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 30 December 2012

27th December 2012: A 2nd Beating of The Bounds (or the Ice Cream Farm)

I had volunteered to lead a ride from The Gallery Tea Rooms and had a number of uneasy feelings beforehand.  No 1, would it be open two days after Christmas?  I arrived at 09:45 to find it still closed for Xmas, so parked my car outside to act as a refuge from the cold for those early CER birds.  Andy, Dave M and Paul arrived at 09:50 and we decided to cycle to Hildegard’s for coffee, which we knew never closes.  Uneasy No 2 was would anyone turn up at all?  That was soon dispelled when five others arrived, all feeling equally bloated after over-indulging: Dave H, Jim, Ray, Martin, Andy and myself.  I thought “Golly”, this is a good turnout, just as we cycled through that appropriate named hamlet.  It was a straight and uneventful ride southeast past Hope through Rossett to Holt.  
Hildegards had even opened on the 25th to serve 28 covers for Christmas Dinner; so serving eight cyclists was nothing.  Dave H, Jim & Dave M all peeled off then as the rest of us decided to head SE to see if we could find food in Malpas.  My spy in Malpas phoned me with news that all the pubs there were only serving drinks and she even phoned Bellis’ in Holt, who were serving food.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we had just left Holt.  Stopping on the edge of the Malpas metropolis, the lunch committee decided that we’d head for The Ice Cream Farm on spec.  Turning north, we passed Broxton and Beeston.  As we neared the ICF, I have never been happier to see the car park so packed.  Food at last!
After lunch, we all headed back for Chester, via Christleton, but here it all went downhill for Martin, who picked up the first of three punctures, just as dusk was falling.  As my car was parked at Hawarden, I stayed with him to help, to save all 5 of us catching frostbite.  The two of us returned via the Greenway and Sealand and arrived back at the start in the dark, having completed 54 miles.
It was good to see 1 or 2 younger people taking their holiday leave to cycle with us (I believe that they are called workers, but it all seemed so long ago)
One lesson learned today for the CER ride on Thurs 26 Dec 2013 is that the only places that seem to serve food are Hildegard’s, Bellis’ and The ICF.  You have been warned.

Sunday 23 December 2012

21st December 2012: Café circuit

Thursday's weather was forecasted to be "heavy rain all day"; and so it was; and this was the reason that the penultimate ride of 2012 was exceptionally moved to a forecasted "dry" Friday.  At Manley aka Café #1, the message had got through to everyone and Dave M confirmed that no one had turned up on the Thursday.  So my proposal of a Café to Café "beating the bounds** " ride was accepted, as was the lunch venue of Hildegard's café.  We six, (David M, Dave P, Ray, Andy, Martin and I) set off on time up Sugar Lane bound for Mouldsworth and the back lane into Kelsall.  The weather was dry but annoying heavy drizzle could be seen sweeping across the plain as we exited Kelsall bound for Café #2 in Utkinton.  No time to stop, so onwards to Tarporley, where waterproofs were donned, then Huxley bound for Café #3, Ice Cream Farm.  David M decides to peel off, so we five motor through Tattenhall.  On the Clutton road out, there is a sizeable flood at the top of the hill and we roll down towards the A41 testing our brakes.  Safely across, we turn right down Dog Lane, Chowley, into Aldersey Lane and thence to Coddington.  The weather improves.  Across the A534 and passed the Cock o' Barton, we turn right down Wetreins Lane bound for Farndon and Holt.  The Dee is in full flood as we arrive at Hildegard's Café #4 by 12:45.  Hildegard looks after us royally well and we tuck in to a hot meal and a free glass of red wine and extra tea/coffee.
Photographs by Clive Albany

An hour later we set off, but with Andy nursing the beginnings of a cold, and Martin deciding to get back to his car in the light, they leave us bound for Chester.  So Ray, Dave P and I roll along the straight road into a head wind bound for Borras.  Crossing the Wrexham bypass, we arrive in Bradley and take the back way into Alyn Waters Park Café #5.  In doing so we get close to the Expresso (former café #5).  Along the main road we go northwards to Caergwrle and take the lane across the river valley passing close by the now closed Tudor café (also former Café #5).  Safely on Lower Mountain Road, we slowly ascend to Bilberry Wood genuflecting towards Hawarden and Café #6.  Taking the usual return route, we decide to stay on the south side of the River Dee at Saltney Ferry and arrive at the Wrexham Roundabout via Curzon Park.  Here Ray and Dave P go straight across making their way home.  I turn left and pass by the Little Roodee Café #7.  I cut down by the river back to Mollington with 60 miles on the clock and part way towards Café #8 at Ness.  If you had gone back to Café #1, you would have cycled 58m and got there by 16:00 and in the light.  I was home and had washed the bike by 16:00!  So as the old saying goes, "CTC" really stands for "Café-to-Café".  As I write this, the Mayan End of the World forecast is happily incorrect as was the Met Office's forecast for the day! 
Best Seasonal Wishes to all CER riders, and I hope Santa brings you those cycling goodies you’ve been hinting at all year.
Note ** 
According to Wikipedia: Beating the bounds is an ancient custom still observed in some English and Welsh parishes.  Under the name of the Gangdays the custom of going a-ganging was kept before the Norman Conquest.  A group of old and young members of the community would walk the boundaries of the parish, usually led by the parish priest and church officials, to share the knowledge of where they lay, and to pray for protection and blessings for the lands.

