Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Team Honk Bloggers Relay #cakecrawl

And now for something completely different!

Earlier this year I had become aware of a Sports Relief 'Bloggers Relay' - but when I found out what it was, the route was decided and despite me whinging on facebook (sorry to my fellow bloggers) that it was seeming to spend three days in Manchester, it looked like we could not really participate.  The Manchester ride did however coincide with the March Ladies ride date, and (typically) in the week before I decided to plot a route taking in several cafes, and do our own relay - blogging is after all, in the virtual world!

So, armed with some sign in sheets, a sponsor form, a 45 mile route and not much else, I headed to Kingsway Cafe for our usual start.

It was delightful to see about 6 new faces join us - but I had to warn - this is not a regular usual ride!

Kingsway Cafe #1

18 of us left Kingsway cafe - cafe #1.  I had seen a baton on the real relay, bedecked with ribbons.  So, not to be outdone, I dug out a small pump, and we tied some ribbons around it.

Chester Groves, by the River Dee

It is a challenge in itself to navigate 18 people out of Chester, being stopped and split at traffic lights and even a couple of hills.  Lots of re-grouping and a late start from the cafe put us quite behind time arriving at our first destination.  

We lost five and gained five at Chester Lakes - quick turnaround as we were so late, needed to phone the next destination, Hawarden, get a photo with cafe owner and as many riders - and of course the baton!
At Chester Lakes, cafe #2

 Now I had leaders for a second group, and the open country roads ahead.  I ditched a loop round Dodleston to try and make up time, but Hawarden is on a hill, so climbing was unavoidable.  The groups mingled on the hill, but all eventually made it, before climbing up through Bluebell woods, and the Hawarden Estate.  

When we made it to the Farm Shop, I know I was hungry, so people had a little snack stop - we stayed outside and the girls very kindly brought us some free drinks for our efforts - orange and apple juice.

Photos, tweets, message to Helen sat waiting at the next cafe, and then we set off again - lost a few and gained one (I have lost count now!)

Hawarden Farm Shop - cafe #3

The next leg dropped us down through Mancot - quite a pleasant route - to Sandycroft, where we used an underpass by the tip to get to the Queensferry road.  This is all quite industrial, run down and quite a contrast to the green fields, country lanes and views across Cheshire we had had so far.  Much of it was alongside a main road, on a cyclepath - but good link as we needed to cross the river.

What Joy and Delight awaited us at Woodbank. As we join the main A540 road from Chester - a usually busy and fast but also unavoidable road - we passed through some traffic cones and realised that the road was closed for line painting.  No cars!  Absolutely fantastic (of course, I took the credit for arranging for the road to be closed!).

Hosta Cafe - cafe #4
Back into the lanes and to our next cafe - where Helen had been patiently waiting, pacing, drinking coffee and generally entertaining herself until we finally arrived.  Sadly, we had missed the Wirral Bicycle Belles who had come down especially (but they did leave sponsorship - which was great!).  Another re-fuel stop - I allowed the ladies to sit down this time!  Hosta Cafe is hidden in a garden centre, but does have great cake!

if you look carefully you can see shadows!
Photo, with Rod the bemused cafe owner, and off again.  The next stretch was the longest leg - 10 1/2 miles.  Again I cut off a corner as I knew time was now short, and we followed route 56, a little off road section with gates at which point the sun showed up, and more little lanes and a climb up behind Chester Zoo.  

The last few miles was another avoidable main road - but it was not too bad.  But when we got to our next cafe it was closed!  I had tried to phone but had not got through a couple of times - it was only 3:30 so not sure if they are away, closed down or what.

Cafe Fresh - Closed! - cafe #5
Now I made a few phone calls.  Will we make it?  It is only 3 1/2 miles to the next cafe - a new one for us - and then about 1/2 hour to get to the last one. Next cafe - they closed at 3 - but will wait - "Oh I promise we will be about 20 mins!"  Last cafe - closes at 5, should be OK - "we are still coming!".

We leave one at the cafe and one heads home,so now we are down to the final stretches, and 5 riders.  I ditch another lane as that would take us over Dunham Hill, and just follow the lanes around to Little Barrow.  The lanes here - very close to Chester - are marvelous - flat at first with views to Frodsham and Helsby hills and Delamere, and then some climbs with deep sandstone cuttings.  In the spring the banks are full of bluebells.

We found the Bluebell Cafe, and very very nice it was too!  China cups and saucers, small selection of cakes, and a small keen band of lovely ladies.  My scone was a little delayed as they were photographing it to go on their facebook page!

Bluebell Cafe #6 - nearly there!

After a short stop,one eye on the clock,we had a few photos and then set off again - Oscroft, Tarvin, towards Walk Mill.  At the top of Tarvin the time was 4:47 - I suggested I shoot ahead (although I am not that much faster) and make sure they were there.

