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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 June 2019

20th June 2019: Special long ride to Stone (brisk & mod)

Brisk Ride

The skies were ominously dark as we all set off from Waverton at 0800. There was a brisk ride led by yours truly, and a moderate ride led by Steve H. However, as there was no rush to get to Cafe Bon Sol in Whitchurch, we all set off together towards Tattenhall. It became clear at the back road to Bolesworth Castle that we should formally split up. The Brisk Group consisted of Ivan, Ray, Ken, Steve T, Nick, and myself. Mike G decided to joins us as well just as John W appeared (he had not turned up at the start due to bike issues). So up and over the various hills with very black skies, we duck and dive our way to Bon Sol just before the rain starts. The cafe had opened up a little early to accommodate us and bacon baps were very much in evidence. 

As we are ready to leave, the Mods arrive ready for their protein top up. Mike G decides to swap teams as we head out to Ightfield and on to Market Drayton. Nick gets a rear wheel puncture as it starts to rain, but tyre fixed, we seem to outrun the rain. There is then a long run down quiet lanes to Eccleshall. Out through pretty Eccleshall, it is now a long loop north passing HMP YOI Drake and Swynnerton Training camp (a WW2 former munition factory, now Army training camp) via Cold Meece and Yarnfield (where we have ridden to in April 2016). It’s really downhill now into the suburbs of Stone at 51 miles, 1230 and The Poste, a Wetherspoons pub. 

As ever Wetherspoons doesn’t disappoint and we are soon fed and watered and preparing to leave as the Mods arrive. The weather hasn’t warmed up and rain threatens as Ivan leads us onto Barlaston and the start of 12 miles of canal side riding. Both Ivan and I notice that there has been a lot of housing and offices built where derelict factories once were. We had both been on the June 2011 Long Ride to Stone (with Mike G) and really noticed the difference. We pose for a few photos along the way, ending up at the Harecastle Tunnels - one now working, the other closed but both 1.5 miles long.





Photos by Nick and Ken

It's a long pull up to the busy A34 roundabout at Talke, at 669 ft the highest point of the ride surprisingly. Downhill into Alsager, we are soon out and crossing the railway at Oakhanger, eschewing the White Lion at Barthomley, on our way into Nantwich. An unconventional approach via St Mary’s churchyard finds us at Costa Coffee ready at 81 miles for a top up. We are all ready for the final familiar leg of 21 miles back to Waverton. Steve T, who threatened to jump ship at lunch, is still riding confidently as 101 miles comes up at nearly 1800. Surprisingly, there were 4500 ft of climbs! The Mods are 90 minutes behind us and just leaving Nantwich, and, as Steve has Dave H’s car keys, he joins Ken, Ivan and me for a pint in the Ring o Bells in Christleton. 

So a great day out, and my thanks to an enthusiastic riding group who took turns on the front right to the end. We managed to dodge heavy showers (as had been in Chester apparently) and only picked up a little rain - it could have been warmer, but hey almost the Summer solstice so why would we expect it to be sunny and warm!


CA

Mod Ride

The mods rode the same ride as described above, so I add here only a few incidents that demonstrate the slick professionalism of our mod outings. Both groups were to cycle as one to the first stop at Whitchurch.  Unfortunately heading up to Brown Knowl, Dave H's front mech slipped sideways and necessitated a quick fix, but delayed 5 of us arriving at the cafe.

The rest of the morning was uneventful and we enjoyed the lanes to our lunch stop.  There was good value fare at Wetherspoons and after we took the long canalside ride, though I think we joined it a little earlier than the prescribed route. 




Photos by Mike G
Everything was uneventful until we left the cafe in Nantwich. But somewhere before Swanley bridge, Mike at the front and me as the last man lost touch with Keith, George and Dave. After waiting and some phone calls, Mike, Andy and I continued on the planned route, eventually arriving at our start point to find the rest of our group already there.  They had taken the more direct A41 for part of their return.

I think we all enjoyed the diversity of the route, the well-planned stops and our luck with the weather.  Many thanks to Clive for his planning and organisation.

SH

Thursday, 13 June 2019

13th June 2019 : Whitchurch (mod)

There had been heavy rain and high winds the two days previously, so the Long Ride was postponed to the following week. Thursday's forecast was for yet more rain and all-day at that. I decided to ride out to Cleopatra's and see if anyone had decided to venture out; if not, I would have a Full English and ride home again. So I was somewhat surprised to see Bryan W, Keith and John W already there. Dave M soon turned up, but was out for coffee only.

The inevitable question arose, and “No”, no one had a prepared route. Did we want to ride?, “Yes”, but no too far. So I decided upon the Whitchurch area and used the new features of ViewRanger to plot a route straight over the OS map display. There were questions about how many flooded lanes we would find. I was reminded of a ride in Jan 2013 when Roy ended up riding calf deep in the lanes close to the River Dee at Holt.

So we set off up Wetreins Lane bound for Tilston and thence to Chorlton and Oldcastle Heath to emerge on the south side of Malpas. Brian explained that as his new electric Cannondale was “limited” to 15.5 mph under power, he would have to peddle hard just like the rest of us if we went much faster. The silent powertrain helped him up and down the vales of the Wyches as we peddled on to Iscoyd Park. A shimmy around Whitewell, found us on the way to Fenn Bank.

Up to now we had been through quite a few large puddles, but overall the roads and lanes weren't too bad. We turn left up a recently resurfaced narrow lane towards Alkington. Cresting the rise there is a large puddle. As leader, I venture through and proceed to have my “Roy” moment as the water comes up and over the front chain ring! The others are somewhat reluctant to follow and you can almost hear Bryan thinking about the water resistance of his power motor in the crank.


It's not me!
I shout instructions for a detour and head off myself to meet them about 2 miles away. We are soon into Whitchurch and now not going to the Wheatsheaf pub as I had earlier indicated. So we head out via the Tilston Road to Alderford Lake cafe. There are a surprising number of people here, and I find later on from Facebook that the lake had filled up alarmingly after all the heavy rain. You can wild water swim here and it was recently used for the swimming stage of a local Triathlon.

