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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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Sunday, 15 October 2017

12th October 2017: Special Ride - Ainsdale to Wrightington (mod)

For our final special ride of the year I offered a mostly flat ride from Ainsdale that I had done myself several times. Because of family connections I knew Ainsdale fairly well and finding a café to start from was no problem at all. As a cycling group that always likes to start out from a café the ideal place was Mecycle, a café and bike workshop opposite Ainsdale station. Ten cyclists had signed up but at the last minute two had to pull out. One couldn’t get the time off work. It’s a shame when work interferes with your social life. So with one late addition nine of us turned up on a lovely sunny but windy October morning. These were Dave H & Dave P, Steve H & Steve T, Bryan, Jim, George, Nick & me. We were provided with a warm welcome along with teas, coffees and a variety of pre-cycle snacks to fuel the first half of the day.

Photos by Trevor C

Well satisfied with both the service and the refreshments we set off down Shore Road before turning right onto Coastal Road. It soon became clear that we would be safer off the road and so crossed over to the cycle path on the other side which fortunately was relatively free of pedestrians and other cyclists. Coastal Road gave way to Marine Drive and after ducking under the Pier at Southport we were treated to uninterrupted views across the Ribble Estuary to Blackpool with its prominent tower. On a clear day you can see the hills of the Lake District but it was not to be today.

At the end of Marine Drive we turned left and followed Ralph’s Wife’s Lane towards Banks. Some say that Ralph was a fisherman and others that he was a smuggler. Maybe he was both but they all agree that he was lost at sea and that his wife’s ghost still wanders about the area looking for him. Hurrying on in case she made an appearance we passed through Banks, turning right into Hundred End Lane. The wind that had blown us quickly up the coast road was now in our faces as we headed inland. The open farmland that we were now passing through gave us little protection and our pace slowed. Soon we crossed the A565 at Holmes followed shortly afterwards by the A59 at Sollom. The quiet back lanes took us south of Bretherton, meeting only dog-walkers and fellow cyclists along the way. We emerged back onto main roads near Croston where we turned left. A right turn at Ulnes Walton took us towards the village of Eccleston. As we entered the village I checked the time and worked out that we should be at our lunch stop just about 1 o’clock, the appointed time. Too soon! As we turned off the main road at the far end of the village I counted our cyclists coming round the corner but only got up to eight. Jim was missing. There was no sign of him coming up the road and a quick phone call confirmed that he had been stopped by a puncture. Steve H and I went back to help him and we were soon back on our way to a slightly delayed lunch.

Up to now we had done 24 miles with hardly a hill to climb but now we were climbing up to High Moor and our lunch stop at the Rigbye Arms at Wrightington. Our reserved table was waiting for us with an interesting menu with dishes that included Venison, Grouse and other Game as well as the usual pub fare.

After lunch we were faced with our longest and steepest hill so far. Fortunately we were going down it and within a few minutes we had lost all the height we had struggled to gain before lunch. We passed through Bispham Green and Hoscar before ducking under the Leeds-Liverpool canal to arrive at Newburgh. I had promised the others a few ‘undulations’ after lunch and a few we had as we passed to the north of Skelmersdale. Then there were a few cars to dodge as we passed through the southern edge of Ormskirk just as the school run was beginning before crossing back over the A59 at Aughton.

Any hills were well and truly behind us by now and we were now back on the flat for the final part of our cycle, the wind becoming a significant factor once more. We crossed the Leeds-Liverpool canal twice and, eager to get back to the café before it closed, almost missed the turning into Eager Lane. We passed Downholland Cross and crossed the Leeds-Liverpool canal for the fourth and final time to reach Halsall. As we cycled along Plex Moss Lane on the final run into Ainsdale we were treated to a fly-past by hundreds of migrating geese.

At the end of the lane we crossed over into Coastal Road then back up Shore Road to arrive at Mecycle with 54 miles completed. We were now faced with a simple choice. Head home and sit in the traffic trying to cross the Runcorn Bridge or sit in the café and enjoy a coffee and cake. I will leave my readers to guess which option we chose!

Footnote – It was only after returning home that I discovered that Mecycle is actually a charitable concern run by the Autism Initiative and providing work for people with autism as well as raising money. Well worth a visit if you are in the area, whether you have a bike or not.


See route map and/or gpx file download

Friday, 6 October 2017

5th October 2017: Welshampton (briskly mod)

It was a bright and very breezy typical autumn's day. I’d zoomed to the Ice Cream Farm averaging 17.5mph with little effort. There were Dave H, Andy B, Ken, Bob, Jim, and Trevor waiting for the place to open. We were soon joined by Dave P in full CER regalia. Given that there was a strong NW wind, I’d prepared a N-S route to the Sun Inn at Welshampton. Dave M had previously recommended it, and, on the pub’s website, there was a “Cyclist Welcome” sign. So the lunch stop was sorted, and it would make a pleasant change to Ellesmere’s establishments.

We start to go a trifle late, only to be told by Dave that he couldn’t find his car keys. Apparently “losing things” is Dave’s “forte", so we were not too bothered about it, except this time he had really lost his keys. After searching high and low, we concluded that he had probably locked them in his car’s boot. Manfully, Dave urges us to ride off saying he would meet us for lunch. So off we go minus Jim who is heading for home.

Around Bolesworth, Trevor and Dave P decide to take it easy with a local ride somewhere, so we four now head up to Brown Knowle. Andy needs to get back so he peels off bound for Mold. So “we few, we happy few” press on down to the outskirts of Malpas and, turning down Ebnal Lane, end up on the A41 just south of No Man’s Heath. The lane to Bradley takes us down to Higher Wych ready for the slide across to Eglwys Cross. This was the crossing point for the return route, so I decide to take the lane to Arowry. Wrong decision! The lane is substantially now agricultural, with mud over a poor surface everywhere; but once down some of it, I decided to plough on. Bob unfortunately succumbs to a slide off to inspect the surface but is not seriously hurt, just a little muddy. The misery continues for nearly 2 miles - a lane to put on the blacklist in any weather!

