Been saying that for the past two years!! During an idle winter evening, I had decided to map out a route around Shropshire that kept as close to the border as possible – turned out to be about 280ml. Also turned out that it could be split fairly evenly into approximately 70ml chunks, with three of the start/end points being at railway stations (Whitchurch, Albrighton and Ludlow) and the fourth at Crew Green.
Anyway, last year was cancelled out by moving my parents-in-law to Shrewsbury, and a family bereavement ruled out starting to ride these routes earlier in the year. However, the promise of September sunshine (for more than one day) forced me to grit my teeth and get to Shrewsbury station in time to catch the 08:50 to Whitchurch. Trouble is, it was cold and misty, and I had to don my waterproof while waiting on the platform.
It wasn’t any better when I arrived at Whitchurch, and was to stay like that until mid-afternoon. I set off on the route shown in the map below – please, no discussion/comments that you could find a route closer still! Also, please ignore the “diversion” just after the start – I must have mapped my route from the wrong point on the railway line, and my new satnav routed me to the start of this. I’ve learnt my lesson and dug out the handbook in the meantime.
As you can see from the profile, contrary to rumour, Cheshire and North Shropshire are not flat. However, I made good progress in the windless conditions, despite the poor surfaces away from the main roads. It was a novelty to pass through Norton In Hales to/from different directions, though this was one of many places lacking a cafe or shop. Woore came to the rescue here, and I paused for a coffee and a chocolate bar.
Lunch was taken at the excellent Buttercross Tearoom in Market Drayton. Had an interesting chat there with a chap from Devon, originally from West Bromwich, about his shed-full of 60s, 70s and 80s bikes (including a Major Nicholls) which he didn’t ride anymore. On wondering what he should do with them, his eyes lit up when I suggested he should investigate the burgeoning retro market!!
Suitably refreshed, I headed off on more familiar roads towards Newport, the sun finally breaking through on the climb up towards the A41/A5. Much mud on the roads around Weston Park as they made preparations for a Country Sports Fair, but it was nice to have a bit of a freewheel down the western side of the park. Trouble is, I’d forgotten the sting in the tail – the nearly 3ml drag up a straight road to Bishops Wood (I’ve never liked this road since North Birmingham CTC used to go back that way on a ride to Shifnal, years ago).
To top it all, I ran out of water at the crossroads, and, guess what, no shop! My satnav told me it was only 5ml to go, so I persuaded myself I’d be able to get something at Albrighton. I made it there with only 10min before the hourly train was due, so convinced myself I could wait until I got home, only to be offered some water by a woman who’d spotted me trying to drain a last drop out of my bottle – lifesaver!
Trying to stop myself falling asleep on a hot, sweaty commuter train, the thought crossed my mind that, despite crossing the border a number of times, I’d only seen four county signs at the side of the road. Only one of those was for Shropshire, a rather cheap, tatty object that shared a pole with a de-restriction sign. Aren’t the council proud of our county any more?
p.s. anyone interested joining me on the other three legs of this journey, please let me know – but remember, they get hillier from now on!