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.

For more information see the About Us tab.

Saturday 19 December 2009

17th December 2009: Frankby

Extra layers were definitely called for today. It was cold enough first thing but the forecast was for a cold north-easterly in the afternoon taking the wind chill down below zero. Despite the forecast four of us met up for elevenses at Ness Botanic Gardens in surprisingly good humour. Over tea and teacakes we decided on a moderate ride with the aim of getting back to the Botanic Gardens no later than 3.00pm. Bryan suggested we ride up the centre of the Wirral returning down the Wirral Way to give us some protection from the wind in the afternoon.
With the route agreed, Bryan led off towards Neston before turning inland in Ness to take the lanes across the A540 heading for Raby. From here it was the well-established route through Thornton Hough and Brimstage to Storeton, however instead of taking the rough track to Landican, today we reached Irby via Barnston and Pensby. So far so good: the weather had turned out to be much better than forecast – cold but clear with good views across to the Dee Estuary from the high spots.
The last couple of miles to the Farmers Arms in Frankby were made in conditions suggesting that the weather might turn but we reached the pub all right. A good choice of ales and food from all day breakfast to the day’s special were available. Clive and Dave debated why the “special price” for two meals was 1p higher than the cost of two separate meals. Luckily they asked before ordering as the “special” included drinks!  Noting that the 2010 rides list was now on the blog conversation turned to the special rides.  A repeat of the Mersey Estuary ride was thought a good idea. Dave agreed to lead another ride in the Ribble Valley and Jim offered to lead one in the Peak District.
Leaving the pub we emerged to find that the weather was still being kind as we dropped down to Caldy and onto the Wirral Way.  From here it was a very pleasant ride back to Ness Botanic Gardens to finish off with afternoon tea and a mince pie before the final leg back home to Chester.
Distance from Chester and back an easy 48 miles.

Friday 11 December 2009

10th December 2009: Christmas Lunch Ride

With another year drawing to an end twelve of us met up at Bellis’ Garden Centre café for our Christmas Lunch ride to the Calveley Arms at Handley.  The weather-man was clearly being kind to us today. The recent wet weather was a thing of the past although there was ample evidence of it as we crossed the flooded River Dee over Farndon Bridge.  The forecast cold snap was yet to come as we gathered in unseasonably warm and perfect cycling conditions.
After relaxing over elevenses we set off at a leisurely pace heading south to Shocklach before turning for Tilston.  Lower Carden was the decision point: do we go east via Clutton and Chowley or west via Barton and Coddington?  The western route was chosen and we continued through the lanes to arrive at the Calveley Arms at 12.30pm.

Photograph by Bryan Wade

The festive menu looked good and offered plenty of choice.  Before long orders were being taken, with stilton and port rarebit followed by Bolesworth pheasant, being the most popular choice for starters and mains respectively.  Conversation flowed and then quiet descended as food was served.  Did I hear a discussion of the best winter tyres coming from the other end of the table?  Both courses were excellent but whom had space left for pudding?  Some did but some could only manage coffee; whatever the choice everyone agreed it had been a good meal.
Then by 15.00pm it was time to leave with some heading to Waverton and Chester, and others back to Bellis in Holt.  Another great day with Chester Easy Riders.

3rd December 2009: Nantwich

Despite the rain hammering on the window at 6.30 in the morning, the forecast was for an improvement as the day wore on. I set off optimistically for Utkinton, but with no sign of the rain easing by 10.30 the four of us were in no great hurry to set off and we spent more time than perhaps was strictly necessary discussing the route. Ray came up with a great idea, ‘let’s go to the Red Cow in Nantwich’, so Ray, Jim, Ivan and Clive set, following a fairly direct route, past Oulton Park to Wettenhall, Reaseheath and into Nantwich.
We rode through the puddles waiting for the promised improvement. It came eventually: as soon as we arrived at the pub!
I can thoroughly recommend the Market Day special menu, and there was no time for salads on such a day. Well fortified we set off about an hour later through the park and heading out for Stoneley Green.
The rain had given way to a freezing cold head wind interspersed with short intense showers, some of them hail. This was not a day for the faint hearted and even Xmas shopping began to take on a rosy glow in the memory banks. However we slogged on up to Peckforton by which time my little legs were feeling decidedly knackered: they’re shorter than everyone else’s!! We parted just after the castle at Beeston, with Clive heading for Tarporley and his car at Utkinton. The rest of us then set off for Hargreave and Greenlooms. There was no let up from the wind but the hedges and bends gave us some protection as we steadily worked our way to the Crocky Trail and Waverton. The A51 was crossed just below the golf course and we arrived in Guilden Sutton just as the light was beginning to tail off. Ray and Ivan took Station Lane despite the ‘Road closed’ signs (at least they weren’t riding on the footpath) while I tackled the last hill up to a hot bath.
About 53 miles from Chester: very creditable in the circumstances.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

26th November 2009: Soughton

It was a beautiful but cold day with a stiff breeze blowing when without a map between us Liz D and myself decided to get up onto the hills behind Northop.  With Liz leading the route and with a steady ascent to 800ft, we arrived at the top near to the Blue Bell Inn.  With a partial descent via tiny lanes, a near miss with a Chelsea tractor for Liz, and large hunting party blocking the lane, we turned up through Soughton towards Mold and the Glas Frynn beckoned for a well deserved lunch. The return was fast and easier retracing our route to Northop then Ewloe and back to Hawarden.  I continued back downhill all the way back to Mollington to complete a very pleasant 34 mile ride.
For route map and/or GPX file download see: www.bikehike.co.uk/mapview.php?id=26923

Tuesday 24 November 2009

19th November 2009: Great Budworth

With a windy day’s cycling in prospect Dave and Clive met for elevenses at the Manley Mere Windsurfing Centre.  Dave had a route in mind and led off through Manley, Kingsley and Acton Bridge before crossing the Weaver Navigation heading for Antrobus and Arley via Arley House.  Lunch of liver and bacon was taken in Great Budworth with the return journey made via Comberbatch, Little Leigh, Norley and Delamere Forest.
Distance from Chester and back about 55 miles.

Friday 13 November 2009

12th November 2009: Maeshafn

Today we meet for elevenses at the Tudor House Café in Caergwrle.  The café is already busy serving breakfasts when I arrive but Brian Mac has secured one of the larger tables.  Within a few minutes there are five of us tucking into toasted teacakes and tea.  Bryan suggests that as we are in Caergwrle he has in mind a short but hilly ride that should get us back to Chester in daylight and avoid the heavy rain forecast for later in the day.  After considering the proposed route the idea is agreed and we leave the café just as Dave arrives bringing the numbers up to six.
Bryan leads off along the main road before taking the first left and we are immediately heading steeply uphill towards the top of Hope Mountain!  This is not only steep but also unrelenting and it seems to continue on and on with no end in sight.  But finally we are at the top taking a breather and admiring the views.  After a brief rest we set off down the other side taking a sharp left half way down to Llanfynydd where we cross the main road and head uphill again to the Stone Zoo for another brief stop.  Continuing west towards Graianrhyd we cross the main road and take a steeply descending lane down to the ford over the River Terrig.  While Brian Mac struggles across, the rest of use the adjacent footbridge.  Then its more uphill work until in Graianrhyd we head north up yet another single chevron climb towards Eryrys.  Finally with the worst of the climbing behind us we can enjoy the fast descent down to the Maeshafn turn-off on a delightfully smooth newly tarmaced road. The Miners Arms is reached just as it starts to rain!
We settled down inside with pints of Facer’s Landslide to accompany the spread of food while discussing – no, not wheels, spd’s or gear ratios - but parsnips, beetroot and the advantages of raised-bed cultivation!  By 2.00pm its time to leave and we emerge to find it still raining.  The short route back to Caergwrle is chosen and we are soon heading down the back lanes to Nercwys and Leeswood where we stop briefly to admire the gates before pressing on to Pontybodkin, over the shoulder of Hope Mountain and onto the main road.  Here the group breaks up, some heading back to Caergwrle, others to Hope while I head back to Chester through the Kinnertons to arrive back just minutes before the heavens open.
It’s a while since we did so many hills but despite the hard work I have to admit that I really love this area.
Distance from Chester and back 42 hilly miles.

