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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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.

Friday 22 July 2011

21st July 2011: Whittington

Four elements combined to make the ride from Holt to Whittington and back a CER classic – good company, weather, comestible venues and unspoilt country lanes within the borderlands of Offa’s Dyke country.  There were eight of us (Bryan, Brian, Alan, Ivan, Trevor, Janet, Ray and myself) assembled at Hildegard’s new café in Holt.  This has recently opened and at Martin’s suggestion last week, we decided to try it out instead of Bellis.  A very warm welcome was evident both at the start of the ride and at the end.  Janet (Two Mills group) was out with us for the first time, and Dave M made a brief appearance before saving himself for the upcoming Audax “extreme” ride into Wales.
Chirk Castle gates
Photograph by Ivan Davenport
The route out circumvented Wrexham via Sontley and Gyfelia thence onto Ruabon.  The run down past Cefn Mawr is always exhilarating despite the road surface, and, the gradual climb out to the A5 seemed easier than before.  A left and right on the A5 found us riding past the Chirk golf course and the back entrance to Chirk Castle.  A short stop here allowed me to check the shortcut route through the side of the caravan park and onto the Glyn Ceiriog road.  The planned left turn was blocked by road works so a hastily re-routing took place as we headed up the valley.  Next left took us up a single chevroned hill right on the line of Offa’s Dyke and back into England.  A steady climb took us around the eastern side of Selattyn and then down to Gobowen and Park Hall Camp to Whittington.  
There are three pubs in Whittington and the “Ye Old Boote Inn”, a 16C coaching inn, opposite the 13C community-run castle was certainly the right choice.  They promptly set a table for us and drink and food came swiftly.  Excellent value and tasty food pleasantly presented and served.  A return visit sometime is on the cards. 
The return route was “all downhill” and we were soon diving down the pretty lanes of Hindford, Crickett (old and new), Seven Sisters and Trench onto the broad lane to Penley.  Back across the border once more at Bangor-on-Dee, Brian and Janet left us to push on to Wrexham railway station, while the rest of us made the familiar way back via Bowling Bank to Holt and Hildegard’s. 
The weather had behaved itself all day and, as three of us rode back to Chester, the wind freshened and rain could be seen over the Welsh hills.  A 50 mile, moderately taxing, circular ride from Holt, and 70+ miles for those Chester bound.

Saturday 16 July 2011

14th July 2011: Mow Cop

The good weather that had been forecast for today certainly brought out the numbers with 13 members meeting for morning coffee at Rose Farm Garden Centre Café although Dave Hill was only there to stretch his legs before returning to work.  Marc, from Germany, had joined us again for his second ride with us.  So with Andy, Ray S, Martin, Liz D, Clive, Alan, Dave & Liz P, Ivan, Trevor, Brian Mac and me that made 13 of us riding.
Ivan had first talked about a ride to Mow Cop something like a year ago but there was always something against it.  Today was the ideal opportunity with a warm, sunny dry day forecast and clear skies promising good views from the top.  Yes, there would be a slight headwind against us on the way back but this was as good as it was going to get.  After a bit of ‘selling’, “it’s flat all the way there and back” and “it’s a lovely route along the lanes” and “there’s an easy way up for those, like me, that don’t fancy the direct 1 in 4 or 25% assault to the top”, it was agreed.  So Mow Cop it was after a year of indecision.
With Marc desperately trying to scoff a scone it was a little after 10:30 when I led out towards Tarporley before taking the left at the top of the hill to cross the A49.  Just after Eaton we came to a halt as Marc punctured.  Once the flat was fixed we made good progress with the group staying together as we cruised through Wettenhall, Church Minshull and down to brush the northern tip of Crewe before continuing east to Wheelock Heath.  Clive gave the pub a call at this point to warn of our arrival (good move Clive) before we continued to the edge of Hassel Green and Rode Heath with the mass of Mow Cop and its castle folly dominating the skyline ahead.  At the A34 in Scholar Green we stopped to split into two groups with those favouring the direct ascent following Ivan while I led a select group of four up the ‘easy’ way (as shown on the route map below).
The ‘easy’ way from the southwest provided a steady climb along pleasant lanes winding round as we gradually ascended to The Ash Inn at the top, thinking of the others struggling on the straight mile of unrelenting ascent.  The Ash Inn proved to be a good choice with Bombardier on tap to satisfy the ale drinkers and an excellent £4.50 two-course pensioner special.  Service was certainly friendly, if a little slow, and although it was past 15:00 when we left, everyone was satisfied.
Given the need to get back to Rose Farm before the gates were locked at 18:00 we gave the sights a miss this time and headed straight to the top of the direct descent for an incredibly fast drop to the bottom: more like going over the edge of a cliff than a road descent.  We regrouped at the bottom, took the opportunity for a photograph, and started the journey back.

