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.

Thursday 23 December 2010

23rd December 2010: Moel Famau “Ride”

Due to sub-zero temperatures, snow and icy conditions today’s ride was cancelled.  Not to be out done an intrepid group of six met at Loggerheads for the walk up Moel Famau with not a bike in sight.  Lunch was taken at The Druids Inn, Llanferres.

Photographs by Ivan Davenport & Clive Albany

See the route as recorded on Clive's new Memory Map Adventurer 3500 gps.

Saturday 18 December 2010

16th December 2010: Alvanley Arms

The icebox conditions had returned today and the forecast was for worse to come.  It was therefore understandably difficult to summon up the energy for the ride out to Manley Mere in the hail!  Once there, things improved with the friendly faces of Jim, Dave Heath, Ivan, Martin and Liz making six in total.  After a chat and a hot drink the maps came out and we planned a short looping ride through the Forest with a potential stop at Cotebrook.  From here we would have the option of taking a longer route south towards Nantwich or a short route back to Manley Mere.
It was getting on towards 11:00 by the time we were on the road leading up to the Delamere Forest where a left turn after the railway bridge took us onto the lumpy road through the Forest to Hatchmere.  By Norley the weather was changing and it was beginning to warm up a little, with feeling started to return to frozen fingers.  Through Whitegate, Marton Green and Little Budworth it was really quite pleasant and such a surprise given the weather forecast.  However with our late start it was after 12:00 by the time we approached Cotebrook and the decision to stop for lunch at the Alvanley Arms was not in dispute.
Photograph by Martin Donaldson

Inside we grabbed a table near the fire and made ourselves comfortable.  Robinsons Cumbria Way bitter proved tempting to most of us although Dave favoured the Pims No 3 Brandy Cup Winter Warmer to some derision from the beer drinkers.  Not enough brandy though for Dave’s taste so with encouragement from Ivan the landlady made him a brandy winter warmer special!  With everyone now satisfied, excellent food and good conversation it was soon time to leave the warm.
Outside it had turned cold again and with darkening skies we braved the trucks on the A49 before the first right brought us back on the lanes.  It also brought snow: light at first but rapidly increasing as we headed towards Willington Corner and Oscroft.  Today the weather wasn’t going to settle into a predictable pattern and before long the snow was stopping and it was warming up again!  By Hollowmoor Heath the group had split into two with Ivan, Martin and Liz in the leading group and Bryan, Jim and Dave in the second slower group.  Back at Manley Mere there was no sign of the lead group so after saying goodbye to Dave (heading back to Warrington) Jim and I set off on the final leg back to Chester to find the lead group coming back towards us having taken the B road from Great Barrow.
Only a short circular 29 miles from Manley Mere but nevertheless a very enjoyable day out.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 10 December 2010

9th December 2010: Christmas Lunch ride to The Pant yr Ochain

After 10 days of bitterly cold and icy weather the temperatures rose above freezing in time for our Christmas Lunch celebrations at The Pant yr Ochain.  Now don’t get me wrong, it was still cold but it felt positively balmy compared to the previous week.  Five of us cycled out to Caergwrle (Clive, Brian Mac, Mike G, Ivan and I) for a hot drink and toasted teacake.  The plan was for an easy ride to The Pant yr Ochain and we soon agreed a route of just over 12 miles sticking mainly to the B roads.

Out on the roads we took it easy, with a loop round to Hope and then the B road to the Llay crossroads before heading to Rossett where we crossed the railway line at the pedestrian crossing point.  From Rossett it was a simple matter of following the B5102 before a right at the T-junction had us heading back through Borras to Gresford and The Pant yr Ochain where we arrived at 12:15pm.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald
and Ivan Davenport
Today wasn’t about the ride though and with the recent bad weather this was to be an opportunity to catch up with friends before, during and after the eagerly awaited Christmas lunch. Inside it was good to see that Jim and Dave H had already made themselves at home with glass in hand. It wasn’t long before the others started to appear with Mike M, Dave & Liz P having cycled direct.  The impressive range of ales caused some problems in deciding where to start.  For my part the stout proved irresistible.
With so much to talk about amongst the 14 of us we were a little late settling down to eat, but once we had, the starters appeared and were quickly demolished with considerable approbation.  A few photos later and it was time for the mains: all superb and served with aplomb.  By the time puddings and coffee had been served time was moving on and with darkness less than an hour away it was time to leave for the ride back to Chester.
What a fantastic day: great to be out on the bike again, a superb meal and great company.  It’s hard to imagine a better Christmas lunch.  Well done Pant yr Ochain: we can’t recommend you too highly.

Friday 3 December 2010

2nd December 2010: Ride Cancelled

Due to adverse weather conditions and icy roads today’s ride was cancelled.

Saturday 27 November 2010

25th November 2010: Eastham Ferry

Wonders never cease.  With the prospect of -5º C temperatures and snow, I would not have been surprised if I was the only rider out today.  But CER are made of sterner stuff.  The even bigger surprise was that even with the new 10:00 winter start, we had seven riders at the Little Roodee as the cafe opened.  Clive, Dave & Liz, George, Martin, Ivan, Ray and Brian set off by 10:30 with Dave who was going to do a short ride.  Thursday was one of those rare ones in winter that you just grab; it was bright, crisp & clear, perfect for an Easy Ride.
As we had a Northerly, we set off along The New Cut to Hawarden Bridge.  From there, taking the dry roughish track thro Shotwick, we crossed the Wirral peninsula, thro Hooton, Raby Mere, Bromborough, stopping for lunch right on time at the Eastham Ferry Hotel.
The “Sneck Lifter” from Cumbria (nothing to do with Martin) was well thought of, as was the 2 4 1 Lunch.  Opinion was that The Ferry was worth repeating, especially with the generous portions.  After lunch, a bright photo shot of the group in front of a huge red oil tanker on the high tide, turned in to a picture of the pavement.  No David Bailey today.

Photographs by Ivan Davenport

The return ride with the wind behind us took us thro Eastham, which turned in to a 1970s nostalgia trip for Ivan & Clive.  On thro Raby and Thornton Hough, we found ourselves back on the banks of The Dee Estuary at Parkgate.  The obligatory ice cream & coffee was taken at Nicholls award winning Parlour.  No guesses as to who sneaked off for a quick pint in The Ship.  With the light fading we pressed on back to Chester, via Little Neston & Puddington on Sustrans NCR 56, to end a most enjoyable 47 miles.
This week’s Question......................  How many extinct ferry ports did we visit?  For the Answer, come next week.
B Mac

