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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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Saturday, 8 May 2021

06 May 2021 : Broken Cross (brisk)

Today’s ride was hastily put together on Wednesday evening after a hectic day with my grandchild at the zoo, and changing the home boiler from oil to gas. My son-in-law did a fantastic job, so no complaints!

I was riding with John W as Clive away sailing. Instead of the meet at Delamere I chose car assist to Crewe and a ride starting from the King George 5th Sports Centre. John and I set out via Bradfield Road to Maw Green and then out to Winterley. The usual undulating road to Malins Bank and Small Wood then takes us towards Brereton. Normally, we would continue along Holmes Chapel Road, but today we’re heading towards Macclesfield with a new riding lane taking us to Swettenham village.

A lot of new road works in advance stages have taken place on my Garmin route and we have to navigate a new roundabout and pick up the route before being confronted with signs advising all access blocked. Not to be put off by signs, we head for the large contingent of yellow earth movers and cranes and John very politely asks if we can progress along the road. Astonishingly, the gentleman worker clad in very orange overalls and safety helmet says “Yes, but watch out for the moving diggers”.

We continued through the site and met a group of cyclists approaching in the opposite direction and John advised them also to beware of big tractors on the move. We enjoy a short 15% descent before having to engage with a 15%+ ascent to get out of this valley. We continue through a pleasant area called Giants Wood Lane covered in white daffodils and bluebells. No photo unfortunately, but wish I had now! Crossing over the A34, it is now a 6 mile climb 5% average to Broken Cross.

Broken Cross, according to Wikipedia, has been a village for over a thousand years. It does not have a cross but has always been a busy crossing place. Also noted is nearby Henbury Woods which we passed through, as it was the first location where the grey squirrel was introduced!! 

Lunch stop was at the “Heavenly Sandwich Bar” and we enjoyed our snack in a sunny bus shelter. As we’d finished lunch, it started to feel chilly so we got our bikes and continued towards Alderley Edge. Within minutes we were sheltering under a luckily large beech tree in full leaf as snow and hail blasted down. It only lasted long enough for John to put on another jacket and we set off again.

Heading along the B5807, this must rank as one of the worst roads in Cheshire. We are going to be heading down the “Wizard Hill” and I advised John that I’ll be taking it slowly. Arriving safely at the bottom and navigating our way through the town and the required Chelsea tractor brigade, we head for Peover and Swan Green.

Now back on customary route we’re into Davenham. It’s a left turn along London Rd and Bostock Green which makes a change from Hartford direction. It’s never pleasant riding in Winsford, but we have to and it's the usual ride down hill and the gruelling up hill. At Glebe Green, we follow the B1074 which runs into Church Minshull. Turning left and head towards the Middlewich Road, then it's Warmingham Lane and into Bradfield Road and thence Crewe.

A good ride today. Apologies for not starting at Delamere and to my other fellow brisk riders, but it was a last minute decision to change to car assist. 63 miles covered and a 16mph average. We endured a head wind for much of the return route. The weather as usual making our trip something to wonder and talk about 

See route map and/or gpx file download

ID

Thursday, 6 May 2021

6th May 2021: Goostrey (mod)

As we were standing outside Delamere Station Café (officially “Delamere Station House”) listening to Dave H telling us the weather forecast was fine except for showers in the afternoon, some of us looked up at the angry dark clouds building up behind him.  It started to rain as the riders set off.  Steve T and I had both planned a route to Goostrey, and so between us we led George, Mike G, Andy and Steve Hu.

We rode out through Acton Bridge and into Comberbach. By now the rain had stopped. Here we avoided the busy and potholed road to Great Budworth by heading NE and then joining the road to Pickmere. Crossing the A556 and heading into Lower Peover, Mike suggested we stop at the “Tree of Imagination” which was created over 5 years ago and is well worth a look and a photo or two.





The Tree of Imagination

Next was a section of small very rough lanes where we met a road mending crew – they had an impossible job if they were going to try a mend all these surfaces. Crossing the A50 heading for Goostrey, we turned the corner at Boots Green, noting that the lane going straight ahead could provide an alternative way into Goostrey but would need exploring on a dry day as it peters out into a track.

In Goostrey we headed for one of the two pubs. Prior investigation suggested they might be open.  However, we found The Crown did not open till 3pm, although the Red Lion was open! Or rather it had an open door. Steve T walked in, wandered around, shouted out, but no-one was there.  

Killing time outside the pub

Our alternative was to stop at the Trading Post for coffee and sandwiches. This didn’t go to plan either. George and I headed for the Trading Post, but lost the rest of the group.  They had been seduced into visiting another stop in the parade of shops – Pastimes.  I think this is a fairly new establishment and provided them with good homemade fare.  This is a café and has some very good reviews on the web.  Although the rain had stopped sitting outside in the cold did not encourage a long stay at either establishment, and soon we were on our way again.  My knee was playing up so we took a slower route back. 

It was on our return that the weather worsened, the wind picked up, the temperature dropped and it started to hail. We took the ‘B’ road into Lack Dennis and then into Davenham. Steve T led us into Hartford and crossing the A49 on to the climb up Norley Bank, through Norley and on to Hatchmere. Here, we parted ways, with the rain and hail still falling.

We covered 42 miles on an enjoyable ride despite the afternoon weather. 

See route map and/or gpx file download

SH (Photos by Mike G)

Friday, 30 April 2021

29th April 2021 : Montford Bridge (brisk)

Ivan and John W had been out to the Welsh hills only recently, where the last 25 miles mainly consisted of most of the 6000ft of total climb. So I was surprised to see Ivan’s suggestion for today’s ride out of Chirk. The route was a modest 53 miles with 3000 ft of climb but crucially there was the 12% section over a third of mile up to Selattyn, and the 14% climb over a similar distance at Llanyblodwel. I had indicated to Ivan that "a nice flat route to Shrewsbury would be appreciated today" and this is what I got! So I was in two minds that I might have to detour these hills on the fly. 

So we set off to Weston Rhyn to climb the oddly named Station Road into the centre of Selattyn. So far so good. The downhill run onto Oswestry was restful as was the exit to Trefonen via a 8% climb to the B4396 towards Llanyblodwel. This surprisingly English village sits in the lovely valley of the Tanat River. There are timber-framed cottages and a pub. The church is stunning and we stop to photograph and admire its octagonal based spire which is topped out in curved stonework. 

It is Grade I listed so see here for more info. 





The only way out unfortunately is up and over the hillside. This means a double chevronned initial ascent followed by a longer single chevronned section. I decided that the valley was better viewed at a walking pace! In Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain, I recognise the left turn towards Four Crosses. No major hills now Ivan assures me. 

The view in front  of us as we head for Crew Green is dominated by Breidden Hill (366m) and the tower on the top is known as "Rodney’s Pillar”. See here for more info.

Wikipedia Attributed: Dave Croker 2010

Back across the River Severn, we are bound for Shrawardine via Nesscliffe Training Camp. Here, Ivan relying on his Garmin routing, takes down a scruffy lane that ends up in half a mile of the Shropshire Way.  We were lucky the weather had been dry for a while, otherwise the mud would have been horrendous. BTW - I have used a perfectly good lane to avoid this in the past!

Montford Bridge comes up at 32 miles as we ride over the A5 and then a long a short section of it to access the picnic and rest area where there is a well-established truckers and bikers cafe with loads of outside space. We sit under cover by a radiant heat lamp where the helpful sign urges customers to "use the ashrays when the floor is full”. The food is plentiful and very much needed after the cold of the Welsh hills.

