OK, so technically we didn’t drive all night; we rode for an hour or so in the morning but let us not split hairs over such things.
It was June 2011, the height of the summer and we were on a bike tour around the midlands, planning to visit a few breweries along the way. For months I’d been training, loading up my BOB Yak with all my camping gear, riding a 20 mile route every night after work and spending my weekends searching out every hill I could find, pushing the training mileage up to ~40 miles.
After the physical, mental, mechanical disaster that was the 2010 tour, I’d learnt my lesson and bought new, lighter camping gear and had a new wheel custom built for the Yak in an attempt to make the whole thing go a lot more smoothly.
Yep, you could say we were in pretty good shape as we set off from Birmingham and headed for a rather pleasant 40ish miles on and off road to our first stop in Bewdley.
Day 2 was the long planned for, eagerly anticipated ride from Bewdley to Ironbridge via our first brewery at Cleobury Mortimer. To say that it rained that day would be like saying the Sahara Desert has some sand in it. We packed up the tents (in the rain) and enjoyed a hot breakfast (in the rain) at the rather pleasant Hopley’s campsite before jumping on the bikes (in the rain) and heading off for the short 7.5 miles (in the rain) to Hobson’s Brewery in Cleobury Mortimer.
We were shown around by a lovely guy whose name escapes me but I do remember he didn’t mind us dripping all over the floor! We got the full VIP treatment and learnt all about the brewing process, smelt and tasted various roasted grains and hops and took lots of pictures of large pieces of machinery; a good time was had by all. Then, we were asked “Would you like to try some?” to which I responded with something like “Is it raining outside?” or “Does the pope wear a silly hat?”. So, we tried some. And then, we tried some more. It rained outside. We tried a little more. It rained some more.
Originally, we’d gone there to try Postman’s Knock which makes a well deserved appearance in my ‘1001 beers you must try before you die’ book but we actually fell in love with their very understated mild which is simply sublime. We tried a little more and it rained a little more. A bottle of Twisted Spire was opened so, against our will, we tried some of that too.
Eventually, realising it simply wasn’t going to stop raining anytime soon (or perhaps just ever!) we bagged 4 bottles at a bargain price (in the rain), loaded up the bikes (in the rain) and headed off (in the rain) towards our next stop in beautiful Ironbridge. I forget why, but Geordie felt the need to whip out the hatchet and wave it around, in the rain.
Heading almost dead North, we managed to piece together a beautiful route through country lanes and even an off road stretch of NCN route 45 which is very well signposted, surfaced and nice and wide almost everywhere.
This is the rather beautiful Mercure Madeley Court Hotel, just outside Ironbridge where we eventually got out of the rain, wrung out our gloves, washed our luggage off in the bathtub and drank our Hobson’s ales whilst watching the grand prix which, through some bizarre twist of fate, was severely delayed due to heavy rainfall.
Despite it all, this remains one of my favourite cycling days, ever.