We now cycle down dry roads to Bettisfield circling back down new lanes to the welcome arms of the Sun Inn. It’s very pleasant inside with a ready welcome, and a comprehensive menu of food and ales. Worth remembering as an alternative to Ellesmere as it is open seven days for lunches. We settle down to generous plates of food and discuss world events whilst wondering how Dave is getting on.

Just as we are stirring to leave, an apparition in yellow appears into view - it’s Dave! Despite seeing our bikes outside, and walking right passed us in the pub, and being pursued by Ken, he ends up in the deeper recesses of the pub! He was happy that he had been reunited with his keys. It turned out that he had somehow dropped his keys, which then had been handed into the shop at ICF.  Time is getting on so Bob decides to stay with Dave as they both need to get back to ICF area. So abandoning my planned route back due to a suspicion of more very muddy lanes, Ken and I head for home via Ellesmere, Overton, and Borras Hill.

So a very careless day of me “losing” five riders and, in truth there were three different rides today. The published route of 45 miles, attached, is a beautiful ride showing the best of the Cheshire, Shropshire and Clwyd countrysides. The autumn colours were beginning to replace the summer greenery; there were leaves and acorns all over the lanes; and the farmers had left their tracks from ploughing activities. The weather was cool, bright and breezy and, apart from my last mile home, dry.

See route map and/or gpx file download


5th October 2017: Grindley Brook (mod)

The strong winds were always going to be a factor today so Jim and I shouldn’t have been surprised after setting off for leisurely ride to the Ice Cream Farm when we arrived 10 minutes early. Eight members turned up and Clive suggested a ride to Welshampton. Dave H and I decided that we could control the pace from the back and Dave P was going to get as far as he could, being still in recovery mode following his heart surgery.

At the last moment Dave H misplaced his car keys so Clive led off with 3 brisk riders, Dave P and me in tow. It soon became apparent that the brisk riders were going to be too brisk so after catching up with them for the second time at the back of Bolesworth castle Dave and I decided to let them go and do our own ride. Our initial idea was to head down to the Wheatsheaf at No Man’s Heath and if that was closed carry on to Malpas. So as the brisk riders disappeared into the distance we carried on to Brown Knowl and down the old coach road.

As we approached No Man’s Heath it was clear that we were far too early for lunch and Dave suggested carrying on to Whitchurch. So we zig-zagged across the A41 several times as we made our way south, eventually reaching Grindley Brook. Rather than carry on into Whitchurch we decided to lunch there and received a warm welcome and good food at the Horse & Jockey.

After lunch we were heading home into the wind so the shortest route possible seemed the best idea. We rode up towards Malpas then on to Tilston, Barton, Coddington and Churton before turning right at Aldford towards Saighton. At Saighton Dave turned left towards the city and home and I turned right towards Waverton and home. 48 miles completed and probably about the same for Dave, a new personal best as he continues to recover from his operation. Well done Dave.


28th September 2017: New Brighton

Eight of us met at Ness with an acute shortage of route ideas, or of maps with which to conjure some. Dave Matthews, Clive, Nick, Steve Tan, George, John, Keith and myself were present. John and Dave Matthews were going their own way at 10.30. John's ticking, creaking sound on his bees knees bike was traced to his swish, Swiss wheel spokes. I must say, that the degree of bending of outside spokes over the inside ones didn't look right to me. Anyway, it was thought that the fretting at the point of crossover was causing the noise under torque. Perhaps, a touch of lubricant would help. No doubt, Dave Pipe would have individually wrapped each spoke with electrical tape from his magic panniers!

Clive nobly took responsibility for making up a route and leading. We headed north past the impressive Thornton Manor estate and onto Brimstage. From Storeton we turned south-west  to Barnston, as even Clive baulked at the obvious, but no doubt very muddy, Landican Lane link. Clive  forged  ahead up to Thingwall on the A551, stopping at the side of the road in order to give us a short history lesson on the Viking origins of the name“Thingwall”. However, as we thought he was only waiting for us to catch up, we carried on past him, regardless! Clive had stopped at Cross Hill adjacent to two reservoirs. He would have told us stuff like, that the name Thingwall derives from the Old Norse meaning “assembly field.”  Cross Hill was a major meeting place or parliament for Viking communities on the Wirral, and perhaps from as far as Helsby, Whitby and Talacre. “by” is a suffix meaning “village”, e.g. Frankby(Franki's settlement), Greasby(wooded stronghold) and West Kirby(west church settlement).

We worked our way through the supposedly notorious Woodchurch estate, and then meandered towards Bidston via a snaking, largely green route. We passed under the spaghetti junction of exit 2 of the M53, but eventually reached the promenade at New Brighton on this route that only Clive would be able to repeat without the assistance of GPS and a water diviner.

The weather and the view across the Mersey was very attractive, and soon we were making the choice between Weatherspoon's, or the traditional fish and chip Nirvana of The Seaside Cafe. Fish and chips and tea it was.
Photo by Steve T

We were unusually into the wind on our initial riverside return.  I was soon lagging behind with Keith, as we favoured a more relaxed pace on a full stomach. Visiting New Brighton is always a little nostalgic for a lad born in Liverpool in the forties. I remember the ferry well, and the Tower Ballroom where The Beatles and Joe Brown and his 'Bruvvers' played at some time in the sixties. The  Tower itself was before my time, and at 544ft. high was the tallest in the country, before closing in 1919. As a kid, I particularly remember the daring Wall of Death riders in the old fairground.  Guinea Gap baths I also remember from sixty years ago. Evidently, the baths are over 100 years old, and originally used sea water. Between 1908 and 1957, 205 world and national swimming records were achieved here.

The swing bridge between East Float and Alfred Dock was missing at Seacombe, so we had to divert to the next crossing. We eventually returned to the river front before Birkenhead Woodside ferry and bus terminus. At Birkenhead Priory a very welcoming guy told us the opening hours, and I was pleased to know that the tower overlooking the famous Cammell Laird shipbuilding site was once again open to the public. Rock Park with its magnificent old mansions overlooking the river is a real gem, hemmed in by less glamorous urban and industrial development.

