Having seen the day’s weather forecast for snow and rain over Llangollen way, I hastily cobbled together a replacement 45 miler from Hildegard’s café to the standby lunch venue of the Old Jack at Calverhall. The two Pauls, Brian, Stephen and myself would be the cabal today. The Donaldsons were only taking coffee with us and then off "house rental" hunting having just “bought” a new house (i.e. the plot thereof) in Parkgate. So off we go hoping it won’t rain today; and soon we see the rain clouds over the hills to the west as we ride Shocklach bound, turning off at The Purser to cut down to Threapwood.
There is evidence of a lot of water in the fields and roads after the overnight downpours. We take the oddly named “The Ln” out towards Whitewell, and then on to Fenn Bank to locate the NC45. The lanes are muddier now, helped along by tractors coming off fields and the overnight deluge. At Prees, we climb out under the A49 and over the A41 and then the long lane to Calverhall village.
The pub’s is open and we are soon organising our own table under an enormous stag’s head. Disappointingly, my pint of Stonehouse bitter is truly “off” and is promptly replaced with Shropshire Gold. The luncheon fare comes promptly, and as ever, it is plentiful and of good quality. As we start to leave, the rain arrives and it feels colder. The return ride is straightforward i.e. through Whitchurch, Malpas and Tilston. However as we enter Whitchurch, Brian has a front wheel puncture on his new tyres (last week it was the rear wheel). It had to happen to one of us given the amount of hedge cutting we have seen today. Soon along the Malpas road, we take a left down to Higher Wych to get off the main drag to Malpas. Thankfully, the rest of the ride is uneventful, and the rain thankfully stops. We all take a hot drink at Hildegard’s and, around 16:00, go our separate ways home where I notice it is 3ºC! For me this is the last ride of 2013, and as ever the mix of good company and the Cheshire countryside is an unbeatable combination even in the dark and cold days of winter.