Monday 9 November 2009

5th November 2009: Aston

With light rain descending and showers forecast for the rest of the day I wasn’t expecting to see many members at the Ice Cream Farm so it came as a pleasant surprise to find a turnout of seven including Clive and Ivan joining us for a second time.  Jim reported that Dave had been advised to keep his hand dry following last week’s injury and so wouldn’t be joining us.  Where shall we go?  With no strong views expressed today, the choice was whittled down first by general direction: south or east?  East was chosen and we studied the map.  The Dusty Miller at Wrenbury?  What about the Bhurtpore in Aston?  The Bhurtpore with its promise of a good selection of real ale was chosen and we were soon on the road with Bryan leading off towards Beeston.  Mike suggested a gratuitous extra triangular mile for interest before Ray took the lead through Beeston, Peckforton and some new lanes to Brindley.  Then with a right after the canal we tuned south through Ravensmoor to Sound.  Although less than a mile from Aston it was still quite early so we headed on towards Audlem to pull in an extra loop arriving back in Aston from the south.
The Bhurtpore’s selection of ales more than met our expectations and we were soon sampling the many ales on offer whilst noting the even larger range promised for the coming week.  Unfortunately it was soon time to leave and we headed back through Wrenbury, Cholmondeley and Harthill to arrive back at the Ice Cream Farm by 3.30pm just as the rain returned.  With time in hand, and hoping the rain would pass, we were able to relax over coffee and cake before setting out on the final leg back to Chester in the continuing rain.  We arrived back just as darkness crept in having completed another glorious day in the Cheshire countryside.
Distance from Chester and back 60 miles.  

Saturday 31 October 2009

29th October 2009: Northop

The clocks went back an hour last Sunday so we will have an hour less daylight from now on; however its still early Autumn so it shouldn’t be a problem today.  We are due to meet at the Little Roodee Café but when I arrive I note a small group of riders are huddled together outside.  Sure enough the café is closed, although Dave is convinced there is someone inside and hammers on the window.  No luck there though and as the numbers grow we decide to head down to the Blue Moon Café leaving Mike to redirect any late arrivals. 
Eight of us today including Ivan Davenport joining us for the first time after seeing our blog on the web earlier this morning!  I suggest a ride to Northop for lunch returning through the lanes above Mold, Pontybodkin and the Kinnertons.  That should allow us an early lunch and plenty of time in the afternoon.  With full agreement we set off a little behind schedule, due to the change of venue, and are soon heading along the River Dee Cycle Path towards Hawarden Bridge deep in conversation.  Graham T leaves us in Shotton to visit Deeside Cycles while the rest of us continue on the coast road.  Ray and Ivan are out in front as we head up the steep lane from the power station to the B5126 and we don’t see them again until we reach the Boot in Northop for lunch.  A wedding party are being served when we arrive but the Directors bitter makes up for the longer than normal wait for food.  Wheels, rims and wheel building are the main topic today along with Mike’s exploits checking out venues for our Christmas lunch ride.  (If you intend to come for the Christmas lunch let Bryan know ASAP)
With the delayed lunch it’s almost 14.00 by the time we leave Northop for Soughton by the back lanes before skirting Mold to head uphill to Gwernaffield-y-Waun.  From here the plan is to contour round above Mold to Nercwys and on to Treuddyn but fate intervenes and Dave makes contact with an immoveable object in the shape of a parked car while the rest of us continue to the next turning unaware of his prang.  There’s only six of us I note turning into the lane by the Swan “who’s missing?”  Retracing our steps we soon discover Dave at the side of the road with a badly gashed finger, grazed knees and hurt pride.  Once first aid has been applied an inspection of the bike reveals that both wheels are buckled: the rear rather badly.  Mission Control is called to facilitate evacuation and leaving Dave and Jim at the Swan, five of us continue to Treuddyn and a fast descent down to Pontybodkin.  A right and sharp left then has us struggling up the sharp initial part of the climb over the shoulder of Hope Mountain before a shout from the back indicates that Mike has a puncture.  While Mike and Ray work on the puncture Brian Mac decides to press on to Hope to get his hourly train back home.  Once the puncture is mended it’s downhill all the way past Hope and the Kinnertons down Sandy Lane, before making for Ferry Lane and the Dee Cycle Path home.
What a ride!  We had our fair share of incidents today but it all ended well.  The lanes above Mold were a real delight along with a fair sprinkling of hills to keep us on our toes.
Distance from Chester and back 40 miles. For route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 23 October 2009

22nd October 2009: Malpas

Today saw the arrival of Clive on his maiden voyage with CER. Welcome.  The cold weather and 25 mph wind also sorted the men from the boys......... wearing shorts.  The earlier 15 minute start saw us easily away by 11.00am: a big improvement.
With no Bryan or Ray to lead us down tracks that no one else knew, we decided to stick to well known "B" roads & head out to Malpas via Bangor on Dee.  The attraction of quiet, little lanes soon got the better of Graham who had us ducking and diving down roads not on my map, as though we were trying to shake off a surveillance team behind us.
The Old Fire Station, Malpas was our lunch stop again, where two of us had that new culinary delight of cheese and spaghetti, on a bad of toast:  delicious.  It could have been the Ritz.  With no high milers out today, we arrived back early at Bellis, then on to Chester to take the rest of the afternoon off to shop at The Bike Factory. 
An easy 45 miles from Chester and back, and Clive was still smiling and talking at the end, so it can’t have been that bad for him.

Friday 16 October 2009

15th October 2009: Lower Peover

We meet at Rose Farm Garden Centre café in Utkinton this morning.  That’s just over an hour’s ride, and its mid-October, so I dress warmly only to discover on the way out that it’s exceptionally mild today.  Arriving hot I settle down with the map to plan a route.  Since I need to be back by 17.00pm, it can’t be too long and I settle on Lower Peover via Whitegate and Davenham.  This is a lovely route marred only by the rough stretch just after the Weaver.  Jim arrives and Dave interrupts his packing to telephone and wish us well.  With most of the others away it looks as though there will only be two of us today; but then Ray arrives to make it three.  Now Ray doesn’t do tracks so I promise that we will walk the rough bit.
By just after 11.00 we are ready to leave and head off through Cotebrook to Whitegate with the wind behind us.  Walking up the rough stretch under the railway a mountain biker, coming the other way, gives us a disdainful look as if to say “what: can’t get up here without pushing?”  We are soon back in the saddle and admiring the impressive church in Davenham before following the lanes to Lach Dennis and Lower Peover.  It’s only 12.30 when we arrive at the Bells of Peover pub for lunch: a good choice of cask ale, unlike the previous time I visited, and waitress service.  We even got an extra portion of chips on the house!  The prices weren’t too bad either with Ray’s lime and soda at a respectable 95p.
It was soon time to leave so after reaching broad agreement on the route back we paid a brief visit to the timber church of St. Oswald before crossing the church yard to the lanes on the other side.  From here we headed south to Goostrey, Holmes Chapel and Middlewich before passing the interesting brick church of St. Bartholomew in Church Minshull.  Conscious of the need to get back by 17.00pm, and with the wind against us, we now took the direct route home through Bunbury, Beeston, Huxley and Christleton to arrive in Chester about 16.45pm.
Another great ride with the distance from Chester and back nudging 70 miles.

