Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Farmers Arms at Ravensmoor

Originally billed as a ride to Nantwich by Gill and Richard; but due to ongoing knee problems they were unable to lead, so I offered to take the group out.  Plotting the route to include the new cafe at Farndon seemed to put it quite far to get all the way to Nantwich, so I settled for the pub at the crossroads at Ravensmoor, a few miles south.

The weekend was promising to be sunny, and it certainly was.  This brought 16 riders out, with new faces too.  Chester was quite busy, more than usual for a Sunday morning, due to holidays and sunshine, always a great combination in this country!

Brompton - easy to park
We set off through town, along the canal (with an emergency stop off to allow 'Brompton Chris' to collect his packed lunch which he had left at home) and Caldy Valley to Huntington, and then the usual route to Farndon via Saighton (picking up Sara).  The new cafe at Farndon struggled to serve the drinks in order, leaving a few of us quite late, which meant a longer stop than we possibly wanted.

Waiting for Chris - much to the dismay of his better half peeping at us from behind the curtains - what will the neighbours think!?!

Passing through Aldford

With 20 miles to go to lunch, I tried to keep the pace steady at about 12 mph, but even with a headwind one lady was struggling - she had enjoyed a 60 mile ride on Friday and was still tired (and a little sore) from that.  A few others had left us at coffee also, so that left 11 of us wending our way between Tilston, Hampton, Cholmondeley and Wrenbury, arriving finally at The Farmers Arms.

It was very busy inside, but we mostly wanted to sit outside and enjoy the sun (I wanted to sit outside and enjoy the sun!) so we sat by the back door with a little sheltered corner. (It had been windy all day, and in the cafe - inside the cafe - at Farndon my butter and crumbs from my croissant kept blowing all over Chris!)

Soon enough we dragged ourselves away, and set off towards Bunbury - arriving about half and hour later - we agreed it was too soon for afternoonsies so continued to see if the new cafe was open at the 50p shop.  It was and it wasn't - open now as the little coffee shop, it shuts at 3:30 on a Sunday.  Onward and upward.

I had been distressed to see that the pile of horseshoes at the corner along from the 50p shop have been removed when we passed on Wednesday - and sure enough they still were not there today.  Such a shame, they were a brilliant secret talking point, and landmark.

Heading now for Walk Mill (or Okells) Sara instead had a puncture - we stopped in a sandy gateway, whilst people helped with the fixing (about 6 of the fellas gathered around), tried out the Brompton, sat around, or generally chatted.  The first tube seemed to go straight down again, so a third was applied - but we think the first had maybe a misaligned valve which leaked straight out again.  It often takes a bit of detection to identify the cause of a flat, and to be sure it was that reason and not another.  We decided the original cause had been a pothole - leading to a 'snake bite' or pinch puncture.

All fixed we continued towards Walk Mill, arriving at 4:45 so just in time - five of us descended through the wheat fields to enjoy coffee and cake, a very pleasant end to the day!

51 miles, 16 riders, 1 puncture.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Ponderosa Cafe on the Horseshoe Pass

Dave writes - 

"Six turned up for the ride to the Ponderosa café on the Horseshoe pass.  We headed out along the river to Saltney Ferry, crossed the river to Bretton, through Kinnerton to Honeys café in Hope for morning coffee.

Ian departed here to do a quick recce for his ride on the 17th and we continued on past the Ffrwd pub heading for The Steps, but Tony decided to head for home as he had been over the steps with 69 cyclists on Saturday morning.

On the route to Llandegla, we continued to Minera before heading over Worlds End. The road surface on the way down towards the Ford is full of pot holes slowing the descent.  We then took a right turn passing Pen y Clawdd farm to the Horseshoe pass where we decided we would go up the old pass to the café for lunch. 

Once refuelled we headed off down taking a right turn along a gated road towards Pant [I love that little lane - S] where we joined the main road before turning off to pass Llandegla mountain biking centre.  On to the junction with B5430 turning left through Four Crosses on to Rhydtalog turning right on the minor road across to Llanfynydd for afternoon tea. When I was asked what the route back would be, it was no surprise to some when I replied, 'we would be going over hope mountain'!

50 miles cycled with over 4400 feet of climbing."

