Focus on cycling

PUBLISHED: 01:54 24 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:39 20 February 2013

Focus on cycling

Focus on cycling

Shropshire is a pedaller's paradise for quiet family rides or more challenging adventures

The act of cycling has always been a source of inspiration and escape. Albert Einstein famously said he thought of the Theory of Relativity while riding my bicycle.

Shropshire is a great place to cycle (andthink). There is an abundance of quiet lanes and traffic-free routes for gentle family rides; for the more adventurous, the county includes regional and national long distance routes. For the more courageous still there are terrifying downhill mountain bike and cyclo-cross trails, good enough to attract world championship riders.

You can cycle alone, as a family or as part of a group there are cycling clubs and groups across Shropshire offering regular rides.

Whether you opt for road, trail or fell, after struggling up a climb, there is nothing more satisfying than freewheeling down the other side, the wind in your hair and magnificent scenery stretched out before you. Weeee...!

Mountain biking
Shropshire has gained a burgeoning reputation for the quality of its mountain bike trails. In recent weeks the county has hosted world championship, international and national downhill and marathon events at Mortimer Forest, Hopton Castle, Long Mynd and Eastridge Woods. The county is home to some of the mountain biking worlds best known riders.

A dedicated mountain bike centre, in the grounds of The Station Inn at Marshbrook, between Craven Arms and Church Stretton, is a great place to visit for advice and information, and inclues a bike shop, a mountain bike workshop, cafe, a shower block and a bike wash, camping pods and a large campsite. A number of mountain bike trails start near the centre.

Managing the centre is Will Chambers, 26, who is an expert cyclist and instructor. Said Will: Shropshire has some amazing trails and a deserved reputation among downhill racers as one of the best places in the country. The county is home to world class riders like Marc Beaumont who train locally; if you want to try mountainbiking there are trails to suit all abilities. His own personal favourite trails are at Minton Batch, close to the centre, or to go off piste on the Long Mynd.

For more details please contact: 01694781515 or visit the website at

A Pedallerss Paradise
Dave Hancock, a keen cyclist who lives near Oswestry, has written a book entitled Cycle Rides in Shropshire and, after the first edition sold out, the second edition (with additional rides) is now out. The latest edition contains 22 rides across Shropshire of different lengths and intensity.

Dave began cycling as a child and in his teenage years would often pedal the 26 miles to school rather than use the school bus. After a break of a few years, his interest was rekindled when he discovered his old racing bike in the loft of his parents garage. He subsequently became interested not only in cycling but restoring old bicycles and sometimes took part in cycle time trials riding classic racing bikes of the 1950s. While exploring the quiet lanes around Oswestry and further afield Dave began compiling the information for his book.

He estimates to have pedalled in excess of 30,000 miles since first getting on a saddle. Daves favourite ride in Shropshire is a hilly route west of Oswestry through Rhydycroesau and Llansilin. He says the climbs are punishing but the hilltop views across Wales are spectacular.

A few years ago, Dave entered a couple of cycle-cross events and this is when his scariest moment on a bicycle occurred. Cycle-cross races take place on an off-road course which is traversed by riding and carrying your bike. On a steep, rutted and muddy downhill section Dave was panicked into gripping the brake levers hard. With the wheels locked, he and his bike slid largely out of control to the bottom with spectators shouting at him to release the brakes. He says: On each of the three laps I told myself to release the brakes but when it came to this steep downhill section I just couldnt do it. That was the last cycle-cross race Idid.

A freelance writer for the last 20 years, Dave Hancock has written magazine articles on everything from Formula1 teams to country houses. Henow also does corporate editorial workand social media for a range of clients. He is aged 55 and lives near Oswestry with his wife, DorothyHaughton.

A family cycle ride
Here, we publish Ride 9 from Dave Hancocks book. Circuit of the Meres is a 7.3-mile circular route along quiet lanes with no steep inclines and so is ideal for a family ride on a sunny afternoon. The route can be linked to other rides in the book and to the Regional Cycle Network for a longer, more challenging journey.

The Meres around Ellesmere offer excellent scenery and attract lots of wildlife. Cole Mere is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a wetland of international importance and attracts a wide variety of wildfowl and waders.

This seven-mile route starts and finishes at Colemere Countryside Heritage Site (aka Colemere Country Park) situated two miles south east of Ellesmere, on the A528. Its an enjoyable place to picnic and spend some time on a summers afternoon. Waymarked Regional Cycle Network routes 31 and 38 in this area can be followed if you wish to venture further afield.

You begin by passing through the village of Lyneal following cycle route 31. Theres a short section on the B5063 before you rejoin quiet country roads through mainly agricultural scenery; breath in the fresh air and listen out for birds. You are now in Wales and cross the Shropshire Union Canal before following the national boundary for a little way. After cycling through Breaden Heath, you come to Welshampton where you can pause for refreshments (theres a village shop and a pub) or admire the impressive church. Built in 1863 as a memorial to Charles Kynaston Mainwaring of Oteley Park, it has a particularly lavish interior. You cross the canal once more before returning to Colemere Countryside Heritage Site.

The whole route is on Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 Landranger 126 (map not essential.)

Route instructions
Turn left out of Colemere Countryside Heritage Site. Right at T-junction signed Loppington and Wem. Left signposted Balmer Heath and Wem; then right signposted Northwood and Wem (also Cycle Route 31).

Take the left turn after entering 30mph limit, signed Bettisfield.

Before entering Bettisfield, turn left signed Breaden Heath. Cross canal; after about three quarters of a mile turn right at T-junction.

At staggered crossroads take care; turn right then immediate left, signed Breaden Heath, Hampton Wood and Penley.

A half mile or so further on turn left (opposite public footpath sign); then left at T-junction.

At crossroads turn right, signposted Welshampton and Stocks.

After 200 metres turn left at T-junction, then left at next T-junction opposite the church.

Turn right alongside church, signed Lyneal and Cycle Route 31; then right at junction in Lyneal, signed Colemere and Ellesmere.

Left to Colemere and back to start point.

*Correct as of July 2012*

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