This is a great ride which takes in the Cheshire countryside, Liverpool City, the Mersey tunnel and the Wirral. An excellent ride at night as you can race through the tunnel, like Super Mario!
I joined a local-ish cycling club just before lockdown (groups of 6), it is not my thing after dealing with club politics for many years, but I thought it was time to find some like-minded Audaxers. This is my first audax ‘club’ ride and it was overnight, so just my sort of thing.
Although I have had a long hard week and was feeling tired, I was excited and looking forward to the ride and meeting fellow audax riders too! The route was planned by John Gallagher and started in Crewe (Stoke on Trent), heading over to Runcorn along the Mersey into Liverpool before taking the tunnel and around the Wirral coastline to Chester and on to Crewe.
I arrived at John’s house to an offer of a warm cuppa, I already loved this ride! Introductions were made (Claire Dwyer) and we set off on the short ride to the start and the rest of the group (Ronan Yeo, Brandon Edgeley, Caroline Wrench). I blinked and we were in Middlewich and 10miles down, another chat and we were in Knutsford and 20miles down. Before I knew it, we were in Runcorn (40miles) getting lost in all the blocked roads and road diversions to nowhere. A quick stop at Speke 24hr petrol station for a cuppa which fuelled us on our way.
At this point, I started to realised that wearing my winter kit probably was not the best idea as I was overheating, which resulted in the expected headache. The only clothing, I could take off was my £20 non-breathable and impenetrable plastic coat, so I opted to unzip it! I was happily surprised by the public way alongside the Mersey and into the city centre. I may even go back in the daylight to have a better look. We passed by the Batman film set showcasing the magnificent architecture of St George’s Hall, Central Library and the Liverpool Museum & Planetarium on our way to the tunnel under the Mersey. The descent into the tunnel was fast and I was able to hold my speed for most of the climb out onto the Wirral.
Again, the public way from the tunnel and long the Mersey toward Wallasey was excellent although the wind was our enemy now, so I took shelter behind the break wall for a few miles. To be honest, it was so dark that there was not much to see, but I would imagine that in the daylight there is a lot to see. When we rounded the headland, we had to contend with the sand under the wheel which was initially entertaining but quickly became annoying.
Finally, the second stop at Gayton Shell 24hr garage, this leg seemed to take forever, and we had learned from our first garage stop that we needed to order all the drinks at the same time as this speeded up the process and reduced our waiting time. I was still cooking, and in my mind, I resembled a roast pig slowly turning over an open fire. From here it was a short leg, and we were back on the Wirral Way just before Net’s Café heading for Chester. The flat tarmac cycle path/ walkway reminded me of the Fens, except there was an estuary rather than a stream or small river.
Passing through Chester was much like Liverpool, apocalyptically deserted even though it was 6am. I was going slow now, dehydrated, and I resigned myself to plodding at my own pace through the Cheshire countryside to Crewe and the end. Arriving back at the car I was greeted with a lovely welcome by Catherine, John’s wife, with a cup of tea in hand. What a finish!
A route with lots to offer, from Cheshire flat lands to Welsh mountains to rivers and bridges and mountain views. This will be one of my summer go to rides.
02:05am start at Meir Heath in Stoke on Trent, I love night-time cycling. The week leading up to this ride I had to write a prototype application (computer software) for some academic research which I am conducting, but I hate computing programming which is funny considering I teach computing! I finally finished and I decided to have a cuppa before jumping into bed but that little audax voice in my mind said, ‘if you go to bed you will never go, just go now.’ It took about half a cup of tea to convince myself that I would not fall asleep on the bike, at that point I was committed. I signed up to a DIY and left Kate (wife) a note that I had gone for a cycle, please don’t change the locks whilst I am out!
The usual route to Wales: Eccleshaw, Stoke on Tern, Wem (33miles) and Chirk at 50miles where I stopped for a bottle of milk and chocolate bars but not a meal deal as I was about to start the climbing. This was a strange section to Chirk as I came across random people in dark lanes. For example, a couple who had just been to a wedding and had no idea where they were or where they were going. It transpired that the taxi driver asked them to get out of the taxi!
From Chirk, it was a quick ride towards Llangollen on the A5 turning off to cross the valley following a country lane and over the river Dee using a lovely old stone bridge. From the Stone bridge, you can see the viaduct at Trevor. I stood for a while watching the sunrise between the arches. There is a sharp climb immediately after the bridge which takes you all the way to the main road (A539).
