There was a good turnout at the cyclist supporting Ice Cream Farm. The fast lads were self-selecting, and planned to go to Timbuktu and back at an average speed of 29.89 m.p.h. using their latest app. 'Banzai Back Wheel'. The moderates weren't sure what they were doing. Then Mike Gilbert rang to say that he was behind schedule, and Jim came up with a route quickly, so that Mike would have a chance of finding us later. Lunch would not be at The Shroppie Fly or The Bridge at Audlem, but at "the other one". There were nine of us: Jim, Steve Tan, Dave & Liz P, Mike McC, Charlie, Jane, Keith Metcalfe and myself. The pace was easy through Beeston and Bunbury as we headed for Brindley, and Ravensmoor via Swanley. Passing the Farmers' Arms reminded me of Mike Morley, who enjoyed this pub for its decent food, beer and shapely barmaids.
We crossed the main Whitchurch Road and headed south down Coole Lane towards Audlem Bridge, in the hope that it was not closed for repairs. The bank up to Audlem is always a tester, and it was nice to stop for lunch. We were due a breather and a bite. The Combermere staff were very friendly, and the food was good. Three locked bikes were blocking the binmen's path, and the keyholder was temporarily awol. The guy outside was amazingly patient and affable. It probably helped that they were on an hourly rate!
Mike G arrived, moist and cheerful as usual, and he was served quickly. I believe he had ridden all the way from his Welsh Riviera home. Our return took us past the Bhurtpore Inn, and, like a dog that had just moved house, we found it hard to go straight past. Cholmondeley Castle and Peckforton were eventually reached at a stress-free pace. The stretch of gently undulating road in the lee of the Peckforton Hills is always pleasant, easy and sheltered, with a few very pretty cottages studding the greenery. You also know there is not far to go at this point. We edged around the southeast side of Beeston Castle, and Steve wanted to know if I fancied a Cake Race. I wasn't in best fettle so declined, but the group were bunching up as we drifted down over Crimes Brook, so I cruised gently past. Next second, Tonkin' Tan shoots by on the outside. I sprinted to catch him and stayed on his wheel for a mile, but as we turned right towards Newton I decided prolonged redlining was not good training practise with a bit of a virus, and Steve got the gap. Another day, perhaps, but only if he puts on three stones and gets off those steroids!
About 41 enjoyable and dry miles had been covered, when we rejoined our fast friends back at the Ice Cream Farm. About 65 miles for those riding back to Chester, and a lot more for Mike Gilbert. Many thanks to Jim for another very pleasant trip, despite a handful of aggressive motorists.