-popular route along the cycleway to New Brighton. We met up with the Moderates only briefly riding from Ness café along the coast cycleway but the mod group stopped to chat with Doc Martin and Liz as they do!!
John and I pressed on but not flat out and enjoy the opposite views looking at the Halkyns instead of riding over them. Only one hill to speak off and after photo stop on Davenport Road, the Pipes lane is next and the unmade road Oldfield Drive riding up to Irby.
|Fame at last - for the road that is!|
At New Brighton, we lunch at the fish and chip shop* but not impressed on this visit. As we were leaving Dave and George arrive and advise them to lunch at Wetherspoons, but not a good idea today after reading Clive’s blog.
As John and I set off we have a few spots of very cold rain and by the time we are passing Egremont the sky is blue above us but very dark over the water and Liverpool City. Missed that shower!
We continue riding the Wirral circular cycle route which in places needs some TLC. Leaving Eastham park, we are now inland and enjoying the quiet road at Rivacre Park although the traffic on the M53 could be heard. Ellesmere Port, Little Stanney, Stoak and we are back at Mickle Trafford.
John rides solo back home along the Greenway and I’m home
An average day around the Wirral at 45 miles (if back to Ness), but an enjoyable day out with John again.
Thursday, 24 September 2020
I hedged my bets on the weather forecast – BBC said it would rain, Met Office said unlikely, and XC had both features. Still, as long as it isn't raining when you set out, then it is better to travel hopefully than not at all. Thus I arrived at Ness Gardens cafe with full Covid conditions in place.
Dave H and Keith were already there, shortly to be joined by Erik, George, Alan and Ray. So we had a Cyclist's Half Dozen didn't we? I had offered a ride around the Wirral that Dave had gratefully accepted. So we set off down the hill towards the Nets Cafe. Here along the footpath, Ivan and Wilkie zoom up upon Ray, Erik and I to tell us that the rest had stopped to talk to Doc Martin and Liz! So we wait patiently for them at the Harp whilst Ivan and Wilkie zoom off.
Soon we are in Allan Meadow passing Brian Mac's house and weaving through the park and Neston little lanes to exit along Wood Lane. Well there is no wood really and no tarmac surface either for most of it. We are now off to Brimstage via Thornton Hough and pause in Storeton. Originally I had planned to take Landican Lane, but with the recent overnight rain it was bound to be agricultural. I spare them the early mud bath and aim for Prenton Hill and the long run down to the Woodchurch Asda where we take the tarmacked version of Landican Lane southwest towards Irby and the highest point of 260ft by the old mill.
A quick right here takes us down to Frankby and a loop around West Kirby and Hoylake suburbia to end up at Meols beach where the Viking landed from Ireland a long time ago. The tide was well out today, not like the last time in March 2020 when we were here with high winds and mountainous seas. We cycle the sea wall arriving at New Brighton. The weather had been good so far as we had missed the obvious lone rain clouds, but our luck was about to run out.
Our Cyclist's Half Dozen of 7 riders wasn't accepted at the Weatherspoon's - not even as a group of 3 and then another of 4. So with the rain coming down, we head for the old favourite of Seaside Cafe and espy Ivan and Wilkie just leaving for home. No such group problems at the cafe – only table service today and as usual everything comes very quickly at a reasonable price.
The rain stops just as we are leaving for the return loop of the fat figure of eight. Along the prom and up into Wallasey, we are now heading for the Bidston Moss M53 transfer. It's not the most attractive route back to Asda, but it just works. So we are now at Landican Lane again and up and off to Irby yet again. This time we dive down to Thurstaston heading for the Wirral Way. The Wirral Way is quiet and a bit muddy though. I suggest to a coffee stop at Elephant Cafe at Parkgate Front, and once again no problem with a Cyclist Half Dozen. The route back is well known and 47 miles comes up and a surprising 2000ft a climbs.
Ray, Erik and I split for home via Burton, Ledsham, and Capenhurst. Unfortunately we catch the back end of a very wet shower. Still, the bikes needed a wash after the Wirral Way routing. George and Alan were heading over the border to Wales. So home in the dry with 60+ miles for Chester riders. Then comes the inevitable dilemma – do I clean the bike now or leave it for another day? I opted to do it then, and pleased I did so.
