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 maybe...watch 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!

Christmas
essentials










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!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

From the old to something new

A new cafe - but not a new location.  Sometimes the cafes we visit close, new ones open, and some change hands.  After many years Hildegard has returned to Germany, but the cafe in Holt was sold, and new owners have taken up the reigns.  A fresh new look - we have visited actually on our July #Womens100 ride (twice if I recall rightly!) but this was a first for an official ladies ride.  (Welna also took a few there in Aug).


New Cycle security at Kingsway!

I looked out of the window as we were signing in, to see the largest hound sitting next to our bikes.

I popped out to take a picture - but he was the friendliest waggiest and definitely furriest dog.









It was raining, so photo inside today - Thanks to Mr Rosie as usual
We had an inside photo because it was raining, a gloomy grey November day.  But still, a good turn out despite the damp.  



We set off down Hoole Lane along Boughton and down to the river, crossing on the Suspension Bridge.

Despite the rain I stopped us for a quick photo at the end (the ladies are very tolerant of me)

I took what I wanted, then a kind passing Italian chap offered to take one with us all.  However, and as I feared, he did chop off the golden balls (at the top of the bridge).



(You see, I do put some thought into the photos!)

















It continued to rain - quite hard actually as we headed to Eccleston.  Linda's 'slower' group passed the end of one road (I had picked out a part of the Circuit to follow through Handbridge), so we had to pass them, much to their surprise!  




At Eccleston we pass through one of my favourite bits of road, a deep sandstone cutting which goes through a short tunnel (under the Dukes Drive), in the late spring it is topped with magnificent foxgloves, most of the year it has ferns and today you can see the golden leaves, and the red phone box behind us.

Photographs do not always portray the weather - especially when wet and windy.  This shot it just looks damp, but it was still raining.





But by the time we were a couple more miles down the road, by Pulford, the blue skies were showing through!


It was turning into a different day.


When we got to Holt it was truly beautiful; the cafe was welcoming, and much chatting took place.

We headed back East of the river Dee, to Chester.  No more photos (not like me!).  The leaders then had a conflab at the Dee Miller, to review the last year and plan 2016.  More to follow!

24 and 30 miles; about 16 riders.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Beryl Burton - a Play

Hosted at Tarvin Community Centre, and brought to us by the The West Yorkshire Playhouse, Beryl Burton is a play written by Maxine Peake, about this lady from the 50-60's who was amazing in her cycling achievements.  The story took us from her school days and being struck down with rheumatic fever, from which she was told not to take part in strenuous activity.  The next thing she has met a young man, and he has taken her out on a club run; cleverly shown with four bikes on rollers and a cinefilm playing behind them.


Her trials and tribulations were portrayed with humour, and it felt like they left no little bits out.  The four actors, who took it in turns to act different parts (including the Queen) with comical asides, kept us all enthralled and entertained.



The play finale had the actors listing her amazing achievements indicated by a 'trophy' for each category, many records of which remain unbroken.




I think we all had favourite parts, such as when she is knocked down by a car (how that was portrayed), grim determination to win at all costs, the lack of funding or recognition for cycling (let alone women's cycling), the birth of her daughter - it was all there!



Afterwards, we were lucky enough to meet the cast and for them to pose for a photo with us.  A most enjoyable and memorable night!


Saturday, 10 October 2015

Elvis has left the building!

The last time we visited Tarvin Sands cafe (April 2012), it was dedicated in no uncertain fashion to the King, Elvis.  Photos adorned every conceivable space, and a life size Elvis stood in the corner.  After about 30 years though, the previous owner packed up her memorabilia,and for the last three years it has been under new ownership.  Time for a re-visit!

Mandatory start photo


October, and we have had several weeks of sunshine, little rain and no wind.  So the trees have been very slowly and gracefully turning to the reds and oranges of autumn.  I like to try and capture the essence of the season by picking a route that will show it off - for example, I know where the bluebell banks are in the spring, and the rape fields in late May.  Autumn, and our best place to head is Delamere, so we set off up the Greenway and out towards Manley.


With a short climb you are on Manley Common, and you can catch some of the foothills of Delamere, little lanes on the outskirts.  In fact, I think I found a lane I have not been along before, then a lane I consider a secret lane, as it has a 'dead end' sign but is not and has a hidden valley.  It comes out just below Ashton.









Then we could trace across to the A51, and using a short piece of footpath brings us nicely to the cafe.
















It is wonderful when it is still nice enough to sit outside (and useful when there are over 30 of you!).  Service was very good and they coped well with us (we are very patient, most people are chatting so don't notice even if there is a delay).  I had popped in earlier in the week to pre-warn, and the smell of bacon had been so lovely, that was what I was heading for all morning!




Chatting is not restricted
to when we are sat down...

...and not restricted to only our group of ladies!



The nice thing about a cafe nearer to home is that people can head straight back when they are ready - this means we can have smaller groups heading back to the cafe.  I led a little group off first, again along the footpath to the first right which takes us towards Barrow.  














