Retired, work part-time or shifts, enjoy being out in the countryside? Then cycle the lanes and byways of Cheshire and surrounding areas with Chester Easy Riders: you won't get left behind.
Chester Easy Riders is an independent cycling club affiliated to Cycling UK. We cycle every Thursday throughout the year with moderate and brisk day rides of 40 to 80 miles.

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Friday, 21 July 2017

20th July 2017: Caerwys

Thursday had dawned cold and wet, but promised improvement and this promise had enticed 13 Easy Riders to meet at the Gallery Tea Room in Hawarden.  The rain ceased but the skies remained overcast with a cool westerly blowing.  Bryan W and Trevor were doing their own thing, and Clive was only joining the ride for a short time before leaving for fun and games in Norfolk.  This left 10 of us, Dave H, Steve T, Keith, Paul R, Ken, Tom, John M, Ray, Andy B and myself, on a ride to the Piccadilly Inn at Caerwys.

We rode out through Ewloe and Buckley before entering countryside and some steep climbs to Rhosesmor.  Once the height had been gained we ran along lovely open lanes towards Babell.  At one point Dave suggested that the faster riders should go ahead to the pub, and after some debate about navigation, this is what happened.  Both groups had arrived at the Piccadilly by 1230 and were made very welcome. Most ordered sandwiches which came with chips and were made of the thickest slices of bread we’d ever seen.
Photos by John M
 Well please with our stop we saddled up for the return. About two miles north of Caerwys I took what the map showed to be a narrow yellow road, pausing briefly to discount a “no through road” sign, to cross the A55.  It wasn’t long before this deteriorated into a broken-surfaced track running beside a farm with plenty of mud and cow pats.  We persevered through to the other side and cleaner lanes.  As one of us said: it’s an Easy Rider tradition to travel on such tracks.

Next we passed through the village of Chwitffordd on the way to Pantasaph. After completing all of 7 miles since lunch, Dave suggested a stop at the Franciscan Friary’s St Pio’s Café.  This was well received and for many of us this was our first visit.  We received a friendly reception and sat outside in a warm and sunny spell enjoying our drinks and for some our sugary treats.  Google tells me that people have been coming to Pantasaph for 125 years on a constant spiritual journey. In 1852 the church of St. David’s, in Pantasaph was completed and, together with other buildings and surrounding land was given to the Franciscan Friars who arrived at that time.

Remounting we cycled over familiar ground across Halkyn Mountain, crossing our outward route on the way to Northop and back to Hawarden.  The ride totalled 42 miles, relatively short for the summer, but seemed just about right with the company, a couple of excellent stops and improving weather.

John M in addition to taking the above photos, has also produced this Relive! link which is well worth looking at and where you’ll find a couple more good pictures: 


Friday, 14 July 2017

13th July 2017: Lower Walton

It’s almost two years since Clive led a ride from Manley Mere to Little Bollington, memorable amongst other things for having to scramble down a banking, bikes in hand, onto a muddy pathway near Dunham Massey which was masquerading as the Trans-Pennine Trail (TPT). Further along the TPT, at Warrington, we cycled down the St. Helens canal and came upon the beginnings of the construction of the new bridge across the river Mersey at Runcorn/Widnes. Having watched the construction of the bridge (now called the ‘Mersey Gateway’ – how grand!), over the ensuing period of time, I thought we should take another look at it, since it is approaching completion and it is quite a sight to see.

Ten riders gathered at the café at Delamere Station. We were all extremely pleased to see Dave and Liz Pipe arrive in civvies, the first time they’ve been for coffee with us since Dave’s op. All seems to be going well with his recovery except that he complains that he feels physically ‘weak’ when he exercises. Not surprising really, as he hasn’t taken much exercise in the 4 months since his heart attack!

As usual, Dave M wasn’t staying for the ride due to grandchildren duties and he left us when we got to Hatchmere. Happily, John W was able to ride today, so he, along with Clive, Dave H, Andy B, Bob, Nick, Tom, Mike G and yours truly set off from Delamere turning at Hatchmere and going via School Lane and Post office Lane to reach Norley Road. From there we took the little road to Pytchley’s Hollow, emerging in Norley at the Tiger’s Head. As we went down Bay Lane on NC70, there were ‘Road Closed’ signs on display. As usual we ignored them and were rewarded with no sign of a closed road nor of any workmen - #justbluffing! Via Onston Lane and the B5153, we reached Acton Bridge and took Hill Top Road to reach the steep hill down to the A49 where the swing bridge crosses the River Weaver. The bridge works here continue (still) and we were obliged to take the footpath here to cross the bridge before turning along Willow Green Road towards Little Leigh. The short, but steep hill over the Trent & Mersey Canal and thence up to Little Leigh was not appreciated by some (you know who you are..) but it got us to the A533, which we crossed to make our way into Comberbach. In order to make sure we didn’t arrive too early for lunch, I had thrown in a loop through Marbury Park and the associated flashes which took us to Marston, not far from the Salt Barge pub which we have visited on previous rides - but not today. On our way down Marbury Lane we came across a road block where workmen were installing a new (drain?) pipe. Their trench was only a foot wide and nine inches deep, so we were able to persuade them to let us carry our bikes over the obstacle.

Our route from Marston took us via Wincham to Pickmere where we took Park Lane to circle around Pick Mere and head back towards Great Budworth. Now the good burgers of Great Budworth complained last year that cyclists passing through their village were urinating in their horse troughs and being generally being rowdy (“car back”!!!). So we skirted the east side of the village and took Budworth Heath Road heading towards Antrobus, a pretty little village where the residents could be seen tending flowers at the side of the road. ‘Best Kept Village’ anyone?? Taking a left onto Meg Lane we crossed the busy A559 into Frandley. There, in Well Lane, we had to take to the ditch as a massive tractor and trailer came down the lane – it’s harvest time again as we could see from the combine harvester in the field a little further along the lane. Using the small lanes we soon arrive at the delightful duck pond at Higher Whitley followed by the A49 which we needed to cross. This can be tricky, but luck was with us and the road was unusually quiet so the crossing was achieved without any problems.  We ran along Grimsditch Road and Newton Lane, crossing the M56 motorway before arriving in Daresbury which happens to be the birthplace of Lewis Carroll. There are stained glass windows in the church depicting characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Crossing the A56 we headed down Keckwick Lane and passed through the wonderland that is ‘Sci-Tech Daresbury’. According to Wikipedia, S-T Daresbury is one of two national science and innovation campuses, which supports scientists, researchers and industry by providing a collaborative and innovative environment to perform cutting-edge research. The work is mostly in the area of particle physics, but it also encompasses bio-medicine, physics, chemistry, materials, engineering and computational science. Cerebral stuff indeed!

Continuing down the lane we soon joined the A558 which we followed through Moore and then on to the cycle path which runs alongside the A56 to Lower Walton and The Stag at Walton, where we were to have lunch. At this point, we’d done 29 miles in a smidgeon over two hours through rural Cheshire – an excellent pace for a bunch of ‘moderates’. The menu at the Stag was extensive, so it took us a while to make our choices. The food came quite promptly and, for the most part, was well received. However, the steak pie came in for some criticism from our resident food critic – overcooked steak.

Suitably fed and watered we embarked on the ‘industrial’ part of our journey. Crossing the Manchester Ship Canal we threaded our way through the houses to find the Trans-Pennine Trail (TPT).  Several sections of this run through woodland, where the trail is somewhat overgrown and the track a bit gravelly, but eventually we arrived, via the local recycling centre at the St. Helens canal, where the TPT opens out into a wide, well prepared track. The canal itself is covered in green algae in which the moorhens and coots ‘dredge’ a path to their nests. The route took us past the Ferry Tavern and associated ‘marina’. The boats here look as if they never go anywhere, but our spirits were lifted by the sight of a pair of swans with seven cygnets. Further along, we cycled past a grey heron, who took absolutely no notice of us, even though we were only two feet away as we passed him.