Following the A539 for a few miles (route updated here) to turn up a snaking road which took me onto the Panorama Walk (road) offers outstanding views of the Llangollen valley looking towards Horseshoe pass. This has to be on your bucket list if you ever visit this area, assuming it is not raining! I stopped to take a few photos from the road junction. I had to stop again a few hundred yards later as the views were, simply, amazing (images 4 and 5). The few miles along this ridge are rewarded with excellent views and I had the road to myself.
Then I quickly arrived at my turn which dropped me off the Panorama Walk and down towards the start of Horseshoe Pass. The descent was fast and narrow with blind corners, which were not the problem. The 100’s of pheasants and birds who had taken up residence on the road and in the edges either side of the road were! They were like bullets been shot between the two edges trying to catch me in a crossfire…. 5 points for the human!
I quickly arrived at the A542 at the start of Horseshoe Pass and a few miles later Valle Crucis Abbey is on the right (campsite and shop). When I stopped most of the campsite users were still in bed and the Abbey control gates were open, so I was able to explore for free. I don’t think I would leave my bike unattended during the day, but it is worth a quick stop.
Leaving the Abbey, I continued heading uphill asking myself when the climb actually starts as I was already at 63 miles and the top was 65 miles. As I rounded the headland, I could see the road vanish over the top, to the cafe, lined with campervans but no people lining the roads to cheer me on or run alongside with their national flags. However, it was a lovely morning to be out on a bike. I would say that the pass is generally easy and is a soft 20% climb compared to the 20% climbs in the Peaks and Scotland. What makes it hard is its length.
Arriving at the Cafe at the top, it was closed due to Covid-19 rules, and there was a strong cold wind, so I did not stop for lunch as planned. I circled the cafe and dropped down the Old Horseshoe Pass road, which took me back to the World’s End road (Panorama View). The climb up and around to the top of World’s End (72miles) is pleasant but has a sharp climb towards the top just before you reach the open moorlands with vista’s over to the A55 and Chester.
The descent down towards Wrexham is fast but there are lots of potholes and cyclists ascending towards you, who are often spread across the road. I very quickly arrived at the A438 and the services at Rhostyllen where I had intended to stop for coffee, but I was feeling good and pushed on to Bangor on Dee. Unfortunately, there were no cafes open, so I continued through the Cheshire countryside to Prees Heath at 103 miles
I stopped at Prees Heath and sat in the sun eating my beans on toast and a cup of tea, away from other people who had stopped for a bite to eat. The ride back via Market Drayton, Eccleshaw, and Stone is my normal route back to Meir Heath at 137 miles. What surprised me was that as I came through Stone there were clear skies and dry roads but as I climbed, the few miles to Meir Heath I was hit by monsoon rain and flooded roads. Raining in the last few miles is starting to become a regular feature of my rides!
Lovely ride on the Cheshire Plains, with lots of places to stop and visit or to stop and eat. This will make a great winter ride.
Another very early start (01:20am) after the rain had passed over. Heading for the Cheshire Plains I took my normal route through Eccleshaw, Stoke on Tren but turn left in the village for Baten Upon Tern and Wem (42miles). I had a final downpour as I approached Stoke on Tren which was supported by a hard headwind.
It finally stopped raining and the wind had started to reduce on my approach to Prees Heath (58miles) the sun had risen but the sunrise was hidden by the clouds. By the time I reached Prees Heath the cloud had begun to break, and I could see blue sky, the day was starting to look and feel a little brighter. The café was still closed so I opted for a meal deal at the 24hr petrol station.
Leaving Prees Heath the world was a happy place, this quickly changed as I encountered the hard headwind again which resulted in a slow crawl to Baschurch (74miles). To be honest, by the time I made it to Baschurch I was happy to turn for home! However, it was another 8miles to (81miles) Ford and Dinkys Dinahs, so I pushed on. Dinkys was open but on reduced hours and staff, this resulted in a long wait due to the volume of people. After eating my egg bap, I fancied another cup of tea, but I could not face another long wait in line with social distancing, so I pushed on for home.
The roads between Ford and Battlefield (91miles) were being resurfaced which made them very bumpy and slippy on the stone chippings. This made for an unpleasant 10miles. However, I did overtake several road sweepers along the way which was entertaining for me. I had initially promised myself that I would not stop at Battlefield Star Bucks for coffee but when I looked across the car park there were only a few people in the building, no waiting, so I pulled off for a coffee.
