Day 18. Oswestry to Macclesfield. 99km 380m climbing

Today was our longest but also our flattest day. Very different to our cycling of our last few days – distance is covered so much faster on the flat. It was also a day that split neatly into thirds.

Our first section took us through pleasant back lanes to Whitchurch and a coffee stop.

This was near to home territory for us so it was coffee shop we had frequented on previous rides. The second section took us to Nantwich, which merged seamlessly into Crewe. Having only experienced Crewe train station before I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised but unfortunately this was not the case as we found ourselves cycling along a busy ring road. At least they had cycle lanes so were trying their best to be cycle friendly. After 10 miles of urban cycling we were at last back out into the countryside and had our picnic on a bench overlooking a duck pond. We watched a pair of Moorhens diving down and coming back up to feed their 3 chicks and aggressively chasing away any Mallards that strayed too near their offspring.

Finally, the Cheshire plain petered out and there were hills ahead. We made a small diversion to Biddulph Grange gardens. These were created by one of those creative Victorian eccentrics who built an Italianate villa and gardens to plant his collection from all over the world – so there was a Himalayan section, Japanese section, Egyptian section etc, including fake temples and sphinxes. Utterly bizarre but the gardens were beautiful and the wide range of Rhododendrons in full bloom. The Italianate villa largely burnt down and the central part replaced by the gruffer grey/lack stone that is much more characteristic of the area. It only remained a family home for a few decades then went through various iterations. It was a children’s hospital from 1923-1960 and then an orthopaedic hospital until the National Trust took it over in 1988 and started to restore the gardens. After partaking of the NT tea room (including cake of course), we spent a very pleasant hour wandering around.

Revived we were into our last section to Macclesfield. Our legs were reminded that hills existed but we also had a fun flat section along the Macclesfield Canal tow path – including the Bosley Lock flight.

We did not quite make the ‘ton’ as we rolled up to our friends Chris and Marilyn, clocking 99.1km! It had been a great day and we had another wonderful evening. It has been such a great way to catch up with old friends. We first met Chris and Marilyn in 1988 on a trek in Ladakh in northern India. We were with old friends, discussing issues affecting the world and rediscovering things we had in common as we surveyed the state of nations. Although we have not seen each other a great deal in recent years, we immediately felt at home with them. This trip has been a wonderful way of reestablishing contact with people who are important to us.
It was great to open a bottle of champagne with Chris and Marilyn as an early celebration for their 50th wedding anniversary.

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