This is my first 200km DIY and my first 200km this year, so I was looking forward to stretching my legs and having dinner in Chester. I played it safe with the first leg and used the roads which I know, heading through Eccleshall and to Cheswardine (St Swithin Church). This section was straight forward with only one real climb up to Bishop Offey as you leave Eccleshall. From here it was a pleasant ride over to Stoke on Turn and St. Peter’s Church. This Church always seems to me to be a little out of the village, considering the church is the focal point of the community. There is probably a long story behind this but let’s move on.
A few miles later is Saint Luke’s Church in Hodnet, which is also fairly unique as this church has an octagonal bell tower which I do not normally see on my travels. Don’t misunderstand me, I do not travel around looking at churches and their bell towers!! Then it was a pleasant climb up Hodnet hill and onto the A-road which takes you to Prees Heath and a range of cafes. Considering it was on the side of a very busy A-road it was fairly pleasant, watching the time-trialist coming past and after the cold start this morning the warming sun was a welcome relief.
The next section to Threapwood is generally flat and pleasant. As you leave Threapwood, you are offered a view across the rolling hills and at the far right of the ridge is a small hill with a large TV transmitter on top. You will pass by this later!
The run into Chester is mainly flat except for one climb up past that TV transmitter. For those who are inclind, this section can be very quick if you lift your speed. There is a long descent towards the coast which represents the return to everyday life and the madness of traffic and people. A few miles later you have crossed the estuary and cycling along the tarmac cycleway. The cycleway did become a little boring and I was glad when I reached the ring-road and the city wall as I was ready for a break and a spot of lunch. I stopped for a quick photo at Chester Weir and realised that it was going to be very busy. I stopped for a moment and considered my options and then I carried on cycling.
Along the way, I said hello to Seymour the squirrel which sits outside the primary school and is very large and very impressive, the nut which Seymour is holding is the size of a rugby ball. I also stopped at the village shop for a small bottle of milk and a chocolate bar as I was starting to feel low in energy and I had ran out of water. I knew the cafe was only a few miles but I a long way to go before the finish line.
Reaching Tilly’s Cafe in Bunbury was a welcome rest-bite and as always the service was friendly and the food was excellent. I spent a little longer then I would like sitting and listening to the music from the village fate but it was a pleasant afternoon and I had lots of time.
Leaving Tilly’s cafe behind I continue to pass landmarks and churches which were familiar to me, from the 200km permanent audaxes which I completed last year.
As always, the last 10miles were the hardest as I recognised where I was and I kept thinking about the climbs which I had in front of me! I had two big climbs in front of me a) Keele bank and b) lightwood hill. The route I planned to me through Keele village and on to new roads in a bid to avoid Newcastle and the traffic. In hindsight, this was the wrong decision has the “lane” which I too from Keele to Trenham was an Offroad race track for dirt bikes. So I spent most of my time trying to avoiding the worst of the rocks and bike size holes (note to self, change the route!). The steady climb from Trentham to Longton pasted quickly and the traffic was light for this time of day (the football was on). I stopped at the bottom of Lightwood hill and sent a text message to the wife, letting her know that I was nearly home (and asking her to put the kettle on). The climb felt long but I just plodded, however, the 12% up to the finish line nearly killed me!
This was a great ride with lots of opportunities to stop and take in the vista’s and chat with follow cyclist around the Chester area.