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Curry Ride 2016

Nick writes:-

"(Growing old, is for old people)

The day started as per usual at The Piper for a pre ride drink, in brilliant sunshine. Sue came along to say “Hello”, in fancy dress dressed from the 1967 flower power era, Bob looked perfectly dressed for a hot sunny day wearing an Hawaiian shirt and straw hat, Norman looked very smart in a tartan waistcoat and a dickie bow to match. Kath wore a perfectly fitted skeleton outfit, Stu arrived dressed up as a Jamaican Rastafarian (a dead ringer for Bob Marley). Dave (shorts Dave) his outfit was great showing his proud Scottish heritage [not too much of it, fortunately - S], all dressed in red tartan wearing a kilt and if he lifts his kilt and shows 2 quarter pounders it proves he is a McDonald and not a Campbell and to finish the look a ginger wig and a tartan beret. The oddest bunch of cyclists assembled in the car park for the “Grand depart”. 

This year we were determined to keep the ride at a leisurely pace so we could all chat away and enjoy the ride. It wasn't many miles in before the first mechanical, I think something fell off Gill’s bike, Bob was furious! He was hoping for something more serious, like a puncture, so he could have had time for a Whisky out of one of our flasks, he had no need to worry because after a couple of miles the group began to split which provided the perfect opportunity to sample the drinks on offer, some of Scotland’s finest malts and Gill Stagg brought along homemade sloe gin. Gail and Steve are relative newcomers to this “Crazy Gang” and sampled the malts with great skill, Steve is in an AA meeting as I write this. 

The lovely ride rolled on in the beautiful Cheshire countryside in fantastic weather. We arrived at the Helsby Spice, a couple of beers, great food with lovely company. Carlsberg don't do curry rides, but if they did, they would have done this one, because we knew we were in for some rain but that happened while we were sat inside the Restaurant comfortably dry and warm [Oh, well done! - S]

Curry finished, all happy, we set off to our next destination, The Shrewsbury Arms, we sat outside around a big table and enjoyed a drink and jovial conversation. After the Shrewsbury we were then on the homeward stretch back to Chester.

After a successful curry ride, Gail getting beat up the hills, yet again, by Gill (thanks to Dave’s coaching) We all hope Stu recovers quickly and gets back on his bike sooner rather than later. Thanks all for a truly great day and fantastic company."

Sunday, 22 May 2016

An Olympic Odyssey 2

Stu writes:-

"This May, as it is Olympics year again I decided to revisit a ride I lead back in 2012, the year of the London Olympics. The 2016 ride would also take the form of a car assist from Atcham near Shrewsbury down to the birth place of the modern Olympics Much Wenlock.

For those who don’t know how the games came about, the tale begins with the birth of William Penny Brookes in 1809 the son of a doctor in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. After leaving home to study medicine in London and Paris and botany in Italy (for the use of plants in medicine) he returned home on news of his father’s death from typhoid in 1831 to take over his medical practice. Having had a good education himself he believed education should be available to everyone regardless of class or wealth and in 1841 he founded The Wenlock Agricultural Reading Society (WARS). He also believed the same of physical education and nine years later in 1850 set up an Olympian class for the physical wellbeing of the local workers. In October of that year he held his first Olympian games, the games soon grew in popularity and drew competitors from as far away as Liverpool and London.  In 1858 he made contact with a group in Athens called the Olympic games revival headed by an Albanian born Greek Evangellis Zappas, Brookes sent £10 to be awarded as prize money, the winner of this was Petros Velissariou who later became the first honorary member of the Wenlock Olympian Class. In 1860 the first stone was laid for the Wenlock railway to attract  even more people to the games, Brookes was also instrumental  in getting the railway to come to Wenlock, the same year after some disagreement or other, the Olympian Class split from WARS to become The Wenlock Olympian Society. 1861 saw the railway open for the start of the games. In 1865 Brookes set up the National Olympian Association based in Liverpool.  The following year 1866 the first Olympian Games were held at Crystal Palace in London, W.G.Grace, who later became probably crickets’ most famous name, won the hurdles event. This same year the Amateur Athletics Association was set up to rival Brookes’ National Olympian Association.
Meanwhile the Olympic Games revival movement in Greece had failed due to political and financial turmoil (sounds familiar?) In 1889 Brookes invited Frenchman Baron Pierre De Coubertin, a man who had similar dreams of reviving the Olympics, to Much Wenlock to see his games. In 1890 De Coubertin did come to see the games and stayed with Brookes at his home in Wenlock. After the games a dinner was held at the Raven Hotel with De Coubertin as guest of honour. The hotel still has photos of the two men and of the games on display, and also copies of correspondence between the two courtesy of the Wenlock Olympian Society. De Coubertin went on to form the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and held the first modern summer games in Athens in 1896, unfortunately Brookes did not attend as he had passed away four months previously.  I wonder what Brookes would make of today’s modern games that now encompasses the Paralympics and winter games and all the hype that surrounds them?  Incidentally the mascot for the London games was called Wenlock in honour of the town, and the mascot for the Paralympics was Mandeville after Stoke Mandeville hospital in Buckinghamshire. 
The above is just a brief account, more details and also information about the Wenlock games which still take place every July can be found by contacting the Wenlock Olympian Society at 

Also of interest might be the Tom Sabin bike ride from Coventry to Much Wenlock and back, a two day 186 mile round trip. This takes place every June. See  Tom Sabin was a farmer from Allesey, Coventry who was a very successful racing cyclist riding penny farthings, winning many races all over the country in the 1870’s. He won gold medals at the Wenlock Olympics in 1876, 1877 and 1878.

