The committed (or those who should be committed) arrived in the welcome warmth of the Castle Bistro and Tea Room. I had knackered my back, but was deluding myself that hours vibrating it on rough roads was just what the doctor ordered. Dave Matthews had ridden out, and was returning home after coffee. Ken was also on his bike, but would be cycling to visit his dad, and had an appointment later. The moderate group consisted of Andy Barber, Steve Tan, George, Peter and myself. The conversation was wide-ranging: from a consensus that carbon offsetting was of very dubious merit, to Steve's interesting history of The Cresta Run. Steve and his wife, Lesley, have actually been passengers on the Cresta Run, proof that he was keen to risk his neck long before his aerial gymnastics with us. I failed to persuade with my vague and conservative plan to circle down in the direction of Bagley and up to Ellesmere for lunch. My idea was that if the weather really turned sour we were never too far from Chirk. Also, Andy wasn't keen on returning late as he would have another 22 miles to ride to Mold in fading light. Nevertheless, we decided to “go for it” and ride to the Two Pigeons at Nesscliffe, a route which Steve had on his phone from a previous Steve Haywood ride, which George, Andy and I had enjoyed.
The start was fine, and had the distinct merit of avoiding the mountainous wild west climbs into Wales. We headed in the direction of Hindford, but missed the turn, so finished up reaching Welsh Frankton via Whittington. We then fairly licked along on some lovely lanes to Weston Lullingfields, and out of Baschurch via Little Ness and Great Ness. We had made good time to lunch, and the friendly service, fine food and chiselled sandstone walls of The Three Pigeons at Nesscliffe made for an agreeable break. This, however was going to be a ride of two halves!
As soon as we came out for our return we were met by wet saddles and steady rain. The route back was shorter, and still scenic, and enjoyable up to a point. We were facing a light headwind most of the time, and by the time we reached Maesbury thoughts began to wander towards how long it would take to reach the warmth of Castle Bistro. Alas, it was not to be! Peter pulled over on reaching Maesbury Road Industrial Estate. When I caught the others at a busy junction it became obvious Peter had not just stopped to make adjustment, as there was no sign of him as we waited. When I cycled back, Peter was still struggling to force a very tight fitting Schwalbe off his front rim. The puncture was hard to find, but Peter eventually had everything back together, I had phoned the others to carry on to Chirk without us, but then Andy appeared at the other side of the road! I must admit Peter dealt with the puncture with admirable insouciance. Mind you he has had plenty of practice lately: this was his third puncture to my knowledge! I, on the other hand, was wet, bothered about the building traffic, the failing light and my need to go to the toilet. The spirit of Scott of the Antarctic was definitely not with me. I was thinking more of “Beam me up Scotty!”
Forty minutes later we started on our route to the Old Fort. I'm afraid I wasn't much use to Steve, as I was heading for the Cumbrian Railway Museum as a viable approach, while Steve was correctly following the route on his phone. I think he was wanting to tell me where to stick my soggy paper map! It was a relief to leave the town traffic and climb past the fort. The remaining ride was on a familiar and direct lane to Weston Rhyn, and then we were soon at Chirk.
There had been plenty of thick mud tractor tyre lines and thick wet clumps of leaves to safely navigate. It was nice to reach the warmth of Castle Bistro, but I was conscious that Andy hadn't the time to stop, as his ride was far from over. We had volunteered to drive him back, but three people and three bikes is very hard to accommodate in my car without my rack. Also, he would probably have had to be anaesthetised to get him out of the saddle! The cold had got to Steve with his low body fat ratio, but I think we all agreed that we were glad that we had made the effort. Good company, cake and hot coffee made for a positive perspective on the day. I hope Peter and Andy felt the same sans the cafe ending! Many thanks to Steve for a really good job leading, once again.
See route map and/or gpx file download