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

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Saturday 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.