‘It’s far too cold for a bike ride. Let’s stay home and eat cake.’ That’s my trump card, a promise to make a chocolate fudge cake if I stay home. But the stand of larch on the distant hill glows like forest fire, the sky’s a single wash of ice-blue that an artist would never get away with and I’m promised great cake at the end of the ride. So, we get the bikes out, the layers on and head off.
I’m trying out a different bike, a more sophisticated machine, with drop handle bars and no room for a basket. The nearby section of the National Cycle Route 5 from Connah’s Quay to Chester is ideal as I’m a bit wobbly to begin with. It’s traffic free and today, mostly people free too. We could have cycled alongside the River Dee into Chester but this route is inland, part of the old Mickle Trafford freight line and sheltered from the icy river wind by amber maple trees and berry-filled hedges.
The first thing I notice about the bike, apart from having to swing my leg over the man’s frame rather than step through all lady-like (glad no-one saw that), is how my head is angled down. I don’t like that. I need to be able to look up so I can follow the flights of crows, gulls, lapwings, linnets. Today I hear their calls and songs and see tantalizing flashes of feathers from the corner of my eye but it’s a strain to look up.
The cycle path is great, I’m gaining confidence and we coast along past Chester. We could come off at various points and visit Chester zoo, Ellesmere Port Boat Museum, the Wirral, New Brighton and even Liverpool, via the ferry. But we press on towards Mickle Trafford and Meadow Lea Farm cafe for my promised cake. But when we get there, it’s closed. It opens Wednesday to Sunday 10 until 4. Charlie forgot to note that on his last visit. ‘What a shame, their cakes were great too.’ I give him one of my looks as I blow hot breath into hands that would love to be curled around a steaming mug of hot chocolate right now.
We turn around and head back along the cycle path, past a horse and a fox made from willow. We could detour off into Chester along the canal path and eat cheesy chips at Telford’s Warehouse, but we decide to head home. My neck is aching from trying to look up every time I hear a ‘caw,’ or a ‘chack, chack,’ and what if I miss waxwings, I’m not familiar with their calls and the hedges are bursting with berries, and I desperately want to see waxwings...some cake would be nice too.