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 30 December 2011

29th December 2011: Nantwich

The last ride of the year and six stalwarts meet up at the Ice Cream Farm (Bryan, Ivan, Dave M, Ray, Liz & Dave and I).  The weather promises a few showers and this is exactly what we get – what it didn’t say was that they would be ice cold showers.  Out via Beeston Castle, we are bound for the Red Cow in Nantwich.  Avoiding the obvious way via Bunbury, we take Dean Bank before the castle to access the A49 just before the Wild Boar Hotel.  Right towards Whitchurch, we warm up the legs up the hill to take Bunbury Common lane and on toward Alpraham.  A quick right and left into Hilbre Bank, we head north towards Eaton.  The pack is waiting for a right turn to take us to Wettenhall, but I add in a loop out through Eaton and then skirting Oulton Park before taking the long run down to the outskirts of Nantwich.  It starts to rain as we cross the A51 down Manor Lane into Nantwich town.
Bikes securely under cover in the Red Cow car park, we find inside a roaring fire in the bar and several interesting ales.  We all order quickly then kill time by discussing the merits of Christmas TV.  The lunch takes a while to come but we are not really in a hurry as we arrived quite early and with only 22 miles under our tyres.  As we leave, the rain comes down coldly but thankfully briefly as we head out of town through the park and towards Ravensmoor.  The strong westerly wind slows us as we turn right into Dig Lane.  Here the tandem duo decide to wend their own way home so we five mono-cyclists head up the muddy lane bound for Swanley.  Along the straight towards Chorley, the strengthening wind slows us down almost to single figures so we pull up at the Faddiley turn to take stock.  
Bryan, Dave and Ray elect to go back via Peckforton whilst Ivan and I head off for Cholmondley and Broxton.  We run up past Bolesworth Castle and into Tattenhall taking a left towards Gatesheath and the A41 Chester bound.  The A41 was the better option than Saighton given that it was lightly trafficked and afforded some protection from the westerly wind.  The round trip from Chester was around 60 miles but the westerly wind must have surely added an extra 10 miles on top of this.  This was my 47th CER Thursday ride of the year and 3067 miles ridden, and, like all others considerable enjoyment all round.

The Peckforton three made good progress through Brindley, then bypassed Bunbury to take the scenic route via Peckforton to Beeston anticipating the downhill run from there back to the Ice Cream Farm.  Not today though: with the wind gathering strength it was hard work to just keep moving.  Back at the Ice Cream Farm we chatted about the day over a huge pot of tea before at just after 16:00 starting the final leg back in the dark.  A 39 mile round trip from the Ice Cream Farm and 60 miles overall from Chester.

Thursday 22 December 2011

22nd December 2011: Northop

Hawarden Castle
Dec 22nd and one day after shortest day in deepest winter: 14C clear, sunny and dry – what is happening to our weather!  For the penultimate ride of the year, eleven of us assembled for the off at the Roodee (Dave & Liz P, Martin, George, Dave M, Dave B, Ray, Andy, Alan, Janet and myself). I had proposed a novelty “Five Castle tour”, a flat 41 miler, and so we set off over the Dee and out to Lavister via Eccleston. Taking the lane out past Burton Green we cycled ever upwards against a freshening wind to Caergwrle. 
St Peters, Northop
The first castle hid behind the woods on the hill overlooking Caergwrle. Built by Llewellyn’s brother in 1277, it was taken in 1282 without a fight by Edward I and renamed Hope Castle. Out round the back of the village into Stryt Isa, we spin towards Penyffordd. Just before the lane end, Alan picked up a puncture, which gave me time to book lunch at the Red Lion Northop. Off again, we took the lanes to Bilberry Wood and the fast run down to the second castle on the tour at Hawarden. The local Welsh prince, the one from Caergwrle castle, attacked the castle on Palm Sunday 1282. In familiar territory now we take the main drag to Ewloe and pause beside the road to look at the “Ewloe Castle This Way” sign pointing across the fields. Built in 1257 by Llewellyn, it is apparently the oldest surviving Welsh-designed and built castle in Wales.  

Flint Castle
By this time the smell of beer was in the nostrils as the pack headed for the Red Lion. Although the lime and soda was expensive at £1.80, the two course “two for a tenner” menu was very good. Fortified with chips and pudding, we grind up the old main road, over Wat’s Dyke, and take the first on the right to get us over the A55. Admittedly this lane had seen better days, but soon we were freewheeling down the Halkyn Road into Flint and towards the magnificent Flint Castle. Built by Edward I at a cost of £7,000 in 1277, this was similar to those later found at Rhuddlan, Conwy and Harlech i.e. all capable of being re-supplied by sea. A short diversion along the front found us reading about Charles Kingsley’s poetic prowess before taking the main drag back towards Connah’s Quay. Here, by the Eon power station is a very odd 29mph Franco-Welsh road sign. 

Photographs by Alan Jeffs and Clive Albany 

Dave B left us here as the rest of us took the back lane down Dock Road to access the cycleway to get over the Hawarden station stop railway bridge. Martin and Janet peeled off here, and the rest of us made our way back along the Dee. Dave M however took the greenway towards Oscroft. The Chester Big Wheel came into view as we completed an easy 41 miles. So with Chester Castle we had completed the “Five Castle” tour but in fact had only actually seen two castles; nonetheless a very satisfying “winter” cultural sojourn.

Friday 16 December 2011

15th December 2011: Chirk

Dave M, Ray, Andy, Alan, George, Norman, Mike G, Martin, Dave H, Jim, Dave & Liz P gathered at the always welcoming Hildegard’s Café, Holt, on a cold but dry and sunny December morning.  The latter four, for differing reasons, chose to do their own thing.  Dave M suggested the main group should ride to Chirk and that met with approval.  We rode to Chirk via Bangor, Overton, Street Dinas, down to cross the Dee and up the other side of the valley.  The chosen lunch venue was the cafe in Chirk main street.  So for a change no beer today!  Ivan would not have approved but if it was good enough for Eddie Izzard (his picture is on display from a visit to the cafe on his multi-marathon escapade) it is good enough for the CERs.
After a satisfactory lunch we headed uphill past Chirk Castle to Newbridge, Ruabon, Eyton, past The Plassey and swiftly down the straight mile to Bangor, Worthenbury, Shocklack and then Farndon.  Here Dave M and Mike G peeled off and the remainder returned to Hildegard’s for tea and cake, arriving before 3pm leaving plenty of time for the ride back to Chester in daylight.
42 miles, 570m of ascent, no punctures, mechanical problems or lost riders.  An unusual CER outing but a very enjoyable one on a pleasant, short winter's day.

Saturday 10 December 2011

8th December 2011: Christmas Lunch Ride

Photographs by Andy Whitgreave and Clive Albany

An easy ride in prospect for today but would the weather cooperate?  The forecast was bad with wind and rain promised, rising to gale force in the afternoon.  A number of members had already called to say that they would be driving to the lunch venue rather than riding.  As it turned out, the ride out to Rose Farm was really quite pleasant particularly with the wind behind and before long Clive had caught me and we completed the ride together arriving at just gone 10:00am.  Dave Hill was already there and soon we were joined by Mike G, Ivan and Dave & Liz P.  An easy route of about 18 miles was agreed and just after 10:30 the seven of us set off through Tarporley heading for Beeston.  From Beeston we turned southwest for Tattenhall into a distinct head wind and with a darkening sky ahead.  By the time we crossed the A41 it had started to rain and we stopped to cape-up before continuing on to Chowley and Coddington in good humour.  By Churton the rain had eased and with the wind behind us again, we swept effortlessly along the road to Aldford with the prospect of Christmas Lunch spurring us on.
We arrived at the Grosvenor Arms by 12:15 to find the rest of the club at the bar well into their first pint.  The Grosvenor Arms had just managed to squeeze all 19 of us onto one large table: a good job we are all fairly slim though!  The meal was excellent as the photos show and even the collection of the monies was accomplished without problems.  The Christmas Lunch is always a good opportunity to chat to those members not able to get out with us as often as they would like: and so it was today.  Where was Dave Browne though?

