It felt a bit bleak at Manley Mere, but once inside the fire was toasty and the staff friendly. Bryan, Paul, Ray, Jim and myself were soon snugly installed with hot drinks. Andy, back from the sun, and David M were there for a chat but not riding. Dave and Liz Pipe arrived later, and then Mike G made a welcome appearance. Ivan’s positive progress was discussed, and we look forward to his return.
Jim had a route, and I offered to lead until lunch (and add a few twists). We were soon climbing toward the hairpin on Sugar Lane, past David Yeo working on a sandstone wall. The fast lads had been asked to rein in initially, as we had unintentionally split in different directions here in the past. We turned right at the top of Pingot Lane, and wound up New Pale Road up to the old Kingswood Hospital site. The views were panoramic on these lofty heights before we burrowed down Dark Lane into Kingsley village. The tandem had already had a testing workout with only a few miles covered. Roddy Lane was quiet, but had an unnerving surprise of sheet ice around a corner. I was convinced I was going to ‘do an Ivan’, but finished upright on the grass after some fishtailing. We avoided the B-road by reaching Acton Bridge via The Cliff.
We had spent some time winding, climbing and waiting without getting very far. We now could make more effective progress on a straightforward route to Comberbach and Great Budworth. The steep bank to Willow Green was the only cause for some delay. It was raining, and the known delights of The George and Dragon were very tempting. Indeed for Dave and Liz ‘Rhubarb and Custard’ Pipe, the temptation was unsurprisingly too much. In fact none of us can remember the last time the tandem managed to pass this particular hostelry! Those who have ridden tandems will understand, that a return ride with rain and more steep slopes to face, made their decision a no-brainer. As it happened, the remainder of our ride to lunch was flat and largely dry.
Pick Mere appeared deserted down on our right. For many decades this was a very popular destination for day-trippers. There were boats for hire, a lively fairground and a large café well capable of handling charabanc loads of people. During the Second World War many evacuees were housed in hundreds of chalets around the lake and in the local area. We turned left in Higher Wincham, navigated the busy A556 and made steady progress down Plumley Moor Road. We were persuaded that The Crown would provide a warmer welcome and better value than The Bells of Peover. This snug C17th. Pub was indeed just what we needed, and we stayed for an extra coffee.
The shorter return route had us heading for Lach Dennis and then through the attractive village of Davenham. Jim’s faultless navigation and Paul’s memory successfully found the Weaver crossing at Moulton. The steep left in Whitegate was avoided, and we crossed the A556 just west of Hartford, and the A49 at Bryn, passing the site of the old Eden Vale yogurt factory at the edge of Cuddington. At Ruloe the last climbs back to Manley began, up through Norley and Delamere Forest. We tried two different ways after Spy Hill, but neither Dark Ark Lane, or Delamere Lane and the steep bank by the Goshawk, avoided the usual demanding, grinding last effort for tired legs. As I was strapping my bike on the car at Manley Mere it was nice to be joined by Bryan and Jim for coffee and cake. 44miles in the usual excellent company or 60 plus miles for those riding from Chester.