Eventually we reached the viewing platform next to the River Mersey from where there is a good view of the new bridge. Once the obligatory group photo had been taken (thanks, John), we continued on. Because of the construction works, the TPT has been diverted through the ‘badlands’ of Widnes, where we were briefly embroiled in heavy traffic before arriving at the ‘Catalyst’, a science centre and museum focusing on chemistry and the history of the chemical industry. There is a (free) exhibition about the new bridge here, but the group felt the need to press on.
Mersey Gateway site 2 year ago (Photo by Steve T)

Mersey Gateway site today (Photo by John W)

Threading our way through the streets of West Bank we cross the existing Runcorn/Widnes bridge and then took some back roads and paths, known only to Dave H and myself, which brought us to the A56 at Sutton Weaver. Here John W, Tom, Nick and Clive followed the main road down to Frodsham and a direct route back to Chester and the rest of us took a route back to Delamere via Aston Lane and NC 5 down to Dutton Locks. In fact there is quite a long section of this route which is a rough track which was more than usually rutted because of the rain earlier in the week, so I must apologise to my companions for taking them along here. Crossing the River Weaver at Dutton Locks, we made our way along the south side of the river and then up the lanes towards Kingsley. Here, Beech Lane leads up to Norley Road, but it is quite steep in places – not so welcome at the end of a ride. Crossing Norley Road we followed Forest Lane get us onto Delamere Road which took us to Hatchmere and back to Delamere Station. Mike G left us at Hatchmere to head home and Bob continued on from Delamere with the same intent. So Dave, Andy B and myself enjoyed a coffee at the café where we had started, before wending our own ways home.

In total, 51 miles of rural and industrial scenery on a fine, warm and mostly sunny day.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Friday, 7 July 2017

6th July 2017: Chirk to Maesbury Marsh

It was going to be a hot day - about 28C in the afternoon. Steve H, Bob and I arrived in the Chirk carpark almost contemporaneously. Steve said he had a 50 miler to the Bradford Arms in Llanymynech which “involved hills” (one of my earlier routes I think) and I had a 40 miler which didn’t involve hills to the same pub. Bob preferred “no hills” to “hills” and thus the choice was essentially made before we arrived at the Tea Rooms. There were a lot of us, but Andy W and David M had “just” ridden over for coffee.

So the Magnificent Seven consisting of Andy B, Steve H, Bob, Nick, Trevor, Mike G and myself set off via the aqueduct for Western Rhyn. This way is my favourite way out of Chirk sliding down the little lanes that run parallel to the A5. We turn downhill towards Gobowen and once around the roundabout passing Derwen College to dive down onto NCR455 bound for Hindford and Frankton. The sun is out, there are few cars, and it is a delight to be idling along in the warm air. At Lower Frankton Andy picks up a thorn and a puncture, which gives me time to appreciate his new Van Nicholas titanium charger with Rohloff gears and rubber belt “chain” - a snip at several thousands!

I try to ring the Bradford Arms but alas no phone signal — so what’s new! We take the triangular route around Rednal airfield admiring the downed Sea King helicopter and N. Korean Mark 1 rocket bodies (all part of the paintball centre). I miss a turn in Haughton but decide to re-route on the fly anyway — nobody will notice! It is a very pleasant diversion through rural Eardiston arriving back on track in West Felton. I phone the Bradford Arms again to find that there is no food today as they have a funeral party in. So we agree on diverting to the Navigation Inn at Maesbury Marsh. The Navigation Inn is deserted until we arrive. The ale selection is good and the food comes quite quickly.

Steve and I agree that we need to add a few miles in as only 22 have passed so far. So we climb back up the main road to Woolaston Bank and free-wheel down to Osbaston on our way the Maesbrook. It’s now northwards up the tiny lanes to Maesbury - just a mile or so from the Navigation Inn!  Through Ball and across the A435, we take the Wat’s Dyke Way Lane into the back of Oswestry. I can’t resist inflicting a stop at Oswestry Castle mound and a few of us climb up into the derelict bailey and keep to understand why it has been built here, and to admire the views all around including Old Oswestry (Iron Age hill fort). Out through the back streets we are soon sliding by the hill fort and take part of our outward route back down into Gobowen. We head north for Henlle Hall Golf club. Cresting the lane, a brave trio dive down to Rhyn and the Ceiriog Valley - and the steep slopes in and out. We four take the usual route back into Chirk accessing the towpath by The Bridge pub.
Photos by Mike G

Only 41 miles and 1400ft of climbs but a lot of new lanes and excellent weather and company — no one could ask for any more on a traditional summer’s day.


Friday, 30 June 2017

29th June 2017: Tattenhall to Market Drayton

The day started with steady light rain and wasn’t forecast to get much better, so it was unsurprising that only 5 riders turned up at the Ice Cream Farm: Dave H, Steve T, Ken, Andy B and myself. David M had made the sensible decision to join us in civies just for coffee. Andy was out on his new bike - a Van Nicholas Yukon - what taste! Both Dave and myself had thought of Joules’ Red Lion Inn at Market Drayton for our destination, and after a few doubts due to the weather, this is what was decided.

We headed out by Beeston Castle but due to a definite rattle I stopped to discover that the bracket for my tool bag had snapped and it was only hanging on by a Velcro strip – this turned out to be the first of three equipment failures.  Stuffing it into my other bag we continued south east through Brindley and Ravensmoor, saying goodbye to Ken who was only out for a short ride. Arriving just outside Audlem, our mental maps got decidedly foggy and I powered up the satnav, but the wet touch screen conspired to prevent my wet fingers from activating the app. Luckily I had paper maps with me, and so we headed through Audlem to pick up Route 552. We cycled through the continuing rain to Norton-in-Hales, where one of our members (lacking moral fibre) suggested we could stop at the very good pub there instead of continuing to our agreed destination.  Ignoring such temptation we pushed on to Market Drayton.  Now, none of us really remembered where the Red Lion was, so after riding straight through the town centre we had to ask four residents for directions before we eventually arrived. For next time we noted that it was close to the church. We parked our bikes outside, and here I found that my rear light had fallen off during the ride.

The Red Lion is one of our favourites and didn’t disappoint.  The radiators were on so we draped our sodden gear over them and enjoyed the food and drink.  During conversation Steve T enlightened us about Chinese names, as in Mao Tse-tung. Apparently the first name is the family name, the second name is the generation name and the third name is the individual’s. Other topics discussed included Singhbury's and Morrisinghs, the materials and shape of modern dinner plates and linear eating!

Thankfully the rain was easing off as we left and soon stopped completely, allowing me to use the satnav for the return. We headed north west out of the town, through Calverhall and into Whitchurch.  Here we lost Steve T as we took a crafty short cut – a loss of one is an improvement on recent rides, maybe we were being more disciplined – no, that’s unlikely!  Soon rejoined, we cycled through Marbury and Harthill to make it back to the ICF just before they closed at 5pm.  We agreed it had been well worth persisting through the rain and clocking up 57 miles on a good outing.

Before I set off on the bike for home, I checked out another rattle that developed and found the bracket holding my rear mudguard to the frame had snapped off. Three equipment failures in one ride!


Sunday, 25 June 2017

22nd June 2017: Special Ride: Conway Valley

Eleven of us met at Nino’s for our special ride: Steve T, Dave H, Keith B, Bob, Steve H, John M, Nick, Paul, Trevor and Clive. George couldn’t make it for personal reasons. We thought Andy B might cycle across from Mold, but as he knew the area we decided to set off and he could catch us up. At 10:30, having had our breakfast fill, we set off for Penrhyn Bay with rain jackets on as it was thick cloud, a light drizzle and westerly wind.

Arriving at the hill out of Penrhyn Bay taking us over the Little Orme, Paul’s inner tube blew. Regrouping at the top 20 minutes later we dropped down to Llandudno and cycling along the prom saw two sailing ships and the tops of all the surrounding hills covered in cloud. As we were climbing the Great Orme Paul felt our progress was too quick and decided to have another puncture. Whilst eight of us observed Paul expertly repairing the slit in his rear tyre and replacing the inner tube we reminisced how we missed our travelling technician Dave Pipe. 
Photos by Mike G
Eventually we reached the Orme Café in thick mist and rain with views the ‘blind’ would have experienced. Our brisk members were very proud of the pace, 6 miles in the first hour. Trevor after having recently returned from holidaying in America for over 6 weeks was struggling and despite our assurances that it would get easier, opted to cycle to Prestatyn and return home. Dropping into West Shore Llandudno, Trevor departed and we continued on, then Dave H decided to join Paul’s puncture club. He also discovered that he had lost his wallet probably at Nino’s allowing some poor Welsh pensioners to benefit from his English generosity.

As time was getting on, and we didn’t have Dave P, Dave H and Keith B decided they would sort out the puncture and cycle direct to our lunch stop the Old Ship in Trefriw. What we didn’t realise is they ended up entertaining the locals imitating Laurel & Hardy, showing them how to change an innertube twice, and as a reward they were offered tea.