All too soon it was time to leave with the riding group heading back to Chester via Saighton where Clive left us to put in a few extra miles before it got too dark.  The rest of us continued back in pleasant cycling conditions with no sign of the forecast gales.  Mike G was heading for the station to get a train back to Rhos on Sea, but given an enforced hour wait, Ivan and I took the opportunity to join him with a chat over a jar or two while he waited.
Another great day with Chester Easy Riders, more social than active, but with a modest 36 miles done.

Saturday 3 December 2011

1st December 2011: Maeshafn

We were meeting at the Gallery Coffee Shop in Hawarden today so it was an easy, unhurried seven mile ride out.  Norman was already enjoying his tea when I arrived.  Before long we had taken over the café, with Clive, using the excuse of being hot, to strip down to an outfit suggestive of an S&M club.  With eleven of us riding (Martin, Norman, Ray, Dave M, Clive, Dave H, Jim, Dave P, Andy Ivan and myself) we decided to split into two groups with lunch at the Miners Arms in Maeshafn.  I had come with a meandering hilly ride of some 43 miles that I hastily shortened to give us the original route for the brisk group and a shorter 38 miler for the mod group.  Martin agreed to lead the brisk ride and I took the mod.
We all set off together and at the initial short but steep climb up to Bilberry Wood split into groups.  Dave M decided to do his own thing preferring an easy ride before a forthcoming long audax.  At the top of the Bilberry Wood climb Jim was clearly suffering and rightly decided to call it a day leaving Dave H, Andy, Norman and me to make up the mod group.  At the far side of the A55 footbridge we met Dave P who had been left behind by the brisk group while checking for stragglers!
From here we had a nice run down to Penyffordd, over to Padeswood and Llong before heading southeast past Leeswood Hall for the first real climb of the day.  A delightful fast descent down to Pontybodkin set the pattern for the rest of the day.  No more than a quarter of a mile on the main road and we were back on the lanes climbing the flank of Hope Mountain to Coed-talon then down to Llanfynydd, over the main road and up the chevroned climb to the stone zoo for a photograph.
The Stone Zoo

Photograph by Bryan Wade

Comments concerning my ability to seek out every hill in the vicinity were now becoming more frequent so I missed out the planned descent down to the ford, and associated climb back up, to take the flattish direct route to Graianrhyd and Eryrys.  From here on it eased off and we had a pleasant run to Maeshafn arriving just after 12:30 with 700 metres of climbing recorded!
Having arrived ahead of the brisk group we were able to order drinks and food in good time from the surprised bar staff who coped admirably with the unannounced arrival of five cyclists.  The brisk group delayed by a puncture arrived not long after, but behind two tables of locals, and fared less well in the swift delivery of food.  By 14:00 hours it was time to leave so we, the mod group, regrettably left the brisk group waiting for their food while we took to the road.  Dave P decided to swop groups at this point: rumour has it that it was the option of a pudding that was decisive.
The route back took us down to Llanferres and along the Alyn valley to Cilcain where Andy’s rear gear cable snapped at the lever.  With help from Dave H the cable was extracted and the rear mech stop was adjusted to give a middle sprocket to run on for the rest of the ride.  We then took the roller coaster route along the Alyn to Rhyddymwyn before joining the well-trodden route back through Soughton and Buckley to arrive back at the now closed Coffee Shop at 15:45 with 38 miles done.
It only remained to make the final stretch back to Chester in the twilight to complete a great day out with 52 miles clocked overall.  Thanks to Martin for leading the brisk group at very short notice.

PS It can now be reported that after their relaxing lunch the brisk riders freewheeled back to Hawarden by the shortest route to to arrive at 15:15 hours in time to partake of coffee and cake.

Friday 25 November 2011

24th November 2011: Knutsford

The Manley venue had been revamped and we sat in new chairs and cushions warming ourselves around an attractive fire feature.  Clive's chair was like a throne: he quite liked the title of "King Clive".  Clive had an innovative route around Grappenhall, Moore and Weston, but he went along with my alternative to Knutsford.  Paul, one of our new faces had returned.  We were eight altogether: Paul, Alan, Dave M, Dave B, Martin, Clive, Mike G and myself.  I was soon leading from the rear as I hauled my 15 stones plus up Sugar Lane.  We then headed north in the direction of Frodsham, right after Simmonds Hill and meandered off the main drag onto the small lanes, through Newton Hollow, and left at Crow Mere to Lord of the Manor, Djibril Cisse's property.  At this point I decided that a further detour to a viewpoint at the memorial above Frodsham was out, as we needed to press on.  I had decided that a brisk, no frills ride was now required to get to Knutsford and back in daylight.  We dived down to the A56, across the Weaver, turning right along Aston Lane.  Soon we were cycling around the picturesque duckpond at Higher Whitley, swishing through Antrobus and rollicking along in the direction of Tabley Hill.  It was pleasantly warm again, and all this pressing on had me desperate for a drink by the time we hit Knutsford, just on 12:30.  We marvelled at the McLaren showroom.  Someone deludedly wondered if you could order a carbon fibre bike rack with your £168,000, 205 mph, 12C!  Lunch was at the White Bear where they unlocked the beer garden for our bikes.  The staff were friendly, and the food and drink was fine, if unremarkable.
Dave Matthew's had an interesting proposal for a route back, so we went with it.  We set off at a quarter to two, after slowish service and some extra coffees.  Would we make it back in the light?  Dave's route back was a belter!  We set of at a good pace down the main road in a southerly direction, and then headed off right on a rural route to Davenham via Lower Peover and Lach Dennis.  Beer, extra coffees and some enlarged prostates required an early toilet stop.  We also had to negotiate a closed road, but the workmen were helpful as we edged through on the pedestrian route.  We passed some lovely old properties as we threaded through Davenham.  We then went through the woods after Hartford Bridge on a leafy route alongside The Weaver.  We came up through the golf course at Vale Royal on the Abbey site, and through a luxury toy town housing development close to Whitegate.  We then headed for the beautiful Mill Pond, just past Oulton Park.  From Cotebrook to Utkinton was hard uphill work, but we were soon ramming down Willington Road, as Dave M. took his leave near his house at Oscroft.  It was becoming dusk, but modern bike lights are reassuringly bright and we were close to home now.  Through the sandstone cutting at the back of Barrow, and back to Manley just on official lighting-up time, around 4pm.  Over 53 miles clocked up: pretty good for a winter ride!
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

22nd November 2011: Welshpool (Tues)

The weather was ideal and the scenery well worth the 4,000ft of climb.  Ray, Ivan and I set off from Chester at 07:30 for Welshpool and, by 08:45 we were having a pre-ride drink in the Coco café in the High Street.  Dave M was down with the lurgy so regrettably missed what was a very rewarding if not extremely hilly ride.  The hills started immediately out of the town and with cold legs we ground up and out bound for Four Crosses via minute lanes up and down dale.  At Four Crosses, we rode across the flat Severn River valley floor.  Espying a monument on the top of Breidden Hill (1,056ft) Ivan was keen to ride up to “Rodney’s Pillar” named after Admiral Rodney of Cape St Vincent Battle fame in 1779.  This was not to be as we were bound round the back of it for Long Mountain and 1,265ft.  From the ridge road there are extensive views of the Long Mynd, Stiperstones and Clee Hills to the East and the mountains around Lake Vyrnwy to the West.  Soon we were running fast downhill towards Montgomery.  This delightful but small county town is on a hill and overlooked by a Parliamentarian ruined castle.
Photograph by Ray Stigter

