Yesterday morning, with no urgent demands on my time and a half decent weather forecast, I perused the road atlas over breakfast. Where to go? The Peak District? Not sure I fancy the hills for a first trip. How about trundling downhill into Cheshire then? A quick flick through our Camping & Caravanning Club guide revealed that their Delamere Forest site's open all year. Plugging into Garmin Connect told me a direct route from here to there was about 36 miles, but nob'dy in their right mind would go by the direct route on a bike. So, very rapidly, I linked a couple of NCN cycle routes and came up with a journey of about 43 miles. I transferred this to my Edge Touring then reversed the route and transferred that too. And with help from Chrissie, bless her, I was packed and out of the house by 11am.
First then, from Hayfield, through New Mills for a short few miles down the A6 before I joined the Macclesfield Canal at High Lane. And only a little way along here I found this floating cafe; the Tea Cosy.
'Seemed too good to miss, so I stoked up on coffee an' carrot cake before carryin' on.
I soon joined the Middlewood Way, following a former railway line and running towards Macclesfield. I found this bench along the way.
After six or so miles you find yourself atop the spectacular Bollington viaduct with a view over the village's rooftops up to the local landmark of White Nancy on the hill in the distance.
A short way further on I left the trail and headed out across country through Prestbury. I don't like riding through here; the obscenely expensive homes revealing the thinly disguised chip on my shoulder, a result of my working class roots. Never mind, the scenery's beautiful and I grind up the hill onto Alderley Edge and find my route's guiding me onto this bridleway. 'Looks a bit rough but hey, this is one of the reasons I bought this bike so, let's go.
The bike's up for it; my skills aren't stretched too much an' we're back on tarmac all too soon.
Hitting the Cheshire plain now, another local landmark rears it's head against the autumn sky. The Lovell telescope.
And as I pass the entrance to Jodrell Bank I make note of the fact that there's a cafe on site; maybe for tomorrow?
My journey continues westwards. Bypassing Goostrey I encounter another narrow bridleway. It's fun but I do resort to pushing round the muddier sections; more to do with my nervousness I suspect rather than the capabilities of the Marathon Mondial shod Sherpa but it's all good, clean fun. Actually, it's not - the Sherpa's looking reassuringly mucky as we meet metalled roads again, then it's onwards to this lane ...
... whose photo I took cos "Crowder" is the original, medieval spelling of my surname. Crowders were travelling fiddlers, playing for their supper in fairs and the like. 'Shame I didn't inherit this ability; the most I can manage is a dubious rendition of the Streets of Laredo on my harmonica.
And eventually, having passed through the charmingly named Lach Dennis, Hartford and Norley I finally arrived at my destination, still in daylight. Me an' the Sherpa had done just fine and the tent was soon up and coffee on the way.
After a rainy night, the morning dawned dry but overcast and, having breakfasted on "Expedition Porridge" I was off on the reverse of my outward route.
Leaving Davenham, I stopped to update Chrissie of my ETA at home.
I tackled the bridleway near Goostrey again. It was wetter today but I was a little more confident.
I enjoyed lunch at Jodrell Bank's cafe; the bacon sandwiches are a joy, not to mention the apricot, white chocolate and frangipan sponge. Then it was back up over Alderley Edge towards the Middlewood Way. On the trail, here's a section of the route which would make a challenging ride; the turns clearly not designed for a fully laden tourer!
Back on the canal towpath, I simply had to stop for tea and apple pie at the Tea Cosy again before stopping for a call of nature in anticipation of returning to the delights of the A6.
I returned to the village via the Sett Valley Trail and Chrissie captured me arriving with a grin.
My gorgeous, red Thorn Sherpa had ridden like a dream, carrying around 20kg of luggage across a multitude of surfaces with aplomb it had met, if not exceeded all my expectations. A future of bicycling adventures beckons.
Life is good.