Lunch comes pretty quickly but I am denied a second time as the Full English is not available after 1130. The food however is good and for my three co-riders, it is their first time here. I spend time plotting a near direct route home. So out back through Whitchurch and onto the A41where we shimmy our way either side of it to No Mans Heath. Out via Ebnal Lane, we are soon back to Tilston and Wetreins Lane. The loop around would have been 42 miles

We all wanted to go directly home, so continued via Barton and the very long corkscrew lane out of Coddington to Churton. John W whizzes off home as Bryan suggest a coffee at the village cafe in Aldford. I'm up for it, but Keith decides to head back to Christleton and thence Runcorn bound.

Bryan leads me back into Chester where I discover we have all ridden 60% of the planned 100 miler. You may have noticed I haven't mentioned the forecasted rain. Well, we did have light rain on and off all day, but it didn't spoil the adventure at all.

See route map and/or gpx file download

CA

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

6th June 2019: Aston (mod)


A reasonable sized group of riders met in the morning sunshine at Rose Farm, including prospective new member Graham who had ridden up from Malpas. In view of a promised wet afternoon the moderates decided to follow the tried and tested route to the Bhurtpore Arms and hopefully get back fairly dry. Led by Dave P and Liz on the tandem, and myself, we were joined by David M, Keith, and Andy B, and set off towards Cotebrook, Oulton Park and Reaseheath College. A slight hitch appeared in the plans in the form of a road closure on the lane just after the college but in true cyclist manner we decided to ignore it and hope we could push through. No chance - just prior to the canal bridge we were met with a barrier manned by a “jobsworth” who resolutely refused to allow us to push our bikes across his nice new tarmac. We eventually took the alternative which was to push our bikes across the nearby field [I’m sure the corn will re-grow] up some steps, under a line of barbed wire and onto the canal tow path. From there we went to the marina and back on route. Down to Acton, Ravensmoor, Wrenbury and arrived at the pub at a reasonable time.

Suitably refreshed David M set off early, hoping to get home before the rain and we followed some time later. Back to Wrenbury, Chorley, Faddiley, Bunbury and Beeston. The group split after the hill up from the Shady Oak, still in the dry much to our surprise, with the tandem and Keith going back to Utkinton and Andy and myself heading up through Greenlooms back to Chester. The rain started just as I got through Christleton, sadly promising a wet end to the day for Andy and probably Keith too.
About 40 miles for the official ride - longer for others!

JD


Friday, 7 June 2019

6th June 2019 : Alsager (brisk)

Would it rain – that was the question – answer later!

Ivan had finally put his paint brush down and rode out with John W and myself to Rose Farm for a “gentle ride”. Well most of the pace was at 20mph so this was going to be the order of the day!

There were quite a few assembled today, so I led a brisk ride out to Alsager with Nick, John W and Ivan accompanying me. We got off on time, or would have done if my rear wheel hadn't deflated during coffee time. It was quickly sorted by John W – no doubt plenty of experience care of those massive Audax rides. Thanks John !

So out we go down the usual dry lanes to Wettenhall and Church Minshull and onwards to Bradfield Green. We motor through Coppenhall and thence into a few new lanes around Maw Green. Ivan's local knowledge was invaluable here. We are soon out of Haslington and riding Holmshaw Lane to Oakhanger.

We head north on Nursery Road to run right by the M6 then crossing over to arrive near The Plough pub in Alsager. Again Ivan's local knowledge confirms that the Wilbraham Arms is a better choice. So a mile or so later we are in the pub ordering up.

The food here was fine but the service longer than expected. However we were out of the shower that wetted the roads. Lunchtime banter was as varied as ever, but it was time to go as a menacing large black cloud seemed to be heading for us. We exit via Bechton Lane on our way to Wheelock Heath. Then there is a 6 mile long run down small lanes to Wimboldsley.

We can't avoid Winsford, so I navigate through various housing estates to finally leave the town behind by going down bumpy Blakeden Lane; this runs behind the Cheshire Police HQ. It is now an easy run back to Utkinton via Oulton Mere. Here Nick peels off homewards as we three head up the hill towards Utkinton.

I decide to have a coffee at Rose Farm as it is only 1500. Dave M had kindly offered to sort out my rear mech so I meet up with him for what turns out to be a transmission transplant. As I leave there is that big menacing black cloud again. So I head off bound for the other side of Chester. At Christleton the roads are awash and so it was so all on my route home via the A41 but thankfully no actual rain.

So only 45 miles around today but at over 16mph, and mid 70's mileage for me when I'm back home. How we missed a downpour I don't really know! A very useful workout for next week's 101 miler to Stone.

See route map and/or gpx file download

CA

Friday, 31 May 2019

30th May 2019: Gwaenysgor (mod)

There were eight of us gathered at Hawarden. Spiros was as friendly as ever, and told us of meeting Harry the Bike and his wife in York! Some had battled against a strong wind in order to arrive in time. Jim was off to Malpas, and John was preparing for a mega ride, so he was doing a little loop of his own, probably taking in Merthyr Tydfil! It was going to be one group, comprising the two Steves, Clive, Ken, Andy and myself. Steve Haywood was good enough to lead. Heavy showers were likely, and it was certain to be really windy on the tops, so our destination was open to adjustment en route.

On reaching Northop we spurned the challenging climb left, and headed past the horticulture college before climbing up the escarpment and reaching Halkyn Helygain. Through Whitford we turned left for further Welsh steep hill pain in order to reach the pretty village of Llanasa. This area is very attractive, and the weather was quite warm and brightening up.


The service and food were of the usual reliable high standard set by the Eagle and Child at Gwaenysgor. After lunch we went up the road to take in the panoramic views high above Prestatyn. As a child, I remember having happy family holidays at Prestatyn Holiday Camp, which was very Hi-de-Hi! Until fairly recent times the old air control tower was prominent from this vantage point (the camp had been an R.A.F. base originally). I remember putting a threepenny piece in the turnstile in order to climb the steps to the top of the tower. Even in those days I enjoyed riding around the camp on a four wheeled social bike with a bench seat for three. My dad was usually the fall guy to help with the pedalling.


