Stoke to Chirk and Back (Audax, DIY, 200km)

Not Validated Due To Covid 19

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!