The main hotel was expensive and the other pub did not offer food so, asking a local, the Ivy House Tea Room was suggested.  This quaint tea-room cum deli was ranked 1st in Wales and 17th in Britain.  The lunch was wholesome and good value, although the sweets were a bit of a let down according to the “sweet pair”.  After this early lunch, the sun came out as we ground up the hill out of the back of the town bound for Abermule.  A short diversion was planned to try to find Dolforwyn Castle but all we found were more steep hills!  Turning for home we now followed the 81 through Bettws Cedewain and Aberrriw.  As I stopped to replace the Motorola battery, Ivan spotted the local and nipped in for a swift half and Ray decided upon a precautionary change of the rear tube in the churchyard.  Continuing with the 81, we were up and down dale finally passing the gates of NT Powis Castle.  A short burst up the main rode and over a wee canal bridge found us back to the Old Station car park.  Here in exchange for free parking, we honoured our promise of being a customer at the café as the sun started to set.  Bike Route Toaster stats gave the cumulative height gain as 4,000ft – my legs agreed – interestingly it was 1,800ft hillier than last Thursday’s Llangollen ride!  A wonderful 55 mile ride enjoyed by so few.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 18 November 2011

17th November 2011: Llangollen

The new venue, the Expresso Café in Gwersyllt, was busy as Ivan and I arrived a little late from Chester.  Dave H was already there and Dave S, a Café Hopper rider, had just turned up.  Brian Mac arrived a bit later having cycled from Neston and, because of problems on the trains, explained that Janet would not be coming, and he was not out for the whole today either.  So where to go!  I had come prepared with a 44m ride to the Wild Pheasant just outside Llangollen.  All the hills would be before lunch with a nice flat 10 miles after lunch.  All agreed and we set off to navigate our way out of largely unfamiliar territory bound ever upwards for Coedpoeth via Southsea (however did it get that name!).  Dave H picked up a puncture here so, a bit delayed, we set off for the Llandegla forest and the roundabout to the Ponderosa on the A5104.  The lane off the roundabout runs parallel to the A5014 and affords magnificent views to the left and right of the Vale of Clwyd and the sea, and the Berwyns the other way.  With good visibility and the weather that we had today, this is a perfect place to view some stunning countryside.

Photographs by Ivan Davenport

Dave S knew the route well and just turning down to the A5104 at Carrog, we stop at a boundary monument erected in 1400 to recognise a short-lived land “agreement” between Owain Glyndŵr and Henry IV which lead to the razing of Ruthin and  the Welsh Revolt of 1400-1415 – amazing what you come across in the countryside.  Running down to Carrog, we take the Old Coach Road for a pleasant if not surprisingly hilly run along the north side of the Dee until the Chain Bridge Hotel at Berwyn.  A quick left down the A5 found us at the Wild Pheasant.  Here Dave S pressed for home, whilst we three were ready for a late lunch after 28 very hilly miles.  Good fare at reasonable prices – but tough if you want salad today – they had run out.  Setting off well after 14:00, I promised us a flat 10 miles to the Pontcysyllte aqueduct along the recently resurfaced canal towpath.  We had an extremely pleasurable fast and level cycling with few walkers and time to digest our repast to boot.  The mostly familiar way back was via Cefn Mawr, Ruabon and the Sainsbury’s roundabout at Wrexham that found us going along Summerhill Road and back to café arriving at 16:00 with 44 miles on the clock.  Dave was in car assist mode whilst Ivan and I, in the gathering gloom, wended our way back via Llay and Kinnerton to Chester.  For two lone souls with headlights ablaze down the Dee cycle path, we had nearly 80 miles on the clock and had experienced what a well known octogenarian rider would have exclaimed to be “Magic”.

Sunday 13 November 2011

10th November 2011: Aston

Today was the first ride since last Thursday’s discussion and with notes of the meeting already circulated it was great to find so many members present at the Ice Cream Farm with their pre-prepared rides at the ready.  Jim and Mike G discovered that they had come with almost identical rides employing a circuitous route to the Dusty Miller at Wrenbury.  Ivan suggested we go the extra mile to the Bhurtpore Inn at Aston for the ale, so with that Jim and Mike got down to combining their rides.
By 10:30 eleven of us were more or less ready to depart with Dave Heath struggling to ensure his rack pack stayed attached.  Then with Jim in the lead we were off (Jim, Mike G, Ray, Martin, Andy, Clive, Ivan, Bryan, Brian Mac, Dave Heath and Trevor).  Jim led us out through Tattenhall, Chowley, Clutton, Lower Carden and Tilston before turning left towards Malpas.  At Simmonds Green we took a surprise left to Hampton Heath to negotiate the lanes through to Cholmondeley with the group staying together absorbed in conversation.  Somewhere along here Mike G took over at the front and we continued at the same steady pace to Wrenbury past the Dusty Miller and on to Aston and the Bhurtpore Inn.
The Bhurtpore did us proud, yet again.  Is there anywhere round here that offers a better selection of ales? And who can resist the fantastic selection of curries on offer?  When it came to deserts many were tempted but no one succumbed, possibly considering the need to get back before it got dark.
The return journey was made back through Wrenbury and north to Ravensmoor, thankfully with no one suggesting the shortcut through the ford.  We then navigated the jumble of lanes to Brindley followed by the well-ridden route back to the Ice Cream Farm through Bunbury and Beeston arriving at an unbelievable 14:30pm.  Well the wind was behind us.  No mishaps today unless you count Ivan’s rear wheel puncture with only a mile to go.
A great ride and plenty of time to sample the coffee cake at the Ice Cream Farm before the final stretch back to Chester.  37 miles there and back from Ice Cream Farm and 55 miles clocked in total back to Chester.  

Saturday 5 November 2011

3rd November 2011: Eastham Ferry

Me and my big mouth...After my Question 2 weeks ago to discuss having two groups, Bryan asked if I could choose a Wirral pub to host today’s meeting promptly at 12 noon.  Living for many years on The Wirral, I find it easy to plan a ride here on its limited quieter roads.  A big turnout was expected and with a decent forecast, I was overwhelmed to have sixteen at the start.  I won’t list them but you can see them lined up in the photo below, standing outside my back garden gate.  Ray is missing as he was taking a picture of the security camera watching us. 
We set off south, only to stop after 300 yards to have a mini lecture from me on the historical significance of the “Holloway” and medieval hospital at Denhall. Circling north towards Ness, a further stop was made to admire an “erratic” boulder outside The Wheatsheaf, deposited over 10,000 years ago when the glaciers receded to the northwest.  As my geographical gems were now receiving some abuse, I set off at a faster pace through the back of Neston village centre and along the bracing Parkgate Prom.  Continuing north we entered Gayton (the posh part of Heswall) where some houses could not be seen from the road, as they were behind locked gates.

Photograph by Brian MacDonald

Down through Lower Heswall (passing an early Beatles venue in 1962), a little spice was added by climbing the long, twisty hill up to the town centre.  Who said Wirral was flat? Crossing the A540, we skirted Heswall Common (who saw a much larger erratic there?) and under the Wrexham line at Heswall Hills Station.  We traversed the peninsula along the busy B road through Brimstage to Clatterbridge.  Crossing the M53 we cycled through Spital Cross, down past the Dibbinsdale river at Spital Dam and up through a huge sandstone cutting to cross the A41 at Bromborogh Pool.  Sensing the pub was near, people sped up through the ever expanding Bromborough Industrial Estate and down past the old moorings for the Ship Canal.  We were met at the Eastham Ferry Hotel by Alan on his bike and Liz again acting as a taxi driver for Martin.
The 2 for 1 meals proved as popular as ever, except for Clive who had a 5p reduction on his.  Unfortunately, the 5p was delivered inside his dinner.  The beer was good but with a more limited choice than usual.  Replenished, Bryan called the room to order. For absent friends, the gory details of the meet can be found elsewhere. 
As darkness was earlier after the clocks went back last week, we departed before 3pm up through Eastham Village and back across The Wirral via Childer-Thornton, Willaston and Burton. Dropping many Chester bound riders along the way, eventually five of us finished back at Ness for afternoon tea in the rather elegant Visitors Centre, having completed an easy and pleasant @@ (28??) miles.
If anyone fancies leading a ride for the first time, please email me for some ideas or advice.
Editor: Yes 28 miles confirmed.  Is this a record?

