Saturday 24 March 2012

West Cheshire Alps

Cheshire is known to be flat - the Cheshire Plain.  Good for dairy farming, that was what I learnt in my geography lessons in school.  And I would agree - but it is not boring flat with boring straight roads (apart from the odd Roman road), and the lanes take glorious twists and turns, and there are some undulations, especially if you go near the Sandstone Trail.
I planned a 40 mile route as a practice for next weeks Spring 50 - Tourist Trial.  This is not a race, but a timed 'relaiblity ride' (as they used to be called) 50 miles in 4 (argh) or 5 hours.  So, two ladies joined me on yet another sunny Saturday morning in March, and we pedalled out at a quicker rate than usual, to see how we would fare.  The ulterior motive was to visit one of the ladies' new cafe in Kelsall.

St John and the Holy Cross, Cotebrook
We set off through Christleton, Waverton, Hargrave and Huxley; and started to strip off near Tarporley.  After Tarporley we skirted the golf course at Portal, past the Mill Pond at Oulton Mill (yes, very near Oulton Park) and through Cotebrook.  Really, till here it was mostly flat, with a climb into Tarporley (averaging about 100ft above sea level). Then we climbed up to the Sandstone Ridge - covering nearly 300 ft in 1 1/2 miles!

After a spectacular drop down Boothsdale (of course!) we dillied along to Kelsall and The Greedy Pig, where we sat outside in the glorious sunshine (by now I was down to my shorts and cycle top!), and enjoyed panini's and coffees. 

We left Kelsall alongside the deli and picked up a wonderful contour road which, if it had not still been so hazy, would have given us views over the flat lands of West Cheshire. We then dipped into Delamere Forest, and followed the sandstone trail (bit of off road!) before heading towards Norley.

We enjoyed some lovely descents (among a few ups) around Crowton, and back to Kingsley; where we then had a bit more up - we did 5 miles of 'up' after Crowton to a heady 490ft above sea level! (Moel Famau, our nearest big 'hill' is 1818ft)

final descent from Manley

The final descent took us from Manley to Manley Mere, where we finally started to recognise where we were again (except me, I did know where I was most of the day!).

43 miles, with a riding time of 3 hours 40 mins (not including the stopping time for coffee, stripping, photos and GPS checks!).  Not, I hasten to add, a usual ladies ride!
You can see the route at Map my Ride


Saturday 10 March 2012

Spring is in the air!

With a weather forecast since Wednesday of increasing warmth, it was not a promising start when I took the dog out first thing in a fine mist.  But that soon lifted, and by the time I was ready (early for once - even had time to almost wash my bike!) the sun was starting to succeed with peeking out from behind the thinning clouds.

Pipers Ash

And so it came to pass that many ladies gathered at the cafe - our biggest group yet of 19!  Too many to manage in one group, Welna and Moira kindly agreed to take the second half; following on with a few minutes gap.  Probably did not need to wait, as one of their group had a puncture within 5 minutes! (we were coming around Christleton Pond at that time).


We crossed the A41 to do a pointless but lovely lane round to Rowton Hall Hotel, crossing back to come into Waverton.  Then we had a fairly direct route out towards Huxley, and left to Duddon via Hoofield.  We passed the 50p shop as there were too many of us!

Horseshoe tower near Hoofield

Okells Garden centre and cafe very kindly cordoned off half the cafe for us, with exactly 19 seats (which we had to defend several times as hopeful customers wandered in!)  cake, beans and tea all round (not necessarily in that order!), and much chatting and socialising was to be had!

I tried to get a group photo but although most people were present, there were a few that got away - note to self - I really do have to get the photo at the start at the cafe!!!!!!

We mostly all came back together, as I picked a very quiet back lane (much to the surprise of the lady in the range rover!) and off road down the Roman pack horse bridges, which also helped to keep the head wind off us!  We started to part company after the Plough, and headed for the canal at Christleton, which saved negotiating the A51 with the 16 cyclists that I still had!

Should be 16 - someone is hiding?

One lady then had a puncture with less than a mile to go - so I waved the rest off home while a few of us helped her out.  Technically two puctures for the day, but they did not really hold us up - and some are getting very good at changing tubes now!  That is the benefit of riding in a group - help is at hand when it comes to flat tyres.  If nothing else, to chat and take photos!

19 riders and 19 miles!