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!