Saturday 15 December 2012

13th December 2012: Pontcysyllite

Leaving home with the temperature gauge on -6˚ C I was feeling decidedly un-enthusiastic about a ride round the Welsh mountains.  I needn't have worried: most of the Easy Riders had clearly opted for a lie in as the only ones at the cafe at Alyn Waters were myself, Dave H, and Dave & Liz P on the tandem.  I proposed a short ride down to the aqueduct at Pontcysyllite: only about 13 miles but with the option to extend down to Chirk if the weather improved.  As it happened it didn't and we set off uphill through Windy Hill and onto the Steps' passing gingerly through several sections of ice before reaching Minera.  From here on we followed the B5426 southwards towards Rhosllanerchrugog and Acrefair.  A little confusion within half a mile of the aqueduct caused by the water board parking a van on the pavement blocking the sign was soon sorted and we gladly reached the pub, at this point all agreeing that 13 miles was quite far enough, as we were all chilled to the bone and the temperature had not yet gone above freezing.
Some hearty liver and onions, and famous home made steak pie went down really well and we set off at 2 o'clock for the return.  Round the back streets of Ruabon, we picked up the old main road and headed north to the outskirts of Wrexham.  Here things got a little confused, despite having the use of the GPS, but we managed to keep mainly off the main roads and threaded our way round the back of the council offices and the hospital.  Crossing the A483 we took the lane up to Summerhill and finally back to Alyn Waters.  The temp by now had leaped up to -1˚ C: positively toasty!!  An interesting ride for all concerned followed by a well-earned coffee at the centre.
Total distance a very chilly 26 miles - but at least we were out there! 

Friday 7 December 2012

6th December 2012: Christmas Lunch Ride to Higher Burwardsley

Very cold, icy and rain forecast for late afternoon: just what we needed for the Club’s Christmas Lunch Ride!  David M rang to say he was going by car, as it was too icy.  I decided to cycle out to the meet at the Ice Cream Farm using the main roads as much as possible.  The BBC had shown their “documentary” ‘The War on Britain’s Roads’ the night before, portraying a war between motorists and cyclists.  This seemed to have been taken to heart by Chester’s drivers as I was cut up three times within the first mile and then shouted out for making use of an advanced stop line!

Once in the country, things calmed down and I was caught by Clive, Ivan and Ray taking the same route out.  At the Ice Cream Farm Colin was already demolishing a toasted teacake when we arrived.  Before long there were 14 of us present although one wasn’t riding.  While the rest of us chatted Jim did a fantastic job of painlessly extracting the monetary balance due from everyone for lunch.  Though how he managed to do the ride with pockets bulging with cash is another matter.

Photographs by Bryan Wade

By 10:30 it was time to leave with a short circuit of the Peckforton/Bickerton hills planned to get us to The Pheasant by just after 12 noon.  I led out round Beeston and on to Bunbury before cutting across to Peckforton.  By this time we had all warmed up, the weather was more favourable and by and large the roads were clear with just a few isolated patches of ice turning slushy.  Nearing Bickerton it was clear that we wouldn’t make the pub by noon if we stuck to the planned route so I cut out most of the Bickerton circuit to head straight for the old Copper Mine pub now renamed the Sandstone.  Then it was over Harthill before taking a sharp right and the climb up to Burwardsley and the Pheasant at Higher Burwardsley.
The Pheasant had reserved a window table for the 15 of us: Mike G, Colin, Dave B, David M, Clive, Ivan, Trevor, Dave P, Jim, George, Ray, Liz P, Mike M, Dave H and myself.  Once seated and refreshed with a pint, dinner was served.  Food was excellent although a complaint about the turkey was conveyed to the kitchen.  To be fair to the pub the menu described the turkey as saltimbocca style.  It would therefore be churlish not to expect some form of rolled turkey although in this case it was more of an industrial roll rather than the more traditional rolled and skewered pieces.
From The Pheasant the way back was a fast downhill descent through the lanes to the Ice Cream Farm where those with cars loaded up leaving the rest of us to make our way back to Chester.
Only 18 miles today (38 for those Chester bound) but a great day nevertheless.

