Dave Matthews, Ivan, John and Ken had made the effort to turn up at Meadow Lea for coffee and a chat despite other commitments preventing them taking part on a ride. Ken was on his bike, so I hope he returned home safely in the icy conditions, ready for an exciting session of domestic painting. Tom, Steve Tan, Keith and myself hadn’t had the gumption to come up with a decent excuse not to ride on a day when the roads were likely to be treacherous, and the air was stone cold.
We set off along the A56 toward the Windsurfing Centre, noting the spinning wheels of a car at Morley Bridge as it fought for grip on the frost iced tarmac. The climb up the steep hairpin toward Manley Old Hall was a chancy choice, but despite Keith’s sensible reservations, we all stayed upright. We headed for Riley Bank and then up to Newton. We had some loss of traction, although I think Keith escaped this sensation, either because of his lack of sensitivity or extra ballast over the back wheel. It was not reassuring to see a Polo creeping down the other side of the road with its anti-lock brakes working feverishly! We headed down gingerly toward Kingsley on a stretch of road where I watched Mark Cavendish climbing on the Tour of Britain (2014, I think). Although we had already chanced our arm on narrow side lanes, we stuck to the B5153 to Acton Bridge. I took a comfort break before Little Leigh, but my paired fingers type glove on my right hand proved extremely difficult to remove, and impossible to replace! I had to continue to lunch with one cold right hand. The rest of the group ahead were wondering what had happened to me. From Little Leigh we cycled past Cogshall Hall to Frandley. We were really enjoying the ride, because the bright sun, white frost and quiet roads through lovely Cheshire countryside are just our sort of thing. Tom was cold and wanted the pub. Like talking to a child, I kept reassuring him that we were nearly there, it was ’ just up the road’, etc., estimating the distance to go ,and halving it, just to keep him quiet. We reached The Ring O’ Bells via the duck pond at Higher Whitley and the small village of Hatton. They were very busy at the pub, so despite our well-mannered young waitress, the good quality scoff was slow arriving. Tom thought he was cold, because he normally rode harder, and waited around less. This was undoubtedly true, but his vest looked as if it had been bought at Primark in a summer sale, so this could have been the main reason.
It was decided to return via Frodsham for expediency, as it was getting late, and Tom still had to ride to Wales before it closed. A few unusual lanes were added for interest, taking us by Morphany Hall and the site of Lewis Carroll’s family home. Aston Lane took us to Sutton Weaver. At Frodsham we passed dinky terraced cottages high up at Overton, before a hard grind up through a sandstone cutting, past the fishing pond, and it was almost all downhill from there. ‘ Expedient ’ had become Tom’s favourite word in choosing the remaining route, and we all agreed to return directly. Despite lumbering along at the back all day, the lads let me lead at a decent pace for the last few miles. At Meadow Lea we just made a last coffee, as Tom made off for the candlelit, post-industrial wasteland of North Wales. Despite some early trepidation we had enjoyed a fine day together, covering 43miles, probably 68 or so for Tom. It was nice to have Keith on board again, and to climb into his big black van with a warm jacuzzi awaiting at The Spirit Club in Runcorn.