Fifteen CER members gathered at Cleopatra’s on an overcast, blustery day. Too many people for a single ride, in spite of the fact that Dave M and Macca would not be joining us for a ride today. So, after some discussion it was agreed that there would be a brisk (ish) ride for John M, Andy B, Nick, Clive and yours truly. But where to go? John M had a route to Maesbury and both Audlem and St Martins were mentioned, but by the time we were leaving, no decision had been made. The weather had turned for the worse whilst we were having coffee, with fine drizzle coming down – so much for the Met Office forecast! Finally, it was decided that we should go to Audlem and Clive led off along Wrexham Road. But Andy was nowhere to be seen! After some hesitation we decided that he must have gone with the moderates and we pressed on, taking Francis Lane down to the A534 via the muddy track and turning east on the main road. As we turned off on the B5130 towards Shocklach, Andy B appeared right behind us! He’d set off with the ‘mods’ thinking it was the brisk ride. Keith B put him right as they crested the hill out of Farndon, so Andy figured that the ‘briskers’ must have headed out this way and he’d legged it down to the junction to catch up with us. Sherlock Holmes would have been proud of him!
The route took us via Tilston, Bickerton and Cholmondeley, across the A49 and into Wrenbury and Aston. Due to the drizzle, the roads were greasy and in many places muddy, where the local farmers had been dragging the muck from their farmyards and fields into the road. Somewhere along here (I’m not sure where!) we came across a ‘Road Closed’ sign which, of course we ignored. As usual the ‘hazard’- a small but deep hole which was being examined by several workmen- was passable on a bike. In order to pass the hole, we had to ride between some narrowly-spaced traffic cones, which we all managed to do without either falling off or knocking one over. Cycling on passed the Bhurtpore Inn, we eventually reached Wilkesley, where a turn to the left would have taken us to Audlem. But Clive felt that, given the wind direction and the fact we hadn't done that many miles, we’d be better going in the other direction. The options were Market Drayton (7 miles) or The Olde Jack Inn at Calverhall (direct 4 miles or 7 miles). The latter got the vote, since it was after 12:00 and ‘lunch time’ according to Andy.
We were soon seated in the comfortable surroundings of the pub with a drink and food to replenish our energy stocks. The conversation ranged from a discussion of the merits of lead-acid, lithium-ion and sodium-sulphur batteries, how the toll fee system on the new Runcorn/Widnes bridge works (or might not) and how distracting touch screens are in cars compared to the simple switches we used to have years ago.
By the time we left the pub, the drizzle had stopped and we headed northwest from Calverhall, but now into the wind. The route took us through Ightfield, Ash Parva and across the A49 at Prees Heath. The A49 here is a dual carriageway and Clive negotiated it by cycling a short distance against the traffic on both sides of the crash barrier. The rest of us took a more conservative approach, walking the bikes across. We continued on through Tilstock, crossing the Shropshire Union Canal at Brickwalls. Climbing Fenn’s Bank, we crossed the A495 and A525 to reach Whitewell. From there we threaded our way through the lanes to Drury Lane before turning down an unmade road/track to Dymock's Mill, which lies at the bottom of a steep, but narrow Wych valley. Here, a lady warned us that there was a lorry on the road at the other side of the valley which was trying to reverse up the steep hill. It had come down, ignoring two signs that the road is unsuitable for HGVs (see Clive’s photos) and was unable to turn round at the bottom, so he was reversing up the narrow lane.
|If only the driver had noticed the notice!|
|If only there was some traction!|
We waited for a while to see if the road would clear, but eventually we pressed on. The lorry was sliding about on the mud and going nowhere. We walked the bikes passed it, through the smell of burning rubber and clutch and up to the top of the hill at the other side (this is where the photos were taken). I suspect the lorry is still there, unless they got a very large tractor to pull him up the hill.
Getting back in the saddle, we headed for Cuddington Green, Shocklach (where Nick peeled off for home) and the usual thrash back to Farndon where John M headed home. We’d passed Liz and Dave P on the tandem at Shocklach and they told us that the ‘mods’ were going to Lewis’s in Farndon for tea and cakes, but when we arrived, they were nowhere to be seen. When I finally caught up with Keith and Dave H in the car park in Holt, it turned out that some of the mods had not heard this and they’d all gone back to Cleopatra’s.
In any event, we had an excellent ride of 51 miles at an average of 15 mph in fairly reasonable weather and very convivial company. Thanks go to Clive for leading with much appreciated local input from Nick.
See route map and/or gpx file download