Seven of us (Colin, Tom, Steve, Dave R and H, Paul and myself) are ready for the off at 07:59 outside Chester Station. No Ivan yet: he arrives at 08:00 expecting coffee before the 08:30 start! So off we go up City Road and out of town via Pearl Lane to Christleton. Here we pick up the school run rush, but soon leave it behind as we pass through Tattenhall and down to the A41. A quick dash down the A41 and first left gets us to Brown Knowl and out to Hampton Post. The plan is to weave round the A41 before entering Whitchurch at 25 miles at 10:00. All goes to plan, and we arrive at the empty cafe in the High Street pedestrian area. Soon it fills up with locals and more cyclists appear (End to Enders). Worth a re-visit at some time.
It’s now warming up as we exit Whitchurch the back way to Ash Magna via Edgeley. I can’t resist a deviation via Brown Moss nature reserve and we rejoin the route at Ash Parva. At the next village of Ightfield, we turn south for Prees Higher Heath to locate the NCR45. We follow the cycle route through the lanes to Marchamley climbing higher to its heady 168m summit. There is a lovely downhill section now, through the dapple shaded trees that hide the extensive Iron Age hill fort of “Bury Walls.” At Stanton upon Hine Heath, we are cycling so well that I decide to add in a loop to Ellerdine on the fly hoping the group will not notice. All goes well but I am undone when the short cut lane we want to take looks suspiciously agricultural, so deciding that we don’t need any incidents or accidents, we plough on along a slightly longer deviation via Osbaston. Rejoining the route at Little Bolas, we then pick up a group of manic contract silage tractor drivers who decide that the lane is theirs and no one else’s. Very intimidating and unnecessary behaviour, especially if you are caught up between them. The smell of beer is in the nostrils as we arrive in Tibberton at the "Sutherland Arms" with 57 miles completed. As in April, the pub does not disappoint, and we while away a pleasant hour or so outside in the sunshine.
Photographs by Ivan Davenport and Clive Albany
I promise no more loops on the return, and we head off down beautiful lanes towards Cheswardine. Here we take the bypass, and come across a curious mile marker obviously erected by a cyclist. The route via Chipnall to Market Drayton is one of my favourites down “Elephant Grass” valley. Outside the town, we have a steep climb up to the canal path to effect a bypass of the town. All goes well as we motor on to Norton in Hales and out and up over the hills to the outskirts of Audlem. It’s then a quick dash along NCR70 to Wrenbury. The village shop’s coffee machine is broken, and I detect a slight cheer as we go to the nearby Cotton Arms for “tea”.
Dave H decides he wants to take it leisurely back to Chester, so we leave him bound for Cholmondeley via Bickley. The sun must have gone to our heads because as we get closer to Tattenhall the faster we are cycling. Post Tattenhall, Dave R and Steve split off home, and as we enter Guilden Sutton, the "Bird in Hand” beckons Ivan and me, whilst Tom and Paul go home with 100+ miles on the clock. Reflecting on the great day’s ride, the paraphrased lyrics of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” came to mind “Just a perfect day, Drink beer in the pub, And then later, when it get’s dark, We go home”. You can’t beat the English countryside in high summer. The official route clocks up at 108 miles, but most of us achieved more than that!