The remaining eight went on to Deganwy then Conwy Quay taking the estuary path/cycleway. It was here some decided to have a comfort break and we lost Paul, John M and Nick as they admired the toilet’s stone work and views from the quayside. After some frantic phoning, garbled messages and backtracking; we decided to meet up at Trefriw. The remaining five following the route I had planned.

Following the scenic route through Rowen we were suddenly joined by the missing trio as we dropped down to the B5106 near Dolgarrog.  Also, the cloud was lifting and the sun started to shine. No further incidents on the way to the Old Ship, but we were half expecting Dave H and Keith B to be enjoying a pudding when we arrived, but were disappointed. Lunch of baguettes and chips was had with some pleasant ale. Steve T reported that Dave H and Keith T whilst changing the tubes discovered Dave H’s pump didn’t work and Keith had run out of the four gas cylinders he had. We also awarded Ray of the brisk group, the most organised CER member when it comes changing inner tubes.

Following a relaxed lunch, we set off for Llanrwst taking in the suspension bridge crossing of the Conwy. It started to get warm as we climbed the A458, the ‘Strava Boys’ deciding to have a race to the top, where views of Snowdon, Moel Siabod and the Carneddau range, plus the Conwy Valley were had. Bob said he was struggling and his legs were gone, so allowing him plenty of rest and taking our time, we enjoyed cycling the B5113 towards Colwyn Bay. As we cycled, to the east we had lovely views of the Clwydian Range, Denbigh Moor and intervening countryside. Shortly after the Holland Arms we turned right and followed some narrow lanes, dropping down to Dolwen, Rhyd-y-foel and the seafront near Llandullas. Sustrans Route 5 took us back along the coast to Rhos on Sea returning to Nino’s just before 5 pm covering about 51 miles and 3,300 feet of climbing.

Shortly afterwards the intrepid duo of Dave H and Keith B arrived after visiting Conwy and other parts in the locality including a beach I understand. Dave H was finally reunited with his wallet (still full) so it all ended happily. As John M said ‘This was a ride of two halves’.

See ride video (courtesy of John M)

Mike G

Friday, 16 June 2017

15th June 2017: Loppington (mod)

The turn-out at Cleopatra’s was significantly higher than last week at Rose Farm, but then again the weather was much better and it was no longer half term. So it was that seven Easy Riders (the Magnificent Seven?) gathered for coffee and toasted teacakes. As ever, Helen did her best to accommodate us, even moving tables and providing us with tap water to make us comfortable.  John Wilkie was only here for coffee prior to returning home to take up his grandparenting duties, but it was good to catch up with him and hear more tales of his long distance rides.

The remaining six (no longer magnificent?) comprised Dave H, Steve H, Bob, Nick, George and yours truly. Steve H was brandishing his new Trek Domane S machine which he told us has rear suspension.  We asked how it works, as it was not obvious from the configuration of the bike. Steve replied that it is ‘very clever’ and ‘magic’, but some of us think it’s the Devil’s work.

Dave opined that he had a route in mind down to the Dickin Arms at Loppington, which he understood to have changed hands recently. In days gone by, this had been a favoured lunch stop  for CER and Dave had actually stopped there on Monday with George and Keith B on one if his ‘Tuesday rides’ (don’t ask!). Sadly the place does not open on Mondays so they’d had to go on to The Raven at Tilley, where they’d dined on two plates of chips between the three of them (again, don’t ask!). Anyway, Dave had rung the pub and told them to expect about six cyclists at about ten to one.

So it was that we set off over the Dee and into Farndon. Steve H was speeding up the hill through Farndon on his Trek, but it wasn’t long before his exploits in Scotland last week, where  he’d bagged his 118th Munro (out of 282), began to be felt and his pace returned that of a normal ‘moderate’. We threaded our way through Crewe-by-Farndon and Tilston, heading in the general direction of Malpas. Now Dave H has a pathological hatred of Malpas, which he claims is at the top of a very steep hill. The OS map shows it to be at an elevation of 118m – a giddy height indeed, given that Tilston, only a couple of miles away, lies at 40m. Consequently, we diverted at Tilston along Church Road to go via Horton Green and Chorlton Lane to reach Cuddington Heath and then Oldcastle Heath, avoiding Malpas completely. Pressing on to Lower Wych, we crossed into Wales, whereupon George felt immediately relaxed and at home.

Crossing the A525 at Eglwys Cross we took a small lane towards Arowry.  About half way along the lane there was a sudden a sharp hissing noise behind me as Bob’s rear tyre deflated. It’s only two weeks since Bob had to return home after suffering a puncture and cut tyre, so his luck is clearly out in this area. After replacing the inner tube without finding the cause of the puncture, the tyre was successfully inflated using a pump that Bob had bought in a French supermarket – who needs fancy gear! However, all was not well, as someone spotted a bulge in the side of the Michelin where it had become split; whether it had been cut by a sharp stone or the split was due to a manufacturing fault was not clear. In any event, the outer was new, having completed only 165 miles, so Bob will be taking it back to the shop to complain. Dave H sprang into action, furtling, Dave Pipe-style, in his saddle bag and coming up with a section of an old outer tube which was quickly glued inside Bob’s defective outer (tyre, that is). Bob gingerly inflated the tyre, stopping when there was enough air in it to bear his weight but before the sidewall bulged out too much.

We pressed on, crossing the A495 at Bettisfield Park and heading to Bettisfield where we crossed back into England and the lanes of Shropshire. How is it that the lanes here are almost devoid of pot-holes or traffic? Compared to our own Cheshire territory, they are a sheer delight. After a zig-zag through Lyneal, we arrived, approximately on time at the Dickin Arms, and very pleasant it looked.

I got an inkling of how things might be when the waitress removed the wine glasses from the table in the corner that had been reserved for us. Wine? For cyclists? Initially I thought I’d need a mortgage to buy my lunch as the ‘mains’ seemed to be priced at ‘teens’ of pounds and there was a 28 oz steak on offer for £45. However, the reverse side of the menu offered Italian meatballs and pasta for £11 and ‘Wrexham beer battered’ fish and chips for only £10, so we placed our orders. Some concern was expressed that Steve H has been away from his Rotherham roots for too long, as he asked that his mushy peas be replaced with a salad! The food, when it arrived was of a very high quality and quantity, so it was suggested that Steve adds the Dickin to our list of favoured stops. He said he’d put it on the ‘waiting list’ pending another favourable report from a second visit. When Bob went to pay his bill, he was told that ‘the system’ did not allow for individual settlement of bills and that we’d have to pay as one. So we all slid our notes and coins towards Bob and he pulled it all together and went off to pay. Have we found a candidate for the post of Hon. Treasurer?

Suitably refreshed, we gather outside the church of St Michaels and All Angels for the photocall. The church dates back to 14th century and Loppington was recorded in the Domesday Book as Lopitone.
Photo by Steve T

The route back took us, west, directly into the strong breeze that had been blowing all day, but the lanes are set within hedges which gave us some protection. After crossing the A528 at Cockshutt,  we turned north, heading towards Ellesmere. There seems to be an unwritten rule that, if you pass by the mere at Ellesmere you must stop for an ice cream/cake or some other calorie-laden sweetmeat. Given  that we’d only just left the pub, this seem like over-indulgence, so Dave concocted a route through the town which avoided said mere and took us out via the oddly named Coptiviney, through the dip down and up to Hampton Woods to Penley. Here we followed the A539 for a short distance before turning right along Hollybush Lane.

Crossing the A525 at Holly Bush, we made for Threapwood and Worthenbury before picking up the familiar route back to Farndon via Schocklach. Round about here, Nick picked up the pace and the two Steves went with him. Then at Crewe, Nick went into full ‘brisk’ mode and flew at 25 mph towards the A534. This proved too much, even for a Domane S (with rear suspension), but Steve T’s Boardman was able to keep up – just. Pausing for breath at the crossing of the A534, we saw Dave H flying by into Barton Road. Clearly, the pull of cream cakes had given him second wind. Whilst the ‘Famous Five’ paused at Lewis’s of Fardon for the aforementioned tea and cakes, George forged onward, as he’d left his car at Broughton, so had another hour in the saddle heading into the wind before he could make use of an internal combustion engine.

All in all, an excellent ride in the superb lanes of Shropshire. Good food and amusing company combined with dry and sunny (if a bit breezy) weather to make yet another great day. 53 miles were registered at an average speed of 13.5 mph, the latter helped, no doubt, by the sprint home at the end.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Sunday, 11 June 2017

8th June 2017: Overton (mod)

I arrived early at Rose Farm, the A55 increasingly problematic these days had been benign, and was relieved to see that the cafe now opens at 9 am.  Soon settled in with tea and tea cake I await my fellow riders.  I had a premonition (I am sure that you can get tablets for it these days) before I left home that there may not be too many moderate riders out today, I knew that Dave H was on a beach in some foreign land and Steve H was bagging another Munro, so I stuck the relevant OS map in my pocket.  A wise move it proved to be.