Friday 30 November 2012

29th November 2012: New Brighton

Cold, crisp and even was the day's weather with the sun out all day and no wind to speak of. There were eight of us at Ness Gardens café  (Bryan, Ray, George, Liz and Dave P, Dave H, Jim and me) and the group were easily satisfied with the promise of the flattest ride ever, so much so that no one asked the distance!  I fancied an anti-clockwise Wirral periphery ride, viz keep the water on your right hand side as much as possible.  So we set off on time to access the Wirral Way via the half a mile railway cutting on the edge of Neston on our way to Childer Thornton.  Here we have to negotiate a deeply flooded road on the way to Eastham Ferry where we pause to watch a small tanker vessel slowly motor past.
Photographs by Bryan Wade

Then we access the start of the newly sign-posted Wirral Circular Way. This part of the route is the reverse of what we took on our way back from the Beatles Tour ride. Today it was well signposted as we wiggled left and right through housing estates and along the river side. We have to use the pavement at Bromborough Pool to avoid the A41 itself.  Eventually we arrive at Birkenhead Priory close by Woodside ferry. Weaving around the ferry station, we keep close to the water with wonderful views across the Mersey to Liverpool, before emerging by the swing bridge and onto the prom at Seacombe Ferry.  It was then a pleasant ride to New Brighton itself. I did not have a pre-planned lunch stop but the Sea View Café did us proud and most of us enjoyed inexpensive good wholesome food served quickly and with a smile. It must be a good place because it was very busy. No ale today, so Ivan would have been disappointed. 
The route back is familiar to all as we spin along the maritime cycle path towards Hoylake. Here turning into the main drag we lose the tandem who we assume we will shall see at the roundabout. No sign of them so we assume they are ploughing on to access the Wirral Way in West Kirby. We take the rail side cycleway and when at Grange Road phone the missing duo. A puncture - will be with you in "four minutes" - obviously time runs differently for the Pipe family. Eventually they arrive and we wend our way past dogs and their owners towards Parkgate and Neston. Dave H had decided to go ahead and we meet up at Ness gardens. The sun is setting and the temperature is falling to near zero.  Bryan, Ray and I head for Chester via Burton and Puddington and the others get into their warm cars. About 39 circular miles (60 plus for those Chester bound) and 1,395 ft. of climbing - even a flat ride is hillier than you might expect.

Friday 23 November 2012

22nd November 2012: Aston

Meeting at Hildegards on Thursday were Dave M, Dave H, Brian Mac, Ray and Jim.
The absence of any of our usual leaders threw us into the usual panic regarding destination and leadership, but with the wind blowing strongly from the south and even worse weather forecast for later, Dave M suggested the relatively short trip down to the Shroppie Fly at Audlem. This seemed to be a good idea, then Dave informed us that he wasn't coming anyway as he had done a couple of long rides already this week and was setting off home with the wind!
We decided to navigate by committee and chose the direct route down to Tilston, Duckington, Cholmondely, and Wrenbury. The going was tough at times when we rounded a corner and got the full force of the wind, but we struggled on manfully. At Wrenbury we re-assessed the situation and decided to head for the Bhurtpore Inn at Aston as we all fancied a curry and it was nearer anyway.
Suitably refreshed we set off for the return journey at 13:30, and with the wind mainly behind us we made good time cutting back through Bickley, No Man's Heath and Malpas until we passed through Tilston again. Here Ray decided to remove a clump of mud from his tyre that was irritating him only to find the mud masking a gift from a friendly farmer, at which point his tyre promptly deflated. Brian and Jim meanwhile were sheltering in the entrance to Lower Carden Hall, much to the discomfort of the owner who waited to ensure that his electric gates had closed before he set off for the golf club - after all one can't have riff-raff prowling around the outbuildings can one?
By now the gloom was closing in despite the relatively early time of 3pm and we got back to Farndon about 30 minutes later with the rain clearly intent on giving us a good soaking. Unfortunately Ray still had to ride back to Chester and would have caught the full force of the front.
The rest of us just about got our bikes on the cars without too much discomfort and set off home for an early bath.
35 fairly strenuous miles or nearer 60 for Ray.