The route back is a near straight track NE through glorious Shropshire countryside down long lanes. No time to stop in Rutyon-XI-Towns as Ivan and John shelter me frorm the northerly winds as we hit Queen's Head. There is then the long drag towards Babbinswood and Whittington before hitting Gobowen. Ivan heads right round the roundabout as I shout out “Turn Left” - which is the way indicated as his route. Ivan and John catch me up as Ivan explained he wanted to go to St Martins. I said that was definitely out as it was an unnecessary “up”.

We are back in Chirk a little after three o’clock and decide to head homewards towards Chester only to enjoy a massive traffic jam on the outskirts of Chester due to an accident on the A55 by-pass. Nonetheless, I survived the day and rather pleased I persevered with the ride. So thank you Ivan for the route and John for the wind sheltering throughout the day, and all at a surprising 15mph average.

See route map and/or gpx file download

CA

Photos CA and JW

29th April 2021:Nesscliffe (mod)

 A dozen riders turned up at the Castle Bistro in Chirk, a good showing for this venue some distance from Chester. Dave M had come only for coffee and was riding home, but the rest made up the brisk and two moderate rides of the day. Steve Haywood had come armed with a ride to the Burlton Arms at Burlton and I had dug out a ride down to Ye Old Three Pigeons at Nesscliffe. After some discussion, Steve went off with Dave H, Steve Hu, Alan and Peter, leaving Mike G and Andy with me for the ride to Nesscliffe.

We took the standard route out of Chirk to the A5 roundabout and then took the lane down to Hindford, passing the holiday cottages at Henlle Park. As Steve Haywood has also reported, the lanes between Hindford and Welsh Frankton were pretty rough, but after such a long dry spell, we were challenged by potholes, hard mudbanks and deep gravel rather than by puddles and deep, wet mud. I’m not sure which is worse.

Soon we were whizzing down the lane from Lower Frankton, over the Montgomery Canal and into Hordley and Bagley. The smooth and quiet lanes of Shropshire were a delight as we made our way through Weston Lullingfield and Baschurch, arriving at Nesscliffe soon after mid-day.

Ye Old Three Pigeons was well set up for dining outside with plenty of tables on the patio and a covered area in the garden where a group of young mothers were celebrating someone’s 32nd birthday. Can any of our members remember our 32nd?

Lunch was preceded by drinks, with Mike and Steve indulging in Three Tuns, our first taste of hand-pulled beer in over a year - delicious. Lunchtime conversation turned medical and it seems that all three of us are ‘pixies’ – those taking apixiban anti-coagulant medication – as a result of clots or potential clots.


Photos by Mike


As we set off back, Mike volunteered to adapt the homeward route to go a bit further west before heading north into the wind, so we headed to Melverley, via Wilcott and Pentre. The intention was to visit St. Peter’s, the ancient timber framed church which sits right next to the River Vyrnwy. Unfortunately, there was a funeral in progress when we arrived, so we had to give it a miss. Next time, perhaps.

The route back took us along some beautiful and quiet lanes running close to the Vrynwy, before re-joining my originally planned route just south of Ball. After passing the industrial estate south of Oswestry, we threaded our way through housing estates, emerging on the north side of the town on cycle route 455 near the Old Oswestry fort.

By now it was turning chilly and rain was threatening. Fortunately, it held off until we were dropping down from Weston Rhyn into Pontfaen, so we had only the short climb up to Chirk to put up with it.

A very pleasant 46 mile ride on a bright if chilly day. Thanks to Mike for leading on the return leg and to Andy and Mike for their company and support.

ST

Thursday, 29 April 2021

29th April 2021: Burlton (mod)

 Chirk was the start point for today’s meet. In the rear courtyard of the Castle Bistro gathered several CER members. There was a brisk group, and two moderate groups to be led by Steve T and myself, plus David M who had arrived by train and was planning to ride back home.  I had prepared a route to the Burlton Arms at Burlton (coincidentally Dave had planned for the same destination), and my group comprised Dave H, Steve Hu, Alan and Peter. The forecast was cool, cloudy with sunny spells and northerly wind and some chance of showers.

We set off following the main road to the A5 roundabout, and then on into St Martins, where seeking respite from a pot-holed and busy main road, we broke away onto the lanes.  At Perthy we crossed the main Oswestry-Ellesmere road and continued past White Mere and Colemere to Northwood. Here we headed south past Horton and Loppington to Burlton on generally good surfaces where we made good progress.

With 24 miles covered, we were the first customers to arrive at the Burlton Arms, and only customers until a couple turned up later.  We settled in the garden and ordered our food.  The landlady said they’d been fairly busy since reopening with the good weather.  However, there was no real ale because Robinson’s had underestimated demand after the lockdown!  Conversation was rambling as usual, including a long discussion between Dave H and Steve Hu about places in Lancashire, which meant little to me, though my ears perked up when Steve said he’d been “served with an afternoon tea on a garden bench made out of lollipop sticks” – it appeared that it was the afternoon tea on the bench, not Steve.

We hadn’t been too cold sitting down, though it was good to start moving again and warm up.  Our return took us through Marton and north through Lower Hordley. We took a minor lane to Lower Frankton and crossed possibly the steepest hump-backed bridge in the country, made more challenging by some hidden potholes. After Welsh Frankton we took the lane to Hindford. Always a rough lane, this had got worse with potholes, gravel and mudbanks – definitely ‘Clive-esque’, and it would be much worse in the wet.  Saying which, we were then hit by a rain and sleet shower as we took the lanes to the NW of Gobowen.  Arriving back at the A5 roundabout, I decided to diverge from the planned climb back into Chirk on the B5070, and instead make for Western Rhyn and then drop into the Ceriog Valley for the much more pleasant entry into Chirk.

Photo by Alan

Forty-four miles completed, Dave H and I stopped for a drink back at the Bistro where we met Steve T, Andy and Mike back from their ride. A good day for all.

See route map and/or gpx file download

SH

Sunday, 25 April 2021

22nd April 2021: Ellesmere (brisk)

 The sunny weather certainly brought a big CER crowd out to Lewis’s in Farndon, and it was good to see Ken out. While the moderates had the tricky job of divvying up the numbers, the brisk group was a straightforward team of John W and myself. For the sake of quickly deciding a route I offered my 56 mile round trip to Ellesmere. As there was initially no route to actually follow (the route was based on a start/finish in Tilston), we set off through Holt and down to Cross Lanes, and of course missed the left turn to Bangor on Dee, resulted in an extra few miles. From then on the ‘usual’ route was followed to Overton, but before arriving at  St. Martins, we turned left onto quieter roads. Instead of taking the B5068 directly to Ellesmere, we crossed to cycle some lovely lanes to the south, eventually heading on to Ellesmere itself.

Against John’s advice favouring the Texaco garage, we headed to the lakeside café for lunch. As this was only doing menu-based meals and the kiosk not serving very much at all, we back-tracked to the garage for a welcome sausage roll.


Leaving Ellesmere to the east, we passed a strung out group of cyclists – one of the moderate groups! We then headed around the Fenns, Whixall mosses on excellent roads to Bronington. Leaving here towards Hanmer, the road was truly awful, deep gravel, and probably unpassable in winter (thought I’m sure Clive would give it a go!)