They were and Caroline welcomed us with cheers - an appropriate end to the ride.  Glasses of water was all we needed, and of course the photo with Caroline and her small person.  Walk Mill opened about the same time that the fab ladies started - we laughed that in about 30 years it will be our respective daughters running the cafe and ladies rides!  (or not...)

Walk Mill - Cafe #7 - Hurrah!

Leaving Walk Mill

But it is not actually over - we still need to get home.  43 miles tucked away, and time pressure relieved slightly, we make the last 6 miles back to where it all started.
Arriving at Kingsway as the sun sets

Final survivors - and baton!

Huge thanks to all wonderful ladies who participated and sponsored,and to all the cafes accommodating a large group appearing and dashing off again.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Then there were three

For only the second time in 6 years, I was unable to be present for the ladies ride.  So I turned to my trusted leaders, set up three ‘events’ on facebook and asked people to ‘book on’ to help keep track of numbers.  The weather was forecast to be truly awful, and one leader went down with a tummy bug on the Friday.  There have also been a few comments recently that some people wanted a slower ride, so we had an additional ‘Slow and Steady’ category.  Catherine,  Jo-Anne and Alex  took to the front of each pack, and their accounts are below…

Jo Writes: The weather forecast on Friday evening reported heavy rain and strong winds. Saturday mornings after rising and walking over to open the curtains, I was feeling less than sprightly at the thought of cycling in the wet and wind. However, as I pulled the curtains open I was met with blue sky and sunshine. Yes, yes, yes! Not that it lasted but it helps to motivate one up and out.

Approximately 18 ladies met at Kingsway minus Sue, which felt rather strange. [awww - Sue]
There were 3 groups
Slow and steady led by Catherine
Regular led by me, Jo with help from Sharon
Further faster led by Alex with help from Gill

The regular group set off towards Guilden Sutton, through Mickle Trafford and on towards Picton and Little Stanney. The weather changeable as was the scenery - from country lanes and country views to industrial landscape and urban sprawl.  We cycled along the pavement/cycle path along the A5117 and then zigzagged through a housing estate, crossed the A41 and ventured towards Capenhurst where urban sprawl met country lanes once again. On through Ledsham and arriving at the legendary Eureka cafe at around 11.30 am and just ahead of the further faster group.

On leaving the Eureka a number of ladies were going to depart early for home, so the regular and faster further group joined forces and headed back together. Alex up at the front and me, Jo as back marker. We made our way along the Parkgate road to wood bank where we said Cheerio to Lisa, Sharon and Gill and then headed towards Saughall and the greenway back to Chester.
 Thanks everyone for your company.

Alex writes:  5 ladies went on the further faster ride, which ended up being 35 km. Trying to extend the route, we went out towards Mickle Trafford and wiggled around the lanes towards Backford. After that we picked up the bridle way towards Capenhurst, took turns opening the gates. We caught up with one of the other groups just as we were arriving at Eureka. The cafe and coffee was great. After a natter, the slower group set off first, while the two faster groups merged and set off for Woodbank, where we rode through an enormous puddle! We said goodbye to Lisa, Gill and Sharon who headed off towards Queensferry. We headed to Saughall, where Jo-Anne left us for home, and made our way to the Greenway. Rain, wind and hail greeted us along the greenway, but we all made it back in one piece.

Juliet (via facebook) - This was my first ride with the Fabulous Ladies. I had a fab time on Catherine's 'slow and steady' ride. Thanks very much!
Catherine - And lovely ride for my first time leading.   Very nice pace, company and fine weather. 
Juliet replied - Gosh, you would never have thought it was your first time leading! I thought you'd done it loads! You gave such clear instructions ahead of the route. Good job!!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

No room at the Inn!

Each month I email out and post on facebook about the pending ride the following Saturday, and since our numbers swelled I have needed to know in advance to be sure we have enough leaders.  So, the week progressed and numbers of potential riders tipped over the 30 mark. Even with a few last minute drop outs they are usually matched by last minute attendees.  I phoned ahead to the cafe, and was assured that they had space for 40, so we should be OK.

I lost count this morning - I knew about a couple of cancellations, but also saw a few faces arrive that had not been able to confirm.  The sheets soon filled up - as soon as the longest distance was filled I called Jo and her group outside, assembled them, took a photo and sent them on their way.

Next up was my group, with an advertised 14 miles that I had actually re-planned to be about 15.  Looking a bit shiny in this photo - don't know why?!!!! (don't think flash was on?)

Welna led the third group, and posted a photo of her group.  They had a planned 9 miles out to the Rake and back along through Picton.  Her route can be found on the fab ladies facebook group.

Linda took the fourth group, which was originally 9 but became 11 miles.