Photos by Steve T

Back to the present, we didn't fancy the 33% descent ahead, so turned around to make for Trelawynd at the far side of Gop Hill. Our return took us over the A55, and alongside the field which is often flooded with the yellow of blooming daffodils. Our route continued through Babell, but after  crossing the B5121 we turned south, dropped down to Rhes-y-Cae and had a hard, longish climb up to Rhosesmor (at least that is where I think we where!) We continued above Northop, across to Alltami, through Buckley  and finished with a fast run down the wooded curves of the A550 to the Hawarden car park. A very hilly day, but in finer weather than we  had expected. Thanks to everyone for their patience with my relative lack of pace. I am now three days into a diet!
                                                                                                 
See route map and/or gpx file download

DH

Friday, 24 May 2019

23rd May 2019: Alderley Edge (mod)


The sunshine brought out quite a few members to Delamere Station.  Dave H, Steve T, Andy, Neil, George and myself were all intending to ride. Ken and Dave M had just ridden out for coffee. No brisk group today, and there hasn’t been a brisk ride since the start of the month – where are they all?

Dave H had inspired today’s destination by talking about The Wizard at Alderley Edge on previous rides: its full name is The Wizard of Edge.  So it was that we set off via Acton Bridge and Great Budworth before heading NE to skirt High Legh and aim for Bucklow Hill.  There followed a moment of navigational uncertainty when the plotted route didn’t match the roads around the new A556 and we appeared on the GPS to be riding through fields. We skirted around Tatton Park and then, around Mobberley, we lost a pair of riders!  The “follow my leader protocol” had broken down with Dave and George missing a left turn. We noticed their absence and after a wait, guessed where they must have gone. We retraced out ‘steps’ and chased after them. Re-united, we approach the start of the long hill up to The Wizard which we tackled in our own different ways. All assembled outside the pub except for Dave.  Steve T went to investigate and eventually, both appeared, Dave having suffered a jammed chain.

I think this might be our first club visit to The Wizard, and we were all very pleased with it. Although the sandwich menu was within our usual price range, many chose main menu items costing £13-£14.  Regardless the food was plentiful and of very good quality. Many people were out in today’s sunshine, including many cyclists, although the pub itself was relatively quiet.
Photos by Steve T
 Refreshed and replete, we started our return which followed our outward route for the first few miles. We descended the hill with care given a very bad surface hidden by shadows from the trees. At the base, Neil remembered he had left his Garmin back in the pub.  He re-ascended, while the rest of us sat in the sun and Steve took more photos.


Re-united we took the lanes south of Knutsford, through Ollerton, Lower Peover and Lach Dennis. Our usual route onward was closed, which we disregarded and had a very quiet ride without any other traffic, but also without any sign of roadworks. When we reached the cross roads with the A530, there were 3-way traffic lights.  We could only assume that our lane had been closed to avoid the need for 4-way traffic lights.

A little further on we stopped at Shipbrookhill Farm café for ice cream, cakes and drinks. We continued through Davenham, alongside the dual carriageway and into Hartford.  We looped north to get to Sandiway and Cuddington, passing the Forest View Inn and taking Gallowsclough Lane.  This takes a sharp right turn, but Dave suggested that, as it was dry, we try out the track through the forest rather than continuing. This took us over a mix of sandy and moderately steep short rises, before bringing us to the car park off Station Road, just a few hundred meters north of our start. This saved at least a couple if road miles, and I didn’t find it too bad, but others might prefer to take the more usual route.

A good ride to a new destination, with some interesting diversions in good weather.  We cycled 58 miles, except for Neil who added another 2 miles and 300 feet of climbing by his return to the pub.


SH

Friday, 17 May 2019

16th May 2019: Llanymynech (mod)


Assembled at the Castle Bistro in the middle of Chirk were six Easy Riders: Dave H, Keith, Steve T, Clive, Dave M and myself.  Then for the first time in many meets, Dave P made a welcome return to our number.  Dave M was going to cycle back home, whilst the rest of us looked at something more challenging than our recent Chirk rides.  During the winter months, the mods had avoided the hills west of Chirk because of the weather.  Today, after a few warm sunny days, we were forecast a continuation, before the weather broke for the Friday.  The plan was to head to a familiar destination, the Bradford Arms at Llanymynech, but to approach it by a circuit through the hills and return over more level ground.

We set off up the Ceiriog valley, admiring the sunny green countryside and newly born lambs.  At Llanarmon DC, we paused to re-group before hitting the hills properly. We climbed steeply, before a cautious descent on narrow pot-holed lanes scattered with plenty of gravel.  Bypassing Llanrhaeadr, we followed the Tanat valley for several miles, before heading upwards again and then dropping to the Cain/Vyrnwy valley.

We entered Llanymynech and settled into the Bradford Arms.  The walls are decorated with some RAF memorabilia, and the landlord retired from the service, I think he told us, thirteen years ago to buy this residential pub. After posing for a photo we took again to the lanes.

Photo by Steve T

We headed east towards Ruyton XI Towns, avoiding the main road by meandering through several quiet lanes and villages to its south. We then cycled north towards Hordley on more peaceful decently surfaced lanes. Next it was up through the Franktons and Hindford to meet the St Martin’s road.  Descending the short hill, we crossed the major A5/A483 roundabout and headed up to Weston Rhyn.  This was followed by a short descent into the Ceiriog valley, before a final climb back to Chirk and our starting point.

Dave H, Steve T, Dave P and myself chose to refresh with drinks and food in the café, reflecting on the ride and enjoying being outside in the patio area.  We had completed 58 miles on an interesting and varied circuit through Wales and Shropshire. We had climbed over 1,000m and Steve T tells me our average speed was 12.8mph.


SH

Friday, 10 May 2019

9th May 2019: Norton in Hales (mod)


Our start today was from the Ice Cream Farm, though the turnout was limited by a forecast of continuous, steady, persistent, interminable, endless rain. Dave M was out but not riding with us, which left Ken, Clive, Steve T, Bryan, George, Dave H and myself. Bryan was using today to try out his new very fine looking Canondale Synapse(?) e-bike.