Anyway, history lesson over and back to the ride, due to the date clashing with the ladies weekend away in Leominster only two intrepid riders, Martin and myself, departed from the pond to our riverside car park at Atcham in glorious sunshine.  After an uneventful drive we set off across the Severn and cycled south towards our morning coffee stop in Ironbridge passing through Wroxeter with its Roman city and recreated Roman villa, also the first vineyard of the day. 

After several more delightful villages, quiet lanes and several steep hills with magnificent views over the Severn Valley we passed the old now redundant Ironbridge powerstation and arrived in the high street to find our planned cafe surrounded by roadworks so we couldn’t sit outside in the sun, a quick executive decision later found us sat outside another cafe a few doors up the road right opposite Mr Telfords famous bridge its self.  

Suitably refreshed it was then down to Coalport and the bridge we would use to cross back over the river again, on crossing the river we then had the longest steepest hill of the day so right on cue my chain decided to jam between two of my front chain rings just as I shifted down in anticipation of what was to come!  

Chain sorted and several hills later we arrived in Much Wenlock without any further drama. The aforementioned Raven was our lunch stop in 2012 but has since gone very up market and I thought  £19.95 for a two course Sunday lunch and four quid a pint a bit steep even for the Chester section!! So I had booked us into the Talbot instead, and very pleasant it was too at half the price. We also managed to avoid the only significant rain of the day whilst inside having lunch which was a nice little bonus.

The plan for after lunch was for a loop down towards Bridgnorth following Wenlock Edge and back again through Broseley for afternoon tea, but Martin didn’t fancy this extra loop as it would have involved another fifteen miles or so of hills on what was already quite a hilly route, so we had an explore around Much Wenlock before heading back up the western bank of the Severn to our car at Atcham.  After visiting the Guildhall (well worth having a look around ) we found Brookes’ home in Wilmore Street, his family graves in the church yard right opposite and we also visited the Linden Field otherwise known as the Gaskell Recreation Ground where the Wenlock Games have taken place ever since they began in 1850. There is a memorial to Brookes here and at the far end of the field are several trees planted over the years by people such as De Coubertin, Juan Antonio Samaranch and Princess Anne amongst others.
The route back involved lots more quiet lanes, quaint villages, another vineyard, Oh and did I mention one or two more hills!!"

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Thatch at Faddiley

Chester Cathedral

Four met at the Town Hall.  It was promising to be  a lovely day, and was already so warm I had to take my jacket off.  Only last week I had been hailed on (twice) at the Treasure Hunt in Trefnant, and a week later it was 'cracking the flags' as Harry says.  So I do not know where everyone else was?!

Meeting at the end of the Greenway

Undeterred, and happy with a small number, we set off North to pick up the Greenway, at the end of which we met Sara (I did remember she had messaged the group to meet us there....!).

Spring flowers on a 'dead end' lane

Mouldsworth Viaduct
We continued towards Manley, but turning towards Ashton we then swung round to Mouldsworth, and down a dead end lane - I have often wondered if there was a way through or not.  I had looked on google street map, I am sure, but saw no way, so I was interested and then fabulously surprised at the delightful track that we came to.  I did not even see the viaduct at first.  The ladies were not as pleased - terrified almost ("I'd be OK on my mountain bike"); but I reassured them and set off to join Bob and Ray in the dip under the tall arches.  So pretty, and very rideable.  After posing for a few photos, we continued, crossing the Ashton Brook and after a very short climb we were on the road to Delamere.  

Through to Kelsall, and on to our coffee stop at Rose Farm.  A short coffee stop as it was already nearly 12!

After this we were promised a downhill and flat ride to Faddiley.  We had a little more ascent before dropping to cross the A49, skirting Oulton Park and arriving at Bunbury via the locks.  From here it was a short hop to Faddily - and even though we re-traced the lane I took back on my ride - it felt so different coming the other way and so much greener and more springlike!

