Tour of The Cheshire Lanes, Cycle Ride with Brian & Janet, Sunday June 24th 2012

By Tom Russell

Diane, the Northwest tonight weather girl told me (plus thousands of other viewers) that the forecast for the morning of Sunday 24th wasn't brilliant, but conditions should improve during the day. So at 7 o'clock when the sun was shining, I was happy :) but by the time I set off on my bike, the clouds had gathered, the wind was blowing and it had started to rain on me :( However, I'm not paranoid (even though they're out to get me) and I carried on to the meeting point - which turned out to be further away than I remembered, so I didn't arrive until ten minutes before the off. They hadn't gone without me though and I was welcomed with smiles, so that was a positive start.

Ten o'clock at Little Bollington saw eight of us waiting to start, with rides ranging from a mountain bike to drop bar racers, all well turned out in dayglo jackets and helmets for visibility and protection. We set off just after the hour into what felt like the howl of a teething gale, and, of course, after less than a mile it started to rain. Those of us not wearing rain jackets (ok, yes, that included me) had to stop in the tunnel under the M56 by the John Wesley memorial plaque to don said apparel, which resulted in a breathless puff up the following hill to catch up with the main peloton; and, of course, by that time the rain had ceased.

Crossing the A556 by the Swan at Bucklow Hill, we descended on Rosthern where we were entertained by the scarecrow competition entrants loitering by the side of the road (some embedded in hedges).

Onward through Tatton Park where the Classic Car show was just opening (all those polished and pampered cars getting wet!) then through Knutsford. At this point I began to think I'd have been better coming in a canoe than on a bike. There was a lot of water on the roads, some of which spanned the full width of the carriage and had to ridden through. We passed three children standing beside a large puddle in the
road, all were soaking wet and laughing while they waited for cars to come by and drench them again. They were disappointed because our bikes didn't make a big enough splash! Kids these days, they don't know they're born; whenIwerealadwehadtomakedowith jumping in puddles to make each other wet, and that took a lot of effort

We crossed back over the A556 by the M6 roundabout and took the road towards Arley Hall. As we passed the pinfold (that's a small walled area with a single narrow entrance for those of you who, like me, didn't know) near Arley, Brian told me of its use for impounding stray animals in days gone by; how does he remember all this stuff? It's thought to date from the 18th century.

Eventually we arrived at Pickmere for a short loo stop and admired the lake while Brian described the amusements, caravans and water sports that were present when he was a young lad and used to cycle there. Here the group decided the split between the 25 and 40 mile rides, and shortly afterwards the three man 40 mile breakaway group streaked (in our dreams) away from the peloton and off into the distance. The main disadvantage of the longer route was that we didn't get to go to the ice cream farm. Not sure how you farm ice cream.

By this time the roads were drying out a bit, although there were still occasional short rain flurries, and the sun kept attempting to shine on us. We were now following the Cheshire Cycleway, and shortly pedalled through the pretty village of Great Budworth. Down the hill to cross the A559 by the wishing well, and up the far side for views of the dinghies sailing on the mere and then on towards Comberbach.

Beyond the village we descended to cross over the Trent and Mersey canal at Little Leigh then down through Willow Green, and paused for a short time on the swing bridge carrying the A49 over the river Weaver to look at the boats moored below. Over the bridge we turned right off the A49 at Acton Bridge and slogged up a couple of steepish climbs which raised a bit of a sweat before eventually swooping (yeah, really, it was downhill) through Norley towards Hatchmere at the start of the Delamere Forest. There we turned left off the Cycleway to find lunch at the Delamere Station Cafe (ah, salvation!).

The problem with stopping for lunch is that you don't want to start again afterwards, the legs and bum are telling you not to do it. Brian reassured me by saying that there were no climbs on the way back, but he didn't look me in the eye when he said it. Even when I had to push up one hill ('cos my thigh muscles had gone into cramp) he claimed that there are no hills in Cheshire, but my copy of the Cheshire Cyclway booklet said it was a 1 in 13 hill, so I'm not sure who to believe. I managed to get round my thigh problems by increasing my pedal cadence and altering my action, but I still think there are hills in Cheshire. Riding our outward route in reverse, whilst freewheeling down the hill in Acton Bridge (in a 30 mph zone) I looked at my speedo and saw 37 mph on the dial; good job there were no Cop cars around.

By now the weather had improved (well done Diane!) and the sun was shining for most of the time. Retracing our route we stopped to look at the wishing well at the bottom of the hill up to Great Budworth and found, to our disgust, that the lead in half the letters of a short poem inscribed over the wellhead had been prised out and stolen, making it difficult to read. All for a few ounces of metal! At the top of the hill we arrived back in Great Budworth in time to sample the tea and cakes offered by the ladies in the Village Hall. The buttered tea bread I ate was one of the best I've ever tasted, and the sale of second hand books in the hall yielded a copy of a Jo Nesbo novel I hadn't read which I bought for 50p. Good place to stop Brian!

From there the route took us back to the pinfold where we turned left towards High Legh. Brian showed us one of the verse signposts which are dotted around this area. They carry several lines of verse rather than just indicate a destination and were apparently written by Rowland Edgerton-Warburton, also known as the rhyming squire of Arley. On past the garden centre then a final freewheel down a hill (at last!) back to the starting point in the lay by on the A56 near the Old Number 3. After I'd prised by backside off the bike, Chris Cleaver kindly offered me a lift back home, saving me six miles of leg wear; gratitude Chris. We thanked Brian (and Janet in her absence) for organising a really enjoyable day out, after which he got back on his bike and rode off home (ten miles I believe, I take my hat off to him). My log told me I'd covered 54 miles, a bit further than I'd anticipated, but a great day out. Let's have another one!

PS I think the day also proved Radfahrer's law that in a circular bicycle ride the net gradient is positive and the wind is always in your face!