Tuesday 13 October 2009

11th October 2009: Ribble Valley

Sunday morning at 8.45am by the Hoole roundabout and a group of people are loading bicycles into a large white van.  Is this the result of nefarious night-time activities?  Are the bicycles destined for the black market?  But no: this marks the start of two firsts for Chester Easy Riders, our first away ride and our first Sunday ride.  And what a start: 14 members and guest riders registered, with 12 at the meet in Hoole.
Dave has been planning for today’s ride over the last month but even he has no control over the weather, so although we have been enjoying beautiful autumn weather over the last few weeks the journey up the motorway to the Ribble Valley is distinctly wet!  The ride start point is Whalley Abbey where Dave has arranged pre-ride refreshments at the café.  Here we meet up with Tony and Jonathan Small who have made their own way to the Abbey.  Then with everyone present its time for the off in light rain and with a heartfelt farewell from a local resident!
Dave leads us off at a steady pace past the impressive medieval church at Great Mitton heading for Hurst Green through the grounds of the impressive Stonyhurst College.  Here we stop to admire the architecture while Glennys records the moment.  Then looping back we re-cross the River Hodder and skirt around Longridge Fell before a comfort stop in Chipping.  This pretty village and its cyclist’s café deserve more attention than we have time for today: perhaps next year?  Turning northeast we head uphill until just before Wild Boar Park, Dave punctures. While a small group watch with encouraging remarks the puncture is fixed and we are off again.  Riding quietly along at the back of the group I am struck by the peace and tranquillity of the area: even the sheep and cattle seem more relaxed than those on the Cheshire plain.  It’s not hard to understand why Dave loves the area so much.  Then we leave the ridge for an exhilarating swooping descent down to Burholme Bridge.  By the time we make Dunsop Bridge it is 2.00pm so we stop at the café for a tea/coffee and cake.  While Dave rings ahead to warn our lunch venue that we are running late the rest of us take the opportunity to chat, and with seven guest riders joining us from groups across the C&NWCTC area there is much to talk about.  The ride to Waddington takes us through Whitewell with the river below us as we ride through the valley before turning uphill to Cow Ark past Browsholme Hall where, with only 10 minutes of riding before our eagerly awaited lunch stop, Jonathan punctures.  Eventually arriving at the busy Lower Buck pub in Waddington at 3.45pm we are given a warm welcome and are relieved to find that food is still being served.  It may be late but this is truly an inspired choice: an excellent range of cask ales from which I choose the Black Cat (its great to have the opportunity to try a good traditional mild) and a range of delicious home made meals to choose from.  One couldn’t wish for a better stop.

Photographs by Glennys Hammond

It’s after 5.00pm by the time we leave the pub so Dave wisely decides to shorten the route back to Whalley where we arrive just before 6.00pm with 40 miles completed and an appreciation of the rugged beauty and interest of the Ribble Valley and Forest of Bowland.  Many thanks Dave.  All your planning and hard work paid off, for this was a truly memorable ride.  A return trip next year?  Yes please: you can put me at the top of the list.

Saturday 10 October 2009

8th October 2009: Malpas

Another dry day with sun forecast for the afternoon, promises a good cycling day, so armed with the local OS map its off to the Gallery Coffee Shop for elevenses.  Half way up the hill in to Hawarden my mobile rings: its Dave calling to say he won’t be riding today as he intends to do a final recce of his Ribble Valley ride.  Ray’s bike is outside when I arrive with Brian Mac close behind.  The usual tea and toasted teacakes are ordered and before long Jim arrives to complete the group of four.  Ray is nearing his target but still chasing the miles while the weather remains good.  His plan is to ride south to Rossett, then down to Bangor on Dee and through Oldcastle Heath to Malpas for lunch.  Returning to Hawarden from there should give us about 45 miles but Ray has it in mind to continue further east to Wrenbury before turning for home.
We agree to ride together to Malpas for lunch and then leave Ray to continue while the rest of us return to Hawarden.  Leaving Hawarden we head off through Bilberry Wood and are soon in the lanes enjoying the countryside and chatting away.  At Hoseley House I stop for a few moments, as I always do, to take in the view.  We’re not that high but the view across the Cheshire plain is stunning.  Then it’s catch-up with the others before skirting Wrexham Industrial Estate and through Bangor-on-Dee where Ray stops at the basket-making centre to advise the proprietress on the finer points of café food and pricing.  With luck Bangor-on-Dee will have its own cyclist café the next time we come through!  By now the sun is out and the last few miles through the lanes to Malpas seem to fly by.
Lunch is taken at the Fire Station Café where we discuss the forthcoming Ribble Valley ride (14 of us registered) and last week’s 80 miler to Barthomley.
After lunch three of us head back through Tilston and Holt where Brian heads off for the nearest station leaving Jim and I to continue through Higher Kinnerton and the long drag back up to Bilberry Wood and Hawarden.  A great day out.
Distance from Chester and back 60 miles.

Saturday 3 October 2009

1st October 2009: Barthomley

After the recent spell of warm autumn weather the air had a distinctly chilly note this morning although the forecast was for bright and dry conditions.  Leaving early I took the opportunity to check out progress on the Millennium cycle path extension to Mickle Trafford, which appears to be almost complete except for the surfacing.  By the time we next ride from the Windsurfing Centre it should all be finished.
Jim, Ray and Dave soon joined me over tea and teacakes while we discussed today’s ride.  Ray suggested Barthomley for lunch and outlined his proposed route through Cotebrook, Rease Heath and Hatherton.   Then with everyone in agreement Ray led us off up the first of many hills, over the Yeld, past Summer Trees tea rooms and on to Cotebrook.  Once on flatter terrain we were soon bowling along at a decent pace with the wind behind us.  Conversation was animated but I do recall passing Venetian Marina and the agricultural college before tacking the Nantwich traffic.  I had been a little sceptical of the wisdom of using the stretch of the A529 down to Hatherton but the leaders choice was soon vindicated and before long we were back on the lanes to Wrinehill, and the final stretch to Barthomley for a late lunch with 40 miles done.
One couldn’t wish for a better lunch stop than the White Lion: full of character, popular with the locals and excellent food and ale.  Then with a delicious hot-pot inside and conscious of the passing time we were soon back in the saddle heading for Nantwich via Wybunbury to sample kwazulu tea at Inglenook Tea Shoppe.  Suitably impressed by the tea and proprietor Bob’s description of its origin, but with tiring legs and with pleas for a flat route we were soon heading back towards Manley Mere with the dying sun casting long shadows across the roads as we revelled in the early evening light.  Past Beeston, Kelsall, Ashton and we were back at the Windsurfing Centre and all that remained was the ride back to Chester in the gathering gloom.
Another fantastic day: thanks to Ray for the choice of route, lunch stop and afternoon tea.
Distance from Chester and back 78 miles.
For route map and/or gpx file download.

24th September 2009: Unknown

Ride details to be posted when received.
If you were on this ride please contact Bryan or supply a brief description for the blog.

Sunday 20 September 2009

17th September 2009: Whitchurch

As this was my first full day back with the group after two months absence I took it easy on the ride out to the Ice Cream Farm and revelled in the early autumn countryside.  Arriving early I settled down to tea and teacake before being joined by Dave H, Glennys, Ray and Brian.  Conversation turned to the Tour of Britain and the stage through the Forest of Bowland that we intended to cross on the 11th October.  Dave reassured us that it wouldn’t be too strenuous once he had sorted out the route!  With that we turned to today’s ride and Ray’s plan for Market Drayton, but as this was my first day back something a little shorter was called for, so we settled on a joint ride to Wrenbury where those wanting the shorter option would turn off to Whitchurch while the rest carried on with Ray to Market Drayton.
Ray led us out at a relaxed pace passed Bolesworth Castle and up to Brown Knowl before dropping down to Bickerton and on to Cholmondely.  At Wrenbury we dashed across the canal bridge just before the bridge was raised for a passing narrow boat: this was in marked contrast to our previous visit when Brian’s canal experience was called upon by Dutch navigators.  A mile further on we stopped in Aston to regroup where, with Ray’s directions in mind, four of us headed off for Marbury and Whitchurch.
The White Bear in Whitchurch did us proud for lunch assisted in part by a pint of Cock a Hoop and animated conversation.  The return journey via Malpas, Tilston and Tattenhall was made in good time so that by 15.45 we were back at the Ice Cream Farm savouring a cream tea special.  Once relaxed Dave H had a proposal to put to us: with dark nights drawing in why don’t we meet half an hour earlier in the morning?  Aware that only a few members were present it was decided that a change of more than 15 minutes could not be justified.  It was therefore agreed that from the 1st October the meet/start time would be brought forward by 15 minutes and the views of the other members would be sought before further changes were made.
Distance from Chester and back, an enjoyable 57 miles.

10th September 2009: Seacombe Ferry

I can understand the reluctance to start every 8 weeks from Ness Gardens as, at first sight, the Wirral Peninsula seems to have limited cycling options away from main roads and suburbia.  However today five of us explored places popular in Victorian times with a circuit including dry marshland, The Wirral Way, past people's back gardens, across sand dunes, along promenades, docks and through the oldest Public Park in the world; and with a glorious 22 C sunny day to boot.  We traversed the only Coal Mines in Cheshire (did you even know they existed?) at Little Neston, rode through the former principal port to Ireland (Parkgate), past The Titanic owners house at Thurstaston, all the way round the coast to the site of the former New Brighton Tower that was 49 feet higher than Blackpool.  Excellent pint and scoff at Seacombe Ferry Hotel - remember from 1200 to 1500 for the future.  Then down past Birkenhead Docks and through the Park, Oxton and Poulton to the Victorian playground at Raby Mere, before the final 4 miles back to Ness.  In fact the whole day was one long series of glories past, a bit like the riders, with 41 miles back to Ness.

