As the bard once said " Oh what a grey day!"
The weather forecast was indifferent – the only good point was almost no wind. As I left home for Utkinton it was just 12C, and throughout the day, it warmed up to 15C but no sunshine just threatening dark clouds and grey clouds everywhere.
I bumped into Ray near Pearl Lane so we rode out together passing Trevor in Duddon. Dave H and Keith were just getting the bikes out of the car when we arrived at Rose Farm Cafe. We chatted outside as it was before 1000, but the cafe had been open for an hour and we were invited in!
Not too many riders out today. The Mods were off to their favourite pub in Aston. The surprise rider was Ivan, as I knew he was off to south of Whitchurch with Wilkie for a fast ride. However John was needed for grandpa duties, so Ivan decided to ride with Ray and I as far as Middlewich. He was then off to Nantwich to see his sister and family members. The other rider on grandpa duties was Steve T.
As we left, the misty rain could be seen across the Cheshire plain. We took the usual way out to Oulton Park, nearly being run down by two enormous tractors that were not giving way at all. Soon we were on the back lane behind the Cheshire Police HQ in Winsford. Out of Winsford towards Middlewich, the countryside really didn't improve much as we circle around Middlewich. Here, Ivan headed north as we headed south towards Sandbach down the long Bradwall Road. If the sun had come out here, it would have lifted the grey pallor of the countryside.
At Sandbach, we forsake the usual Spoons pub and head out for Wheelock taking a new lane to us; aka Mill Hill Lane. Yes, there is a mill and, as we climb out the other side, the road becomes a farmer's lane replete with farm machinery and a farm. It worked today – but best avoided in the wet I suggest. Soon we are at Malkin's Bank and then twice under the M6 at Hassall Green. Here we take the Salt Way cyclepath. According to Ivan, who knows about these things, it was the line of a railway taking salt out of the local mines. It's a good surface but a bit dank and dark. So as soon as a parallel lane appears, we take it, this now being NCR 5 to Alsager.
It starts to rain – only lightly, but the temperature has dropped. We circle around to find the Asda, but decide given that the clouds are looking ominous now, to sprint down to The Plough on the western end of Alsager. This is a typical all-you-can-eat roast meal buffet pub but we opt for so-so sandwiches and a meagre bowl of chips. It was warm inside– that's the only good thing we could say about it!
With 27 of the 50 miles ridden, the route back is down the delightful lanes around Oakhanger and Winterley until Crewe environs appear. We slide around Coppenhall and onto Church Minshull. The bikes now know the way back to Tarporley via Eaton. If we had gone back to Utkinton, it would have been 50 miles.
Ray and I choose to head for home via Hargrave and Huxley. Back into Chester, it has warmed up to 15C and Ray will have had a 75+ mile day with mine at 80 miles – the second 80 miler of the week!
So, many thanks to Ray for sticking with me today and taking the front as my legs were tiring on the way back. This was a circular ride trying to avoid the industrial towns of central Cheshire. If the sun had shone, I would have written an entirely different blog!