Sunday 21 November 2010

18th November 2010: Aston

The weather forecast was rain (almost certainly) but cycling out from Chester to Holt, the rain held off despite the murky vistas.  There were seven of us (Liz and Martin, Dave M, George, Brian Mac, Ray S and myself) for the pre-ride hot drinks at Bellis’s café.  Two potential rides were discussed; one west via Wrexham to Loggerheads, which was discarded because it meant hills and rain, and a south easterly one to Aston.  CER had last visited Aston’s Bhurtpore Inn (for it’s history see http://www.bhurtpore.co.uk/history.htm) just over a year ago (5th November to be precise). Although I was the only rider present to have visited it last year, the prospect of a menu of real ales and decent food was the clincher.  Just as we were leaving my mobile rang – it was Ivan – he had just realised he was at the wrong venue and “where were we heading for lunch?”  He knew the pub since he was one of the CER group from last year’s visit. “I’ll meet you in the bar”, says Ivan. We all thought – if he can find it from the other side of Chester!
Off we rode through Shocklach and the back way to Chorlton.  A rare event then occurred; a motorist stopped to say the road ahead was strewn with thorns and the offending tractor, when it saw us, stopped hedge trimming to let us past – such consideration which was immediately dashed by the white van driver who refused to slow down in the narrow lane and forced us all into the side of the lane. Ignoring the correct right turn in Chorlton, we went left and had to double back a bit outside Malpas down Sunnyside (it wasn’t!) to get onto Dog Lane at Oldcastle Heath.  Heading for Lower Wych, the lane takes you down into the folded valley which marks the Welsh/English border. Up the steep climb and out to Wigland we went down to Higher Wych, later passing Iscoyd House (ideal as a wedding venue apparently).  At Redbrook Maelor, we turned left onto the A525 towards the outskirts of Whitchurch. Turning into Chemistry (such an odd road name), it started to rain as we threaded our way through Whitchurch town seeking the cycle route 45 to Wrenbury. Once out on Black Park lane passing Blakemere, through Hollyhurst and Pinsley Green, and with Dave M leading the way, the Bhurtpore pub soon appeared.
The Bhurtpore lived up to its reputation with a wide choice of real ales and food, all served very promptly at the table. Just then a text arrived from you-know-who; the contents of which will not be made public to spare the sender’s blushes – suffice it to say we seven did not become eight for lunch. The rained had stopped as we made our way back via Wrenbury to Cholmondeley Castle gates at which point four split off to go back to Bellis’s via Tilston to pick up their cars. Their round trip was around 42, incident–free, miles. We remaining three made our way towards Gallantry Bank where Dave M split off for home leaving Ray and myself to slog up Harthill in order to justify the coffee and cake at the Ice Cream farm. The Chester round trip was 65 miles and considering the weather forecast, very little rain but still a murky mid November day.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

NB: Next week’s ride from the Little Roodee will be led by Brian Mac and will leave at the new earlier time of 10:30 hours.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

11th November 2010: Bickerton Poacher

The big question for today is ‘what will the weather bring?’  Early in the week the forecast was for heavy rain all day but later on this changed to heavy showers and strong winds.  Last night the forecast was for showers and gale force winds gusting to 80 mph.  With such a forecast it was surprising to have a respectable turnout of eight members with six riding.  Bob and Dave McW there for a chat over elevenses and Clive, Ivan, Mike G, George, Martin and myself riding.  Given the uncertainty over the weather we decided a circular route staying within easy distance of home was called for.  I proposed lunch at the Bickerton Poacher by way of Eaton, Bunbury, Brindley and Cholmondeley, with the return route to be decided over lunch.
With the route agreed we paid our respects to the war dead of past and current conflicts with a two minutes silence on this Remembrance Day.  Then it was time leave, heading to Cotebrook with the wind behind us before turning south and the back lanes through Eaton to cross the A51 at Tilstone Fearnall.  After Bunbury Clive and Ivan took up the lead as we headed through increasingly muddy lanes to Brindley.  From here on we were heading eastwards into the wind passing Cholmondeley Castle before the final stretch north to the Bickerton Poacher.
Although only just over a power cut the staff soon had the kitchen up and running again while we sampled the ale.  The Theakstons Old Peculiar went down well, as did the other ales and not a single lime and soda in sight!  (As an aside I even had an email from Trevor the other day reporting the price of lime and soda in Thailand: 40 baht apparently.  What have you started Ray!)  The proposed change to the ride start time came up over lunch and with 15 votes in favour of an earlier start the majority view was clear.  It was agreed to implement the change on the 25th November when we will meet at the Little Roodee Café at 10.00am for a 10.30 start.
Photograph by Ivan Davenport

Dragging ourselves away from the convivial surroundings of the pub, where Ivan was threatening to stay all afternoon, we climbed back up Gallantry Bank before circling Bickerton Hill clockwise.  Once past Bolesworth Castle it was downhill to the Ice Cream Farm for coffee and cake before starting the final leg back to Chester against the wind.
What started as a journey into the unknown, weather wise, turned into a great day out on lovely lanes not far from home.  Yes it did rain, and the wind did get up, but only after we arrived home.  What more can you ask for?
Distance from Chester and back 52 miles.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 5 November 2010

4th November 2010: Llanferres

The weather forecast was not wrong for once today: bright earlier on with rain in the afternoon. All those riding today agreed with the suggested route that would get us to the Druid Inn at Llanferres for lunch. A few riders were just out for the teacake and hot drink – but only one had a valid reason for not riding out today! So, seven bikes (eight riders) set off a little later than normal. The route took us out through Ewloe and the usual back lanes way to Northop. Brian Mac unexpectedly dropped off in Northop – not sure why, but we hope all was OK with him. It was unseasonably very mild and most riders had too much gear on for the climb out of Northop to the top of Halkyn Mountain. When the sun came out, the autumn trees were very picturesque, and several lanes were covered with pine needles, which were showering down like rain in the strong wind. Although the sunken lanes gave us some protection until we hit the top, we were not really prepared for the Force 10 gale “on the nose” on the exposed ride to Rhes-y-Cae and Lixwm. Missing the planned right turn (a current feature of my map reading), the group climbed back up across the main A541 to explore the delightful village of Nannerch. Wikipedia describes the village thus: “Nannerch is one of the ancient parishes of Flintshire, made up of the townships of Trellan, Trefechan, Trecwm and Tre Penbedw. It is a quiet and attractive ancient village, sitting on a bedrock of carboniferous limestone, overlain by glacial boulder clay with glacial hollows”. You never do know what you’re cycling over! Back on the A541, the Cilcain turn soon came up and the ever-climbing undulating road brought us to the White Horse crossroads. “Is this the lunch stop?” cried a few voices – “No, it’s a little bit further on” came the leader’s reply. Very soon we were on the thoughtfully provided counter-directional “cycle path” alongside the A494 that took us straight to the Druid Inn (alt. 260m) in Llanferres. There was a warm fire and an extensive menu, promptly served, and although tasty, a little bit over-priced or small portioned. However there were several beers to choose from and the lime and soda, at £1.40, was mid-priced.
Discussing the return route and looking at the wind and the rain outside, a less hilly route to get onto the A5104 at Treuddyn, was plotted i.e. we took the B5430 rather than climbing up to Eryrys. Thankfully the rain stopped after about an hour. The long fast downhill run to Pontybodkin and on to Penyffordd brought us eventually to the top of Bilberry Wood where Dave and Dave and Liz went back to their cars in Hawarden. The remaining four of us took the usual way back to Chester via the Saltney Ferry crossing. Although the circular route from Hawarden was only 34 miles, the Chester loop added a further 16 miles and there was 650ft of straight climb with most of the route uphill fighting against a very strong headwind. Cycling back along the Dee cycle path, Chester looked very foreboding against the dark cloud backdrop pierced by the big white fun wheel being erected in Castle Square.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 30 October 2010

28th October 2010: Anderton Boat Lift and Stretton (M56)