Saturday 29 October 2011

27th October 2011: Queens Head

The weather was supposed to improve but that was just Scotch Mist as it rained on and off all the day: not heavy, but enough to be annoying and guaranteeing that you would need to wash the bike when you got home.  There were twelve apostles this week at Hildegard’s café i.e. Brian, Paul, Janet, George, Ray, Alan, Dave M, Dave P, Martin, Mike G, Ivan and myself.  Jim was out just to collect £5 Christmas lunch deposit and Liz was acting as a one-way chauffeuse for Martin.  The route was sausage-shaped heading for the eponymously named pub at Queens Head: a near flat 50 miler.
The route out was via Worthenbury, then to Holly Bank to cross the A525 bound for Dudleston Heath.  There then comes a list of odd named hamlets such as Perthy, Crickett, The Ridge and Welsh Frankton.  A short section of the A595 got us over the canal bound for Babbinswood and the Queens Head pub.  A fast 23 miles in about 90 minutes.  The fare at the Queens Head was judged to be very good and excellent value for money.
Queens Head
Photograph by Alan Jeffs

Off we set from the car park when Ivan realises he has a potential puncture.  A re-inflation sorts the problem out and we set off again.  Just up the road with Ivan and Dave P racing up the lane to Rednal, I hear a ping sound and thinking it is a stone in the mudguards, carry on only to stop a little further up the road to find a spoke has gone in the rear wheel.  Luckily only a minor wobble in the rim, so I vow to use low gears to get home rather than standing on the pedals in high gears.  Up the road we find Ivan changing the recently re-inflated rear wheel.  In no time we head for Ellesmere and then into the bandit country on the English Welsh border around Penley.  Rather than head straight back via the Shocklach road, I plan a deviation via Threapwood, Chorlton and Tilston before taking Wetreins Lane back to Holt.  Here quite a few head off for home leaving Brian, Janet, Martin, Dave P and myself tucking into cake at Hildegard’s again.  Not quite a three puncture ride like the last two weeks, but with Paul having a rear wheel puncture on his second outing with us (just like his first time), it was nevertheless a classic CER ride.  Returning into Chester with Dave P on his fixie, I managed 75 miles overall and am glad that the rear wheel held for the 40 miles home from Queens Head.
A relatively incident free ride this week.  The most noticeable thing was that we all kept together and it was overall a fast ride.  A lot of riders commented on this.

Saturday 22 October 2011

20th October 2011: Whitchurch

With the promise of dry weather, I planned a route as Bryan was away.  Speaking to a friend in Wem, I asked his opinion of a good pub; try “The Tilley Raven” he said.  I rang the landlord and 12 cyclists were duly booked in for 1 pm.  That was the beginning of things not going to plan; I then read the previous blogs this morning only to see we had been there only 6 weeks ago.  I didn’t remember, as I seemed to be behind a camera that day.  About 10 riders were ensconced in Rose Farm at 10:00; is that a record?  Twelve set off by 10:30 (another record?) Alan, Andy, Brian, Clive, Dave M, Dave H, Ivan, Jim, Martin, Norman, Ray and a mystery rider. Who’s missing? 
The route took us through Bunbury, Chorley, Wrenbury and on to Marbury.  After three punctures delayed us badly, we found ourselves in Whitchurch after 1pm and I decided democratically to alter the plan.  We headed to our usual miserable hostess with the good beer and excellent Pensioners lunches.  Was she interested in feeding 12 hungry cyclists in her (empty) pub, I asked politely?  Was she heck!  If you think I’m being unkind, see Blogs of 12 May 2011 and 24 June 2010.
Hungrily we followed Clive down to The Dodington Lodge Hotel further south on the old A41 roundabout.  Is there any pub he does not know?  Another excellent choice of Shropshire beer and lime & soda, if a little limited.  The food was good and quickly served.  The return leg was quicker through the Wychs, Malpas, Peckforton, Beeston, Tarporley and finally Utkinton.  A sunny if somewhat slow 47 miles.
Summary: I think that all on today’s ride would agree that 12 cyclists together were too many.  
Question: Should we split into two groups in future?  Discuss.

Friday 14 October 2011

13th October 2011: Lloc

Bryan, Brian, Dave H, Jim, Andy, Trevor and Ray were already at the Gallery Café as Martin and I arrived together. Brian was at last back from Scotland. Bryan was solo on the tandem and only out for coffee because his Campag shifters were being repaired. Trevor was only out for coffee as well. Bryan had offered a 40 miler to Nannerch consisting of climbing up and down the Moel Arthur and Moel Fammau passes – but as he wasn’t coming with us, so we saved it for him on another day. I offered a 53 miler to Gronant returning via the Dyserth cycleway.  Just as we were leaving there was a call “I am at so-and-so, where are you all meeting today” – no, it wasn’t Ivan (he was at a motor show) it was Mike G. No problem I said, we’re going to the Bells of St Mary you can meet us there. We set off going the usual back way towards Northop Hall. Rather than going the direct way to Halkyn, I had plotted a deviation via Flint Mountain.  I should say at this point that this was a day of “threes”. The lane looked like a lane on the OS but as it deteriorated, I recalled that I had been down it before and the rough track would eventually turn into a metalled surface. With the confidence of knowing that I had been down it before, the rest followed. With slightly dirty wheels, we pushed on taking the lane on the left that took us down and up a single chevroned minute lane. “Take the first left,” I instruct Ray and Martin. They steam past it so I race after them to get them to turn back. We meet the back markers coming towards us and turning back, we all take the rough farm lane (it looked OK on the OS) which will get us over the A55. Pausing here to check the mud on the bike, Martin finds he has a front wheel puncture. No fault can be found but a new tube goes in and before we know it, the tyre has gone down again. After minute inspection, and a lot of stroking of beards, another tube is used and all is well. This all takes some time and Jim and Brian are getting restless and start talking to the young bull in the field opposite. Brian wants to try to find out if bulls really do not like red rags – but it was not a fair test- he was the other side of the barbed wire from the bull!

