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

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Saturday 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.