The forecast was for a very cold day and on top of that there was to be a strong southerly wind for our first scheduled start from Meadow Lea. Brian Macca had sent an e-mail offering to lead a ride up on to the Wirral but at the last minute pulled out. I had a ride in mind which would take us south towards No Man's Heath - a better prospect as we would be riding into the wind in the morning and have it on our backs after lunch.
The group had been to the Wheatsheaf at No Man's Heath last week but unfortunately, due to a wake, had had to go elsewhere. A quick phone call confirmed that they could accommodate us this week so six of us (Mike, Petar, Steve H, Jim, Dave H and I) set off through Guilden Sutton and out along Wicker Lane. We crossed the A51 and headed down to Waverton where we turned left to take the Martins Lane route towards Tattenhall. The temperature remained close to freezing and with the bitingly cold wind in our faces we soon began to feel the effects. Before we reached Tattenhall two of our number decided to call it a day and Steve & Jim headed off to the Ice Cream Farm to thaw out. The rest of us continued on through Tattenhall, up round the back of the Bolesworth Estate and across the A534 to Brown Knoll. Here we joined the Old Coach Road (the original route to Chester before the A41 was built) and we followed it all the way to our lunch stop, crossing the A41 just 200 yards from the Wheatsheaf.
We were grateful to step inside the pub and feel the warmth that it offered. We got our drinks and ordered our food and chatted to the landlord for a while. Unfortunately he gave us the bad news that the Wheatsheaf is to close next month and with no indication as to when or even if it will reopen, it looks like we are about to lose another of our favourite lunch stops. The landlord left to deal with other customers and our own conversation turned to cycling and its effect on the male reproductive system. Mike came up with a novel solution to the problem but I won't mention it here for fear of prosecution under the Obscene Publications Act.
Our food soon arrived and the focus of our attention rose six inches to our stomachs as we all tucked in to a hearty meal. All too soon we had finished but we still hadn't thawed out fully. Someone mentioned a hot drink and before we knew it we had ordered four coffees.............and four puddings! As we waited the conversation turned briefly to Mr Trump and the on to Sellafield and the nuclear power industry. Our puddings appeared and quickly disappeared and as we drained the last drops from our coffee cups we realised that we were fast running out of excuses to stay in the pub. So it was back on with our winter cycling gear and back out into the cold.
The temperature was still barely above freezing as we rode up towards Malpas but at least now the wind was behind us and the going was much easier. We climbed out of Malpas and started on the long descent towards Tilston. However we hadn't gone far when Petar's front brake calliper fell off. The nut had come loose and as we braked for a corner the calliper suddenly broke free. Fortunately we weren't going fast at the time and there was no accident or injury but it could have been worse. Dave and Petar set about taping up the calliper and the front mudguard so that we could continue while Mike retraced our route to see if he could find the nut. Not much chance of that, we thought, but amazingly he did and we were able to fit the calliper back on.
We continued on our return journey without further incident passing though Tilston and crossing back over the A534 at Barton. At Coddington we turned left towards Churton then back through Alford, Bruera and Saighton to Waverton. From here we retraced our morning's route back to Meadow Lea having covered 40 miles. For me it was straight home and into a nice warm bath. Bliss!
Footnote - We always check our chains and tyres before a ride. Following Petar's mishap perhaps we should be checking anything that could come loose on a regular basis.