Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Salt Barge at Northwich

It is not a good sign when the ducks have left the canal and are wandering the streets - how wet is it going to be?!

John had planned today's ride, on Easter Sunday, and ten of us gathered at Chester Town Hall.  We set off, after a little introduction by John including some safety notes, but it was several miles before I realised I had forgotten to take my start up photo!

We had a pleasant start out to Delamere, meeting Ribble Clarion on their Easter weekend away (heading to The Anderton Boat Lift) and taking a short detour to The Station Cafe at Delamere whilst a rain shower passed over.

After this we retraced and dropped down to Norley and then Action Bridge - at every turn we saw the Cheshire Cycleway signs (a reminder to me to get the online entries live for the event we are holding in June!).  Crossing the bridge took us to Little Leigh, and the lanes north of Northwich.  

This corner of Cheshire is leafy green fields, salt mines and canals.  There are numerous 'Flashes', which were brine pits where the Romans originally extracted salt, or may be caused by subsidence as salt was mined from underneath.  We passed Budworth Mere, which can be seen over the hedges after we passed through Comberbatch, and the Salt Mine workings and buildings can be seen as we approached our lunchstop.

Ollerton Road Flash, with swan and
Great Crested Grebe (honest);
Salt Works behind.

Lion Salt Works and boat
on Trent & Mersey Canal

The Salt Barge name is a giveaway - placed next to the Trent and Mersey Canal (the one at the top of the Anderton Boat Lift, less than 2 miles away as the crow flies) and a large Salt Mine - The Lion Salt Works.  This apparently has been open for about two years - you can see pictures of the restoration through 2014 here.

After lunch, we were treated to some quiet off road sunshine, we passed
between the Ashton and Neumann Flashes, recently 'reclaimed' and unusual as the salt allows 'seaside' plants to thrive; and on to skirt Marbury country park, where we were treated to bluebell woods.

Passing Ashton & Neumann's Flashes

Trent & Mersey Canal

Bluebell woods near Anderton Nature Park

Fields of rape in full bloom

The sunshine continued as we navigated the lanes, returning to Acton Bridge, where we followed the Dutton Towpath.

View as we dropped down to the Weaver - Acton Bridge
can be seen to the right

Dutton Towpath (with headwind!)

I am very fond of this picturesque route, as it develops from a peaceful towpath, to the set of locks (flood defence system) and black and white bridges (including the horse bridge we crossed), and eventually a dramatic viaduct - all 22 arches!

Horse Bridge

As we ended our travels along the Weaver, I said to the group to watch out for the monkeys in the monkey puzzle tree, as I knew I would be (again) off the back as the road tilts up.  Did they?  No.

So it was a jolly good job I stopped to take a quick picture of what looks like the newest edition to the tree.

Here end my photos.  As we climbed back over the sandstone ridge, the weather started to deteriorate again, and climbing Waterloo Lane I stopped to put my raincoat on, and saw misty grey clouds below and around us.  By the time we passed Manley Mere for the second time today, we were in the midst of a deluge, coupled with the strong head wind we had fought since lunch.  Ergo, no pics!

A very pleasant day despite the rain, with ups and downs, and 54 miles.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The Tap at Eastham

Missing Links and Spare Links!

This pub is known to be a 'Bikers' pub, not for cyclists, but for our motorised cousins on two wheels.  There are three pubs listed at Eastham Ferry - The Eastham Ferry, The Montgomery and The Tap.  Having not been to any, I was guessing and relying on Trip Advisor.  Top Advice - don't even look at Trip Advisor!!

I always start with a weather report, today was jolly cold, but despite being a mere 1 degree, it was not icy.  We had hoped for Fridays blue skies and sunshine, but, Alas! just habitual grey skies and cold gloom, with intermittent dampness.

Spot Ian's pump in his front wheel, bottom right -
he was feeling a little deflated
before we even started!

We had two new faces to the group, which totaled 13 at the start.  

I also like to try to include local interest in our history timeline, and today we inspected the new Brook Lane Bridge.  This small road is a very busy link and was closed for a few weeks before Christmas, closing again on the 3rd Jan.  Last week they took the old bridge away, and I was able to commute past on the Greenway on Monday morning and see the lack of bridge.  These small things make me happy!

New Bridge (brand new, still has labels on!)

Very big crane

Anyway, clearly very impressed by this, we about-turned and headed the other way towards the canal; which reflected the gloom of the sky, only remedied by the lovely smooth surface we enjoyed - until it ran out past the Countess Country Park.  After much bumping and lumping, accompanied by the sounds of gunshots from Dale Camp, we reached the A41 where we left the canal and followed a usual route to Hosta Cafe.

After a pleasant refreshment time, where we met Ted from Two Mills (we invited him to sit with us as he was not riding with them today and consequently alone) and waved goodbye to Ian (date with a puppy) and Simon (selling his last Raleigh Chopper), we set of to the foothills of The Wirral.  Now we are 11.

We followed through the gated track near Dunkirk and The Missing Link, a route through Oaks Farm.  The farm yard was quite clean, but this is when Richard first felt the ominous soggy flat tyre moment.  He pumped it up but alas! it was not to be, so we left him with Gill (at their request) to sort themselves out, to save everyone getting cold.  (unfortunately a text message later informed me that 'one broken pump after nozzle snapped off and so used the two spare [tubes] and decided to head home').  Now we are 9.

We continued towards Eastham, bumping into Bob's brother (questioning what we were doing on the Wirral!) before going separate ways.  After a few back roads in Bromborough (sorry to the football lads I did not stop for, I guess we could've sat and waited for the field to empty?), we crossed the A41 and headed down to Eastham through Eastham woods and country park.

