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 29 April 2011

28th April 2011: Market Drayton (mod)

A dry but slightly cooler day than last week was the forecast for today.  Mike and Brian Mac had been in touch to say that they had each prepared a moderate ride, so not being sure which ‘brisk’ riders would be out I worked out a suitable 58 miler for them and set off to the Ice Cream Farm.  Just before the canal I met up with Mike M at the side of the road texting a friend about tickets to a Man U game: enough said.  Another good turnout today: Mike, Andy, Dave Heath, Dave M, George, Jim, Trevor, Brian Mac, Graham & Jane T (just returned from Egypt) and Alan (on his second ride with us).  Including me that made a total of 12 riders: just about at the limit for a single group.
While Mike and Brian Mac discussed their respective ride options I quizzed the ‘brisk’ group on their intentions, eventually offering my 58 miler to Market Drayton plus an offer to lead, but at a moderate pace.  This was quickly accepted by all present so with everyone onboard we agreed to keep together and ride as a single group.
We set off at an easy pace, then warmed up over Harthill before taking the easy route past Cholmondeley to Wrenbury.  The sound of continuous conversation from behind told it’s own storey and the group kept together as we cruised through Aston, Royal’s Green and Wilkesley.  I really don’t know why we don’t do this more often as the countryside round here is ideal cycling country, particularly on a glorious day like this.  Then on past Shavington Park it wasn’t long before we were on the outskirts of Market Drayton.
Coming in from the west we headed for the town centre butter market and, after Brian Mac had consulted a knowledgeable local, we made our way to the nearby Red Lion pub attached to the recently opened local Joules brewery.  Joule’s Pale Ale and Slumbering Monk: what more can you ask for?  This is a find and a half to be sure.  I would gladly do this ride again just for the lunch stop and those who did last year’s Shrewsbury 110 will no doubt also recall the delights of the Buttercross Tea Room!
All good things come to an end and after a relaxed lunch it was time to follow NCN 75 out of town to Norton in Hales and Audlem.  Dave M left us here to take the main road back while the rest of us took the lanes north to Nantwich with Graham & Jane T peeling off for the more direct route.  Once we had negotiated the edge of Nantwich the plan was to continue on to Venetion Marina for afternoon tea where we arrived just before they closed for the day.  After the canal side break, soaking up the sun, we set off again before turning east at Cholmondeston for the final stretch, leaving Mike to head for home via Wettenhall.  We were soon passing through Bunbury and Beeston to arrive back at the Ice Cream Farm just before 17:00 hours having completed 58 glorious miles in perfect cycling weather.  For those of us cycling out from Chester the computer was nudging 80 miles on the return, marking Trevor’s longest ride to date!
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 23 April 2011

21st April 2011: Oswestry (brisk)

It was clear that there would be a good turnout at Bellis given the forecast for excellent weather; and so it was that 14 of us split into two groups.  The Moderate group lead by Brian Mac would be heading for The Greyhound at Street Dinas and the Brisk group to Wetherspoons emporium in Oswestry.  So Andy, Ray, Dave M, Alan Jeffs (joining us for the first time) and myself set off down the familiar lanes to Shocklach and Threapwood.  Exiting to Sarn and crossing the A525 we found ourselves in the beautiful border territory close to Penley.  The sharply folded landscape hereabouts marks the border and provided the only hilly challenges of the day.  Taking the lane out of Penley, we passed The Trench, shimmy across the A528 at the Seven Sisters and The Cross and on to Elson.  The lane to Frankton passes New Crickett and Crickett itself, then onto Ridge and Perthy before exiting onto the A495 west of Welsh Frankton.  A short burn brings us into delightful Whittington with its moated castle. 

Photograph by Clive Albany

Rather than going into Oswestry the direct route, we circle south running in along the old coach road to the rather busy roundabout at the A5/A483 junction.  Turning left to the town centre, a newish-looking pub was offering 2 for £11 but as there were 5 of us this wouldn’t work so a short tour of Oswestry town centre found us at the Wetherspoons.  An ideal choice as it turned out, with prompt good food and three pints of lime and soda for 60p in total (due to a barman’s incapacity to operate the till correctly despite reiterated three pints please!). 
The return ride took us out behind the impressive Iron Age hill fort then past the Gobowen Orthopaedic hospital bound for Hindford and lanes to Overton.  This is really beautiful countryside around here and picture perfect on a 20+°C afternoon.  Out of Overton towards Bangor soon found us on the familiar back lanes route to Bellis except for a surprise re-routing via Erla’s Lane and the Wrexham Industrial Estate – just to balance out the day scenically!  Down Francis Lane and a mile from the end, we find Brian Mac riding back to his car having left the Moderate Group drinking tea in the sunshine at Bellis.  Returning back to Bellis, Alan has done very well on this 52 miler and as he heads Wirral bound, we take tea on the terrace with Mike M and Dave P.  For the Brisk riders 52 miles from Bellis and a round trip Chester bound of 75 miles in quintessentially English summer weather and spring green countryside.