Photographs by Clive Albany and Martin Donaldson

We are off again, briefly on the A55 then up past the Britannia Inn. I think about stopping to wait for the others but also think that we have stopped for long enough already so I keep going staying on the main road at a very leisurely pace. Eventually, we are all strung out but in view as Martin and I pull up in Pentre Halkyn. He has a third puncture on the same tyre! No sign of Jim and Dave; meanwhile Andy and Ray have gone back to try to find them. Brian’s phone rings but he is too late to pick it up and there is a message from Jim saying that they are at the Windmill (having turned off the main road at the Britannia Inn and gone up the steep hill) and will find a café somewhere. Brian texts that we are giving up on Gronant and going to Lloc and the Misty Waters pub. Tyre fixed, we set off at a pace up and across towards Brynford and down to Gorsedd. The phone rings – its Mike saying he was at Gronant and where were we. Profuse apologies follow from me, but he was nonetheless happy to meet us at Misty Waters, which he said he knew. At Misty Waters, three of us have pints of Titanic ale, which after a few sips is confirmed as being “off”, so three pints of Guinness are supped instead. The food comes quickly but Mike doesn’t appear and my phone has no signal. I plot a route back and up the road decide to phone Mike. He’s just up the other road at the other pub in Lloc. Remembering and adapting Oscar Wilde’s quote “To lose one part of the group may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two parts looks like carelessness” I give Mike the local directions, and in a few minutes he is with us bound for Caerwys. To do this we need to get over the A55 so I find a nice farm lane with a requisite bridge. The lane says it a “No Through Road” – the OS disagrees, so I go down it and the rest reluctantly follow obviously thinking “Here we go again down lane No 3”. Well we were both right, it wasn’t a dead end but it was the dirtiest lane this year. We came out with bikes covered in cow’s muck and spent a few minutes cleaning the wheels with grass. 
The evidence
I promised a main road now as we headed for Caerwys but take the lane on the bend towards Ysceifiog and the double chevroned lane thereto. Just checking if a double chevroned was OK, or did we want to go to the Pet Cemetery for tea, we went for tea. With pots of tea and cake we rationalised that it was going one of those easy days today. Just before we leave, I spot an employee cleaning the animal hearse – five minutes later most of us have hosed down the bikes to get the worst of the muck off. Feeling inwardly and outwardly refreshed, we set off via Brynford to pick up cycle route 5 which will get us down into Flint. Eschewing the main road, we take the parallel road through the housing estate and press on towards Shotton and Hawarden.  Martin wends his way up to Hawarden as Brian takes the train. We remaining four take the back way past Yvonne’s café and over the Dee onto the Greenway to Chester. The day was in threes – new dirty lanes, sub-groups, punctures, bad pints, and comestible stops. The circular route was “only” 41 miles but what fun it was, now that we are all home that is.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

6th October 2011: Lake District Special Ride

So, the day had arrived at last. Possible route variations had been previously reconnoitred in weather varying from pleasant to glorious. This Thursday the forecast was horrible: very stormy. Norman was quite open about it - he didn’t take his carpet slippers off when the weather was bad. Trevor had sprained his ankle playing badminton! But any of us could have been excused a touch of Tevez on such a day. The committed, brave and stupid were in the Grange car park early: Mike G, Bryan, Andy, Ray, Martin, Liz, Clive, Ivan, Jim and myself.
We set off along the promenade ahead of schedule despite Mike having to sort out a shopfull of extreme weather gear. The view across Morecambe Bay was lovely. Soon we were winding steeply up the quiet lane to medieval Cartmel and coffee. Cartmel Priory is claimed to be “the most beautiful church in the North West” with a fascinating history. There is also a racecourse and a Michelin starred restaurant, L’Enclume, which featured on ‘The Trip’ with Steve Googan and Rob Brydon. The staff at the Mallard Tea Rooms were friendly and efficient.

Photographs by Ivan Davenport

Now warm and not wet, we continued uphill to Haverthwaite, north along the beautiful Rusland Valley, through Grizedale Forest passing Breasty Haw on our left, and then Ray punctured. This gave Ivan a chance to photograph the group in the narrow lane while a rogue driver attempted to use us as skittles. Down we whooshed to Esthwaite Water and soon reached pretty town of Hawkshead. Hawkshead is an ancient town that has flourished from Norse times. It is a village of higgledy-piggledy houses, archways and squares with strong connections to Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth. We meandered through the tourists and headed for Outgate and the climb to the Drunken Duck for lunch.
It was warm, a nice environment, fine beers, good quality food (if a bit pricey) and, when it came to a doorstep ham-sandwich in greaseproof paper, a bit pretentious. Exactly as expected in fact! We were just about to go back out when the rain hammered down, but five minutes later and nine of us were ready to go. Where was Mike? We found him struggling to pull his overshoes on and trying to get his arctic wardrobe in order.
We were soon grinding up to High Cross and then plunging down to the lovely undulating road alongside Coniston Water. The lakeside ride was a highlight; a beautiful unspoilt stretch of water with the Old Man of Coniston towering over the far side. Talk with Martin turned to Donald Campbell who had piloted Bluebird down this stretch of water at over 300 mph before disaster struck in 1967. From Brantwood, the former home of John Ruskin we cycled south past Peel Island, the inspiration for Wild Cat Island in the Swallow and Amazons books of Arthur Ransome.
Then followed a leisurely few miles meandering down the Crake Valley. At Spark Bridge we realised that Liz and three others were not in tow. Mobiles were either switched off or unable to connect. In the absence of a crate of carrier pigeons on the back, Martin gallantly cycled back uphill to find out what the problem was. It turned out Liz’s chain had exploded, damaging the front changer at the same time.
We eventually arrived at Penny Bridge and Greenodd for coffee and cake at the Bridge Deli. They are caterers for weddings etc. so not properly set up as a café. Service was quick and friendly and the coffee was spot on, even if there weren’t enough chairs. Mike had been delayed messing with his headset so chose to sit on the carpet rather than a metal keg. 
This part, and the next part of the route, had only been cycled by Jim and I two days before, in an attempt to travel southwest without a gruelling roller coaster ride. We crossed the river Leven and followed a dodgy Sustrans Route 20 stretch before an easy ride alongside the river to just south of Haverthwaite. The B5278 was fast and flattish going south, but it was a longer route and quite hilly from Cark to Grange, so Jim had convinced me that ‘Killer Hill’, as he referred to it, was the best option. We rode down a couple of miles to Stribers then made an acute left up a quiet, sheltered and very hard climb. The fit chaps and Liz were waiting patiently when the walkers and very slow grinders eventually made the T-junction at the top. Down past the mucky farm and alongside Cartmel racecourse, through Cartmel, with the weather becoming more consistently damp and murky by now. Then past Headless Cross and residents of Headless Close, left at the top of Allithwaite, along pleasant, quiet Wart Barrow Lane across the hill and finally back down to the coast road close to Martin and Liz’s caravan. About 46 miles completed and still an hour to go to lighting-up time.
The weather didn’t really bother us: I didn’t even use my proper waterproof, and the sheltered valleys and lanes meant that we didn’t have to battle against the wind all day.
Two thoughts struck me sitting in the car: the actual weather when cycling is often nowhere near as bad as the forecast, and if I was Martin Whitmarsh I would never employ Mike Gilbert (only pulling your leg Mike).
Thanks for your support and company on the day, I hope you all enjoyed it; also thanks to Jim for partnering me on a number of scouting missions beforehand and providing sound advice.

Author's corrections: it was Andy that punctured, not Ray; despite my Tevez aspersions, and Trevor's apparent good humour, his lawyer informs me that he has irrefutable medical evidence of a dicky ankle.
Note to editor: I may have a tendency to use marginally iffy words, but I think you were wrong in changing 'shopful' to 'shopfull'.
P.S. This week, regrettably, Mike confirmed his unsuitability for employment with McLaren by turning up at the wrong circuit.

Saturday 1 October 2011

29th September 2011: Ruthin

Caergwrle rides mean hills and this week’s ride featured a lot, 3000ft of ascent according to Bike Route Toaster.  The weather was mid 20’s and rising and the sun shone all day with hardly a cloud in the sky.  An extraordinary summer’s day – but in autumn.  The lunch stop was the Anchor in Ruthin, and rather than going up the Minera Steps, I thought a meander up Summerhill and Brymbo to get to Bwlchgwyn would make a nice change.  OS maps don’t seem to indicate chevroned roads here and there were a lot of them as there were also curiously, a lot of pubs.  Up, around, along, down then repeat the sequence until finally we passed the old ironworks that Brymbo is known for.  Here Norman was struggling with the heat and wisely decided to call it a day.  We also seemed to have lost Dave Hill, who was out for the café breakfast, and Liz and Martin who also disappeared.

