Saturday, 9 April 2016

Daffodils, bluebells and small cows

Gosh here we are in April all ready.  I was a little less organised this month, been trying to sort out details for ladies weekend and I am organising the Bob Clift Cheshire Cycleway Rides so unable to email out to all and phone cafe.  But 25 ladies turned up (some later than others!) and a quick call to the cafe as we left was reassuring.

Me :-)

Top Tip #3 (I don't know, I made the number up!) - always leave your bike lock locked.  That way you will not lock your bike safely at the cafe and then realise you do not have the right key with which to unlock it.  This means (if you notice in time) that you will have to phone a friend, be picked up, negotiate all the traffic lights across Chester, go home, get the RIGHT keys, and get back in time to not be left behind.  This was not me, by the way.

There was a little chap sat in the cafe last month, who soon became swamped by the ladies.  This month he had moved in a table, but was still in the midst.  A few of us sat with him, and had a little chat as we finished our coffees.  John was full of questions (how far was the furthest we / I had ridden, what was our favourite ride - that is a hard question!).  He told us about being in Africa in the war, and despite being 100 in two years time, he has never been to the Lake District.  I am sure we will see him next month!

So, most of us (except the latecomers and forgetful key owners) lined up for a picture by our now keen and regular photographer Ken.  Then I sent Alex and Jane off with the faster group, and Linda and Catherine set off with the regular pace.  I picked up the slower group, the latecomers and key owners.

We had a lovely gentle pootle around Picton Gorse before heading back to the A56 to cross the Gowy and return to the lanes around Barrow.  It was a gently sunny morning, almost warm.  

The thing I like about the slower group is meeting other people.  We stopped by a dozen very small cows, in the front of their farm, and the farmer came out.  I was chatting with her and she was telling me about her cows, they had all passed their TB test this week, a big concern for farmers (if they do not pass, they are taken away there and then).

The final approach to the Bluebell cafe (in Barrowmore Estate) is through some of my favourite deep sandstone cuttings.  A very Cheshire ride, with sandstone and cows!

We were first to arrive at the cafe, with a pleasant 8 miles under our belt.  It is run by volunteers, some of which I think live at Barrowmore.  There is iMap which is autism specific, and sheltered housing I think.  So service can be a little slow, confused and 25 women (24 plus Rick!) doesn't help the situation!  But amazing cake and very nice food was received by all.

Some more pics at the cafe...

'Race you to the cakes...'  [photo by Mary]

The return journey took a little negotiation and organising - as some people were heading straight home, or a few were heading back to North Wales.  I waited until I knew everyone could get back or knew what they were doing.  Linda was going to continue round, covering out little 8 miles out for her return journey; but Alex was heading to North Wales with the rest and Jane needed to carry on and get more miles in!

So I shepherded the last few and the rest of my group; a direct route down the hill to the A51 at Stamford Bridge and back along the Greenway.

Distances varied between my 12 miles; or 20 for the regular group, and 22-25 for the faster group - up to 57 for those who rode out from North Wales!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

"Looking forward to Saturday's ride .... Where is Drury?"

...was the email reply by one lady last week!

Drury, a tiny outpost of Buckley; where on a Sunday ride last August we passed a cafe and farm shop - and I noted this new cafe thinking it was not too far out!

I managed to get everyone signed and and outside - but sent off the FF group without a photo (whoops!) so after the safety talk Mr Rosie took our picture, and we were able to head out.  I had enough leaders today, but was in jeopardy of losing two at the cafe, as they both lived near to the cafe (well, nearer than coming all the way back to Chester!)

My head had stopped working, so Linda reminded me of her route, and we set off in two groups, but following each other.  The allowed us to catch up and wait from time to time.

One of the great things about cycling in Chester is that you come across different events through the year. Today was no exception as we negotiated the North of England 'Head of the River' race.  ("Established in 1935,as a 5km race for eights on the river Dee from Eccleston Ferry to the Groves, the first winners were Thames RC in a time of 18min 35sec.").  It was not a problem, we went slowly and tinged our bells, the rowers were all very lovely and polite (unlike the grumpy man who appeared
to be having a go at some girls for 'parking' their boat on the path outside his house - on the riverside.  It meant he as not able to swing in /out of his driveway in a manner he so desired and so had to have a go at them.  Well, don't buy a house on the river, next to an established rowing club, who may have races - oh, and get a smaller car you can manage!)

We continued to the racecourse, past the lovely display of daffodils outside whet is now Chester Uni (Used to be County Hall), and then stopped for a little re-group, to check Linda's group had safely navigated the boats.

