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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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Thursday, 22 December 2011

22nd December 2011: Northop

Hawarden Castle
Dec 22nd and one day after shortest day in deepest winter: 14C clear, sunny and dry – what is happening to our weather!  For the penultimate ride of the year, eleven of us assembled for the off at the Roodee (Dave & Liz P, Martin, George, Dave M, Dave B, Ray, Andy, Alan, Janet and myself). I had proposed a novelty “Five Castle tour”, a flat 41 miler, and so we set off over the Dee and out to Lavister via Eccleston. Taking the lane out past Burton Green we cycled ever upwards against a freshening wind to Caergwrle. 
St Peters, Northop
The first castle hid behind the woods on the hill overlooking Caergwrle. Built by Llewellyn’s brother in 1277, it was taken in 1282 without a fight by Edward I and renamed Hope Castle. Out round the back of the village into Stryt Isa, we spin towards Penyffordd. Just before the lane end, Alan picked up a puncture, which gave me time to book lunch at the Red Lion Northop. Off again, we took the lanes to Bilberry Wood and the fast run down to the second castle on the tour at Hawarden. The local Welsh prince, the one from Caergwrle castle, attacked the castle on Palm Sunday 1282. In familiar territory now we take the main drag to Ewloe and pause beside the road to look at the “Ewloe Castle This Way” sign pointing across the fields. Built in 1257 by Llewellyn, it is apparently the oldest surviving Welsh-designed and built castle in Wales.  

Flint Castle
By this time the smell of beer was in the nostrils as the pack headed for the Red Lion. Although the lime and soda was expensive at £1.80, the two course “two for a tenner” menu was very good. Fortified with chips and pudding, we grind up the old main road, over Wat’s Dyke, and take the first on the right to get us over the A55. Admittedly this lane had seen better days, but soon we were freewheeling down the Halkyn Road into Flint and towards the magnificent Flint Castle. Built by Edward I at a cost of £7,000 in 1277, this was similar to those later found at Rhuddlan, Conwy and Harlech i.e. all capable of being re-supplied by sea. A short diversion along the front found us reading about Charles Kingsley’s poetic prowess before taking the main drag back towards Connah’s Quay. Here, by the Eon power station is a very odd 29mph Franco-Welsh road sign. 

Photographs by Alan Jeffs and Clive Albany 

Dave B left us here as the rest of us took the back lane down Dock Road to access the cycleway to get over the Hawarden station stop railway bridge. Martin and Janet peeled off here, and the rest of us made our way back along the Dee. Dave M however took the greenway towards Oscroft. The Chester Big Wheel came into view as we completed an easy 41 miles. So with Chester Castle we had completed the “Five Castle” tour but in fact had only actually seen two castles; nonetheless a very satisfying “winter” cultural sojourn.

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