It was bright and warm when Dave H and I arrived in Chirk; we met Roy in the car park as we were unloading the bikes. We went round to The Castle Bistro and Tearooms, where Andy B and Dave M arrived shortly afterwards, although Dave M had come out on the train and was riding back to Chester following the route of an Audax ride that he’s organizing. The weather was fine and dry, but there was a threat of thunderstorms at some point during the day, so wet weather gear was to be taken with us. We chatted about where we should go as we drank our coffees. Dave H had The Talbot at Ruyton XI Towns in mind, but I’d checked their website earlier and they don’t open until 3 pm, so that wasn’t an option. The alternative was The Bridgewater Arms at Harmer Hill and this became our agreed destination. As we came out of the café, we found Mike Dodd sitting outside, so we would be five for the ride, which I had last done in July 2019.
We left Chirk via Castle Road, crossing the Ceriog River at Pontfaen, then climbing the steep hill into Weston Rhyn. Dropping down into Oswestry, I was conscious of the fact that the last time I’d done this I’d gone twice round the one-way system there trying to find the road out towards Morda, so I was concentrating hard as we threaded our way through the back streets. Success! We were soon headed the right way, taking Weston Lane and crossing the A483 at Mile Oak.
On through Maesbury and Maesbury Marsh we eventually reached the busy A5 at Weirbrook, where we had to wait for a gap in the traffic before wheeling the bikes across the road to a gap in the hedge and the road out towards Wykey. The lanes between here and Baschurch are delightful, being quiet (except for the odd tractor) and smooth, although there are some steepish sections to test your fitness. By now, the sun was shining, adding to the pleasure. Taking the B5067 out of Baschurch, we turn off at Walford Heath and on reaching Merrington, we take the small lane which runs up to Lower Road at Harmer Hill and thence to The Bridgewater Arms.
As we arrived, we were just behind a big crowd of customers who were queueing to get in. The place was very busy inside, so we decided to eat outside, even though it was now quite cloudy and a bit cooler. Drinks and food were ordered. The former came quickly, but the latter took almost an hour to come due to the load on the kitchen. When it finally arrived, the waiter told us that our drinks would be on the house. It’s a pity we weren’t drinking anything stronger than cordials!
Leaving the pub at 2.30, we headed back along Lower Lane towards Myddle. After about 10 minutes, I realised that I couldn’t see Dave or Roy. No wanting to repeat last week’s experience of ‘losing a rider’, I turned around to look for them while Andy and Mike continued towards Myddle. After some time and a number of failed phone calls, I picked up a voicemail telling me that the others, including Dave and Roy were now at Myddle! It turned out that they’d missed the turning onto Lower lane and taken the main road directly to Myddle, arriving soon after Andy had got there.
Taking the A528 we arrived at Burlton, where we would normally have taken a route to Cockshutt via Loppington and English Frankton, but we gave this a miss and continued on the A528 to Cockshutt to recover some of the lost time. From there we go via Lee and Tetchill to the climb up to Welsh Frankton, where we cross the A495.
Some of the back lanes through to New Marton and St. Martins were quite tricky, due to large amounts of gravel lying in the middle of the lane, but we eventually reached St. Martins, passing the parish church before taking the B5070 to the busy roundabout at the A5. Rather than tackling Chirk Bank, we opted to take the canal towpath and the aqueduct to reach Chirk, arriving about 4.45, having ridden just under 50 miles.