We eventually reached Brimstage for tea and cake at an establishment in the far corner. We were served by lively young people and sat outside in the sun at the back. The conversation was informative and wide ranging, from Clive's historic references about the Vikings and more, to an analysis of the attractions and limitations of  Barcelona and its environs, conducted mainly by George and Steve, as I recollect.  The lad on the till was enterprising, as not having the correct change, he suggested that they owed me until my next visit! Shurley some mishtake there!(As the late Bill Deedes would say). Clive couldn't resist the muddy link past Oaks Farm, so earning a few more points for his brown polka dot jersey as King of the Grime (urban and rural). Somewhere along the line we lost the agreeable company of George and Nick, as four of us headed toward Clive's home village of Mollington. From there The Runcorn Three clocked up 60 plus miles back to Guilden Sutton via the Greenway. This was the furthest Keith had recently ridden  without breaking anything!  A really pleasant day, expertly led.

See route map and/or gpx file download

Friday, 22 September 2017

21st September 2017: Hanmer (mod)

It was raining heavily as I rode towards Holt and it was forecast to continue for the rest of the morning.  It wasn’t a bad turnout therefore when five of us gathered in Cleopatra’s: Ken, George, Keith, Steve T and myself. Ken was recently back from a cruise to Greenland and points west, and was only out for a brief ride.

I had seen a report on Google that the Hanmer Arms had re-opened, and keen to investigate whether what had been one of our favourite pubs was still as good, I suggested this as a venue.  Given the weather we agreed to take a fairly short route there and hope things would improve after lunch.

The way out was through Farndon, then Tilston and into Malpas from the west, where Ken left us. Next through Lower Wych to the A525, where we saw we were likely to be too early for the pub. We took the road to Arrowy intending a short loop through Bronington to take up the time.  Now we are used to muddy lanes, but these were really, really muddy: hard work and limited traction.  The only solution was to abandon the loop and make for the main road as the cleanest way to Hanmer.

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The pub was welcoming in spite of our sodden condition and we were quickly served with good reasonably priced food and I had an excellent pint of Dick Turpin. The only problem was the lack of a fire, not that it was cold, but we could have done with it to dry out our gear.  We agreed to place the pub back onto our list of favourites. We were happy with a fairly short route back, even though the rain had stopped.

A few days before I had watched a natural history programme called ‘Swarm’ on the powerful collective intelligence of animal groups.  Unfortunately the collective intelligence of Chester Easy Riders was sadly lacking when climbing the hill above Sarn Bridge, Keith’s rear mech snapped off.  Our initial plan was good: remove the mech and shorten the chain.  Our implementation was lacking.  We faffed about trying to detach Keith’s quick link, then puzzled over how to use a chain splitter, then were perplexed over how to reconnect the shortened chain. Eventually we were able to fashion a working though rather loose chain, good enough to get us back. 

Grateful to only have a short direct route back to Holt, we passed through Shocklach, and on to Farndon without the usual race over the last few miles. We had only completed a little over 30 miles, but were grateful to celebrate our ride in Cleos with a round of hot chocolates, courtesy of George.  It had been a day worth getting out for despite the weather.


Friday, 15 September 2017

14th September 2017: Scholar Green (mod)

We were sitting in Rose Farm Café watching the rain come down when Steve T reminded us, with utterly unfounded optimism, that our last outing from here had started wet but turned into a fine day. So it was that as the rain stopped, Steve T, Trevor, Clive, Andy B, Dave H and myself, left David M in the café to recover from a cold, and took to the highway: destination The Rising Sun at Scholar Green.

The route took us through some tedious streets in Winsford and Middlewich before hitting open countryside as we passed through Brereton Green.  Approaching Spen Green, the bulk of Mow Cop rose above us. We had done a similar ride to this in 2016 when the party had split, with half taking the ‘easy’ route up Mow Cop and the remainder heading direct for the pub.  This time, as we approached, Andy B and Steve T left us to take the 'hard' way up Mow Cop.

The sensible four arrived at the pub and were tucking into good and substantial sandwiches and drinks, when our ‘summit party’ joined us, with tales of their successful ascent. At that point the heavens opened and we looked out from the safety of our ‘base camp’ at torrential rain. We hoped that this shower would be all that nature would offer and hoped that Steve’s earlier optimism had been justified.

Foolish us! The return soon confronted us with a strong gusty northwesterly headwind.  It did however remain dry as we passed Rode Heath, Wheelock Heath and skirted the north of Crewe. We paused near Bradfield Green to decide which café to call at later. Then travelling through Church Minshull our luck broke and we were hit with a strong gusting hail storm.  This eased but spasmodic rain continued through Wettenhall until we arrived at the Shire Horse Centre Café at Cotebrook just in time at 4.10pm (it closes at 4.30pm).

Having recovered with coffee and cake, it was a short ride back to Rose Farm, clocking up a total of 53 miles, albeit a much longer one for those who had to cycle home especially for Andy.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Friday, 8 September 2017

7th September 2017: Llangollen (mod)

There were only seven of us at The Gallery cafe today, and as Bryan W was just out for coffee, this left six of us for a ride to Llangollen. Steve had prepared a ride to St Asaph, but I convinced him that my proposal was a “flat” ride of only 3500ft of ascent! So in pleasant but cool conditions, Johns W and M, Steve H, Trevor, Tom and myself, set off bound for Wrexham via a mixture of back lanes and quietish main roads.

In Penyffordd, John W pointed out Jemoley’s Cafe, which was to feature later in the day. So out and along the back lanes to Hope, we take the Alyn River park bypass then circle around Caergwrle castle - all hidden in the trees - but there is a footpath up to it I notice. Nearing Alyn Waters park, we take the steep climb up Windy Hill to Summerhill and thence the long run down into Wrexham at the Sainsburys roundabout. A whiz around by the hospital, finds us turning off at Bersham.

