I knew we had enough leaders, but the number of participants grew when I wasn't looking, culminating in 38 shiny, happy and expectant faces welcoming the first ladies ride of the year (and 37 bikes!).
Chaos is the best way to describe the early cafe half hour, they even ran out of mugs! We were consequently a bit late getting everyone out, and then I needed to set the scene and the usual communications communication (see page Rider Communications) before I can get each leader to do a roll call and set off with the right people and numbers!
I led the steady group this month, with Marvelous Mary being 'rear end Charlie'. We had a select 7 riders in my group, with a new face and our octogenarian. Janet was a little slower than usual today, but that is not a problem, and we waited at opportune and sheltered spots when we could.
We set off down the Greenway, and watched as the grey sky slowly revealed blue and even some sunshine. To put it in context, when you read this blog in years to come, it has rained solidly for several months by now, affecting the North West particularly; with major flooding in Cumbria and Yorkshire. So, sunshine is becoming scarce and is a rare joy! But always for the ladies!!
We also had a brief view of the Belugar plane, sailing low on its approach to Hawarden (to pick up airbus wings and take back to Toulouse in France) and passing overhead as we neared Blacon.
We turned our route off the Greenway just by the main Welsh Road, A494, and followed a cyclepath past the Amantola (elephant) Indian, and to the Blue Bridge over the River Dee, near Shotton. Here we could pick up the river path and head back towards Chester - into a not unusual head wind. And that was quite hard work!!
Crossing at Saltney Ferry we then had a tailwind round the airfield just in time to see the first group arrive.
You have to sign in to visit the airfield, which was not a problem, and follow the signs passing old shells of Russian aircraft to the very large cafe overlooking the runway.
It is a good job it was huge - but no problem accommodating all of us (I did phone ahead and book - optimistically for 20 people earlier in the week!)
The faster group followed a route I had suggested which went to Lower Mountain, Kinnerton, and Penyfford (but missed out the extra hill at Hawarden I had carefully plotted!). There had been an earlier request to go up Hope Mountain, but I did suggest that was probably too far to get to the cafe by 11 - 11:30. Another day in the spring maybe...watch this space!
The not so faster group and regular paced both headed out to Eccleston, and then wound round Dodleston and Broughton I think, experiencing a puncture, and even taking photos!
|Belugar on the runway|
During our cafe stop we were lucky enough to see the (or another) Belugar take off, as it thundered along the runway (away from us), throwing up spray then finally and impossibly taking to the air. Helen filmed it as a few of us watched.
|Last two groups to leave the cafe|
|Climbing the staircase locks by Telfords|
But we all got back to Chester in the dry!
Thanks to Helen and Collette for a few photos, and to Alex, Christine, Sharon, Gill, Mary, Jane T, Jane R and Sonia with leading.