The riders were; Christina Cooper; Diane Jordan; Kevin Thomas; Martin Crapper; Matthew Lowe; Ollie BFG Hartmann and Paul Bacon.  Apologies from Tina Musgrove and Diana Simpson.

North Wheatley village hall car park was awakened from its slumber by the addition of five cars and seven bikes (Kevin and I had cycled over, separately and with a difference of about 21.5 miles... nice one Kevin).

We promptly left the car park at 08:33 and then had a fifteen minute toilet stop at chez Bacon.  So, at 08:50 we set off for Southwell.  There are some quite exposed sections of road en route to the A57 at Dunham and we found out that there was a breeze, albeit mostly from the side, but it still seemed that we had to battle it.  There was much of the same on the other side of the A57 but upon entering Grassthorpe we found the left turn ‘a la Amstel’ and having found little shelter along the highways, found some relief on the byways.  We also offered up a request for a dry Amstel as the ‘road’ was quite dusty/gritty/earthy and with a little water would be quite a different proposal.

A quick catch up in Sutton on Trent (ride leader needing to check a particular hedgerow, another rider checking a different hedgerow and happening upon two walkers and their dog...) then lead us to the next byway, which has a lovely speed bump towards the end and out into Carlton on Trent.

Two right turns took us over the A1, the level crossing was kind and stayed open and then it was a left to Norwell (pronounced Norell, the ‘o’ as in on, short vowel sound).  Yes it was cloudy now and a little on the cool side but we were in super countryside, cycling, with friends... what more could you want?  Taking the correct turn in Norwell (a first for me!) we proceeded to Caunton, over the not too busy A616 and continued on to Hockerton (I trust you’re following this on a map... it’s a loverly route).

It was a simple matter of two hundred or so metres on the busy A617 and then the right turn to Southwell.  Up a bit, down a bit, up a bit more (a chance for Ollie to ‘stretch his legs’ – I’m not sure how sensible that is... have you seen how long his legs are!) down again and we took the left down Normanton Road which was easily spotted by the yellow jacket of said OBFGH.  A little pootle past the workhouse and we were in Southwell.  Took a left to Fiskerton and the garden centre was just up the hill.

There was actually little space to leave the bikes and they had three racks!  There was no queue and plenty of empty tables so we ordered, sat down and enjoyed our refreshments.  Some were a little more challenging than others (soft bap or tricky rocky road type cake bar).  This is most definitely a cycle friendly cafe – they have bike racks; track pump; gels; bars; birthday cards and inner tubes for sale.  The food was tasty and the service was very good.  Well, we knew that all good things must come to an end so we departed down the hill and made our way to the minster.

As we were posing a young gentleman (I’d say Key Stage 2) happened upon our little group and very politely accepted our request to take a photo.  Those of us of more mature years marvelled – we were readying ourselves for the picture and he was handing the phone back...done.  So we asked him to take another – point, click, done.  We thanked him and he was on his way.  We negotiated our way out of Southwell (there is a one way section) and back onto Hockerton Road.

This time we travelled along the A617 which was a little busy and saw us split up a little but it was only a mile and we turned off for Winkburn.  A quick re-group and off we went again.  This was to be the way it was for the next twenty or so miles.  The route home included much more of the rolling Nottinghamshire countryside and as with any ride people took the ups and downs at a different (and quite rightly their own) pace.  It was also a little breezier on the tops than on the way in adding to excitement of the day.  We avoided the slightly steeper climb in Maplebeck and continued to Laxton and Egmanton.  Some of the route was still Amstel, just in the opposite direction.

There was a brief stop on entering Tuxford to warn of the short up bit when turning to East Markham.  Through East Markham, over the A57 and on to Askham and the recently re-surfaced Upton.  There were, of course, many discussions during the ride but one which prevailed for quite some time was quite pertinent as we did quite a bit of quick down followed by shortish up.  How to best get up the other side?  Gears, cadence, speed, effort and many other ideas were merged into helpful advice which was put to the test as, having passed through Grove we took the left turn to Retford Road and North Leverton.  Here was a perfect downhill then an uphill with visible top, keep the cadence going, use your gears, boom... made it (well I think that’s how it went).

A final chat... loop or no loop?  Oh we had to do it.  However, the wind seemed to have increased somewhat as we left Leverton but we soon took the two right angled turns to the left and it was behind us for the rest of the journey home through Sturton.

It was great to see a certain Mr Hanks in the car park waiting to see us. Bless him, he had been waiting a while and offered a couple of bits and pieces he no longer needed. Thanks Pete. Ollie and Martin had to get off, Kevin didn’t want his legs to rest so he had a quick bio break and left and the rest of us enjoyed a hot beverage with some toasted Irish Fruit Loaf... mmmm.

I trust that everyone enjoyed the ride and company today as much as I did.