Finding “new” routes around the Wirral is difficult, especially since we have “lost” the expert aka Macca. Riding the Wirral during early lockdown was helpful in putting this route together, and I hope there were a few lanes that were unfamiliar to the group
Photo by Alan
Saturday, 19 September 2020
It was a fine day and warm enough to sit outside Cleopatra's at Holt. I was in the position of planning to lead, but realising that the fit bunch in front of me would normally ride faster than myself.
Dave Matthews was out for coffee, but not riding, and Nick was going to do his own brisk route.
Peter, Steve Hu, Clive, Alan and Andy B were happy to join me on a quiet lane meander into lush Shropshire. The Red Lion was updated on numbers for lunch, and we set off via Farndon to Tilston. I am not keen on the busier, rough and hilly roads in and out of Malpas, so I prefer to give it a miss. Instead we threaded our way south via Horton Green, Cuddington Heath and Oldcastle Heath (where excellent "Renaultsport" tuners are based in Peacock Farm).
From Bishop Bennet Way we swooped down to Lower Wych, climbed out, and then turned left to pass Strift House and head for Whitewell. I intended to show people the lovely little church here, but we lost Steve and Peter, and Peter again in a very small area! We crossed the A525 and the A495 not far west of Whitchurch, thankfully as a complete group. We were now into favourite cruising territory, sweeping down on largely smooth surfaces in the sun to Whixhall, and then west to Northwood.
The lanes became narrower and the profile more hummocky, as we cut across to Lee via Lyneal, Colemere and Spunhill. The thatched cottage at the end of sun-sparkled White Mere has become the place I would most like to live! We passed the marina on the back road into Ellesmere, and the outstanding Beech House where Thomas Telford had an office next to the Llangollen branch of the Shropshire Union Canal c.1806. We wound our way through through the town centre in order to reach The Red Lion. Thanks to Clive's help, and the groups forebearance, the intricate route had been, I think, worth the trouble.
The welcome was friendly at The Red Lion, and we were able to space out over three tables outside at the back, with a choice of sun or shade. The food was fine, but soon we needed to get going. The planned route back was more straightforward .
We took the quiet route out at the north-west end of The Mere, past the cemetery, and then left over the former railway line. We rode close to Spout Wood before heading directly for Penley via the steep bank. Through Penley we turned right opposite the interesting little Madras School, and headed directly north to Holly Bush. Clive favoured the Mulsford loop to Worthenbury.
Somewhere around Glandeg Farm I noticed four riders had spurted ahead, as part of a tradition to start winding the pace up for a fast few miles to Farndon. I had missed the break! Like Egan Bernal my back wasn't great, but I think he had a better excuse than just being stiff from a couple of hours of work on the summerhouse. Unfortunately, Peter is not an elite domestique, so although I enjoyed an energised flog, my efforts didn't really qualify as a realistic chase. (By the way, I've just worked out that I am 82lb. heavier than Egan Bernal !)
We just made Cleopatra's, and I had coffee and cake with Andy before he started his return ride to Mold. Alan popped up having picked up a puncture, not for the first time recently, I understand. It is pleasing that he has now officially joined the club. I really enjoyed the day, and I hope the quicker guys didn't find things too pedestrian, at least the seven mile sprint at the end should have stretched them.
Nearly 48 mile of sunny cycle surfing in scenic countryside with friendly company. Great!
Wednesday, 16 September 2020
It was good to see Trevor and Steve Tan, who had made the effort to cycle to Rose Farm, but had commitments that meant they were unable to join one of the two rides on offer. The Fast Lads had their route sorted, and I had booked The Bhurtpore for a moderate ride. Yes, I know, The Bhurtpore again, but it has two gazebos in a spacious, south-facing garden, and in these uncertain times, it is certain that we will receive friendly service, decent food and a wide choice of quality beers. I had pre-booked lunch with them.
