Midnight Mersey Meandering (DIY, Audax. 200km)

I joined a local-ish cycling club just before lockdown, it’s 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 ride ‘club’ audax 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 the club audax riders too! The route was planned by John Gallagher and would start in Crewe (Stoke on Trent) over to Runcorn along the Mersey into Liverpool before taking the tunnel to the Wirral. 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 ???) and we set off on the short ride to the start and the rest of the group (Ronan Yeo, Brendan 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 road diversions to nowhere and blocked roads.

At this point I started to realised that wearing my winter kits probably was not the best idea as I was overheating, as I was starting to get a 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 town center. I may even go back in the daylight to have a better look. We passed by the Batman film set and on 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 long the Mersey was excellent although the wind was our emery 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 entertaining but quickly became annoying.

Finally, the second stop 24hr garage stop, this seemed to take forever to arrive and we had learned 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.  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.

Going slow, dehydrated

Plodding at my own pace to the end

Lovely welcome by Cath, John’s wife, with a cup of tea in hand

Torrential Tour Of Three Counties (Audax, DIY, 200km)

Thunderstorms, roads become rivers and waist-deep in places but this is a lovely route around the Cheshire plains. A take of the Ecleshaw 200km

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 set off into the night, as I think I can 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 most fearest 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 road, 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 a now 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. 

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. As I approached Bunbury (Tatten Hall) the roads were dry and the night air was warm, now I was dripping with sweet rather than rainwater. What really stood out during the leg was St Peter’s Church at Waverton. The church internal lights were on illuminating all the stain glass windows I had to stop but I was already at very high risk of DNFing the ride so I took a quick look and a photo and moved on. 

Stamford ??? 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 rider 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 the 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 Knutsfords to Middlewich was fast but it felt long as I was starting to dyhdrate due tot he effort I was putting to make sure I could be home before the Audax cut of time. I Stopped at 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’s 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, dehydration and the morning sun.

Arriving at Keele Univerity at the top of Keele Bank was a milestone. If I looked hard enough I can 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 was a great releif just to get 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!

Stoke: Around Nottingham (Audax, DIY, 200km)


Lovely ride if you remove the sections of A-roads and ignore the potholes around Alfreton. 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 style 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 pass the closure. This is why people with dynamos 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 which gently climbing 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 sun raise 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 I 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, Derby (45miles) were very busy, the Costa had a queue, Greggs was still closed and the sandwiches in the Spar look 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 one near miss with a white van who did not want to wait until the one car on the other side of the road pasted. 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 had 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 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 form Donington service to Stoke on 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 all the way back to Stoke. 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 were 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.

Bala For Breakfast (Audax, DIY, 300km)


Not Validated Due To Covid 19

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.

Stoke, Chirk, Chester, Stoke (Audax, DIY, 200km)

Not Validated Due To Covid 19

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.

RAF Cosford (Audax, DIY, 100km)

Not Validated Due To Covid 19

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!

RAF Shawbury (Audax, DIY, 100km)

Not Validated Due To Covid 19

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.

Around Stoke (Audax, DIY, 100km, 1.75AAA)

Not Validated Due To Covid 19

Testing the route, which needs some minor changes between Haslington and Betley. I had forgotten how much I enjoy riding overnight.

The leg from Hilderstone Road (Meir Hay) to Cheadle and Foghall is generally boarding and of little interest. However, there are few churches and cenotaphs which you may want to view as you pass by. The climb from Foghall to Ipstones is more of a kick in the head followed by a ramp that has a small kick in at the end. I often stop at the corner shop on the left turn or you could opt for a quick pint in the pub. A few hundred yards up the road is St Leonard church (Ipstones) which also marks the right turn for Cheddleton. This section to Cheddleton is on narrow roads and there is a lot of loose gravel (in the dark this can catch you out so be careful).

I had forgotten how steep the road is from the Churnet canal (Churnet Valley Railway, which has a cafe) to the main road which passes through Cheddleton (A520). From here it is a quick leg on the A520 before pulling off into the housing estate but be warned this is a very busy (and dangerous) road. The road leading from the housing estate becomes very narrow with blind corners but this is generally a nice road. You very quickly arrive at Deep Hayes Country Park just in time for a very long and steep hill that climbs up to the A53 Leek road, which you crossover and continue to Rudyard lake. This section is very pleasant as the roads are open and you have views of the surrounding countryside.

The climb from Rudyard lake to Biddulph Moor is another long climb with a kick at the start and end. However, the descent of the top to Biddulph town is fast and exciting. I believe that Biddulph Grange Gardens has a tea room. I opted to stop on the main road to take a photo of St. Lawrence’s Church which was illuminated by orange lights.

It is a quick sprint along the main road before turning at the Biddulph Arms Hotel make sure you take the correct road, you want the first one which ramps downwards (Mow Lane). This road climbs all the way to the top and the to Mow Cop village. The climb has three sections a) through the trees to the b) ramp (there are some great views along the ramp to keep you going) from the ramp c) up the ridge road to the village. The ridge road has a few layby’s to take photos from and I recommend the first layby as you join the road. You will be going so fast when you descend back down that you will not want to stop.

