After the trials and tribulations of yesterday we went to bed exhausted and aching, Mr V looked at me with sad eyes, saying “I think we are getting too old to do another day like that!”. We referred to the Sustrans guide and reviewed the route for today, there were hills but it seemed to be on decent tracks and roads, we told ourselves “surely that’s as bad as it gets” and reassured each other that we are still young enough for the challenge.
We woke early, though the youth hostel was comfortable, the institutional heating system seemed to emanate from a cupboard next to our room and started work at dawn. We had though slept well, and felt far more optimistic with the new day. We went about our ablutions and packing up and were kicking our heels a little waiting for the breakfast service to commence at 0730hrs so went for a little meander around the complex in the fresh morning sunshine. The youth hostel building is evidently one of the oldest industrial buildings still in use, it was part of the china factory, and the china museum is just across the courtyard. We remarked on our tranquil walk along the length of canal to the rail tracks that used to haul the canal boats up the side of the Severn gorge, that this place of peace, abundant with wildlife was not so long ago a part of the cradle of heavy industry.
After a hearty breakfast, we set off for the Silken Way, with high hopes that it would be as silky smooth as it’s name suggested. We were forewarned of a climb from Coalport to Telford, and though we did indeed gain much height, this was a long gradual climb and did not dampen our spirits lifted by the fine morning and smooth travelling surface. We travelled through Telford, impressed by the network of cycle paths. We used to live near here, at nearby RAF Cosford when our children were younger, and cycling through the extensive adventure park in the centre brought back nostalgic, and heart stopping memories of fun times and small boys scaling to great heights on the pyramid climbing frame.
Finally leaving behind Telford’s sprawling suburbia and familiar but unfamiliar landmarks, we found ourselves on the quiet lanes of the Shropshire countryside, meandering over redundant railway bridges and roadways long- abandoned by motor vehicles. Making our way to Newport (the one in Shropshire not Gwent), we stopped for coffee seeking out a spire or bell tower which guaranteed a quiet bench. Needing a little boost we cracked open the Haribos to supplement the granola bars.
We spent the remainder of the day making swift progress skirting along the boarder between Shropshire and Staffordshire, calling in at Market Drayton to buy the victuals for a picnic lunch and finding a suitable spot further along the road, enjoyed the warm sunshine and peace.
The leg today finishes at Nantwich, and we had intended to camp here as the weather has been lovely, however on reaching our destination and referring to google maps to find nearby campsites – the closest was about an hours ride away; and that is a campsite too far. So a little further research sourced the Crown Hotel which would do us a deal and assured us could accommodate Twolula in their ballroom. On arrival after what turned out to be a two minute walk, we found a charming Tudor building which does not seem to have one level surface or straight wall, a challenge if you happen to be worse for wear I should imagine.
On booking in, we were informed that the ballroom is actually on the first floor, and having seen the narrow wonky staircase – I had to check with the receptionist that she had heard me correctly that it was a tandem bike that we needed to have storage for – absolutely she assured me, we will sort that out. Twolula was then brought in and unloaded and in the time that I turned by back for a minute to complete the paperwork she had been whisked up the stairs with an impressive lack of fuss.
Once sorted, we had a little meander around Nantwich, which I confess until today had just been a name of a faceless town to me; it is a charming place with many Tudor black and white buildings.
I am currently looking out of my crooked leaded light window over a jumble of rooftops bathed in the evening sun, and all is right in my world.
Onward to Manchester tomorrow, where our guide informs us is across the Cheshire Plain – sounds flat to me, goody!