Friday 22 April 2011

21st April 2011: St Martins (mod)

A sunny morning with a pleasant forecast was always going to guarantee a big turnout. Sure enough, by 10:05, ten of us were tucking in at the Bellis Garden Centre Café.
By 10:30, we had sixteen & decided to split into two groups.  The only decision was what to call us.  The “quickies and the dregs” were the politest terms.  Brian led out the dregs, assisted by the sub-committee of Mike with Jim who provided maps and we elected for The Greyhound at St Martins.  It was good to see Dave Heath back after his Op.  Nor was it a surprise that the dregs comprised the bigger group with tandem Dave & Liz, Dave, George in serious training for his E2E and Trevor on his new go-faster Scott.
We felt it fitting with our image that we should ride at a steady 12-13 mph, chatting and enjoying the scenery in classic CER style.  Shocklach, Worthenbury, Cloy and Overton were passed without incident, reaching the pub at 12:15.  The landlady remembered us from our previous visit – a cold, grey, damp winter’s day; in contrast, today we sat outside soaking up the sun.  Is this our summer?  In usual CER style, talk over lunch ranged from the merits of AV to Dave’s skills as a dog whisperer.  The beer was good; the food, not so.  Lime & soda was 50p; beat that.
The return leg through Penley and Threapwood was the usual post-prandial jaunt (guess who did Latin at school).  After Shocklach, the heat must have gotten to Dave & Liz, for having been tail-end-Charlie all day, they suddenly led us back at 16 -18mph.  There was no stopping them.  A warm 38 miles ended a classic EASY ride with tea and cake at Bellis again.
But what shall we call the two groups?

Tuesday 19 April 2011

14th April 2011: Berwyns

It was a strange experience ‘leading’ a novelty ride for the first time, not knowing who or what to expect from riders more used to the Cheshire flat-lands.
Nine assembled in a drab and damp free car park at Llangynog (where the toilets even had hot water on tap) including a newbie Alyn from Ruthin. His sparkling carbon frame gave it all away though – this guy could ride fast. Others with conventional and significantly heavier bikes turned up as planned and we set off on the dot to cover some of my favourite roads in the whole world.
We started by taking the narrow, gravelly back lane to Penybontfawr, then straight across on the B road, soon to fork off left and skywards. Here a major rush of traffic caused by bin day interrupted the solitude. A steady climb soon caused layers to be peeled off, perhaps showing Mike’s choice of shorts to be not that optimistic. This lane bounded by banks of primrose and violets, with cute lambs gambolling in the fields, was crested all too quickly.

The whizz downwards to rejoin the B road was brisk but not mad and we regrouped shortly before turning across the dam wall at Vyrnwy. Here we were well catered by efficient service at the Old Barn cafe. Sausage sandwiches and cake consumed with passion and some speed.
From there, we turned downhill from the cafe to cross an aluminium footbridge below the dam and I tried my best to take a direct path back to lakeside. 10 minutes later with serpentine wiggles confusing even the best GPS map, we made it having viewed some marvellous sculpture in the Vyrnwy Sculpture Park.
The passage along the north shore of Lake Vyrnwy was the closest we got to riding as a group and very enjoyable it was too – a gentle pace, brightening skies, little traffic and superb scenery.

The main climb of the day followed at the lake end, where those of us with appropriate gears changed down as the road rose to tackle the lofty Hirnant pass. This is a special place for me; such beauty, rugged rock, trees and sky with gurgling mountain streams. The sharp climb through huge towering conifers was heavenly and the descent down the cwm a delight with dry roads and clear lines of sight allowing one to ‘let go’. The further descent towards Bala with trees springing into life, was as idyllic as ever and now bathed in a balsamic scent of blossom wafting in the light breeze.

We regrouped in chilly downtown Bala with the Goat’s £2.99 menu tempting us in. Basic food and basic pub atmosphere but perfectly serviceable.
The short afternoon for many was spent pass storming the long but gentle climb of Milltr Gerrig. For those who rode with the leader, we encountered a little dampness but no real rain, to enjoy an exciting run down the dramatic U- shaped valley back to Llangynog.

Some faster riders had already left for home by the time we had rolled in. The pass was new to some and I hope enjoyed by all. Being only just after 3 o’clock on arrival, I led 4 of us along the valley to soak up the quietness and solitude of Pennant Melangell chapel with its mediaeval shrine and 2000 year old yews. Well worth the extra 4 miles.

