The moderate riders group comprised: Steve H, George, Keith B, Trevor, Petar, Kate and myself. I offered to lead to The Swan with Two Nicks at Little Bollington. I had checked on other attractive pubs around Dunham, but some reviews had put me off. Continuing the trend of counter-intuitive starts we headed west, then south-east to Ashton Hayes. Here we headed north, but then snuck up a narrow lane past The Grange, which I had fancied checking out. Some of the troops thought I was taking a wrong turning, and were a bit reluctant to follow.
This was to be a recurring theme! I suppose if you choose to join a cycling Dad’s Army, there are bound to be moments of reticence and confusion. At Brine’s Brow I wanted to go right, then left. Steve, however, thought I wanted to emulate Colin McCrae, and headed uphill, then down a rough forest track to nowhere useful. As Steve was now forty yards ahead, further discussion would be as effective as arguing with my wife when she had moved into another room, totally confident that she always knows best. Just past the Delamere Forest Visitors’ Centre, I thought we could cut diagonally down a pleasant forest trail past Blakemere Moss, and avoid the dodgy B5152. George and Trevor reacted like stubborn holiday donkeys on a Greek Island, being urged up a rocky track with 16 stone women from Manchester onboard. So, not having a big stick handy, we headed for the B5152.
We reached Acton Bridge via Norley and the lovely, quiet hamlet of Onston. We seemed to have spent a long time getting this far! We started to make brisker progress north-east to Frandley, passing Bartington and the attractive Cogshall Hall estate on the way. After crossing the double-dodgy A559, we turned right at Antrobus and headed for Bate Heath, then north-east past the back of Arley. An intricate ‘home-made’ route of little lanes then took us to Hoo Green, Booth Bank (with its historic Methodist connection), and finally, and hungrily, to Little Bollington and lunch. We had endured some persistent and heavy showers, and covered over thirty miles, but everyone was in good spirits. Kate went to The Ladies to blow dry her pony tail. Most of us didn’t have to worry on the hair drying issue.
Lunch was a little slow being served. Keith was ecstatic over his, because he had a huge portion. Kate, however picked up on the fact that some full meals were no bigger than the light bite cheaper versions. She’ll be doing a survey on lime and soda prices next! Kate’s relative youth, gender and bright smile adds pleasure to the group, so I hope she doesn’t become too institutionalised in a pensioners’ world of lunch value trivia. Besides, the post of Far Too Intense Lunch Scrutineer is already more than adequately filled by Brian Mac.
We started back by crossing the narrow bridge over the River Bollin, and skirting the deer park of Dunham Massey, before cruising along the Trans-Pennine Trail toward Lymm. I then cut off on an obscure path which becomes a small road coming out near Lymm centre. Few if any followed at first. Was that shouting, or the braying of a stubborn Greek donkey, digging its heels in again? Actually, it was Trevor who thought I’d gone wrong. To be fair, Ray Hardman wouldn’t have followed me either! Trevor is familiar with Lymm, and took his leave in order to visit his son’s house, or perhaps to munch a few carrots.
The back lanes south of Lymm led us to Sworton Heath. The weather was now dry and sunny, and Keith was ploughing through the wind like Ian Stannard. We turned towards Whitley Reed, crossing the old WW2 Royal Navy airfield. Near Antrobus Hall a plane could be spotted in a field. These lanes west of Arley Hall are quiet, lush and sheltered. Little Leigh was soon reached, and at Dutton Locks we rested for five minutes with the warm sun shining on our faces, and the Weaver twinkling. Two horses crossed our path alongside the river on the south side.
The pain of the last lap started at the steep bank up from the river, continued through the back routes of Kingsley, and on up to Birch Hill. Steve and George were on good climbing form. Kelsall and North Wales must provide good climbing training grounds. Or, perhaps they eat less jelly babies and sausage rolls. Steve insisted that turning up New Pale was the best direction for Manley, but more rolling hills were more than my legs fancied, so I bailed out after 30 yards, and took the Simmonds Hill route as I had planned. I was enjoying an ice cream with Steve Tan, when the remains of the mutinous mob finally turned up at Manley Mere. Just over 57 miles were covered together, with more like 77miles for Keith. Petar had left us at pace just before Kingsley as he had to pick up family at Manchester Airport. He made it on time! Leg-pulling apart, it was another really good day’s exercise in the convivial company of Easy Rider friends.
See route map and/or gpx file download