Llandegla Roundabout (Cycle ride)

(44 miles, 2400ft) Nobody likes conceding a DNS – ‘Did not start’ – on an event. I had entered today’s Anglezarke Amble, a 24-mile stamina-draining bog-trot, but after the Labyrinthitis attack of the last week or so I decided to do something not quite as strenuous. The last two days had seen no dizzy spells and I felt in fine form when getting things ready for the ride this morning so I decided to head out to Llandegla.
Today’s route I’d done a few times before and decided to leave it more or less the same. There’s an optional hilly section in the middle of the outward journey as my route crosses the Northern end of Hope Mountain and this does skew the statistics somewhat.

The weather outside looked chilly and grey, the forecast the same:- a few spots of rain and a NNE wind of around 10mph. Despite having a generally good network of cycling routes the leaving of Chester on bike is a problem if one has to cross the River Dee as there are only a few crossings- 2 road bridges and 2 footbridges, and the former are both busy. I threaded my way past the Amphitheatre and crossed the Grosvenor Bridge, heading out through Lache towards Lower and Higher Kinnerton. This is a quick road, slightly downhill, then flat until Higher Kinnerton when the road climbs steadily. I take the road past Pigeon House Farm to bypass Hope and then take the hilly section mentioned earlier, via Pen-y-parc.
This descends to join the A5104 when, after turning left, the road climbs steadily over 3 miles from 136m to 308m before dropping slightly to the crossroads at Rhydtalog from where the A5104 climbs to 341m.

Today there was snow on the grass verges and the distant hills were all white, merging into a drizzly haze. At Llandegla my route turns East and today this meant into the wind. There was sleet in the air but not enough to hinder vision and I was soon at the Llandegla Fishery, where there is an excellent café. I usually end up at the Llandegla Outdoor Pursuits centre but I’ve been there many times recently, so decided to stop here for a change.

Hardy Anglers at LLandegla Fishery

A few hardy anglers were braving the cold and a few more were in the café. The menu is superb, coffee good and the French fries brilliant. In fact there were so many in my portion I had to have my scone wrapped for eating when I got home. This a place I need to come back to with the Staff Association walking club – right up their street!

Great cafe at Llandegla Fishery

Continuing along the A525 I cut the corner by taking the B5430 down to Coedpoeth. Here the fun begins – a lovely descent on the B-road continues (with care) through Coedpoeth until the turning on the right to Nant Mill arrives suddenly. Now the fun become excitement as the route descends with twists and turns through the very pretty Clyweddog valley thrusting you quite quickly into the suburbs of Wrexham.

The route northwards is now uneventful apart from roadworks on the Marford Hill which inserted a hiatus into a usually bumpy descent.

I entered Chester from Ecclestone and over the Handbridge. It was raining steadily now but not too cold, but the warmth of home and the promise of the uneaten scone were eagerly looked forward to.
So, no Anglezarke Amble – I have done that many times – but a wonderful ride more than compensated.

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Part 1 on Strava

Part 2 on Strava

Cache-ing in on time-off

The Whelk and I had booked onto the Anglezarke Amble and right about now, 3pm, we would be setting off for home after we’d each done our respective 16 and 24 mile circuits.
Now, the AA is one of the highlights of the running year but the conditions promised much ice and snow and a 5:15am rising is never that welcome in February. So we wimped out.

I had a really welcome lie-in and watched the Man Utd – Liverpool match, whilst getting ready for a local run. I set off at 3pm, crossed the River Dee and headed out around the large loop of the Meadows, heading down towards Ecclestone.

Waiting for the ferry ...

Waiting for the ferry ...

I’d already decided to extend the run down to the Iron Bridge at Aldford, but had researched a couple of geocaches to act as short breaks along the way. The first, close to the A55, was quickly found and was a real delight – full of superb trackables.

Well-stocked cache near the A55

Well-stocked cache near the A55

There be cache here ...

There be cache here ...

I continued down to the Iron Bridge, the path muddier and with some interesting potholes! The bridge is one of my favourite spots – a lovely view over to the church at Aldford, a slow and majestic stretch of river and fabulous trees and bushes. There’s a cache somewhere here but no phone signal so couldn’t lock-in on it. Must pre-download next time.