Photograph by Brian Mac and Alan Jeffs

I had planned an easy route back but somewhere after Brookhouse Green Brian Mac suffered a front wheel puncture.  Martin, Liz D and Marc decided to press on back to Rose Farm alone anxious that their cars would be impounded.  Once Brian Mac had sorted out the puncture the remaining ten of us continued on the lanes through Brereton Green towards Middlewich where we took the usual loop south before making for Winsford, along the side of Bottom Flash and up to Whitegate Way.  Halfway along and Brian Mac’s tyre was flat again!  This time a faulty valve was diagnosed, but with time running out Dave & Liz P, Trevor and Alan abandoned the group and heeded back for the 18:00 deadline.  Only six left now to complete the ride once Brian had borrowed a new tube from Andy.  Back on familiar lanes we reached the turn off for Utkinton with ample time in hand, Brian left us in Duddon to collect his van while the remaining five rode back to Chester to complete a perfect day.
A round trip of 57 miles of wonderful Cheshire lanes and just over 80 miles for those of us riding from Chester.  It just doesn’t get better.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Sunday 10 July 2011

7th July 2011: Graigfechan, Vale of Clwyd

Ivan, Dave M, Alan, Ray and Martin met at the Gallery Cafe, Hawarden on a day when heavy showers were forecast.  We welcomed, for the first time to my knowledge, a guest rider from abroad.  Marc is German, living near Frankfurt, and was taking a 4 week holiday in the UK.  In his first week he was staying in Little Sutton.  He had heard of CER and contacted Bryan W who invited him along to the ride.  CER has gone global!
We decided to cross the Halkyn and Clwydian hills, take lunch at the Three Pigeons, Graigfechan and then return over the Shelf.  After a minor hiccup when Marc’s light fell off on the Ewloe roundabout we rode on through Northop and then started the climbing up to Rhys y Cae.  Marc showed his climbing ability even matching Ivan.  Then on to Lixm and a fast descent to the Mold Denbigh road, which we crossed, followed by an immediate steep, short climb to Nercwys.  The climbing continued with a crossing of the Clywdian hills by the most northerly road that, I think, is commonly referred to as London Bridge for reasons that are obscure.  The descent down the other side into the Vale of Clwyd was steep, potholed, gravely, damp and in parts darkly shaded but none of this deterred Dave who went down as if he was still in the Pyrenees.  Others were rather more cautious and took it a slower pace.
We regrouped at the bottom and then headed south along the lovely lanes of the valley to Llanbedr D. C. and over the main road and on towards Graigfechan.  The sky was now darkening and clearly rain was on the way.  Consequently the pace picked up so we could make the pub before the heavens opened.  It became apparent that Alan was off the back and after a wait he did not appear.  Ivan rode back a fair way but no sign of Alan!  We could only presume he had decided to cut the ride short as he has good knowledge of the local roads.  (See Alan’s story below.)
We reached the Three Pigeons just as the rain started.  Lunch there was excellent in all respects.  Definitely worth a repeat visit.  Conveniently when we were ready to leave the rain had stopped.  From here there was a fast paced climb up the Shelf (one of my favourite climbs in North Wales) with Ivan in the lead as always.  A short rest at the top to repay the oxygen debt and then down to Llanarmon-yn-lal.  We returned to Hawarden via Loggerheads, Gwernaffield, Soughton, Alltami and Ewloe in increasingly sunny conditions.

