This was the third consecutive week when the weather forecast gave ample reason not to go out on a bike. This time, there turned out to be no ice problems, and the chilling air was ameliorated by conditions being far less windy than we anticipated. The two Steves, Keith and myself arrived first at Rose Farm. Dave Matthews joined us for a coffee, he was still recuperating, and also on grandchildren duty. Dave Pipe had been expected, but hadn't appeared as we mounted our cycles. But, then, someone must have rubbed their front lamp, and Dave appeared: a last minute genie in one of his many costumes.
My suggested destination was The Lord Combermere at Audlem, with an option of Aston depending on conditions. We were soon on our way reasonably briskly, heading for Cotebrook, and then Wettenhall with steady drizzle necessitating waterproof additions for some. Everyone was glad they had made the effort to get out, and we made short work of the easy riding route to Nantwich. Our final approach was via the winding Welshman's Lane, passing Henhull Hall to our left. We avoided the busier roads around Nantwich centre by turning off Welshman's Row, and crossing the Shropshire Union Canal on our way to Ravensmoor. We then headed south to Sound Heath, crossing Whitchurch Road, and down the quiet lane past Hall o' Coole until we hit the T-junction, and turned south, with less than three miles to go for lunch at Audlem. We were over the twenty mile mark, when the pull of the Bhurtpore Inn became too much to resist, and we turned north-west to Aston.
We were wet and cold, and our gear was soon laid out in front of the welcoming, hot, open fire. The curries were really good, and the staff friendly, as always. The conversation was convivial, as usual, and we marvelled at the 105 year old Frenchman who cycled for an hour faster than we normally go. We seemed to all go out together for our return, but 60 yards down the road we realised we were not all there! I still don't know what the problem was, but Dave Pipe was at the heart of it, of course. Did he leave his Garmin in the toilet? Had his well-known addiction to puddings led to him gobbling down a last minute spotted dick? Anyway, we were still a bit cold and damp on finally starting our return.
We needed a reasonably direct route back, but we did it slightly differently. At Wrenbury we turned right for Ravensmoor, rather than left for Chorley Bank. Now we were reasonably warmed up. Gradeley Green was reached by heading up to Swanley Bridge, crossing the Llangollen Canal, and heading down Springe Lane. We then took a new route to Burland Farm, in order to miss the muddy lane through the farm at Brindley. We turned off after short stretch on Wrexham Road, reaching Haughton by Long Lane. We passed the attractive Nag's Head recommended by Pipey. After Bunbury, we rode around Beeston Castle, enduring some sleety hail on the way. Steve H mentioned how, "You don't want to be in Tarporley when the school lets out", but soon we were. We overtook gridlocked traffic, and weaved between lorries and coaches on the High Street, before climbing back to Utkinton. Mental note: return via Hoofield and Clotton next time.
We had amazingly avoided coffee and carrot cake on the way in. We wanted to beat the light, and I suppose if I had asked Tanny he would rather have saved five bob, and have the last of his Morrison Savers scones at home. Unless staying out would have meant not having to put another sixpence in the meter for his one-bar electric fire. We had also wanted to be sure of avoiding "a Brian Mac", and having Keith's van locked in. If the girl in the shop had known when the café closed we may had a last drink at Rose Farm. They have uprated the decor, and it does seem more attractive as a venue now. I can't see it rivalling The Hollies, mind you, but if you want a coffee, teacake, and to pick up half a butchered pig to take home, it's just the job. We covered 44mls.at about 13m.p.h. average speed. Another enjoyable winter ride with good friends.