As 10 am approached Bob and Jim arrived together.  We chatted about the merits of caravans as opposed to camper vans and awaited our fellow riders.  By 10.25 am it was evident that the good turnouts of recent weeks had come to an abrupt end.  Jim was only out for a short ride as he had grandparent duties later in the day.  So it was just Bob and myself.  I had a déjà vu moment.  Several years ago on a similar wet day in June I found myself at Rose Farm and as 10.30 am approached the only other rider present was "big Roy" from Runcorn.  For our more recent members Roy was our "Arnie".  Built like the proverbial brick ****house he was thirty years younger than me and was formidable on a bike.  The thought of trying to keep up with Roy filled me with dread.  He must have seen the fear in my eyes and he very diplomatically said that he didn't fancy getting wet as he was cycling with a Runcorn club that evening and would give it a miss.  My relief was palatable.  Fortunately no such fears today.

Looking at my map I decided on the White Horse at Overton for no good reason other than I recalled it did good bar food at reasonable prices and was usually quiet.  The three of us turned south through Duddon to cross the A51.  I had chosen a circular route to avoid cycling directly into a southerly wind. We therefore turned east and cycling through Hoofield headed for Beeston castle.  Jim left us at this point, which left just two surrogate Welshman wandering aimlessly around Cheshire.  I had to grit my teeth cycling past Tilley's in Bunbury.  I will never fill my loyalty card with this behaviour.  From here we headed for Brindley and then to Cholmondeley castle via Chorley.  Turning left just past the castle we cycle past Michael Owen's racing stables and down into No Man’s Heath (what a great name) and up into Malpas.  Dave H is right there is no flat route into Malpas or not one I am aware of.  Down the Main Street we turn right and onto a great stretch of road.  A good surface, virtually traffic free and going west slightly downhill.  We soon make Threapwood and thence to Worthenbury.  Here we turn right onto those "fiddly" lanes around Hollybush before rolling into Overton.

The landlord of the White Horse was friendly and efficient and as I had hoped only two other tables had diners.  We had donned our waterproof jackets several times, as the weather brightened and then darkened again, and wholesome hot food was very welcome.  I had chosen a more direct return route as the need to tack into the wind, I believe that is the nautical term (happy to be corrected) was not necessary with the wind at our backs.

Our return route was through Bangor-on-Dee, where there was actually a race meeting taking place a first for me, and back to Worthenbury.  Picking up the Cheshire Cycleway we headed north through Shocklach and then Tilston, where I noted the Carden Arms is open all day, and crossing the A534 at Barton we follow familiar welcoming lanes to Tattenhall.  As Bob and I had both parked in Waverton we made our way back to the cars via the usual route through Hargrave and Greenlooms.  We note that the bridge over the canal just beyond Hargrave is closed to vehicles but helpfully they have a sign out informing cyclists they can get through.

My thanks to Bob for his excellent company.  His gizmo informed us we had covered 66 miles at an average of 12.5 mph.  A classic Easy Riders day but where was everyone else I mused.  You missed a treat.


Friday, 2 June 2017

1st June 2017 : Llanarmon-yn-Lal (brisk)

A good dozen or so Easyriders gathered at The Gallery Coffee shop for todays rides.The weather forecast promised a good day with light winds, no rain and a sunny 20c. Perfect. I had cobbled together a route that headed out towards Ruthin before returning back over Llandegla to the flat lands of Cheshire, hopefully providing  an easier ride for the end of the day. It was this ride that the group consisting of Steve T, Andy B, Tom and myself embarked upon.

We commenced on the  standard route  up into Buckley, along Wood Lane, with the  sun warming our backs we soon settled into a steady pace.The steep descent down Padeswood Road meant we quickly left Buckley behind and entered the quieter lanes leading up to Eryrys.  At this point Andy had to stop to free off his seized front mechanism - a combination of dirt and a lack of TLC meant that front gear changes could only be achieved by a sharp tap with his foot.

After the long climb up to Eryrys, we turned right onto School Lane whose gradient allowed us to get our breath back before joining the A494. Heading towards Ruthin, we enjoyed the long fast descent before regrouping at the turn for Graig-Fechan. A short stop here allowed Andy to delve into his pack and try free off and lubricate his front gear mechanism once again. This pit stop also provided time for me to make use of his maps to check we were still on course.
 On the road to Graig-Fechan, we met a hedge cutter which gave us a few anxious moments, but luckily, we emerged puncture-free and then continued by following a “white road” before picking up the B road leading up into Llanarmon.

Unfortunately, Steve started to struggle  on the hill into the village and indicated  he was running on empty.  Luckily, the door to The Raven pub was open so we decided it was a perfect time for a lunch stop but were then informed the pub was only opened for a pre-booked pensioners lunch and directed to the next door  shop.  The shop keeper made coffee for us whilst we selected a mix of pies, crisps, and home-made cakes which we ate sitting at the tables outside the shop.

During our lunch, we learnt that the pub and village shop are now both run by the local community and, judging by the steady stream of customers, it appears well supported. There was also work being undertaken on St Gamon's church which dates back to the 13th century, presumably by the community group. Whilst munching the snacks, our lunchtime chat covered calories, BMI and the age of Andy’s maps- one of them is so old it doesn't even show Llyn Brenig!

Back on the bikes, our route now took us up past Graig Quarry towards the main A5104. At this juncture Steve  experienced severe leg cramp so we stopped to rest for a few minutes before continuing  at an easier pace. On reaching the main road, we carried straight on and enjoyed the  the long descent past the stone zoo through to Llanfynydd. This lovely quiet road is probably one of my favourites, with lovely views which were enhanced by with the beautiful weather. We then took the quieter road/lanes  route to  Dodleston where Steve’s cramp returned. As Andy delved into his pack again to reveal an assortment of energy bars for Steve, 
Mrs ‘Ken’ passed us on her bike but only stopped after being shouted at! (How she did not recognise me after living with me for 35 years  is a mystery!!)

After introductions were made, she advised that tonic water (without the Gin : -boring) was good for cramp as it contains quinine and then quickly departed to continue her ride. Back on the bikes, we quickly passed through Bretton and Broughton before having a coffee stop at Hawarden Farm Shop.
Plenty of good weather, quiet lanes and an unusual but pleasant lunch stop, made for an enjoyable and entertaining day out. Steve’s gizmo recorded 3,550 ft of ascent over 53 miles.

Thanks Steve, Andy, and Tom for a great day.

See route map and/or gpx file download


1st June 2017: Gresford (mod - short)

Among a busy CER gathering at the Gallery Tea Rooms, three of us, for various reasons, were looking for a shorter ride today.  Bryan, Jim and I decided to make for lunch at Pant yr Ochain, though our initial concern was to avoid arriving before it opened.  We need not have worried, for less than a mile out Bryan suffered a puncture. After close examination of tube and tyre by each of us, no reason for the puncture could be found, so fitting a new tube, we moved on.

We crossed the A55 and following Lower Mountain Road, skirted Penyffordd and stayed on lanes until just north of Llay where we crossed over the A483 and headed up through Marford.  Whenever I’ve passed through Marford I’ve noticed the unusual architecture of many buildings: strange roof lines, rounded shapes and Gothic windows. The web suggests that either these were built as part of the Trevalyn Hall estate in nearby Rossett or that they reflect a European style of building that came with an influx of refugees in the late 18th Century.

From Marford we cycled along the edge of the escarpment giving fine views of Cheshire’s sandstone ridge to the north and east, before meandering towards Pant yr Ochain. I believe we had last been here for a Christmas lunch some years ago. Today we sat outside in the sunshine and enjoyed decent beer and good food.

Bryan led our return into Chester, through Rossett and Doddleston, along Lache Lane and over the Grosvenor Bridge.  Here we said goodbye to Bryan, while Jim and I cycled past the river and through Boughton for him to reach Guilden Sutton and myself to stop at Meadow Lea café for coffee and cake.  Here the route recording ends: a total of 28 pleasant miles in good weather.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Thursday, 1 June 2017

1st June 2017: Gwaenysgor (mod - long)

I was definitely going to be in “sheep mode" today. There were a lot of us at The Gallery cafe, so many in fact that three groups were set up. The Moderate group consisted of Dave H, Macca, Bob, Keith, John M and myself. It became clear that, after the suggestion of the old favourite lunch venue of the “Eagle and Child” at Gwaenysgor was adopted, I would now be a shepherd instead of a sheep! So off the usual way out towards Ewloe Green, and then we take Green Lane which leads to Magazine Lane. Here Bob succumbs to a puncture and a rather cut-up tyre. He wisely elects to withdraw, and go looking for some 25 x 700 tyres. I’ve now “lost” one rider.