The leg along the main road (A53) is very uninspiring for the most part, the traffic is very forgiving of cyclists, in fact, it was the car drivers rather than the vans and trucks which came too close. Along this stretch of road, I could see a wind vortex that was sucking the cut grass from the field pushing it up into the sky. I had thought about recording it as a video, but it was too far away for the lens. As I pulled off the main road the wind gradually reduced but I think this was due to the increase in hedging and barriers.
Stanford Bridge (petrol station) at 106 miles quickly arrived and passed and before I realised, I was at 117miles and Eccleshaw. I stopped at Eccleshaw and had a drink of milk and I was very surprised at how quiet it was, but there was a semi-lockdown. The usual climb to Stone and up to Meir Heath with very few cars on the roads. I was plodding my way up the hill imagining how much nicer cycling would be with reduced traffic like today. As if to bring me back to reality the rain came back with vengeance turning me into a big drip again!
Thunderstorms, roads becoming rivers and waist-deep in places, but this is a lovely route around the Cheshire Plains. A modified Eccleshaw 200km by Wigley Peak Audax.
What a day, 30 degrees with no wind … please turn off the oven. Given the heat of the day, I decided that I would ride overnight, I love a good overnight ride. Even at 9pm the temperature was still 25 degrees. I knew that I risked a thunderstorm about midnight so I set off into the night, as I believed I could make Chester before the storm. Eight miles in and I already have a lightning storm following me, by 18 miles I was standing under a group of trees along the roadside which were been battered by one of the fiercest thunderstorms I have ever seen. But I was not alone, a local came past on his ebike having been to the pub for a meal with some friends. He offered to put me up for the night, but I still had plans to complete my 200kms.
After 40 minutes the rain had reduced, and the thunder was drifting away so I pushed on. One mile later I took shelter under a bridge, the last mile was like cycling through an apocalyptic storm. Most of the way I could not see the roads, just the river which they had turned into, I was riding blindly into waist-deep pools. The thunder was shaking the ground and the lightning was striking all around me and it felt only a few hundred meters away. Standing under the bridge was much better than standing under the trees and I had covered 19miles in 3 hours! DNF was now a very real possibility.
Finally, the rain had reduced, and the lightning was behind me. I took the chance and pushed forward to Market Drayton, about one mile! The streets were empty, but every house alarm was screaming away. I stopped for about 5 seconds and considered if I should continue or return home and call it a night… I had no intention of going home, I was having a fantastic night, a proper Campbell’s adventure (long story).
After the madness of the storm, it was a little strange to be cycling along country lanes watching the storm moving away. Although I kept catching the edge of the storm as I was moving faster than the storm was. As I approached Bunbury (Tatten Hall) the roads were dry and the night air was warm, now I was dripping with sweat rather than rainwater. What really stood out during this leg was St Peter’s Church at Waverton. The church internal lights were on and illuminating all the stain glass windows, I had to stop but I was already at a very high risk of DNFing the ride, so I took a quick look and a photo and moved on.
Stamford Bridge petrol station (55miles) was a welcome sight as I was ready for a rest and some food. The main issue was that the warm night had encouraged the insects out which always find me particularly appetising. I did the maths and realised that if I kept on riding at my current pace, I may arrive at the finish within the time limit (12hrs). This gave me a renewed incentive to ride quicker. The next 10 miles to Helsby passed quickly on dry roads with no traffic. Turning off at Helsby represented a long continuous climb over the tops which was nice after the flat roads of Cheshire. The climb itself is not too hard, just long with an easier section towards the top, which gives a false perception of reaching the top. However, once you are over the top it is a long descent followed by flat-ish roads that speed you to Knutsford.
I had a quick stop at the petrol station to text my wife and finish my bottle of blue milk. The sun was coming up and the sun felt inviting but I knew it would be hot before I arrived home. The section from Knutsford to Middlewich was fast but it felt long as I was starting to dehydrate due to the effort, I was pushing to make sure I could be home before the Audax cut off time. I Stopped at the Middlewich 24hr petrol station and had a meal deal and more blue milk, which I saved for the next long leg to the top of Keele Bank.
I know most of these roads now as I often ride them, and I spent a summer riding most of the Peak Audax 200km rides. Let us just say that I was on first name terms with the man at Dean Row petrol station! I was starting to feel tired now from all the effort to regain some time, which had worked but I will soon be paying the price, fighting the morning sun and dehydration.