I had a plan for this week’s potential ride that was based upon five possible lunch stops around the Stretton - Daresbury – Moore triangle and an industrial heritage flavour to the ride. The route was approved and a cyclist’s dozen (10 regulars plus a Bristolian guest, Steve) set off from Manley Mere – the tandem duo, who arrived for coffee, had a date with the dentist so eschewed today’s ride. The route took us the familiar way through Sugar Lane and out through Delamere Forest to Norley and onto the NCN 70 towards Onston Lane. Apart from a minor down Moss Lane to rectify a navigational error, we ignored Onston Lane and headed straight for the A49 junction outside Weaverham. A shimmy across the A49 took us up Gorstage Lane and into Weaverham proper – or so I thought. A wrong turn at the roundabout soon gave us a fine view of the A49 again! Undeterred, we doubled back and found Well Lane, Church Lane and finally Wallercotes Road on our way to scenic Winnington. Scenic that is, if you like working chemical plants along with a fair few abandoned ones. This is the industrial heartland that is Northwich environs! Over the Weaver canal and turn right and soon we were at the Anderton Boat Lift visitor centre admiring the ingenuity of the Victorian canal engineers of 1875 vintage. For loads of facts about it visit http://www.andertonboatlift.co.uk/VisitorsArea/AboutUs/history.html. Pushing on through Comberbach we headed for Antrobus crossing the A559. Taking Fogg and Stockley Lanes, we ran parallel to the A road joining it just before Lower Stretton.
First choice for lunch was the Stretton Fox at J10 of M56. A quick reconnoitre found the place heaving, so a quick run down the redundant Spark Hall Close took us to the “Cat & Lion” at Stretton traffic lights.  The “two course plus soft drink” £5 menu was snapped up by all and, despite a slip up with a partially frozen “hot” pasta dish, all agreed that it was an enjoyable lunch venue. Pushing on down Hatton Lane, past the “Hatton Arms”, and ignoring the turn to the “Ring of Bells” at Daresbury, we crossed the A56 bound for Moore passing the “Red Lion” pub. The initial plan was to try to navigate around the western edge of the Norton suburb of Runcorn along the canal path. However Brian Mac recalled that the Bridgewater Canal was rideable, so we looked for a suitable entry point in Moore – but missed it. A slight double back towards Daresbury found the canal entry point and we were soon cycling along the towpath of this very wide canal opposite the Daresbury physics laboratories and Science Park. Going under the M56 at the Preston Brook marina, we had no choice but to ride the main road back towards Frodsham. On the outskirts we took the NCN route 5 round the less-than-pretty backside of the town emerging, one puncture repair later, in the centre of the town. Out up the hill towards Helsby, we took a short diversion right to get off the main A56 road emerging again in time to turn into the Old Chester Road. Ignoring the obvious route of going straight up Alvanley Road, I hunted out the semi-rideable footpath that is the former Helsby Quarry. This quarry is partly a geological educational resource with its sandstone entrance tunnel and sectioned sandstone rock faces. Emerging after a short walk onto the Alvanley Road, the route back to Manley was an easy mainly downhill ride. Although only a circular route of 42 miles, we had seen a good selection of the local industrial chemical heritage: Rock Savage works (steaming away across the M56), Winnington chemical plants, Anderton canal boat lift, and the first canal in England (1761) financed by the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater. Oh, and it was pleasantly warm and dry – not bad for the last ride before the clocks change.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Sunday 24 October 2010

21st October 2010: Bodidris Hall

I’m grateful to Clive for planning today’s route some weeks ago.  Nine set off from The Tudor Cafe anti-clockwise, with a view to enjoying the £5 lunch at Bodidris hall up on the Llandegla Moors.  We’ve passed it often enough in the past and as today was a lovely sunny autumnal morning, it was an ideal time to visit.  As the clocks change back in a week, there won’t be many more days with so much daylight.
The ride started fairly straightforward past Penyffordd, then west through Nercwys before climbing southwest to Eryrys.  It then looked completely different doing this ride in the opposite direction to previous visits, as we climbed up and over the ridge of Offa’s Dyke, down into the old drovers village of Llanarmon yn lal.  We followed the old cattle drovers’ lanes down through Llandegla & out onto the edge of the moors, entering Bodidris Hall by the tradesmen’s entrance.
Bodidris is unique in that the county boundary between Denbighshire and Flintshire literally runs through the centre of the hall, and the county boundary stone can be seen outside the front door.  Yes, it was that old rock the bikes lent against.  The Hall is alleged to be haunted by a monk, a soldier, a boy, a well-dressed woman and a dog.  I don’t remember seeing the dog at lunch.  The £5 lunch was well received, but portions were a little small, I thought.
Afterwards, we were met outside on the lawns by literally hundreds of pheasants, which were being raised for the slaughter later in the year on the surrounding moors.  Indeed, as we then cycled over the moors, the guns were out, blasting away.  It was interesting to see a group hunting the old fashioned way, with birds of prey waiting for the dogs to flush out the game (?) from under cover.  We continued the circular ride over Four Crosses, through Bwlchgwyn, down the Stepps and back to Caergwrle.  Though it was a short 45 kms, we had climbed 553 metres and felt we had done another good CER ride.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 15 October 2010

14th October 2010: Wettenhall

A cloudy and dry day in prospect, albeit only 12C, found a baker’s dozen ready for the off from the Ice Cream Farm.  A rear wheel puncture had delayed Bryan and he arrived with 5 minutes to spare so the route was hastily agreed.  The riders were a mix of the usual suspects plus the recently joined members returning for some more pleasure and pain.  Except for one or two, we were in our winterised clothing – and needed it was. The route was designed to warm us up gradually, culminating in a decent climb at Willington. Out via Huxley, Hoofield and Clotton and on to Chapel Lane in Willington, we started to climb up passing Summertrees Café near the top of Primrose Hill. Usually the panoramic view from Tirley Lane is exceptional, but today, with mist and grey cloud, it was a shadow of its best. On along the ridge bearing right into Quarry Lane then Knights Lane, the roller coaster route took us down to Cotebrook. The plan was to take lunch at the Boot & Slipper pub in Wettenhall. An earlier phone call confirmed that they could take us OK so we continued through Little Budworth to seek out Whitegate Way. This is part of NCR 71 that follows the old railway line towards the Weaver canal in Winsford.

Photograph by Brian MacDonald

The plan was to negotiate through Winsford (as quickly as possible!) using cycleway 75. Winsford will not win any town beauty competitions so once we espied the blue cycleway signs and we were soon out on our way to Wettenhall. We arrived on time at 13.15 with 22 miles under our belt. An hour and half later we emerged having had a decent, albeit slow-to-arrive, meal apiece. Just as we were setting off another rear wheel puncture was spotted by Graham on Jane’s bike so there was a slight delay before we set off on route 75 bound southwards towards Nantwich. Briefly using the busy main roads around Burford, we soon found Swanley Lane and then Springe Lane bound for Chorley.  At the A49 crossroads the Cholmondeley Arms pub looked inviting on this cold grey afternoon but we pushed on skirting Cholmondeley Castle on our way to Harthill. The 375ft of descent down from Harthill is a real pleasure especially as we were carrying straight on to Tattenhall rather than turning right half way down at Dark Lane. Those going back to the Ice Cream farm for their car assist trip home had cycled 44 miles, while those of us heading back to Chester would have rode 65-70 miles. The weather could have been better but at least there was only a little drizzle in the air – no doubt good for mid October.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 8 October 2010

