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.