Photographs by Alan Jeffs

So we six (Alan, Dave B, Dave P, Ray, Janet and myself) continued up again to meet the Minera Steps road.  Heading through the Llandegla Mountain bike centre, we made it out to the A5104 bound for the roundabout just before the Horseshoe Pass Road.  Taking the quiet lane on the right, and at 1200 ft, we now enjoyed nearly 5 miles of ridge riding with magnificent views of the Clwydian range to the right and the Berwyns to the left.  Taking a right at the T, we accelerated off the hills and down via wooded valleys towards Llanfair Dyffryn. The hedge cutters had been out, so caution was needed along some of these lanes.
Llandegla Forest

The Anchor was quiet and the £5.95 menu fair was served up promptly.  A few lime and sodas were also downed to reset the fluid balance.  We discussed the return route, which originally included the steep ascent to Moel Fammau.  With the temperature rising, we acknowledged that we would re-route by going toward Nant-y-Garth.  A loop out of the town to warm up the legs found us out of Llanbedr and then the B road to Graigfechan.  Rather than take the main pass road, we took the 3 mile long ascent out of Pentrecelyn to the top of the pass.
Top of the old Nant Garth road
Decision point: which way home?  Loggerheads for tea was agreed upon, and we sped down to Llanarmon and onto Caffi Florence, just getting our order in before closing time.  Leaving for home, Dave B split off to get back to Connah’s Quay as the rest of us cut across country via Swan Lane back to Caergwrle.  The lanes at “going home” time are a particular hazard as a few scraps with vans and cars evidenced.  Ray and I split off to go back to Chester via Kinnerton as Janet took the train at Penyffordd; Dave P went back to Chester another way and Alan picked his car up in Caergwrle.  The out journey to Ruthin was 25 miles but the return was 29 miles making a 54 miles extremely enjoyable, if hot and thirsty ride. Thanks go to Dave P for being the back marker for most of the day and well done to Dave B for not giving up on the hills.  For me, it was just short of 80 miles as I reached home with the sun low in the sky.

Addendum: Three times during the day my Motorola Defy satnav and phone was shaken loose from its bike holder by the potholes and bounced down the road.  Not a scratch on it, and still working.  Ray had a front wheel puncture in Kinnerton and changed it in record time.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 24 September 2011

22nd September 2011: Audlem

On my way out to Tattenhall, I overtook a rider in Chester who seemed to follow me all the way to Waverton.  It transpired this was Paul R who was trying us out for the first time.  The ride to the Ice Cream Farm was therefore used to inform Paul of our ethos and paucity of rules and regulations.  We arrived early just as Dave M arrived – he was only out for the coffee as he was still in “Audax Recovery Mode”.  There were a lot of us out today: Janet, Trevor, Ray, Alan, Liz and Dave, Ivan, Norman, Martin, myself, Peter (out for his second time) and Paul.  I suggested a ride of about 63 miles to Pipe Gate (“Where?” they all cried.  “South of Woore”.  “Where?” they repeated) and in sheep mode, we set off bound for Carden and Tilston.  
Carden Arms

Photographs by Alan Jeffs

At Carden my phone rang, it was Janet “I’m near Beeston Castle, where are you?” – we had left without her, as she was still in the loo!  I gave her some directions to meet us at No Mans Heath and we ploughed on.  A mile up the road, Norman was having problems with his panniers so the lead group waited at the Carden Arms.  Onwards via Tilston and Ebnal Lane, we arrived at the A41 No Mans Heath rendezvous.  I called Janet but she had decided to head homewards, so “Group Apologies” to Janet for not realising you were not with us.  Off again towards Aston but a puncture halted us after a half a mile.  This provided the time to try and fix Norman’s pannier (which had a missing fixing screw) using a cable tie.  At this point I decided to abandon the planned route to the Chetwode Arms and go for the Shroppie Fly in Audlem.  However I now planned an indirect route to take in the flight of locks at Cox Bank.  So out of Aston we headed for Burley Dam and Wilkesley.  
Arriving at the flight of locks, a few decided to take the direct route into Audlem along the canal whilst the rest of us kept turning left until we hit the canal again in Audlem town centre.  The food came swiftly and during lunchtime Norman fixed his bike courtesy of the local bike shop, and Alan had repaired a slow picked up earlier.  As the sun warmed us we left within the hour for a yet more circuitous route back.  For us all lots of new lanes were cycled as we negotiated Nantwich bound for Tilley’s at Bunbury.  Hedge-cutting season had started so occasionally it was a hazardous ride crossing our fingers that no further incidents occurred.  At Bunbury, Ivan shot off to get home early and the rest of us acquired our Tilley Loyalty cards.  Arriving back at the Ice Cream farm with not quite 60 miles on the clock, three of us were Chester bound with over 80 miles ridden and a dry day again.

Friday 16 September 2011

15th September 2011: Southport and beyond

In a departure from the usual cycling round Cheshire and Wales, this special ride explored the workings of Merseyrail before a pedal was pushed in anger.  After Norman, Bryan, Ivan, Dave Hill and Janet survived the rigours of the lifts and escalators at Liverpool Moorefields station, we travelled to Freshfields on the Southport line, where we were joined by Dave Heath and Jim (who had used a car and had cycled from Lydiate).
Setting off north from the station, we recrossed the railway line at an unmanned crossing, and then braved flying golf balls before entering Formby woods (a red squirrel reserve). We then joined the last few miles of the Trans Pennine Trail, along an old railway track, but now a busy road with an adjacent cycle track. We passed along the sea wall at Southport, with much use of bells to clear ambling late season tourists out of the way before heading further north along the coast, with clear views of Blackpool Tower, St Annes and the edges of the Trough of Bowland.
At Crossens, we hit the road proper, passing the large Environment Agency pumping station that keeps this part of Lancashire from returning to a lake. It was noted how low the houses were in relation to the cycle path, which is the top of the dyke: we were on a level with their bedrooms! We then passed through Banks. The land here is suited to market gardening on an industrial scale, and we passed fields of greens, and large areas of glasshouses. Although the lanes were narrow, there were lots of 38 ton wagons on them, transporting the goods to the supermarkets (along with very large tractors with spiky things sticking out from them!) 
Crossing the busy A565, we lunched at the Legh Arms, Mere Brow: probably the last time CER members sit outside this year. Food and ale were good, although a sudden descent of seven riders on a sleepy Thursday gave the chef apoplexy, and the service was slow. 

Photograph by Dave Hill
Ready for the return journey

Heading south-ish, we weaved our way through Holmeswood, passing Martin Mere, and skirting Burscough and Ormskirk. Soon we hit the hill challenge for the day, climbing to 56 metres above sea level on the Clieves Hills, for stunning views of our route. Coasting back down the hill, we meandered the lanes again, crossing and re-crossing the canal, passing through Lydiate, and then rejoining the TPT, which is called the Cheshire Lines path in these parts. Dave H and Jim left us here.
We re-emerged from off-road cycling to join rush hour traffic on the road from Maghull to Seaforth. However, turning off the main road after a couple of miles, we reached the inner city oasis of Rimrose Valley Park, which took us away from the hustle and bustle to within a few hundred yards of Seaforth station, and back to the delights of the Underground for the journey home with 42 miles completed.

