Singing in the rain

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Phil contacted me to show him around the Shropshire lanes. He is an accomplished international road rider, but apart from blatting around a field, has no ‘off road ‘experience. Due to previous commitments, we arranged to go out for a ride on a Monday. This was posted on the TRF Forum, and we were joined by Craig on his newly acquired WR250 who is no stranger to the Shropshire countryside his DRZ400 being “retired” for road work only.

We met up on the Long Mynd, to the West of Church Stretton.

For once, the weather forecast was right – it was raining. Hard.

The rain didn’t have far to fall though, as we were up in the clouds. Craig was already wet from his 45 minute ride to the meeting point, Phil and I were damp from getting changed into our gear outside the car. We set off, dropping down towards Ratlinghope on some nice easy stoned trails in amongst the heather. We usually see sheep and ponies grazing, but they had all taken shelter. The stoned tracks gave way to grassy lanes past Stiperstones and then northwards towards Minsterley, some cut up with ruts and some with mud thrown in for good measure.

Minsterley was where Phil had his baptism of fire, getting caught up in a rut, bike going one way, Phil the other way into a grassy bank. His DR350 was relatively unscathed (who needs a back rack anyway?) and Phil was more embarrassed than hurt.

During the course of the morning, the rain got heavier, Craig had to kickstart his Yamaha after leaving his heated grips on when stopped, and my phone that I use to show ViewRanger, my route planning app, decided to succumb to water ingress (there was water inside the waterproof mount from the condensation caused by the phone’s battery heat). I decided that waterproof gloves mean that they keep the water inside the glove, rather than keeping it out.

Considering the amount of water that was falling out of the sky, I was a little disappointed at the ford in Cruckmeole – the river level there was still below the causeway. Progress was stop-start for a while as I figured out where we were, but progress got better as I got to more familiar ground around Pulverbatch.

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The Welsh hills make an appearance in a break in the clouds 

Back up along the Long Mynd, the Gods of the Lanes started to smile on us.

Clouds broke up and drifted away, and the sun started to break through affording views over the Shropshire plains towards Ironbridge.

Our packed lunch was taken by a babbling brook in pretty surroundings near All Stretton.

Mike-Alwyn-03-Cwms-Lane-in-drier-timesCmws lane in drier times

A quick top-up with fuel in Church Stretton was followed by a run up and down Cwms Lane – just the stream section, most of the Lane under Caer Caradoc towards Willstone having been recently surfaced to almost motorway standard. This lane has just been “rescued” as a developer wanted to turn the lovely green field area into a housing estate, losing this little sunken lane in the process. Lots of objections from many areas got it stopped though.

The sun continued to shine and we dried out a little and gloried in the rolling Shropshire hills. The lane to Hungerford is known to be slippy at the best of times, with its ancient sheer rock slabs as a base on this old route, now known as the Jack Mytton Way, especially where it deposits you directly on to a main road. With the recent rain, it was like a skating rink most of the way down the hill, with even engine braking locking up the back wheel.

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A short detour up the Amazon. Actually no, it's Peckledy Lane

The few road miles to Peckledy Lane were dispatched – we took the “easy” way from south to north, with the downhill into the river very churned up, with big rock steps and gnarled roots to navigate over. The run through the river was uneventful as I remembered to keep left at the start. Phil was missing an electric start as he stalled mid-river, with the DR refusing to fire for a while. I’m sure his feet were even wetter after that.

Obviously, the heckling from Craig and I didn’t help!

Peckledy Farm, on this lane keep a Charity tin on their gate. The couple at the farm are always pleasant, although their dogs do tend to nip! I am always happy to deposit few coins in the jar as we pass – as are others, with the sign saying “Thanks” for the £400-odd raised in the past few months.

Coming back northwards, we missed out Stokesay Castle and it’s rough stony track, and onwards to Cheney Longville and the River Onny. We opted for the northerly crossing, one I hadn’t done before. The river looked benign as it wound through the trees, the remnants of a mill race, with the crossing looking invitingly smooth. However, discretion was the better part of valour and we decided that it may well be too deep for safety, and resorted to the bridge. The last few road miles on single track winding along the valley under the shadow of the Long Mynd leading to a lane through the trees at Asterton, and the last climb up to Pole Cott taken in the late afternoon sunshine.

So; as for the title, were we keen or foolish? Phil was keen to get out and play on his DR, and I had said some days earlier that we rode whatever the weather. Halfway through the morning I thought we were foolish for venturing out in such foul conditions. However, the afternoon redeemed itself, and we all agreed we had had a great day’s ride. Did we put Phil off? Not a chance – he’s already planning some modifications to the DR to make it more trail friendly.

Once the green lane bug bites, it gets into your blood.



IMG_1185Craig and Mike still smiling despite the weather

 

The TRF Forum is a great way to find out about ride outs in your area. Some groups also have their own Facebook Pages. Get in touch with your local group and get invited onto your first ride out.