I suggested a route towards Market Drayton.  If conditions improved, we could go all the way, if they worsened, we could stop at Audlem, and if they stayed the same, we would stop at Norton in Hales.  We headed out past Beeston Castle and through Bunbury and Haughton, before crossing the A534 at Brindley.  Here I shed the heavy burden of leadership, and Ken led us on through Ravensmoor and Sound to the outskirts of Audlem.   We’d been speeding along at a distinctly brisk pace and here we paused to consider our condition.  Ken, unsurprisingly not dressed for winter conditions was feeling the cold, and the battery assistance on Bryan’s new bike was cutting out (as the law requires it to do) whenever our speed went above 15.5mph. Believe it or not, brisk riders, these speeds were reached quite often in the absence of any real inclines and any adverse winds. I took the lead towards Norton in Hales and remedied both these problems by finding a series of long hills as we climbed towards Norton Wood Farm. Then we had a short speedy downhill to our destination.

The Hind’s Head has been visited by us several times before. We shed our damp clothes and settled down to some well-earned food and drink. As usual many topics were discussed, but we also ventured into the forbidden territory of Brexit. Be assured, no punches were thrown and no voices raised.

Soon it was time to move on. We headed past Shavington Park and northwards by the Bhurtpore. Then it was on past the Cotton Arms and the Dusty Miller, before crossing the main road by The Cholmondeley Arms. At Bickerton Ken left us, and we then climbed up to Harthill. The rain had become noticeably heavier as we approached the later stages of our ride. A fast descent followed by that annoyingly short but steep second climb brought Dave H to a halt as his chain came off. He and I caught the rest up by the entrance to Bolesworth Castle, except for Steve T who had sped ahead.  We turned right and made for the Ice Cream Farm.  No Steve T, but we didn’t have to worry as he soon arrived having taken the long way round via Tattenhall centre.  Despite the heavy rain at the end of the ride, the rest had been quite pleasant – you have to accept that cycling in the rain can be pleasant.  We had completed a round trip of 50 miles.


SH

Sunday, 5 May 2019

2nd May 2019: Wrenbury (mod)


It was a wet start to the day but with the promise of better to come but how many would turn up for the ride? Eight riders braved the early weather although I must admit that because I live close to today's starting point I left my decision till late and by the time I left home the rain had stopped. Neil and George hadn't fared as well and Neil had come off worse having been caught in heavy rain on his ride from home and was deciding whether or not to head straight back there. Two of the riders were of the brisk variety and they set to do what brisk riders do while I suggested a ride of about 50 miles with lunch at the Cotton Arms at Wrenbury.

After our morning coffee six of us (Brian Mac, Neil, George, Dave H, Steve T and myself) set off down through Guilden Sutton to the A51 and across towards Waverton. Neil had decided to join us but Brian was only coming a short distance, having not done much cycling recently. We took the Martins Lane route towards Hargrave. Halfway down Brian's phone rang and rather than hold us he decided that would be as good a place as any to turn back and the rest of us carried on. With the wind behind us we made good progress through Huxley past Beeston Castle and onto Bunbury. Too early for a stop at Tilly’s, we pressed on through Brindley and Ravensmoor where we turned south to criss-cross the Llangollen Canal for the final stretch to Wrenbury.

The Cotton Arms was our chosen hostelry. The wide choice of real ales was wasted on us as most of us opted for the traditional lime (or blackcurrent) and soda. Neil was tempted by the ciders, however, and was impressed by his choice. The sun came out while we were dining but as we prepared for the ride home it was raining again. Fortunately, it had stopped by the time we were climbing back on to our bikes but as we turned out of the car park we were head on into a cold wind. A feature that would be with us for the rest of the ride.

Our return trip took us along the lanes past Cholmondeley Castle, over Harthill and thence to Tattenhall where Neil left us to make his way home.  With the wind against us progress had been a little slower than on the way out. Beyond Tattenhall we joined our outward route and followed it back, hoping that the twisting turns of the Martins Lane route would afford us some shelter from the wind. A forlorn hope as it turned out.

We arrived back at Meadow Lea having done about 48 miles. Not the best of weather but at least we had been lucky enough to miss the worst of the rain.


TC

Saturday, 4 May 2019

2nd May 2019 : Marbury (brisk)

Both the Met Office and the BBC agreed that today would be one of mixed fortunes: dry, windy, wet, cool and warm, however neither could agree on the timing. As it turned out, the rain just came and kept us company most of the day! With this forecast it was unsurprising that the turnout at Meadow Lea was somewhat reduced with only 5 ‘moderates’ and 2 ‘brisk’ in attendance.

The brisk duo comprised of myself and John M, who brought along a sore back from gardening and a request for a quiet ride today in order to recover in time for his impending  bike trip to Spain . 

We agreed upon a 95k route to the Bickerton Poacher and rode back along the Greenway and then meandered our way through Chester before exiting the city along Lache Lane. From here we rode through Rossett and Farndon and took Cycle Route 70 through Malpas and No Mans Heath.

Crossing the A41 John commented on the sign to Marbury and enquired about The Swan, a pub he had never visited. After I recounted that Nick and I had visited The Swan in the previous summer, on a CER ride, and had a positive experience, so we  re-routed to Marbury. 

The Swan st Marbury
The Swan was reasonably busy and we found a table near to the fire so we could dry out and warm up. The helpful staff took our food and drink orders comprising of Station bitter  and  fish and chips . Our lunch chat focussed on John’s upcoming trip to Spain,holiday plans, and John’s still aching back. The lunch was followed by coffee, plus Ibruprofen for John, in an attempt to delay our departure until the rain had eased. It worked - both the Ibruprofen and beer combo for John and the rain ceasing!

The homeward journey was in a north westerly direction to Tattenhall ,via  Harthill, and straight into a freshening wind . From Tattenhall we went through Greenlooms into Christleton thus avoiding the boring windy stretch of road alongside the canal. On reaching Pearl Lane we parted company to head our separate ways as  neither of us needed to return to Meadow Lea.

The ride totalled 88km (55mls) with about 600 mtrs (2,100ft) of ascent. Just hoping it didn’t aggravate John’s back!


KP

Photo by KP

Friday, 26 April 2019

25th April 2019 : Burlton (brisk)

Todays weather forecast was 50% sunny and rain showers – decided to try for the best wardrobe and hope I get it right!!