Iron Bridge, Aldford

Iron Bridge, Aldford

I set off back along towards Ecclestone, and very soon was on the path that bypasses the Crook of Dee. Here I met a lady who had lost one of her dogs and looked worried when I said I hadn’t seen a dog since leaving the bridge. She explained that the dog was elderly, had a weak heart and was last seen heading into the large field that comprises the Crook. This is private land and the old access path has been heavily barred with copious barbed wire. I said I’d run round the loop, back to the lodge if I could find a way into the field. I did easily by crossing a stream and circumnavigated the whole field, swamps and all (which cleaned off he mud!) but no dog was seen. Arriving back at the lodge I couldn’t see the missing dog’s owner so I headed back towards Chester.

Path beside the Dee

Path beside the Dee

First snowdrops of the year

First snowdrops of the year

Feeling a bit cheated re the cache, I recalled there being another cache between here and Ecclestone and, having a good signal now, closed-in on it. I had to clamber up beside a large tree away from the path but starting to read the main description I really began to wonder what I was getting into. I read the description, and decided to leave it until I’d studied it more.

By now I was cold and my muscles were a bit fed-up of hanging around. I pushed on to Ecclestone, through the village and down the road towards Chester before picking up the track through the woods towards the Grosvenor Bridge. I never regained the warmth in my leg muscles and it was heavy going on this return leg. A quick dive in to a shop for some chocolate and I was home.

Queen's Bridge, Chester

Queen's Bridge, Chester

The next afternoon I took a walk around the walls and picked up caches as the bus station and the Eastgate Clock. I took Lumie with me, a Windows phone, to introduce her to the art of Geocaching. I set the SportsTracker app running to record the route of my walk.

I’d previously downloaded the Geocaching app and used this to navigate to the various locations. Compared to the iPhone app I found the GPS mapping on the Lumia 800 to be jerky – you often had to wait 15-20 seconds for the dot representing yourself to follow your physical movement.
Finally, as a thorough test of the multi-tasking abilities of the phone, I took numerous photos.

Unfortunately, as soon as I switched to the Geocaching app, SportsTracker just closed down and didn’t continue running in the background. Disappointing.

I like the panorama movement of the pages in Windows Phone 7.5 and most of the Geocaching app worked well – just the mapping function felt awkwardly integrated.

Eastgate Clock - Looking a thumb-nail, magnetic cache ...

Eastgate Clock - Looking a thumb-nail, magnetic cache ...

Of the two caches, the one at the clock was a thrill to find – a nano, thumb-nail in size, magnetic and painted black. The whole of the clock superstructure and adjoining railings are of black metal. Hmmmm. Nice one.

Evening run, The Meadows & Ecclestone, Chester (8 miles)

Starting out is always the worst bit. I set Trails running on my iPhone, set the HR monitor going and head off down City Road and onwards, towards the River Dee. Taking it easy as legs realise what’s afoot. Breathing stabilises as I cross the river over the footbridge and then it’s down to the Meadows – a huge expanse of rough grassland that fits in a loop in the river. Almost flat, there are enough devices – gates, hedges etc – to give me my next target point as I gradually increase the heart-rate peak before pulling back a touch.

Under the A55 and on towards Ecclestone, turning away from the river and passing through the red-brick, peaceful village that is part of the Grosvenor Estate. It’s a slight uphill gradient and a chance to give a different set of muscles a push. This village is too quiet – a bit like a set from The Avengers. You expect to catch a curtain twitch back from the corner of your eye. Kula Shaker on the iPod (Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts – the spirit of George Harrison truly alive in Crispian Mills songs and arrangements).

The return is via a road, and then a long stretch of woodland track that becomes a majestic driveway as it approaches the Grosvenor Bridge. This stretch gives me the chance to open up a bit, my body fairly warmed-up by now, pounding to Hawkwind’s Space Bandits album. More woodland, under the bridge and back home to pore over the stats and enjoy the Fulham v Liverpool game.

I averaged 5.7 mph tonight – I’m happy with that.