There was an excellent turnout at the Ice Cream Farm, despite some of our colleagues cycling in Europe, or having their hearts serviced by the NHS. Our thoughts and best wishes were for Dave and Liz Pipe. David Matthews had his best reason yet for not joining the ride: he had just been fitted with a pacemaker! It was great that he had made the effort to join us for coffee, and to see that he was well on the road to recovery.
Stephen, as ever, had a ride planned, and I had a standby route if required – although 90% of my routes these days seem to include The Bhurtpore and a lunchtime curry. Then Andy arrived and said that he would like to lead. As we may not have received such an offer again from Andy in our lifetimes, we bit his hand off.
Our group included some notable non-moderates, who were out for an easy ride on the day. In all, twelve of us set off for Audlem: Nick (new to the group), Andy, Bryan, George, Steve Tan, Stephen, Keith, Bob, Jim, Mike, Martin and myself. The pace and conditions were very agreeable as we rounded the Peckforton Hills. The wooded hillside was studded with beautiful cottages and burgeoning spring colour. We crossed the A49 at Spurstow and headed for Brindley. Martin overshot the junction at Swanley Bridge and had a brief tango with a car, but we all made it safely to Ravensmoor and The Farmers Arms, where we had often taken lunch in the Mike Morley era. I seem to remember that it was the quality of the barmaids that had made this venue particularly attractive, and brought a twinkle to Mike's eye! We then tootled down to Sound, continuing south-east, until we hit the A525 and turned left down to Audlem Bridge. The last climb up to the village centre is always a demanding effort. I had tried to persuade the group, that The Lord Combermere was a friendly hostelry, with good food and reliable service. Fortunately, this remained so. Stephen had rung ahead, and they had reserved tables for us.
|Photo by Steve T|
The binmen come on a Thursday in Audlem, but we had anticipated them this time, moving our bikes well around the back on arrival. Last time we were here Keith Metcalfe's locked bike had blocked their way, and we eventually found Keith locked in a cubicle in the gents! The binmen had been remarkably relaxed about the delay. This time, after a short wait for the bin lorry to exit the car park, Andy led us on a Clivesque loop, with the prerequisite of starting out in the opposite direction to home. We pedalled past some lovely character properties south east of the village centre. The next half hour was dreamy, drifting, easy riding nirvana. We looped clockwise in the direction of Royal's Green, via Wood Orchard Lane, crossing the Shropshire Union Canal and a long disused railway line. We passed Butterley Hayes with its moat, and continued on narrow, quiet lanes lost in a sea of fields. There were no landmarks, such as Beeston Castle; nowhere to strive to reach, just serene cycle surfing. We made our way towards Aston, heading north-west on Sheppenhall Lane. Andy was on good form, and it was good to have a bit of banter with him. Banter of course is considered uncool these days, but for ex-young men of the sixties and seventies, it is still part of our modus operandi. I suppose on a little lane in the middle of nowhere, or in the sealed cab of Keith Barlow's van, a little bit of banter isn't such a bad thing is it? From Aston we returned home by way of Marbury, Cholmondeley and Harthill. Steve Tan was sprightly as ever despite many weeks away recently, zilch miles in the tank, and being on medication. Perhaps he gets his medication from Team Sky! It was good to have Jim and Bryan's company with us for the full day, and having learnt a lesson from a couple of weeks ago, nobody was left behind over the last few miles.
Andy, had led really well at an ideal pace for the group overall. Around Audlem we had been on beautiful lanes, some of which were probably new to all of us. Back at the Ice Cream Farm, however, as I sunk my teeth into a boring tart, Andy asked if I would write up the ride. I asked why he couldn't do it. Was he going away at the weekend, or was he having a scan to try and find his moral compass? Quite sadly, he said he had no excuse, and, crestfallen, began to croon the following lyrics in the manner of Perry Como:
“Can the ocean keep from rushin' to the shore, it's just impossible
If I could write, would I ever want for more, it's just impossible
And tomorrow should you ask me for some copy, I'd still duck it,
And look down into my coffee,
For to lead a ride and write it up too!?
It's just impossible
Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, impossible!”
Consequently, this ride was not written up by someone who was trying to remember the route or personnel on the day. I am hoping that you have become accustomed to the dubious status of “facts” (Benitez, Brexit, Trump, Roy Hodgson, et al) in this post-truth culture, because my account is likely to be part fiction.
Some of us belted the nine miles back to Guilden Sutton, clocking up 65 miles. Others, like Mike, will have done more. The actual ride was inclusive, sociable and an ideal spring saunter of 45miles.