The remaining six (no longer magnificent?) comprised Dave H, Steve H, Bob, Nick, George and yours truly. Steve H was brandishing his new Trek Domane S machine which he told us has rear suspension. We asked how it works, as it was not obvious from the configuration of the bike. Steve replied that it is ‘very clever’ and ‘magic’, but some of us think it’s the Devil’s work.
Dave opined that he had a route in mind down to the Dickin Arms at Loppington, which he understood to have changed hands recently. In days gone by, this had been a favoured lunch stop for CER and Dave had actually stopped there on Monday with George and Keith B on one if his ‘Tuesday rides’ (don’t ask!). Sadly the place does not open on Mondays so they’d had to go on to The Raven at Tilley, where they’d dined on two plates of chips between the three of them (again, don’t ask!). Anyway, Dave had rung the pub and told them to expect about six cyclists at about ten to one.
So it was that we set off over the Dee and into Farndon. Steve H was speeding up the hill through Farndon on his Trek, but it wasn’t long before his exploits in Scotland last week, where he’d bagged his 118th Munro (out of 282), began to be felt and his pace returned that of a normal ‘moderate’. We threaded our way through Crewe-by-Farndon and Tilston, heading in the general direction of Malpas. Now Dave H has a pathological hatred of Malpas, which he claims is at the top of a very steep hill. The OS map shows it to be at an elevation of 118m – a giddy height indeed, given that Tilston, only a couple of miles away, lies at 40m. Consequently, we diverted at Tilston along Church Road to go via Horton Green and Chorlton Lane to reach Cuddington Heath and then Oldcastle Heath, avoiding Malpas completely. Pressing on to Lower Wych, we crossed into Wales, whereupon George felt immediately relaxed and at home.
Crossing the A525 at Eglwys Cross we took a small lane towards Arowry. About half way along the lane there was a sudden a sharp hissing noise behind me as Bob’s rear tyre deflated. It’s only two weeks since Bob had to return home after suffering a puncture and cut tyre, so his luck is clearly out in this area. After replacing the inner tube without finding the cause of the puncture, the tyre was successfully inflated using a pump that Bob had bought in a French supermarket – who needs fancy gear! However, all was not well, as someone spotted a bulge in the side of the Michelin where it had become split; whether it had been cut by a sharp stone or the split was due to a manufacturing fault was not clear. In any event, the outer was new, having completed only 165 miles, so Bob will be taking it back to the shop to complain. Dave H sprang into action, furtling, Dave Pipe-style, in his saddle bag and coming up with a section of an old outer tube which was quickly glued inside Bob’s defective outer (tyre, that is). Bob gingerly inflated the tyre, stopping when there was enough air in it to bear his weight but before the sidewall bulged out too much.
We pressed on, crossing the A495 at Bettisfield Park and heading to Bettisfield where we crossed back into England and the lanes of Shropshire. How is it that the lanes here are almost devoid of pot-holes or traffic? Compared to our own Cheshire territory, they are a sheer delight. After a zig-zag through Lyneal, we arrived, approximately on time at the Dickin Arms, and very pleasant it looked.
I got an inkling of how things might be when the waitress removed the wine glasses from the table in the corner that had been reserved for us. Wine? For cyclists? Initially I thought I’d need a mortgage to buy my lunch as the ‘mains’ seemed to be priced at ‘teens’ of pounds and there was a 28 oz steak on offer for £45. However, the reverse side of the menu offered Italian meatballs and pasta for £11 and ‘Wrexham beer battered’ fish and chips for only £10, so we placed our orders. Some concern was expressed that Steve H has been away from his Rotherham roots for too long, as he asked that his mushy peas be replaced with a salad! The food, when it arrived was of a very high quality and quantity, so it was suggested that Steve adds the Dickin to our list of favoured stops. He said he’d put it on the ‘waiting list’ pending another favourable report from a second visit. When Bob went to pay his bill, he was told that ‘the system’ did not allow for individual settlement of bills and that we’d have to pay as one. So we all slid our notes and coins towards Bob and he pulled it all together and went off to pay. Have we found a candidate for the post of Hon. Treasurer?
Suitably refreshed, we gather outside the church of St Michaels and All Angels for the photocall. The church dates back to 14th century and Loppington was recorded in the Domesday Book as Lopitone.
|Photo by Steve T|
The route back took us, west, directly into the strong breeze that had been blowing all day, but the lanes are set within hedges which gave us some protection. After crossing the A528 at Cockshutt, we turned north, heading towards Ellesmere. There seems to be an unwritten rule that, if you pass by the mere at Ellesmere you must stop for an ice cream/cake or some other calorie-laden sweetmeat. Given that we’d only just left the pub, this seem like over-indulgence, so Dave concocted a route through the town which avoided said mere and took us out via the oddly named Coptiviney, through the dip down and up to Hampton Woods to Penley. Here we followed the A539 for a short distance before turning right along Hollybush Lane.
Crossing the A525 at Holly Bush, we made for Threapwood and Worthenbury before picking up the familiar route back to Farndon via Schocklach. Round about here, Nick picked up the pace and the two Steves went with him. Then at Crewe, Nick went into full ‘brisk’ mode and flew at 25 mph towards the A534. This proved too much, even for a Domane S (with rear suspension), but Steve T’s Boardman was able to keep up – just. Pausing for breath at the crossing of the A534, we saw Dave H flying by into Barton Road. Clearly, the pull of cream cakes had given him second wind. Whilst the ‘Famous Five’ paused at Lewis’s of Fardon for the aforementioned tea and cakes, George forged onward, as he’d left his car at Broughton, so had another hour in the saddle heading into the wind before he could make use of an internal combustion engine.
All in all, an excellent ride in the superb lanes of Shropshire. Good food and amusing company combined with dry and sunny (if a bit breezy) weather to make yet another great day. 53 miles were registered at an average speed of 13.5 mph, the latter helped, no doubt, by the sprint home at the end.
See route map and/or gpx file download