Friday 4 September 2009

3rd September 2009: Trevor & Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

The good news was the rain forecast never wet us, it followed us all day. The bad news was the 18 mph wind never let up. Bryan is still out of action but kindly turned up at Bellis in Holt for elevenses and to suggest a route and wave us off. Thank you. Off directly into the South Westerly via Cross Lanes, Ruabon and the old iron/coal fields of the Dee Valley to the Canal Basin at Trevor. Excellent lunch at The Telford pub, including a dessert called ............. "Rumpy Pumpy". That's what I asked for and got.

Photograph by Brian MacDonald
After lunch it was over the "8th Wonder of Wales", now a World Heritage Site, Thomas Telford's Pontcysyllte breath-taking Aqueduct. We discovered that, in high cross winds, cycling on it is inadvisable, due to the canal on one side and the 116 foot drop on t'other. Back along the Llangollen Canal towpath for 3 miles, we passed three more of Telford's viaducts before emerging from a canal tunnel in sunny Chirk. Then with the wind behind us, we returned to Holt via St Martins and Overton, completing an easy & very varied 38 miles.
Next week, it's another 38 mile historical ride from Ness Gardens, to see where the Victorians went to play.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

27th August 2009: The Cheshire Sandstone Ridge

Jim and Brian cycled across from Waverton and met up with Mike in Rose Farm cafe. Two folks wanted to get back early for domestic duties; we haven't quite trained our families into leaving Thursdays sacrosanct for cycling. We had maps; weather was good, so we set off North by NW or was it South by SW towards Tarporley.
On the 13 August ride Brian had been compared to Contador for his sprints, but this time he led off directly into the wind to shield the others, just like George Hincape leading out Cavendish. Next month you WILL see him on the Tour of Britain. That's Brian as a marshal, not Cavendish. Work done, Brian peeled off to let the others ride off into the sun …..

….. past the Shady Oak, round Beeston Castle and down into Tattenhall. Then we crossed the A41 to Clutton and Tilston. Just south of Tilston we had noticed a feature on the map called Overton Scar and with memories of such features in the Dales being very scenic we set off south. What a disappointment; it turned out to be a low tree lined bank - I suppose the nearest you get to a scar in this part of the world. By now it was almost lunchtime and the Old Fire Station in Malpas was beckoning. All roads to Malpas are up so we were ready for a cuppa and a breather when we got there.
This was as far as we were going south, so after lunch we went through No Mans Heath, back across the A41, and skirting Bickerton Hill and Bolesworth Castle we were back in Tattenhall.
Resisting the temptations of the Ice Cream Farm, we took the lane to Hargrave and found ourselves really close to Walk Mill. As Jim hadn’t been before and we had a small amount of time left, we called in for a coffee and a piece of non fattening chocolate cake. At this point we separated and arrived home pretty much on time.
Around 40 miles and a pleasant sunny day.

Friday 21 August 2009

20th August 2009: Hidden villages of North Wales

The party of Mike, Dave H, Jim and David were joined at the Gallery tea rooms by Bryan who was not riding but had brought some maps and route ideas after our last fiasco here when we hadn’t got a map between us!
We set off under a glowering sky and with a very threatening forecast. Ewloe was found ok and after a slight attempt by Mike to take us to the beaches of Flint, we headed straight on past the Agricultural College towards Halkyn. A brief sprint along the A55 and we were heading up the hill to the village. The sky still threatened, but never quite delivered, and we found ourselves at a junction in Pentre Halkyn. We didn’t need the map as we could remember the route from last time: Big mistake!! The map is clearly more accurate than our memories, but with a combined group age of over 200 that’s hardly surprising. After a little while we found ourselves on the old main road in Holywell, and took the maps out. Fortunately the turning to our next stop, Whitford, was not too far away and we were back on route again.
Just outside the village, Mike warned us not to go straight on as this lead to a steep horrible hill, so we turned left up an alternative steep horrible hill!
With careful use of the map and signposts, we proceeded to Llanasa where the whole village had joined in the scarecrow competition: very impressive efforts too. With confidence growing we took the road for Gwaenysgor and lunch at 1.30.
Without Ray’s extensive knowledge of the price of lime and soda we paid up without comment. With a downpour just as we were leaving, Jim decided to put his coat on, and sure enough, the sun was out moments later. Out came the maps again, and we decided to take a variation of Graham’s route home and headed towards the higher parts of Dyserth and Cwm. We then picked up the B road to Llyn Helyg and crossed the A55 again despite the road being signed as a ‘no through route’.
From there we took the high road back towards Halkyn, and the exposed village of Windmill. Still no rain, but the wind nearly blew us into the fields on a number of occasions. Turning left by the Bluebell Inn above Halkyn, we set off downhill at last back towards Northop. Retracing our path from the village, we arrived back at Hawarden about 5 pm. A total of 44 miles with a bit more for Mike and David, but a good day and we never got wet.

Monday 17 August 2009

13th August 2009: Arley, Tatton and Dunham Massey

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

The wasps were after our jam on a magnificent Manley morning. Mike displayed skill and bravery with his bare-handed killing technique. A friendly young man with a North-East accent introduced himself as Steve, and said that about twenty miles was his normal trip. The debutant leader had planned to visit Arley Hall, Tatton Park and Dunham Massey. Ambition may have to be trimmed!
Jim, Brian Mac, Steve, Mike and myself trundled up to Kingsley and wafted along the Weaver by a roving route. Small, quiet lanes, many that even Ray may never have ridden, were the theme for the whole ride. A lady flashed past our noses at Comberbach, riding hell-for-leather on a mountain bike laden with shopping. We just about caught up with her, and had an interesting chat for a few miles. She once climbed in the Alps and cycled home to England. She left us near Arley to paint her house at Appleton Thorn. Some of us vaguely remembered once having the energy to go on a ride and still do major domestic tasks all in the same day.
Some walking was required on wide metalled ways in the grounds of Arley and Dunham Massey: persuasive e-mails for greater cycle access will be sent. After Tatton Park we finally stopped for sustenance at The Swan with two Nicks at Little Bollington. The ale was great from the village brewery (according to our very experienced beer-swilling expert, Mike). The food was also very tasty. According to Jim the best dish on view was the stunningly attractive landlady, but unfortunately she wasn’t on the menu.
Back on the road, we headed for the Trans-Pennine Trail. Brian MacDonald-Contador made devastating sporadic spurts ahead. This worried me initially, because he had said that he knew this area about as well as the far side of the moon. It turned out he was just positioning himself to take photographs of us for the website. Ta for that Brian.
An overgrown bridle path slid us toward the centre of Lymm. Take-out cappuccinos, sat in the sun with the ducks having fun. Would I remember the next intricate twists and turns Garminless, hopefully not gormless? (But sadly out of date, still with film to finish in my camera, and chrome and leather toe-strapped to my quill-stemmed Raleigh). I buoy myself up by thinking I’m actually coolly retro, and anyway Tupper of the Track managed to be a winner without sophisticated gear! Ticking along the traffic-free lushly lined lanes: Crouchley, Mag, Swineyard, Crowley, Pennypleck and Caldwell’s Gate passed with The Antrobus Arms as our last stop. Lime and soda with ice slakes the thirst. Forgot to note the price for the book I know Ray has in him.
The usual sting in the tail over the penultimate miles loomed and the steep zigzagging up to Newton Firs was certainly knackering. Steve was coughing, but conquered the summit; I think we’ll see him again. Thanks to the troops for their positive support on this slightly off-piste excursion. It was a beautiful day, no main roads and 62 miles clocked in relaxed, agreeable company. Can’t wait for next Thursday!