Saturday 10 September 2011

8th September 2011: Tilley

The weather promised to behave itself, and it did, with only a few spots of rain in the morning and a warm afternoon.  Eleven of us (Ray, Bryan, Brian, Trevor, Alan, Janet, Dave & Liz P, Mike G, and I along with newcomer Peter) set out from Holt heading for Tilston by way of Wetreins Lane.  The first hurdle came on the main road to Tilston that was closed due to hot tar operations; and hot it was, as we walked by on the grass verge.  This was one of a few such closures as various lanes were being surface improved.
 Photographs by Brian MacDonald
Out via Horton Green to Oldcastle Heath, we snaked our way to Big Arowry and into Bettisfield Park, and through the “blink and you will miss them” hamlets of Wolverley, Noneley, Rue Wood and finally into Tilley just south of Wem.  The Raven in Tilley is a real find; the landlady was friendly but warned of a 30 min food delay because “everything is cooked freshly prepared” – true to her word the food arrived as predicted and very tasty it was.  Coupled with a wide range of guest beers, it is worthy of a return trip at a later date for sure.  Brian was back briefly from Scotland and the Orkneys and selflessly played the 11th man role for a good part of the day. 

Photograph by Alan Jeffs

As we left the sun came out and we set off via Wem town for lanes anew and yet more hamlets, in a figure of eight in the English-Welsh badlands intersecting at Tybroughton.  I have to confess I like this tripartite area of Cheshire, Shropshire and Wales – there are lots of lanes and few hills to worry about.  There were mutterings of an afternoon tea stop so we ended up quite early back at Hildegard’s for tea and cake.  Peter did well on his first outing, and promised we would see him again.  A 49 miler from Holt, but 70+ miles for those Chester bound.

Sunday 4 September 2011

1st September 2011: Bangor-on-Dee

An unusually fine and sunny day was in prospect as eight Easy Riders gathered at Rose Farm garden centre, Utkinton.  The roll call was Clive, Dave H, Dave and Liz, George, Trevor, Jim and myself.  Dave offered the Buck House Hotel, Bangor-on-Dee as a destination and with a clear sky we freewheeled through the warm breeze towards Beeston where Clive departed to attend an afternoon engagement.  We cycled on toward Bickerton as conversation flowed about George’s recently completed LEJOG.
As we enter the pub a vast array of ceramic teapots confronted us, apparently 1500 in total, belonging to the landlady, they must have had an influence as Dave H ordered tea!
A return route via Shocklach, Horton Green and Tilston was agreed and the group set off once again into the hazy, sun-drenched lanes.  This is the life!  Three riders peeled off as we got nearer to Utkinton with only four returning directly to Rose Farm, 50 fresh air miles earned.  A mid-summers day climate on 1st September: could this be the start of an Indian summer?

Saturday 27 August 2011

25th August 2011: St Asaph

I had pre-planned a route to St Asaph and since the weather promised to be good, a ride over the Halkyns was in prospect.  There were eleven of us (Liz and Dave, George, Alan, Norman, Martin, Ray, Janet, Ivan, Jim an myself) as we said goodbye to Dave Hill at the Gallery café.  The usual route was taken to Northop but at Halkyn, the left turn at the Britannia was taken up the hill to get us onto the top for the run to Rhys-y-Cae.  Here the tandem sailed on, as we turned left towards Lixwm.  A text message said “See you at the Plough”.  I thought “See you later on the Babell road” since we were going the long way round via the Lixwm lanes.  As thus it was that as we emerged on the Babell road near Racecourse Lane we were all together once again.  Continuing straight on this road until we hit the A55 we then took the farmers bypass to get us to the top of Rhuallt Hill on the old road.  A fast descent right through the village took us to the cycleway running parallel to the A55 and over the purpose-built cyclist’s bridge onto the old A525 and upwards into St Asaph.  Having been to the Plough 10 days earlier, this seemed to be the only decent and decently priced pub in town.  It took awhile to get lunch served but all appeared happy with the fare.  
At the summit above Gwespyr
Dave Hill had mentioned that the Dyserth to Prestatyn cycleway had now been tarmaced, so, I re-routed out of St Asaph and we were soon wending our way slowly uphill to its entrance.  We dropped a few here but caught them in time as they sailed by the cycleway entrance.  This was to be a feature for the rest of the day!  The cycleway is nearly 3 miles of gently downhill rolling heaven.  In Prestatyn it started to rain, so we donned waterproofs as we accessed cycleway 5, sailed though the golf course and past thousands of mobile home to emerge at Talacre.  My original plan was to be sympathetic to the group after a steady morning’s hill climbing by returning to Hawarden via the coast road.  Yes, it is not pretty but it is flat and I thought this would have group appeal especially with a drink stop at the nice café behind Sainsbury’s in Flint.  A long discussion ensued as the choice was given between a flat ride or going up the single chevron lane to Gwespyr and Llanasa followed by the eventual climb to Halkyn Windmill (all of 850ft of ascent).  

Photographs by Alan Jeffs

Surprisingly, the challenging ride was chosen and some literally agonising minutes later we were all resting after the first 400 ft of ascent through Gwespyr’s chevroned lane.  The rest of the afternoon saw the same pattern repeated as we went up and down hill through Llanasa, Whitford, Gorsedd and onwards to Calcoed.  It was here we lost the tandem again.  I had stayed at the back at Gorsedd issuing instructions to the passing stragglers to take the next left on the cycleway 5 to Calcoed.  The tandem sailed right on and at Brynford a phone call confirmed that they would find their own way back.  
By this time it started to rain again, and a few of the stronger riders were itching to head for home, so as they sped off ever upwards, Alan and I held back to shepherd Jim and Norman back to base.  The ride was 57 hilly miles but nonetheless enjoyable in that new roads were accessed and the Dyserth cycleway ridden without the bone shaking ride that Ivan and I had had last time we rode it.  For those heading back to Chester, it was a 70+ mile round trip.

Sunday 21 August 2011

18th August 2011: Croft

Although cool first thing this morning the temperature had risen to a pleasant 19°C by the time the group of 13 met for tea at the Manley Mere Windsurfing Centre.  Bryan announced that he had planned “a bit of a mad ride” to visit territory we had not tried before.  The plan was to cross the Mersey and make a circuit of Warrington threading our way through the lanes just to the south of St. Helens, Newton le Willows and Golborne returning via Lymm.  Dave H would meet us on the outskirts of Runcorn and guide us over the Runcorn/Widnes bridge.  For lunch Bryan had identified a number of possible pubs, with the General Elliot in Croft being top of the list. So just after 10:30 the group of Bryan, Omry, Martin, Liz D, Trevor, Alan, Clive, Norman, Ray, Dave & Liz P set off.  Ivan and his grandson were there to see us off, while Dave M planned to ride with us for the first half hour and then head back.
As usual, from Manley Mere, we started the day with a stiff climb up to Riley Bank and then down to Frodsham to join the main road to Runcorn.  Here Dave M left us, as we met up with Dave H to take the scenic route up to the Runcorn/Widnes bridge and across to join the Trans Pennine Trail on the other side.  We then followed the St Helens Canal for a couple of miles before taking the second bridge to cross into the Moss Bank industrial area heading north along the eastern edge of Widnes to Clock Face.  Here Norman’s local knowledge proved invaluable in guiding us through Clock Face Country Park.  Once back on the lanes we made good progress through Burtonwood and Winwick to Croft where we quickly found the General Elliot.  The newly refurbished and upmarket pub provided a warm welcome and friendly service with a Senior’s Special menu (starter and main) for £6.50.  The food was all you could wish for in quality and presentation and with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord on tap provided a perfect lunch.  With 12 of us to cater for one might have expected some delay in getting back on the road: but not today.  Within an hour of arriving we were back on the road conscious of the need to get back before the Windsurfing Centre locked the gate to the car park.
Culcheth marked the halfway point and from here we turned south to Glazebrook and Rixon where we crossed the Manchester Ship Canal for a brief excursion into Trafford District before returning to Cheshire for a short stop in the centre of Lymm.  Back on home ground we headed for Antrobus and Acton Bridge.  Dave H left us just before the crossing, to make his own way back to Runcorn.  The rest of us continued up past the Maypole pub to Hatchmere and the forest route back to Manley with Omry peeling off along the way.  Then with less than 100 yards to the Windsurfing Centre Liz P was stung by a wasp!
What an interesting day: exploring the northern fringes of Cheshire on lanes we haven’t ridden before with plenty of variety en-route.  Thanks to Dave H and Norman for their help in guiding us through the area and to The General Elliot for their friendly and efficient service combined with a great lunch.
Total distance from Manley Mere was spot on 60 miles with some 75 plus miles for those riding from Chester.

