The day promised to be the hottest day in the year so far (in fact since 2003 according to the BBC) so the obvious thing to do is to ride for 100 miles in the heat. Were we put off? - No! There were nine of us starting out at 08:00 at a chilly (18˚ C) Chester station - Martin, Dave P, Dave H, Mike G, Ray, Colin W, Paul, Roy, and myself. To get out of Chester quickly, we take the canal all the way to Waverton. Up Guy Lane we run apace since we are 10 minutes late in meeting up with Jan at Duddon. Out via Utkinton, we take the Tarporley "bypass" to Eaton and thence on to Calveley Lane running parallel to the A51. A quick dash up the A51 takes us off at Barbridge and down Wettenhall and Welshman's Lane to access, via the back streets, the Nantwich café stop. We arrive slightly before they open at 10:00 but we are enthusiastically allowed in from the rear "bike park" door and are soon filling up on calories. 22 miles done 75 to go. Suitably refreshed the route takes us out passed the Secret Bunker turn to the outskirts of Audlem. Skirting the town to the south, we access national cycle route 75 to Norton in Hales. Crossing towards Mucklestone we are now in uncharted territory. The countryside here is gently rolling and turning out of the pretty village of Ashley, we take a long narrow lane to Slindon and Sturbridge on the outskirts of Eccleshall.
Stomachs are rumbling as we pass through Eccleshall with cries of " Are we nearly there yet?" Well we are, as the Star Inn comes into sight at Cop Mere. 52 miles done, 44 to go. A really welcoming pub this is, who have reserved us a section of the bar following my earlier call. The selection of ale is good, as is the service and the food.
Although we haven't seen much of the sun until now, it is out in full force as we meander up the lane taking the Bishop's Offley "bypass" via Walk Mill, and then towards Market Drayton. Passing Chipnall, we enter a hidden vale growing elephant grass (for biomass use) in the fields around. I really like this vale and have cycled it a few times now. Into Market Drayton we pass enticing close to the Jules brewery but soldier on to take the long 5 mile lane that takes up to Calverhall. After Ash Magna, we take the back way into Whitchurch. As one café eschews our custom, we find Jacks Café where we are enthusiastically welcomed with waitress service.
Which way to leave Whitchurch? Why go up the main road when you can take the canal; so the canal ride brings us welcome shade and we end up near to the Malpas turn at Grindley Brook. A few miles from Malpas there is a rifle shot sound and Ray's rear tyre explodes. There is plenty of advice on hand and a patch is applied to the torn side wall, which holds all the way home for Ray. The plan is to meet up at the Carden Arms, so we all storm off from Malpas to Tilston. On counting up, a few are missing as Martin succumbs to a puncture. Nonetheless as he arrives at the pub, we all take a pint in the shade. Jan heads for home via Carden Hill and Tattenhall. We decide to amend the published route to go via Cuddington and Churton back to Chester. Here for some unknown reason (probably the sun getting to our heads) we steam along at c 20mph all the way back to Chester. Martin and Dave Pipe however took a slightly different route from Tilston via Farndon.
Photographs by Clive Albany
Only 96.5 miles back in Chester, but with over the magic 100 on the dial as I arrive at home after a memorable day's cycling. Oh, just to say that Roy had cycled from Frodsham, so set off back with 130+ on the clock! My thanks to Dave M for the initial route suggestion - some beautiful Staffordshire countryside on display.
PS: They say things come in threes, so I shouldn't have been surprised to find a flat front wheel on my bike the morning after!