7th October 2010: Ludlow

Seven of us (Liz and Martin, Bryan, Ivan, Dave H, Jim and Clive) gathered in Church Stretton at Flinders Café at 0900 for a 0930 start.  It was marginally chilly but given it is early October, the rest of the day did not disappoint at all.  Taking the B road out to Little Stretton, we were soon into the narrow and rather mucky lanes that characterised the majority of the riding for the day.  Although about 3 miles out we were still not warmed up sufficiently for the short single chevroned hill in Minton.  The largely downhill run to Horderley did not really warm us up either for the coming long hill by Ridgeway Hill up to Edgton.  We were certainly warm after it though!  A left and right took us down the quiet Hopesay valley to Ashton upon Clun.
Photographs by Ivan Davenport

Pausing to read about the ancient tree in the village, we were off via Beambridge towards Twitchen but going off-piste by taking the much wooded (debris on the tarmac that is) and narrow Clunbury “bypass”.  At Hopton, we stopped briefly to look at the castle ruin sheathed in scaffolding and plastic sheeting as it was in the process of being restored thanks to lottery money – it has featured on Time Team in 2009 (see http://www.hoptoncastle.org.uk/).  Up the lane to Bedstone, we came upon the cyclist nemesis – a tractor trimming the hedges!  Squeezing past, we pedalled the next mile slowly in trepidation of picking up a puncture; but thankfully the whole ride was incident free.  Taking Jay Lane out of Bedstone, we crossed the river Clun valley into Leintwardine.  Keeping to the north of the river into Pipe Aston, we had a pleasant run as the sun came out from behind the mist.  From here to Ludlow is 4 miles and 400ft of slow climb up followed by an exhilarating long run down to the viewpoint overlooking Ludlow Castle.

Arriving a little earlier than I expected with 29 miles completed, we took a turn around picturesque Ludlow before arriving at the Charlton Arms by the bridge over river Teme. The Charlton Arms did us proud with wholesome food and beer promptly served at reasonable prices – we even had a table already laid for us.  The next 18 miles to the Wenlock Edge pub at Hill Top, right on the Wenlock Edge road, was extremely pleasant with the warm wind behind us and the sun shining.  This route up Corvedale winds through hamlet after hamlet, and despite a couple of route queries from the SatMap users, we ended up at the pub without mishap.

Dave and Jim decided to take the direct route back to Church Stretton along the ridge; so we said goodbye to them as we had our afternoon drink. Setting off for Church Stretton, we dived off the Edge down towards Longville in the Dale crossing the disused railway line that forms part of the Jack Mytton long distance footpath.  It is named after Jack Mytton (1796–1834) a Shropshire landowner, MP, horseman, foxhunter, gambler and Regency rake who was also known as Mad Jack.  It typically takes a week to ride on horseback.  Enough of Wikipedia: after Cardington, there were just a couple of hills to get over to enable us to get around Caer Caradoc (459m) that looms majestically over Church Stretton.  Arriving back at 1615pm after 58 miles, we set out to find Dave and Jim whose car was still in the car park.  They were found at Acorn Café, were we all decided on an end of day tea and cake at this quirky whole food café before the journey back to Chester.  Being the last Special Ride of 2010, this ride complemented the other Special Rides this year in the finest traditions of CER.

Saturday 2 October 2010

30th September 2010: Sleap

A bright last day of September beckoned with autumn definitely in the air – sunny and largely dry as promised by the forecasters.  This brought out 11 riders to Bellis Garden Centre café (Dave M, Dave H, Brian, Graham and Jane, Liz and Dave, Peter, George and Trevor and I).  I had planned a route with an unusual lunch destination south of Wem, taking in an eponymously named village for vanity’s sake.  With everyone in sheep mode, we were off out round the back of Farndon, and then to Tallarn Green and Sarn via Shocklach and Dog Lane.

 Photographs by Brian MacDonald

It was tempting to go via Dymock’s Mill but the longer route to Painter’s Green was selected instead.  Down passed Fenns Bank, we headed for Whixall and Waterloo and eventually into Wem itself.  Out of Wem on the main B road towards Shrewsbury, the original plan was to take a short diversion via Clive village and then double back to Sleap.  However with the rumbling sound of many stomachs drowning out the traffic on the B5476, I decided to go to Sleap directly.  Turning north for the first time the signs for the aerodrome came into view and, 29 miles from Holt, we arrived for lunch.
Sleap Aerodrome website mentions a restaurant but this was definitely a café.  Nevertheless the prompt service and elevated view over the airfield of light aircraft landing and taking off coupled with pilots from the nearby RAF Shawbury practising hovering in helicopters, made up for the rather meagre lunch portions.  After getting permission from local air traffic control, we were allowed to circle the airfield on the original WW2 aprons to exit the airfield and start our way NW to Holt.  

A short length of old road found us out of the airfield and onto very quiet and level lanes on our way to Loppington.  Shimmying through the village, we headed for Welshampton via Lyneal.  At Welshampton, Dave M struck out solo for Oscroft via Malpas direction as the rest of us continued NW to Penley.  

The usual way back was employed to get to Bangor via Cloy and then down the various lanes to Farndon.  With a group of this size, there were inevitable delays and incidents, apart from a few stops for directional corrections.  Graham was bitten by a horsefly and attacked by a rather large farm dog, whilst Dave H suffered a rear wheel puncture, and the tandem picked up a slow on the rear wheel within a few mile of Holt.  With only a few drops of rain late in the day, the round trip was just short of 54 miles, with those going back to Chester running up around 80+ miles.

Friday 24 September 2010

23rd September 2010: Calverhall

A rainy day is in prospect as the seven of us (Dave M, Brian Mac, Trevor, Andy, Dave H, Ray S and Clive) set out from Rose Farm.  We are heading for Calverhall but this is a tale of two shortcuts and three pubs.  The original plan was to head south of Whitchurch for the “Horseshoes” at Tilstock with the “White Lion” at Ash Magna as backup.  Both however shut at lunchtimes - but the landlady at the “White Lion” said try the “Olde Jack” at Calverhall – so Calverhall it was.  The route took us through and out of Tarporley emerging briefly on the busy A51 at Tilston Fearnall, which led us swiftly into Bunbury.  Sliding round the back of Bunbury, we were soon into sunshine spinning down Brindley Lee Lane to Faddiley.  A right over the canal at Swanley found us seeking the first shortcut at Wrenbury Heath to cut round the back of Wrenbury Station.  Woodcotthill Lane firmly stated it was a “no through road”, and it is this time of year since the road deteriorated to a very rough muddy track.  Retracing our route we headed off to Aston passing a house with what looked like a very large T-Rex head emerging out of the front wall.  Across the Whitchurch Road, we headed down the lanes for Burleydam and Ightfield and at last, the “Olde Jack” just down the road at Calverhall.  Arriving just after 13.00, we found the car park virtually full and the pub full of people in black apparel.  There was a funeral wake on, and everybody was having lunch in the restaurant.  Service was understandably a little slow, but the comestibles were judged to be good quality, with lime and soda at £1.00/pint and an “all-smile” service.
A brief shower of rain had fallen over lunch as we left for Prees Heath. However soon after, it poured for five minutes as we crossed the busy A41 on our way to Alkington.  The route home was planned as a gentle arc via Painters Green and Threapwood and Chorlton.  Dymock’s Mill beckoned as the second shortcut.  The wide track down was not encouraging, but over the stream at the bottom, a smooth tarmac road took us sharply up and out of the wooded valley thus enabling us to shortcut Threapwood.  Although the obvious way back was via Tilston, I liked the sound of Kidnal and Edge Green and the route was picturesquely rewarding as we passed Overton Scar.  Somewhere along here a suicide-bent squirrel tried to take out the leading pair of cyclist and itself – luckily it failed.  Crossing the A41 at Duckington, we steadily climbed the shoulder of the Bickerton Hills; down Hall Lane and across into Bolesworth Hill Road.  The vantage point gave a panorama of heavy rainclouds approaching across the Cheshire Plain: time for jackets to be put on.  Down past the Trout Farm, the rain lashed down as Trevor, Brian, Dave H and Andy split off going via Beeston back to Rose Farm.  The remaining three of us headed off back to Chester.
The circular route was 61 miles from Rose Farm with a surprising 500m of cumulative ascent. Well-done Trevor!  The weather was much better than forecasted (only about 30 mins of rain), the third choice pub was a first choice pub, and a couple of (new for the group riding) shortcuts were investigated.  Arriving back in Chester, where it had bucketed down during the day, I had clocked 83 miles and had experienced yet another classic CER ride.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Sunday 19 September 2010

