The weather had been exceptionally fine and warm recently, but this was Thursday! I think that Carol Kirkwood had heard me banging on about her daily hot front, and had decided that a cold shower was an appropriate response. The moderates today were Steve Tan, Steve Haywood, George, Trevor, Jim, Mike, Bob and myself. Neil had a problematic slipping seat post, so was returning home.
On reaching Cotebrook, I was told that Steve Haywood had abandoned, because of a broken gear cable. I thought a bit later, that we could have worked a fix on his rear derailleur, and he could have coped with the flat route using just his front changer. We took our familiar route to Reaseheath via Wettenhall. Instead of working a way through Nantwich we headed past Dorfold Hall toward the fine old church at Acton. The Star public house used to be on the left in a lovely timbered building, now converted to a private residence. The swinging sign had the magic of a traditional Christmas card: a distinctive, bright white star on a cool blue background. It reminded me of playing Joseph in the Nativity play in primary school circa 1957. Mike remembers visiting The Star. I always wanted to work it in as a lunchtime stop with Chester Easy Riders, but it was not quite faraway enough from home. Now, I'll always wonder how it was inside. Opportunities pass, as time moves on. If you haven't visited it, the cafe on the side of the marina is very good. Sitting outside in summer sun, overlooking the tethered narrow boats, with a tea, a panini and a paper to read, is wonderful. As long as it's not the Daily Mail! I remember being there with Jim, when we found a soft tyre as we were about to return. The tyre change went smoothly, but a lot of sweat was wasted on inflation, before I discovered that I had put the old, punctured inner tube back on, in mistake for the unused spare! Always tie the punctured tube up before proceeding (as laid down in the Dave Pipe Ten Commandments of Cycle Repair).
Down the quiet Raven's Lane, we passed Madam's Farm and continued onto Tally-ho Lane. The farmhouse at Madam's Farm is grade II listed, and was formerly the dower house for Dorfold Hall, so this may explain the unusual name. We turned left at Ravensmoor and headed for Sound Heath where, if you haven't got a Mike Gilbert orienteering head on, it can be like the Bermuda Triangle. I remember being out here with Dave and Liz. I was 'off my map', and Dave had a part-time clockwork GPS. Although we eventually made the correct choice, we fell for the other trap of avoiding going down the main road by crossing to Broomhall Green, heading south, and then realising that there were no nearby right turns back to Aston for lunch. Today, however, passing Hall o'Coole was not a diversion as we headed directly for The Lord Combermere at Audlem.
The food was good and the staff friendly, as ever. The rain had been a pain, and looked as if it had become a little heavier as we set out on a familiar return route via Aston, Wrenbury, Brindley and Bunbury. The rain, thankfully, eventually stopped, but for one reason or another we didn't partake at Tilly's, and we went our different ways home. Steve and I were left with the stiff climbs around Tilstone Bank, and then out of a busy Tarporley up to Rose Farm. I fished a waterproof seat cover out of the back of the car before driving home. Despite the rain, the exercise, change of scenery and friendship made it worthwhile. It was good to have Bob, Jim, Trevor and Mike back out on a moderate's ride. We covered about 46 miles. Today, I have had surgery to my hand, and I am away next week, so I hope to join you next on March 21st.