There was a good turnout at Cleopatra's by both the brisk and moderate riders, considering the closeness to Christmas. It was good to see Ken in fine fettle, and have a brief catch up. The moderates consisted of the three Steves, Alan, Andy, Dave Matthews and myself. Steve Haywood had looked up the White Horse Inn at Overton on tinternet the previous evening, and it appeared to be operating normally. Although most have us have forgotten what used to be 'normal', and where the latest 'normal' has got to. Had Boris or Mark Drakeford intervened since I left Naga and Charlie at breakfast? Can you trust a website to be up- to- date, particularly around Christmas? Are Kwik Fit really open for an oil change the day after Boxing Day? I'd had similar thoughts to Steve around Bangor-on-Dee or Overton with regard to not going too far on a short winter's day, because I'm scared of the dark.
So it was, that we set out on a contrived detour to Overton. It was a conservative detour: no sane person wants to grapple with the pock-marked, lumpen terrain of Malpas, just for the hell of it. There was also little point in doing the hokey cokey with the A49 and its whizzing wagons, just for the sake of a few more miles. The little lanes south of the A525 have little allure in their branch-strewn, slithery, shitty winter state. Many will remember being led by Clive, in his early Farmyard / Exploration Period, into the Bermuda triangle of glutinous mud between Three Fingers, Eglwys Cross and Arowry. Wheels had to be removed, as mudguards jammed and big sticks were used for cleaning. Fiona, Neil and George, to name but a few, know that I exaggerate not. Also, one has to allow time for possible punctures on very short winter days, so the untoward stretching of boundaries was not on our list of essential criteria for our moderate meander on this particular day. From Farndon we headed for Tilston, passing some hedge-cutting, which claimed Andy for our first puncture of the day. Dave Matthews had already made his planned exit for home at this stage. We do usually lose Dave, one way or another, but it is often unintentional! Andy was very efficient in dealing with the puncture, as befits a man who has been known to take very long rides on (sometimes) exceedingly thin tyres. Practice makes perfect. Next up, we passed Nick's house, I think, and headed south through Chorlton Lane to Cuddington Green. From Threapwood, we crossed Sarn Bridge and, unusually, turned right for Mulsford and Holly Bush. A little challenge was then taken on, by not riding the most direct route into Overton, but choosing to cross the dismantled railway and doing a steep little dive and climb at Cae-Dyah before joining the B5069.
Given my reservations about the veracity of websites, as mentioned earlier, it did not come as a shock to find that whilst the White Horse was still a goer, it was closed on Thursday lunchtimes. Fortunately, The Two Doves Cafe around the corner was excellent: friendly, clean, and with very good quality light bites. A young couple kindly moved so that we could sit together, but be reasonably spaced. Steve Hughes was maintaining his behaviour of not eating inside to ensure the protection of an elderly relative. The cafe did have perspex screens, and he could have sat apart behind a screen. In fact, if the situation vastly improves, it would still be preferable if he sat behind a screen in the corner, so that we could eat in peace. As it was he sat outside on a cold corner. Alan popped out with a drink and stuff to help as much as he could. I appreciate that Steve makes the effort to come out on a Thursday, despite missing our scintillating company over lunch. We all respect the decision he has made, and it would be wrong for us to try and persuade him otherwise. Unfortunately, Steve Tan's tyre was flat when we returned to our bikes for the ride back to Holt. The offending thorn was soon dug out, and Steve was quite quickly up and running with the help of Andy's impressive pump. The quickest return route was probably via Bangor on Dee and then alongside Wrexham Industrial Estate, but we took the pretty direct, but quieter route through Holly Bush, Worthenbury, Shocklach and Farndon. Somewhere before Shocklach, Andy, Alan and Steve Tan started to wind their speed up and disappeared from site within a couple of miles. Although it doesn't exactly fit the Chester Easy Riders commitment “that no one gets left behind”, the blast by some up to Farndon, where they wait, has become a regular tradition in recent times, and is just a bit of fun. Steve Hughes dropped back to accompany the two “leaders” myself and Steve Haywood. I could imagine some straight-laced CTC stalwarts disapproving, but we are far too tolerant for that, thank goodness! We got back in good time, despite the punctures, and once again we were lucky with the weather. A shortish, but enjoyable ride in relaxing company.
|Photos by AO|