As we rode, the clouds from the rain earlier in the morning gave way to blue skies.  The roads were wet with many large puddles and nearly floods, and a little bit muddy too.  I was so busy chatting to Wendy about California that I forgot to turn off and my amended 15 miles became 16 - but I do not think anyone noticed!

Heading out along the Greenway

Leaving Greenway at Saughall - now blue skies!

Heading to Mollington

I did notice two large clumps of Mistletoe in a tree at the junction of Picton lane and Mannings Lane, in Mickle Trafford.  That is quite unusual this far north, usually mistletoe is around Hereford and that area.  

Jo's group, taken by Gill C.  Not sure where!
However - when we did arrive at Meadow Lea Farm cafe, it was bursting at the seams!  Welna and Linda's groups had arrived just before the Wrexham Cafe Hoppers, who took the last seats.  Even though we had phoned ahead!  Then Jo's group turned up, which meant there were twenty of us looking for a seat.  The decision was made to head back to Kingsway cafe as it is only 2 miles up the Greenway!

This we duly did - or about a dozen of us did - only to meet the rest of the Wrexham cafe hoppers who also could not get a seat at Meadow Lea.  

It was a long cafe stop - no rush as nearly home!  Cafe also report record takings for a Saturday!!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Last windy ride of the year

It's December, nearly Christmas, so it must be time to make our annual pilgrimage to Walk Mill near Waverton.

16 riders turned up on what seemed a cold but increasingly sunny morning.  The temperature appeared to rise as the sun came out, but by the time we left the cafe the wind was starting to build up.

We sent Linda off with the further faster group, and I led the other group up the Greenway to Mickle Trafford.  

As we reached the end of the Greenway, who should shoot along the road but Linda and her ladies!

Lit up by the sun - look! shadows!

Crossing the A51 was interesting, due to huge volumes of traffic it took us a while to all get across.  But eventually we did, and could continue into the headwind and round to Christleton.  

Relaxing in the cafe, with odd trips to the map on the wall to show people how to get home.  If I wait long enough, there are only a few to take back to the cafe - before it rains!

Leaving Walk Mill

Tinselly bikes - you have to look closely!

16 riders in two groups, with 16 miles and 22 miles respectively.

Have a very merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Never mind the Bollards!

November ladies ride, shortly after bonfire night and before remembrance Sunday.  The morning dawned bright and sunny, with blue sky and very little cloud.  Quite cold but not yet frosty.

Twenty cyclists gathered (eventually - Alex succumbed to a drawing pin, experienced by Linda last month). We were quite delayed leaving,partly waiting for Alex, then an ominous bulge in a front tyre which meant we had to send Lisa back to her car to sort it out and re-pump; then words were had with a member of the residents committee re: parking and 'cycling on footpaths' - but eventually we were able to set off.

My second group nearly caught up with Linda and Jo's first group at the Old Dee Bridge; they then headed to Eccleston whilst we nipped through Catholic High school and Dukes Drive to Westminster park and out on Lache Lane to Kinnerton.

We passed within 50 yards of the cafe - but don't tell anyone!
Approaching Kinnerton
Autumn lanes

At Kinnerton I had a 10 mile route to the cafe planned, but a slower member had held us back a little (they did go straight to the cafe with Gill) so I dropped a couple of miles and we tiddled round the lovely lanes from Kinnerton Green to Burton Green.  With the sun still shining we headed left towards Burton - and passed Linda and her group going the other way! smiles and waves all round (too quick to get my camera out!)

We got to the cafe before the other group, and were able to get served and sat before they came in.

We gathered for a quick photo before we set back off - nearly all of us for the photo that is!

leaving Chester Lakes

On the direct return via Lache Lane - still in blue skies and with the warm sun shining - I noted an incredibly large and unusual looking cloud
 lurking to our right - very pretty but also very suspicious.  Partly because of that and partly as I had quite a large group and did not want to try to negotiate town (Christmas shopping in full swing!) I led the group on a slightly circuitous route from the college round Handbridge and Queens Park, to cross on the suspension bridge (which we walked across!).  On arrival via Boughton to the Canal near Harkers - the towpath was awash - there had clearly been a recent downpour here.  I pointed out to the ladies that this was the reason we had wandered around south Chester!

wet canalside!

crossing to Dukes Drive

through the trees

20 riders, two groups, both cycled 17 miles out, and returned to complete 25 miles for the morning!

(I did not explain the title...shortly before the photo of us crossing the road Jane managed to fall sideways - I maybe did not shout clearly enough that we were stopping - or it may be one of those clipless pedal moments.  Shortly after the second photo above, as all the ladies tried to pass through a gateway with a lone bollard another lady also tippled off.  Blame it on the bollard!  All were OK.)

1 minute after I got home and put my bike away the most incredible hail shower (and thunder) fell - you can see the hailstones on my driveway here!!!