We headed for Whitchurch via Tattenhall, Clutton and Tilston. Crossing the A41 before Chowley was a bit messy with a large group, a car behind us, and two lorries temporarily parked either side of us at the busy junction. At Lower Carden, Dave M. suggested that he could lead those riders who would like to go a little quicker, with the benefit of making two smaller, more manageable groups. So it became one of those rare occasions when we had three groups out simultaneously. I'm not keen on Malpas, or a fan of the climbs up to it, so I intended to explore a new (to me, anyway!) route to avoid it. We were now five: the tandem, Jim, George and myself. Coming out of Tilston we turned left and climbed to Edge Grange on a quiet lane. Before reaching Hampton Post, Jim decided that it was time to turn for home on his recovery ride. We re-crossed the A41 at No Mans Heath. The tandem prudently decide to have lunch here, so the ride leader was left with a group of George! Anyway, George and I had an interesting chat, as we semi-circled down to Whitchurch through Bickley Town, Gauntons Bank, Marbury and past Fox Hall.
Shortly after arriving at the Black Bear, and whilst trying to find out where they were, the others arrived. They had cycled a more westerly route encompassing Tallarn Green and Hanmer. The Black Bear is a consistent favourite with its warm welcome, good service and nice food.
|Photo by Steve H|
We returned by way of Wirswall, Hadley Hall, Steer Bridge, Swanwick Green, Bickley and Cholmondeley Castle. The climb to Wirswall was more challenging than I remember, particularly on a full stomach! Just after Egerton Green, Dave Matthews headed north up his “secret lane,” (which we all know about!). I wanted to avoid the predictable grind of Harthill, so tried the agreeable little lane at the end of Bickerton Hill leading to Brown Knoll, and then headed north, past Bolesworth Castle. We were soon passing Owler Hall and some of us had a last coffee at the Ice Cream Farm.
The lady running the cafe made sure, once again, that we knew that we were welcome. She stated that she would not be here now only for the custom of cyclists in the early days. We still get a cyclist's discount of course. We thought that Steve and Andy had gone their own ways near the end, but in fact Andy had had a puncture, which Steve had messaged me about, but which I had missed. Just before lunch, I had tried to contact the other group to find their whereabouts, but I didn't get a response. It reminded me of the day, when two of us stopped to help with a puncture on the way to Whitchurch, and then the three of us failed to find the main group for the rest of the day, despite visiting three pubs that we had previously frequented in the town. In fact, I think it was the first time the group, led by Jim, had used the Black Bear. We probably need to consider sharpening up our mobile communication procedures! Anyway, the weather was great; bright with no wind, with some of us riding over 41 miles, and others about 38. Trevor must have covered a useful 60+ miles, and Mike and Andy more. It was a real pleasure to be out with such pleasant company on such quiet, sunlit lanes, even in mid-January, when so many can only contemplate a shuffle to Costa as the height of their winter outdoor exertions.
For the route of the sub-group led by Mike G & Dave M:
See route map and/or gpx file download