John W was riding out with me to Holt, so setting off from Chester it was a sunny but chilly morning. On arrival at Cleopatras  were three moderates and my fellow riders – Ken, Nick and Clive. With John and I, we had a good group for today's ride. After regulation tea and coffee, the route both Ken and I had suggested was accepted and it was to the Burlton Inn.

Leaving the café, we were blessed with a sunny start to get us on our way out via Wetreins Lane to Tilston and Horton Green and here we re-join the B5069. We are passed by a MF tractor and the driver slowed to allow us to gain advantage over the head wind and stream behind. This didn’t last to long as we got held up by cyclists and the driver was very considerate and waited for a safe passing point. When we did pass named cyclist’s, it was our moderate group holding us up!

After passing the mod’s, the tractor decided to see how fast he could get away so we let him go! The roads were very littered with mud, debris and puddles so Clive had a plan B to divert from Burgess Lane at Holly Bush, and follow Cloy Lane and then pick up our route; but I would like to ride over Hollybush to actually see whether there were any less potholes!!

We join the main A528, which runs into Ellesmere and as we approach the town the heavens decide to pour down upon us. Quick stop and we now have a team of Garmin Shake-dry riders (haha). Into the town and following the one-way roads, we head off along Birch road passing Blackwater Meadow Marina with a board out for boat hire. Not sure whether for the lanes or the Mere!

I cannot recall riding this lane before, but the rain had ceased to sodden us and it is a picture post card lane to ride. Passing through Bagley and Petton, we are half a mile from our lunch stop. Enjoying a down hill, the route is forked and we should keep right, however a quick glance shows a mud track so I continue on and go off course and hope we are not too diverted. Re-joining the A528, our inn for lunch is soon in view.

The Burlton Inn was a welcome sight and as we entered the pub and had ordered once again it was torrential rain outside. A good lunch in a Robinson's hostelry, a variety of lunch time chatter and it was time to get back on the bikes. The sun was out again as venture out and join the B4397 to English Frankton. Ken had been busy during lunch and had downloaded the route we had both ridden previously. This return route mirrored our return today passing through Lyneal and Penley. 


"Men in Black" (almost)  near Penley

The sun was still shinning and we had a glorious view across a valley that a photo call was required for the blog so Nick volunteered his service. Continuing along flooded and muddy lanes as we approach Sarn, I realise I am on my own. Turning around and retracing, I find the group as John has a puncture. It is a wonder we hadn’t had more as the roads were very mucky. John soon fixed his bike and using an air bomb, his tyre inflated we are rolling again as it is up Sarn Bank.

At Chorlton, Nick bides us farewell. From Shocklach, Clive takes pole position and we have a very brisk ride of plus 20mph to Farndon. We decide on coffee at Lewis’s café at Farndon and re-join the moderates, who were also back safely from their ride. After tea and cake, Clive, John and I set off for Chester. Ken made his way back to Rossett via the blocked road works from Holt. Our ride from Farndon had John in pole position and continued a brisk pace all the way back to Chester.

Considering the forecast, we evaded most of the showers and had enjoyed a really nice riding day. A reasonable mileage of 53 for the actual route and 70+ miles to Chester at an impressive 16.5 mph


ID

Photo NH

Thursday, 25 April 2019

25th April 2019: Hanmer (mod)


After a sunny and warm, even hot Easter weekend, it was a shock to see heavy rain showers, cool temperatures and gusty winds in today’s forecast. Undeterred eight Easy Riders met at Cleos in Holt. The mods were Neil, George, Dave H and myself. We had decided that the conditions limited our distance to a ride out to the Hanmer Arms at Hanmer.  On the way out we would face an easterly wind veering to southerly, which would speed our return.

The brisk group left before us, and we followed in the same direction over the Dee Bridge and through Farndon to head towards Worthenbury.  So we were a little surprised to find the brisk group overtake us, slipstreaming behind a tractor.  Bypassing Worthenbury we looped round Tallarn Green and made for Holly Bush, then through Penley and towards Ellesmere.  We had been lucky with the showers, but were then hit by heavy rain and paused by The Mere to consider whether to seek shelter in an Ellesmere pub or head to our original destination.  We chose the latter, which turned out to be the best choice as conditions improved and we were drying off as we cycled into the courtyard behind the Hanmer Arms with 25 miles completed.

The pub is one of our favourites and we were welcomed and served decent food and drink.  Conversation turned to recollections of previous visits and previous cold wet rides. One we especially remembered had been led by Jim from Chirk into the hills with Dave, George and myself plus big Roy. The highlights(?) of this being near hypothermia and mechanical catastrophe.

We left the pub to the sound of thunder. For our return I chose to follow the main roads rather than lanes to the east of Hanmer.  A couple of years ago we had become stuck in 6 inch deep mud on these lanes and the memory was sufficient to keep us away from them ever since. We passed through Lower Wych and Malpas, and then via Stretton and Wetreins Lane we entered Farndon and made for Lewis’s. A little later the brisk riders joined. We had successfully avoided any serious rain on the return despite dark threatening clouds in every direction and had been pushed along by a tailwind.  39 miles had been completed – a good ride in the conditions.


SH

Friday, 19 April 2019

18th April 2019: Marton (mod & brisk)

Clive had devised a route for today which both Mod and Brisk groups took. Our destination was to be the Old Barn Café in Marton, north of Congleton: https://www.facebook.com/theoldbarnmarton. The weather was on best behaviour with warm conditions after a long cool spell and even some sunshine expected.  This was enough to tempt a good many members out to our start at Rose Farm.  The Mods comprised myself, Trevor, Dave H, Keith, George, Jim and a prospective member Tony. The Brisk members were Clive, Ken and Nick, and their adventures are described in a brief postscript below. Also out were David M and Neil who chose to do their own thing.

We set out through Cotebrook and rode past Oulton Park, to pick up the old rail line the Whitegate Way taking us onto Winsford. Here Jim left us as planned and made his own way back.  After a quick dash along the A530 south of Middlewich, we passed through Ettily Heath and then followed another disused railway line to skirt south of Sandbach and trek northwards keeping to the west of Congleton.