So off to Northop the usual way, where we stop as I give the group three options of getting up onto the Halkyns. They take Option 2. So after a short foray along the A55, we turn ever upwards passing the Britannia pub and the grand gates of Halkyn Castle. Macca is feeling it today, and he elects to call it a day and protect his knee joints. Next time we will see him is in October after his stay in Oz babysitting!  So now I have “lost” two and feeling glad my name is not Ernest and that Lady Bracknell is not around!

We’re now up at nearly 900ft passing the Windmill on our usual way to Brynford. After a brief stop, I mention the Pet Cemetery cafe and, as no one else has visited it before, I suggest we stop there on the way back. So through the golf course at Calcoed to Pantasaph, we now pass the Pantasaph Franciscan Friary, which more of later. Gorsedd comes and goes as we take A5151 towards Dyserth. I like this road as there are fine views all round - OK there is a bit of holiday traffic but it is a wide road. A quick turn right soon brings us to the “Eagle and Child”. The food comes quite quickly as my pint of Hancock's bitter disappears quickly! The talk is varied as ever, but there is a useful discussion on man-sheds and decluttering.
Photos by John M

It’s soon time to leave after a modest 22 miles. I suggest we try the cafe at the Friary on the way back, or failing that, the Pet Cemetery cafe. We cycle up to the viewpoint over Prestatyn before running back down to Llanasa and onto Gorsedd. We are close to the cafe when the White Knight of the Road, aka Dave H, pulls up after seeing a car stuck in a driveway and a group of people milling around. The pungent smell is indicative of a burnt out clutch as the Range Rover can’t get up into the drive. We offer to push it up and into the drive, but clearly we haven’t eaten spinach for lunch and it stays just off the road blocking the driveway. So we leave it where it is and thence arrive at St Pio’s Cafe at the Friary. It is now open every day until 1700, so we reluctantly order cake and drinks, which were rather good. A cafe to remember.

Off again, we cross towards the Babell Road and are soon up at 900ft by the Halkyn Windmill. I suggest we go back via Rhosesmor, Sychdyn then Alltami, through Buckley and thence to Hawarden. In Buckley I miss the Burntwood Lane turn back to Hawarden, but no matter, as we speed down through Drury. As we speed down the A550, we pass Ken going in the opposite direction back to Rossett - so that means the Brisk group are back at the cafe.

So 22 miles, out and 24 miles back and nearly 3000ft of climb, it’s a bit careless of me “losing” two riders but, we four were happy enough in the sunshine with the magnificent views that the Halkyns afford to feast on all day.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

25th May 2017 : Little Bollington (brisk)

On a sweltering summer's day 4 brisk riders struggled to decide on a destination but all seemed to favour a less energetic pace to keep us from overheating. No-one had prepared a route but I fancied a ride to the “Swan with Two Nicks” in Little Bollington. I hadn't been before but had a previous CER route on my Garmin.

Accompanied by Nick, Tom and Andy B, I left Delamere Station heading towards Norley and after crossing the A49 onward towards Comberbach and Great Budworth. We were careful not to upset the Budworth natives given recent anti MAMIL newspaper reports. The village looked as idyllic as ever under the bright blue skies. 

We sailed on at a steady pace but I was getting a little anxious as Garmins battery was running down rather quickly and because I don't know the area at all. Anyway, we crossed the M6 and things began to go awry. A left turn was indicated but major roadworks made that impossible. We stopped to re-route. Andy rummaged in his rucksack to find the relevant OS map. After a couple of minutes of intense scrutiny, he declared we were in the wrong place. This was Andy-speak meaning he wasn't carrying the map for our location!

By this time I decided we would cut out a loop and go more directly to the pub which was only a few miles away on the other side of Rostherne. Unfortunately, on arrival there more road closed signs were in our path. We decided ignore these but we were soon advised by a local dog walker that the road was impassable and we would have to retrace our route and do a big loop to our destination. At this point Garmin was freaking out and the battery level was heading south with constant recalculations. Nonetheless, we get to the Swan without any more problems.

It's a delightful destination and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the garden. Reluctantly we eventually left the shade to remount. 

The consensus was that the road to our left (which was what Garmin wanted us to take) was probably one of the closed roads. So we took a right turn and headed for Lymm hoping to pick up the planned route there. Garmin switched to night mode and refused to find the required left turn off before the centre of Lynn. (Looking at Strava later, I noticed we actually stopped at the relevant corner). Andy was happy to head directly west into the sun on the grounds we would eventually cross in to Wales! Nick added a bit of flesh to that idea and on rather more main roads than desirable we passed through Stretton, Preston Brook and Sutton Weaver to arrive at Frodsham.

We stopped for coffee and sitting in the sun were approached by an attractive young blonde who excitedly extolled the benefits of sun cream for bald pates! To prove her credentials she raised her top to reveal a tattoo across her back proclaiming her to be a local barber! Nick foolishly admitted he hadn't applied any protection to his bonce despite the sunny weather and this was immediately rectified by our new friend! Happy her work was done off she went and we follow not long after. Nick, duly protected from UV rays, headed up Frodsham Hill toward Delamere to return to his car. We remaining three travelled via Helsby to Chester and from there wended our separate ways home.

I had done 61 miles which was enough on such a hot day. Andy and Tom as usual had to plod on even further before reflecting on eventful but nonetheless enjoyable day.


Saturday, 27 May 2017

25th May 2017: Peover Heath (mod)

We sat outside the station drinking in the sun. George, Bob, Stephen, Dave Matthews, Steve Tan and myself.  This was the moderate group for the day.  Obviously, Steve “pocket rocket” Tan, and David “audax addict” Matthews, were choosing  a less challenging ride today, for their own good reasons. The fast lads were heading for Little Bollington. Bob had received surgery to his face in the week, but was still game to go. Stephen and I agreed on a vague plan, keeping the troops largely in the dark, with few facts or figures, and open to the likelihood of u-turns. Who needs Lynton Crosby?!  It was good to see Jim turn up for a coffee looking well. I thought we had lost him for the summer in Caravan Nirvana, buried deep in the countryside with the fragrant Diane. It turned out this was close to the truth, they had only returned for essential appointments, e.g. court summonses.

Stephen fancied down by the river, so we headed past Hatch Mere, then turned  right down Forest Lane, and continued onto Beech Lane.  We were soon drifting along the side of the Weaver Navigation. It was a beautiful natural environment to be in, on a lovely early summer day. The route out was standard but pretty: through Comberbach, Great Budworth, Pickmere and Higher Wincham, before negotiating the Roman Road (the A559). Just before crossing to Plumley Moor Road, Stephen's back wheel spat out a piece of black plastic. I checked back to make sure it wasn't off his bike, the lights changed, and we never saw the front of the group again for over two miles. I can sometimes empathise with David Moyes. It is difficult to lead a rabble, when they show no respect, and just carry on doing their own clueless thing. Ray Hardman would definitely not have approved!

We turned left, past Smithy Green along the B5081, before a short stretch along the A50, turning off at Radbroke Hall. I must admit, that given more time to plan the route I would normally give busy sections a miss if at all possible. On our return the obvious route from Mobberley to Knutsford was also a quite busy road. I will be checking out possible alternatives this summer. Anyway, we were now back to quiet Cheshire lanes as we trundled through Over Peover to The Dog.

For well over twenty years this pub was called the Gay Dog, but just as Manchester gays were coming out of the closet, this particular Gay Dog was firmly put back into its kennel by new owners in 1988. According to The Penguin English Dictionary “gay” before the 1960's meant “bright, attractive, carefree”. It would be sad to totally lose this uplifting interpretation. In my imagination, I am running through the lush fields around Peover Heath in the late sixties, with a young white dog sporting a bright red collar gambolling alongside: The Gay Dog of Peover! The pub was friendly, and they gave us a table to ourselves in our usual spot. It was too hot to sit outside in the sun. The food was spot on as ever. On the way in we had passed the New Hall Polo Ground, and to further reinforce that this is an area favoured by the rich, there was a vivid orange Lamborghini in the car park attracting the attention of Steve Tan.

