Earlier this year I had become aware of a Sports Relief 'Bloggers Relay' - but when I found out what it was, the route was decided and despite me whinging on facebook (sorry to my fellow bloggers) that it was seeming to spend three days in Manchester, it looked like we could not really participate. The Manchester ride did however coincide with the March Ladies ride date, and (typically) in the week before I decided to plot a route taking in several cafes, and do our own relay - blogging is after all, in the virtual world!
So, armed with some sign in sheets, a sponsor form, a 45 mile route and not much else, I headed to Kingsway Cafe for our usual start.
It was delightful to see about 6 new faces join us - but I had to warn - this is not a regular usual ride!
|Kingsway Cafe #1
18 of us left Kingsway cafe - cafe #1. I had seen a baton on the real relay, bedecked with ribbons. So, not to be outdone, I dug out a small pump, and we tied some ribbons around it.
|Chester Groves, by the River Dee
It is a challenge in itself to navigate 18 people out of Chester, being stopped and split at traffic lights and even a couple of hills. Lots of re-grouping and a late start from the cafe put us quite behind time arriving at our first destination.
We lost five and gained five at Chester Lakes - quick turnaround as we were so late, needed to phone the next destination, Hawarden, get a photo with cafe owner and as many riders - and of course the baton!
|At Chester Lakes, cafe #2
Now I had leaders for a second group, and the open country roads ahead. I ditched a loop round Dodleston to try and make up time, but Hawarden is on a hill, so climbing was unavoidable. The groups mingled on the hill, but all eventually made it, before climbing up through Bluebell woods, and the Hawarden Estate.
When we made it to the Farm Shop, I know I was hungry, so people had a little snack stop - we stayed outside and the girls very kindly brought us some free drinks for our efforts - orange and apple juice.
Photos, tweets, message to Helen sat waiting at the next cafe, and then we set off again - lost a few and gained one (I have lost count now!)
|Hawarden Farm Shop - cafe #3
The next leg dropped us down through Mancot - quite a pleasant route - to Sandycroft, where we used an underpass by the tip to get to the Queensferry road. This is all quite industrial, run down and quite a contrast to the green fields, country lanes and views across Cheshire we had had so far. Much of it was alongside a main road, on a cyclepath - but good link as we needed to cross the river.
What Joy and Delight awaited us at Woodbank. As we join the main A540 road from Chester - a usually busy and fast but also unavoidable road - we passed through some traffic cones and realised that the road was closed for line painting. No cars! Absolutely fantastic (of course, I took the credit for arranging for the road to be closed!).
|Hosta Cafe - cafe #4
|if you look carefully you can see shadows!
The last few miles was another avoidable main road - but it was not too bad. But when we got to our next cafe it was closed! I had tried to phone but had not got through a couple of times - it was only 3:30 so not sure if they are away, closed down or what.
|Cafe Fresh - Closed! - cafe #5
We leave one at the cafe and one heads home,so now we are down to the final stretches, and 5 riders. I ditch another lane as that would take us over Dunham Hill, and just follow the lanes around to Little Barrow. The lanes here - very close to Chester - are marvelous - flat at first with views to Frodsham and Helsby hills and Delamere, and then some climbs with deep sandstone cuttings. In the spring the banks are full of bluebells.
We found the Bluebell Cafe, and very very nice it was too! China cups and saucers, small selection of cakes, and a small keen band of lovely ladies. My scone was a little delayed as they were photographing it to go on their facebook page!
|Bluebell Cafe #6 - nearly there!
After a short stop,one eye on the clock,we had a few photos and then set off again - Oscroft, Tarvin, towards Walk Mill. At the top of Tarvin the time was 4:47 - I suggested I shoot ahead (although I am not that much faster) and make sure they were there.
They were and Caroline welcomed us with cheers - an appropriate end to the ride. Glasses of water was all we needed, and of course the photo with Caroline and her small person. Walk Mill opened about the same time that the fab ladies started - we laughed that in about 30 years it will be our respective daughters running the cafe and ladies rides! (or not...)
|Walk Mill - Cafe #7 - Hurrah!
|Leaving Walk Mill
But it is not actually over - we still need to get home. 43 miles tucked away, and time pressure relieved slightly, we make the last 6 miles back to where it all started.
|Arriving at Kingsway as the sun sets
|Final survivors - and baton!
Huge thanks to all wonderful ladies who participated and sponsored,and to all the cafes accommodating a large group appearing and dashing off again.