Photograph by Martin Donaldson

After a stop at Martin’s house for tea and cake the others continued on to Chester.  We had covered 45 miles from the cafe with 1350 meters total climb.  The pace up the many hills had been fast and the day had felt rather more like the “Chester Proper Hard Riders”!  Marc turned out to be excellent company and a strong rider.  I think he had enjoyed riding the quiet, scenic road of North Wales, which he would never have found without local help.

Alan’s story: …….. we headed south along the Clwyd valley aiming to reach a pub called the 'Three Pigeons' which was apparently near to the start of the 'shelf' road up to Llanarmon-Yn-Ial. I did not know exactly where the pub was, but just followed everyone else.  After going through Llanbedr D.C I was feeling a bit tired and started to drop back a bit, but could still see the others up ahead, till there was a bend in the road.  As I came round the bend, there was no sign of anyone and the road split in two directions.  Which way to go?  I knew that the left turn led up the 'shelf', so I went that way.  After a mile or two I couldn't see any sign of the others, or of any pub, so I turned round and went back to the junction and tried the other way along the B5429.  I still couldn't see anyone, or a pub, so I decided to head back via Pentre Coch and over the ‘shelf’.  I got halfway up and the heavens opened!  I scrambled for shelter under a small tree until the rain stopped, and then continued on till I reached the cafe at Loggerheads.  After some much-needed rest and refreshment, I finished the last leg back to Hawarden. I had told the others that I knew the area very well, so I hope they realised that I would not get lost!  All’s well that ends well and as Bryan has now given me a list of everyone’s mobile numbers it shouldn’t happen again.

Sunday 3 July 2011

30th June 2011: New Mills

There were eleven of us (Dave and Liz P, Dave M, Dave B, Trevor, George, Brian Mac, Ivan, Dave Heath, Ray and myself) assembled at Manley with the promise of sun and a rain-free day out exploring the outer reaches of Cheshire.  New Mills near Mobberley and the Railway Inn were the target and the outward journey was uneventful.  Out via Norley, Delamere and Hartford, and onwards via Lach Dennis and thence to Knutsford.
Getting through Knutsford to Mobberley can be a trial but I had found a way via a back lane and the mere park to access the B5085 to Mobberley.  The Railway Inn was well signposted and was situated right by Mobberley Station.  The 25 miles out had taken just two hours but we were ready for a pint or two.  A table had been reserved in the snug so we all ordered and after a reasonable wait the food arrived.  It was judged as to be tasty, unlike the sour disposition of the waiting staff.  The pub is very close to the end of the second runway at Manchester airport so we were able to very nearly read the serial numbers of the planes as they took off. It was quieter than I anticipated perhaps due to the Border Agency strike at Immigration Control.
Leaving at 14:00 prompt, we waited at the level crossing for a 30 year old diesel passenger train (according to Ivan’s expert knowledge) to pass through; then we took a loop out to try and find the end of the runway but were not able to see it.  The route back was essentially using route 70 but with some variations.  At Bucklow Hill, Dave H who was ahead of us at the lights, went straight across on the cycleway.  Despite attempts to contact him, the rest of us continued left on the planned route.  Dave appeared 5 minutes later via Hulse Heath Lane to rejoin us.  As we approached the back way in to Arley Hall, local knowledge via Dave H advised that tea was only available if you paid to enter Arley Hall so Dave M offered the Ice Cream Farm in Great Budworth.  Off we went with Dave in the lead, and amongst confusion at the first sign to the Ice Cream Farm, half of us went on and the rest turned to follow the sign.  “It’s all right says Dave – it’s two sides of a square”: and so it was as we all joined up for afternoon tea.  Out through Comberbatch and along the canal at Acton Bridge found us at Kingsley and up the appropriately named Dark Lane into the hills to take us back to Manley.  At Birch Hill Dave M suggests a left turn via New Pale since it is prettier than the right turn to Buck Oak.  However with a few riders already down the hill towards Buck Oak, we split again to rejoin at the entrance to Manley mere.  It all turned out OK in the end with a 55 mile circuit through rural Cheshire in dry and sunny weather.  Thanks to Brian Mac for being the back marker all day.
See route map and/or gpx file download.