16th September 2010: Gwaenysgor

There was an autumn nip in the air and a strong head wind as I headed out to Hawarden this morning.  Dave Heath was locking up his bike as I arrived to be joined almost immediately by Brian Mac extolling the benefits of the Aldi special cycle clothing offers where he had just purchased a new winter jacket.  Before long we had filled the corner of the café as first Andy, joining us for the first time, then Clive, George (great to see you again George), Dave Matthews, Liz and Martin arrived.  Two routes were on offer, Bryan proposed a ride to Gwaenysgor, above Prestatyn, and Clive suggested a ride to Llandegla with lunch at Bodidris Hall (the attraction being the £5 lunch deal).  After some half-hearted discussion it was decided to postpone Clive’s ride until our next ride from Hawarden.  Having agreed the route it was time for Dave & Liz P to make an appearance, followed by Peter joining us for the second time.  Twelve of us today then: if we go on at this rate we’ll be running two groups soon!
At last we are off: heading west we pass straight through Ewloe tracing the well-used route through Northop onto the lanes.  Unfortunately Brian Mac is suffering mechanical problems with his new rear wheel and is forced to retire, returning home to get it fixed.  The rest of us continue on until we join the A55 for a brief stretch past the motel and up to the Britannia Inn.  From here on we can enjoy the views to our right across the Dee Estuary marred only by the head wind forcing a heads down riding position.
After Brynford we cross the A55 and cruise past the Friary only to find we are missing half the group as Dave H has a rear wheel puncture.  While Dave H and others set to work the rest of the group stand around realising just how autumnal the weather is.  Then we are back together but with less than a mile done Dave H punctures again!  This time we leave the “puncture repair team” with a map and spare tube before continuing on to Whitford and the lovely lanes through Llanasa to our lunch stop, the Eagle and Child, in Gwaenysgor.

Photograph by Bryan Wade

The welcome here is friendly and we are invited to take over the snug where the landlord sets the tables for all eleven of us.  A good selection of food, with jacket potatoes the most popular choice, is served quickly.  Almost everyone is on beer today: most unusual, until someone points out that lime and soda is well over £2 a pint!  The puncture group arrive to report that the problem was down to a hole in the tyre fixed by fitting a patch to the inside of the tyre and a new inner tube.  Brian Mac then texts to say that the hub of his one-day-old new Mavic rear wheel had collapsed!
By 14.30 we are ready to leave but first we ride up to the viewpoint looking out over Prestatyn and the offshore wind farm.  The route back through Dyserth causes Bryan, following his SatMap, some problems.  The SatMap route shows straight ahead but half way down Bryan realises we aren’t on the right road so its back up a hundred yards to the last turning, then within a further quarter of a mile of more climbing he realises that this isn’t right either.  Back at the original junction the only other option is a track heading steeply down.  Bryan takes this and as there is no further sight of him everyone else follows.  Back on the right road we contour round towards Rhuallt, the sun comes out and we enjoy wonderful views to the right over the Vale of Clwyd.  After Babell its time to sample some new lanes so with a shout of "right here", we turn into a slimy slurry covered track.  Martin is convinced it’s the entrance to a farmyard but after a few yards we emerge from the slurry, without mishap, onto the track.  New lane two comes a mile later bypassing Rhes-y-cae but with a surface woefully short of traction.  From here it’s up the last significant hill of the day before descending to Rhosemor and the descent down towards Northop where George leaves us, as we continue back to Hawarden via Soughton, Buckley and Dobs Hill.
What a wonderful day.  Andy has made himself one of the group from the start while Peter, on his fixie, has been an inspiration to us all.   If you can mange today’s 49 hilly miles, Peter, then you can manage anything we can do.
This group just gets better and better.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

9th September 2010: Dunham Massey

Trevor’s return was a heart-warming sight, after his tough baptism on the steep Welsh climbs of Mike’s exhilarating Pistyll Rhaeadr route.  Another welcome newcomer was Peter, bravely riding a fixed wheel vintage Viking, which he’s kept so long that it’s now retro cool.  Also good to see Kate back with her beautiful, warm smile.  However it’s been so long since I’ve ridden with Brian Mac, that I swear that he didn’t recognise me at first!  I appreciated Clive’s diligent efforts to plan something different, but I was already ‘pencilled in’ to lead this week and had a route in mind, which, as it happens, was not a million miles from Clive’s. No need for arbitration then!
After the first steep climb up New Pale we meandered along the narrowest lanes through Kingsley, then followed the twinkling Weaver to Dutton Locks and beyond. The warm wind wafted us along as we drifted past Cogshall Hall, up to Frandley and through Antrobus. We were soon circling Arley Hall on Back Lane, careful over the smooth cobbles to Arley Green, with its pretty pond and black and white timbered buildings.