Hanmer in the sun proved a nice stop for an ice cream while we watched a couple of open water swimmers freeze in the lake. From there, it was a well-ridden route northwards towards Threapwood and then on to Tilston, completing a 54 mile route, where I left John to go onto 80 or so miles.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Friday, 23 April 2021

22nd April 2021: Ellesmere (mod)

Gorgeous, but chilly start and the venue was Lewis’s cafe. A quick head count revealed 20! This included a new face, to me at least and, it appeared, was a genuine ‘L’Eroica’ cyclist, complete with handlebar moustache (very dapper indeed). With so many, I think we split into 4 groups, with a few going off doing their own thing as usual. I had a backup route to the Boathouse cafe at Ellesmere, which opened on the 15th, so something a little different, especially as I had modified my existing route with a few stunningly smooth new lanes, much to Fiona’s delight- Lol. As usual, it took a while to actually get the groups sorted. It was reminiscent of the school playground and the captains of the day, picking their football teams in turn - Lol, which left me with a right rum lot (just kidding- Lol)

Off we trot (Fiona, Elwyn, Steve T, Andy, Mike & yours truly, so only 2 women in the group- Lol). We set off at a nice steady pace, although it felt a bit tough at times, on the front. There was a light headwind, virtually all the way to the Boathouse. The route out inevitably meant finding a way around the infamous Hanmer lanes and was well received, up until that point, as the more colourful lanes came into focus- Lol.

At least there were a few smiles on arrival at the Boathouse, as we waved goodbye to John & Nick, just leaving. Mike had not been to the Boathouse before, so he found it interestingly different & a tick for me- Lol. We settled into the rear garden benches, only to find the Boathouse was fully booked and only the kiosk available for take away. This meant a limited choice on food, but we all managed to get something and of course a stunning lakeside view.

A good mix of conversation ensued, which included Andy’s realisation of a larger water bottle, after spotting my 900ml bidon, which he proceeded to try on his bike (where has he been all these years- Lol). It turns out, you just can’t please everybody, despite me slaving all night over the route and lunch stop- Lol. Not to mention any names, but one of the disgruntled was female and the other one lives with her-Lol.

Photo by Elwyn

The return leg was short and fast at times, with a nice tailwind, although there were a few very short steep bits. One of which was particularly tough, due to us all being in the wrong gear when we rounded the corner, only to spot a horse up ahead. Momentum suddenly lost, there was nothing to do but grind the wrong gear, out of the saddle. Mike had to turn around and head back down to get his gears sorted- Oops. I was pushing so hard and nearly stationary, that I thought I was going to snap the chain. Of course, I got the blame for that as well, having only just dried my tearful eyes from the earlier abuse; “that was more like a sea bed, not a road” was one of the comments shouted from behind, after leading the group through what I like to think was a more authentic Cycling lane - Lol.

Anyway, the little kickers now behind us and no sooner than wink, Shocklach was upon us and the traditional wind up to the finish, accept I was sabotaged, having been moaned at for the pace. Traditionally it is every man/ woman for themselves. However, I considerately slowed down and got jumped, can you believe and left behind (despicable trick- Lol).

All joking apart, it was a gorgeous day, with great company. And for the first time, all of the group arrived back at the start for a final coffee, after 41 colourful miles- Lol. The surprise was the total ascent of nearly 700mtrs, no wonder I felt a bit tired riding home. I thought this was a flat-ish ride originally, so nice one everybody, especially Mike, as he has a lot less miles in his legs than most of us in the group.

See route map and/or gpx file download

NT

22nd April 2021: Whitchurch: ride 2 (mod)

It lifted the spirits to see such a big turnout at Lewis's. Jim was riding out with a mutual friend, and Dave Matthews had made the effort, but like Electric Peter they were not out for the day. It was great to see Ken in such good fettle, but he still needs to avoid group rides for the present. It was heartening to see so many of the Welsh contingent. It was not possible to catch up with everyone, whilst trying to sort out who would like to go where, but this should be possible in the weeks ahead. I totally overlooked the eccentric figure in vintage cycling gear with a waxed moustache. I had clocked him, but presumed that he was the owner of the shop opposite. He then introduced himself as our old mucker Runcorn Roy. It turns out that he has a garage full of vintage bikes, and his choice for the day was a cool Carlton with Weinman centre-pull brakes and period Michelin tyres. He has successfully entered events on this machine.


Photo by Alan

Our moderate group for my meandering route to Whitchurch, constituted jolly Steve Hughes, Vintage Roy, Alan and myself. They were warned that the pace would be slow, but were very relaxed about this. Alan was having some breathing issues diagnosed, so was particularly happy to have a truly easy ride.

We headed for Crewe-by-Farndon before turning left towards Tilston. At Tilston we headed east for Duckington before climbing the lovely, little lane on the side of Larkton and Bickerton hills. Next up was Cholmondeley Castle, and on to Wrenbury via Chorley Bank. The sky was blue and the sun was bright. It was a fine day to be cruising through the Cheshire countryside. Our route then followed the national cycle route 45 on its quiet, undulating course past Oss Mere, Black Park and Blake Mere into Whitchurch.

Lunch was taken outside at the back of the White Bear, after we had obtained decent sandwiches from Walker's across the road on the advice of two friendly young women, also having a drink, who worked for MacDonald's. Steve Haywood's group were then sighted on the pavement eating, thirty yards up the hill. They seemed quite happy tucking in, warmed by the sunshine. Our conversation at lunch covered Steve and Roy's interesting description of great routes in north-east Scotland. I didn't have a note pad, but one of the routes they had tackled was, I think, The North Coast 500.  Steve had been on a motorbike. Alan was talking about promising young British riders, and also about the recent amazing four stage wins of Mark Cavendish in The Tour of Turkey. Perhaps I need to subscribe to Eurosport, as I can't usually access any cycle racing that is programmed on my television.   

Our route back climbed out of Whitchurch up to Wirswall, and the smashing view across the plain in the direction of the Peckforton Hills. Roy told us a tale, although once again, I am not sure that I am up to the Boris standard of forensic recall. Roy had accompanied a female cyclist as far as Shrewsbury before deciding that he had better return to Runcorn. His journey back had taken him past the cemetery on the road we had started out on from Whitchurch. For some reason, I can't recall, e.g., he had given all his money to this woman for personal services, or perhaps all the pubs had closed, he finished up using the cemetery tap to fill his water bottle! 

We headed for Malpas after swooping down to cross the Llangollen Canal near Marbury and riding across theA49 to Bickley Town and on to No Man's Heath. Avoiding the centre of Malpas we dropped down to the Bishop Bennet Way. Here, we dropped in briefly to my favourite Renaultsport specialist, Birchdown Autos at Peacock Farm. The little lanes north of here were really cushy as we drifted down to Shocklach with the sunlit Welsh hills to our west. I put the pedal to the metal on the straight fast run to Farndon. Pedal to the metal as in a Morris Eight, rather than as in a Noble M600. It was quite chivalrous of my companions not to sweep by, but of course, Alan was having to take it carefully. Talking about being considerate, Steve is the perfect support rider for bumbling about and exploring less obvious routes, as he always knows exactly where we are, and is available with discreet prompts. What he doesn't do, is interfere, question your sanity, tell you that he has a far better alternative, and offer unwanted advice, which experienced riders can't always resist giving at times. I know I have been guilty of this on someone else's ride occasionally. 

