We decided to get a few miles in on Boo’s bike so headed to Hatton Locks on quiet country roads. It took us a while to decide on our route, and do the normal Saturday morning family stuff, so our original planned route to Meriden seemed a bit too much in the cold clear afternoon where it had seemed perfect earlier in the day.
Considering the weather we layered up with our warmest clothes, and gloves, and ensured we had lights and a head torch. We had not gone far before I realised that my bike has felt the toll of my Rapha Festive 500 attempts on the cold salty roads. It was making some interesting noises and is clearly in need of some mechanical TLC. The weather forecast for Sunday looked less attractive for cycling as a pair so is perfect for a spot of TLC.
As we were nearing Hatton, cycling uphill, I heard a bird call (it had a hoarse cry and reminded me of a pheasant). We cycled a bit further and discovered a garden with a surprising number of peacocks. They were a mixture of colours; white, silver grey, and the conventional blue green. They were all peacocks so Boo suggested we have a drinks stop (coincidentally we had reached the top of the hill) and investigate the birds further. We saw that there was an aviary in the corner and there were even more peacocks, including one doing the full fantail display with bobbing head.
When we finally reached throwing distance of the Hatton Locks Café we hit the main Warwick Road and I realised that I had not researched the crossing properly. I made a mistake and took us downhill which meant rectifying my error involved an uphill pedal. Boo insisted on us picking our way up the footpath instead, as she realises that she is inclined to weaving when peddling uphill, and was understandably concerned about the weight of traffic.
We had planned a spot of geocaching on the canal towpath. Once we reached the café we realised that the cache we particularly wanted to find was about 600m away so decided to find it and then reward ourselves with a visit to the café. We quickly realised that using our road bikes on road tyres on a slimy canal towpath was challenging and a little worrying at times with the shear drop into the chilly drink on one side! At one point a couple were cycling towards us. Boo tried to move out of the speeding male’s path; there was a bank that his knobbly tyres would have handled fine but he insisted on holding his line meaning that they met as Boo was trying to negotiate her way around a metal mooring ring. Boo came within a gnat’s whisker of catching his handlebars but luckily managed to hold her nerve through the encounter. Thankfully his partner was a more considerate path sharer and the rest of our towpath cycle was pleasant. Unsurprisingly there were no passing boats but we enjoyed the colours of the moored boats and the dragonfly statue in the balancing pond. We grubbed around for a few minutes hunting for the cache and I made the mistake of sticking my hand into the top of a stump filled with liquid and rotting leaf litter! Once we looked in the right place it was an easy find.
The Hatton Locks Café was well worth the ride over. It is an excellent café and was a wonderful warm refuge from the chilly day. We consumed toasted teacakes, hot chocolate (Boo) and coffee (and a good hand wash!). They also were kind enough to give us some stale bread to feed the ducks which we duly did; because it was dropping dark it took a while for the ducks to realise we had food to offer so we kept a little bread for a trip to Abbey Fields on Sunday.
Refreshed and watered we sorted out our lights and headed home. The return journey was less pleasant for Boo as she is not used to night time road cycling and therefore found the puddles and potholes hard to avoid. She hit one particularly large pothole with a bit of a bang which concerned me but fortunately we avoided any punctures. The return journey was predominantly downhill so, despite our icy fingers and chilly cheeks, we made good time. Boo was missing her overshoes so her toes were numbing therefore it was a relief all round to reach home for hot chocolate (again) and jacket potatoes.
It was interesting for us both to note just how puffed Boo was by the end of the ride compared to our tandem trips. She agreed that it will be good for us to mix up our tandem training rides with ones on our individual bikes so that she becomes more aware of her own strength and capabilities and is better able to be a stoker than a passenger on our LEJOG adventure.
Whilst we were in the café we saw a map and souvenir mugs for the Warwickshire Ring – a 100 mile loop around the canals in Warwickshire. The Hatton Locks Cafe is on the southernmost section of a route that goes to Warwick, Birmingham, Atherstone and Rugby. We decided that this would be a suitable challenge for our training ride plans as it is not too far from home at any point, will be relatively quiet at this time of year, and will be manageable on our personal bikes over two days with appropriate tyres! We are going to negotiate with our Support Vehicle to allow us to change onto the tandem for suitable sections of the route.