To make the ride a bit more than the normal pleasant, but predictable plod, my route plan was to add in some extra quiet lanes before Nantwich, and to leave the option of riding a loop south and east of Audlem to add interest and miles if we fancied it. There were only three of us, myself, Keith and Peter, who has been self-isolating, but decided to follow us at a safe distance. We headed for Tarporley, climbing up before turning left to Heath Green, crossing the by-pass on foot. At Portal, we turned down Sapling Lane, passing the remains of a Roman villa just before the junction at Eaton. The weather was worse than expected, looking very grey, with some heavy drizzle, and cooler than of late. The route chosen took us in the Calveley area, meandering peacefully to Cholmondeston, south of Wettenhall and back on our standard route to the edge of Nantwich. We avoided Nantwich traffic by taking Chester Road to Acton, and then using the lovely little Ravens Lane, past Madam's Farm on the Dorfold Hall estate, and onto Tally-ho. We headed towards Audlem via Ravensmoor, Sound, Hall o'Coole and Brickwall Farm, before turning north-west to Aston. The weather had improved, but we chose the shorter option to the Bhurtpore, rather than looping as far south as Coxbank and Wilkesley, as we had already covered a reasonable mileage.
At lunch, Keith and I had the usual hydrating cyclists' sort of soda plus drink, while, once again, Peter was enjoying a pint of beer, this time a 5% special. I was still ramming down extra chips, when it was time to go. I always feel so at home at the Bhurtpore, tempted to have another drink, and a sweet a la Dave and Liz, and then ordering a taxi back. We were a bit cool to start with on the way back, but made good progress on our normal route to Bunbury, via Wrenbury, Larden Green and Brindley. The sun was out, and all was well in our Easy Rider pleasure mode. Peter left us at Bunbury to head back to Chester. Keith and I attacked Tilstone Bank, and finished up at the Old Fire Station for cake and coffee. Keith has become a grumpy old man since lockdown, so it was no surprise that he claimed that his cake was stale. Like most grumpy old men he was probably totally correct in his judgement. Nearly 44 enjoyable miles in good company.
Thursday, 10 September 2020
As the bard once said " Oh what a grey day!"
The weather forecast was indifferent – the only good point was almost no wind. As I left home for Utkinton it was just 12C, and throughout the day, it warmed up to 15C but no sunshine just threatening dark clouds and grey clouds everywhere.
I bumped into Ray near Pearl Lane so we rode out together passing Trevor in Duddon. Dave H and Keith were just getting the bikes out of the car when we arrived at Rose Farm Cafe. We chatted outside as it was before 1000, but the cafe had been open for an hour and we were invited in!
Not too many riders out today. The Mods were off to their favourite pub in Aston. The surprise rider was Ivan, as I knew he was off to south of Whitchurch with John W for a fast ride. However John was needed for grandpa duties, so Ivan decided to ride with Ray and I as far as Middlewich. He was then off to Nantwich to see his sister and family members. The other rider on grandpa duties was Steve T.
As we left, the misty rain could be seen across the Cheshire plain. We took the usual way out to Oulton Park, nearly being run down by two enormous tractors that were not giving way at all. Soon we were on the back lane behind the Cheshire Police HQ in Winsford. Out of Winsford towards Middlewich, the countryside really didn't improve much as we circle around Middlewich. Here, Ivan headed north as we headed south towards Sandbach down the long Bradwall Road. If the sun had come out here, it would have lifted the grey pallor of the countryside.
At Sandbach, we forsake the usual Spoons pub and head out for Wheelock taking a new lane to us; aka Mill Hill Lane. Yes, there is a mill and, as we climb out the other side, the road becomes a farmer's lane replete with farm machinery and a farm. It worked today – but best avoided in the wet I suggest. Soon we are at Malkin's Bank and then twice under the M6 at Hassall Green. Here we take the Salt Way cyclepath. According to Ivan, who knows about these things, it was the line of a railway taking salt out of the local mines. It's a good surface but a bit dank and dark. So as soon as a parallel lane appears, we take it, this now being NCR 5 to Alsager.
It starts to rain – only lightly, but the temperature has dropped. We circle around to find the Asda, but decide given that the clouds are looking ominous now, to sprint down to The Plough on the western end of Alsager. This is a typical all-you-can-eat roast meal buffet pub but we opt for so-so sandwiches and a meagre bowl of chips. It was warm inside– that's the only good thing we could say about it!