Photograph by Kate Williams

We continued to flit through quiet, undisturbed lanes up to Hoo Green, and Booth Bank with its Wesleyan connection.  Lunch is at ‘The Swan with Two Nicks’ in Little Bollington. The food, drink and setting are fine, but Dave and Liz were not totally convinced about the attitude towards customer service. Dave had to settle for begging, whilst seriously considering strangulation, in order to obtain cutlery! Mike Morley was just sublimely satisfied to be supping good ale, as ever.
After lunch we squeezed over the Bollin footbridge and climbed over the wall into delightful Dunham Massey. Dave showing off his muscle power, and once again proving that there is very little off limits for determined tandemists.  Kate managed to persuade a friendly couple to take a group photograph, with sunbathing deer in close company.  Off through Dunham Town past Lavender Barn Tea Shop at Dog Farm – a great place for a break if you’re in a cycling group which doesn’t have alcohol dependency.  We are soon spinning along the Trans-Pennine Trail, and slip into Lymm village via a very Ray-repelling grassy bridleway.  A brief stop, a couple of half drunk cappuccinos (my thanks to Brian Mac), sat next to the ducks and lurking, large fish.
Then we wind our way back, across the derelict Admiralty WW2 Stretton Airfield.  We are usually sheltered from the headwind by lush high hedges. Kate spots a pattern: left, right, left, right – a steady rhythm of back lane turns. Like a shoal of fish, colours catching the sun as they constantly deflect from danger – in our case main roads and juggernauts.
Eventually The Big Effort looms – the steep bank up from the Weaver a taste of what’s to come. A little more light, rhythmic pedalling along Ball Lane, then, the beginning of the end: up through Kingsley, up Hollow Lane, up and up to Newton Firs. The new lads are feeling it: fifty miles up and hard climbing, Peter without gears, Trevor with a heavy frame and wide tyres – who could blame them.  But they’ve stuck at it, and we have covered many pleasant, easy miles today to look back on. Someone says, ‘We’ve all been there!’: some of us surprisingly recently, when we first joined, often using a bike, gearing and a pair of legs that were less than ideal. That tandem’s made it again, although Dave has been cautioned for over-use of the whip.
Finally a whoosh down to Manley with just a couple of short, steep bits.  Nevertheless, the vastly experienced, allegedly intelligent, and normally likeable Bryan Wade is caught out in completely the wrong gear turning left up the bank at Simmonds Hill.  This is due to bad Karma for flatly refusing to carry any of my maps earlier in the day.
The weather was great, the company was great, and we’ve covered about 54 miles of lovely, traffic-free lanes.  Can’t wait for next week!
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 4 September 2010

2nd September 2010: Pistyll Rhaeadr

This being the August Bank Holiday week the numbers registered for Mike’s ride from Chirk over to the Rhaeadr Falls was down on our usual turnout.  With many regulars away on holiday it was encouraging to hear from two new riders, on the day before, that they intended to join us.  Then while unloading my bike in Chirk, Dave Heath pulled up with his bike on the back and within a few minutes Trevor, riding with us for the first time, was introducing himself.
We headed off to the Coffee Shop to find Dave Hill eating breakfast having cycled all the way from Chester.  Then Mike and Clive arrived, and finally Dave Matthews to make the numbers up to a respectable seven riders.  After a few minutes of chat Mike brought us to order and led off towards the impressive Chirk Castle gates where a left turn onto a track immediately stamped his signature on the ride.  We then followed the Ceiriog Valley out to Glyn Ceiriog and Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog with a minor deviation along another track enjoyed by just three intrepid riders while the rest stuck to the road.  This was easy riding, through beautiful countryside in perfect conditions engendering, what was perhaps, a false sense of what was to come: but not for long!

Photographs by Mike Morley and Bryan Wade

Immediately out of Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog the road ahead rose uphill into the distance: gently at first then steepening and finally maintaining a constant gradient for another mile. We all made it, although I suspect Trevor was beginning to wonder what he had let himself in for.  After a brief stop and a photograph to mark the occasion we continued up the last section of the climb before a long swooping descent down the other side touching 40 mph.  With little traffic we enjoyed the meander along the Afon Iwrch before turning up over the shoulder of Moel Hen-fache through a farm and down to the Afon Rhaeadr for the final stretch to the Falls.

The Rhaeadr Falls café, although small, offered a good choice of food all quickly served at tables looking out over the Falls.  Tea, coffee and cold drinks were the order of day here; so the beer drinkers had to go without for once.  A small price to pay for what was already a superb ride.  By 2.00pm it was time to leave the café for the short walk down to the bottom of the Falls and then the ride back.
The first part back along the Afon Rhaeadr to Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in perfect sunny weather was simply stunning.  I began to seriously consider spending an hour or so at the side of the road taking in the views.  Sanity prevailed and we continued into the Tanat Valley before turning off at Llangedwyn to head north uphill towards Llansilin.  A few miles further we stopped by Bwlch-y-rhiw Farm to read the plaque dedicated to those who lost their lives when a Wellington bomber on a training exercise from RAF Harwell crashed on the farmhouse in January 1943 killing the family and entire aircraft crew.  This was followed by another stop to admire the false OS grid reference painstakingly etched on the gatepost of Rhydycroesau Village Hall.
There was one more climb to go but once over Offa’s Dyke it was downhill virtually all the way back to Chirk arriving at just gone 4.00pm in time for afternoon tea.  43 miles done, back on time, perfect weather, fantastic route and scenery and we even had a bit of culture and history: how do you do it Mike?  A truly wonderful day.
And for Trevor not the easiest of first rides but judging by the way you coped we hope you are up for more.  Manley Mere next for a more typical Easy Riders ride.
For the record the SatMap recorded 2,024 m of ascent!
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 27 August 2010

26th August 2010: Coton

What a grey day!  I had taken the scenic route to the Ice Cream Farm through Brassey Green and up to the back of Beeston Castle so had a brisk 13 miles on the clock when I arrived to find Dave Heath unloading his bike.  Tempted by a slab of fruit loaf I sat down to enjoy a large pot of tea and was joined by Dave whose cake resistance had also crumbled.  In no time Ivan, Liz & Martin and a little later Liz & Dave Pipe arrived to be regaled by Liz and Martin’s tales of what sounded like a particularly grueling North to South JOGLE – mainly against the prevailing winds and incorporating practically every hill in the UK (According to Liz!).
No one had a route planned so I suggested a trip to the newly refurbished Bull and Dog at Coton near Whitchurch.  As Clive can attest there are obvious dangers of trusting Morley with a map or indeed any sort of directions but the first part of the route was very straightforward – out through Chowley Oak, Clutton, Tilston, Malpas and the Wyches to Painters Green.  All went swimmingly despite Dave Heath’s sabotage of the Pipes by having them heading off up a right turn that was not part of the route thereby causing the loss of any momentum they may have had for the approaching hill.
Once over the A495 the land is very flat and part of the NNR Mosses of Whixall and Fenns Bank – not terribly scenic on such an overcast day but good territory for making progress on two wheels.  We crossed the canal and pressed on through Whixall arriving at Coton in good time. The Bull and Dog is now resplendent following its refit and we were shown by Max to a large oval table presided over by a portrait of Max’s Grandfather, Sonny, who was married to Liz’s mother’s best friend – it’s a small world.  We achieved a hat trick of good food, service and beer and also Lime & Soda only £1.00 so a very good pub to put on the agenda to join those visited in the previous two weeks.
Time to leave and although no actual rain the atmosphere was very damp and what wind there was seemed against us whatever direction we were headed.  Over to Prees and under the A49 thence over the A 41 to Ightfield and up via Royals Green to Aston and Wrenbury.  I had elected then to have change from the Spurstow/Bunbury return route electing instead for the Cholmondeley and Egerton Green that would furnish us with a couple of decent hills to keep us warm in the increasing chill.  Just leaving Wrenbury by the scenic route along the canal we lost Dave & Liz – on seeking them I found them both searching the grass verge  - the Bike Computer had jumped off its mount bounced on the road and disappeared, sadly never to reappear!  The rest of the journey up the back of Harthill passed uneventfully and we just made it back to Newton in time for a large pot of tea, courtesy of Liz and Martin and cake courtesy of Ivan – thanks for that you guys.  A round trip of 51 miles that gave me a door to door mileage of 74 miles – a good grey day after all!
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 21 August 2010

19th August 2010: Peak District Ride

An early start today to join Clive and Kate at Ivan’s house for the drive over to Waterhouses in the Peak District.  Once the bikes were loaded we were off, with Ivan driving and retelling his recent motorbike test experience.  Not enough lifesavers seemed to be the problem: and I thought lifesavers were found on the beach or swimming pool!  Well there was no need of lifesavers today and we arrived at 9.50am, having made good time despite the density of speed cameras.  Within half an hour we were all assembled and ready to ride: Jim, Dave H, Mike M, Clive, Ivan, Kate, Dave & Liz P and me.  Jim promised us a lovely day out although with a couple of steep hills to start and about 1500 ft of ascent (more on that later).
With Jim leading it was out the back of the car park onto the main road and the start of a steady climb, easy at first, then left onto a minor road and the climb steepened.  This was only the start and we were already strung out, but the view as we reached the top made it worthwhile.  Another climb followed, until by Blore we were ready for the exhilarating descent down to Ilam to take morning tea at the beautiful Ilam Hall.