Guys, I have to say, those who didn’t turn up missed a classic ride. Perhaps some of those that did missed part of it too, as in my view it is best savoured slowly like a glass of fine port or a pint of good ale.

Next time we’ll try the Bwlch y Groes and I’m sure I would lead that from the back too.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

12th April 2011: Conwy Valley (Tues)

This was the first official CER “Tuesday” ride with the weather perfect, cool but sunny all day, and what a rewarding stunning ride it was.  Ivan and I took the train to Colwyn Bay and, after a short warm up along the sea front to Rhos (OK- to a café!), we were warming up the thighs up the hillside and into the quiet Nant Groes valley behind Colwyn Bay. Once on the top road, we rode the smooth-surfaced B5113 for the next near traffic-free 25 miles all the way to Pentrfoelas.  The views of the Snowdonia range were stunning with Tryfan and Snowdon clearly in view and a long view north back to the Conwy valley head at Conwy itself.  Taking the quiet A5 towards Conwy at Pentrefoelas, we spun along in the sunshine on smooth roads until a left at the old bridge at Bro Garmon took us along wooded lanes towards Betws-y-Coed.  

Photographs by Clive Albany

Crossing the B4460, the next lane gave us access to the Conwy Falls (in need of some water) until coming down to the main road to Blaenau Ffestiniog aka A470.  The narrow lane on the bend took us the back way into our lunch stop.  This wooded lane will be stunning in a few weeks time and worth another visit later in the year.  Betws-y-Coed was humming with OAP coaches and a quick loop of the town indicated that all the tourist cafes were unappealing.  Then remembering local advice courtesy of Mike G, we found the Buffet Coach Café that is parked across the main line tracks from the station proper.  What a find!  

Ivan was in his element with a rolling stock café serving steak and kidney pies all in one – he had to call home.  The route back to Conwy was a delight – the B5106 hugs the western side of the valley all the way into Conwy.  By now we were searching for a well-earned pint and the Liverpool Arms at Conwy quay fitted the bill nicely.  Given we had plenty of time, we headed off for Llandudno and a loop of the Great Orme.  Toll-free to cyclists, this private toll road circles the Great Orme in an anti-clockwise direction.  It is uphill all the way to the tip and then a glorious downhill run back in Llandudno.  Wonderful marine panoramas towards Anglesey and the Wirral were in prospect – along with a stiff headwind.  To get back to the station, we just had to cycle the Llandudno seafront and follow the cycleway signs and hence arrived back at CB station with 5 minutes to spare before the train arrived.  We had ridden 62 miles with 3400 ft of ascent but it was truly worth the effort for a memorable ride through beautiful countryside in perfect weather conditions.

Friday 8 April 2011

7th April 2011: No Mans Heath (mod) & Jodrell Bank (brisk)

A first today: two planned rides to cater for the ‘moderate’ and ‘brisk’ riders amongst the growing CER membership.

No Mans Heath (mod)
With Dave Heath rejoining us for his first ride after his hip operation Bryan had promised an easy 35 mile’ish flat route to welcome him back.  After waving off the brisk ride from Rose Farm the moderate riders comprising Bryan, Mike M, Dave & Liz P watched as Dave Heath stowed his walking stick and with a somewhat unorthodox procedure mounted his bike.  Once on board everything was fine as we cruised familiar lanes through Clotton, Huxley and Tattenhall en route to No Mans Heath.  Just after Tattenhall Mike M left us to return home for another engagement.   The remaining four of us continued south through Clutton and Tilston where we took the Malpas road deep in conversation.  At Simmonds Green we nearly missed the turning, remembering just in time to head through Ebnal and on to No Mans Heath in the spring sunshine.
The Wheatsheaf Inn is always worth a visit with its choice of ale and good food.  We passed up the sausage board today in favour of the two mains for £10 together with a pint of ale.  After a relaxing chat it was time to make a move.  Once on the road we enjoyed the quiet lanes through Bickley Town, Chorley and a circuitous route to Brindley.  It was great to soak up the Cheshire countryside at an unhurried pace with daffodils lining the verges and blossom on the trees.  The promised afternoon tea stop was Tilly’s Coffee Shop in Bunbury where we settled down to coffee and coffee cake.  Then it was the final leg to Tarporley and back to Rose Farm Garden Centre.
A great day out at a steady 11 mph overall average and 37 miles covered.  Dave Heath had confirmed to us all that he was making good progress and would soon be back riding every week.
It was then time for me to leave the others for the ride back to Chester.  A circuitous route back today but with the sound of the new born lambs in the fields a great way to end a wonderful day. Distance from Chester and back exactly 60 miles.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Jodrell Bank (brisk)