Here there is an idyllic Elizabethan house set by the Clywedog river that powered the nearby ironworks and water mill. It’s a pity that the A483 almost literally runs above it casting it into a shadow of its former picturesque glory. The lanes take us in to Rhosllanerchrugog. We now start the pleasant undulating climb, via Penycae, to the Prospect Farm cafe gates. Peaking at nearly 1000ft, the panorama of the “Panorama Walk” lane now comes into view.  We stop for a photo opportunity relishing the fact that it really is now all-downhill to lunch.
Photo by John W

Photo by John M

Sliding off the Panorama at Dinas Bran Castle, it is hard on the brakes for the steep drop down to the arms of the Llangollen Wharf cafe. The local delicacy of Welsh Rarebit with a bacon topping is a firm lunch favourite. Soon it is time to go back and we enjoy the long flat canal side ride back to the Aqueduct. There are quite a lot of canal boats on the canal today and a few fellow cyclists as well.

Rather than running back through the usual route of Cefn-mawr, we take the main road via Acrefair and thence towards Overton. As we leave Acrefair behind, we notice the heavy clouds amassing over the Berwyns behind Llangollen but, in the end, the weather behaved itself with only a few minutes of heavy mizzle.

At lunch, John W had asked where are we going to stop for “tea and cake”; so I suggested Erddig and he suggested Jemoley's. So the route is re-planned to take in a tour of Erddig. It is a bit too early after lunch when we get to Erddig, so we press on. In Wrexham, Steve and Trevor decide to head for home via Holt as we remaining four wiggle through Wrexham bound for Llay.

We are now heading for Jemoley’s at Penyffordd but John M decides to drop off at Kinnerton to go home. Jemoley's lights are on but they are “closed” so I suggest Hawarden Farm shop, so we head for this along the main roads. So we have ridden a very pleasant 51 miles and acheived 3500ft of climbs.

As we leave, Tom buys a very nice looking pie for his evening meal - if he can get it back home in one piece that is. John and I make our pie-less way back via Airbus and the ferry bridge to Chester environs.


Friday, 1 September 2017

31st August 2017: Prestbury

The day did not look promising. The forecast was for some heavy showers or worse, and it was raining as I left home, though this stopped when I arrived at the Delamere Station Café. Keith was already there and we were shortly joined by John W, Tom, Trevor, Clive and David M, who was concerned about his heart rate. We variously made muddled attempts to take his pulse, before succeeding and confirming that he was still alive, but that he should cut his ride short today.  Trevor was also just out for the café, and John W and Tom were planning their own route.  Dave and Liz P then arrived in civies and it was good to hear that Dave’s recovery was progressing well, with a 30 mile ride already under his belt.

This left just me, Clive and Keith as riders. I had been looking at destinations which I hadn’t been to before with CER, and decided on Prestbury. Common opinion had it that pubs in the area would probably be too expensive and too posh – a bit of research suggested that this was true, although I did find that Ye Olde Admiral Rodney seemed reasonable.  However, I chose instead to head for the Chocolate Box Café, which I’d visited before. (Maybe we should try the Admiral Rodney on another ride.)

We headed out over damp surfaces, expecting rain, crossing the Weaver at Acton Bridge and into Comberbach.  I had planned to pass through Marbury Park, but the idea of wet muddy surfaces put me off, and so we took the route through Pickmere to arrive at Plumley and on through relatively familiar lanes to Ollerton.  We were enjoying the unexpected dry conditions as the bulk of Alderley Edge appeared before us. As we started the climb we decided on a slow and steady approach up this long hill. We eventually emerged at the top in front of The Wizard pub. From here it was an easy downhill(ish) into Prestbury itself, after about 30 miles.

Prestbury is indeed posh (and WAG-ish), but the Chocolate Box was welcoming and served us good quality, good value food. We all agreed it was a good place to stop, and maybe should go onto our favourites list.  It’s also worth noting there is a new bike shop in Prestbury, where Keith was tempted to take his machine, as it had been playing up. He however decided to soldier on for the day.

The afternoon’s route took us through the outskirts of Macclesfield and past Trevors Close Farm (no connection I assume Trevor). Then into Gawsworth, where we travelled along the memorably named Maggoty Lane, which as salubrious addresses go, reminded me of Offal Pit Lane near Kingsley. We then cycled along a series of lovely long flat lanes towards Twemlow Green, enjoying the fine weather and the virtual absence of any wind. To the east we had good views of Shining Tor and the Sutton Common BT tower.

Eventually our luck ran out as a light rain started and became persistent.  I pushed on hoping we would soon cycle through it and unaware of the closing time of the café I planned to call at, just our side of Davenham.  We did in time cycle through the rain, and slightly damp made it to Shipbrookhill Farm Café before 4pm (they actually close at 5pm). Caffeine and cake was taken on board sufficient to sustain each of us back to our homes.

We crossed the A556 and rode into Hartford, then taking the old main road eastwards.  Here Clive left us to take the quickest route back into Chester, and Keith and I continued into Cuddington and Norley.  Here Keith headed home to Frodsham, and I back to Delamere and on the Kelsall.  The return route from Delamere was 66 miles, though Clive would have done closer to 100.  It had turned out to be a good late summer’s day for a high mileage, in later months the weather may limit us to shorter outings.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

24th August 2017: Ruyton XI Towns (mod)

It was a select group of four Easy Riders who met at the Castle Bistro & Tea Room in Chirk. This was to become even more exclusive when it became clear that Dave M, having ridden from Tattenhall, was merely passing through Chirk on his way to Llangollen, the Old Horseshoe Pass and points Welsh on a recce for an Audax that he was preparing. So Ken, Trevor and I were left to decide where to go. Both Ken and Trevor had a 41 mile route to Ruyton XI Towns on their Garmins, so that became our destination, with Trevor leading and the Talbot Inn as the lunch stop.