Tuesday 11 August 2009

6th August 2009: Maeshafn

The main question concerning today’s ride was “who would turn up?” Elevenses was at the Tudor House café in Caergwrle holding the promise of a ride into the welsh hills. As members arrived it became clear that this was to be a ride of the Daves. Regulars Dave H and Dave P were joined by Dave Hill (joining us for the first time) and Dave Mann (for his second time) together with Brian Mac and Mike. Dave Hill offered to lead promising an interesting and hilly ride.
Leading out over the southern shoulder of Hope Mountain the group headed for Ffrith, crossing the ford with only Dave H taking a plunge. From here it was on to Llanfynydd and up hill to a welcome stop at the Stone Zoo before continuing on to Maeshafn via Graiarhyd and Eryrys. After an excellent lunch the return journey to Caergwrle was made with a stop at the impressive Leeswood Hall gates before dropping down to Pontybodkin with the final leg over the northern shoulder of Hope Mountain. Here the group broke up as members peeled off to make their respective ways home.
Distance from Chester and back, a hilly 46 miles.

Friday 31 July 2009

30th July 2009: Wrenbury

As I sat with my coffee and fruitcake at the Ice Cream Farm and 11.00am passed I began to question whether I had the right venue but just as I was about to ring our beloved leader Bryan to see if I was in the right place, Brian arrived and I relaxed. Only the two of us then and as we had a delayed start, thanks to torrential rain just as we were about to set off, we decided to keep things flexible and to "play it by ear". Although I had sketched out a route to Market Drayton that began to look a bit optimistic as Brian had an evening Wedding Reception to attend and on balance the weather threatened to be less than favourable. Equally unfavourable was my lack of map reading skills and having intended to head for Audlem via Harthill and Bickley we had soon missed our first target and were crossing the A41 heading for Clutton! A rapid recalibration and a route via Tilston and Malpas seemed most attractive.
Rain was imminent and it was definitely going to be a COCOA day (Coats On - Coats Off). No real downpour and we reached Malpas in fine spirits and set out for No Mans Heath in bright sunshine. Having crossed the A49 we then missed a further turning but, more by good luck than good management, arrived at another crossroads clearly signposted to Wrenbury. As we approached the village we caught up with a heavily laden lady cyclist keeping up a spanking pace despite her extensive array of luggage and later learned that she had cycled some 800 miles up in Scotland during the past fortnight. Having wheedled a passage over the canal bridge before it was raised we found the enticing smells from the Dusty Miller too attractive to resist and were soon enjoying very pleasant pints of Dizzy Blonde. Lunch was splendid with Brian's Beef Sandwich accompanied by chips and salad covering a large dinner plate and my own beef and ham salad equally impressive. I have previously always used the Coton Arms but now discovered that the Landlord of the Dusty Miller is an old acquaintance.
As we left the pub after our excellent lunch we found a family struggling to master the intricacies of the mechanism operating the bridge so Brian, a veteran of narrow boat holidays, rushed to their assistance. As I approached the bridge I was stunned to see that the trainee bridge operative was a Dutch lady whom I had met with her family on the beach at Llanfairfechan the previous week when I was staying nearby and she and her family were staying in Betws y Coed. She had actually told me that they were going on to hire a narrow boat from Ellesmere - I have not calculated the odds of our then meeting again - must do the lottery this weekend!!
After Brian had provided further assistance with the bridge to another family we set off again heading for Ravensmoor but more dodgy map reading meant that we missed a turning and ended up in Nantwich. We headed back up to Acton and then along the A534 before turning off to Haughton and back through Spurstow and Peckforton around Beeston and thence back to the Ice Cream Farm for a refreshing pot of tea. Brian departed for his wedding reception and I set off back home via Huxley and Waverton. A very enjoyable ride where the rain threatened far worse that it actually delivered but judging by some of the flooded lanes it looked like our luck had been in for the day. Just 37 miles covered to and from the Ice cream Farm and a round trip of 60 miles door to door from Ashton.

Friday 24 July 2009

23rd July 2009: Bickerton Poacher

Elevenses today was at the Little Roodee car park Café and as most of the regulars were away on holiday or working I had planned an easy ride. Ray was already at the café when I arrived so at least I wouldn’t be riding alone. After catching up with recent events Dave Mann joined us for his first ride with Chester Easy Riders. Once the introductory formalities were complete the discussion turned to Twitter, blogs, Harry the Bike and Ray’s prestidigitation: all good stuff but it was soon time to leave.
We head off along the Dee Promenade and make good progress through Christleton, Hargrave and Huxley narrowly avoiding a van as we negotiated the canal bridge by the Shady Oak. Then with everyone happy with the pace we leave Peckforton behind and pull into the Bickerton Poacher car park for lunch. It’s quite a while since we stopped as early as this for lunch and almost as punishment for this misdemeanour we are forced to wait for our drinks while a large business group are served food. My phone beeps and it’s a text from Jim announcing that he’s just got to the top of Mt. Ventoux! Now that’s serious stuff: a little different to our efforts today. Outside we sit under cover just in case it should rain and sure enough it does just as we were about to leave. Dave queries Ray on sundry bike maintenance issues and chain life during the half hour we are forced to wait for the rain to ease. At least we haven’t got on to the average gradient of today’s ride; I think to myself.
After the rain it feels unseasonably chilly as we start off but by the top of Gallantry Bank we are warmed up for the circuit of Bickerton and Larkton hills passing Broxton Old Hall and on towards Bolesworth. Thoughts of tea and cake at the Ice Cream Farm begin to fill my mind but no carrot cake today so I make do with an excellent coffee cake instead. We settle down to a relaxing break with plenty of time in hand and somehow or other a debate begins with Ray asserting the pre-eminent nature of science in moving the world forward, which leads on to issues of communism, capitalism, religion, tribalism, greed and the cultural divide. This is not the normal Chester Easy Riders fare but who cares.
The final leg home is made via Saighton with a brief but fascinating stop at the architectural salvage dealer by New Russia Hall.
Distance from Chester and back, a short but enjoyable 36 miles.

Saturday 18 July 2009

16th July 2009: Mersey Estuary Ride

Photographs by Glennys Hammond

We had discussed today’s ride a number of times over the last year so I was thinking about how it would go as I cycled to the Cottage Café in Frodsham for an early 9.45am meet. I joined Jim sitting outside in the sun with tea and teacake before being joined by Glennys, Mike, Dave and Peter Williams (joining us for the first time). Once we had discussed the route it was time for the off with Dave leading us through Runcorn to the Runcorn Widnes bridge over the Mersey. Thank goodness we had Dave’s local knowledge to navigate us along the cycle paths through this bewildering landscape of flyovers and underpasses before being able to enjoy the views from the bridge. Once on the Trans Pennine Trial below the bridge Bryan took the lead before Glennys led us to Hale village church to see the grave bearing the inscription "Here lyeth the bodie of John Middleton the Childe of Hale. Nine feet three." After a photo opportunity by the carved giant it was time to continue through Speke before passing alongside the Jaguar Land Rover plant. How we avoided punctures on these glass littered cycle paths I don’t know but it was with a certain amount of relief that we joined the old railway line at Halewood Country Park for the ride up to Gateacre.
Leaving the Trans Pennine Trail Bryan led us uphill through Gateacre Village with the promise of a viewpoint in Calderstones Park which, I have to admit, seemed less and less likely as we got closer. Confidence in Bryan’s map reading skills then suffered a dramatic collapse as it turned out the “viewpoint” was in fact the OS symbol for a “garden”! Luckily the diversion gave us the opportunity to view the original Calder stones before we remounted, donned waterproofs, and set off in the rain down hill to the red bull on the Mersey Estuary embankment.
Once on the embankment, taking in the views across the Mersey, it seemed only a matter of minutes before we were relaxing in a café in the Albert Dock having a much needed lunch in the dry. Although a little behind schedule we took our time only to discover, on arriving at Pier Head, that we had just missed the Ferry and the next one wasn’t due for an hour and a quarter! A short diversion to James Street station was called for, where we took the next train to Hamilton Square negotiating both escalators and lift to get back to street level. Peter offered to lead us on the scenic route through Birkenhead pulling in Birkenhead Park and Bidston Hill before we joined the NCR 56 to Brimstage Craft Centre for afternoon tea and cake. Leaving the Craft Centre as the tearooms closed we headed back to Chester with Peter peeling off in Willaston and Bryan in Capenhurst.
What an interesting day this had turned out to be: a completely different ride to the usual exploring new territory and with four leaders covering different stages. Even the rain and missed ferry didn’t spoil the enjoyment of a great day out. Distance from Chester and back 66 miles.