Arriving at Keele University at the top of Keele Bank was a milestone. If I looked hard enough, I could make out the crop of trees on the hill where I live on the other side of the city. The sun was now at full cooking temperature and I was sweating just standing but I still had 7 miles of uphill but 10 miles to home. These final 10 miles were long and hot with a few close calls, Stoke on Trent drivers are crap. It is one of the reasons why I rarely commute to work.
Finally arriving home via the 12% climb, it was a great relief just to get out of the sun. Even though I had put sun cream on it was clear that I was still burning, turn me over, I’m done this side!
Lovely ride if you remove the sections of A-roads and ignore the potholes around Alfreton. There are lots of historical information points as you pass through villages on the south side of Nottingham.
A 2am start from Stoke which meant that the roads were empty, one car in the first 12 miles. However, the road diversion at on Cubley Lane just after Rocester (JCB) had completely closed the road and left me manhandling my bike over a footpath stile which was taller than my bike as I had to lower the bike by the front wheel. I then spent what felt like hours wandering aimlessly through long grass and nettles trying to find the path which would take me pass the road closure. This is why people with dynamo lights carry a spare light! Mine was at the bottom of the bag! It was not long before my feet became very cold, at least the nettle stings were numbed by the cold. Note to self: next time take the diversion!
After this I was able to maintain a good pace over the tops. There is a lovely section that gently climbs a valley between Blackbrook through to Belper Lane End (Dalley Lane) to Ambergate which is worth a visit if you are ever this way. I stopped at the Pub (the Bull’s Head) and took a photo of the sunrise before the general descent to Ambergate.
As I approached Alfreton the roads became more pothole than tarmac with a lot of traffic as it was approaching 6am and rush hour. I bypassed the town centre and cut through the housing estate where I was slapped in the face by the poverty. It reminded me of the old coal mining council estates from the 80’s where I grow up, strangely it felt comfortable and safe. As I climbed out of Alfreton there was a 24hr petrol station (with an everyday Morrisons) which was empty, so I took the opportunity to buy a couple of Mars Bars as I only had energy gels.
Castlewood Business Park services at Derby (45miles) was very busy, the Costa had a queue, Greggs was still closed and the sandwiches in the Spar looked horrible. So, I opted for a small bottle of milk and pushed on. A short sprint on the Kings Mill Road East A-road which was not too unpleasant, and I turned for Ravenshead (7-11 – Sainsbury’s Local at 51 miles). In hindsight, I should have stopped here for a sandwich. I took Longdale Lane to Calverton where I was hoping to find a café, no such luck. The road to Gunthorpe was fast and I only had one near miss with a white van who did not want to wait until the one car on the other side of the road passed. However, I nearly got wiped out by a Morrison home delivery van in Shelford who thought that he would overtake a parked bus with a blue car waiting behind it for me to come through. He then shouted out of his window as if it was my fault!
Gunthorpe also represented the turn west for Donington services and home and the lanes were busy with traffic cutting the corner. Just after Radcliffe on Trent (Grantham Road) there is a historic vantage point which provides vistas across to Nottingham and into Lincolnshire. Before I knew it, I was at Donington services (90miles) and I still had not found a café for a rest and a cup of tea. 90 miles without a proper rest stop is too much for me and is something I will not do again. A Greggs egg bap and a large coffee sitting in the rain on the park bench, I don’t understand why more people don’t do Audaxing!
I have completed the 40 miles section from Donington service to Stoke on Trent and home several times, so I just put my head down and turned the crank. In reality, I had no choice as the wind had picked up, making my legs burn from the effort. I hoped that when I turned at Stanton by Bridge the wind would reduce but it did not, I had it as company all the way back to the finish. I stopped at Scropton and had a 10minute rest on the roadside bench and watched the world go by.
I had thought that I would stop at Uttoxeter services as the last 10miles are mainly uphill. However, when I arrived it felt like they had closed the A50 and everyone was being diverted off, Uttoxeter town was just as busy so I pushed on. I Turned off the B5027 to Stone at Bramshall and followed the back roads to Church Leigh and Meir Heath, to the finish line. The B5027 is the quickest route but in my opinion, can be unsafe due to the many blind corners.