We hit the A34 at Marton and turned right to find our lunch stop. The Old Barn Café was not immediately obvious for it lies within a former farm courtyard now hosting several small enterprises.  However, it was well worth finding and welcomes cycling groups.  The Brisk riders were finishing off their meals as we arrived. None of the Mods partook of alcohol during our meal and one chose a vegetarian option, but before concluding that we had all started to adopt a healthier diet, I should report that one full English and two pies were also ordered.

Photos by KP

Our return route covered more familiar territory, but was very pleasant being even warmer and having a moderate tailwind.  We passed by Clonter Opera, which I understand is a Cheshire version of Glyndebourne, then Twemlow Green, Cranage and Lach Dennis.  After Davenham we followed the dual carriageway as far as the blue Harford Bridge and then took a track down to the Weaver Navigation – the third of our off-road excursions today.  We were appreciating the quiet watery scene when the West Coast Virgin Train thundered across the viaduct overhead.  Crossing the Navigation by a set of locks, we emerged into Vale Royal Abbey Golf Club.  Then it was back past Little Budworth, on to Cotebrook and then back to Rose Farm. On the way Tony dropped off to head for Tarporley, Keith for Runcorn and myself to Kelsall via Heath Lane.

Our total mileage was 56.  This was a cracking route from Clive, which makes two in a row after last week’s special ride.  The morning’s route had been exceptional for passing along many quiet new lanes for us, while running close to our more familiar routes.

See route map and/or gpx file download

SH

Our brisk riders were Ken, Nick and myself and we followed the same route to Marton except for an off-piste explore around Ettiley Heath. We arrived at the cafe in under two hours, and were ready to leave as the Mods arrived. Nick diverted off to Eaton where his car was; Ken to Christleton and me to Duddon for our respective vehicles. Average speed was just under 16mph for these 56 miles.

CA

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

11th April 2019: Rossett (leisure)


As most of the regular riders were taking part in Clive's special ride today and Jim Bryan and ourselves were available we decided to do an ultra moderate ride avoiding the Welsh Hills. We agreed to meet up with Jim on the Greenway and meet up with Bryan at the Gallery Cafe in Hawarden. As nobody else turned up it was a simple choice of sticking to our plan of riding the high ground south before dropping down to the Alyn at Rossett for lunch.

There was a little bit of climbing to start with as we headed up past Bilberry Wood to take the footbridge across the A55. A quick right and left and a short climb and then it was all flat or downhill to lunch. Riding directly south along the ridge with splendid views of Hope mountain on our right and across the Cheshire Plains on our left to the Peckforton Hills. A quick left and right to descend to Shordley Manor passing Jimi Hendrix created from an old tree stump but now almost hidden by the vegetation. We continued to south keeping to the higher ground before descending to the foot of the steep climb to Gresford where we turned left to follow the lane parallel to the A483 and on to Rossett and the Alyn for lunch.

As we were all based in Chester after lunch we returned via Dodleston and Lache Lane where we split to go our separate ways.

A very pleasant ride of 30 miles Chester to Chester on a crisp clear sunny day.

DP

Friday, 12 April 2019

11th April 2019 : Wheaton Aston Special Ride (brisk)

It was one of those days where you didn’t know what to wear; the forecast was good but I had to scrape ice off the car before driving to picking Nick up and heading to Market Drayton. Arriving in good time, we found  the rest of the riders  assembled in Morrison’s cafe discussing the two routes that were planned for the day. A moderate ride, led by Clive, and a brisk ride led by myself. 

At 10:30 we assembled for the grand depart, when Clive announced he had a minor problem, his i-phone had stopped working.(It later transpired Clive had inadvertently turned off the phone’s backlight !!) To minimise any delay, Steve was quickly appointed the new leader of the moderate ride. Both moderate and brisk rides followed the same route out of town past the golf course as far as Salisbury Hill which was where we parted company.

Our route bypassed the delightfully named Hungryhatton before passing through the lovely quiet lanes of Ollerton, Great Bolas, and Kynnersley prior to entering the outskirts of Telford. Here I had planned a detour taking us to the east of the urbanised area to rejoin the original route near the M54 at Tong but John’s Garmin indicated that the route through Telford and Shifnal should be straight forward  via a cycle path. 

We took the cycle path which separated us from motor traffic but the state of the cycle paths left a lot to desired with uneven surfaces which were littered with hedge cuttings. John picked up a puncture at the Limekiln roundabout where Watling Street (an ancient trackway later upgraded and paved by the Romans) enters Telford.The puncture was caused by a paper staple not hedge cuttings! The punctured tube was soon changed but then changed again,with one borrowed from Nick, as the tube John carried did not have a long enough valve body suitable for his deep rimmed carbon wheels.

Setting off again, we  turned off left back into the countryside via Woodhouse Lane, passing through a wood yard. This lane quickly deteriorated into a dusty stony farm track (Clive had warned me earlier that he had not checked the route out in detail…). Fortunately it was dry and we soon rejoined the tarmac road and continued on, crossing back over Watling Street once again before reaching our lunch destination The Hartley Arms at Wheaton Aston.


Two of the Three ( and a half) riders

Proof positive of lunch venue
The Hartley Arms sits on the outskirts of the village by the side of the Shropshire Union Canal and a full compliment of ‘moderates’ were already sitting enjoying lunch as we arrived. I teamed up with Nick for  a ‘two for one’ lunch which was very good value; our total bill for 2 mains and 2 lime and sodas came to £11.The  lunchtime chatter was limited as the ‘moderates’ were ready to leave shortly after our food arrived. This meant  Steve had a very rushed lunch as he joined the ‘moderates’ for the return trip.

Lunch over and under sunnier skies we left.Turning right out of the carpark we weaved our way through quiet lanes to the villages of Milton and Bradley, the hillier terrain now giving us a better appreciation of the surrounding area that we were cycling through.With only two more brief forays off-road we finally arrive at the village of Ashley to reach the highpoint of the ride at just over 200 metres. 

With Nick leading out John and I, the last 10km were ridden at a fast pace back to Morrisons. After a quick catch up with the ‘moderates’ in the cafe, we opted to forgo coffee  and make our way home, hoping to beat the rush hour traffic. Clive, thank you very much for putting together a superb day out. The route of 63 miles took in some lovely quiet lanes, pretty villages and a good lunch venue.