Six of us set off from drizzly Rose Farm (Ivan, Mike G, Andy, Ray, Martin and myself) leaving the others who were going on the “Dave Heath post-op ride”.  We were heading for Jodrell Bank area today.  A feature of this ride was the off-road sections down Cheshire cycleway routes 71 and 73.  We by-passed Tarporley by taking Heath Green and then via Eaton on to Wettenhall and Winsford.  There is no easy way around Winsford and finding the 71 eastwards was a small challenge.  Taking the canal path off Clive Green Lane, we headed north into Middlewich only to find the path under repair resulting in a deviation through acres of suburbia.  Eventually we left the urban sprawl behind, taking the 71 over the M6 to Brereton Hall. The Hall lane soon deteriorated into a farm track, yet it is still the 71, and just rideable in the dry.  Turning left we headed for Davenport Hall – a certain rider’s country seat (dream on!).  The imposing gravelled drive continued into a hard surfaced old lane going down into the lovely Dane river valley and then pops up close to the Swettenham Arms (worth a visit next time).  Taking Sandy Lane (deep ford notice alert) half of us braved going through the ford. Soon we were in Trap Street, Lower Withington and the hopeful welcome of the Red Lion.  The food was nicely presented, a bit pricey but tasty unlike the sour-faced manager!  The sun was now out, and getting ready outside after lunch we noticed a duck on its nest in the pub window box – totally ignoring all of us.

Photograph by Clive Albany

Soon we were passing down the lane behind Jodrell Bank that boasts the largest Sky+ dishes in the UK.  Given that we were early away from lunch, a tea stop was agreed upon to top up the somewhat meagre lunch portions.  So we headed via Blackden Heath and the just rideable farm lane that is the short cut to Townfield Lane to get over the M6.  Onwards through Davenham and a shimmy under the Northwich by-pass found us on the cycle path along the Northwich bound side of the A556.  Up into Cuddington and Norley we were soon at the Delamere station café for bread and butter pudding and tea.  Martin shoved off back to Utkinton and he will have rode 50 miles, while the rest of us went via Ashton to the greenway.  The Chester group put in a 75 mile round trip in dry and overall pleasant weather conditions.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 2 April 2011

31st March 2011: Cilcain

I leave home this morning for the ride out to Hawarden with a lovely 40 mile circuit planned out over Bwlch Penbarras, through the Vale of Clwyd and returning over Moel Arthur.  Half a mile down the road with a gale force head wind to contend with it was quickly apparent that something less strenuous was called for.  The struggle up the river Dee path was difficult enough but over Ferry Lane Bridge it was dismount or be blown over the railings.  The gusting wind continued past the AirBus Factory where with head down I could only manage 5 mph!  Thank goodness things got easier on the climb up to Hawarden where the woodland and houses provided some protection.
Considering the weather conditions the turnout at the Gallery Tea Shop was pretty good with Clive, Dave M, Ivan, Ray S, Andy and Brian Mac all present.  Seven of us altogether but only five doing the ride as both Andy and Dave M had already had enough.  We decided that a shorter than normal ride was more appropriate to the conditions perhaps with a longer than normal lunch stop to discuss the email I had circulated with some pressing CER issues.
I led out along Bilberry Wood, across the footbridge over the A55 and down to Penyffordd.  The wind was still gusting quite hard but it wasn’t to bad on the sheltered roads although we were pleased to leave the open section on the A5118 to enjoy the lanes up to Nercwys.  Time was already getting on as we crested the short two-chevron climb before Gwernymynydd: this was hard work and we had only covered a few miles.  As a form of consolation however the sun was now shining, the sky had cleared and we were treated to great views across the valley as we contoured round above Mold.  Rather than the direct route from here to Cilcain, today I thought we would try the ford across the Alyn to emerge on the Loggerheads to Cilcain road at Maes-y-groes.  Not having done this before I wasn’t sure what to expect: the zigzag descent down to the ford was both steep and rough but the ford itself was only a few inches deep today so there was no need to use the footbridge.
Once back on the lanes it was only a short ride to the White Horse Inn at Cilcain where we were able to relax over a pint or two of ale and a choice of hot food and babs.  Unusually for CER today’s discussion was more akin to an AGM as we discussed ride start times, the Tuesday ride proposal, splitting the larger Thursday groups, the need for more ride leaders, finance and the circulation of mobile phone numbers.  It wasn’t all business though and a lively conversation with an 80 year old at the next table, who described her cycling exploits, added to the enjoyment of the day.
The return journey started with a long enjoyable descent down to the A541, followed by the climb up Moel-y-crio where we turned right to Rhosesmor.  From here we opted for the Alltami/Buckley route back to Hawarden to arrive in plenty of time for tea and a choice of Greek cakes/deserts.  Well, we may not have covered many miles but with the wind against us on the way out we deserved some treats!  A round trip from Hawarden of 30 miles.
See route map and/or gpx file download.