A great ride with lots of café stops, big climbs and the odd Welsh vista. Chirk to Cerrigydrudion is best done early morning to avoid the A5 traffic
I had intended to start about 9pm on Saturday evening but we still had thunderstorms in my part of Stoke on Trent, so I went to bed. I got up at 1:30am (Sunday morning) and the sky was clear and full of stars. I started my Wahoo Bolt (1:46am) and headed off into the darkness trying to avoid the flooded sections of the road. It occurred to me that I live on a hill and I am cycling uphill, but the water is still pooling … it was too early in the morning to consider such gravitational problems!
I settled in for my normal route to Chirk (Eccleshall, Wem, Ellesmere) only stopping to take a photo of the amazing clear night sky on my camera phone. Arriving at Chirk was a welcome relief for my knees which were still hurting from my turbo training session yesterday. Sitting on the bench listening to the birds singing whilst eating a Chicken and Sweetcorn sandwich meal-deal, what a brilliant day.
I knew that the road up the A5 was long and best done early to avoid the traffic. I was lucky between Chirk and Llangollen only five cars overtook me and between Llangollen and Corwen it was 22 cars one lorry and a tractor. I had the road to myself. As I cycled through Corwen, I ask the chap who was holding the café sign if he was open, ‘about 10mins’ he replied so I stopped and had a stretch of the leg’s whilst having a chat. The usual Audax conversation, ending with… so I thought I would stop and have a cup of tea and 10mins. A few minutes later he appeared with a large cup of tea. Winner.
Pushing on, I turned off on to the B4501 just before Cerrigydrudion and climbed over the top past the wind turbines, descending toward Tryweryn and Bala. The wind was brutal, but I knew that if I can make it over the top the wind would be much less on the descent. You should never make assumptions, the wind was blowing me to a stop, but it did ease off as I descended toward Tryweryn. This is a long climb over the top, but it is much nicer than dropping down the A494 to Bala.
I stopped at Bala for Breakfast (beans on toast and a cup of tea) and as I sat stuffing my face Brandon a fellow Audaxer from Crewe Clarion Wheelers appeared with Terry. I had half expected to see Brandon as we were both heading for Bala. We shared stories over breakfast and a warm drink before departing. I did not want to linger too much as my knees were feeling like footballs.
My next section was up the B4391 and down into Tanat Valley and onwards to Shrewsbury. The climb was much longer than I remembered but just as steep! I did note that all the cyclists were coming down rather than up! I stopped in the layby at the top and had a snack and took a few pictures. I chatted with a chap from Wrexham who said that they descend to Bala but turn off just before to climb over to Lake Vyrnwy.
I just got up to speed about 30mph and I slammed on my breaks on, what a great photo, looking down the Tanat Valley. The road is wide making it a lovely descent, there is one very sharp corner to slow down for, just avoid the wholes and raised tarmac. The roads through Tanat Valley towards Shrewsbury are fast so I maintained my speed into the small climbs; what a lovely valley. It did occur to me that the last time I cycled along the valley was on John Hamilton’s Wandering Wolves – Lake Vyrnwy (Audax, Perm, 200km).
To be honest by knees were feeling no better, so I cut the route short by jumping on the A5 for a few miles to Montford Bridge and headed for Shrewsbury services for a drink and a bit of food. From here the route felt hard and long, every time I turned the crank. Let us just say I was glad when the ride ended.
A great ride but a lot of hard work when windy, nearly finished me off! The route offers lots of café stops.
It was my normal early start (230am) as I wanted to be at Chirk (24hr services @50miles) for breakfast and Chester (Net’s Café @100miles) for lunch. Taking my normal route to the Cheshire plains through Wem and Ellesmere and on to St Martin’s and the A5 petrol station (M&S foods) at Chirk. I love this route; it is quick and gets me to Wales quickly and the best bit, I had the roads to myself.
After finishing my chicken and bacon sandwich meal-deal I washed it down with a small bottle of milk. I then headed back for St Martin’s and turning north for Chester into a soul-destroying headwind which should not be here! This is a new section which offered new roads to me and it was very pleasant, even more so without the wind. I kept my head down and turned out the miles and the familiar roads around Tattenhall (Chester) started to welcome me. I had a little stop in Tattenhall for a photo of Seymour the squirrel and an energy gel has I was starting to feel the effort of fighting the wind.