Tuesday 7 July 2009

5th July 2009: Veterans 100 mile ride Kinnerton to Llandrinio

Photographs and slideshow by Glennys Hammond

The Bert Bailey Memorial Veterans 100 mile ride is the premier event in the Chester & North Wales CTC calendar so it was entirely appropriate that with Bryan Wade leading a group, six of us had registered to take part. Come the day, group leader Bryan, was joined by Chester Easy Rider stalwarts Graham and Vicky Payne, Jim Dale, David Heath and Mike Morley along with David Cane, Charles Collier, John Huddleston, Peter Williams, Stuart Roberts and Brian Crook.
With a start time of 8.40 a relaxed group E assembled for the first of many of Glennys’ photo calls and a send off from Mike Cross. We were soon heading through the lanes at a steady but sensible pace designed to make the day enjoyable whilst keeping to a reasonable schedule. Rosset came and went as we made our way towards “elevenses” at Overton whilst enjoying ideal cycling weather with only a light breeze, sunshine and very pleasant temperatures. Overton was reached at around 10.45 much in line with Bryan’s target of two hours per leg. All was going well and the Cocoa and Reading rooms provided excellent facilities for coffee and biscuits.
Leaving Overton things took a turn for the worse as “it’s spitting” turned into something of a downpour that ended any debate about whether or not a waterproofs stop was necessary. Of course, in its usual perverse manner the rain disappeared very shortly after we had all togged up; the rain ceased and another stop was needed to take coats off again. I had opted to leave my coat on as it was not too warm but before long the sun was out again and I made a solo stop, fumbled unsuccessfully with getting my coat back in my rack pack whilst still on the bike only for it to overbalance leaving me with a bruised and oily shin. More haste less speed!! I soon caught up with the group who were now heading out past Tetchill towards the lunch stop at Llandrinio – still keeping up a reasonable pace. We had caught up with and overtaken one group while they waited for some slower riders only to find we had been joined by three extra riders making counting heads a bit more of a problem. Queens Head and West Felton were left behind and then the sight of hills ahead indicated that lunch was not far away; Bryan having assured us that the route turns for home just before the terrain turns hilly. Just as well that Llandrinio Village Hall was reached for a very welcome lunch that certainly filled at least one corner!
It soon seemed time to leave and a much refreshed group were back en route for the return to Overton through delightful countryside made even more pleasant by occasional sightings of the Severn that was crossed on the way to Ellesmere via Knockin with its inevitable “The Knockin Shop” store! By now the sun was quite warm again and just as we were looking forward to afternoon tea Bryan did a great impression of Alistair Darling with an outbreak of unforeseen and rapid deflation - his rear tyre valve exploded. We were passed by Harry Watson’s group – naturally heading up a lane past a large “No Through Road” sign – Harry’s speciality! Having watched Bryan pumping away with his mini pump with increasing interest the support vehicle belatedly offered the use of a track pump but by now the tyre was sufficiently hard for the trip home.
A brief comfort break in Ellesmere and then it was up the A528 back to Overton for more tea, sandwiches and cake. By tactical error after a large slice of chocolate cake I seized on a delicious looking Bakewell tart – what a shock to find out that it was a caramelised onion quiche!
The last leg was soon underway returning to Kinnerton by way of Shocklach and Tilston with a final welcome drinks stop at the home of John and Sue Wright in Tilston. Back at the Scout Hut, after a reviving cup of tea, it was time for the final act; the presentation of awards and certificates by Arthur Miller.
Many thanks to Bryan for his steadfast and almost faultless navigation and very sensible pace setting – only two very minor diversions quickly rectified by his magic box of tricks that seems to whack a few volts up his arm if there is any straying from the authorised route. Thanks also to David Ackerley for a really well organised day that must have involved much hard work by him and many helpers. Will we be back next year in even greater strength – it certainly seemed that our Thursday “Easy Rides” are excellent preparation for the event.

2nd July 2009: Overton Bridge

Five riders met for elevenses at the Gallery Tea Shop in Hawarden and enjoyed an interesting ride to the Cross Foxes pub at Overton Bridge for lunch.

Friday 26 June 2009

25th June 2009: Shrewsbury to Chester via Ellesmere

Photographs by Glennys Hammond

A train assisted ride from Shrewsbury back to Chester was the plan for today. With a hot sunny day in prospect even the early start didn’t seem to matter as I arrived at Chester station in time for the 08.22 train to Shrewsbury. Glennys was already there and we got our tickets and checked the situation re the bikes. It appeared that there might already be one bike reservation but this didn’t seem to be a problem to the clerk. Graham T and Dave P joined us on the platform where there was indeed another cyclist waiting to board. As it turned out, our four road/touring bikes easily fitted into the allocated bike space designed for two bikes and even with the fifth one stowed there was plenty of room. Relieved we took our seats pleased that we could all travel together.
The journey to Shrewsbury was uneventful and before long we were drinking coffee in the station buffet awaiting the arrival of Brian travelling from Wirral on the Bidston line. There is clearly something important about Shrewsbury station: first a specially chartered Leeds to Aberystwyth train pulls in packed full of rail enthusiasts followed by an “Orient Express” luxury excursion train heading south. Brian arrives on a standard service but still no sign of Dave H until my telephone rings and its Dave ringing from Wem. Resisting the temptation to ask why he is in Wem when we are in Shrewsbury we arrange to meet up by the church in Baschurch en route to Ellesmere. And so we make ready to leave.
Across from the station is a sign for the road we want and within minutes we are leaving Shrewsbury behind and heading north through open countryside following the river Severn. By Fitz we are on delightful back lanes, with almost no traffic, and the intention of sticking to them for the rest of the day. Dave H is waiting for us in Baschurch, and with the group united we head through Lower Hordley and on to Ellesmere where we make a short diversion to view the lake and the new information centre/café due to open in August. Graham T suggests we walk along the lakeside, which we do before we remount to follow him through the centre of Ellesmere to the courtyard of the Black Lion Hotel. Here we relax in the sun with Marstons Ale on tap and a huge choice of lunch time meals. On the advice of one of the patrons most of us opt for the small size meal which proves to be more than enough. A great choice of venue Graham.
Once out of Ellesmere we are immediately back on the quiet lanes to Penley with a couple of hills to add some variety to the ride. From here it is more back lanes until we reach Brynhovah Bank with its wonderful view across the Dee valley then down to join the B road past Bangor on Dee race course and into Bangor on Dee itself. On home territory now the groups splits into two as we head to Bellis’s for afternoon tea and cake. Once refreshed we make for home with Graham T and Dave P heading to Pulford, Brian and Glennys to Chester via Alford and Dave H and me to Tattenhall where Dave has parked up.
A truly delightful and easy route in wonderful weather. Shrewsbury to Holt 38 miles. Shrewsbury to Chester 56 miles.

14th June 2009: Cheshire Cycleway Rides

What a wonderful day. Everything about the rides was first class: the route, the weather and the organisation. We left Waverton right on cue at 9am with about 20 hardy souls in for the 100 mile option. The group split into two fairly quickly with the racing snakes tearing off into the distance although we did see them again briefly at the coffee and lunch stops. After the coffee stop we were an even more select group of four: Graham & I on the tandem and Janet Gregory and Alan Mort on their formula one singles. We managed to strike some sort of balance with them dropping us for dead on the climbs and us pulling them along the flats. Suffice it to say the whole ride was done at a far faster pace than I had envisaged. This year all the climbing came before lunch and boy was I looking forward to the lunch stop. I was sorely tempted to stop at last year's lunch stop and beg a crust. Janet and Alan missed the turn at the Bull but we managed to shout them back. As we rounded the hairpin Graham said can you see them? Janet was storming up the hill and soon overtook us. Alan caught us near the top. So onto lunch which was excellent: generous portions of beans on toast and a freshly baked scone and jam washed down with as much tea as you could drink?
We arrived at the canal centre in next to no time and bought ice creams. The next 20 miles are a blur and then we were at the Jessie Hughes Institute where the WI did us proud. We left there around five with Janet saying "only 13 miles to go. I finished at 6 last year so I'd like to do the same again this year.” We finished with 15 minutes to spare!!
I regard this event as one of the highlights of our cycling year as it was one of the first events we entered when we started cycling "seriously". This year's edition did not disappoint and I've already pencilled in next years on my calendar.