We crossed the aqueduct over the Ceiriog valley and followed the tow path alongside the Llangollen Canal. Leaving this at Rhoswiel, we were soon negotiating the busy A5 roundabout and heading off on the B5068 towards St. Martins. Soon off this, we passed some very grand looking holiday lodges  at Henlle Hall after which we were down the quiet Shropshire lanes running through Hindford, Tetchill and Hordley, where the simple but pretty Norman-built St Mary’s church dates back to at least 1160. It’s hard to see where the congregation comes from in this sparsely populated area, but services are held here on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Pressing on through Lower Hordley and Bagley, we could see rain across the Perry valley. This was in spite of the BBC weather forecast insisting that the day would be fine and dry. Trevor made a great attempt to steer us around the rain, but entering Weston Lullingfields, we got caught by a heavy shower. A complaint to Carol Kirkwood seems to be in order.

By the time we were approaching Baschurch, the rain had stopped and the roads were dry, no rain having fallen here. Before entering Baschurch, we swung right along the B4397 through Brownhill, arriving at Ruyton XI Towns and the Talbot Inn soon after opening time. A man followed us into the pub with two full-sized poodles. He was clearly a regular and he recommended the Scotch Eggs which are home–made at the pub and have a great reputation. When it became clear that these were in short supply (only one was available) there was some good natured banter about who might have it. Being good natured souls, we chose other dishes from the menu, leaving the Scotch Egg to the local.

The food was good - the Talbot is on the list of favoured lunch stops. Over lunch, Ken gave me a short tutorial on the Viewranger app which I have just downloaded on to my phone. It’s clear that I have a lot to learn, but it looks as if I will finally drag myself into the 21st century and start using ‘emaps’.

Photo by Steve T
Much has already been written in previous blog reports about Ruyton XI Towns, so I will not say more here. But there is a board in The Talbot which lists the other ten towns that Ruyton banded together with to fend off invasions in the 12th century by the Welsh, something I had not seen before – the list that is, not the Welsh.

Suitably refreshed, we started for home, leaving up Park Bank in what was now warm sunshine (better late than never!). The lanes through Wykey and Eardiston were quiet and we even managed get back across the A5 without difficulty. Harvest time is in full swing in this part of the world and combine harvesters could be seen in several fields. We passed several large tractors and parcel delivery vans along the narrow lanes during the day and all of them either stopped or gave us plenty of room. We had to dismount at one point to edge past a slurry tanker, but this proved to be no difficulty. Pressing on through the Maesburys and Aston, we approached the ‘Oswestrian suburbs’ (© Trevor). These were navigated with supreme confidence by our leader and we soon emerged on the road past the Old Oswestry Fort which took us on to Hengoed and Weston Rhyn. Then it was just a matter of gliding down Chirk Bank and back along the canal tow path to the aqueduct, where we had to squeeze past a few pedestrians. The sting in the tale was the short but steep climb from the end of the aqueduct on to Castle Road. Ken threatened to deduct points from the ride score for this, but, personally, I think this would have been a bit harsh. After all, we did ride down it at the start of the ride.

So 41 very pleasant miles in good company. Thanks to Trevor for leading and to both Trevor and Ken for their excellent company.

See route map and/or gpx file download


17th August 2017: Audlem (mod)

Buoyed up by last week’s 100+ ride and further encouraged by Carol Kirkwood’s promise of a fine day I was enthusiastic to do another high mileage today. And so I set off to cycle to the Ice Cream Farm thinking that a ride from there in excess of 50 miles would get me past the 70 mark. As I was enjoying my pre-cycle snack I looked through some past routes and soon found one of 51 miles to Audlem. Ideal (or so I thought) and when I mentioned it to the others they were happy to go along with it.

As we were getting ready to leave we were pleased to see Dave P turn up and gave him a round of applause as we realised he was wearing his cycling gear. In recovery mode following his recent operation he was out for a little gentle exercise. He made the moderate group up to seven for the start of the ride, the others being Dave H, David M, Keith, Mike G, Steve T and myself.

We turned out of the Ice Cream Farm and set off cycling with Beeston Castle ahead of us. After passing the castle Dave P bid us farewell (Hope you are fit and well enough to do a full ride soon, Dave) leaving the rest of us to carry on across the A49 and on through Bunbury. Past Bunbury we turned left into Long Lane but instead of taking our usual right turn off it we carried on to the end. The problem with following a route straight out of the Garmin without a chance to study it beforehand is that you never quite know where it is going to take you. Unfortunately it deposited us on the sometimes busy Wrexham – Nantwich road and we had no choice but to turn on to it. Fortunately it wasn’t too busy and we got off it as soon as we could and headed down the much quieter Tally Ho Lane.

As we turned out of Tally Ho Lane I heard a pinging sound and I soon realised that my wheel was catching on the brakes. We stopped outside the Farmers Arms at Ravensmoor where we discovered that I had a broken spoke. David M produced a spoke key out of his bag and Dave H took charge of it. He seemed to know what he was doing and after a bit of jiggery-pokery (or should that be jiggery-spokery?) the wheel was straightened up, albeit still missing a spoke. I suggested that maybe I should turn for home but the others assured me that I would be ok carrying on, so carry on we did passing through Broomhall Green before reaching the Whitchurch Road for the final run in to Audlem.
Photos by Mike G

Despite being a small town Audlem has two main features to recommend it, at least as far as our cycling group is concerned. The first is the number of eating establishments with no less than three good pubs and a cycle-friendly café to choose from. Our first choice is always a pub and since two of them are adjacent to the canal and likely to be busy during the summer holidays Dave H suggested the Lord Combermere. A good choice and the food was excellent and served in good time.
The second feature is a cycle shop and I am indebted to the good people at Audlem Cyclesport for fitting a new spoke while we had lunch.

I was puzzled by the fact that we had only done 20 miles in reaching Audlem and wasn’t sure how we were going to achieve the other 31 on the way back. Another look at the Garmin and I realised that the 51 mile ride included my ride home. Mike came to the rescue by suggesting a loop around Audlem that would give us a few extra miles in the afternoon so instead of turning right back the way we had come we turned left and after leaving the town we turned right to make a pleasant loop through the countryside to the south of Audlem.