Steve Tan was waiting at Lewis's so some of us had a coffee and chat before heading home. I felt guilty about not offering Roy a lift home, particularly as a couple of past rescues in his Big Van in atrocious conditions will live in my memory for ever. I know, however, that without my carrier, three whole bikes and three passengers in my Berlingo requires a great deal of rehearsal, and plenty of extra straps, and that's without mudguards. I was also worried about damaging his special steed. Of course, if conditions had been bad, it would have been done with six wheels off. I hope his missus managed to get across from M&S to save him the long ride home. Interestingly, Steve Hughes told me that cyclists had been fined £120 by police around Holt for breaking Welsh rules, so I am glad that I rang Helen and gave Cleopatra's a miss, hopefully for the last time.

Forty idyllic miles in excellent company, and in great cycling weather.

DH

22nd April 2021: Whitchurch: ride 1 (mod)

 A good number of members turned up at Lewis’s of Farndon, well over 20 was the guess. Lewis’s was chosen because Covid restrictions in Wales had ruled out Cleopatra’s, the scheduled venue for the day, though Lewis’s gave us a very good welcome. Sun was forecast for the whole day, but unfortunately the seats at the front in the sun were already taken, so we gathered at the side. Among the members here was Ken, who we were all pleased to see out again, though he was cycling back home.

Confusion initially reigned over who was going with whom to which destination, though in good CER fashion, eventually three mod routes emerged led by Neil, Dave H and myself.  There was scope for further confusion as both Dave and I were headed to Whitchurch. I led off with George, Mike G and David M. We first headed south for Shocklach and then Cuddington Green to approach Malpas from the west. It was a pleasure to join a virtually traffic-free B5069 as the road was still closed to traffic by St Oswald’s in the town – the second time in two meets I had led along this stretch.  In the town we had our first stop for delayering:  despite the sun, it was a cold start and we had a slight headwind, so extra layers had been initially worn.

We left Malpas and took the road to Higher Wych, then turning by Iscoyd Park to pass by Whitewell Church and the only stretch of really rough road on the route (it wouldn’t be a proper CER ride without some bad surfaces). Somewhere along this section I had the rare sight of a hare crossing in front of me.  The days where there was ‘a hare in every field’ are long gone. Crossing two A roads, we passed Alkinton Hall and headed into Whitchurch.

Now I remember Dave H saying that he had phoned the White Bear in Whitchurch to check it was open and I remember him saying there was an outdoor terrace at the back.  I therefore headed to a pub I remembered had a terrace.  This turned out to be The Wheatsheaf, which was closed.  Consulting locals, we were told of several possible pubs. We tried the White Bear, which indeed was open, but not selling food.  The Black Bear, an old favourite was not due to open until May 17th.  Someone had suggested the Horse and Jockey, said to be “close”, but actually out by Grindley Brook.  We concluded that a pub was out, but there were plentiful cafés to sample. Food and drink having been purchased we settled on the steps outside the Civic Centre in the sunshine. While here, we saw Dave H’s party arrive, but they went their separate ways.  Before heading off, more delaying took place, and bare legs were seen.


Photos by Mike G

From Whitchurch, we took a traditional CER exit, travelling the wrong way up Claypit Street, then on to Wirswall. I notice that we pass a house called "Witts End". At Wicksted Hall we paused to take in the wonderful view over Marbury’s St Michael’s and Big Mere. We crossed the A49 at Bickley and took the road up to Cholmondley Castle, where David M left us, and then on to Hampton Post (and a final shedding of clothing). Most of the return was very pleasant with the sun and the wind behind us, and from here it speeded up as we passed though Duckington and Tilston.  Finally, Wetreins Lane took us back to Farndon and Lewis’s.  Here waiting for us were Neil’s party, and, a pleasant surprise, Dave and Liz Pipe with their tandem.

Only 37 miles travelled, though on a really good ride with excellent company and conditions.

See route map and/or gpx file download

SH

Friday, 16 April 2021

15th April 2021: Coddington (mod)

At last! Some semblance of normality today, with more cafe’s & pubs open, if only outside service. However and more importantly, the Welsh mob were finally allowed to join the English Mob (relaxed pandemic rules). Meadow Lea was the venue & a quick head count, as I tried to get my group together, revealed 18 all told and there wasn’t the usual fast crowd, although Clive was there. Anyway, after some confusion on departure, we finally get 3 groups in order, as Jim & his good lady were doing their own thing, which prompted Dave M to realise he wanted to do his own thing as well, which we later discovered, was to go back home, as we road past him on his driveway, 30 mins later - Lol. 

So, Clive led off with the fastest group.

Steve H led off with George and Peter. 

While I lead off with the remaining 5, which included our ‘senior man’- Dave H (minus his paper Garmin - Lol), Mike & the Welsh contingent, Elwyn & Fiona (to be fair, they only live 200mtrs over the boarder, but rules are rules-Lol.


We were heading for Manor Wood, lakeside cafe (roughly 42 mile round trip with 500-ish mtrs of assent- so flat, although Dave didn’t think so- Lol). We set off to the North, unfortunately on to the A56 for a mile, to get around the myriad of brooks & streams to the east of Meadow Lea (no other choice to be fair). Fiona & I decide we need to warm up, so I tapp out a pace until the right turn for Great Barrow and on to a good stretch of smooth B road. I then lead the group on a slight detour and get us into a few lovely lanes, in order to point out the fabulous Blue Bell cafe to our senior man (the best cakes in the land and lovely food in general, popular with the “blue rinse” brigade and “wives that lunch”). The detour also allows us to get across to Oscroft, where we say hello to Dave again- Lol.


Still finding it a little chilly we head on past Okells, which provided a point of ref for Mike, who now knew where he was, although apparently Okells is a tricky place to find, according to Dave. This made me chuckle, as Okells sits right on the mighty A51, can’t miss it (probably owns a car without sat nav- Lol). At this point I take a few lanes I don’t usual ride, but the roads were so good thus far, I thought we better throw a few rough ones in for Dave’s benefit. This also allowed us to ride past my favourite pond, with it’s resident black swans. We push on past the 50p shop and on towards Beeston and the section of the route with a few light hills. This allowed Elwyn to stretch his legs and show us all how to do it with ease, for those who were still close enough to see him - Lol.


We take the easier route, around Harthill toward Duckington, down Brown Knowl and right, onto a cracking lane to Tilston (now a favourite of Fiona’s it seems, as I catch her up, knee out, enjoying a couple of quick switchbacks -Lol). It was shortly after, much to Elwyn’s delight, that I get discovered watering a shrub (What a lovely lady, not sure what she was laughing at though). Only a mile or two later, I get a cramp in the groin, luckily we were close to the cafe.


We arrive at Manor Wood and proceed to soak up the sun for an hour, which was lovely and gave me time to stretch out my cramp. Some interesting conversations ensued, especially the one about what could possibly be the missing ingredient in the cancelled the x3 Welsh Rarebits ordered. Dave proceeded to asked the young girl “ how can you run out of cheese in a cafe” to which she said “oh, we have cheese” - no bread then? - butter? Can’t remember who guessed it, but it was of course Worcester Sauce. Anyway a great cafe stop apart from the inexplicable; ‘let’s have a go at Tanner’. Totally uncalled for, something you’ll never see me doing, so unfair; it’s definitely WaVerrrrrrton by the way- Lol.


Anyway, at this point I decide I shouldn’t ride back to Meadow Lea, as it would mean at least another 20 miles back home and my groin was not feeling good, despite the stretching. Fiona and Elwyn head off home to Lavister and I ride to the other side of Tattenhall, in order to  make sure Dave and Mike are on the right road to Waverton, before turning back home myself. I had exactly 50 miles on the clock, once home and a fraction under 500 mtrs assent.