Photographs by Ivan Davenport
After a refreshing break, with time for photographs, it was time to continue on to Dovedale and a brief diversion to see the famous stepping-stones.  Then retracing our steps we left Dovedale for the climb up to Thorpe.  Halfway up the climb it was suddenly apparent that our numbers were somewhat diminished.  Ivan headed back down to find that the others had been separated from the advance party by a large tractor blocking the lane.  Once all together again the going got easier as we headed to Tissington to join the Tissington Trail.  Here we joined the many families making use of the old railway track for a family cycle ride through the most beautiful of scenery.  What a great way to get the kids cycling!  In a few years time they may even be joining their local cycling club.

After a few miles on the flat we left the trail and rejoined the lanes, uphill at first then down to Heathcote.  This was perhaps the pattern for the day: a stiff climb, long but not too steep, with the double reward of beautiful views from the top followed by fast swooping descents.  And with perfect cycling weather and practically no traffic what more could you ask for?

After the gradual climb through Long Dale we eventually emerged at High Needham for the descent down to our lunch stop at Crowdecote.  Jim’s choice of the Pack Horse was truly inspired: a friendly welcome, great ale, good food, fast service and lime and soda at £1 a pint.  The bar staff even stopped serving to listen to Ivan recounting the adventure of his lost wallet and a night spent drinking!
After leaving the pub we crossed the Dove for the second time to begin another climb up to Sheen Hill ridge followed by the last descent of the day down to Hulme End where we joined the Manifold Way Trail back to Waterhouses.  With just over two miles to go Dave H, blazing our trail at the front, disputed the right of way with a dog and ended up on the trail.  With no harm done we pulled in at the next tea place for a well earned tea and scone before completing the ride as a light drizzle descended to remind us how lucky we had been with the weather.
What a wonderful day out: only 40 miles done but everyone truly enjoyable. And the climbing: 3,383 feet of ascent!  A great ride Jim.  Thanks for all the work planning it.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 14 August 2010

12th August 2010: Street Dinas & Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

We were meeting today at Bellis’ Garden Centre with rain first thing and a mixed day forecast.  Turning to the map, some of the lanes to the east of Chirk looked quite interesting and worthy of exploration.  Combined with the added bonus of being able to try The Greyhound Inn at Street Dinas I was hooked.  The others soon arrived Clive, Ivan, Mike, Jim and Dave H although sadly Jim wouldn’t be joining us for the ride today.  Ivan had to get back early so my proposed ride of lunch at Street Dinas then the lanes round Chirk before heading north to cross the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct was ideal.  With luck we should be back in time for afternoon tea.
Setting off just after 11.00am we headed south through the lanes down to Bangor on Dee, over the bridge and on through Overton.  With very little traffic on the roads conversation flowed and we made good time on the familiar roads: even the rain held off with just a few spots now and then.
South of Overton we were back on the lanes, a descent to Shell Brook and then the lovely winding lanes requiring extra concentration to keep on the planned route, finally skirting Dudleston to join the main road 100 yards north of the pub at 12.30pm.  Although not the most attractive of places on the outside, the Freehouse sign was most encouraging.  Inside The Greyhound Inn provided everything a cyclist could ask for.  Good ale (Stonehouse Cambrian Gold) and if you are reading this Ray, lime and soda at 50p a pint!  A great choice of food, from which I chose the OAP’s plaice, chips and peas at less than £4.00.  Having had a discussion of prostate cancer on the ride down we quickly dispensed with the cholesterol issue and moved on to reminisce about bread and dripping and Camp Coffee!  No youngsters out today, you will note.  The excellent service (another plus here) meant we were back on the road by 1.30pm.

 Now the interesting bit: lots of unsigned narrow lanes until we reached the top of the descent down to Afon Ceiriog.  Not having done this before I led the way down somewhat cautiously; a narrow, windy, gravel strewn lane (two single chevrons on the map) with the occasional pothole, which seemed to go on and on.  Half way down Ivan flew past before reappearing in a field gateway having failed to make a very sharp right-hand turn.  From here it was plain sailing up to Halton before joining the A5 for a couple of miles to the canal towpath and cycleway.  Crossing the aqueduct was easy today with very few walkers about and we were able to take our time and take in the views while Ivan recorded the ride for posterity.
Photographs by Ivan Davenport
At this point Dave had a puncture and with a band of onlookers used a somewhat unusual technique to remove and replace the whole tyre and inner tube simultaneously.  Say no more: it worked and with two thorns removed we were back on the road to Ruabon.  Onto the lanes again, north to Farmworld, Sontley, Kings Mill (where Ivan skidded on loose gravel) and finally Erlas lane and the road back to Holt.
We arrived back at 4.00pm in plenty of time for afternoon tea having done a very enjoyable round trip of 42 miles from Holt and with 60 miles clocked by the time I arrived home in Chester.  Another great day with Chester Easy Riders.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 7 August 2010

5th August 2010: Barthomley

A good turnout today at Rose Farm in Utkinton – there is Mike, Jim, Ivan, Jane and Graham, Dave H, Bryan, and Omry.  Three routes are proposed; a 60+ miler to Mow Cop, and 52 miler near to Mop Cop and a 48 miler on the flat to the other side of Crewe – no prizes for guessing that the flat route was opted for.  The Mop Cop route will be attempted the next time we are at Rose Farm so you have been warned.  Ivan said it takes 6 minutes to get up the final 25% gradient, about the same time it would take to walk it.  Graham tells me it took him four visits to be successful!  Mike is not able to come today – he’s an appointment elsewhere – but he did tell us that he turned up an hour late for the start of the Bickerton challenge recently – hope you made your appointment on time Mike.  Just as we are leaving, Liz and Dave P turn up, so we promptly set off for Wettenhall via Cotebrook and the regular lanes on our way to Occlestone Green.  Turning south we skirt Warmington en route to Winterley.  Out past Oakhanger we take a very narrow lane down to level crossing and just get across before a train rattles by.  Omry makes two good suggestions The first is to go to a pub he knows in Barthomley (I had planned the White Lion in Weston, or the White Hart in Hough) so we go and have look-see. The second related to the potential source of a very annoying rattle on my Trek (see PS).  A couple of locals outside the White Lion say the beer and food are good so we de-bike into the al fresco dining room.  The locals were correct; the food was not only very good, but reasonably priced and very quick as well.  The route homeward saw us trying to avoid the main roads around Nantwich as far as possible and, with Bryan guiding us through; we were on the Ravensmoor Road in no time.  A shoot up Dig Lane got us to Swanley and a shimmy via Faddiley found us on the back lanes to Bunbury.  We are tempted by the new café in Bunbury called “Tilly’s”.  All agreed it was worth noting for future rides.  The usual route via Beeston Castle was taken to get Dave H, Dave P and Liz back to their cars at Rose Farm.  While Jim, Bryan, Ivan and I head for home with Dave and the tandem duo splitting off: meanwhile in some confusion, Jane and Graham and Omry go back via the Ice Cream farm.  We expect to meet them at Huxley but they are nowhere to be seen.  So we four head off via Waverton all bound for Chester.  The circular route from Utkinton was 48 miles and with the 25-mile extra from Chester environs made a 73 mile, rain-free, if somewhat cool, largely flat, pleasurable ride.
See route map and/or gpx file download.
PS Omry, you were right - it was a broken shim in the cassette – fixed on the spot at TBF!