Our return was by a more northerly route on back lanes to Mobberley via Marthall, Noonsun and Knolls Green. We managed to find the side road down to the lake and park in Knutsford, and so bypassed the busy junctions around the station. I am familiar with the route out of the centre linking us with the lane to Tabley Hill, so we were soon out of the traffic and cruising. Our next stop was the Ice Cream Cafe at New Westage Farm on the edge of Great Budworth. It was great to relax with a double cornet in the shade. We returned via Frandley, with Dave briefly checking on the house of an old friend. Our return was past Cogshall Hall, and along Ash Tree Lane, before reaching the river, where they are still working on the swing bridge after many weeks of disruption on the A49. Our climb from the Weaver was up to Acton Bridge, and through the desirable little hamlet of Onston. There was the usual big effort required to reach Norley Bank, but we were now as good as back. The Delamere Station Cafe owner was friendly, and some of us found shade at a table around the side to have a cool drink, just before five o'clock. It had been another very enjoyable easyriders day. We had covered 52 miles on a very hot day at an average of 13m.p.h. Obviously, those who had ridden to Delamere would have clocked near seventy or more. I was grateful for the route assistance from Stephen and David Matthews. It was good to have David along for the full ride and in good shape.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Friday, 19 May 2017

18h May 2017: Shrewsbury (mod)

When I arrived at Chirk Tea Rooms, Dave H, Ken, George, Bob, Tom and Andy B were already there. Dave asked whether I had a route in mind. I didn’t, but looking on my satnav I could offer a short hilly ride or a longer flatter ride.  Hills were out of favour, so we ended up with a brisk route to Shrewsbury which Clive had led a couple of years earlier, although I hadn’t been on it, which was to present some navigational challenges later.

The day’s forecast was good: warm, little wind with the odd chance of a light shower. So we were immediately disappointed that the rain started as soon as we left the café, And it got a lot heavier. And it got a lot colder. Dave, George and I were fearful of repeating another May outing from Chirk a few years ago when insipient hypothermia threatened.  Thankfully, the rain passed and despite heavy clouds around us, it stayed dry until near the end of the ride. We were even able to relish a little warming sunshine.

Photo by Ken P
The route took us through Weston Rhyn and past the old hill fort into Oswestry, where the sat nav led us towards what had been reclassified as a “no entry” road since the original route.  Later we were to meet a right turn which had since been closed off. Slight modifications got us back on track to reach the Queen’s Head after an unwelcome busy mile on the A5. Some pleasant lanes followed as we passed through Ruyton XI Towns and entered Shrewsbury. With the help of directions from a postman, we made our way down to the river and followed it pleasantly before striking up into the town to find some food.

Looking back at Clive’s original ride report, I see they went to Wetherspoons. Without that knowledge we meandered through the streets trying to find a suitable venue. Eventually we were recommended to the Old Post Office pub. This turned out to be a typical Easy Riders stop, with a courtyard to lock our bikes, welcoming staff, and reasonably priced food.

Dave used his local knowledge to guide us out of town and onto the road to Montford Bridge. From here we passed through Shrawardine, and eschewing a typical Clive short cut along a rough track, we passed through Knockin and Maesbury to Whittington. Here my satnav battery dropped to a critical level, but contingency planning earlier in the pub meant that Ken had also loaded the route and so he took over route finding. Around this point George was bold enough to say that at least he wouldn’t need to wash his bike after this ride. We passed through Gobowen and the rain re-started. The route took us back into Chirk through Rhyn and Pont-y-blew, usually a pleasant alternative to the A483 roundabout. But here we met the steepest roughest and muddiest lanes of the day! The bikes were not so clean after that.

After 60 miles we were back in Chirk, where Dave and I retired to the café (which is open till 9pm), while the others made the ways home by bike or car. It had been an eventful ride with some unexpected weather, some unexpected route finding challenges, some discoveries in Shrewsbury, but as usual, good company.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

11h May 2017: Tilley (mod)

There had been a desire amongst the moderates to schedule a few more longer rides. George had suggested meeting on Tuesdays, when we could, in order to build up to a hundred miles. Steve Haywood is leading a moderate riders 100 in August. Two days previous to this ride, Keith, George, Steve Tan and myself, had cycled from Waverton to Sleap and returned via Ellesmere. We had clocked up a very enjoyable 79 miles. I suggested that we could adjust and shorten this route, and still have the pleasure of exploring a lacework of lush little lanes in deep Shropshire. Fortunately, everyone seemed happy with the plan. Steve was stretching his legs with the fast lads, so the moderate group consisted of Bob, George, Keith, Andy W and myself.

We set off from the Ice Cream Farm, with Dave Matthews joining us for a few miles on his road to recovery. Brown Knoll was followed by a fiddle around Duckington before crossing the A41 and skirting Edge Hall, hitting the Roman road near Kidnal, then climbing towards Malpas. We swept down through the village, passing the cross and following the B5395, before taking the quiet lanes off to Higher Wyche and Iscoyd Park. The estate buildings here go back to the 17th. Century, and the impressive Georgian Hall is used for wedding receptions. We turn right down a narrow lane through a green glade. Then, pass a track at Whitewell which leads to St. Mary's: a little white church by a brook. We are soon heading south, crossing two main roads without fuss, and making good progress on the largely flat roads between Fenn's Old Hall and Waterloo. Here I try some delightful unknown lanes around Paddol Green, before heading down the B5476 into the centre of Wem. Left at the church, and right before the railway bridge brings us, hungrily, to Tilley. As we swing right we see the attractive Tilley Raven pub, with people sitting outside in the sun. Perfect! It was my first time here, and it was friendly with really good food. Clive had approved my lunchtime venue choice, so it should be on Stephen's list.

Particularly on these longer rides, the lunchtime stop is not necessarily the furthest point from home, so a second planned stop well before four o'clock is desirable, otherwise the return journey can be a bit of a long cafe-closed slog. It can feel particularly unremitting if you find yourself having to make polite small talk with Andy for over forty miles. Stage two then was to end with coffee and cake on the side of the Mere at Ellesmere. Our route took a sweep west along quiet, easy lanes, threading through lots of little villages including Loppington, Cockshutt, Bagley and Hordley. Somewhere on the way, a lasting image was of a smiling woman approaching us on a magnificent grey horse, controlled as in a dressage event. We then headed north to Ellesmere via Tetchill. Passing the college, with young people sporting in the sun on the cropped green turf, made me wish that I was fifteen again. Sitting on the side of The Mere with a drink and a thick slice of bara brith was just smashin'! Stage three was about twenty six miles, beginning with a climb past Sandyhill and on to Penley, Holly Bush, Worthenbury and Shocklach. Leaving Ellesmere late reminded me of a traditional mid-summer long ride led by Bryan a few years back. After slow service at a late lunch stop we were somewhere the wrong side of Shrewsbury, and it was late afternoon with many miles to go. A break at the Black Lion in Ellesmere led to a discussion as to a choice of routes back. I remember being assertive with Ray Hardman in ascertaining the shortest route home, and arguing that this was the only sensible option! We duly returned via Penley and Holly Bush, arriving back around Chester late enough for your mum to have the police out looking for you. These days I am more used to enjoying the last leg of a longish ride, rather than just feeling trepidation. Mind you there is nothing wrong with 40-45 easy miles, and I feel that the need to contest the last few miles home at a very fast pace is also becoming a bit of a tiresome normal expectation. You can make a moderate rider go faster and longer, but you can't stop some of us wanting to be very happily, very moderate at times.

At Crewe-by-Farndon, we turned right for Stretton, Barton, Coddington and Chowley before reaching Tattenhall with 66 miles on the clock. Steve Tan had had to ride home to Runcorn, as when I rang him from Ellesmere he had already finished his ride with the fast group! Andy still had to get back to Upton, so probably clocked up around 80 miles. It was a great group to be out with, and those smoothly surfaced, quiet, little Shropshire lanes were an absolute treat.                      


Friday, 12 May 2017

11th May 2017 : Market Drayton (brisk)

I was expecting dozens of CER riders out at the Ice Cream Farm given that the day’s weather forecast was for 20C and sunny, but “only” about 30% of our membership turned out. After being in sheep mode for the last few rides, I had prepared a route to the Olde Jack at Calverhall. The Mods were off Loppington way, or was it Tilstock. So at 1030 prompt, I set off by myself while the rest of the Brisk Old Wives were still chatting with the Mods. Eventually we become five as John M, Steve T, Nick and Tom catch me up on the road towards Bolesworth Castle. By the time we are up Brown Knowl, there is a brief stop to partially disrobe as the heat of the sun warms us up from the chilly start. Passing Cholmondeley Castle, we’re on our predictable way to Wrenbury and Aston. 