The Tap is not a pub as we know them.  They serve beer, yes.  But the food is more like a cafe at the back, a separate enterprise specialising in bacon butties and burgers.  And no-where to sit (despite phoning ahead to book a table(s) for 11.  But they allowed us and helped us to move tables and stools around, and were able to accommodate us.  We turned down the suggestion of sitting outside!  After lunch the tandem left us, now we are 7.

Not much view today from the Ferry

After a quick photo on the old harbour, we set off up the hill to Eastham Village; but when we got there we had no Dave!  Tony went back whilst I phoned him - his chain had broken as soon as we set off but he had not realised in time to shout to us.  We sent the men back to fix it while us ladies waited at the junction.  Good job we have a bike mechanic in our midst (although I am told it was a team effort with Tony's link extractor, Bob's spare link and Rod's 'expertise'!)

We continued towards Ellesmere Port (Great Sutton) and just before following route 70 (Cheshire Cycleway) down Mill Lane, we bade farewell to three more, worrying about light and energy levels.  Now we are 4, looking for a cafe.

M.S.C. Victory (1974)
I had planned to go to the Boat Museum, but forgot / didn't know it was closed until the 1st April.  As the Galley would not let us in (fully booked, apparently), we pondered where to go - and were treated to two of the four Manchester Ship Canal Tugs making their way up the canal.

M.S.C Viking

We headed to Cafe Rouge in Cheshire Oaks, not too hard to negotiate to and I know they do an afternoon tea and cakes offer, which we all enjoyed.  Sarah now headed directly home, and Bob, Dave and myself trundled the last few lanes through Stoak and Picton to Hoole and Home.

32 miles.  

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Farmers Arms at Ravensmoor

Originally billed as a ride to Nantwich by Gill and Richard; but due to ongoing knee problems they were unable to lead, so I offered to take the group out.  Plotting the route to include the new cafe at Farndon seemed to put it quite far to get all the way to Nantwich, so I settled for the pub at the crossroads at Ravensmoor, a few miles south.

The weekend was promising to be sunny, and it certainly was.  This brought 16 riders out, with new faces too.  Chester was quite busy, more than usual for a Sunday morning, due to holidays and sunshine, always a great combination in this country!

Brompton - easy to park
We set off through town, along the canal (with an emergency stop off to allow 'Brompton Chris' to collect his packed lunch which he had left at home) and Caldy Valley to Huntington, and then the usual route to Farndon via Saighton (picking up Sara).  The new cafe at Farndon struggled to serve the drinks in order, leaving a few of us quite late, which meant a longer stop than we possibly wanted.

Waiting for Chris - much to the dismay of his better half peeping at us from behind the curtains - what will the neighbours think!?!

Passing through Aldford

With 20 miles to go to lunch, I tried to keep the pace steady at about 12 mph, but even with a headwind one lady was struggling - she had enjoyed a 60 mile ride on Friday and was still tired (and a little sore) from that.  A few others had left us at coffee also, so that left 11 of us wending our way between Tilston, Hampton, Cholmondeley and Wrenbury, arriving finally at The Farmers Arms.

It was very busy inside, but we mostly wanted to sit outside and enjoy the sun (I wanted to sit outside and enjoy the sun!) so we sat by the back door with a little sheltered corner. (It had been windy all day, and in the cafe - inside the cafe - at Farndon my butter and crumbs from my croissant kept blowing all over Chris!)

Soon enough we dragged ourselves away, and set off towards Bunbury - arriving about half and hour later - we agreed it was too soon for afternoonsies so continued to see if the new cafe was open at the 50p shop.  It was and it wasn't - open now as the little coffee shop, it shuts at 3:30 on a Sunday.  Onward and upward.

I had been distressed to see that the pile of horseshoes at the corner along from the 50p shop have been removed when we passed on Wednesday - and sure enough they still were not there today.  Such a shame, they were a brilliant secret talking point, and landmark.

Heading now for Walk Mill (or Okells) Sara instead had a puncture - we stopped in a sandy gateway, whilst people helped with the fixing (about 6 of the fellas gathered around), tried out the Brompton, sat around, or generally chatted.  The first tube seemed to go straight down again, so a third was applied - but we think the first had maybe a misaligned valve which leaked straight out again.  It often takes a bit of detection to identify the cause of a flat, and to be sure it was that reason and not another.  We decided the original cause had been a pothole - leading to a 'snake bite' or pinch puncture.

All fixed we continued towards Walk Mill, arriving at 4:45 so just in time - five of us descended through the wheat fields to enjoy coffee and cake, a very pleasant end to the day!

51 miles, 16 riders, 1 puncture.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Miners Arms at Maeshafen

The day (for me) started at 7:00 when I found myself at Chester Racecourse in a growing sea of pink, as I had volunteered to be lead bike for the Race for Life 5k.  With an early start, it meant I could still make it to the Town Hall for our 10am start, and Ian's ride to North Wales.

We set off in an unusual angle by the side of the Dublin Packet (a sign of Chester's old shipping history) and the Roman Strongroom (a sign of older Roman history!) and then out of Chester (avoiding pink clad ladies and girls leaving the racecourse still)

What a glorious sunny day!

There are a few hills to be had, leading to North Wales.  My excuses piled up as I was jet lagged, had been up early that morning, not ridden much in the last few weeks, it was hot, I set off late after the last pause to take a photo (that is the usual one)

But The Miners Arms is not that far, and I made it to lunch where we gratefully sat outside in the most wonderful weather.

And such lovely leafy lanes to head back.  We had a marvellous downhill - Ian warned us that the turn right was not at the bottom, so don't carry on.

Liz carried on.

We grouped under a tree, until Pete (her husband) agreed to go and find her.  A few more miles in the bag for her!

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