Retired, work part-time or shifts, enjoy being out in the countryside? Then cycle the lanes and byways of Cheshire and surrounding areas with Chester Easy Riders: you won't get left behind.
Chester Easy Riders is an independent cycling club affiliated to Cycling UK. We cycle every Thursday throughout the year with moderate and brisk day rides of 40 to 80 miles.

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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.