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Stapeley Water Gardens, North Staffs, M6, Leek, Uttoxeter, Monday 27 May 2013

June 30, 2013

“Stapeley Water Gardens,
A nice day out but best to take a flask”

Letters Sent

“Curries of Dumfries
Norbert Dentressangle
North Staffs Police”



“But the beak in Leek is weak”

The Light at the end of the Tunnel

“They sent me a final demand
Placepot Uttoxeter”

Split Single with Happy Label Mates

A breakfast of kippers does wonders for our hangovers, and we reluctantly leave Nantwich and its promise of eternal youth behind.   There’s considerable distance ahead of us, and Nick eventually comes to thank me for dragging him away from the young sirens of the White Horse.

Leek SteveThe first destination of the day is Stapeley Water Gardens, sadly now well on its way to becoming the Stapeley Gardens housing estate.   Making a typically difficult exit from Nantwich (regular readers – and we know there are at least three – may have noticed by now that negotiating our way out of unfamiliar urban areas is not our forte) we pedal on to Leek, deciding to ride via Kidsgrove to avoid the horrors of Stoke-on-Trent.

Unfortunately Kidsgrove and its neighbouring villages at the foot of Bidulph Moor prove to be inhospitable and difficult to navigate, with the added menace of high winds and scowling youths (we’re too scared to shout out “If the wind changes, you’ll stay like that you know!”.)  While we’re trying to find the road over the moor, Nick’s mileometer falls off and disappears, adding to our despair.

Finally extricating ourselves from the horrors of North Staffordshire, we arrive in Leek, where the beak is weak.  There’s a Tourist Information Centre, but we wonder how many tourists come here, and what kind of information they might get:  “Chemical factory, hill, scary pubs, market square, end.”  One admitted highlight is the Foxlowe Arts Centre where, having given the pubs a miss for once, we’re served soup and quiche by friendly staff.

On departing, we soon realise that our final destination of Uttoxeter (which sounds like a piece of medical equipment serving a particularly unpleasant clinical purpose) isn’t exactly just down the road as anticipated.  In fact, it’s a good 20 miles of hills against the wind, and along the way we encounter more than our fair share of aggressive drivers. If only they would stop and pause for thought over a nice slice of quiche in the Foxlowe Arts Centre, perhaps they’d be more considerate.

When we finally get to Uttoxeter, it’s largely deserted – maybe because there’s no racing on today, and there’s not much else to do.   However, we find a pleasant and friendly pub with the obligatory end-of-tour jukebox.  There’s no HMHB, and Nick has banned me from putting on any more rap, but we celebrate the conclusion of our longest tour yet with a bit of Neil Young, The Fall, and Roxy Music.

Unfortunately, a brush with overzealous officialdom casts a shadow over our journey back to London: a pasty-faced train company employee Uttoxeter Nickinforms us that we’re not allowed to put our bikes on the train.   When Nick calmly but forcefully points out that we have reservations for them, he eventually relents, bafflingly telling us that he was always going to let us take them on, but just wanted us to know what the rules were.    To give you an idea of what kind of person we’re dealing with here, he refers to Crewe as “Crewby Doo”, when checking the tickets of some confused tourists across from us.  We respond appropriately by making rude gestures while his back is turned.

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