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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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Friday, 15 July 2016

14th July 2016 : Summer Long Ride to Harmer Hill (brisk)

Starting in 2009, there has been a CER tradition of a long (over 100 miles) mid-summer ride. The rides were: “Vets 100” (2009), Shrewsbury (2010), Stone (2011), Welshpool (2012), Eccleshall (2013), Tibberton (2014), Cheshire Cycleway (2015) and today’s ride to Harmer Hill. Harmer Hill currently has the record for the highest number of riders at 12 hardy souls. So the list was Ivan, Ray, Tom, John W, Steve T, Paul, Martin, Keith M, John M and his guest, Andy Mc, and myself. Just the other side of the Old Dee Bridge, we pick up Dave P who had had an alarm mis-function but was now ready to roll. We speed off just after 0800 in the cool morning onwards through Rossett where we pick up Ken.

Ready for the off and obeying local instructions

At Borras, Dave P decides that he should drop off; so onwards, circling Wrexham and Erddig, our Cyclist Dozen are now bound for Ruabon. The long run down and slog up the Dee Valley, finds us in Chirk at 0930 after 25 miles. The “Tea Rooms Bistro” were warned the day before that we were coming but, basically they were disappointingly unprepared and it took well over an hour to get breakfasted in and out. Admittedly they had contractors in, but a little disappointing. 

It has warmed up a little now as we rise through Weston Rhyn and down my favourite little lane to Oswestry’s Iron Age hill fort. Rounding Oswestry and via Middleton, we are soon out into Maesbury marsh territory. There are long traffic-free lanes here as we sidle through Maesbrook and new lanes to Melverley close to the Welsh border. This is Offa’s Dyke country beside the River Severn. Crossing the A5 at Montford Bridge, the leading riders get a little cocky with their Garmin routing and turn left, as the leader’s pack just cross the road and up the hill towards Forton Heath. I take a left, which is incorrect judging by the chorus behind, but carry on re-routing on the fly via Yeaton and Merrington. This adds no extra mileage except adding a long, easy hill.

The tiny lane out of Merrington elicits a phone call from Ivan who has missed our turn but is re-routing back onto the published route. Within minutes, we see his group pumping up the hill right in front of us, but now we have lost John W who has zoomed back to find Ivan! We are now just ten minutes from the "Bridgewater Arms" at Harmer Hill, where we all are grateful for a lunch stop after 60 miles. The tables are reserved, the beer is good, the staff attentive, the food comes quickly and we are in and out in just over the hour. Just as we are ready to go, Keith has a bike lock malfunction which is soon rectified using a pair of pliers, and a subsequent later visit to the bike shop for a replacement! 

The lock is removed!
It’s now sunny as we take the long lanes towards Loppington where I go marginally off piste again. The ride into Whitchurch is quicker than I anticipated (I estimated the distance wrongly) so we head out to the canal-side cafe at Grindley Brook. Ivan has a problem with his pedal cleats and a temporary fix is effected. Out onto the home stretch, we sidle either side of the A41 turning off in to No Man’s Heath and out into Ebnal Lane. Here Steve, having nowhere to go, runs into the back of a suddenly slowing John W resulting in serious problems with John's rear derailleur. None of this is known by the rest of the group who are waiting up the road. Ivan finds out that Ken is converting John’s bike into a fixie and they would make their own way back. The route now is via Tilston and Tattenhall and thence home. In Waverton, Ivan and Co zoom into view as a few of us had been taking it easy back into Chester.

We have had a glorious day’s riding with everyone broadly keeping together at over 15 mph average and 105+ miles and 4400 ft of climb. Yes, a few incidents, but importantly no accidents! This has been my fifth year leading the summer long ride, so maybe next year someone else might come forward…….?

See route map and/or gpx file download

PS: Many thanks to John W for being back marker and whipper in. I wonder how many we would still be looking for if he had diligently "carried out orders"!

Photographs by Clive Albany and Ivan Davenport

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