See route map and/or gpx file download

KP


Photos : JM

Thursday, 11 April 2019

11th April 2019: Wheaton Aston Special Ride (mod)


The first special ride of the year, and Clive had devised a brisk and a mod ride from Market Drayton to Wheaton Aston, a few miles north of Wolverhampton. We were to meet in Morrison’s café in Market Drayton and here assembled the mod riders: myself, Clive, Trevor, Dave H, Keith, Andy B and Steve T who was unsure whether the join the brisk group.  We had all parked in the store car park, except for Andy, who had cycled down from Malpas, considering a ride from his home in Mold as a little too far.

It was cold.  The forecast was for a dry, cool and sunny day with little wind, but as we set off clouds were covering any sun.  Clive had a problem at the start, insofar as his iPhone had stopped working.  However he had taken the precaution of sending me the route, so we headed out, minus Steve T, past Salisbury Hill, before crossing the A529, passing through Sambrook and then joining a lovely straight Roman Road towards Sutton.  Here we climbed the hill to admire the view and take photos  from the entrance to Fernhill House, “an impeccable restored Victorian country house” according to Savills.  See how the other half live...
https://assets.savills.com/properties/GBWMRSTES180043/TES180043_TES18001356.PDF 
Photo by TC
Next we continued south eastwards, warming up under now clear skies plus a one chevron hill. We took a quick dash along the A5, before turning off towards Wheaton Aston and the Hartley Arms. We were surprised not to see the brisk riders already ensconced in our reserved tables, given they had only a little further to travel than we had.  The welcome was good and we took advantage of the pensioners’ special of two meals for the price of one and a few of us enjoyed the Banks’s Mild. Decent food arrived and so did the brisk group having been delayed by a puncture and route finding in Telford.  We noted that the pub sat on the Shropshire Union Canal, which could have provided a traffic-free, hill-less route all the way back to Market Drayton. During lunch Clive resolved his iPhone issue and led the route back.

We were joined on our return by Steve T who was playing fast and loose with his group loyalties. We headed northwards through Church Eaton and Gnosall Heath, then towards Norbury.  En route at Shelmore Wood we passed BIFoR, the Birmingham Institute for Forest Research Free-Air Carbon Enrichment Facility. This studies how forests will respond to future increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). Extra CO2, equivalent to concentrations expected around 2050, is being delivered to undisturbed patches of woodland. https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/university/building/bifor.aspx

Travelling on through Adbaston and Cheswardine, after 49 miles, we arrive back at Morrison’s for tea and cakes.  Reflecting on the ride, we are impressed by the quiet, generally smooth country lanes and considered revisiting this area for future special rides.  Many thanks to Clive for devising this one.

SH



Friday, 5 April 2019

4th April 2019 : Dunham Massey (brisk)

Today's ride is the first ride of summer – freezing, frost on the ground and a forecast of wind and rain. The prospects of a day out were preferred during the winter period!

The ride today was from Delamere station café and I was joined riding out from Chester with John W. On arrival at the café, there were a few other riders and a brisk group formed consisting of Ken, Ray, Nick, John and myself. We set off on our bikes towards Hatchmere, Crowton and Acton Bridge. Crossing the Blue Bridge and heading along Willow Green Lane, we continued on rather than the uphill section which is our normal route towards Little Leigh. This diversion takes us towards Daresbury but at the end of the lane, at the junction, we ride along the aptly named Summer lane running alongside the M56. Taking the next bridge to cross the motorway and along the B5356, we cross the A49 at Stretton.

We ride through Grappenhall and pass two previous lunch stops the Rams Head and Parr Arms. There is the uncomfortable journey over the cobbles – unless you are on a Roubaix as John W went whizzing past those taking the option of a smoother pavement, thus passing the rest of the brisk group. 0ur route now takes in some new ventured lanes between Thelwall and Lymm. At the Library we join the Bridgewater canal and enjoy a photo shoot of this remarkable beginning of transport and the golden era between 1760 to 1830 before the introduction, and a big takeover of cargo which followed, to the railway revolution.

On the Bridgewater Canal
Ray had left us just before we entered Lymm but the remaining briskers take the usual route to Dunham Massey along the B5160. Our lunch stop was The Vine Inn which is an excellent Samuel Smith guest house offering ale at £2.00 a pint and a good lunch under £7.00. The web site also boasts THE best Sticky Toffee pudding so next time I’ll try it. Very popular choice for many other cyclists also.

As we are ready to leave, there is the first hint of what was promised by the BBC weather, RAIN. Setting off from the pub, we head towards the lane which crosses the river next to "The Swan with Two Nicks" then up to the main A56 crossing over and passing under the M56.

The heavens have now opened so we peddle asap to cover the remaining 20 miles back to Delamere.The route is the usual return from Dunham again crossing the Blue Bridge at Acton Bridge but this time it is up the hill!! Struggling up this hill, an unknown rider goes passed me as if on the flat closely followed by John, but he too was unable to stick to his wheel. By the time we reached the summit the said rider was well gone.

Passing over the rail bridge at Acton, we turn left and upwards to Norley and arrive Hatchmere where we say farewell to Ken and Nick. John and I ride back to Chester.

The rain has stopped now and we get home reasonably dry. A good day out and a 51 miles round trip from the café and 60+ miles for John and I.

See route map and/or gpx file download

ID

Thursday, 4 April 2019

4th April 2019: Comberbach (mod)

Having witnessed a car having been broken into on our previous visit, I decided to give the little free car park across from Delamere station a miss, and pay the six pound fee for the day at the forest centre. At the station cafe we enjoyed a bit of banter with Ivan and John, before trying to decide the route of the day from a moderate riders' menu. We were pleased to have a new guest rider joining us, Malcolm Emsley. It was good to see Steve Haywood back from an Italian holiday.  I had envisaged heading for The Wizard at Alderley Edge, and had checked the menu and telephone number. However, the weather forecasts over the last twelve hours indicated bad weather arriving earlier than originally estimated. Steve Haywood can always be relied upon to provide a route, and duly suggested Chelford or Goostrey as possible destinations. Normally, I am always happy to follow Steve, often on great routes, and to pubs not previously sampled.  Notwithstanding, we have had some very wet afternoons returning from The Swan with Two Nicks in recent memory, so I wasn't too keen to reprise the role of a drowned rat for two hours or more with such a dire afternoon forecast. My “Plan B” was a more circular route, with a short, direct return if the Heavens opened. I am not sure that the decision was unanimous, but the troops, in their usual easy going manner, gave their consent. I suspect that Steve Tan would have preferred a longer route, because he is commendably so positive, and even if his glass had been half full only because of the rainwater in it, at the end of the day he would still have been soaking happy! So it was, that Malcolm, George, Steve T, Steve H and myself set off for a vague destination by an unresolved route, that would be amended at a whim (more favourably viewed as 'intuitively') by a leader with a wrecked paper map and no GPS.