Friday 16 November 2012

15th November 2012: Swan Green

It was real struggle to ride the 14 miles out to Rose Farm; it was cold, foggy and my legs were already gone after two weeks decorating leave!  There were eight of us in all (Ray, Mike M, Mike G, Dave H, Dave M, George, Paul and myself) although a phone call from Dave P advising a delayed departure, meant there would be 10 of us at the chosen lunch venue, the Crown at Swan Green. Dave M had suggested this as a good lunch venue earlier in the week, so I came prepared with a shortish 41 miler. 
The route out to Winsford was via Whitegate Way, which was bestrewn with Mother and Baby Club walkers and the usual dogs and their unaware owners.  Minimising the architectural delights of Winsford, we exit via the eponymously name Clive Green Lane on our way to the further architectural delights of Middlewich.  Over the M6, we have no real alternative but to take the quiet A50 north out of Holmes Chapel towards Cranage.  Thence over the M6 twice more as the sun shines and the Crown comes into view.  A decent pub this; George recalls we have visited it before but it's a first time for me.  The lunch discussion is varied, but the straw poll on those who intend to vote for the local Police Commissioner is only one in eight of us; this turns out to be about the national average as well!  As we finish our main course, Liz and Dave arrive and order an uncharacteristically small repast. 
As we set off to return with the winter sun in our eyes, half the group shoot off in the opposite direction to the leading group.  Not sure why, but the planned route home is only 17 miles!  We five (Ray, Paul, Mike G and Dave M) cross the M6 for the last time bound for Lach Dennis and Davenham.  Here we utilise the "Dave M Golf Course" manoeuvre to access Foxtwist Green via Vale Royal golf course from Davenham.  As we approach Little Budworth I decided not to go the same way back as out, since I can't remember ever riding through this pretty village.  Dave M decides he wants to go another way here, not sure why really since our route is back via Eaton and the bifurcated Heath Green Lane. The circular route is 41 miles although the remaining four riders returning to Chester will have clocked 65+ on the day.

Saturday 10 November 2012

8th November 2012: Cwm

Although overcast and a little windy on the ride out to Hawarden the omens for the day were favourable.  I had come with a route to The Blue Lion Inn at Cwm, having checked the previous evening that they would be open and serving food.  By 10:30 a small band of seven were ready to leave and with no other suggestions the default destination of Cwm was agreed even though no one knew were it was!
With the group comprising Martin, Liz D, Dave H, Ivan and Dave & Liz P, I led out along the B road taking the direct route to Northop.  Within a few minutes Ivan was alongside.  “I’ve left my reading glasses at the café” he says. “I’m going back to get them and I’ll catch you up.  Are you going along the A55?”  “No” I reply, “We’re going straight over the Halkyns”.  “Brave choice” is the comment from someone behind and Ivan decides to collect the glasses on the way back.
In Northop we take the left at The Green and start the climb up to the Blue Bell.  At the top the views across the Wirral to Liverpool are magnificent and I get to wondering what it must have been like for the kids watching their home city being bombed while billeted out to families up here during the war.  Then we continue west across the moorland through Windmill and Brynford to Gorsedd where, aware of the time and the need to get back in daylight, I shorten the route by taking in a short section of the A5151.  The best bit starts as we turn off the main road to take the narrow lane past Llyn Helyg and on to Cwm where on the final descent we are rewarded with a spectacular view across the Vale of Clwyd to Snowdonia.
The Blue Lion proves to be the pub ‘find of the year’.  A warming open fire and an even warmer landlady to greet us.  Marston’s bitter on tap and an excellent choice of food from light snacks to a three course lunch for £10.  This is definitely one for future visits.  A very well run pub that deserves to succeed.

Photograph by Martin Donaldson

All too soon it was 14:00 and time for us to leave.  We dropped down to the Dyserth to Rhuallt road and contoured along the side of the Vale of Clywd stopping to take in the views: not forgetting a photo.  The back lane out of Rhuallt started steeply up to the A55 footbridge and continued upwards thereafter.  Halfway up Dave P gets a call.  It’s from the Landlady of The Blue Lion to say they have found his wallet.  The thought of going back and doing the hills again is just too much, so Dave wisely decides to drive back in his car later in the day after returning home.  We continue on to Babell where I surprise the group by taking the narrow undulating track to Lixwm.  At Pentre the notorious entrance to the farm track is even muddier than the last time I did this section so we take the alternative route to Rhes-y-cae instead, before the climb over Moel-y-crio.  With the hills behind us now we descend quickly to Rhosemor and Northop where with darkness coming on we hurry on towards Hawarden to make it back by 16:30.
What a wonderful day: 43 miles done or 58 for those cycling from Chester.

Friday 2 November 2012

1st November 2012: Grappenhall

CERs turning out for battle on a cold, bright day were Brian Mac, Ray, Dave H, Bryan W, Mike M, Dave M, Andy, Jim (gratefully returning into the world of retirement), Liz and Martin D.  Bryan, Brian Mac and Dave M indicated that they intended only to do a truncated ride but in fact got caught up with the joy of it all and completed almost the whole ride.  The Good Pub Guide having being consulted the chosen destination was Grappenhall.  The usual Cheshire Cycleway route was taken through Delamere, Norley, Acton Bridge and Antrobus.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald.