I love the green this time of year - it is new green, fresh and bright.  The hedges have exploded, there does not seem to have been a gradual noticing of small buds on the sunny side of the lanes, it has happened all at once.  The Cow Parsley is not out - but you can see the plants and small flower buds, so nearly ready to adorn the lanes with the wonderful white froth.

Faddily is a tiny hamlet on the A534 (Wrexham - Nantwich road), which has an old Inn, The Thatch, associated with Peckforton Castle.  We sat in the garden, it was such a lovely day, and had a very pleasant lunch time.

Our return journey consisted of a few miles of main road, to get us back to the lanes.  Sometimes it is unavoidable, and the road was quite quiet (as it was a Sunday).  It was also quite gently downhill - which could be identified as I picked up speed and was able to pass everyone and take up position at the front, whistling along at 20mph or so.  I note on the map we actually cross a very young River Weaver, which accounts for the downhill.

varied colours in the trees on Bickerton Hill

Gateway and large oak at Peckforton

At Bulkely we turned back into the lanes, and enjoyed the variety of greens on Bulkely and Peckforton Hills.  Back now on familiar turf, we passed Beeston, Huxley and just caught the 50p shop and Christine's cafe before they closed.  Cake of enormous proportions.  And, sadly, before she closes for  good - she is selling up and will be giving up hospitality in a few weeks.  I am glad I was able to see her again, thank her for the years serving us and wish her well with her chickens and quiet home plans.

Last cake at Christine's

Passing the horseshoe pile

A very jolly, sunny and interesting 50 miles, many thanks to Bob.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The Shroppie Fly at Audlem

The clocks went back last weekend; and so a week later we are reaping the benefits of British Summer Time.  I had planned today's route, and at 63 miles a little further than usual, especially for early April.

 13 of us met at Chester Town Hall.  A helpful passer by offered to take our group picture (I was just about to ask when he offered) - he took his time, and ended up right low on the floor (probably not my best angle!) so I will show both of them just because of the effort he went to!

We set off through town and followed the canal out to Christleton, and into the lanes.  I tried to keep a steady but slightly faster pace that I may normally plod at, holding a fairly steady 13 mph, but this dropped as we hit the hills just after Tattenhall (Harthill specifically!).  From here we had a down hill and gentle undulations to pass Cholmondely Castle. I had tried to negotiate using the tea rooms at Chomondely, but the estate manager insisted we would have to pay an entrance fee (£6, reduced by a pound on normal entry).  This is such a shame, as now they have lost out on 13 teas/ coffees, and the chance that people may come back and visit.

So we went to the very friendly and helpful Cholmondely Arms, just a little further on.  Teas, coffees, hot chocolates and a cappuccino revived us a little but five decided to head back (plans for the afternoon).
So, I phoned The Shroppie Fly and booked a table for six, although the landlord was not convinced we needed to and that we were mad riding to Audlem in this weather (what was actually a rather pleasant spring day!); and we set off.

It was a bit of an adventure -  I plot my route at home on the computer; and then follow my little blue line on the GPS.  I should really ride a route in advance but I'm afraid I do not have time for that.  Hence two of the roads were labelled 'closed' on our way - one was not closed at all
but gave us a nice traffic free road from Pinsley Green to near Wrenbury station; the other was the final drop to Audlem on the A525.  Imagine our glee when a motorbike (which had beeped at us as it passed) and a car had to reverse back out and turn around - we just dismounted to cross the bridge (as pedestrians!).  

Lunch was pleasant (if not a little confusing - I had poppadum and naam bread with my Chilli con carne...?!)  and as we finished Tony and friends headed off to get back earlier as he had a rehearsal at Theatr Clwyd.

So that left Bob, Dave and myself.  Heading out of Audlem on the A529 (the correct direction and not towards Market Drayton) we picked up a little lane/ track introduced to the club by Stu a few years ago.  It saves a long detour to Nantwich to cross the River Weaver, and is a delightful and quiet lane through two farms.  The only person we saw was a chap who appeared concerned for our welfare - 

Him "this isn't a cycleway you know"
Me "yes, but it is a lovely cut through and it is a right of way"
Him "But it is a private road"
Me "but it is a public right of way?"
Him "It is dangerous"
Me "Why?"
Him "because of farm traffic"
Me "oh well, thank you we will be careful"

Suffice to say we saw nothing and no-one else.  

Then we met some geese in the lane, lovely to see but they had a good hiss at us!

By this time Dave also had to leave us to get to work, so he left us at Sound, and we continued to Ravensmoor; I then found a little lane Bob had not been down before.  I was feeling weary so I ditched the route over Peckforton, as candle workshops would be closed by now anyway, and we headed round Beeston instead.

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