Then we headed back north re-joining my original route just before Aston and continued up to Wrenbury. After crossing the canal we turned left to throw in another loop. This took us through Bickley and round to the back of Cholmondeley Castle. We headed towards Bickerton and turned right down David M’s ‘secret’ lane. (Not much of a secret now, David, since we all know about it). A dash down the main road to the Bickerton Poacher then it was back through Peckforton to Beeston. David M left us here for his direct route home while the rest of us retraced our outward journey back to the Ice Cream Farm for a well-earned cake. Our loops had brought us back up to a 46-mile round trip. As for me, well I didn’t make 70 but 65 miles isn’t bad. Even more for Mike who cycled on to Shotton!

See route map and/or gpx file download


Saturday, 19 August 2017

17th August 2017 : Bradfield Green ( briskish)

I had to be back by 1600 latest as I had a 240 mile drive later in the day. Accordingly, I cobbled together a medium length ride to Minshull's Garden Centre cafe in Bradfield Green. As the rest of the riders all but one, were either going to Ellesmere or Audlem, Nick took pity on me and offered to ride shotgun for us both.

So off at a briskish pace, we soon leave Beeston Castle behind and cross the A49 at Tilstone Fearnall onwards down quiet lanes to circle around Eaton and Oulton Park. I decided that the Whitegate Way would be a little agricultural after the recent rains, so we dipped down Martonsands to enter the "prettier" side of Winsford. There was now an urban section only relieved by getting onto the A530 Nantwich Road going south towards Church Minshull.

At Wimboldsley, we hang left and down onto a thankfully resurfaced road through Occlestone Green. Hanging right, we motor through Warmingham and onwards towards Coppenhall Moss. There is a little rain in the air now. Moss Lane brings us out by "The Coach and Horses" at Bradfield Green and a stone's throw from the cafe. It was moderately busy, but the waitress service was little slow but the food worth the wait.

Nick is interested in Iron Age Hill forts and other such enigmatic ancient structures. I share his enthusiasm, and we chat about why they are there and where are they in the landscape. After a pretty brisk ride to the cafe, the return is a little slower after lunch.

The route back is unadventurous going via Church Minshull and skirting Calverley to run parallel to the A51 eventually riding a little of it towards the traffic lights at the Red Fox outside Tarporley. A left here then a right through Tiverton, enables Nick to bear left towards the Shady Oak and Tattenhall thence home to Tilston, and for me to wend my obvious way back to Chester via Waverton.

So only 47 miles around, but at almost 16mph, and much gratitude to Nick for supporting my ride today.

See route map and/or gpx file download


17th August 2017 : Ellesmere (brisk)

Unusually for me I took the car today, not enough miles in the legs for a full 90 mile ride.The forecast though looked really good; dry, clear and sunny with the temperature  at  22c. Around a dozen riders arrived today with Dave Pipe making an appearance - nice to see you back  cycling  Dave, sorry I didn’t have time for a chat before we all left.

A route to Ellesmere was offered and  duly taken up by Tom, Ray and John W. My rationale for proposing and leading the ride being I could control the pace; but, as we headed out past Russia Hall to cross the A41 into Bruera, Ray went off like a bullet quickly followed byTom and John, so much for my strategy. We detoured through Aldford village to miss the main road and again at Farndon as road closures dictated another detour via a small lane past St Chad's church.

Heading out to Cross Lanes, we took the back road to Sutton Green which was quiet but very wet  which thankfully led to the  the pace easing slightly. Cross Lanes lead us into Bangor-on-Dee where we stopped for John to refill his water bottle and me to catch my breath.

A rather unusual topic of conversation (for CER’s) about mattress selection and testing preoccupied us as we head out towards Lightwood Green where we were met by another road closure sign. Decision time, do we detour or carry on regardless? We opted to carry on which proved to be a good choice as we easily skirted around the road workings that were  on the main road and not on our route. At Dudleston Heath we joined the B5068 for the final quick sprint on a lovely smooth road surface into Ellesmere.

The Red Lion was quiet, so food and drink were quickly ordered and consumed over a conversation about  varying ailments and bikes. Ray’s new Colnago is having its electronic gearing investigated by SRAM while his 2nd bike is waiting for a new wheel after an incident in Pulford. John’s new bike sounded like it was in pieces after it fell apart on an Audax and one of his Boardman bikes was having drive chain issues. Modern engineering at its best!!!! Fortunately there was not problem with the Pensioners Specials; 2 course’s for £7.50 and Lime and soda for £1.00, which topped up our fuel tanks.

Comfort break with a view
The return  journey was  easier as a  helpful tailwind  pushed us past Ellesmere Lake with it’s manmade island - this was later named Moscow Island as Napoleon was forced to retreat from Moscow that same year. Carrying on  through Breadon Heath and into Hamner, a comfort break  was taken at Tallarn Green allowing time for us to enjoy the views over to N Wales which were spectacular thanks to the clear skies.

The rest of the ride passed very quickly on a fairly standard route through Chorlton, Bickerton and Burwardsley where we all parted company and headed home. A total of 87 km  were  covered  in perfect cycling conditions, a good day out.

Thanks to Tom, John and Ray for your company and entertaining conversation. 


Monday, 14 August 2017

10th August 2017: Holt (mod)

Meadow Lea was the alternative meeting point for those not on the special, long ride.

Only one rider turned up--- David M, absent from the long ride due to a mild leg strain. Weather was good with a north breeze---this dictated a westerly ride down the Greenway followed by a quick turn south over the Saltney bridge at Blacon.

Wind now came in to play to blow me at good speed through the boring strech between Lavister and Holt.

A quick cuppa at Cleopatra's was followed by  riding home to Oscroft via Aldford and Waverton.  40 miles in total with no further damage done to dodgy leg.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

10th August 2017 : Special Long Ride to Longdon on Tern (brisk)

As I cycled the few miles from home to Waverton, I looked forward to a gentle albeit long meander following Stephen to Longdon on Tern. On arrival, I learned that I had been elevated to joint leader of a brisk (more like elite) group comprising John W, Andy B, Tom and Paul by reason of the fact that I had Steve H's original route on my Garmin. I won't attempt to describe the route as Clive has done an admirable job in his report of the moderates ride.

