With other commitments in the afternoon I hadn’t intended to go on the ride, far less lead it. When I left home for the Gallery Coffee Shop in Hawarden I had only intended to cycle up to the venue to start collecting deposits for the Christmas Lunch ride then wend my way gradually back home through the Cheshire countryside. George didn’t want a hard ride into the Welsh hills and asked if he could tag along and when I mentioned that I would be going through Farndon Dave M said he would join us as he had left his car there. Before I knew it there were five of us, so by default I became the leader. George, Dave M, Dave H, Steve and I set off with the intention of lunching at Hildegard’s in Farndon. (We were briefly joined by Mike who soon disappeared into the distance as he had somewhere he needed to be.)
We set off down the Wrexham Road before turning left onto the small road that would take us up the back of Bilberry Wood to the footbridge across the A55. It is quite steep in places and a long gradual climb but I knew that once we reached the top we would have finished climbing for the day (except for the riders returning to Hawarden). After crossing the A55 we turned right then left into Chester Road and continued into Lower Mountain Road by-passing the village of Pen-y-Mynydd. We then took a left and right into Sandy Lane before turning into Shordley Road and dropped down Cobblers Lane into Burton passing under the A483 and over the railway to emerge in Rossett. At this point I surprised several riders by turning left (They had expected me to turn right and head up Marford Hill towards Hoseley Bank) before bearing right towards the Holt road. A quick right again took us down a quiet country lane to emerge onto the Holt Road. A long straight road (fortunately with the wind at our backs) and a left turn brought us into Farndon where Dave M was reunited with his car. As it was not yet mid-day the remaining four decided to continue on to Tattenhall for lunch.
From Farndon we crossed the River Dee into England. We turned left towards Churton then right to Coddington and left again towards Handley. Then it was up to Chowley Oak and across the A41 to Tattenhall where we stopped for lunch at the Sportsman’s Arms. After lunch I took off my leader’s hat to make my way straight home for a 43-mile ride leaving the other three to explore the Cheshire countryside.
Photograph by Steve Haywood
It had been a long lunch break at The Sportsman's Arms, but the food was good and the service friendly. The back room was filled with what appeared to be a local old buffers' gathering, which no doubt delayed our service. We appeared to be sitting in an area that had been a butcher's shop, but faux bookcases now replaced pig's heads. This didn't stop Trevor giving us the chop! He had not planned to ride today, and needed to return home. His morning route had been idyllic.
For the afternoon we were grateful for Steve taking the lead on a sort-of-agreed route. Near to Beeston we met Mike who had been doing his own extra loop, but rejoined us as we headed for Bunbury. At Bunbury we inadvertently disturbed the filming of a new ITV Second World War drama called Home Fires. Mike's raucous laugh disturbed their sound track, and then he had a little chat to one of the female actors! To be fair, four cyclists brainlessly pedalling through a 1940's scene wasn't our cleverest moment, regardless of Mike's unwitting insouciance. The cast seemed friendly, perhaps too nonplussed to be angry! Anyway, we were soon spinning along to Wettenhall via Alpraham, and then briskly to Rushton and Cotebrook. The four of us agreed that we had forgotten how demanding the climb was to Utkinton. This was partly due to the brisk pace that Steve was setting. Many of the roads in the area had been resurfaced since last year, making progress smoother and faster.
At Willington Corner we decided to try and make the cafe at the Mickle Trafford end of The Greenway before it closed. We really had to go for it, swooshing down through Oscroft, and moving properly fast down the A51, and then tore through Guilden Sutton. We were dripping, but made it! We enjoyed our well-earned coffee and cake. Steve headed back to Kelsall and Mike, George and myself cruised down The Greenway back to Wales. A great day in excellent company: easy riding in the morning and some pacey training in the afternoon. 62 miles Hawarden to Hawarden, 70 or so for George, more for Mike and Steve.