I knew that the ride along the coastal path was going to be hard due to the wind but boy, it nearly broke me. I had to force myself to keep going on the promise of a lovely lunch at Net’s Café which everyone raves about. Turning off into the industrial estate was such a relief as the wind had all but faded due to the surrounding hard landscape. Instead I had to contend with egocentric SLAG (Socially Lacking Aggressive Group) riders. I nearly got hit twice by on coming SLAG riders who were treating pram’s, very young children, and the OAP’s as obstacles on a velodrome track, and I am hard to miss due to my size and coloured clothing. If this is what it means to be a group rider, I am thankful that I ride alone.
Heading back for Chester, I took the position of not giving way to oncoming egocentric SLAG riders on myside of the tarmac track. This nearly resulted in a head on collision with an egocentric SLAG rider as he was too busy talking with people in the group rather then looking where he was going. I came to an abrupt stop and waited for the crash but at the last minute he saw me and swerved causing his mate behind him to run into his back wheel. Rant over.
I was hoping that Tilly’s Café would be open in Bunbury as I know that they have reopened with restrictions. No, they are closed on Sundays! So, I waited in line (18minutes) to enter the Coop to by some snacks and water for the last 30miles home. As I approached Madeley Heath, the looming dread of climbing Keele Hill, knowing that afterwards I had a five-mile climb to the doorstep made my legs feel like they had cycle 400miles not 140miles. But I pushed as my awesome wife had cooked Chinese for tea.
Lovely ride with lots to see along the way. It can be very hard work if windy as there is a lot of exposed roads.
I finished work early and the sun was starting to show itself, so I took the chance. Unusual for me, this is a 3pm start rather than a 3am start. This meant that I had to compete with the rush hour traffic as I made my way to through the different towns to reach the countryside. The first 20miles to Cheswardine and Saint Swithun’s church is my normal route to the Cheshire plans and beyond but it does not stop traffic and selfish drivers who are willing to risk my life to save 20 seconds (rant over). The vistas (of Wrekin and Long Mynd) from the roads as you descend from Cheswardine on Haywood Lane towards the turnoff over the canal are great so take two minutes to appreciate them.
After a short climb from the canal, there is a long descent which is frustratingly broken by crossing roads. The descent to Stoke on Tren is much nicer. The road turns and hits the A442 (Telford road), the stretch along the A442 is short, which can be made shorter by cutting the corner. This leads to a nice section to Stanton Upon Hine Heath before turning to Moreton Corbet and St. Bartholomew Church and Castle. This was full of family’s enjoying the sunny evening and picnicking. But it is worth a little delay for a stroll and to take on food and drink.
As I was going to be cycling overnight I thought that I would charge the Wahoo Bolt via my Igaro D2 during the next section as this would mean that I could just run the lights at night from the dynamo. The B5063 towards Wem was uninspiring but it was quick and mostly free of cars. This next section to Baschurch is lovely too as the roads are quiet and it feels like you’re miles from anywhere. I quickly arrived at Basechurch to see a long line of people waiting to go into the late shop, so I just kept going to All Saints Church around the corner. I check my charge rate on the Wahoo only to find that I had lost power not gained it. So I took a few photos of the church and had a play to see if I could get the Igaro D2 to work. I quickly realised that it was not recognising that power was been passed into the unit so I gave up (contacted Igaro and they sent me a new one the next day).
This next section is lovely too, this is turning out to be a great route. This section does get a little lumpy and it seemed to take an age to reach St Martins, but the sun was out, and the roads and countryside were excellent. A few points of interest along the way are St Andrew church at Welsh Frankton as you cross the main road to Ellesmere. A few hundred meters along the route you have vistas cross the plains into Wales. Finally, just after you turn on to the main road for the last mile to Chirk services there is Bryngwilla Lodge.
The Petrol station and M&S Simply Foods provide free wifi (13th July 2020) so I sent a few photo’s to the wife as I sat eating my chicken sandwiches and drinking my can of fizzy pop and a small bottle of milk.
The next section to Ellesmere was fast and more lovely countryside, I was a little surprised just how fast Ellesmere arrived. I stopped to take a photo of the St Mary’s Church set above the main road as you pass through the town. I did pull off at the Boathouse cafe in the vain hope that it would still be open, but it was not!
The section from Ellesmere to Prees Heath took forever so much so that it did cross my mind that I had gone wrong with my route-finding but I reminded myself that the Wahoo had never failed me before and keep riding onto the night. Prees Heath finally arrived and I had my fingers crossed that the petrol station would still be open (Covid 19 opening times were still listed on their website) and it was. I sat behind the garage eating my chocolate and drinking my fuzzy pop watching the stars. I was feeling positive and strong, so much so that I gave serious thought about heading for Chester, making the route 300km but I had to be home by 8am.