Before I could draw breath we were off, with John W leading the way at a “steady” 20mph, obviously taking it easy to allow us to comfortably complete 100 miles! Tom thought the pace might slow eventually but mused that if not we might arrive back at Waverton for lunch. After several miles, I proffered the suggestion that perhaps we make a full day of it! The pace dropped from super brisk to merely brisk which got us to our first stop at Sainsbury's in Whitchurch in no time at all. Bacon and eggs and drinks were consumed and as we set off again the Mods arrived. Paul spotted that I has a front flat which was my first puncture in years so it took a while and assistance from John W to get me rolling again. 

We sailed on without event to Longdon on Tern and the Tayleur Arms – a fine lunch destination. It's a cracking pub and for future reference the so called light bites were pretty substantial. Ordering and service was at the usual country pub pace and as we were scraping our plates the Moderates arrived. 
Proof positive of arrival
After about an hour we were off again, enjoying lovely lanes and glorious sunshine. This leg was a little hillier than advertised and, from Clive's report, I now realise it was the uphill run towards Marchamely that began to drain my legs of any power. Lacking his extensive knowledge of the area, we did not have the option of ducking The Hill and it was half way up that I decided I had no choice but to answer a call of nature! Of course no one believed that excuse for a minute, but the pace was adjusted for a few miles so that we arrived together for our third stop of the day at Sainsburys, Whitchurch. We must try Café Bon Sol next time!

Anyway we are soon motoring along familiar lanes only stopping at a railway crossing barrier (no idea where) and later at the raised canal swing bridge next to the Dusty Miller, Wrenbury. As I watch the barge sail serenely across out path I ponder the attractions of cruising at 3 mph from pub to pub. Chester Easy Cruising anyone? 

We'll wait awhile.
We arrive at Bunbury at 4:45 but Tillys are just closing so we call at the Co-op for water. John W introduces me to Frijj, a cold chocolate milkshake which is the official drink of the GB Athletic Team. It was heaven and had the effect of propelling me past Beeston Castle and up the hill after the Shady Oak with relative ease. Hardly surprising as a recent campaign against sweet drinks named Frijj as the 3rd worst offender containing 50 grammes of sugar in a 471 ml bottle. Who cares after 100 miles of cycling!

We arrive back at the start at about 5:40 where Andy B decides he needs to add a loop so as to complete 150 miles on arrival home in Mold! Paul, Tom, John and I settle for direct routes home and just under 120 miles completed, averaging 16 mph. Not bad I think, but next year don’t expect me to have the route on my Garmin!

If you wish to "re-live" the route then follow  https://www.relive.cc/view/1126937568


Friday, 11 August 2017

10th August 2017: Special Long Ride to Longden on Tern (mod)

A text from Our Beloved Leader at 0645 advised that he has touch of “Olympicitis” and wouldn’t be straying far from the smallest room, so would Steve T and I pick up the reins. We were all present and correct at 0750 in the Waverton carpark. The Two Johns would now lead out the Brisk group and meet us Moderates in Sainsbury’s Whitchurch cafe. So the Moderate peloton was Steve T, Keith, Dave H, George, Trevor, Mike G and myself. Jim was along for the ride to the cafe stop, and thence returning via the chippy in Waverton! The ride down country was unremarkable taking in Churton, Barton, Tilston, Chorlton, Malpas, Higher Wych and the enigmatic Agen. We arrived in Whitchurch at 1000 after 24 miles. The Briskers were just leaving!

Suitably refreshed with energy tanks refilled, we set off via a planned deviation to the published route. This brought us out in Ash Magna via Edgeley but back on route to Calverhall. There is then the long 4m lane to Market Drayton. Sliding through dubious architecture, we end up crossing the River Tern. The Tern rises near Baldwin’s Gate and flows into the Severn via the NT's Attingham Park near Wroxeter Roman City. The Tern Valley will feature on this next leg to Longdon on Tern.

Sutton Lane out of Market Drayton, skirts the curiously named Salisbury Hill and passes the Sutton upon Tern golf club. I espy a sign to Colehurst Manor (17C) and tempted by a narrow lane diversion, we ride lanes anew. Crossing the A41, we now run on an unauthorised routing yet parallel to the planned route joining up in Ollerton. Through Eaton upon Turn we cross the River Meese in the Tern valley at Great Bolas and slog up the incline, before running down to the “Tayleur Arms” at 1300 and 52 miles ridden. It was last October we were here, although this is  a “new” pub after the original one burnt down. A group of us first went here on a very wet ride in Nov 2011. There are some very interesting historical facts about the Tayleur on its website; it has links to Warrington Bank Quay. See http://www.tayleurarms.co.uk/history.html 

Photos by Mike G

The Briskers are just finishing their lunch as we order up. As we sit down they are getting ready to leave! Our meals come pretty quickly as we chat about the usual subjects. My iPhone needs a recharge but refuses to do so from my charger, so Trevor’s charger gives my phone a much needed boost; as we all need from our repast. All too soon it is time to leave knowing that there are 53 miles left to tick off. So a gentle climb back up the hill and a dive left and right finds us in tiny lanes heading north towards Muckleton. At last the sun is out as it had been a little reticent throughout the morning. The weather was perfect in that it was not too hot with a gentle breeze and sunshine.

We now follow NCR45 towards Marchamley and The Hill! The uphill run through the dappled lane to the base of The Hill is delightful — but better in reverse. A popular re-routing around The Hill towards Hodnet is approved as we now head out of Hodnet for Wollerton. Through Prees, I deviate again to miss out a section of the B road and we are soon out through Tilstock. Approaching Whitchurch, we pass a curious bike — a three-wheeled tandem with electric motor drive and two happy elderly cyclists.