With 27 of the 50 miles ridden, the route back is down the delightful lanes around Oakhanger and Winterley until Crewe environs appear. We slide around Coppenhall and onto Church Minshull. The bikes now know the way back to Tarporley via Eaton. If we had gone back to Utkinton, it would have been 50 miles.
Ray and I choose to head for home via Hargrave and Huxley. Back into Chester, it has warmed up to 15C and Ray will have had a 75+ mile day with mine at 80 miles – the second 80 miler of the week!
So, many thanks to Ray for sticking with me today and taking the front as my legs were tiring on the way back. This was a circular ride trying to avoid the industrial towns of central Cheshire. If the sun had shone, I would have written an entirely different blog!
Saturday, 5 September 2020
Today’s start location is the Gallery Coffee shop with the promise of hills and God’s wonderful country. Sun and strong wind promised by the weathermen. The café was as friendly as ever and pleased to see us back and was nice to be back.
The brisk riders out today are just John W and I with Ray on a promise at 15:00 and Clive taking it easy and Nick/John?. Ken is recovering after treatment but riding safely and with excellent performances. Not long before he’s back then!
John and I set off on a route to Rhos on Sea for a fish and chips lunch and we were not disappointed. Using the usual quick and easy route from Hawarden via Northop and skirting the A55, we were soon on the Halkyns. John had a mechanical, but fixed and were off. No support vehicles on our rides!
The long straight from the Monastery at Pantasaph was tough to the junction before the turn for Whitford. Although the head wind was making it a hard ride, we also have a few hills to navigate. The steepest and most challenging was leaving the Rhuddlan road riding along Primrose Hill road. I mentioned to John “why give such a road a pretty name” (Mike may comment) as the gradient is creeping upwards and getting harder. Passing through the little and very pretty village of St George we are now riding on a single track for approx. 2 miles at severe gradients between 15 and 20 %. We both got to the summit and Strava advised only one summit left to ride, bring it on!!
Passing through Dolwen, we spy a previous lunch stop, The Wheatsheaf, but continue on towards Colwyn Bay and Rhos. Our last summit was no where near as hard as expected and we are at the top of Old Colwyn and rolling down to the coast.
Arriving on the newish esplanade it is bathed in sunshine and even kids in the sea as we head for the chippy.The Galleon F&C shop is the location for lunch and they were enjoyed sitting on a bench looking out to sea they also tasted great.
We set off back towards Chester on NCR 5 and with a tail wind it was very welcome. We didn’t stop for tea and cake this afternoon passing through Flint and joining the Greenway home at Connah's Quay.
John took leave at Blacon Station and I rode the last few miles home. The circular route to and from Hawarden is around 80 miles. Our total was 20-mile greater riding out from Chester. My Garmin said 6000 feet of ascent but I think it nearer 5000* feet of climbing to enjoy or not, but at least you do the bumps first.
*plotaroute has 4200ft
Friday, 4 September 2020
The Grand old Duke of York Ride!
I arrived at Hawarden to find that a number of club members were already in attendance occupying our usual corner. I walked in with Keith and as all the chairs were taken we were directed by Spiros to a table on the other side of the room. Here I bored Keith with tales of my cycling the length of the Leeds - Liverpool canal while we drank our coffee. This is my excuse for not really taking much notice of who was around. So no list of members present from me I am afraid.
Sunday, 30 August 2020
Well my first ride for a while and I can honestly say I was thinking 'fool'. Well anyway after a discussion with Ivan about his knee surgery I was even less assured I had made the correct choice. So I just sat waiting to be told which group I was going with thinking how much I’ve missed the Thursday gang, when George, Dave Mathews and Dave Heath informed me I will be in their bubble - you know life can throw a few pleasures at you now and again! Dave H was once again spot-on with the weather forecast and route. George and I had mentioned the same as Steve - how Carol was not telling us the right info - she needs to up her game and speak to Dave as he got the rain practically down to the minute.
Anyway we set off from the café in our bubble heading out of the station onto the main road. This is a perfect road for Jim to get in touch with the local council to re-lay some smooth new tarmac. We turned right at the Chinese restaurant heading down to Crowton, then over to Acton Bridge via some nice quiet roads with very little storm damage. We then had a nice wheee moment down Acton Lane, but I also knew later in the day, when your arse is hanging out, that we would have to climb back up it again. We managed to get across the A49 the Dave way (people who know him), then up over the bridge, then heading up more inclines to Comberbach. Then heading to Budworth Heath where a line of polite drivers were waiting for us to turn, when a nice local driver came pass us all, beeping his horn etc etc etc. What a hero!