In Aston a smell similar to malting barley is emanating from the H J Lea Oaks plant, but I find from their website that “HJ Lea Oakes is one of the longest established independent animal feed manufacturers in Britain, with a history dating back to Swettenham Mill in 1675 where the Lea family began milling feeds to supply the Cheshire farming community”. Maybe I had a pint or two of ale on my mind!

Crossing the A530, I pick up a slow puncture, so we stop to fix it, annoyingly not finding any obvious reason for the slow. It’s now a 10 mile straight run down tiny lanes passing Shavington Park and Wilkesley to the Olde Jack. Tom mentions that he needs to find an ATM so, knowing there will be none on the planned route, I re-route to Market Drayton adding several more miles to the route. Still the Following Four look happy enough, so we plough on to Longslow and into the metropolis of Market Drayton. With Tom’s wallet replenished, the Red Lion now beckons. What’s not to like about this pub: the Joule’s brewery is spewing out spent grain, the “ Slumbering Monk” ale is crystal clear, the food is plentiful and delicious, and the service is first class, it’s still sunny so we sit outside enjoying the rest after 28 miles.

My odometer is showing 40 miles out, so that’ll be a 80+ miler today then. I can’t face the usual way back to Calverhall via the ever-upwards Newstreet Lane via Longslow, so re-programming again, I opt to get to Calverhall via Moreton Say. We are passed by a rather attractive young rider who now acts as pace leader as we all try to catch her up. We do so, just as she is turning off towards Prees. Now in Calverhall, passing the Olde Jack, it’s a straight run northwestwards to Whitchurch through Ightfield and Ash, Parva and Magna.

The legs are up to another hill, so out of Whitchurch, we grind up Wirswall Hill passing the golf course and to the pleasing vista at 500ft overlooking Marbury and the Cheshire plain with the Peckforton Hills in the background. Steve takes a rather good photo of us all resting at the field gate. The route back now crosses the out-going route by Cholmondeley Castle but goes anticlockwise around the Peckforton Hills towards Beeston Castle and the Ice Cream Farm. 

Photo by Steve T

So the route is around 56 miles and 2220ft of ascents as we settle down for a drink or an ice-cream. Steve finds out that his lift back to Runcorn is still in Ellesmere, so opts to ride back to Runcorn adding a further 20 miles to his tally. Nick heads for Tilston, and we three head for Chester with 80+ under the tyres and 16 mph average.


Friday, 5 May 2017

4th May 2017: Higher Kinnerton (mod)

A day of forecast sunshine had brought out a crowd of new and prospective members to the Meadow Lea café. There were the non-riders: Dave & Liz P; the “doing their own thing”: John W and Bryan; the riders: George, Macca, Clive, Keith, Dave H, Andy W, Tom, Paul, Jim, Trevor, David M and myself; and the prospective members: Anne, out for a short taster and Linda, wishing to try a ride. Unusually, I was the only one with a planned ride and so a large group of 14 set off from the café heading for Higher Kinnerton.

We cycled through Waverton and Tattenhall to Churton, by when 4 of the group had turned off on their own planned shorter routes.  A little later Tom and Paul took off wanting to stretch their legs further.  So a more manageable group of 8 passed through Farndon, Pulford and Doddleston to arrive at the Royal Oak after 24 miles.  We had tried calling the pub to book a table, but no-one answered, so it was with some relief we discovered that it was open, it was serving food, and it could accommodate 8 cyclists.
Photos by Macca
We were efficiently seated in their dining room, and served reasonably priced light bites at around £7-£8 a head. I believe this is a new venue for CER, being too close to our starting points to have been used before, but it proved a good choice. As usual the conversations ranged far and wide, but then dwelt on a new topic for us – pharmacology – including the benefits of an emergency aspirin.

Leaving the pub, we headed towards Hope before striking north on good lanes to then turn towards Buckley just before the A55.  We made a right at the Parrot Pub, through Ewloe on an exceptionally rough surface besides St David’s Park, on to Northop Hall and then down the steep and long roads into Connah’s Quay. Here we said goodbye to George and then crossed the Dee by Hawarden Bridge, and returned by the Greenway, gradually losing riders as they took their own routes home.

Most of us sped by someone standing on a ladder, but Macca had the curiosity to talk to them. He reports: On the Greenway near Saughall one of the Sustrans Millenium mile posts was being carefully painted to highlight the various features on the story displayed.  Macca stopped to speak to the painter, to find that Ann from Stafford is a Sustrans volunteer who is painting these mileposts in N Wales and the NW.  Each post takes her 3 days and she started 9 posts ago near Bangor – there are 1000 in the UK, so she will be at it for some time. Most posts are still the original boring matt black.  By painting them various colours, the stories which are depicted on each post by one of 4 original artists can be revealed.

After 50 miles of riding only Linda, Dave H, Keith and myself arrived back at Meadow Lea café at about 3.45pm.  I was hoping for coffee and cake, but was told that the machines were off and they were clearing up.  It was disappointing to find that a café which should be open till 4pm stops serving well before.  Anyway, this doesn’t detract from a good ride, and new pub and lots of sunshine.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Thursday, 27 April 2017

27th April 2017: Ellesmere (mod)

As the poet said, April is the cruellest month – this year the first week saw sunny warm days with gentle breezes, while the last week has treated us to frosts, rain and hail. The forecast didn’t promise much better as I rode out to Cleopatra’s in Holt, though it hadn’t put off too many. The assembled group included Clive, Dave H, Steve T, Nick, Bob, George, Andy W, Bryan W and myself. As we were discussing where to ride, it was great to see Dave & Liz P arrive in civies and give us their news.  Hopefully we’ll see them again soon at some of our starts.

The debate over our destination was settled and at the time we agreed to head for The Black Lion in Ellesmere, all except Bryan who was doing his own thing.  As we donned our outer gear, Dave revealed that he had left his behind. The inventive use of supermarket bags to protect him from the elements was discounted, and he asked our hosts at Cleo’s whether they had a bin bag he could wear by cutting head and arm holes into it.  Very generously, Helen offered to lend him a proper cycling jacket. That’s customer service!

Protected against the elements we set off along the lanes to the west of the Dee for the dash down the A525 to Bangor on Dee. From there we headed towards Cloy and then Duddleston Heath. Hereabouts we phoned the Black Lion to book our lunch places - no reply. One of our members then informed us that The Black Lion was closed, so we decided for a change of hue and made for The Red Lion instead. The leader set off following theintended loop around the south of Ellesmere through Welsh and Lower Frankton. Alas, half of the followers became disconnected and they headed directly for our destination. A phone call revealed that they were not lost, but siting in the pub in the dry, just as it started to rain on the rest of us. Reversing direction, we sped off to join them in the Ellesmere.

Ellesmere! “The Capital of Shropshire’s Lake Country, standing on the biggest of seven delightful meres”, so says my 1946 copy of Arthur Mee’s Shropshire (10s 6d). Our conversation was less poetic, though perhaps more entertaining, as we tucked into good value food and for some of us two-course pensioner lunches.

We left the pub passing beside the ‘delightful’ Ellesmere and then Colemere, and followed Clive’s advice to choose the best approach into Welshampton. The route back northwards passed Tarts Hill, and then several quiet but very rough lanes, at one point losing Steve T and Nick. A call was made and they eventually re-joined us from another direction.  We entered Worthenbury and took the usual route into Farndon.  Finally crossing the Dee, all except Andy and Nick made our way back to Cleopatra’s, where Dave returned his jacket.

Overall around 40 miles travelled on very quiet lanes under relatively dry skies.  Maybe April gave us not such a cruel ending.

A Note on our Ride Protocol.  Given we lost part of our group twice on this ride, it’s worth reminding riders that each of us should check that the rider behind them can see the direction we are taking at every junction. 

See route map and/or gpx file download


Sunday, 23 April 2017

20th April 2017: Special Ride - Whalley to Settle (mod)

Seven of us arrived pretty well together, and early, at the kerbside on Accrington Road. A friendly cyclist who had also arrived by car, was soon interrogating us with the zeal of Michael Crick.  Although our conversation was polite, I had the feeling that he was a bit of a nutter, and was happy to escape with the others to Tastebuds for a cuppa. I didn't want to eat there, as our lunch stop was going to be early. The staff were expecting us, and very friendly in that warm, unpretentious Lancashire way. I began to wonder if Tom was held up, or wasn't coming, so I gave him a ring. The sleepy voice on the end of the 'phone wasn't Tom's, but his son's. It was established that Tom's car was not on the drive, just as the man himself entered the cafe, still in time to have a coffee.