The “Cafe Bon Sol” is a welcome sight as we tuck in to cakes sitting outside European-style. However, I know there is 28 miles to go as we exit Whitchurch via NCR45 to Wrenbury. I’ve given up looking at the route as the biles know their way back to Waverton via Bunbury et al. It is now 1900 and 105 miles have been ridden and the sun is still out. Mike and Trevor take the canal route back to Chester as the rest of us pack our bikes into our cars and a welcome sit down on soft seats. So 11 hours from when we started out, we have cycled for 8 hours and rested for 3 hours — no accidents or incidents, excellent countryside and company, only so sorry that Steve H couldn’t enjoy it today and thank you for the route.

See route map and/or gpx file download.


Friday, 4 August 2017

3rd August 2017: Burlton

Twelve riders set out from Cleopatra's in Holt: George, Steve Haywood, Steve Tan, Clive, Ray, Mold Andy, cheeky Andy, Tom, Keith, Trevor and Jim. It has become increasingly common, and sociably enjoyable, to go out on a united club run. Nevertheless, differences in pace will often mean that riding in two (or three?) separate groups continues in the future.

My route was intended to explore some lanes new to everyone. The weather was hard to judge, particularly in deciding what to wear. Dave and Liz would have had a wardrobe frenzy!  We headed for Tilston via Crewe-by-Farndon. From there we rode to Threapwood by way of Chorlton Lane. At Tallarn Green we cycled south-west to Drury Lane, and across to Whitewell, an unusual, but quiet and scenic route. It was soon time to ring either The Raven at Tilley, or The Burlton Arms to see if they wanted to cope with twelve old sweats in lycra. Clive thought that The Raven could get busy, and I agreed, so Burlton it was. Ray had to get back, so took his leave at Fenn's Heath. This was now prime Shropshire easy riding, wafting along in midsummer on well-surfaced roads meandering lazily through lush green countryside. Whixall, Waterloo and Wolverley were the way, and soon we were passing The Dickin Arms at Loppington. The staff at The Burlton Arms were friendly. The eating environment is attractive, and the food is consistently very good. It took a while to prepare, because we were such a large group, but this pub is certainly one of our favourites. We should have let the faster lads take off a few more miles out, in order to stagger the food preparation to everyone's advantage. On the other hand they would probably have got lost! 'Crossover Clive' would never get lost, but he was still under the impression that we were going to Tilley.

All things considered, a direct route home was favourite, although small, more rarely used lanes were still on the agenda. The weather after lunch wasn't as pleasant as forecast, but nobody got too damp. The route to Penley was through English Frankton, Lyneal, Welsh Hampton, Breadon Heath and Tarts Hill. Jim left us here for Malpas where he was cat-sitting. I may have been leading in theory, but at this point I had two groups of riders in front, and instead of taking time for a final map check, led a waiting group inadvertently south at the last junction before Penley. The next cross roads at Hampton Wood had signs left, right and centre, all to places we didn't want to go! We retraced our steps and eventually joined Clive and co., sheltering from a shower in Penley.

The rest of the route was a brisk, familiar ride north through Holly Bush, Worthenbury and Shocklach. Despite a semi-sprint by many over the last six miles or so, Lewis's were shut fifteen minutes early, or so I was led to believe, but I've just checked their website and they close at 16.30! We finished up at Cleopatra's at 4.52, and were accommodated by a friendly member of staff from the North-East, despite their official closing time being 5p.m. He earned a tip or two for his trouble.

It was good to have had Trevor and Jim properly on board again, and in great form. George was in notable good shape after his weeks away. I suspect some extra training miles have been going on, which bodes well for the moderate '100' next week. I think I'll pack a tow rope! 56 miles easy miles were covered in the usual agreeable company.                                                                       


See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday, 28 July 2017

27th July 2017: Barthomley

I arrived at Rose Farm to find Jim already there, and the others gradually drifted in: Andy B, Clive, Bryan W, David M, Mike G, Tom and Steve T. There was an air of depression as it started to rain and the weather forecast was discussed – heavy rain, hail, thunder and lightning, swarms of flies, plagues of frogs and locusts! The consequence was that only four riders persuaded themselves to venture out on a full CER ride: Mike G, Tom, Steve T and myself.

I decided on the White Lion at Barthomley, partly because it was the only destination on the CER list of favourite lunch spots that I’d never been to. Initially, due to the weather, we aimed to take the shortest possible route, but as we passed through Cotebrook and Wettenhall, the skies dried up, so we followed the road out to Church Minshull and onwards to Crewe. Leaving Church Minshull, Steve T had his first altercation with a motor car – he failed to appreciate your lane having priority over oncoming traffic does not apply if you are riding a bicycle!

We continued through Wheelock Heath, Alsager and Audley to arrive at the White Lion at one o’clock. It is full of character having been built in 1614, being Grade II listed and appearing in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors. The doorways are low, there is an exposed wattle wall and on display is a list of all the landlords since 1614 (see photo).

Clive had told us to try the steak pies, but alas by 1pm they had already sold out, along with some other dishes.   We consoled ourselves over a good sausage & mash and sandwiches, while the two ‘francophones’ of the group identified the outward journey as a typical "cedilla" route. (If you want to know what this means you can ask – but it’s really not worth the bother.)  We also looked forward to the CER Moderate Long Ride to Longden upon Tern on the 10th August and noted that there were still places available.

The return route took us through the middle of Nantwich and out past Rease Heath Agricultural College, heading towards Wettenhall.  On this road, Steve T again showed his ignorance of the Highway Code by failing instantly to ride into a ditch when a car behind honked his horn!  At Wettenhall we headed west to make for Tilly’s at Bunbury, and decided to enjoy the improved weather by sitting outside. We soon regretted out decision as our conversation was drowned out by the noise of a stone cutter being used for a patio opposite.

Photos by Mike G

From Tilly’s Tom and Mike headed back into Chester, while the two Steve’s made their way back to Rose Farm clocking up a total of 61 miles on a great day, and for me, very much a brisk ride.

See route map and/or gpx file download.


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