It was a pleasant surprise to meet Clive's granddaughter, Holly, who had recently returned from South America, and was now doing a stint at Cleopatra's. There was an encouragingly large turnout, including Richard Hall, our very welcome latest recruit. The moderates split into two groups, one of these led by Neil on one of his inventive circular tours. I had three possible destination offers, although suggesting that, “I would prefer to go to Sleap” may have not been an inspiring invite to those who had never heard of the Shropshire aerodrome! Nevertheless, Mike D, the Steves, Peter, Pipey, and Trev were up for it. Just as we were leaving, Graeme from Malpas, who used to be a club member, but had to drop out, greeted me. He was looking well, and it was pleasing to see him again, and have a short chat.
The initial route was via Farndon, Wetreins and Tilston. The pace was easy, the wind behind us, and the atmosphere was relaxed and sociable. I took my familiar, small lane, scenic route avoiding Malpas. The route takes us past Nick's house, whose neighbour is also a cyclist friend of Dave Pipe's. So: Chorlton Lane, Oldcastle Heath, Lower Wych, left past Strift House and on to Whitewell, where we stopped off to look at the attractive white church of St. Mary's. There were two lovely little cottages adjacent to the chapel in this peaceful green setting, what a lovely place to live!
|St Mary's Church, Whitewell - Photo by Steve T|
Fenn's Bank and Platt Lane were next, but exploring other little lanes to reach Wem is always tricky, and you can soon find you are running late for lunch. 13.15 was our eta for lunch at the Pegasus Cafe at Sleap Airfield today, but we didn't expect any problems, as the cafe was open until 5p.m. After Hollinwood and Whixhall it appeared to be quickest to cut to Waterloo, and then thrum down the three miles or so into Wem with a tailwind. We turned right at the church in Wem and headed south on the B5476, before cutting off north east to Sleap, riding in on a section of old runway. We reached the cafe in the control tower exactly on time. We chose to sit outside and watch the little training planes come and go. On the grass, close to us, what looked like a second world war plane was parked, although we failed to identify the model. The setting was relaxing, and the food was fine. The cafe's sweets were now tempting some, and we could stay here all day in the sun and breeze, but the taxi fares back to Holt could be costly. We were certainly enjoying the novelty of our destination.
Back to reality, we had already ridden thirty miles, and the return would be mostly into the breeze. A quick route back was required. So, it was back up to Tilley, via a walk across the railway line, and then through Commonwood and Noneley, right at Northwood to Bettisfield passing the lovely converted station house, and the restored locomotive down on our left. From Hanmer it was up the steep bank to Three Fingers, and onward north to Tallarn Green and Threapwood. Some way before Shocklach, Steve Tan was riding away, and as I turned my efforts up a notch, I was followed by Steve Haywood. Leading into the wind was a good workout for two miles or so, but I was grateful that Steve took over, and I could just hang on to his back wheel until reaching the main road at Farndon where Steve T was waiting. I had just been wishing that Steve Haywood had been built like a grizzly, in order to be a more effective windbreak for the last four brisk miles! We then waited a little longer, but really wanted to ensure that Cleopatra's wouldn't close just as we arrived, as had happened once before. Thankfully, our orders were taken, and we were able to sit outside with our coffee in paper cups, when they locked up. Mike made it, but my apologies to Trevor, who, I presume, rode straight home on the B1530 to Churton. Fifty-six very enjoyable miles for those arriving by car; significantly further for Trevor and Peter, I hope everybody enjoyed the evocative destination. I certainly enjoyed their company.
N.B. I am Almost certain that the plane at Sleap is an Avro Anson (WD413) multi-purpose plane, often used by the R.A.F. For training. It can be seen on YouTube. Sleap is said to be pronounced “Slape”.