Another short stretch of footpath by the lights at Stamford Bridge, to turn right again into Guilden Sutton, and then we can pick up the greenway.


Saturday, 12 September 2015

Sunshine, rabbits and bacon

For the last two years we have used the September ride as a gentle introductory ride, out to Nets cafe using the Greenway and Burton March route.  It is a flat 11 miles and mostly off road.



Managed to forget my camera, don't know why everyone cheered!  But these days your phone doubles up well, and the ride is such a straightforward one it does not lend itself to many pics.  I was riding with a couple of new ladies - one has taken about a year to 'pluck up the courage' and join us.  I did reassure her that quite a lot of people do take a long time from first contact to first ride; and there is nothing I can say to change that - although without fail once they do come out, they love it!


This year we had twenty riders, with our largest age gap to date of 75 years between our Octegenarian and a lady who brought her daughter age 7!  The youngest ever fab lady rider managed 11 miles altogether, great as her furthest before that was 6 miles!  When she is a bit older hopefully she can join us more regularly; but I think you need to be able to comfortably cover about twenty miles to come on the rides.



We arranged to meet up at the turn off; and I arrived with 12 waiting (this was good as my sums calculated 7 behind, plus me!)  I assured them we were all fine - there had been one puncture early on and the two new ladies were a bit slower but steady.  As I waited I could hear a donkey in the woods.  as you do!

We had had heavy rain in the morning but it had cleared by the time we met.  One or two light showers was the worst we had, which is why the Greenway looks so wet.  The sun did come out as the morning progressed.  No photo at the cafe - by now I was in 'morning-after-need-cooked-breakfast-and-a-coffee' mode, and the only spare seat was with another ladies group - Carol and a couple of Breeze ladies.

I headed back at the end of the group, rounding up the two newbies as it started to get a bit complicated by the industrial estate.  One mentioned she would never have thought to carry on through the estate coming out, even though it is well signposted.  Hopefully it is the first of many new cafes she will visit with us!

View across the Marsh bulrushes
to the Flint Bridge at Connah's Quay

View back to blue skies at the sandstone
outcrop at Burton Point


Sunday, 26 July 2015

#Womens100

For a couple of years, Rapha, a cycle clothes company, have been promoting women's rides, encouraging rides and challenges (there is one between Christmas and New Year, to complete 500k.  That is all very well if you live in Australia and maybe do not work!).  This year we decided to play our part, and Alex volunteered to plan a route.

Well, she probably planned several routes.  The first one looked OK, and I don't think many people paid attention to the route posted on facebook, until it was nearer to the ride date.  I know I didn't, but when I did I thought 'Hmm, don't remember that road [coming in near Aldford]?  But I do know of a track there...'.  No problem, Alex planned to ride it the Tuesday before, and consequently replanned the final route.

The next hiccup was that although we knew Race for Life would be on the same morning, this did not interfere with the route, as it was the other side of Chester.  But, there was also a triathlon (Deva Diva's, or similar) which I became aware of following a conversation with my mum (who lives in Handbridge, and quite likes watching the bikes swish down her road).  After much discussion on facebook Alex reversed the route and posted it back up.


Road closed at Guilden Sutton, but we could get through

Wet now at Aldford, turning in by Duke's gates.

new insides at Cleopatra's

new friendly staff

The full group at Cleopatra's.  Christine left us at this point.


Sunday morning - meeting at The Dee Miller.  The weather forecast was not just wet, but threatened to be 'Biblical' apparently.  But it was dry as we gathered, and set off in two groups.  Some inadvertent group swapping before the start caused me to panic (as a group of 10 but actually 14 set off - stopped and re-jigged to be 10); and group 2 set off shortly after.




The bus stop makes a great cycle shed!


We managed 5 miles in the dry via Mickle Trafford and Guilden Sutton (road closed!), before drizzley spots started!  Coats on and undeterred we continued through to Waverton and Saighton, down the hill into Farndon and up into Holt; and a new cafe.  Hildegard has now left, and the new cafe (Cleopatra's) had to be sampled.  Very nice!




After coffee stop, it was back to Farndon, and right through the lanes to Tilston, then Shocklach.  We passed a short stretch of lane that was swooping with swallows - not sure why there but it must've been their lunch time!  We continued to Sarn Bridge, and right after the bridge over the Wych brook and up.  There are some lovely lanes, and my second group actually caught up with group one at one stage.  A short bit of main road then a few more lanes brought us into Ellesmere, where we headed straight to the boathouse.



The Boat House was busy and full, but we squeezed in on selected tables and queued and waited for our respective refreshments.





Leaving damp Ellesmere
When we worked out which blue line we needed to follow out, we were soon on our way again.  Following a route the other side of the river Dee, we headed back to Holt and Cleopatra's again - this time for coffee and cake.


By now numbers were beginning to dwindled as people headed back their respective ways; but a core of us continued to Rossett, and Eccleston.  Back along the river Dee, finally two of us made it back to the Dee Miller - where we celebrated with a little half to toast a lovely day (despite the rain!)