It lifted the spirits to see such a big turnout at Lewis's. Jim was riding out with a mutual friend, and Dave Matthews had made the effort, but like Electric Peter they were not out for the day. It was great to see Ken in such good fettle, but he still needs to avoid group rides for the present. It was heartening to see so many of the Welsh contingent. It was not possible to catch up with everyone, whilst trying to sort out who would like to go where, but this should be possible in the weeks ahead. I totally overlooked the eccentric figure in vintage cycling gear with a waxed moustache. I had clocked him, but presumed that he was the owner of the shop opposite. He then introduced himself as our old mucker Runcorn Roy. It turns out that he has a garage full of vintage bikes, and his choice for the day was a cool Carlton with Weinman centre-pull brakes and period Michelin tyres. He has successfully entered events on this machine.
|Photo by Alan|
Our moderate group for my meandering route to Whitchurch, constituted jolly Steve Hughes, Vintage Roy, Alan and myself. They were warned that the pace would be slow, but were very relaxed about this. Alan was having some breathing issues diagnosed, so was particularly happy to have a truly easy ride.
We headed for Crewe-by-Farndon before turning left towards Tilston. At Tilston we headed east for Duckington before climbing the lovely, little lane on the side of Larkton and Bickerton hills. Next up was Cholmondeley Castle, and on to Wrenbury via Chorley Bank. The sky was blue and the sun was bright. It was a fine day to be cruising through the Cheshire countryside. Our route then followed the national cycle route 45 on its quiet, undulating course past Oss Mere, Black Park and Blake Mere into Whitchurch.
Lunch was taken outside at the back of the White Bear, after we had obtained decent sandwiches from Walker's across the road on the advice of two friendly young women, also having a drink, who worked for MacDonald's. Steve Haywood's group were then sighted on the pavement eating, thirty yards up the hill. They seemed quite happy tucking in, warmed by the sunshine. Our conversation at lunch covered Steve and Roy's interesting description of great routes in north-east Scotland. I didn't have a note pad, but one of the routes they had tackled was, I think, The North Coast 500. Steve had been on a motorbike. Alan was talking about promising young British riders, and also about the recent amazing four stage wins of Mark Cavendish in The Tour of Turkey. Perhaps I need to subscribe to Eurosport, as I can't usually access any cycle racing that is programmed on my television.
Our route back climbed out of Whitchurch up to Wirswall, and the smashing view across the plain in the direction of the Peckforton Hills. Roy told us a tale, although once again, I am not sure that I am up to the Boris standard of forensic recall. Roy had accompanied a female cyclist as far as Shrewsbury before deciding that he had better return to Runcorn. His journey back had taken him past the cemetery on the road we had started out on from Whitchurch. For some reason, I can't recall, e.g., he had given all his money to this woman for personal services, or perhaps all the pubs had closed, he finished up using the cemetery tap to fill his water bottle!
We headed for Malpas after swooping down to cross the Llangollen Canal near Marbury and riding across theA49 to Bickley Town and on to No Man's Heath. Avoiding the centre of Malpas we dropped down to the Bishop Bennet Way. Here, we dropped in briefly to my favourite Renaultsport specialist, Birchdown Autos at Peacock Farm. The little lanes north of here were really cushy as we drifted down to Shocklach with the sunlit Welsh hills to our west. I put the pedal to the metal on the straight fast run to Farndon. Pedal to the metal as in a Morris Eight, rather than as in a Noble M600. It was quite chivalrous of my companions not to sweep by, but of course, Alan was having to take it carefully. Talking about being considerate, Steve is the perfect support rider for bumbling about and exploring less obvious routes, as he always knows exactly where we are, and is available with discreet prompts. What he doesn't do, is interfere, question your sanity, tell you that he has a far better alternative, and offer unwanted advice, which experienced riders can't always resist giving at times. I know I have been guilty of this on someone else's ride occasionally.
Steve Tan was waiting at Lewis's so some of us had a coffee and chat before heading home. I felt guilty about not offering Roy a lift home, particularly as a couple of past rescues in his Big Van in atrocious conditions will live in my memory for ever. I know, however, that without my carrier, three whole bikes and three passengers in my Berlingo requires a great deal of rehearsal, and plenty of extra straps, and that's without mudguards. I was also worried about damaging his special steed. Of course, if conditions had been bad, it would have been done with six wheels off. I hope his missus managed to get across from M&S to save him the long ride home. Interestingly, Steve Hughes told me that cyclists had been fined £120 by police around Holt for breaking Welsh rules, so I am glad that I rang Helen and gave Cleopatra's a miss, hopefully for the last time.
Forty idyllic miles in excellent company, and in great cycling weather.