There were a surprisingly high number of riders out at the Ice Cream Farm considering the weather forecast for the day. High winds and rain were forecasted coming straight from the south. We split into two sizeable groups and the Brisk group today were Ray, John M, Paul R, Ken, Andy B, Dave P and myself. I had researched some old rides to south of Whitchurch and the Olde Jack pub in Calverhall. The Moderates had a similar idea of going directly south to Whitchurch to enjoy the wind on their backs for the return.
We set off bound for the road that borders Bolesworth Castle but a wrong turn took us up and around Burwardsley Hill before turning back towards Tattenhall down the Harthill road. Up to the top at Brown Knowl, we had now topped most of the local hills on the way out. Just after Hampton Post, we stop briefly and I'm surprised to find Dave P with us today. Given that he had arrived at ICF just as we were leaving, I had just assumed he was Moderating today.
My riding strategy was to find lanes that were protected by high hedges or cut deep down, and to minimise direct southerly lanes as the wind was pretty strong all the way to lunch. We bimble through No Mans Heath taking the old A41 road. Crossing it at Birch Pits, we cut across it again going west to Bradley Green. We are now on the Malpas to Grindley Brook B road and Dave P decides to head directly for the pub. After only a few minutes, we turn westwards again and down to Higher Wych. Here, in the hollow, we tack eastwards via Agden to get back onto the Malpas road again.
After Grindley Brook, we're into Whitchurch seeking out the Alkington Road and back into the southerly wind. A tiny lane left takes us to Tilstock. Here, I decide that, as with most of the planned route, I'll ignore the gpx track and head south to Steel Heath. We tack eastwards here, then south a bit down the A49, then eastwards again through Prees Higher Heath, through Millenheath and thence the turreted Calverhall church tower comes into view at 30 miles up.
The Olde Jack is open, although quiet, and no Dave P. Just as we have finished ordering Dave arrives ready for refuelling. The food seems to take an age to come despite only one other table. The barman admits they are short-staffed, but when the food comes it was worth the wait. I decide to ignore most of the planned route back and factor in as many N-S lanes as possible. So leaving with the wind behind us, we turn right in Ightfield bound for Burley Dam. This lane is a pleasure to ride and as with many lanes on the way back, they are long and wind-assisted.
We are soon in Aston, rounding Wrenbury, through Ravensmoor and briefly turn west through Burland. Northwestwards now, we motor through Haughton and into Bunbury. Dave P espies the Moderates in Tilley's, so he drops off as the rest of us head the familiar way back towards Chester.
I haven't mentioned the rain - well there was hardly any really. There was even some sunshine before lunch, and although heavy clouds in the afternoon threatened us, we all got home dry but with very dirty bikes nonetheless. So a 56 miler from the ICF today, but nearly 80 miles from Chester.
Finally my thanks to a few of the lads, notably Ken, for shielding me from the worst of the wind today.