29th July 2010: Holt

I set off from Chester without considering a route and cycled to the Gallery Tea shop at Hawarden.  On arrival I was surprised to be first as it was 10:45!!  Oh no I thought, wrong place again! Quick check on diary confirmed correct start so it was Ivan on his own.
No more ER's arrived so I bid farewell to the staff and decided to set off.  Again this was without map or any navigation so went with instincts.
Turn left through the village into Wood Lane - the only lane name I can remember and down to Buckley.  Carried on along a very narrow lane passing the Padeswood golf course to Pontblyddyn and the A5104.  A right hand turn put me on course for the A541.  I have now got accustomed to lane cycling and decided to get off and head into the rolling hills running alongside the road.  This was up to Coed Llai (Hope Mountain!!) which was a testing hill - the Mow Cop of the area as it has a couple of chevrons.

Photograph by Ivan Davenport

Photo shoot at the top and enjoyed a brief down hill but decided not to go all the way to the bottom but carried on below the top passing Waun Llyn Park.  This road ran all along the top and I came off at Cefn-y-bedd.  A great down hill to the lights, then took a right and left turn on route to Llay.  Now back on previous explored roads I was targeting myself to get home around 16:00 so carried on towards Gresford and another great down hill ride.  On arrival at Holt thought I would have early lunch as I was doing a BBQ on arrival home and went into a Black and White pub which sold real ale!!!  Never asked about lime and soda.  After replenishing myself it was out towards Farndon, then Crewe by Farndon and round to Bickerton and headed back towards Chester arriving home slightly early but enjoyed the ride.
Found out the following week I may have had company if waited a little longer at the coffee shop unfortunately Jim had a puncture that delayed his arrival.
All in all about 50+ miles and max speed of 47mph (Gresford bank).

Friday 23 July 2010

22nd July 2010: Lower Peover

With wet weather forecast for the day I wondered how many members would be meeting at the Windsurfing Centre for today’s ride.  My concerns seemed well founded when Kate called to say she wouldn’t be coming, and then Clive emailed to say he wouldn’t be there either.  The ride out in pouring rain even had me wondering whether it was worth the soaking!  By ten minutes to eleven only George (on his third ride with us) and myself had made an appearance, but Ivan soon made the numbers up to a respectable three.  So at just gone eleven the three of us set out in waterproofs up the sandstone ridge to Newton before descending to Kingsley and up to Acton Bridge by the back lanes.  The usual fast descent down to the Weaver Navigation was slowed by the head wind by at least we could hope for help later in the day on the way home.  At the turn off for Little Leigh we stopped to swop waterproofs for windproofs: yes the rain had stopped and it was drying up.  By Comberbach and Great Budworth the day was warming up and a further stop was needed to discard the windproofs.

The plan was to lunch at The Dog Inn at Peover Heath but by 12.45 it looked that bit too far so instead we opted for The Bells of Peover at Lower Peover where we arrived at 1.00pm.  Although hardly your normal cyclists pub we were made more than welcome with good beer, good food and friendly fast service: just a pity one had to take out a mortgage in order to pay the bill!

Photographs by Ivan Davenport

By 2.00pm we were ready to leave the pub and cross to the beautiful timber church dating from 1269 (one of the oldest timber churches in Europe) with its stone bell tower.  We decided on the direct route back making time for afternoon tea at Summertrees, so after exploring the lanes round Lower Peover we head off for Lach Dennis, Davenham and the Whitegate Way in glorious sunshine.  From here it was an easy route through Little Budworth and Cotebrook followed by the hard slog up to Summertrees where we arrived at 3.45pm to enjoy a well-earned tea and slice of lemon cake.
Ivan took the lead for the remaining section back to the Windsurfing Centre via Oscroft, Tarvin Sands and Little Barrow to complete a wonderful round trip of some 52 miles.  From here the group split up to make our own ways home with me heading for Mickle Trafford to join the Millennium Greenway back to Chester.  If today teaches us anything it’s not to be put off by even the worst forecast.  What appeared to be a terrible day in prospect had turned into a glorious cycling day.
Distance from Chester and back a good 64 miles.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

17th July 2010: Ribble and Hodder Valley

The day started with nine riders, two cars, a white van, seven solos and a tandem on the motorway in the rain heading for Whalley in the Ribble Valley.  After parking up and a visit to Whalley’s luxurious public toilets it was time for Dave to lead us out on NCR 90 over the River Calder.  We were soon on quiet lanes heading west to cross the Ribble at Ribchester Bridge before entering the lovely town of Ribchester.  Here Dave led us through the back streets to visit the Roman Baths and the Museum before arriving at the Tea Shop Café for our first stop and much needed refreshment.

It was well past 11.00 hours by the time we left and it would be a while before the weather started to dry up.  After passing the impressive arms houses at Hurst Green we approached Stoneyhurst College from the west before joining last years route to Chipping.

Photographs by Bryan Wade and Ivan Davenport

Dave offered the choice of a stop for a quick half or pressing on towards the fells.  Fearing that a quick half could easily turn into a leisurely pint the group decided to keep going.  For me the next section of the ride, up past Wild Boar Park and on to what must be the most isolated telephone box in the country, is hard to beat.  The sun came out and the views were superb and then there’s the prospect of the fast sweeping descent down to Burholme Bridge over the Hodder.  Pity about the Landrover that nearly took out Jane and Jim!

Undeterred we regrouped at the bridge before heading down stream following the Hodder through Whitewell until two sharp left turns took us onto the Roman road and a climb up to the impressive lodge of Browsholme Hall.  With lunch beckoning at the Lower Buck pub in Waddington we only had the narrow attractive lane and Talbot Bridge to navigate.  All seemed well as we passed the spot where Jonathan had a puncture last year.  At the B road we regrouped to find we were missing Mike G; so while Ivan went back the rest of us rode the final half-mile to lunch.

Just as last year the Lower Buck did us proud with a reserved room for the group (Dave Heath, Bryan, Graham & Jane T, Ivan, Liz & Dave P, Jim and Mike G), and a good choice of food and ale, including Hen Harrier.  Before long Ivan and Mike G appeared: Mike having punctured at a similar spot to Jonathan last year!  All too soon it was time to leave and start the final section of the ride with our last crossing of the Ribble followed by a climb up to Downham.  From here it was an easy run back to the cars at Whalley with 46 miles clocked.
Thanks go to Dave for making it all possible.  An excellent ride in true Chester Easy Riders style.
See route map and/or gpx file download.