The weather forecast was grim, and if it hadn't been for our commitment to the club, I guess most of us would have chosen a different day to ride. It was heartening to see a decent turnout at Manley Mere. Steve H was still having physio for his back, but had ridden out to meet us. Dave Matthews was in civvies. Next week he may Skype us over his boiled egg at breakfast. By the end of April he will be just a virtual image in the corner of the café.
Once again the staff were very welcoming. Alistair, who appeared to be in charge, was the catering manager who had very successfully organized Steve Tan's retirement do at I.C.I. That must have been difficult on a budget of five Yorkshire shillings a head!
John kindly lent me some gloves, as I had managed to leave mine at home. We set off together as most of the fast lads had been knackering themselves on speedy long rides earlier in the week. I have long recommended that the fast group consider using Thursdays as a gentle recovery ride to make the pace more inclusive. Nevertheless, by the time we had reached the top of Pingot Lane reality had kicked in! I found myself urging Clive to go ahead, as it was already apparent that an average pace would be taxing for some, and pedestrian for others.
The moderate group became Jim, Mike and myself. We headed for Kingsley via New Pale, dived down Dark Lane, and left the village down Roddy Lane. Next, we took the quiet roads to Actoncliffe and crossed the River Weaver and Trent and Mersey Canal. We reached Arley Hall through Frandley. Wherever possible the very quiet lanes, like Keepers Lane, were chosen. It had been a bit damp, but not enough to stop our enjoyment so far. We now began to head for The George and Dragon, past the scene of my hospital crash, and out of the estate at Moss End.
We had covered 23 miles by lunch, and were soon ensconced by the fire with our drinks. The brisk group then appeared, having travelled a little further and being delayed by Steve sustaining a puncture. Clive then recalled one of his first rides with the club, when only the two of us turned up on a wet day, and we both ordered liver and onions. The pub has gone up-market since then, to the extent that I decided to return there with family and a very muddy dog for lunch on Saturday. The food was excellent and the service very friendly. They even made a fuss of the dog and gave him treats.
Steve changed his inner tube in the pub car park and joined the moderate group for the return journey on his mountain bike. Our route back was direct via Comberbach and Little Leigh, although we did take the picturesque route down the river before reaching Kingsley. We had a stiff climb through Newton, but were soon speeding down to the B5393, and then up the last steep bank at Simmond's Hill and on to Manley Mere via Sugar Lane. Mike waited for Jim, as Mike was also heading for Mickle Trafford, and then taking The Greenway to his car parked in Wales. Steve and I stopped for coffees and cake in front of the log burner. We had covered an enjoyable, if modest 35 miles.