100 Miles to Holt Sunday 9th June
You had to be there really….
Nine turned up at 8am Sunday morning on my crazy 100 mile ride to Wales and back. Roll call was: Me, Mark H, Simon R, Jack on Two Wheels, Griff, Craig, Andy Carbon-Wheel-iams, Dan Handsome, and Sue -Provider of Endless [Jelly] Babies Edwards.
First stop destination The Lakeside Cafe, Crewe took us up Leek Old Road to Fool's Nook to warm up our legs, then Gawsworth and Marton, then skirting around Congleton where we were joined by Simon C and Phil waiting by the side of the road. Unbeknown to some of us, they weren't actually joining our ride and as they peeled off they took part of our group with them. That was quickly sorted out and once re-united we rode uneventfully past Hassall Green to join the Rail Trail past Wheelock, which was quite a decent cycle path. Rejoining the tarmac at Ettiley Heath to circumnavigate the housing estates and cycle paths of Crewe, we enjoyed a timely cafe stop in Queens Garden Park. What a fab setting from the veranda overlooking the magnificent park. It almost matched the spectacle of Griff's first full breakfast of the day.
At the cafe I phoned the cafe in Holt with a promised update on numbers and estimated arrival time, which I thought would be helpful. More of that later...
We then boringly decided to stick to the road out of the park, instead of the proposed route traversing the golf course. A sensible decision which maybe I should have repeated later on...
After leaving Crewe we followed the cycle path alongside the busy A530 then made our way through the cycle-paths, pedestrian crossings and shopping centre car parks of Northwich through Acton and (a different) Chorley where we briefly joined by a solitary Mr Higham on his speedy tour of Cheshire. Passing the beautiful Chorlmondeley Castle park, Duckington, Tilston and Farndon into Holt.
My mobile phone was so excited at reaching Wales it jumped for joy into the road and shattered to pieces. This was to make reading the map like looking through the eyes of a bluebottle, which didn't help with the navigation duties later.
In Holt we feasted at the superb Cleopatra's cafe. More all-day-breakfasts including smoked bacon, eggs and garlic mushrooms, with the obligatory beans on toast, coffee. cakes and lashings of tea available, which were brought to us in record time. We were just commenting on how this was possibly the best ever cafe when the Manageress asked which one of us was Phil, as I had rang twice and apparently double booked the table, there being an empty reserved table at the other side of the cafe, also for nine people from Macclesfield Wheelers. Not to worry, she reassured us, it won't happen again - We were banned and the girl who took the call has been dismissed. I hope she was joking, I'm pretty sure she was.
Whilst we were stuffing our faces inside, however, a possessed thorn had mysteriously embedded itself in Andy's rear tyre and punctured it. I reckon it was those fellow riders from Congleton wheelers also present in the cafe. The delay in fixing it, however, proved to be fortuitous as will be explained later.
The return route headed north from the Village through Waverton joining NCR 71 which took us over some very quaint antique, probably Roman, cobbled bridges, through a VERY narrow gap in the (nettle) fields where Andy took a tumble. Fortunately the ample nettle fields gave him a soft landing, and by flattening the said nettles, made it less painful for the rest of us. The choice of route was questioned, by some, well actually everyone, but in my defense it is marked as a National Cycle Network route, although of course some are more rideable than others. Still, the endless supply of Jelly babies kept our spirits up and past Tarvin we were amazed how much it must have rained, as the roads had turned from dry as a bone to totally flooded. Our extended cafe stop saved us from the torrential downpour the High Leigh group talked about. Past Kelsall into Delamere Forestt where we narrowly avoided colliding with the army of lads on mountain bikes with 8 foot wide handlebars wobbling all over the road texting on their mobiles, and even bypassed the ice cream van, much to Griff's dismay. On through Norley, then across Acton Bridge where we veered right onto another track to Willow Green and Little Leigh. A short stretch of the A533 took us to the housing estates of Barnton to our third cafe and the Boat Lift. There, as the skies darkened, we scoffed the last of the cakes, actually the biggest slice of multi-coloured cake ever, before donning the waterproofs as the rain started. We stuck to the proposed route through the park, as we were assured it was all paved. It probably was at some point, before years of dead leaves had turned the paths to mud, but at least the amply foliage provided shelter from the rain as we headed East. In hindsight the road would be the preferred option and the RWGPS file will be amended. A short stretch of the A555 took us to Lostock Gralam where the route took us toward the radio mast establishment. We ignored the warning signs of armed security guards with savage dogs patrolling the grounds, as the route is known to some of us having ridden it before, Luckily the electrified barbed wire prevented us from straying into the live minefields and sniper patrols, but not so luckily the route bypassed the right turn by the mast and straight ahead into the ploughed field and public footpath. It was all rideable I called in encouragement, as by then we had past the point of no return. It wasn't all bad, as the last of the rain washed the mud, nettle stings and bramble cuts from our legs. Once back onto tarmac I considered to myself how I must amend the RWGPS file to dispose of the evidence.
After crossing over the M6 we started to feel at home with the familiar landmarks of Jodrell Bank and Sutton Common in the distance, and we sped on, boosted by more jelly babies up Pexhill to the relief of seeing our stravas showing 100.4 miles. Back home at 6.30pm, a memorable day that's for sure.
We'll do it again next year (well, probably on my own!) but without the mud and nettles. Honest.
If anyone can email their photos I'll add them to the website. Thanks to those who came and I hope you enjoyed (some of) it.