We started bang on time: Steves Haywood and Tan, Bob, Macca, Keith, Tom, George and myself. We cycled on a side road adjacent to Whalley Abbey before heading north-west, passing over the Ribble just past Mitton Hall – a great venue for a special occasion. We then pressed up a short steep bank, and turned right just before the renowned Three Fishes restaurant. This took us on a back lane past the ancient church at Great Mitton. Can you tell that the Tourist Board paid me for this write-up?! We were soon climbing steadily and easily to Browsholme Hall. At Cow Ark we partly followed the route of the Roman road (York to Ribchester, I guess). At this point I decided to do a quiet and scenic loop crossing the Hodder at Doeford Bridge, before joining a familiar route of mine, which climbs past the wild boar farm, and provides a panoramic view of the Forest of Bowland, before plunging down to Burholme Bridge. A flat cruise alongside the Hodder soon has us at Puddleducks cafe at Dunsop Bridge, This is a reliable favourite stop, and a prudent choice on this ride, as any further sustenance cannot be guaranteed on the long leg to Settle. My hotpot pie and red cabbage was just what I needed to face the challenges ahead. I think Steve H had apple pie and custard for his early lunch- ah never mind, I suppose our type of club is bound to have its share of old eccentrics! Dave Pipe would have had the hotpot, and then the pie and custard!
Photos by Macca

I can't make my mind up if knowing the exact nature of a tough challenge ahead is an advantage, or if ignorance is bliss. I knew that the next 25mls or so would be a testing, and hopefully exhilarating ride for all of us. Newton was the next village, followed by a stiff climb by Great Dunnow before whizzing down through attractive Slaidburn. The other side of the river has a notorious mile or so of climbing including a hairpin bend. Steve Tan had managed to knacker his rear gear hanger here in the past, but we managed to shorten the chain, and he got home without his rear derailleur as I recall. We passed Tinkler's Lane, part of the Lancashire Cycleway, and our last chance to make an easy alternative route. However, the weather was fine, and the tour needed to deliver as advertised. We turned left, speeding down to Gisburn Forest and Stocks Reservoir.  At the causeway we could see people fishing from a small craft, idyllic on the twinkling waters. Then, this was it! A hard, long, slow slog straight up School Lane, then bending left into some more climbing through the forest. Coat Rakes Bridge heralded  a lung- bursting section steeper than one-in-five, followed by a few hundred yards steeper than one -in seven as we strove to stay aboard without stopping. Bob's heart monitor had redlined, so he had wisely dismounted. He wasn't the only one! My triple chainset gave me an advantage over some. Tanny and Tom were flying, but Keith was the revelation, and was well ahead of Stephen and myself, as we concentrated on pacing ourselves to the very top of Crutchenber Fell. 

According to Steve Tan's data we climbed 768 feet on this 3mile stretch. Macca took a photograph, as we all got together on the craggy top. 

Bob exclaimed that this was the toughest ride he had ever been on, and asked if all “Special” rides were like this one! The short answer was “No”, but I hope that the mighty climb and glorious descent will stay as one of the special memories of riding with our club. I know it wasn't climbing Ventoux by three different routes in a day, but for an old moderate rider it was still a bit of a buzz. So, we did hurtle down past Clapham Common for miles, with a panoramic view of the majestic peaks of the Yorkshire Dales in front. Keith had a bit of unnerving headset play on the way down, but we were soon heading east down Eldroth Road, in lovely scenery towards Giggleswick and Settle. By the time we were crossing the A65 with about a mile and a half to go, we had encountered a few more sharp banks, and a couple of the lads were looking like dead fish. I was a bit concerned, and was starting to think of contingency plans, being particularly mindful of what happened to Dave Pipe. There turned out to be no reason to worry, as The Singing Kettle tea shop at Settle worked its magic, and with plenty of good value food and drink down us, everyone was pretty well rejuvenated on our easier, and far shorter, return journey. Some of us were able to have a fun chat with a mother and daughter in the cafe. They were visiting from Earby, and the mother had Alzheimer's. There were some surreal and poignant moments in the conversation, but I think we all appreciated the encounter. I guess Settle is worth a proper look around in the future.

Returning down Ribblesdale gave us an easy start, bowling along with our destination in site on the horizon: Pendle Hill. We were heading for the end of its south east slope at the River Calder, that flows through Whalley. Our first little hill was at Rathmel, but the topography ahead had nothing for us to fear.   At Wigglesworth we headed west for a mile before turning left for Sawley. We stopped to ensure that nobody missed the turn. I then followed Brian Mac on the long stretch to Holden. Brian had got a second wind, and started to open a big gap. I only caught up with him when he had a wobble over the bridge at Forest Becks. We stopped at the junction at Holden. Bob was close behind. We waited, and waited, Evidently Keith had had a problematic puncture. The incident showed that having switched on mobiles and other riders' numbers, as well as efficient bike pumps is really useful, but not half as useful as having Dave Pipe along! Once we were altogether we headed for Worston, via Sawley and Chatburn. We have had cream teas in the past at the pub in Worston, but today we carried on, crossing the A59, and then having an easy cruise along the flat, quiet route of the old road to Whalley. We covered just over 60 miles, and ascended 3,715feet according to Steve Tan. Steve Haywood went to the cafe, but I think the rest of us just set off home. We had no traffic problems, and I appreciated the company and the support for the ride at such short notice.  I know people are often desperate to get out of Wales, but it was a long drive, and I hope the Welsh contingent felt that it was worth it. Steve and Tom's support for the peloton was much appreciated, as was Macca's photography. Congratulation to George for The Magpies promotion!


Saturday, 15 April 2017

13th April 2017: Llangollen (brisk)

There was a smaller turnout today at Harwarden which we presumed to be because of Easter holidays. Whilst the moderate group  planned a ride to St Asaph, the brisk group (Tom, Paul,John,Nick and myself) chose a route comprising of a figure of eight loop involving the Horseshoe pass with lunch at Llangollen.

We departed via the usual route, along Wood Lane, which  led us out of Ewloe to zigzag through Buckley before dropping down into Llong. Once across the A541, we climbed uphill past the newly refurbished Recycling Depot and into Eryrys. It was during this ascent that Tom started to fall behind but once in Llanarmon we regrouped and had an enforced rest because two lorries  struggled to negotiate the narrow roads and tight bend. Finally, free of the traffic,we quickly sped on to the main road  passing the Gliding Club before  tackling the steep climb up to the the Ponderosa cafe where we stopped to catch our breath.  The cafe appeared very quiet with only a few cars in the car park and two ambulances whose signage indicated ‘driver training’.

We decided that  the Micro Brewery, on the outskirts of Llangollen, would be a good lunch stop so  Paul and Nick led the charge with a fast descent, myself and John in close pursuit, and  Tom playing rearguard. Convening in the Micro-Brewery car park, we were disappointed to find it locked and in darkness- rather odd given its the Easter holidays. So we deferred to Plan B - continue on to The Corn Mill in Llangollen. Due to the restricted car park at The Corn Mill, there was little space to secure our bikes but after a quick chat with the landlord we wheeled our bikes through the bar to the safety of the outside rear veranda. Lunch arrived promptly and was quickly consumed so at no time at all we were back on the bikes  but this time we exited the pub via the veranda and a side gate. 

Our return route  followed a fairly busy A5 through Glyndyfrwdy to Llidiart y Parc where we turned right and stopped for a photoshoot at Carrog Station. After this the route was all uphill, steep and unrelenting, until we met the main road where we turned right, through Bryneglwys, and  then  left to once again pass the Gliding School and rejoin the main road towards Chester.

Photo by KP

On reaching the traffic light, by the remains of the old Liver Inn, we were sufficiently weary of ‘A’ roads  so we turned right then left onto the quieter roads that lead us through Llanfynydd , Ffrith and Cefn-y-bedd. From here we followed the road through to Hope and turn off right towards Kinnerton, with the exception of Tom who continued on the main road to Hawarden.

Once on the road to Kinnerton  John and Paul carried on towards Chester while Nick and I took Lower Mountain road to the footbridge over the A55. Here Nick made a  telephone call to ‘Mrs Nick’ and to our surprise Tom arrived- they headed off to Harwarden and I back to Burton. We had completed 58 miles including a serious amount of ascent . For me, the ride  was probably  the hardest ride of the year thus far albeit enjoyable.

See route map and/or gpx file download