What a gloriously sunny day, if a bit chilly at the start. Good day out, enjoyed the company and again sorry to Dave and Mike for having to bail on the finish & hope you guy’s made it back ok.


NT


Thursday, 15 April 2021

15th April 2021: Malpas (mod)

A crowd of CER riders milled around outside Meadow Lea café, and for the first time this year, we were able to welcome our Welsh contingent.  Fourteen of us were out for a club ride and our supremo dictated that this meant three separate rides.  I volunteered to lead a group out to Malpas, though with no clear idea of where we would stop for lunch.  I was joined by George and Peter.

We set off in bright sunshine though with a cold air temperature, through Waverton, then Greenlooms to arrive in Tattenhall. From here there was an opportunity to take Holywell Lane to Clutton without its usual winter-months flooded and muddy stretch. On to Tilston and then into Malpas by the back way though Chorlton and the Wrexham Road. Church Street was closed to vehicles, so we climbed uninterruptedly up the hill and on to The Cross.

We passed the Fire Station Café which didn’t have any tables, which was just as well because we ended up at the Snack Shack on the corner of High Street and Chester Road. Here we settled around a small outside table and enjoyed reasonably priced and tasty food as we basked in the sunshine. Well worth remembering this place.

The return route took us north up to the top of High Street and then down the long descent along the old Roman road. This is a great way to leave the town swooping downhill, though unfortunately speed needs to be controlled to avoid some bad surfaces. We went through Tilston again and on to Stretton, where we turned off down Wetreins Lane. 

From here it was into Farndon where Peter departed for a more direct journey to his home via Holt. George and I carried on to Churton and then across the bridge at Aldford, where workmen continue to repair the parapets swept away by floodwater earlier this year. We rode through Bruera and Saighton until we reached Waverton where we reversed our outward journey to Mickle Trafford.

We were back at Meadow Lea quite early by 2:30pm, partly a reflection of how quickly our lunch was served.  The day had warmed up and with very little wind it had been perfect cycling weather. The whole route was just under 40 miles, slightly more on the outward leg. 

See route map and/or gpx file download

SH


15th April 2021 : Whatcroft (mod)

It was great to see half the club’s membership at the newly extended Meadow Lea Cafe. The cafe was very busy which was also good to see. The usual Brisk contingent was missing today for various and nefarious reasons, so I was pleased not to end up as Billy No Mates for my moderate ride proposal to Whatcroft. Steve H and Alan joined Steve T and Andy B for a 50 miler  to the River Farm Organics cafe just outside of Davenham.

We five set off bound for Delamere Forest via the usual route towards Manley and Mouldsworth. Although chilly, it was exhilarating being out in the bright sunshine in the greening countryside. As we wheel around the back of Mouldsworth, Alan is not feeling at his best, thus he decides to make his own ride with Steve H as support. We hope he was OK. 

Delamere Forest is strangely quiet as we meander through towards Norley. Up and down around Pinfold Hollows now finds us at the A49 north of Cuddington onwards towards Weaverham. The road out here is through acres of new housing as we approach Winnington and the Tata Chemical Europe works. Over the Weaver river and canal, there is a short sharp hill to attack alongside Anderton Boat Lift before rolling down to Marbury Country Park. Again the park is quiet - I suppose everyone is now shopping!

We run the full length of the park rather than cutting through it to Wincham and then “enjoy” the Wincham Industrial  Estate and Business Park before turning to Lostock Graham. Crossing the busy A556 and passing through Lostock Green,  we are not far now from Lach Dennis and Riverside Organics farm cafe at the Whatcroft lane turn. It is very busy but has a lot of outside space available. So we sit and wait for our filled panini and coffee setting the world to rights as per usual, and, as per usual the cafe does not disappoint.

As we head off to Davenham  Steve decides to cut for home via Hartford as he had cycled out to Meadow Lea from Runcorn today. Andy and I head towards Moulton and the recently “improved “ rough track down to Meadowbank. We now meander along the Whitegate Way which again was quiet. At Cotebrook, I offer a route up onto the hill above Willington. This is as a change from the usual route around to Rose Farm, and, I know that Andy just "loves hills". Bowling along the top, there is the wide expanse of the Cheshire Plain before us. We now head off down the steep descent of Chapel Lane and thence the fast run to Oscroft.

I offer Andy a more direct route back towards Christleton via Platts Lane and Hockenhull Platts and the “Roman Bridges". It is only really passable on a bike in dry weather and the bridges are not Roman but medieval.

Wiki tells us “ Platts Lane originally formed part of the medieval road from London to Holyhead.[7] In 1353 when  Edward, the Black Prince, crossed the bridges, he ordered that 20 shillings should be spent on their repair.[8] In the 17th century the surface of the road was disintegrating so badly that posts were set into the road to prevent the passage of carts, and it could be used only by pedestrians and horses

At Christleton, Andy heads for the hills of Mold and I also head for home. The route around is 50 miles but I have over 60 today. My thanks to Andy and Steve for sticking with me, and I hope that Alan got home OK.

See route map and/or gpx file download

CA

Thursday, 8 April 2021

8th April 2021: Ironbridge and Shifnal Special (brisk)

I was out with Ivan on Tuesday battling the strong NW winds when riding around Wirral. I mentioned that the original Rides Calendar for 2021 had today’s ride down as a Special Ride. Neither of us fancied another Wirral ride, so I suggested an out-of-area Brisk ride starting from Newport, Shropshire. Ivan was keen on this and produced a superb 62 mile circular route taking in new countryside and a re-visit to Ironbridge and a lunch stop in Shifnal. 

This found six of us ready for the off at 0945 in the Mere Garden Centre carpark, which is just off the A41 Newport Bypass. Ivan was leading John M, John W, Nick, Ray and myself down lanes anew as we headed due west out of the town and into a strong westerly wind. Although only around 10C, the sun was out and the fresh green countryside vista was good to behold. At Higher Ercall, we now head due south passing through Longton-on-Tern and the Tayleur Arms pub, which we have club visited in Oct 2016 and August 2017.

Uppington is true to its name as we steadily climb around the shoulder of The Wrekin. Once at Leighton, it was a pleasant fast downhill run towards Ironbridge. The former power station chimney comes into view. Ivan waxes lyrical about his train driver days delivering thousands of tonnes of coal to the now defunct power station (now looking for redevelopment). Passing the road up to Coalbrookdale, the town centre is relatively busy with tourists as we stop (longer than envisaged) for a coffee.

All the shops and food establishments are champing at the bit for April 12th grand opening. Time to go again, so we run along the river eastwards heading for the delightful Jackfield and its Tile Museum (worth a visit says Nick). On the opposite bank is Coalport with its chinaware museum.



The Ironbridge


River Severn at Ironbridge


Coffee (after a long wait)

Aiming for the Jackfield and Coalport Memorial Bridge, we have to ride a short section of the Severn Valley Way to access this bridge. Crossing the bridge, Ray remarks that there is now a kilometre of a 12% hill to get up and out from the Severn river valley onto the top by the Telford golf course. After this, it is relatively easy to get to Shifnal, which Ivan recalls that there is a hight level train viaduct running straight through the town – and he was not wrong. At 33 miles out, Shifnal was chosen as the only place locally where we could buy a lunch for al fresco partaking. The high street had an array  of food shops which served us well. 



