With a mixed forecast for the day: dry in the morning but windy in the afternoon it was somewhat surprising to find a good turnout of members at the refurbished Gallery coffee shop, increasing as each minute passed. At half past the hour we had 14 members present: more than any of the recent summer rides. Even Brian Mac made an appearance after some three months of absence, many in foreign parts, although sadly he wasn’t riding today due to a bad cold.
Jim suggested that we head south so that the wind would be behind us on the return and suggested Maeshafn as a possible destination. With no other suggestions Jim and I sketched out a route and 14 of us comprising Ray, Steve H, Jim, Dave H, Keith, Steve T, Clive, Tom, George, Ivan, Dave & Liz P and myself set off for Northop. A short loop through the lanes brought us to Soughton for a fast descent down to the edge of Mold followed by the drag up to Gwernaffield. Here the brisk group broke free and headed off for Four Crosses. The remaining nine of us followed the original plan heading to Cadole and Maeshafn at a more leisurely pace.
We arrived at just gone 12:00 noon to the usual warm welcome and being the first customers of the day were quickly served with drinks including the excellent Theakston’s Old Peculiar. Meals were ordered and the Landlord/Chef retired to the kitchen while we made ourselves comfortable. Cooked meals were the order of the day and in surprisingly quick time we were all enjoying an excellent lunch.
Over lunch Jim planned the return journey with options of Hope or Buckley depending on the weather. It had been warm and dry this morning but on venturing out of the pub after lunch it was clear the weather was on the change. The temperature had dropped dramatically and a light rain was falling. Undaunted we mounted up and set off before a cry from the back announced a puncture. Wisely we headed back to the warmth of the pub while Dave H hunted for thorns on his deflated tyre. Once repaired we started off again uphill this time but in significantly heavier rain. By the time we reached the road down to Nercwys the wind had increased and was gusting across the road driving the rain like hail directly into our faces. The descent down to Nercwys is always exhilarating but even more so today. Hunched over the bars for protection from the stinging rain I tried to stick to the middle of the road for safety but in practice traced giant parabolas down hill as each successive gust of wind swept the bike across to the side of the road. At Nercwys we thankfully turned right onto more sheltered lanes and then eventually left down to Leeswood Hall gates abandoning the Hope option. George left us at this point to make his own way home while we headed for Buckley, Bilberry Wood and Hawarden by a roundabout route due partly to the Chinese whispers effect of relaying messages from the back to the front of a group of eight riders. Sorry about that Jim.
We arrived back at Hawarden at 15:30 still smiling with 28 miles done (44 for those riding back to Chester), although it felt like more, after what was a most memorable day.