The final stretch to the pub was pave, good training for next years early season Classics.  The hardest decision of was the choice between the two adjacent pubs.  Locals having been consulted the Parr Arms was selected and an acceptable lunch was had although coffee was "orf"!  To avoid retracing our steps and in view of the limited crossing points over the Weaver the route back to base was a northerly route in parallel to the M56.  This lacked scenic qualities and in part was main road with busy traffic.  Eventually Frodsham was reached at which point Bryan, Brian and Jim took the direct route back to Chester whilst the remainder toiled up the considerable hill behind Frodsham and then down towards the setting sun and Manley.  Ray and Andy were the last men standing to complete the ride back Chester.  38 miles or 62km, 600m of ascent and 2200 calories consumed.  A satisfactory day.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

25th October 2012: Ellesmere

Brian Mac, Mike G, Ray, Tony, Dave H, Dave M, Liz and Martin were on parade today at the Expresso Cafe who gave us their usual warm welcome.  There were sighs of relief when Martin suggested spurning the N Wales hills and taking a flat route to Ellesmere.  One drawback of heading in this direction is that there is an initial ride through Wrexham which is rather busy and tedious.  Eventually we emerged into the countryside and followed extremely muddy lanes towards Overton, Dudleston and then into Ellesmere.  Dave M left an early stage for an appointment in Malpas.  Lunch was taken at the Black Lion pub which proved perfectly satisfactory.  The return route was to Penley, Bangor on Dee and Erdigg where a visit to the cafe there was suggested.  We entered through the back gate only to be later chastised (politely, no racial abuse) by a NT official for not using the official entrance and paying the entrance fee or showing a membership card.  We than rode through the heavy school pickup traffic of Wrexham to Gwersyllt where Ray and Tony continued to Chester, Mike G having left earlier to return to the railway station.  About 40 miles round trip from the cafe.

Great pictures from Brian MacDonald.

Friday 26 October 2012

Alternatives to Gwersyllt

A number of members have commented on the unsatisfactory nature of Gwersyllt as one of our regular meeting places.  Members will recall that Gwersyllt was chosen as the least unsatisfactory option when the café in Caergwrle closed.  Since then dissatisfaction has been voiced on a number of occasions.  David M has previously suggested Chirk as a possible alternative and more recently he has suggested Malpas.  Mold has also been mentioned.
To move the debate forward perhaps members would like to consider the options, suggest new alternatives or comment on the suggestions already made.  Please leave your comments below so that everyone can share your views and allow us to focus in on the most favoured/best alternative.
Issues that come to mind include the distance to the meeting place, the quality of the journey there, the range of rides accessible from the meeting place and the quality of the café.  You will no doubt have other considerations so let’s start the debate and see where it leads.

Monday 22 October 2012

18th October 2012: Aston

Brian Mac, Dave H, Andy, Ray, Clive, Mike M, Lizzie and Martin met at the Ice Cream Farm (ICF).  Dave and Liz Pipe arrived later but without cycling shoes so were unable to join the ride!  I like the ICF at this time when it’s free of the crowds.  Martin proposed an unadventurous route the principal purpose of which was to arrive at the Bhurtpore Inn for lunch.  This is one of my favourite pubs with an unbeatable combination of real ales, curries and open fire.  The usual route was taken over Harthill, Hampton Heath, Marbury and into Aston.  The weather was dry but the lanes remained wet and mucky from the recent rains.  

Photograph by Martin Donaldson

Vegetarian curry (medium heat) was the most popular lunch choice and went down very well with one of the 8 or so cask ales on offer.  We then continued the anticlockwise circuit back to the ICF via Ravensmoor, Bunbury and Beeston.  The pace picked up towards the end as rain threatened.  Some of us took tea/coffee and cakes in the ICF before wending our separate ways home.  Only 36 miles to and from the café; no mechanicals or lost riders; just a pleasant ride with a good lunch and company.

Monday 15 October 2012

11th October 2012: Central Lakeland

Sunshine, blue skies and some of the best scenery in the country! ... well that was the idea anyway as Clive, Ivan, Ray, Dave P, Dave Heath, Brian Mac and Andy met at the ferry car park in Bowness.  Actually Brian and Clive were still in Booths supermarket cafe having seen some signs that the ferry was out of action.  A quick check found that not to be the case and that it had been running for the last 500 years (believe that if you will)!
The forecast for the day was less than promising, with light rain to 12:00 hrs followed by heavy in the afternoon … and we all know what that means in Cumbria!

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

At this point Andy thoughtlessly offered the incentive of a free beer to any rider who managed the two big hills with no foot down ... a pretty stupid offer as it turned out!
With typical Easy Riders optimism we buried our heads in the sand crossed the lake then followed a nice well surfaced track for a couple of miles along the west shore ... good riding and a few gentle hills leading past High Wray and on towards Ambleside.  The Under Loughrigg Road allowed us to bypass the town on a pretty car free route then a short fast main road to Grassmere village. 
Replenishing caffeine levels in Grassmere was tempting but the day’s plan was to separate the two major climbs of the day by a break in Chapel Style in Langdale.  So ... up the 25% Red Bank it was ... tough but not too long with Dave P, Ivan and Ray unsurprisingly leading the pack.  A fast mile across the fells above Elterwater brought us to our deserved break at Brambles Cafe in the Cooperative shop.  So far so good and not too wet.

