Stoke to Wem: same roads, same churches see A Place Call Hope ride report
Wem Coop was due to open at 6am according to the internet and arrived just after 7am which was good as it did not open until 7am! I did consider pushing on to Ellesmere for the cafe but this did not open until 830am. I would have arrived at about 8am and would have been forced to continue to Llangollen. A meal deal from the Coop and a sit in the carpark watching the locals come and go for their newspapers and milk was actually pleasant. The section to Ellesmere was quick and if the Cafe is open I will definitely skip Wem. The journey to Llangollen from Ellesmere was pleasant for the most part and the A5 was busy but it was wide enough for most cars to pass without any issue.
The last time I stopped in Llangollen was many years ago when I kayaked the falls which run under the stone bridge in the center of town. From all the talk about how lovely Llangollen is, I was a little disappointed. There were cafes and pubs but there was only one cafe with seats outside and the only toilets I could find required 30p to use. It just felt like a crossing place on the way to somewhere else. I did pop into the cafe where I purchased Welsh oggy’s in my kayaking days and they still sell them! So I purchase a cup of tea and sat for a few minutes before pushing on to Corwen, Welsh oggy this time.
When I last did this leg I was riding from Alsager (Cheshire) to Snowdonia Mountain in 2011 and I remembered this section felt harder and longer; I remember taking several breaks along the way. This time, it was a sharp kick and a nice steady climb, which was a very pleasant surprise. There was an overturned old style tractor blocking the road so all the cars, van, lorries and caravans which overtook me were all queuing and been cooked by the morning sun. A large group of drivers had worked together to upright the tractor and the tractor driver was been attended to as he sat on the wall. As I approached the edge of Corwen village the police car which had passed me a few times after I left Llangollen past me again. I am assuming that it was looking for the overturned tractor! When I reached Corwen there was a local cafe with chairs outside, which looked more inviting than the Llangollen cafe. I think next time I will not stop at Llangollen and just head to Corwen. I never realised but there is a lot of history to Corwen and as I was reading the information boards all the queuing traffic came through.
I continued to follow the A5 from Corwen to Betws-y-Coed and considering this is the main road to Snowdonia national park it was fairly quiet but the headwind, which was pleasant became a source of annoyance after a few miles (along with a long climb), I was glad to stop at the roadside cafe (Ty Tan Llan Cafe) which I stopped at when I cycled the (John Hamilton Route: Snowdon, Lleyn & Lakes (200km)). There was a headwind then too, but much worse! After leaving the cafe it was a few more miles before I recognised the layby which represents the start of the white water kayaking section of the river Conwy. I knew it was mostly downhill from here, all the way to my dinner stop at Betws-y-Coed. Well, the high ropes center just past Betws-y-Coed as I wanted to avoid the madness of holidaymakers and the long waiting times for the food to arrive.
I had traveled the road to Colwyn Bay before during my mountaineering days so I was fairly familiar with it and I was waiting for the short but steep climb which made me quickly find my easiest gear! After a quick descent, I arrived at the small roundabout which took me over to Llandudno Junction and the A55. This is the closest I actually got to Llandudno. I turned right for Colwyn Bay and the coastal cycle path. For the first miles or so the coastal cycle path was a mix of concrete and broken tarmac but it quickly became much smoother and it was very nice cycling along the coastline and the only downside were all the other users (cyclists, walkers, dog walkers, families etc…)! If it is windy there is nowhere to hide on this cycle path so you may want to choose your timing! Rhyl was unmistakable with all the funfair rides, I was just glad I was able to avoid most of them. I decided to stop for a burger and a new brake block at the Bike Hut before leaving Rhyl.
Prestatyn and the long road to Chester, there is not much to say about this section other than I think there are a few more potholes compare to when I last cycled along this road. It was pretty uninspiring than too! However, when I arrived at Chester, it was kicking out time for the horse racing course which seemed like well managed drunken chaos for the expensive dressed lads day out to the numerous hen parties or it was a very large hen party! Remembering that there was a Subway on the way out of town I practice my bike skills leaving my bike computer acting as an electronic bell as it kept auto pausing due to the low speed. A quick sandwich with a coffee and a water refill I was on my way.
The route from Chester to home (Stoke on Trent) is well traveled so it was just a case of turning out the mile. When I arrived at Bunbury the Coop still open (Note to self, closes at 10pm) so I stopped for a small bottle of milk and a can of pop I save the milk for later and drink the pop before leaving.
Nantwich to Winits Hill is not very interesting as the roads are lined with tall hedging, which made it dark so I put my Moon Meteor Storm light on at 200 lumens and quickly changed this to 400 lumens. It was not as bright as I was anticipating! At Winits Hill, a quick leg on the A?? took my to the Keele hill and the turn through the Westlands (highly desirable housing for the rich) and on to Trentham. Turning for Hem Heath (highly undesirable housing for the rich!) and to Lightwood hill. At the bottom of Lightwood Hill, I texted message, my wife, to let her know I was 10 minutes from home. She had a hot cup of tea waiting for me as I turned onto the drive – Best wife ever