We then meandered past Arley, then on to lunch at Little Bollington at the Swan with Two Nicks. As usual covid set-up, eating alfresco, freezing your knads off, getting the drinks order wrong. Dave M ordered a half of Guinness and got a pint. This when I thought he should be hung drawn and quartered, then have his eyes pulled out, he left half as he didn’t want it. In my home town you would have to keep hold of it till empty otherwise it's gone, but that’s discipline only having what you want.
After lunch we set off, just the 3 of us as Dave M went his own way. So after our farewells, this is where smart arse Dave H got the weather forecast spot on and due to his excellent paper map skills we headed back almost the same route, except if you know Dave he does like to make the odd detour thinking off-the-cuff, ie passing through the old air base at the back of Appleton Thorn then over to Frandley heading up to the fore-mentioned highest mountain. Well it felt like it, but it's known locally as Acton Lane off the A49 up to the station at Acton Bridge, where there was a group decision not to climb up through Onston but carry on through to the flat to Crowton ,then heading upwards to Norley in the rather heavy rain as our resident weather man said, then it's back to base at Delemere, where the 3 of us go our separate ways.
It was good to be out with George again and Dave M for the run out to lunch as normal - good company and kept a good pace up, and last but not least the tour manager/organiser Dave H who once again did a good job of getting us back in good shape, as both me and George haven’t been on our bikes recently. I can say it was brill, especially as the company was ok, well good then, Keith the one walking like John Wayne. Dave thought I could just help out with the blog - use it or get rid of it, not bothered it's your call, cheers for boss day. I have forgotten the exact route so add at your pleasure.
Friday, 28 August 2020
This is my first CER club ride since March and was looking forward to seeing other club members at Delamere station café. I met up with John W at the Mickle Trafford end of the greenway for a leisurely ride to the café. Passing a couple of club members along the route, we arrive at the station and there is a good group of moderate riders as well as Clive who advised us that today he is not with the Brisk group due "too much beer since his holidays". So it was John and I riding for the Briskers today and we set off along the very rough road surface to Hatchmere.
We head towards Hartford and Lach Dennis and continue heading for Goostrey and Holmes Chapel. We have ridden these lanes many times and were on form with legs spinning, passing Goostrey and the intended Mod’s lunch stop, before arriving at our intended lunch stop Holmes Chapel. Its only 12:00 so John pops into Aldi for a couple of Chicken sandwiches and we decide to ride off-piste abandoning my proposed route home*.
A few more lanes and we are at Breton Green passing the Bears Head where in the 1970 I was lucky enough to be in the same pub as Sir Matt Busby and got his signature. Just wish I had saved it! Our route takes us along Davenport Lane which we usually pass en-route towards the Mow Cop direction. It would have pleased Clive as it was both narrow and extremely muddy, oh dear – dirty bike. Heading towards Alsager it’s a detour via Smallwood, Malkins Bank and Winterly and then towards Crewe via Maw Green
Since departure from Holmes Chapel, we are making the route up as we go along and its towards the train station and Gresty Lane and passing MornFlake Oats (home of porridge oats) we’ve opted for. Through Nantwich and we decide not to stop, but would decide on a Tilly break if the café not too busy.
The usual route taken out from Nantwich and we are at Bunbury for 14:00 and Tilley’s and it’s also raining so decide to stop for a hot cup of tea and cake. The café does not feel the same – has it changed ownership during lockdown? When we exit the café, it has stopped raining.
We arrive Chester and I bid John farewell until next ride and head home with 82 miles covered. Not enough for John as he heads into Chester and joins the Dee cycle way as far as the Blue Bridge then joining the Greenway back to his home completing a 100-mile ride and 4000+ feet of ascent.
John and I have ridden together for most of this year and enjoyed our rides. Good to be part of the club and to see the other riders who were out today and hope they arrived back drier than we did.
NB: *Route therefore not completely as described in the text above!