Heading west along Langdale the heavy rain came just as forecast obscuring the outstanding views of the Pikes.  Up the 25% hairpins to Blea Tarn along a road now turned to river ... and guess which three arrived first with a pale Andy trailing behind at the thought of that promise of free beer!

A lovely fast decent to Little Langdale had us recalling Ivan as he was drawn to the Three Shires.  Our route was a track through Tilberthwaite Woods then on to Coniston and the Black Bull that brews the famous Bluebird Bitter out back.  Good food, warm fire and Andy with a lighter wallet (even Ray forced a beer down at my expense) and we mounted up for the final stretch with resolve quickly diminishing in the wet gloom.  A quick conference agreed a revised route over Hawkshead Hill, then straight to the ferry via Far Sawrey.
A companionable and memorable day ... not all for the right reasons of course.  Only 38 miles but a couple of challenging ascents.
Perhaps we will try again next summer?

Friday 5 October 2012

4th October 2012: Whitchurch

While riding out to Hildegard’s this morning I was suddenly struck by the thought that the ride I had downloaded for today was based on starting from the Ice Cream Farm rather than Holt.  A quick check on arrival proved this to be correct.  Oh well, you can’t win them all and someone is bound to have something else prepared!  With ten of us present you would think so.  Mike M, Trevor, Clive, Dave H, David M, Ray, Andy, Dave & Liz P plus me and no one had a route.  I volunteered my route from the Ice Cream Farm to Coton suitably modified to take us from Hildegard’s, but Mike thought the Dog and Bull had closed.  Clive then confirmed that my alternative of the Waggoners at Platt Lane had burnt down in 2010.  Well it should have been rebuilt by now then.  With that optimistic thought in mind seven of us were ready to depart leaving Andy, Ray and David M with varying excuses for not riding.
The weather was perfect, a beautiful early autumn day, with just a nip in the air and the sun overhead.  What could go wrong? A delayed start while Clive repaired a rear wheel puncture.  Once away everything was fine.  An easy start took us down to Shocklach with little traffic in evidence then onto the back lanes to Chorlton Lane to join the original route down to Dymock’s Mill.  The idyllic scene at the bottom provided a photo opportunity before the climb up the rough track provided the first surprise of the day with the two oldest club members being the only ones to make it. 

Photographs by Bryan Wade

From here it was southeast through Drury Lane and down to Fenn’s Bank before a left turn over the canal brought us to a burnt out Waggoners: no joy here then.  Our next option was to try Tilstock just up the road where ten minutes or so later we discovered the Horseshoes was temporarily closed with new landlords in the process of moving in.  Next stop Whitchurch!
It’s only a short ride north to Whitchurch and with the superb weather to cheer us we enjoyed the lanes as we made our way through Alkington to the centre of Whitchurch where we found the White Bear open and welcoming.  Excellent food plus Doombar and the Rev James ales made for a great lunchtime venue.

The afternoon started with a post-lunch climb up Wirswall hill where we stopped outside Wicksted Hall to take in the views over Marbury.  Then it was north to Bickley followed by a devious route to Duckington, Tilston and finally Holt but not before another rear wheel puncture this time on the tandem.  Arriving back at Hildegard’s at about 16:15 gave us plenty of time for coffee and cake before the final leg home.
Another great day out with friends covering some 42 miles in almost perfect cycling weather with those heading back to Chester clocking 60 plus miles.

Monday 1 October 2012

27th September 2012: Ravensmoor

There was a decent turnout at Utkinton: Alan, Andy, Mike M, Ray, George, Liz and Martin, Trevor, Brian Mac, myself, Dave M in civvies, and usually last but never least - Liz and Dave.
I had promised to lead a moderate ride, and the fitter guys chose to go along with this. We took off in the direction of Tarporley, then turned left up Heath Green on the old route to Eaton crossing the A49. Shortly after Eaton most of the bunch suffered a drenching from a passing Audi hitting a very large puddle.  We were soon bowling past Wettenhall towards Nantwich. It was good to hear people chatting away in a relaxed manner.  I was aware that we tend to totally trust the leader, but that my chosen route was unfamiliar to me for many stretches ahead. Well, at least if I felt like the Lone Ranger, Mike “Tonto” Morley was there to help. We were a little ahead of schedule, so Mike suggested the cycle route through Reaseheath College grounds (photo). At the edge of Nantwich town we turned under the canal, and then past the marina that has a pleasant waterside café. We turned left at St. Mary’s church, Acton that has the oldest church tower in Cheshire and some Norman carved stones inside.  Tonto had already identified a suitable lunchtime hostelry using his renowned hop-seeking senses. We arrived at opening time at the Farmer’s Arms in Ravensmoor.  Dave and Liz were a little late, as they had been hunting for duck eggs.

