|A very welcome reward at the George & Dragon|
Sunday, 9 June 2013
Everything seems caught up in a vortex of summer growth. The weather has been beautiful and for more than a week we have been caressed by strong, warm sunshine. Hedges and copses are thick with new growth; verges are frothing with cow parsley and the extraordinarily bright yellow rape fields shine like gold. The canopy of leaves along tree lined roads seem stitched ever tighter so that the effect is like being in a huge green tent, foxgloves are blooming in erect, close masses and bracken fronds are unfurling fast.
We decided a long ride would be in order - we had considered riding to York or Bath or Oxford - stop overnight in a pub then ride back next day. In theory a good plan, but means a weekend wiped out, plus the cost of overnight accommodation. A more pragmatic solution would be to ride local lanes - we would never be more than twenty or so miles from home in the case of emergency, we know where to find a good pub for lunch and there would be no need for a night out. And so it was.
I met Gary at 8.00am at our usual spot. He'd planned a suitable route and we set off with a sense of needing to get the job done. We made for Shackerstone and then Congerstone before heading out to Far Coton, Shenton and then on to Upton - all familiar lanes. We then crossed the A444 heading for Ratcliffe Culey - by now the early morning cloud had melted away to clear blue skies and bright sunshine. Lots of cyclists out - we passed two or three large groups, maybe fifteen or so riders in each as well as couples and plenty of solo riders - the good weather encouraging for all.
From the crossroads at Pinwall we went straight ahead towards Warton, marvellous clear views across to Polesworth and beyond, we cycled gradually upwards enjoying the landscape as the fields folded and unfolded all around us and into the distance. We skirted around Newton Regis before dropping into Clifton Campville and from there to Haunton, Harlaston and on to Whittington. The road from here to Alrewas and Kings Bromley was a particular pleasure, shafts of slanting sunlight piercing the green canopy as we made good progress along quiet lanes. We had to dismount and dash across the busy A38 dual carriageway, but it wasn't too much of a hinderance. The grassy verged roads now seemed flat, Gary commented that they reminded him of the Fens. We passed through Fradley and joined the main road at Kings Bromley turning left towards Lichfield before making a right turn towards Armitage. From there we made another right turn to Hill Ridware heading towards Abbots Bromley - the road now was constantly undulating, piercing short rises followed by the welcome roll down the otherside. By now we were hungry - we passed a couple of pubs that looked tempting but nowhere open - still only 11.30am!
Soon we had descended into Yoxall, now we had the climb up Town Hill towards Barton Under Needwood. First time I've been up this drag although I'd enjoyed coming down from the other side many times. It wasn't too bad - we took it steadily (slowly) and before we knew it we had reached the top. Into Barton and a stop at the recently refurbished Co-Op for sandwiches, crisps and a drink - we pedalled to the bench in front of the church to enjoy our lunch and take a well earned rest. Across the road was Cadence Sports - the shop owned by former Tour de France cyclist Adrian Timmis. We decided to pay a visit. Half an hour later I was over £700 poorer - a new set of wheels!!
Onwards then to Walton on the hill and the climb out of the village - familiar territory now as we made progress towards Coton in the Elm and then towards Netherseal. I'm feeling tired now - the miles are beginning to take a toll - the contact points, hands, feet and bum are all saying 'enough!' - but we press on. Another few miles and we have passed the 70 marker - We arrive back at the starting point and Gary heads for home, I do too, but decide to carry on and add a further twenty to get the magical '100' - so I'm back where we started at 8.00am this morning - I take the same route for about eight miles but then turn off to Stoke Golding - another struggle of a climb - this time worsened by the days efforts. I stop at the George and Dragon and buy a pint of Goats Milk - a wonderfully hoppy pale ale. I sit outside and enjoy the sharp citrus flavours - if I had more money I would have stayed for another - but I have to move on. On to Shenton and then Sutton Cheney, Cadeby, Market Bosworth and, at last, home. 103 miles covered. The first century of the year!