"Al fresco in Shifnal" featuring The Viaduct

After lunch, we rode a very pleasant north easterly track through Church Easton to Haughton. Long lanes now with a welcome wind assist. After Haughton, we start an anti-clockwise track back into the wind via Ranton towards Woodseaves. It’s then into the wind again to Weston Jones via Foston to skirt Aqualate Mere back to Mere Garden centre car park. It was nigh spot on 100km or 62 miles at a 15.4 mph. I was surprised that it was not faster given that a lot of the lanes were at 20 mph but I guess the 2900ft of climbs had something to do with that.

We all felt refreshed by riding in a new area with our cycling club friends. Interestingly, the roads and lanes were in just a bad shape as those around Cheshire that we are used to. Many of the countryside lanes were in a very poor state often with a lot of debris. I was glad it was a very dry day otherwise the bikes would have been caked up with mud.

So, many thanks to Ivan for a truly enjoyable route and for those riders who took the front during the windy road sections.

CA

Photos JW and ID

8th April 2021: Nantwich (mod)

Steve Tan, Steve Haywood, Neil Tanner, Mike Dodd, Peter and myself formed a handy half dozen for our ride. It was good to see Steve Hughes, who had ventured out of what Mike Gilbert has called, “the Welsh Open Prison”, in order to share a coffee and a laugh. Steve Haywood was managing a knee condition, but it was great to have him on board again. Dave Matthews and Jim had also ridden out, but could not join us for the day due to, respectively, a calf problem and some restoration work needed on an old BMW. Alison's was spot-on as usual, and it was nice to have a socially distanced chat in a relatively sheltered area. The change of venue from Ness on the Wirral was to avoid the high winds around the coast, with a far greater choice of sheltered routes from Tattenhall.

My route out was by way of Coddington and Stretton. At Tilston we wound up to Edge Grange, over the old Whitchurch and Tattenhall dismantled railway line, and eventually to Hampton Post and No Mans Heath, all on sheltered, small lanes. This did entail crossing and re-crossing the A41, however, but without much hassle. I mentioned to Neil that we had often had lunch in the past at the cosy, 18thcentury Wheatsheaf Inn at No Mans Heath. A few years ago it was popular for tasty sausages and gravy served in a large Yorkshire pudding. Let's hope it will open again soon. We cycled east through Bickley Town, Swanwick Green, Gauntons Bank and Wrenbury. The wind was pretty well behind us as we bowled along Marsh Lane from Ravensmoor and into Nantwich centre by way of paths across the park and the River Weaver. There were a few places available for coffee and snack takeaways, but experience told me that the Costa along the short, cobbled lane to the church would probably provide the quickest turnaround and a toastie if required. As it happened, the troops decided not to bother balancing coffee and bikes in order to find a bench or sit on the steps at the front of the church; we just stayed put in the empty and sheltered, walled car park, and sat on the kerbside. Some of you will remember using this Costa as a late coffee stop after about 80miles on Clive's Potteries Adventure, a couple of years ago I think. The clean public toilets were open outside the market about 100 yards away. I received some mild stick for taking a little time to chat to the chutney and jams woman, who now also sells home-made pies, all at very low prices. Maybe, with interest rates so low I should invest my pension in her business: Gregg's and M&S had to start somewhere!  

The route home was deliberately direct in anticipation of strong headwinds. We passed the Marina, which has a very nice cafe on the waterside, and Dorfold Hall estate, before turning left at Acton, by the ancient church. For expediency, we rode along the Wrexham Road for a mile or so rather than diverting south west and then having to ferret and fiddle up to familiar Faddiley. We turned right at Burland Upper Green and battled the wind to Haughton and the Fancy House. I favoured Spurstow and Peckforton to Beeston rather than Bunbury, but I gave the dinky Radleywood link lane a miss, paticularly, as the apparent pointlessness of it raises Neil's blood pressure. Last time we went down there we rode through a flood so deep and long that two local women stood and applauded us! From Beeston, Neil provided a useful tow into the headwind for me and Steve Tan as we headed past Owler Hall to Newtown. Peter had already taken his leave for Chester before we reached Tattenhall. It was a pity that Alison's was closed, but I hope everybody enjoyed the ride. Thirty-eight miles were covered in total for those of us parked at Tattenhall. It has seemed worth the effort to start our rides again these last two weeks. The Fast Lads obviously had an enterprising and enjoyable ride, and I am looking forward to arrangements being closer to normal next week, and hopefully being joined by some of our Wales fraternity.

DH

See route map and/or gpx file download

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

1st April 2021: Kelsall (mod)

After many months of no club rides, we are back, all be it limited, but what a good turn out it was (possibly 15?) and that obviously didn’t include our Welsh residents, due to the boarder restrictions still being in place. It was good to see Jim despite not planning to ride, due to a leg problem. I suggested that I could lead the moderate group to Kelsall bike repair and cafe, which many have not been to before and one of the few currently open for take away (the plan was roughly 40 miles with 600 mtrs of ascent on easy hills). 

I believe 5 or 6 set off in the fast group, leaving 5 remaining for the moderate group. This was mainly due to Peter deciding to do his own ‘E’ thing, Steve H had other unknown plans and Dave M fancied Bunbury earlier in the ride and not at the end, so he turned off after 3 miles, which coincidently is when Keith got his puncture, just below the castle. Puncture fixed and Keith decides to turn back, leaving just 3!  (Dave H - Mike & me). At this rate I could be the 1st ride leader to arrive back at base with nobody left in the group Lol. Ironically, we passed Peter going the opposite way and then passed Keith 10 miles later, after passing through Waverton, so he could of carried on with us Lol. I guess he didn’t hear me say Waverton was on our route and I didn’t know he was parked there (what comms).

After passing Keith, going the other way, we head for the top of my favourite ‘Sandstone Ridge’ via the easy steady assent, thus avoiding Chapel Lane, but still passing the rather loveable Lamas at the top of said lane. We head along the ridge toward Kelsall and again avoid another tough climb (Yeld Lane) and turn left at the bottom in order to take Quarry Lane around to the Kelsall bike repair & cafe.

At this point, during our coffee, I suddenly realise, that it was the 1st time I have been at the top and bottom of Chapel lane, but never ridden it Lol. There were a fair few other cyclists also taking a breather at the cafe, despite only cake & fluids being available. We didn’t stop long, at which point we lose another from the group, as Mike headed for home, leaving just me & Dave.

Sticking to the theme of avoiding Chapel Lane, which Dave was very grateful for, we ride straight past heading for Bunbury, however I missed my planned turn (not looking at the Garmin), which meant we had to back track a few hundred yards to get back on track, as the A51 was not an acceptable option. I take the opportunity to pass through Tilston Fearnal, which is one of my favourite canal crossings (simply a gorgeous spot), with a lovely series of little hills and bends, leading to and from, before arriving at Bunbury.

The last 7 miles to Alison’s were uneventful, with Beeston Castle looking splendid, in the sunlight. We arrived at Alison’s with 43 miles on the clock and 630 mtrs assent, but Alison’s was closed. Dave then refused my extremely generous offer of coffee, at my house, thus he missed the best bit of the ride Lol. At least I made it back with at least 1 left in the group Lol.

NT 

Thursday, 1 April 2021

1st April 2021 : Audlem (brisk)

We’ve been waiting since the start of the year for our first club ride - a long 13 week’s worth of solo or two-handed rides now behind us, and an opportunity now of meeting up with faces old and new on April Fool’s Day. So it was that we met at Alison’s in Tattenhall as we still aren’t allowed into Wales to meet a the planned venue of Cleopatra’s. My granddaughter, who occasionally works at Cleopatra’s, tells me that they have however been very busy with lots of cyclists stopping for coffee and cake!