We continued to follow the river, until Saltney Ferry bridge, where we met a bicycle polo player and his wife (he was just pottering along ion his bike with his polo stick and ball, she was jogging).  She thought it was fabulous to see a ladies cycling club, and wanted to stay in touch (I directed her to the Facebook pages and blog) - a little bit of networking can't go amiss!

We climbed up towards Hawarden, and dropped to Broughton, picking up the small lane that cuts out the roundabout - I do think it gives a cracking view of the runway, especially when it is lit up on a gloomy morning like today. (you may have to click on the photo to enlarge it and see lights!)

We climbed up the Old Warren, a bit of a surprise hill for some, and paused as we went through the gate at the top.  By now the weather had turned to fine misty rain - "the sort of rain you wouldn't notice if you were indoors"....

Not far now, through the Hawarden bluebell woods, short climb into Buckley, turning just after the railway line, and we arrived.  The faster group were already firmly established, as were our Wrexham chums (again - mind you we have not crossed paths for a little while!)

Wrexham Cafe Hoppers heading home

A lovely and quite large cafe was waiting, the cakes looked amazing and apparently the toilets were nice and new (I was too busy chatting!!).  The faster group made tracks and left us, and we headed off by about twenty to one after half an hour at the cafe.

By now it was decidedly damp, and the downhill to Ewloe left us dripping!

I managed to negotiate the big roundabout, and we navigated around and dropped down to Queensferry, where roadworks meant it was safer and easier to edge into the flow of traffic waiting at the lights, and turn right together and head for the blue bridge

Then we have a cycle path that brings us nicely back to the Greenway, by the other blue bridge, which we do not often see from underneath.

Many thanks to Alex for leading the faster ones out and Jane for bringing them back; to Linda for the route and also leading a second regular group out; and finally to Mary who shepherded the last riders back in (I had to head home as fast as my little legs will take me - which is not very! - for a family party in Manchester)

25 riders all together, 25 regular miles; 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Between Pancakes and Valentines

Last week was pancake day, and if you gave up chocolate for lent I hope you secret valentine doesn't give you chocolates tomorrow!  

Twenty two ladies congregated in the usual manner in Kingsway Cafe, sheets signed, coffee and tea drunk, toilet visited before amassing for a photo.  I think we are going to need to hutch up a bit closer with larger numbers!

The watery early sun was also making a welcome appearance, not quite shorts weather, but daffodils and snowdrops can now be seen on the roadside.

We had three groups - a very small and select slower group, and manageable groups of 9 for the regular and faster ladies.

We (regulars) joined the Greenway, and after about 200 yards the faster group came onto the Greenway just in front of us (well timed!)  There was a bit of  a sneaky headwind on our outward journey; but as our lanes twist and turn that can keep you out of the breeze or at least give a little respite.

At the end of the Greenway someone asked if we were stopping at Meadow Lea cafe (the first one of several cafes we passed on our route)

After a short burst along the A51 (on the footpath) we made our way around Barrow, passing the Bluebell cafe, and near to Manley mere where we headed left for Dunham instead; re-grouping for a pic.


The faster group, in order to get a few miles in, were heading to Delamere Forest, where they also had a group photo (sort of!)

Our group then had a nice downhill (quick negotiation on a blind bend to cross the A56) and along to Thornton Le Moors, and the cafe, nestling under the towering chimneys of Stanlow (oil refinery)

At the cafe we met up with the advance party of the slow and steady four, before settling down ourselves with refreshments.  The young girls seemed to struggle with the orders but I think it all worked out OK (good job it wasn't 30 of us all arriving at once like last month!)  

They have some farm animals at The Hayrack, and this includes a few more exotic beasts and birds inside - an African grey caught my eye, Joey (Josephine) who does not like women, but will sidle up to any men who talk to her!

And the fluffiest green parrot in another room (who just eyed me suspiciously from one corner of his cage!)

With no sign of the faster group, we made our way out to leave - as they arrived; 21 miles better off! (both slower and regular groups managed about 11 to the cafe) - so it was their turn to fill up the seats we had just vacated.

I did mention pancakes in the title? - If I had seen a menu with this on I think I would have definitely ordered this - may have to come back another day!

We set off to return along the canal (after a boring A5117 trundle, with an intermittent cycle lane - what is the point!), and showed off some of Chester Zoo to newer riders, arriving back at Kingsway moments before the slower group. 

I think we both did about 18 miles, with FF doing about 30?

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Who left the landing lights on?

