A BIKE ride through the woods proved a Breeze for a group of women helping to close the cycling gap.

The Guardian’s Pedal Power campaign is all about encouraging more people to ride their bikes, whether for leisure and pleasure, fitness or serious sport.

On a personal level, this is something I am very passionate about, so when I heard about the Breeze network, set up by British Cycling to encourage more women on to their bikes, I realised it was time to put my money where my mouth is and train up as a Breeze champion.

And on Saturday, I and fellow newly-qualified champion Claire O’Brien, Weaver Valley Cycling Club member and Pedal Power Ambassador, led our first ride through Northwich Community Woodlands.

It was a 6.5-mile route that wended its way slowly through Marbury Country Park, around Ashton’s and Neumann’s Flashes, through Carey Park to Anderton Boat Lift, where we stopped for tea, coffee and magnificent home-made cake before returning over the uplands and woodlands to Marbury Park.

Claire said: “For our first Breeze ride we had a turnout of nine riders, two leaders and brilliant sunshine to secure a good attendance.

“Every rider was a reluctant cyclist for one reason or another – a loathing of exercise, not having ridden a bike since school, a son who had crashed on his bike that week, or a fear of traffic.

“As soon as we started pedalling, the nerves disappeared. There was chatter and laughing.

“The scenery was beautiful in Marbury Park, and with fewer walkers than anticipated.

“Some riders pedalled up the hills and others chose to walk. It really didn't matter.

“The coffee stop at Anderton Boat Lift was a nice little break and focal point.

“On the return route, the views were even more spectacular, and the pedalling had become more confident. It was the perfect day. The most nervous cyclist of all told me on the way back that she had forgotten that she was on a bike at all!”

Lynda Hill and her 15-year-old daughter Beth were two of the riders.

Lynda said: “I haven’t been on a bike for years so when I heard about Breeze and how you didn’t have to be an ‘expert’ to join in, I thought that it was my chance to give it a go.

“I’m so glad I did! The weather was perfect to dust off my bike (I think it must be 15 years old!) I met a lovely group of ladies and also learnt that I hadn’t forgotten how to pedal! I will definitely be signing up for further events.

“I was able to enjoy a little bit of time out, have some fun, meet new people and already feel so much healthier! It was great also to spend time with my daughter who joined in too.”

New mum Cathryn Hollingworth, 32, whose son Josh was born in November, was another of the Breeze riders.

She said: “Having not cycled since I was at uni I wasn’t sure how I’d get on, but decided to give it a go anyway – and I’m so glad I did.

“It was lovely to cycle along the gorgeous scenic route while having a natter with a great group of people.

“I’m looking forward to taking part in another one already.”

Claire and I plan another ride along the same route, called Tour de Northwich Community Woodlands, at 10.30am on Sunday, June 30. For more the information and to book a free place click here