A fine sunny day encouraged a good turn out as we all gathered at Rose Farm Garden Centre, Utkinton to await the 10:00 am opening of the café.
The default position of two rides was quickly agreed and Clive had a venue in mind for the “brisk” group consisting of himself, John, Ivan, Ray and Tom with his knee heavily strapped a worry with only a few weeks to go to his inaugural End2End.
The “moderate” team decided that after the more demanding terrain of Mike’s excellent ride of last week through the Conwy Valley, a traditional Easy Riders route would be a good plan for today. I suggested a run down through Malpas to the Wheatsheaf at No Mans Heath. All were content. Dave H, Steve T, Keith, Trevor, Dave & Liz on the tandem Mike G and yours truly therefore set out for a gentle ride south through the Cheshire Plain. Crossing the A51 at Duddon we bowled along in the sunshine through Hoofield and Huxley before picking up the Cheshire Cycle Way to Tattenhall. Here we continued south across the A41 before I suggested we swung west to add a few miles. Through Coddington to Churton and then turning south again to skirt the eastern edge of Farndon to Shocklach, where we rejoined the Cheshire Cycle Way into Threapwood. There was general consensus that these are the days that make cycling worthwhile and get us out on our bikes. The sun on our backs, quiet country lanes and panoramic views across rural Cheshire to the Welsh hills in the distance, this is truly a green and pleasant land.
Due to my indecisiveness and Dave’s eagerness to get to lunch we missed the right turn in Malpas and so did a slight detour before arriving at the Wheatsheaf at No Mans Heath (what a wonderful name). On our previous visit we were competing with a large group of ramblers but fortunately we were the only sizable group today and had the undivided attention of the staff. Drinks and food were quickly ordered and a 40p for a pint of lime and soda and meals for £5 you can’t beat it for value. The usual eclectic mix of topics was discussed over lunch and then we were back in the saddle having already clocked up 30 miles. To avoid the Pageant taking place at Cholmondeley Castle we continued eastwards re-crossing the A41 and then the A49 before turning north to Chorley and through the lanes to Bunbury, now basking in the reflected glory of its recent fame as a location for a TV series. Our destination for afternoon tea was the old Fire Station café at Tarporley, which meant a climb up Tilstone Bank. We had lost the tandem at Bunbury where Dave & Liz had succumbed to the call of their favourite afternoon tea stop. The reminder of us arrived to a warm welcome from the staff at the former Fire Station. Afternoon tea and cake were enjoyed in the warm sunshine of the rear courtyard accompanied by our usual gentle banter. A little reluctantly we got back on the bikes for the final few miles back to Utkinton. 50 miles ridden and surprisingly 1800 feet of ascent climbed. The Cheshire Plain is not as flat as it appears.