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Steve Tonge
Cycling Correspondent
8:00 AM 29th July 2020

Companionship And Chocolate: Keeping The Challenge On Course

Day 7: The best of plans sometimes have to be changed

My cycling buddy Danny was joining me again today for a train journey to Llandudno to be followed by a lovely 100-mile ride back up the North Wales coast into Chester then home… Unfortunately I had failed to check the Lockdown rules in Wales (they hadn’t changed) so despite us booking and paying £32.50 each for an advanced train ticket, when we cycled the 10 miles to Manchester Piccadilly Station for the 5.48am departure - the service didn’t exist!

Gawsworth Village
Gawsworth Village
The helpful staff at the station were giving us lots of other options to get to Llandudno via changes at Crewe, and further South, but the “penny had now dropped” in my mind and we quickly decided to head somewhere (but we didn’t know where) on the bikes from the station. We pedalled east towards the Etihad Stadium and discussed options as we rode.

We decided to pick up the route I had done on Day 1, which passed nearby, but with a slight change to reflect the new starting point of the railway station. The weather wasn’t brilliant: heavy low cloud giving steady light drizzle, but the warmth of the morning rendered it not unpleasant. Having company on this ride after 4 consecutive solo rides made a huge difference to how quickly the miles passed. Before I knew it, we were sipping hot coffee at a Shell petrol station on the outskirts of Macclesfield and it was still only 7am.

Middlewood Way
Middlewood Way
Out of Macclesfield, we rode past the beautiful Gawsworth Hall and headed north-east towards the village of Wincham on the outskirts of Northwich. Breakfast at the local Spar was BLT sandwiches and chocolate brownies! We then headed towards Tatton Park and put a loop around Rostherne Mere to add a few miles, before heading our usual way up to Glazebury via Warburton Toll Bridge. This is where Mother Nature really did its best to stop us completing the ride… We still needed to pedal another 18 miles to get the century in, and it was raining so hard that it bounced a foot high off the road as it hit! We headed in a loop away from our final destination towards Leigh and Westhoughton before heading into Bolton on roads that now resembled rivers. We were absolutely soaked, but it was a humid day and we saw the funny side of what the passengers on a bus could see as we waited alongside at traffic lights! We were home just after 1pm, having cycled over 110 miles, but the first 10 not counting towards the overall total as they were to the station.

I had now cycled 725 miles in seven days - that in itself was a record for me. I was beginning to believe I could do this.

Day 8: Liverpool and Southport

Liverpool Waterfront
Liverpool Waterfront
My second Saturday ride and the first ride with another good friend Steve Mosley since before lockdown. I did this route for the first time about two weeks ago, and it was along the way that the idea for the ten-day challenge came. I couldn’t wait to share this great route with a pal: the ride along the Mersey from Liverpool John Lennon Airport is fantastic. There are so many interesting features like statues, docks, iconic buildings old and new, and the people are so friendly.

I love to take photos on my rides, and pre-pandemic, I often had at least one photo of myself with my bike taken by kind strangers. Given the circumstances we now find ourselves in during the lockdown, I have refrained from asking anyone to take a photo, but when we stopped by the statues of the Fab 4 on Liverpool Waterfront, a friendly local came over and politely offered to take my photo.

Albert Dock
Albert Dock
We had a pit stop at Tranquil Evolution Cafe just off Princes Dock. Hot coffee and chocolate brownies were just what we needed for the 20-mile ride north to Southport, which was fast with a tailwind. I paid a second visit (on this challenge) to the excellent King’s Garden Tea Rooms for breakfast. Breakfast consumed, we headed inland to Rufford for another short pit stop at one of my brother’s houses where we refilled our drinks bottles. From Rufford we headed through the village of Croston and then to Euxton and the A6 in Chorley town centre. We then followed the A6 as far as Heath Charnock, and then took the A673 to Horwich.

Just after Horwich Steve and I went our separate ways home. It had been a very welcome dry day, especially after the past two rides. Only two more rides to go!

The Fab Four
The Fab Four