Photographs by Alan Jeffs

Lunch was excellent, and Mike fell in love with the waitress. We set off again, heading south towards Wrenbury.  Martin thought that the pace “was even slower” after eating, but I had eaten poached salmon and drunk no ale.  Anyway, I took the hint and turned the wick up slightly as we undulated our way in a loop taking in Wrenbury Heath, Wrenbury itself, Chorley, Larden Green and Gradeley Green.  We had to hold our nerve through a number of flooded sections of road, but otherwise, it was all quiet and pleasant. It was quite hard work for the tandem at this stage because of the slightly increased pace, number of small hills and the amount of pudding Dave had eaten. I overcame my lack of knowledge of these roads by permanently perching my reading glasses on my nose and plotting ahead whilst riding, using my handlebar map holder. We were soon heading north through Brindley and towards Tilley’s cake and coffee shop (photo).  The Chester section then headed for Beeston, and the rest were riding back to Utkinton. Unfortunately, we somehow missed the left turn for Tilstone Fearnhall and Tarporley and finished up on a longer route via Alpraham and Eaton.  Still, the rain held off and we had all clocked a very sociable 44 miles at least.

Sunday 23 September 2012

20th September 2012: Anglesey

It was the Famous Five that met at the Edinburgh Wool Mill café at Llanfair PG for the round Anglesey Special Ride. Only five (Dave H, Andy, Ivan, Ray and myself) but what quality for a quality ride. The route out to South Stack RSPB café, by the famous lighthouse, would be a minor variation on that taken by Ivan and I in Jan 2011. The return would mainly be a surprise. The weather threatened rain but little comes although the stiff breeze will feature all through the 35 miles to the South Stack café. Taking cycleway 8, we run down quite lanes parallel to the Menai Straits with panoramic views of Snowdon and the Rivals. Through Newborough, the road takes you through the forest to Maltreath. Here the Maltreath Drain takes the water out of the marsh that extends right into Llangefni. The first minor variation takes us down a "No Through Road" (says the binman) along the estuary. The OS seemed to indicate we can get through and we can by taking a short cut along the foreshore to access the lane out. The next variation involves us ignoring the main road to Aberffaw by taking a tiny road across the sand dunes to access the original trip-trap bridge. It works, and we then have to use the main road to get to Rhosneigr. A very popular town this appears to be with several cafes (open but ignored) and lots of holiday homes; but we press on inland to circle RAF Valley before crossing the causeway to Holyhead Island proper at Trearddur Bay.

Photographs by Clive Albany

We follow the coast climbing over hill and down dale towards the windswept RSPB café for lunch. The choice of hot food is a bit short but it comes quickly enough as we sit enjoying the seaward view. I was remembering that just two weeks prior, I had been sailing around South Stack trying to beat the tidal stream on my way to Cemaes Bay to anchor there before it got dark. We leave and cycle the short uphill distance to see the lighthouse itself where Ivan procures a pink-clad young lady to take the snaps. Off around the mountain, we make our way along the front at Holyhead and turning almost into the seaport itself, we pick up cycleway 8 again to take past the now quiet aluminium smelter to get us across the causeway. Turning left in Valley, we eventually access the B5109 towards Llangefni and Mona's Café. This road is parallel to the old A5 and the busy A55 but there is hardly any traffic as we go down and up dale arriving at Mona's at school chucking out time. Ivan espies the "Gwesty Bull" and as the four of us take tea and cake, he takes a pint of Cardiff ale. There are traffic jams in Llangefni as we leave to ride the short distance back to the car park. I am keen to avoid the obvious way back so we take some more tiny lanes which once again give us 180° vistas of the Snowdon range and the Llyn peninsula. We ride over the A55 footbridge and with 62 miles done we are back at the car park. There were just a few spots of rain all day, the sun came out, there were majestic mountain vistas and sea panoramas, almost no cars, and wonderful countryside, and apart from the one lane out of Rhosneigr, decent road surfaces all day. What more can you ask for on a CER ride - where were you all!

Friday 14 September 2012

13th September 2012: Little Bollington (mod)

Only five out today (George, Dave H, Andy, Bryan and myself) at Manley.  Dave M came for coffee and was nursing a bad cold. Weather-wise it was bright but a little chilly, clouding over later, but brightening up at tea time. "Little Bollington" I offered; "Where" came the reply - "Next to Dunham Massey" - "Oh there! How many miles?" "50" and "OK". Off we go, out and up the ridge towards Alvanley and the fast descent to the outskirts of Frodsham. Then out through Frodsham, turning off the main road at Dave's suggestion to avoid the freeway. We access the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook and cycle northwards towards Warrington. We pass the Daresbury Laboratory that boasted the Synchrotron Radiation Source until it closed in 2008.