Ivan had put together today's brisk ride and kindly informed me that I was to write up the blog. I had asked if we could go to Audlem to re-sample the fare from the Village Chippy - so I suppose his request was only fair. The weather was cloudy, fairly windy and distinctly chilly.

We had a five rider peloton comprising of Ray, John W, Ivan and myself with a potential new rider, Matt. Off and out to Barton, it is was pleasing to be able to chat away to friends old and new. We pass Nick’s door in Tilston and motor on to Oldcastle Heath bound for the border gulch of Lower Wych with its steep descent  then ascent towards Higher Wych; then down and up a similar valley towards Whitwell.  The long run to Fenn’s Bank takes us eventually to the A41/49 roundabout at the Raven Pub and the hazardous dual carriageway crossing that takes us onwards to Ash Magna and Ightfield. 

Audlem comes up at 35 miles with the welcome site of the busy "Village Chippy". Ivan has chosen well here as the food is good and there are public loos on hand along wth a convenient bike park and seating area - a patch of grass and a low wall. As the sun has hardly shown itself today and its a little windy, we cool down quickly despite the hot food.

The next section takes us north east to Wynbunbury followed by a north westerly track straight through Nantwich. It is now a “straight” track to Bunbury along disintegrating road surfaces. In and around to Beeston Crag, the bikes know their own way back now. Matt peels off for Kelsall and has apparently has enjoyed the route and banter. 

We four split for Chester on the outskirts of Tattenhall. It would be 58 miles round back to Alison’s but about 80 miles all told for us Chester bound.  A quiet ride with no incidents except fo two drivers who obviously haven’t read the Highway Code recently - especially the Harris Pie delivery van which we catch up with and pass by at the village shop in Tilston.

A memorable ride today, expertly crafted by Ivan with a classic 60% of miles and hills before lunch, and a relatively flat return.

Plotatoute metrics are 58 miles with 2350 ft of climbs and 3223 kcal i.e. we needed the fish and chips!

See route map and/or gpx file download

CA

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

30th December 2020 : Annual statistics

About this time of year, I publish the ride statistics for our club rides - be they "leisure", "moderate" or "brisk". 

As you can see below, this year has, like many other activities, been drastically affected by Covid-19. We have only managed about half of our usual activity. However 13 of us were ride leaders i.e. we not only led you a merry chase, but also had to write up the blog - granted there were some more than others who led rides though. However, it is always a pleasure (and sometimes a relief) to see someone new offering to lead a ride - but, it is only then that they realise that they also have to write up the blog! 

Our usual riding lunch stops were in evidence - some more than others, and here the pub in Aston comes to mind. Latterly we have had to find new alfresco eating opportunities which has been interesting. 

YearMileageBlogsAv Miles/Ride
20081,1372447
20092,8945355
20102,6405350
20113,4956157
20123,6157648
20133,0255753
20143,7087252
20154,2168152
20164,3258352
20173,8327452
20184,4728950
20193,9478447
20202,0304743




Totals43,33685451




As this year comes to a close, I should like on behalf of all of us, to thank Dave Heath for carefully steering us through difficult times. Not only has he had to interpret governmental and Cycling UK guidance, but also has done a grand job in keeping us informed and motivating us to come out and enjoy the fresh air on our bikes. 

I can't finish this review without mentioning Erik B; such a shock to us all to hear of his passing. 

My abiding memory of him on Brisk rides, was that he was a pretty strong rider regarding climbing up hills, but so cautious about racing down them. We often had to wait for him to catch up after a long descent - quite a novelty. 

Hopefully 2021 will be a better year for us all especially as many of us are expecting an early vaccination call in January or February now that there are two licensed vaccines to be deployed.

CA

Monday, 28 December 2020

24th December 2020: Nowhere

We couldn't meet at Cleopatra's, as Wales was subject to the latest strict set of lockdown rules. My telephone enquiry earlier in the week to Alison's in Tattenhall was met with a warm and welcoming response. Alison was happy to accommodate us in relative safety. There was a heater on the covered patio if we preferred to have our coffee al fresco. It was a cold but brilliantly sunny start to Christmas Eve. I wasn't sure if anyone would turn up, with Covid cases rising, family demands and last minute domestic preparations being made. I thought Neil would make it, as he is a consistent lobbyist for Alison's. In fact, it is said that when he's not cycling or playing golf, he can sometimes be seen walking along the pavement in Tattenhall wearing an Alison's sandwich board around his neck. I wonder though, if his advocacy for this admittedly admirable establishment may have something to do with the fact that he has only to fall out of bed and he's there? He, no doubt, would have had an enjoyable, clean(!) route to suggest, with the excellent local knowledge that he has now acquired. Also, I had forgotten that Dave Matthews had let me know that he would be attending, but not riding if there was any chance of icy roads. Neil did send me an email later to say that he couldn't be with us, as he was riding with his son, which seems a smashing thing to do at Christmas.

It was good to see Nick, who had cycled out to deliver season's greetings, but generally had been doing little riding. He said that his local lanes were in a potentially dangerous state for cycling, and this wasn't helped by large tractors speeding around them. He felt that concentrating on trying to stay safe was preventing him from relaxing and enjoying his riding as normal. Jim had made the effort, but only in civvies as he had afternoon commitments. John, Ivan and Clive had ridden out from Chester, and as far as I understood, had no ambitious ride plans, as they were intending to return home handily. As far as a moderate ride goes, I had conjured up a route to The Horse and Jockey at Grindley Brook, and provisionally booked for lunch for four. However, a solo ride was now my only option, and having  decided that eating alone for lunch didn't appeal, it seemed easier to drive home and ride locally, without having to think about novel routes, or falling off alone down some rarely used lane. Dave Matthews intended to do the same, as he felt that there was less chance of  icy patches by the beginning of the afternoon. One thing I have reflected on this year is that we all have our own reasons, thresholds and  judgements when it comes to assessing risk. I remember Ray Hardman, who used to be a key lead rider when I joined the club, cycling something like 13,000 miles well before the year was up, but he would never risk riding if there was ice about. For what it's worth, as long as you stayed alert, I didn't feel that the conditions were very risky on Thursday, although there was plenty of ice about on Christmas Day. I have given up looking for photographs of us cycling in the snow, but I do recall many wintry excursions on club rides. If you scroll back on the website to December 29th, 2016 to Daresbury; January 5th 2017 to Rhuddlan (-4C); December 28th 2017 to Overton, and March 1st 2018, all provide interesting evidence of our past willingness to take on challenging winter conditions, thankfully without any serious incidents. Reckless or resilient?

Whilst sifting through the archives I came across a report written by Macca which supports my aversion to cycling to Malpas, as he informs us that “mal” is Norman for “poor” and “pas” for roads! I can recommend “The Rough-Stuff Fellowship Archive” by Isola Press for brilliant, evocative photographs of cycling in all conditions and environments on ordinary road and touring bikes. Dave Pipe would enjoy this book; it even features some of his favourite oilskin capes.

Anyway, to get back to the reason I started to write up the ride that didn't happen, was to acknowledge the camaraderie of friends making the effort to enjoy a coffee and a chat at Alison's despite Covid and it being Christmas Eve. This is why it is such a pleasure to be a member of this club.

