I had a rough idea of a route to Lymm and back, and I had booked The Spread Eagle Hotel in the centre for 12.30. I had in mind to find the odd new lane, and avoid any rural rat-runs. We were just four: George, Bob, Keith and myself. On our way out we went down a little lane to the west of Norley village, passing the attractive Norley Hall, before heading down to Crowton. We then cycled down Ainsworth Lane past some delightful properties, including that of Mick the master sweep. Our first stiff climb was under the main line to London, and past The Cliff, to Acton Bridge. Bartington was followed by the quiet Hall Lane with Cogshall Hall on our right, crossing Northwich Road at Frandley. We meandered to Arley Hall by the smallest lanes that I could find, and gingerly conquered the wet cobbles before the postcard pretty pond, and black and white properties at Arley Green. We cruised on along the narrow, tree-lined estate road, before reaching Cann Lane. We were soon over the M6 and then turned off, into the wind, on virgin lanes for Chester Easy Riders. On reaching Swineyard Hall we were on a more familiar back route into Lymm. We reached our destination almost bang on time, and were able to take our bikes to the private space at the back. We had a choice of where to sit and chose the snug, small room next to the bar with a roaring open fire. I had a skillet of seared chicken breast with a nice sauce, red peppers, onions, and rice and chips. The service was friendly and prompt, and we had our usual convivial conversation. Bob did include a disquieting story or two of an evil Welsh policeman in his village! As we unlocked our bikes, Bob announced that his lunch had been the worst he had eaten since joining the club! Keith wasn't too impressed either. I don't know if George was being diplomatic or throwing up in the corner! I must admit that I felt a bit deflated.
We set off for Grappenhall, and our second set of cobbles for the day. We were sometimes alongside the Bridgewater Canal, before turning up toward Appleton Thorn. Bob was unfortunate to have yet another puncture despite his Specialized Thornsucker Puncture-Prone Mk.2 tyres being quite new.
Steve Tan rang to let me know that he had returned to Delamere early, so was going to ride back to Runcorn. We passed the Young Offenders Institute and headed down Arley Road. Turning right at Barber's Lane, I decided that it would now have to be straight back in order to return in daylight, and beat the forecast wintry showers. We headed for Little Leigh, via Antrobus and Frandley, then Acton Bridge, and through my favourite hamlet at Onston. At Crumleyheath Farm, Keith had taken his leave for Dutton and 'not really Higher' Runcorn. He would have to pay penance by riding along rough surfaced Marsh Lane. The sun was slipping away below the tree tops as we climbed up Norley Bank. A wintry shower just caught us before Hatchmere, and I turned my back light to its 'Blackpool illuminations' setting. George and Bob carried straight on through for Mouldsworth. I covered nearly 44miles, the others must have managed around 50 or more. The distance was just about the limit for a moderate ride on a short winter's day given our starting time, and the possibility of a puncture. As usual I enjoyed the company, and the lovely, quiet Cheshire lanes. I did, however, make a note to ring Jay Rayner, asking him to make at least two visits before I suggest a lunchtime venue in future!