However our spirits weren’t dampened as we knew we would soon be warming up on some of the steep inclines ahead on a circuitous route to Caerwys. Firstly, we motored on through Ewloe and Buckley followed by a short blast along the Mold Road before turning off at Llong. We soon passed Gwernymynydd and Loggerheads and as planned eschewed the main road to Llanbedr DC to "enjoy" the two mile climb to the top of Bwlch Penbarras. Our only photos of the day give a good idea of the lack of visibility at the top. Anyway, having imagined the glorious view of the Vale of Clwyd we launch ourselves into the mist down the pass. It's on hills and in conditions like this that you thank God for disk brakes!
We admired, but were not tempted by, the vision of the alluring Dinorben Arms. Knowing that lunch at Caerwys was tantalisingly close, we began the two mile grind over the shoulder of Moel y Gaer and up towards the appropriately named Sodom. Here the severity of the slope caused front wheels to lift from the road followed by loss of traction of the rear! Ivan and I lost all forward momentum and came to a halt. We found it almost as difficult to walk 30 metres before being able to remount. Nick and Ken and manage to wobble on. Eventually we crested the top and after a couple of miles more arrived at Caerwys only to find that our planned lunch destination at the golf club was closed. (apparently awaiting new management).
Plan B was the Piccadilly Inn where we were warmly welcomed by staff, a roaring log burner and customers admiring our fortitude (actually they thought we were completely insane to be out cycling).
The place was busy but we were soon served some good food and beer. Ivan's choice of beef and onion baguette was sufficient for 2 but he was man enough for it. Our mood was good as we set off in for the shorter and relatively easier return. There was a bit of a hill up to Pant along a narrow muddy lane, followed by the run through Pant Asaph and along the undulations of the Halkyns. For the first time since Steve Tan’s accident, we ventured down Middle Lane where Ivan and I pointed out the field were the air ambulance had landed and the spot were Steve came off and lay stricken on the floor. We are still none the wiser as to what caused such a catastrophic crash.
By chance Ian, a local, who had called the ambulance, came out of his house and we had a conversation about the events of that fateful day. We learned that his 4 year old son had seen everything and unfortunately had been quite traumatised for a day or two afterwards. Ian was delighted to hear that Steve is recovering well and asked us to pass on his best wishes. With the light failing we continued down to Northop and along the usual roads to Hawarden where Ken turned off to cycle home in Gresford and Nick returned to his car. Ivan and I cycled along the river back to Chester and clocked around 64 miles for the day.
The main route was 45 miles and according to RWGPS should have been 3200 ft of ascent but Garmin recorded 4200ft (for my whole ride to and from home) and it certainly felt like the latter. Given the weather, readers may think we had a less than enjoyable day but, the reverse was true. We accepted the weather for what it was and enjoyed the challenge of riding our bikes supported by the company of good humoured friends. How euphoric will we be when we return to this loop in the summer sun?!
See route map and/or gpx file download
Photos by ID and NH