Another morning dawns with pouring rain, another new year full of resolutions, and yet another new cafe.

I knew we had enough leaders, but the number of participants grew when I wasn't looking, culminating in 38 shiny, happy and expectant faces welcoming the first ladies ride of the year (and 37 bikes!).

Chaos is the best way to describe the early cafe half hour, they even ran out of mugs!  We were consequently a bit late getting everyone out, and then I needed to set the scene and the usual communications communication (see page Rider Communications) before I can get each leader to do a roll call and set off with the right people and numbers!

I led the steady group this month, with Marvelous Mary being 'rear end Charlie'.  We had a select 7 riders in my group, with a new face and our octogenarian.  Janet was a little slower than usual today, but that is not a problem, and we waited at opportune and sheltered spots when we could.

We set off down the Greenway, and watched as the grey sky slowly revealed blue and even some sunshine.  To put it in context, when you read this blog in years to come, it has rained solidly for several months by now, affecting the North West particularly; with major flooding in Cumbria and Yorkshire.  So, sunshine is becoming scarce and is a rare joy!  But always for the ladies!!

We also had a brief view of the Belugar plane, sailing low on its approach to Hawarden (to pick up airbus wings and take back to Toulouse in France) and passing overhead as we neared Blacon.

We turned our route off the Greenway just by the main Welsh Road, A494, and followed a cyclepath past the Amantola (elephant) Indian, and to the Blue Bridge over the River Dee, near Shotton.  Here we could pick up the river path and head back towards Chester - into a not unusual head wind.  And that was quite hard work!!

Crossing at Saltney Ferry we then had a tailwind round the airfield just in time to see the first group arrive.

You have to sign in to visit the airfield, which was not a problem, and follow the signs passing old shells of Russian aircraft to the very large cafe overlooking the runway.

It is a good job it was huge - but no problem accommodating all of us (I did phone ahead and book - optimistically for 20 people earlier in the week!)

The faster group followed a  route I had suggested which went to Lower Mountain, Kinnerton, and Penyfford (but missed out the extra hill at Hawarden I had carefully plotted!). There had been an earlier request to go up Hope Mountain, but I did suggest that was probably too far to get to the cafe by 11 - 11:30.  Another day in the spring this space!

The not so faster group and regular paced both headed out to Eccleston, and then wound round Dodleston and Broughton I think, experiencing a puncture, and even taking photos!

Belugar on the runway

During our cafe stop we were lucky enough to see the (or another) Belugar take off, as it thundered along the runway (away from us), throwing up spray then finally and impossibly taking to the air.  Helen filmed it as a few of us watched.

Last two groups to leave the cafe
The return journeys, apart from the first faster group who swung a 12 mile route back) mostly headed back up the river towards Chester, as black clouds rolled in over the aforesaid Hope Mountain.  

Climbing the staircase locks by Telfords

But we all got back to Chester in the dry!

Thanks to Helen and Collette for a few photos, and to Alex, Christine, Sharon, Gill, Mary, Jane T, Jane R and Sonia with leading.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

100% Chance of Rain

Not a good sign on the weather forecast - but hey! Not icy like last year!

Out of 300 Chester women cyclists recently polled, only five owned a full set of waterproofs!  (and one of them was making her Christmas list as we set off along the greenway!)

Five stalwart and tough ladies met in Kingsway.  The Fabulous Five!

We rode to Walk Mill.  It rained.  We got wet.  Actually, not too wet, as full waterproofs top to toe keeps out a lot of damp!


This months guard dog
(still very friendly - and wet!)

To pass the time I picked up a quiz from the counter, from Tarvin Community Centre (only £1)- but the first page we just looked at it!  The first 'round' was The Knight before Christmas: Think and hear Sir?

Not a clue!

We managed one round, with an anagram from the first letter of each clue...then set off back to the Dee Miller for reinforcements!

Jo unsuccessfully warming her butt
...after retrieving gloves etc from near the fire.  Not warm and not dry!

Back to Chester we headed.  Grand total of 14 miles!

At the pub, Kate was waiting for us.  As was two large mulled wine slow cookers (there's a good idea!) tea and coffee, and shortly followed by two plates of mince pies/apple pies.

Diane and Carol joined us - and we put our heads together to finish the quiz.  A lot of laughs later, crackers, several mulled wines and 100 questions later we had finished it!  (my best round was the cracker jokes - What disease do you get from putting up too many Christmas decorations?)

Final selfie stick pose (just before Diane joined us!)

Merry Christmas to you all, and a happy new year.  See you in 2016!