DH


Friday, 18 December 2020

17th December 2020: Aston (mod)

It was a pleasant surprise to have a good turnout at this time of year, Covid and all. Clive was back from his faraway rural idyll; Dave Matthews, Neil, Trevor, Ray, Jim and myself made up The Magnificent Seven. Ray was doing his own thing, and Jim had injured his back through practising Tantric sex, or bringing the coal up from the cellar (he wasn't sure). I learnt later that Peter tried to join us but had left home late. Perhaps an electric motor for his bike is no longer enough, and he now requires one to  get his backside into gear. Rose Farm had duly provided a table each which enabled safe distancing.

I had sounded out The Bhurtpore in advance, in order to see if we could lunch, warm and dry, inside. So it was, that five of us  headed out via Tarporley and picturesque Tilstone Bank (where Dave Matthews had once lived). Ray appeared from behind a hedge a few miles south of Bunbury, and joined us for a while before heading for No Mans Heath. On reaching Brindley, we had time to add on a loop taking in Ravensmoor and Sound. This would have necessitated me swopping from OS map 117 to 118, and just checking the mini maze of lanes for a minute to ensure that I had it right in my head. My new customised map is in the post, so I won't have the map changing hassle in this area again. In this instance, Dave 'The Knowledge' Matthews saved me the trouble, as he could take us to Sound blindfolded. There was still a chance to play safe at Sound and cut off for Aston, but I calculated that we could get a few more miles in, on what had become a lovely sunny morning. We crossed the main Whitchurch to Nantwich road and headed past the moated Hall o'Coole, before joining the familiar back route south towards Audlem, and then cutting back north-west at Brickwall Farm. We arrived at the Bhurtpore bang on my booked time of 12.30. True as their word they gave us a table each, indeed the whole back room was exclusively ours.

Talk at lunch included riding through floods, and Clive recalled Runcorn Roy riding through calf high water to see if they could all get through. Clive's daughter had sent a picture to his phone of a rider nearly up to his crossbar, which given Clive's previous penchant for off-piste cycling environments we assumed was him. My glass of local cider was very moreish, and the food was good. They were a bit slow taking our food order, which meant enough time had passed for us to miss some very heavy rain before our return.

The troops wanted to return by way of Wrenbury and Cholmondeley, and then some would carry on over Harthill, and I would follow Dave Matthews along his 'secret lane' in the direction of Peckforton. Eventually, there was an informal decision  for riders to crack on as required, as I was the only one riding back to Rose Farm, and it was better to be safely home before dusk on a short winter's day. Neil had waited, and I had eased off in order to keep the group together as much as possible. I had a hairy moment, trapped on the inside of a passing artic, as I sped down the main road by The Bickerton Poacher. Another juggernaught came around the corner ahead, and fortunately braked, so avoiding a head-on crash, or me becoming sausage meat in the gutter. I returned solo via Beeston Castle, Wharton's Lock and Birch Heath. Just Rose Farm there and back was about 38 miles. Another enjoyable day in good company, somewhat against the odds.

 DH

 See route map and/or gpx file download


Tuesday, 15 December 2020

10th December 2020: Aldford (mod)

 The Three Muskateers turned up again, but this time joined by a Celtic raider, and all four arrived on two wheels and keen for action. Spiros and his partner were glad to see us at The Gallery Tea Rooms. They had been very enterprising in offering a successful Greek cuisine takeaway service in order to survive strict Welsh Covid restrictions. It is rumoured that before Christmas Mark Drakeford is likely to rule out drinking Baileys after 1p.m., and sleeping with a girl from the next village at any time. So it was, that Mike Gilbert, Jim, Dave Matthews and myself had wound ourselves up to Hawarden for tea and toast. Dave and Spiros traded some consultant- level insights into managing heart conditions. One piece of advice must have been “never rush your tea and toast, and remember, that it’s good to talk”, because it was a quarter to eleven before we set off.

The proposed route had been discussed on the 'phone by me and Jim in the week. I had volunteered to write the ride report if Jim was prepared to lead. In the end we were happy deferring to 'no maps' Matthew's nearly eighty years’ experience of selecting dirty little lanes in Chester and outlying districts, to seek a route to Holt. Dave felt that it would be safer passing the usual steep and rough track alongside Bilberry Wood, and continuing our ascent on the smooth, meandering main road tarmac to the A55 roundabout. We then cut back left before crossing the footbridge on our regular route, higher than Higher Kinnerton.  It is always pleasant bowling along this flattish stretch with pleasing views across the Dee valley. There was some discussion about mudguard safety, and Mike pointed out his gobbets of Evo Stik ensuring that his stay nuts could not be rattled loose. Dave and I prefer a drop of locktite threadlock to do the same job neatly. Each to their own, “What wurks” as Labour used to say. We were soon heading down by Golly(!) and crossing over the A483, skirting the back of Rossett, and passing “the pub I've never been in” at Trevalyn. A bit of a slog into a bit of a headwind, ameliorated by some drafting, took us to the junction for Holt. We weren't sure of the situation at Cleopatra's, or Lewis' at Farndon, and we were too lazy to dismount and find out if they would allow us to be served spaced out inside. Dave Matthews had highly recommended Lily's village shop and cafe at Aldford, so we thought we would explore this potential new coffee or lunch venue. We tried to ignore the likelihood that any drink or snack would have to be taken in the outside courtyard. The shop and cafe were very attractive, the staff welcoming and my toastie was delicious, Unfortunately, for the first time it was feeling properly cold, and our hoped for table in a sheltered corner didn't exist, with the wind blowing in from the open end of the square. Dave Matthews was taking his leave at this stage, as we contemplated moving the Christmas trees for sale to form a screen from the cold draught. Mike had brought his own Welsh buttie, probably lamb and leek. He was getting in a bit of a mess, perhaps trying to smuggle his imported food behind his Welsh flag decorated Covid mask? Anyway, he bore a close resemblance to Father Jack Hackett from 'Father Ted' trying to eat a takeaway with his hands whilst drunk. Mike tells me that he has now lived in Wales for longer than anywhere else in his life. I think he's gone native: he'll be burning down English holiday homes next (if Mr. Drakeford allows anyone out to buy 'non-essential' firelighters). This village store and cafe with its special cakes, and fine foods would make a lovely summer stop on a drive through the Cheshire countryside, with your partner in your Morgan with the hood down. Nevertheless, after a strong coffee, you may still have to be prepared to pee behind a hedge on the way home, as we had to, because there were no toilet facilities! 

We tried to warm up again on a very familiar route for Jim to his home in Guilden  Sutton, where I had also parked my car in order to ride to Hawarden with him earlier. Having duly made a comfort stop two younger guys cruised past me. I belatedly gave chase, as Mike and Jim were now out of my sight after the pit stops. I began to enjoy reeling the two strangers in, although I regretted leaving my aspirin back home on the kitchen top, as I felt that a heart attack was a distinct possibility. I finally caught them up (and Jim) on the short sharp climb at Saighton. It was hardly a John Wilkie paced attack by me, but it gave some hope that my fitness could return to my previously modest levels before lockdowns, gym closures and suspension of club rides.  The three of us then drifted in through Waverton, Christleton and Vicars Cross. Mike had to get back to Shotton where, I believe, he had parked. I had to get back to take my daughter's dog out, and Jim could save a few bob by having Lady Di putting the kettle on, jamming a scone and providing a leg massage for him at home, so we passed on a final coffee at Meadow Lea. About 36 miles covered, and a very enjoyable day out with friends, despite our cold refreshment stop. It is good to see Mike back in good shape, and I appreciate his effort to join us all the way from Rhos.

 DH