Monday 15 August 2011

11th August 2011: Dolgellau special

Bryan, Janet, Ivan, Clive, Trevor, Allan, Lizzie and Martin met in the café by the car park in Dolgellau at 10:30 am on another grey and gloomy August day.  As we left it was just starting to rain and this would continue for the next 3 hours.  We rode through the town and then immediately began a 200 metre ascent that Bryan described as "cruel". At the top, the normal splendid views were largely absent as the hills were enveloped in cloud down to the 300 metre level.  From here it was downhill back to the valley bottom and after crossing the main Bala road it was up again towards the Coed Brenin forest.  We rode up one side of the raging Afon Wen surrounded by huge trees and then down the other side and eventually back to Dolgellau.
Whether mist or condensation this says it all.

Photograph by Martin Donaldson 

The first section completed we embarked on the second which again began with a stiff climb up the Cader Road. At this point hunger and unremitting rain were causing spirits to flag so we were all relieved to reach the Gwernan Hotel. Welsh Rarebit proved the most popular choice for lunch.  We learnt from the kitchen that this dish was so named because in then past the ordinary Welshman was prohibited by the landowners from catching rabbits and so cheese was used instead.  Who needs Wikipedia!
By now the rain had stopped and the sun appeared, so with improved mood we continued the climb with great views of the Cader Idris crags to our left.  Eventually we arrived at the Cregennen Lakes where superb views of the Mawddach estuary opened up.  Then a steep descent with Bryan managing to skid on one particularly tight bend but expertly avoiding disaster.  On to the main road and then a touch of wheels and Ivan was down thankfully without serious damage to body or bike.  An everyday hazard in the life of the peloton!
Next we crossed the estuary along the railway bridge and, to avoid the horrors of Barmouth in August and the £1 toll, we doubled back and picked up the Mawddach trail.  This follows a former railway line and provided an easy, flat and scenic route back to Dolgellau arriving just in time for tea and cakes.
41 miles and 1600 metres of ascent.  A route I think that was enjoyed by all but which would have been so much better if the weather had been kind.

Saturday 6 August 2011

4th August 2011: Ellesmere

The weather forecast was for light rain until 10:00 and then a clear day – no, wrong!; raining until 12:00 and then progressively clearing up until the sun appeared at 16:00.  Still, a little bit of rain was not going to spoil a potentially enjoyable and “flat” ride from the Ice Cream Farm to the Black Lion in Ellesmere.  Six of us left in the rain (Martin and Liz, Ray, Ivan, myself and Bill on his first outing with us) taking a near straight-line routing to Whitchurch.  Dave M came for the tea only and then went home as we left.  The idea for the first 15 miles to Whitchurch was to ride as close to the A41 as possible but minimising the actual use of the A41.  The original plan had been to go up to Burwardsley then Harthill but given Bill was on his first outing, I re-routed via Bolesworth Castle to hit the A41 for the first time at No Mans Heath.  Taking the first left, we looped back to the A41 to go left then first right to pass by the “Bell o’ th’ Hill” pub and then cross the A41 to take the lane opposite to re-emerge at Grindley Brook.  Joining the canal and negotiating the flight of locks here, we took the largely good towpath to a lifting bridge to exit into Whitchurch (thus avoiding the A41 itself).  Out towards Alkington, the rain had now stopped and the pleasant lanes took us to Welsh End where we left the way-marked cycleways bound for Lyneal and Colemere.  Taking the A528 into Ellesmere, we took a surprisingly hilly Sandy Lane to access the town centre after 30 miles and the Black Lion beckoned.  The pub has had a bit of welcome makeover since we last visited in May 2010 but still has a good range of food and reasonable prices.  With 25 miles to go, the afternoon would be a pleasant spin through the Welsh borderlands.  And so it was as the temperature rose, we negotiated the twists and turns from Ellesmere via Hampton Wood and Haighton to Threapwood.  Similarly the NE track out took us past the wooded Overton Scar and Edge Hall to cross the A41 at Duckington.  Up the Hill towards Brown Knowl it was then all downhill back to the Ice Cream Farm for tea at 16:15.  The last mile or so ended up as a sprint as Martin shot off at 25mph with three of us in pursuit.  For Bill it was a long but hopefully a pleasant 55 miles, and as the three of us took the usual way back to Chester we knew we would notch up 75 miles for the day.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Sunday 31 July 2011

28th July 2011: Wirral Wander

Part 1
I always look forward to the start from Ness Gardens Cafe, as I can have a lie in.  Not so, the other 7or 8 who were all there before me: Alan, Dave H, Dave & Liz, Ivan, Norman and Trevor.  A late guest appearance saw Jim & friend, just back from Le Tour, but they weren’t joining us for the ride today.
The route was – Leighton, Thornton Hough, Irby and (unusually) to bits of Wirral not covered before, Arrowe Park, Upton in Wirral, Noctorum and down through Birkenhead Park to Seacombe Ferry.  Here we stopped for our resident photographer Ivan to capture a picture of The Ferry across the Mersey, aka the cruise ship “Crystal Serenity”.  She was on an 11 day British Isles cruise and berthed across at Pier Head, the ship was a fitting backdrop to today’s photo.  I had a meeting to attend, so left the group just before the lunch stop at The Egremont Ferry.  Dave H / Norman were going to take over leading back round the North and West coast of the peninsula.

Photograph by Ivan Davenport

Part 2
The meal was excellent as usual but believe it or not the Cains ran out on the first pull.  We returned via the sea front and Wirral Way with only a threat of rain to put us off diverting via the jetty and footpath in West Kirby.  Another great day out.

28th July 2011: Pistyll Packing Momma Audax

Just Ray and I turned up for this bumper fun day to check the route of the forthcoming "Pistyll Packing Momma" Audax.  We left Tattenhall at 07:55 into a cool and overcast day.  Chirk was the first stop which we reached by 10:00am: 10 minutes less than when we rode "Momma's Mountain Views".
From here we rode up Glen Cerriog, through Llanarmon DC and over the tops to Pistyll Rhaeadr for a good lunch.   The route then took us to Lake Vyrnwy over the southern Hirnant Pass and over the dam to the cafes.  The weather became threatening at this stage and dropped some rain (as it did again after Bala): but nothing too wet.
We left Lake Vyrnwy over the North Hirnant Pass which gives a spectacular descent to Bala and another cafe stop.  Beyond Bala we followed the main road north for 8km until turning off at Bethel.  We then followed a relentlessly hilly route past Melin-y-Wig, Pentrecelyn and over the Shelf to Llanarmon-yn-lal.  Much of the road around Melin-y-wig and beyond is in terrible condition, but due to be resurfaced this August.
After Llanarmon-yn-lal we picked up the "Momma's Mountain Views" route again to Llanfynydd where we had a much needed and appreciated hot bowl of soup at the Cross Keys.  Finally we climbed over Hope Mountain and returned to Tattenhall through Hope, Holt and Bruera, arriving at 21:30 pm in the gloom.  Distance was around 210/215km (just over 130 miles) with 3000m climbing. 
We had a hard but ultimately very satisfying day out.  Many thanks to Ray who could have got round an hour quicker, but waited for me after he had sprinted over the big hills.