To Church Stretton
Morning broke, breakfast was eaten, and we started winching our way up the hill to Much Wenlock. It only took until the third junction before we became navigationally challenged, but things were soon rectified, and we headed on to the Jack Mytton Way (named after a local mentalist who once tried to jump a fence with his horse… whilst it was pulling him in a carriage). Here we encountered the first grumbles from the skinny-tyred members of the group. Things didn’t improve when we pushed up a steep gravelly track, and Look cleats were confirmed as unsuitable footwear for this kind of thing. Running 42c tyres and SPDs, I did my best not to look too smug, before bombing off down the bridleway…
Once back on tarmac, we made it to Church Stretton for eleven o’clock, so it was only right to indulge in elevenses, which were taken at Berry’s. Scones live up to their name, and the tea was proclaimed to be “absolutely spot on” by Mr D.
Suitably refueled, we headed south via more grumbling from the 23c brigade, as I led them off a nicely tarmaced road in favour of one of Shropshire's strada bianche. We then took a scenic tour (ahem, ahem, more wrong turns…) round Edgton, before zipping down the valley to Aston on Clun, and over the hill towards lunch. Two slight mishaps here:
1) Meeting tractors on single track lanes while bombing down them at 40+MPH is “interesting”. All credit to the farmer, he swerved into the hedge pretty sharpish!
2) The Apple Tree at Onibury is closed on Mondays, which scuppered our original plan for lunch.
Thankfully it wasn’t too much further via some classic NCN (mud, potholes, gravel, manure…) past Priors Halton to Ludlow, where we found good food and even better liquid refreshment.
The morning’s showers had now blown through, and our afternoon ride took us through some lovely rolling hills via a nice old stone bridge with a resident Kingfisher to Leintwardine, and more specifically, The Sun Inn. Winner of numerous CAMRA awards, they surely would have won more if there were a category for “Slowest Bartender”. Still, he pulled a good pint eventually, and we had a nice chat with him about our route, before we headed up past Hopton Castle (where the Lost Lanes route sheet was at fault, rather than our map reading for once!), and we passed up the opportunity for an extra loop round Bury Ditches hill fort in favour of the direct route to Clun Mill YHA, where trade was so quiet that the staff had travelled over from a neighbouring hostel to check in our gang of four in addition to one other guest.
A quick wash and we wandered into the thriving metropolis of Clun. There are two pubs, and we’d been wondering which to try first, but The Sun Inn (clearly a popular moniker in these parts) made the choice easy for us, by dint of being closed (also clearly a popular pastime amongst Shropshire licensees…), so we continued on to The White Horse, which had black pudding Scotch eggs, its own brewery, and plenty of food. They also offer B&B, apparently with secure bike parking if you’re in the area. We then headed back to the YHA for a wee dram before bed…
Day 1 in numbers: 105km, 14 pints, 3 hangovers, 1 Kingfisher, 1 woodpecker (Greater Spotted), 1 pork pie, 3 hip flasks.