The weather forecast was for a very strong northerly wind and wintry showers. Five hardy, moderate riders had turned up at Holt, plus Dave Matthews who had been deterred from cycling by the icy early morning temperature at Oscroft. It was good to have Keith on board again. Andy Barber had waited for the snow to clear from around his Welsh hillside home, before riding out to Cleopatra's. Mike Gilbert had ridden to Alison's by mistake, but was riding across from Tattenhall to join us. Steve Hughes was sitting in the car park using phone images of Carol Vorderman as part of his warm-up routine. In the cafe, fond memories of Spiros, our immensely popular and friendly host at Hawarden for well over a decade, were at the heart of our conversation.
Nobody had a ride. Actually, Alan had one, but had been hooked for emergency childcare duties, so was not available. I had a couple of 'make it up as you go along' route ideas, with one eye on the weather, so not going too far, and traversing back with some shelter from the wind in mind. We set off for 18 The Park, at Wrenbury, by first heading north for Churton, and then south to Tilston, via Barton. At Tilston we turned left for Duckington, then wound up the quiet, scenic lane on the eastern edge of the Larkton Hill and Bickerton Hill escarpment. There was the occasional whisper of snow in the air, but we happily bowled along with the breeze on our backs. I think some were fancying the Cholmondeley Arms, but a while ago others remembered underwhelming fayre being served here, so were less keen. Wrenbury wasn't too far away now so on we cruised. I had not been to 18 The Park, but thought that I had pinned down its location some weeks ago. However, Dave Matthews had twice asserted over coffee that, “Coming from Ravensmoor it's on the right before the Aston turn off”. Those that had been before were letting me know that they thought we were passing the turn into the recreation area housing the cafe, but I scouted ahead a bit further, in the belief that Dave Matthews was infallible. Wrong! Dave is obviously better at freewheel reconstructions than remembering routes. Anyway, little time was lost, but the cafe was booked up inside, and despite having locked up our bikes and grabbed menus, we decided it was too cold in the outside seating, situated in the wind and out of the sun. A quick call to The Bhurtpore, just down the road at Aston, secured a table, and despite a wait for a train crossing, we were soon tucking in, in familiar surroundings.
|Photo by MG|
The route back was intended to be as short as possible, in case any battling against the wind was augmented by likely winter precipitation that Steve said was forecast for around four o'clock. Our chosen route took us west to Bickley via Gaunton's Bank, and then on to No Man's Heath, and cutting north-west to Ebnal, Simmonds Green, and Tilston. The expected long slog against a cold wind never really materialised. Andy couldn't understand why we had not gone through Malpas. Now let me think now! Longer, hillier, busier, rough roads, uglier, more direct headwind likely on the climb out. So, as we wound up the quiet, scenic lane to Ebnal, I couldn't understand why Andy was banging on in support of the Malpas route. After all, we all know that he is an intelligent scientist, and obviously understands that the hypotenuse route that we were taking was bound to be shorter than the sum of the alternative two sides of the right-angled triangle in and out of Malpas. I think Andy must be on a retainer from Malpas Parish Council to promote the village. Believe me, Andy, the only good reason for going near Malpas is The Lion Pub, recently introduced to us by Steve Haywood. However, some would have you believe that I am somewhat prejudiced in this matter! We continued to largely avoid any unsheltered long stretches into the wind, taking the Wetreins route from Stretton Hall to Crewe-by-Farndon. We reached Cleopatra's at about 3.40pm, and some of us managed a last coffee and chat before the expected showers. This was a relaxed little team to go out with. It is always reassuring when you are leading, but adapting your plans as you go, to have the supportive skills of Steve Hughes (HND in Being Sharp and Tech Savvy, Burnley College c.1990) and Mike Gilbert (National Orienteering Champion, 1909-1912). Just as welcome, are the personal qualities of George (easy going, good company, only recognises the Welsh Hills), Keith (likes a laugh, often thinks he knows where we are, but is usually wrong, but doesn't care where we end up), and Andy (endless stamina, intelligent company, critical friend, passes on the inside more than Max Verstappen). It's the personalities that make this club so enjoyable to be part of. About 37mls covered.