I have ridden the section to Market Drayton and home a few times, so I settled in for the ride with my dynamo headlight was working its magic on the dark lanes. However, this did not stop me from having a puncture about one mile from Calverhall. I took a minute and decided that rather than trying to change the tube in the dark lane with a torch in my mouth I would walk the mile or so to the lights which I could further down the road. When I arrived I there was a gang of young lads drinking on the wall of the pub and generally just been lads. It did cross my mind to keep walking, but that would have been silly. So I located myself under one of the spotlights and started to change my inner tube.
I quickly realised that the Gaterskin had stopped the object (possibly glass) but it had taken 1cm of rubber off the tyre. I am assuming that the force burst the inner tube. Then the 20yr old lad on a pink bike for a 3yr came over asking if he could use my pump as he had a flat tyre. I had the wrong valve so I politely explain that the pump would not fit his valve and asked him if he came far on his bike. He laughed and said, from that skip point at a yellow skip about 4 meters away. Imagine four drunk 20yr lads playing on a pink bike for a 3yr child and all the silly things they were doing. Let just say that they keep me entertained but no social distancing.
Their mates arrived in a yellow airplane mover which looked and sounded like a small yellow train. This was getting more sural by the minute. I ended up with five lads chatting to me about drinking in the countryside compared to drinking within the inner city. At the same time, I had to explain to other lads the process of changing an inner tube as I went. Alongside this, were the usual questions about how far I have ridden and why I cycle at night. What was interesting, is that they wanted to know if I had ridden past their house/ town/ village. I was just ignoring the small group who were trying to start a tractor that belonged to someone inside the pub. I work on the assumption that if these lads were not interested, I should not be either.
This had to be one of the longest puncture repairs ever. I made my farewells and set off been accommodated by a wannabe Usain Bolt for the first 500meters. I think he did well considering how much he had to drink! Pushing on to Market Drayton the roads were quiet again and the city life I seek to escape had faded behind me. Until I reached Market Drayton which was full of young semi-drunk people moving around, I think from pub to pub. This was quickly over and it was nice to be back on the dark country lanes to Eccleshall.
When I arrive at Eccleshall, I always start to feel tired as I know that it is mainly climbing all the way home, especially the last five miles; I live on top of one of the highest points in Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire. It is funny that the dogs do not bark when I arrive home in the middle of the night but they do bark when the neighbour arrives home after her late shift; they must smell me!
This would make a great training route as it is for the most part flat with long straight sections separated by small villages and towns.
Arriving home at 3pm, the sun was out and there was a gentle breeze, so I opted for a quick spin on the bike. I had initially thought about doing my 20-mile route around the home but by the time I reached the top of the hill, I decided that I fancy a longer stretch the legs. I headed for Stone with no real route in mind accept to head towards Eccleshall. On my way through Cold Norton, I remembered that I plotted a 70-mile ride to RAF Cosford which turned off at Bridgnorth and followed the road down to Codsall before turning for RAF Cosford and then a 90 degree back to Bridgnorth and home.
As I was thinking about which route to do, I had my second monsoon downpour, since I was already wet from the first one I just stood under the tree and waited for the rain to die down. The section from Bridgnorth to Church Eaton was flat but the gentle breeze turned into a robust wind that was being funneled down the road by the hedgerows on either side. The first milestone was St Editha’s Church at Church Eaton which stood at the tip of a triangle, the church was quite quaint for a small village. Overall, the roads in this section are in reasonably good repair but there can be a lot of farmer debris on the road.
From Church Eaton the next section took me to Codsall like the previous section this is mainly flat roads with good roads surfaces, but the wind was making it hard work. I had a quick stop at Saint Mary the Virgin and Saint Chad in Brewood where the locals watched me take photos! From was the long gentle climb up Port Lane which took me into Codsall. I did not stop as I knew I was only a few miles from RAF Cosford. As I cycled along the high street (Albrighton) I came across Saint Mary Magdalene church, so I pulled over for a photo which annoyed the OAP driving at 20mph and who I overtook a few miles back.
Arriving at RAF Cosford museum, the gates were open, but the sign was clear… CLOSED. So, I stopped just inside the gate and took a few photos of the Hawker Hunter F6 XG225, had an energy gel and texted the wife to let her know that I would be late for tea!