Our route took us down to the River Weaver by cycling 'the back way' past Norley Hall, into Crowton, down  Ainsworth Lane and past Mick the Coalman's house. We then headed alongside the river to Dutton Lock. I thought that this route would be a novelty to Malcolm, but it turned out to be familiar to him! We were soon heading through Little Leigh and Great Budworth. As we passed  Pick Mere on our right, I realised that we could be soon en route to Steve's original destination suggestions. When we set out, The Ring o'Bells at Daresbury had been my suggested lunch stop, but now I felt that the Spinner and Bergamot at Comberbach would keep the wind behind us and provide an even more expedient return to Delamere. After a brief consultation, we stuck to Plan B. We turned north-west up the quiet Frog Lane, turned west to Moss End and then north up into Arley Park. I well remember being helped at the equestrian centre down here after an accident  caused by my looking too long at four birds in a field whilst travelling fast! The rain was starting as we exited Arley by Arley Road, then turned left opposite Garland Hall, riding south past The Pole, an impressive c.1840 Grade 2 listed building, which was for sale. When we arrived at the C18th. Spinner and Bergamot we had managed twenty-two miles, and had largely beat the rain to lunch. Steve T. was, nevertheless, having a fit of the shivers, no doubt having a lower amount of body fat than the average person's little finger was a contributory factor. Over lunch, we learnt that Malcolm was originally from Denton, but had spent some time in the Isle of Wight. He now lived in Winsford and was recovering from a serious back problem by getting out on his bike for as many days as possible. The food was very good and the service friendly, but the pub gutters were overflowing with rainwater, as the predicted heavy rain properly arrived.

Our return was a brisk, wind assisted flight on water covered lanes by the shortest possible route: Cogshall Lane, Ash Tree Lane, Willow Green Lane, climbing to Acton Bridge, tearing along to Crowton, and then whacking up Marsh Lane to the last grind at Norley Bank. The rain stopped as we reached Delamere for a final coffee. Barely 32 miles covered, but another enjoyable day.  I reflected on how we manage to consistently agree on a decent route within minutes, despite not knowing who is going to turn up and initially having differing suggestions, or none at all. We must write a paper for Theresa: “Flexible, Collective Decision Making, subject to frictionless review, resulting in the best outcome for all”. The trouble is, that it is the qualities of those who you choose to travel with that determines a successful journey. We have CER members, she has the ERG and DUP!                                                                                                                                     
DH

See route map and/or gpx file download

Friday, 29 March 2019

28th March 2019 : Harmer Hill (mod)

Ken had just returned from nearly two months in Japan and New Zealand and was keen for a non-taxing route on his first ride. I offered him a flat 50 miler from Chirk to Harmer Hill and he offered me a car-assist from Rossett to Chirk thus negating a boring 30 mile ride out to Chirk from Chester.

Already at the Castle Bistro were Dave H, Steve T, George, Trevor, Andy B and Mike G. As ever, Chirk seems to be a popular starting point, so I was surprised and pleased when these six accepted my ride to Harmer Hill. We have been there a few times before, the most recent being a brisk ride last August. Today’s ride was almost like that August ride, except in reverse.

I promised a downhill start followed by a flat section, aka the canal path to Weston Rhyn. Here we took an unfamiliar diversion towards Gobowen. Passing Derwen College, we are now into the tiny lanes around Hindford for the climb up to Welsh Frankton Hill at all of 153 metres. Rushing down the lane we are soon at Tetchill and circle White Mere, then Colemere Hill, onwards to English Frankton. At Lee, I pick up a nasty thorn in the rear tyre. Ken works wonders replacing my tube and we are off again. 
Welsh Frankton hill

The rear puncture is repaired. Thanks Ken!
Once through Loppington, we skirt Sleap airfield to arrive in Myddle just two miles from Harmer Hill and the Bridgewater Arms pub. Although the pub was busy, our fare comes quite quickly. Once our thirst and hunger had been sated, we plunge down the back lane to Myddle. Here we pass by the impressive Red Sandstone bluffs which are the southerly extent of Cheshire Sandstone. I recall that we also passed through this lane on the Battlefield ride in October last year.

We are back in the lanes again onwards to West Felton. The countryside is magnificent in the spring sunshine. There is wild garlic to savour and fields of blossoming rapeseed, along with a few yellow butterflies.  Elsewhere fields have been ploughed awaiting arable crop seeding. Taking the pedestrian shortcut bridge over the A5, we 
are almost ready for the dash through Maesbury to the outskirts of Oswestry.


The approach to Oswestry from the south is boring being through industrial estates and thence into the centre of town. However by taking Weston lane, we shadow Wat’s Dyke path to arrive in the town centre. Here though we skirt Cae Glas park to miss the one way system exiting close to Morrisons and thence up suburban Llwyn Road. There is a short steep section here after which we are instantly back in the countryside  passing the Iron Age hill fort of Old Oswestry. 


At the outskirts of West Rhyn, we take an unfamiliar route back into Chirk enjoying the short steepish hill of the Glyn Ceiriog road to arrive back at the Castle Bistro after almost 50 miles. A great day out in spring sunshine, a dry day with dusty lanes and that "it's good to be alive" feeling that such a ride as this gives you.

Magnolia and daffodils in the spring sunshine

Ken and I eschew a coffee and head back to Chester whilst a few take a coffee ( and cake perhaps) in the Castle Bistro and others also take their cars.

See route map and/or gpx file download

CA

Photos MG