Saturday 20 June 2009

18th June 2009: Cilcain

I check my email and Twitter this morning to find that Mike has suggested what appears to be a tough route down to Pontcysyllite Aqueduct and back along the old horseshoe pass. I decide to give it more thought on the way out to Caergwrle where we meet for elevenses. The new pedals feel fine after the trouble experienced last week and before long I join up with Brian for the final few miles. Graham, Jim and Mike soon join us at the Tudor House Café. Brian is enthusiastic about Mike’s suggested route urging us to “go for it”. Then he announces that as he has to be home early today he will leave us at one of the stations and get a train back!
In the light of a pronounced lack of enthusiasm on the part of the others an alternative of Cilcain is eventually seized on and agreed. And so it is we set off across the shoulder of Hope Mountain to Pontybodkin, through Treuddyn and Nercwys following the contours above Mold before descending to the Alyn over the river and up the stiff climb to Cilcain.
The White Horse Inn isn’t exactly buzzing today but the welcome is genuine and as Mike quickly notes the Brakspear’s Hooray Henley bitter must have been provided in my honour: excellent. The filled baps provide the sustenance while we chat and sort out the route back. A nice easy descent takes us down to the A541 where we cross and ascend the Halkyns to Moel-y-crio and then down to Rhosesmor. From here we take the Buckley route but instead of crossing the A55 to Bilberry Wood we take a right towards Hope dropping off Jim and Graham before Mike and I head back to Chester through Kinnerton.
A great day out along beautiful untrafficked lanes with a few hills for good measure.
Distance from Chester and back 50 miles.

Saturday 13 June 2009

11th June 2009: Overton Bridge

Riding out to the Ice Cream Farm with the wind from behind I decide on the Waverton route and make a note to use the more sheltered Greenlooms route on the way home. It’s a good decision and catching another cyclist we ride together for a few miles before he turns off with an invitation to check the blog and join us the next time he has a free Thursday. Arriving early I settle down to sort out a route as the others turn up. Graham arrives complaining of a slow puncture which he hopes will be OK and before long there are nine of us although sadly Glennys won’t be joining us for the ride.
My suggestion of a ride southwest to Overton Bridge with the return skirting Wrexham, to get assistance from the prevailing wind on the way back, is accepted without a murmur of dissent. Once outside Graham decides his rear wheel puncture requires more than just re-inflating which gives me an opportunity to investigate an abnormally large amount of float on the left hand pedal and difficulty unclipping. The verdict: excessive wear on the pedal release necessitating extra care today.
Once away we are soon bowling along at a steady pace through Tattenhall, Tilston, Shocklach and Worthenbury with superb views across to the Welsh hills on our right. This really is ideal cycling weather; later in the summer as things warm up the views will be lost in the haze but not today. Then taking the minor lanes to bypass Bangor on Dee we head towards Overton and the final descent down to Overton Bridge with the Dee valley laid out before us. The terrace of the Cross Foxes pub was designed for days like this and we take full advantage sitting outside in the sun looking down at the river below.
Is this to be another case of lime and soda over spec? I can almost hear Ray preparing to do battle but no we are spared the onslaught for today at least. Once Jim had reminisced about his school days as union rep. it was time for some admin. Do we seek organisers’ liability cover for the group in addition to our individual third party cover and if so how. With full agreement to opt for additional cover the only issue was how: affiliate to the CTC or become an “Informal Group” (IG) of an established CTC Member Group. Opinions were aired, views expressed and affiliation to the CTC chosen. With that out of the way we could settle down to enjoy the rest of the day.
The return journey took us further south to Erbistock before we turned northeast along the lanes through Crabtree Green towards Wrexham. My recollection of the roads around King’s Mills proved sadly flawed but once recovered we were soon skirting the industrial estate on idyllic lanes passed Erla’s Hall (wondering about the past Viking connections) where Dave P left us to make his own way home. The rest of us continued on to Holt where Ray suggested Vernon’s for afternoon tea and we took an outside table to enjoy the afternoon sun, tea and cakes. What more can you ask for? All the right ingredients today, good weather, lovely lanes, great views excellent lunch stop, great company and we even pulled in afternoon tea. Now that’s what I call a ride.
Distance from Chester and back 62 miles; Ice Cream Farm and back 42 miles.

Friday 5 June 2009

4th June 2009: West Kirby & Seacombe

A cooler day is forecast with plenty of sun and a light breeze; just the right stuff for the bike so let's see if we can make the most use of it. I catch Jim's wheel at Capenhurst and Graham (P) is just tying up as we sail into Ness. Tea and teacakes and a free top up for the tea (you've got to ask) and we're ready for decision time. Graham and Jim have the same idea, they think I have a route in mind - I haven't. 'Look, it's getting warmer, it's sunny and it will be nice at West Kirby - let's go there.’ 'O.K.' times two.
Down to the Wirral Way, it's dry so we're OK, and the day is improving. 'How about fish and chips on the sea front?' 'Sounds good to us.' The day improves a little more. Visibility is good and the views over the estuary to the welsh hills are stunning but we have to leave them for a while as we drop into West Kirby where Harry Kwok is preparing some fish and chips for our appreciation. Will the tyres need a little more air to cope with those chips? We risk it and are soon settled overlooking the Marine Lake, with the views restored and the sun also playing its part. Over-indulged, we continue through Hoylake to Meols where we can return down the Wirral or carry on to New Brighton. Graham fancies the latter so we continue along the cycleway, keeping the sea on our left. A small interruption for ice creams at Moreton - where the 'mill' turned out to be a lighthouse, doh! - and we enter New Brighton's cafe society. 'May as well complete the route to Seacombe and check out the Vale Park café.' Acquiescence. We enjoy the architecture at the ferry terminal and follow this with an enjoyable cuppa at Vale Park. Then, with a light wind on our backs, we head back to West Kirby, but this time we take the cycleway from Hoylake station to Riversdale Road. This is a good surface, pleasant and avoids the main road. After snacks al fresco we are back on the Wirral Way, only to come off at Willaston (Jim is our Garmin substitute) where we take the Missing Link so that we can leave Graham at Capenhurst Lane (to complete his 91miles) whilst Jim and I take the gated Sustrans offering to Backford. We part at Mickle Trafford for our 70+ miles for the day; a day with virtually no traffic, no hills and stunning scenery all the way. I think we made the best use of the day.

Friday 29 May 2009

28th May 2009: Coton

Now I have to admit that when Mike sent a tweet, earlier in the week, suggesting a ride to Coton I had no idea where it was other than somewhere south of Whitchurch. A detailed perusal of the OS map revealed that I had in fact cycled through it some years earlier on the National Byway route south to Shrewsbury. With Mike willing to lead, providing there was GPS backup, everything was in place for a good days ride. Thursday dawned with good weather in prospect so perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that ten of us turned up at Bellis Garden Centre Café for the ride with a further two, introduced by Jim, joining us for elevenses.
Mike led us out through Shocklach, over Sarn Bridge and through the lanes south of Wych Brook towards Painters Green and Fenn’s Bank. What a glorious day, probably the best so far this year: the sun shone and the countryside, just like us, appeared to be welcoming the coming summer. We made good progress with a constant buzz of conversation and I suddenly realised we had joined the National Byway with not much further to go. The Bull and Dog was almost empty when we arrived at 1.00pm. but with ten of us that soon changed. The pensioners’ special was hard to resist and Liz and Dave P both succumbed. The rest of us went for the “lighter bite” of a door step sandwich served with soup, chips and salad garnish! The non-availability of cask ale today was a disappointment to some, while Ray went without in protest at the exorbitant price of lime and soda.
For the return journey Mike led us back along delightful lanes past Whixall, Dobson’s Bridge and Bettisfield where we turned off to Penley via Tarts Hills. From here on Ray, with the route programmed into his Garmin, shepherded us back to Bellis by way of Bangor on Dee to arrive a few minutes after they had stopped serving for the afternoon. Never mind; it had been a wonderful day, with beautiful lanes we hadn’t ridden before, great weather and good company. What more could you ask for? Thanks to Mike for a great day.
Distance from Chester and back 68 miles.