At the top of the ridge road, you descend down into the main village and turn for the Woodcock Lane which will bring you to Mow Cop Castle, passing the top of Station Road (killer Mile). There is a short steep climb that takes you over the top back onto the ridge road. I recommend tucking in and enjoy the decent but be warned there are a few sharp corners, potholes and loose gravel as you descend. Turn when you see the pub (Horseshoe Inn) … you will have to break!!!

Turning at the Horseshoe Inn will take you through to Smallwood, Winterly and Haslington. This road is fast with an occasional short climb along the way, so power up the hills. Both Winterly and Haslington have roadside shops and cafes if you want to stop. Turning off the main road (Crewe Road) represents a transition as most of the roads through to Madeley are main arteries so watch yourself. You finally turn off the main road (A531) and climb (Bowsey Wood Road) upwards before dropping into Madeley (shops and cafe) and skirting the lake through the village. To be honest the up and down remains a theme and eventually you pop out on the Whitchurch to Newcastle Road (A51) which you follow all the way to Stone. However, this road is fast but a little busy at times. Be careful on the roundabout as the flow of traffic is very fast.

You turn off the A34 after the next roundabout (500 yards-ish) which takes you over the canal which you follow into the back of Stone. Cutting you through the housing estate to bypass the main town leads to the final climb up through Moddershall (Death Valley) which brings you back to the start.

Descent of the Stiperstones (DIY, Audax, 200km) From Tern Hill

A great ride… killer wind, broken cleat, floods, roads full of winter debris.

Starting at Tern Hill (24hr Petrol Station) I headed across the Cheshire Plains to Ellesmere for breakfast, bypassing my favourite café (Midway) and Beans on Toast at Press Heath as it was only a few miles into the ride. The Boathouse at Ellesmere is nice, and the staff are always friendly. But the food and drink are a little expensive for me. I had a couple of heavy downpours of rain with a strong wind during this leg which reduced my motivation. Leaving Ellesmere, I dropped on to the route and headed for Crewgreen and the first big climb. However, the headwind was killing me. On the Dan-O-Meter, I would estimate that it was gusting at 30-40mph as it was pushing me across the road at times. The Cheshire Plains are pretty much the same wherever you go, generally flat roads, hedgerows and pasture or cropland. I had a little diversion just before Melverley, as the floodwater was still high. The locals were out collecting the plastic and other rubbish which had become trapped in the hedgerow. From the waterline, it must had covered the Hawthorne hedgerow. They recommended that I take the high road as it cleared a few days ago. It is interesting that on my original route there were no flood warning signs, but on the high road, all the signs indicate floods and road closed! It must have been bad as the waterline was equally as high along this road too.

Crewgreen and the first climb was a welcome relief as the wind was redirected by the hedgerows and my legs were now climbing. This climb reminded me of the climbs in the Peak District. Don’t forget to look behind you for the vista across the Plains when you turn at the house called ‘new house’ as you will lose this vista. The descent down the other side, Wallaston, is quick but the lane is narrow with blind corners and I had to slow down/ stop a dozen times for oncoming cars. You cross the A road and start the climb up an incline/ ramp which gradually turns into a continuous climb. However, like the first climb, there are places where the gradient reduces, and you can recover. The descent down the other side is very fast and very steep with blind corners but you pop out at a village and start a gentler leg to Montgomery (B4388).

Every time I have passed through Montgomery it has been night-time, so I took the opportunity to look at the church and castle. But to be honest, I was so tired from fighting the headwind for the past 60miles that I could not be bothered to pull off the road to visit the castle. The leg to Newtown has not changed and it was a little descent on to the A road and a headwind battering me until I arrived at McDonald’s. After 7.5hrs of cycling, it felt like I had just ridden 600km.

I stopped for about 15minutes, just long enough to buy 3 cheeseburgers and a large fizzy drink. I knew the Kerry road out of Newtown was long and steep, so I had one cheeseburger and save the other two for my ride back. Partway up the climb to Kerry, I sheered the plastic lip off the front of my left cleat. This had the unfortunate result of the foot popping off the pedal when I applied pressure e.g. trying to go faster. Every time the foot slipped off the pedal the ankle took a knock… this became rather tedious and painful! It also slowed my progression down especially when I was trying to maintain speed into the short climbs. On the positive, the wind had all but gone and I was making good time on the flats.

I stopped at Churchstoke (Patrol station/ Café/ Coop) to have my second cheeseburger and avoid the rain shower which was passing over. Back on the bike and it was only a mile or so to the left turn and the climb over to Ford. Don’t let the incline fool you!!! Eventually, you hit the real climb which is continuous and steep. This is definitely a climbers’ climb. I did not last long as my foot popped off the pedal and I did not have the strength to get going again. I think part of this was the slipperiness of the road. The descent off the top is excellent but be aware of oncoming cars and people in the road. I opted not to stop at Ford and Dinkys Dinahs. Instead, I pushed on for the car at Tern Hill. The last leg was more Cheshire Plains riding and constant ankle banging as my foot popped off the pedal.