It wasn't a great forecast, and many CER riders were tied up by family commitments at this festive time. I wasn't sure that any other riders would be turning up as I approached Cleopatra's in Holt. Thankfully, the strange sight of a bikeless frontage was changed by Steve Haywood's timely appearance. Helen provided a warm welcome, and informed us that Boxing Day was usually one of their busiest days, but the weather.....! Steve had read my e-mail, so knew that he would not be alone if he turned up. Actually, the weather forecast was not too bad, and it was likely to become drier as the day wore on. Over ten years, I can only recall three other rides with only one other rider turning up. One was when Colin Watson was a club member, and I turned up at Ness Gardens with about three gears working. We finished up having lunch at the atmospheric cafe upstairs at the Woodside Ferry terminal. Another time was last winter with George, when it was pretty icy, and we finished up at Overton, without going near treacherous looking untreated side lanes. The third occasion was when Clive had recently joined the club, and we braved an unpromising forecast to ride to Great Budworth for lunch. On our return Clive, who was just getting into cycling, struggled slightly up the steep rise past The Goshawk. I was never to witness such a sight again, as Clive went from strength to strength.
Steve, as ever had three planned routes. We needed to miss some likely flooded lanes close to The Dee. I had checked the Hanmer Arms the night before, which was open, but probably needed booking, and pubs in Whitchurch were a mixed bag, with one of our favourites closed. We didn't want to get back late, with families keening behind the back door anxious for our return at this family time. Or perhaps they were too inebriated from their continuing Christmas celebrations to be able to drive to the supermarket for a bottle of milk and a packet of Rennies. So, a modest ride to Overton was decide upon, via the B5130 to Cross Lanes and the A525 to Bangor on Dee.
The roads were delightfully quiet. We were early at the White Horse, and it was closed. Just as we were planning our next move, a bloke came out and said he had just lit the fire for the hotel, but there would be no food. He suggested The Buck House, but that was back at Bangor on Dee. We knew that we could get lunch at Cleopatra's if all else failed, so we fettled a quiet route north west to Shocklach via Worthenbury.
To avoid running into a big group booked in at Cleopatra's, Steve suggested The Bull at Shocklach. The last time I was here was with George and Steve, at least, near the end of a long summer ride. It was like being on the set for an episode of Midsomer Murders. Someone eventually took our drink order on that occasion, and we never saw him again! Although we did see two ears sticking out of the bin at the back when we returned to our bikes. This time it was quite busy, with some customers believed to be involved with a Boxing Day Hunt. We had passed vehicles apparently engaged in hunting activity on the way. I have to say at this point, that I have no evidence of foxhunting taking place, as it is illegal. The dogs are now allowed to chase a lure, but the evidence appears to indicate that foxes are sometimes killed “ unintentionally”. The food was fine, and it was good to be able to catch up properly with Steve, and discuss a range of issues.
When we finally returned to Cleopatra's, we didn't stop again, but returned to our doting families as soon as possible. It hadn't rained properly all ride, and it was a nicely paced, relaxed outing. Another day that had appeared unpromising, but turned out well worth the effort. Short and sweet. Many thanks to Steve for his faultless leading.
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Chester Easy Riders is an independent cycling club affiliated to Cycling UK. We cycle every Thursday throughout the year with moderate and brisk day rides of 40 to 80 miles.
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