Saturday 23 May 2009

21st May 2009: Wrenbury

Five of us today (Jim, Dave, Ray, Graham and myself) arrived almost simultaneously at Rose Farm Garden Centre Café for elevenses. Graham had suggested a ride to the Anderton Lift and I had come up with a route, but Ray was adamant that better weather would be had by heading southwest. After a careful study of the map it was agreed that we would head south and a number of pubs were identified en-route to provide food and shelter should the forecast heavy showers catch us out.
We headed out past the Cotebrook Coffee Shop and made good progress until 50 yards past the Boot and Slipper at Wettenhall, Dave called a halt with a puncture. No problem you might think but how wrong can you be? It took three of us just to get the tire off! Then with a thorn identified as the culprit a new inner tube was fitted and the tyre re-inflated until the valve core blew out! A second inner tube proved to be a better bet and after a few more minutes we were able to resume the ride.
With Ray leading we decided to check out the new Aqueduct Marina Café on the B5074. Once we had tracked down the café at the back of the farm and outbuildings, departing became something of a test of will power as we were solely tempted to stop and sample the delicious omelettes on offer. Apparently unmoved by the sight of food Ray led us out, some more reluctantly than others, and we were soon making our way south through Ravensmoor towards Wrenbury with the sky darkening overhead.
Arriving at the Dusty Miller we were just in time to park up before the skies opened and the rain bucketed down. A variety of substantial open sandwiches served with salad and chips washed down with a choice of Nosey Parker or Unicorn cask ales provided a fine lunch. Future plans were the topic of the day and the planned train assisted ride from Shrewsbury back to Chester was confirmed for the 25th June. A circuit of the Mersey Estuary starting in Frodsham was also planned for the 16th July, while Dave promised to come up with a proposal for the Ribble Valley.
The return journey started with a roadside stop to investigate the mechanically laid sheets of plastic with plants poking through. Maize was the considered view. Then in brightening weather but with the wind against us we headed back past the Cholmondeley Arms and the Bickerton Poacher until we reached Beeston Castle where we stopped for coffee before heading home via Christleton.
Distance from Chester and back 60 miles.

Monday 18 May 2009

14th May 2009: Gwaenysgor

Over elevenses at the Gallery Tea Shop in Hawarden we discussed the venue for the day. With a miserable, damp, grey, misty day in prospect where else could we go but the seaside? Well almost: Graham suggested Llanasa with lunch at the Eagle & Child at Gwaenysgor returning over the Halkyns. Mike asked doesn’t any place with a double L in it means big hills? Since there were no other suggestions Gwaenysgor was agreed unanimously and Graham led us off through Ewloe and Northop until, by utilising the edge of a short section of the A55, we emerged by the Britannia Inn at Halkyn. This section was new to me: a route to the coast that didn’t involve the busy coast road or a climb over the Halkyns or Clwydians!
Graham had more treats in store however, and after leaving Whitford we continued along delightful lanes through Tre-Mostyn and Trelogan to Llanasa before the smell of the sea reminded us that we were near the coast. Then to add the final touch to a wonderful morning the smell of wild garlic in abundance greeted us as we approached Gwaenysgor for our lunch stop. The Eagle & Child proved to be more than up to the task of feeding six hungry cyclists: an excellent choice spoilt only by the price of lime and soda which was so far over Ray’s spec that a complaint was lodged with each of the available staff willing to listen. Once lunch was over I gently broached the subject of Brian Lowe’s latest attempt to remove all references to the Chester Easy Riders blog from the C&NWCTC website but with the matter in the hands of the Committee we quickly moved on to corruption in high places and MP’s expenses claims.

Photograph by Bryan Wade

Before starting our return journey proper Graham led us up to the viewpoint overlooking
Prestatyn where, although mist obscured what would otherwise have been a fine view, we nevertheless had a good photo opportunity. Unfortunately time dictated the need to start our return and after retracing the route to Gwaenysgor we were on new lanes through Axton to Babett and then on to Pentre Halkyn, Soughton, Buckley and back to Hawarden where the group split up to make its own way home. For me it was a quick descent to the Ferry Lane bridge returning to Chester at 6.10pm just in time to shower and change before joining the Thameswey Tandem Club Chester rally.
An excellent 60 mile ride on beautiful lanes which just has to be repeated when the weather gets better. Many thanks Graham.

Saturday 9 May 2009

7th May 2009: Swettenham

Photographs by Ray Hardman

Mike emailed on the 6th suggesting Swettenham as the destination, together with an outline route. A few minutes to get the route into the Garmin and all was set for the day, which was forecast to be sunny but windy.
So in bright sunshine and with a westerly wind on my back I arrived at the Windsurfing Centre to join Graham, Jim, Mike, Dave H and Dave McW the signalman (on his way to work) for tea and a chat. No dissenters on the route so eyes down for Swettenham, but keeping an occasional eye out for a good pub. Mouldsworth Hill warmed up an already warming day and the jerseys were soon opening like the leaves in the hedgerows. The lush vegetation, with its array of freshly blossoming wild flowers, was to be a constant feature of the day. We headed out via Great Budworth and Plumley at an easy pace as we knew we would have 40 miles against the wind on the return leg; so by the time we had reached Swan Green - just after Lower Peover - it was 1:30pm and lunch was beckoning as we spotted The Crown. It was warm enough for lunch in the beer garden so we could nurse our bikes while we sampled the menu. Luckily, lime and soda was just within spec. at £1:30p and we were well satisfied with the baguettes and jacket potatoes.

A little philosophy (How will society replace the pub?) and also (Where will our legless youth migrate to from the club?) and then we were ready for the off as we had only completed 30 miles and still had 40 to do. Down through Goostrey and Twemlow Green where a photo opportunity presented itself with the Jodrell Bank radio telescope in the background. Then a minor disaster: a Google map 'road' turned out to be an Ordnance Survey track to Kermincham Hall in Swettenham. Can this be a Ray route, he who does not do tracks? After reaching Somerford as the most easterly point we started to turn into the wind to head back via Brookhouse Green and Brereton Green before taking the back lanes to Middlewich to cross the Shropshire Union canal. Legs were tiring against the wind and the pace was dropping, prompting Jim to phone home to give his ETA as 'sometime this month'. Graham still had 40 miles to do back to Prestatyn so the rest of us couldn't moan. So with Dave peeling off at Cotebrook, Mike at Tarvin and Jim at Vicars Cross it was left to me to take Graham back for some carbo loading and moral support before setting him off into the wind for his final 22 miles to give him 124 for the day; the rest of us managing around 80.

Friday 1 May 2009

30th April 2009: Panorama Route & Worlds End

Photographs by Bryan Wade

What’s happened to the sun? Just when we need good weather to enjoy the views from the Panorama Route it’s wet and miserable. So it was on with the waterproofs and off to Caergwrle to join the others for elevenses. I arrive early, despite trying and failing to find a new way over a roman bridge suggested by Ray. Ray and Mike arrive together, having discovered an “even better” route, which turns out to be the one I had been using for the last year! Graham completes the group of four for the day so we set off up “the steps” with Ray leading. The plan is to head up through Minera and then to take the back lanes south to Penycae before contouring round on the Panorama Walk. We make good progress with the only stops being to shed waterproofs and then put them back on as the weather changes: at least the rain wasn’t heavy. By the time we reached the Panorama Walk the rain had eased and we stopped to admire the view and take photographs.
Lunch at the Sun Inn at Trevor necessitated a long and steep descent almost down to the River Dee knowing full well that we would have to climb back up after. The Sun did us proud with a good choice of food (including a very satisfying chicken curry) washed down with Timothy Taylor. While discussing the benefits or otherwise of stainless steel chains, armadillo v continental tyres and other sundry cycling topics the rain bucketed down outside making us reluctant to leave. Leave we had to though, as the Inn was being locked up for the afternoon. Back in the saddle we used the car park to engage bottom gear and started on the climb back up the way we had come and then on towards Worlds End. Having done this section a couple of weeks earlier I wasn’t looking forward to the final climb out of Worlds End but we all made it in good spirits although I for one needed a stop at the top to recover! It just doesn’t seem to get easier. From here on the gradient was easier and we were able to enjoy the views over the moors before a fast descent returned us to Minera, Cefn-y-bedd, the Kinnertons and home.
The round trip from Caergwrle was just over 30 miles while Chester and back totalled 53 miles with a tiring 2269 metres of ascent.