The route back is more of the same, except that there are a few short but steep climbs and the long ascent up to Bishop’s Wood. After these climbs, the roads are mainly flat with good tarmac, but there are a few sections which are used by farm equipment or where the water pools and deposits sand and stones. The journey back did not offer as many photo opportunities and I was glad when I arrived a Bridge North as it was 14-miles from home. I was also feeling tired as I had not stopped for a coffee break. Stone town was very quiet, and I had the road to myself all the way through town. I stopped on the outskirts of Stone to text the wife that I was about to start the 5-mile climb home so that she could put the kettle on!
This is a great route, which would make a good training ride as it avoids most of the main roads and it is easy riding, for the most part.
A 9pm start after the heat of the day had dissipated and the Campbell Clan were all settled for the night. After my 100km ride last week (Around Stoke) I reminded myself to take my time at the start so I set back and enjoyed the quiet roads. It was Stone (six miles) town before I saw my first car, which was very unsettling as I was expecting a few near misses and beeps of the horn! The road to Eccleshall was also quiet but I was distracted with the amazing sunset but I never occurred to me too and take a photo, sorry.
Eccleshall was also deserted but I stopped to take a photo of the church (Holy Trinity C of E Church) in the form of a break. I know the next section very well, as I take the road to Stoke on Tern every time I head towards Cheshire City and the Plains. I also stopped Saint Swithun’s church in Cheswardine as the church was illuminated and I could experiment with the night mode on the phone camera.
The section of Cheswardine to Stoke on Tern is generally downhill and offers vista’s of the Werkin during the day. I quickly hit the main road (A53) and pushed on to the turning Hopton which initially was okay but become a pothole infested and lose surface, which is not my thing. Having looked at the map after the ride I think I will change the route to take the right turning in the village of Stoke on Tern which will take me to Peplow and the A53 and through to the Stanton upon Hine Heath and the route.
I did stop at Moreton Corbet Castle in a rather silly attempt at taking a photo but it was so dark I could bearly see the building and the camera keep saying ‘hold still: 205mins.’ Cycling past the RAF Shawbury I could just make out the outline of what looked like a Seaking helicopter but I was very dark. I did consider stopping and asking the guard if I could enter and take a photo but I considering the time of night and the Covid19 threat I don’t think this would go down to well so I pushed on.
I had a quick stop at Shawbury to take a photo of St Mary’s Church which was illuminated and had a food bank in the main doorway so I avoided this area. I took two minutes to sit on the wall have a snack before starting my home run. So far it has been a lovely night except for three reason a) the dynamo light does not illuminate the road signs as I approach junctions due to the horizontal cut off, b) when I and charging the Wahoo Bolt from the D2 the light instantly goes into standby mode when I came to a stop making it hard to see the junction on the other side of the road when there are no streetlights and c) the wind had picked up. So I put my windproof on, switch the D2 off and adjusted the front light but this resulted in a poor light distribution on the road.
The journey back was on new roads as I have normally taken the B5062 which takes you Newport which I bypass and drop out by Chetwynd Park. These country lanes were generally in could repair and for the most part gentle ramps so I will differently opt to use this route again. I settled into the pace and rhythm and Standford Bridge (A41 crossing) quickly arrived. I wish I could say the same for the next ten miles which takes you to Eccleshall. It felt like the A41 was a crossing from the Goodside to the Darkside and after the initial three or four miles I become disheartened and the short climb up to High Offley did not help. The descent to Eccleshall from High Offley was another pothole-ridden road with loose gravel but it did take me directly to Eccleshall.
I opted to take five minutes at Eccleshall to take on some food and water. I chose to sit on the roadside curb rather than the park benches as the local news feed said that Eccleshall was very busy during the day. The only car which came pass was the local police patrol car which I notice as it crossed the roundabout a few hundred yards away. I had a little stretch and restarted my journey and the final ten miles uphill to home.
As I was leaving the Eccleshall village the police car passed me and the office give me a smile and a wave through the window. The climb out of Eccleshall towards Stone was much easier than I remembered but I have started to notice that my legs are getting tired from constantly pushing against the wind which felt like 20mph rather than the 8mph indicated in the weather forecast. I made steady progress all the way to Stone where I was a little surprised by not seeing any moving cars. I slowed down a little to allow my legs to recover a little as I know there was a three-mile climb which is not very steep (avg 3%) but just keeps giving all the way. But I knew once I was at the top, it was a two-mile ramp to the finish line and home. So I just settled into my rhythm and podded my way home.