Photographs by Clive Albany

Very pleasant it all was until, tempted by a further canal path section, the inevitable rear wheel puncture happens. It happened to be mine, and managing to nip the newly-inserted inner tube, I have to borrow another from Dave H. Anyway the group needed a rest! Crossing the A49, we go up and pass Appleton Reservoir, and ignoring the "No Through Road" sign, we make our way along lanes anew and down through Stockton Lane ("Closed") and finally the cobbles in Grappenhall. Ducking about the canal, we find Waste Lane towards Lymm, passing the Lymm Dam and thence to Outringham Lane and alongside the same pub-infested canal until the "Home" pub comes into view. 

The Home is deserted, but the food comes quickly and is well received together with the Flowers IPA. The return route is "straightforward" but weaves about a lot on our way back to Manley via Hoo Green, Comberbatch, Acton Bridge, Norley and Delamere Forest. Under the M56 there is a curious plaque commemorating John Wesley's preaching at Booth Bank - he would have to speak up today given the volume of traffic passing by on the M56. Passing close to the Great Budworth Ice Cream farm proves too strong so we stop for afternoon tea and cake. In Delamere Dave H peels off to go back to Manley whilst us four continue via Ashton Heyes back to Chester. The circular route is 54 miles; with the Chester add on making it around 65+ for most of us. It was a wonderful autumn day through heritage countryside embracing the age of canals and high nuclear physics - a pity that only five of us were out to enjoy it.

Saturday 8 September 2012

6th September 2012: Sun Inn, Trevor

The Expresso Cafe, Gwersyllt is not the most popular of CER starting points.  Possibly the café itself, the distance from Chester, the hilly environs or a combination of the three.  So on a lovely late summer day only Ivan, Ray, Bryan, Colin, Martin & Lizzie and Liz & Dave P turned up at the café.  We were then joined by three Wrexham Cafe Hoppers - Bruce, David and Mike.  However the numbers were soon whittled down as Bryan was in less than good form and decided to do his own thing, the tandem arrived punctured and Dave & Liz decided to meet us at the lunch stop and the three Wrexham boys retired early on the initial climb up to Minera preferring a less hilly route.

Photograph by Ivan Davenport

The five remaining riders continued on with the winding climb through Minera towards Llandegla, past the MTB centre, briefly onto the A565 and then along the gated lane that emerges on the road halfway up to the top of the Horseshoe Pass.  We soon reached the Ponderosa Cafe and started down the steep Old Horseshoe Pass Road and the right to the bottom of Worlds End and up to the Panorama route.  This must be the most picturesque ride in our area and the road surface is now good but it is littered with rocks and debris that have been washed down from the steep slopes above.  Perhaps as a result, it is a frequent puncture site and true to form Ivan had done so by the time he had reached the Sun, Trevor.  The repair was a protracted procedure requiring 3 inner tubes taking place during lunch eaten outside in the sun with a lovely view over the Vale of Llangollen.  Dave and Liz then arrived after cycling over Worlds End - pretty impressive on the tandem.
The return was along the canal path to Acefair, Johnstown, Bersham, Wrexham and Gwersyllt. Ivan and Ray then continued back to Chester, Martin to Hawarden and Colin and Lizzie took their cars home.
A beautiful hilly ride of only 33 miles but 1,160 metres of climbing taken at a slow pace. The return journey to and from Chester adds a further 28 miles.

Sunday 2 September 2012

30th August 2012: Lower Peover

With summer drawing to a close and on a sunny morning, it was not unexpected seeing 10 riders at the Ice Cream Farm.  Dave M offered to lead a ride as long as I wrote it up.  We, Mike M, Colin, Ray, Andy, George, Alan, Trevor, Clive and myself followed him east towards Oulton Park, but Clive soon turned off as he had commitments elsewhere.  We fairly quickly had splits in the group with the varied pace of different riders and soon lost Mike at a junction.  This happened to others a number of times during this day’s ride.  I would ask all members to think about dropping back at a junction if there is someone behind and then waiting so that the person behind sees the change of direction. Simple but effective: and keep your mobile switched on so that we can call you if you are detached.
A fairly uneventful ride took us through the suburbs of Northwich, past Lach Dennis to Lower Peover, where I was reminded that it was a silent “O”.  If that is correct, then why not spell it Pea – ver.  Lunch in The Crown was both pleasant & efficiently served.  Plates were cleared, which is always a good sign.
Our return route to The Ice Cream Farm was via another Ice Cream Farm, this one at Great Budworth, where tea & cake was scoffed.  See http://www.icecreamfarm.co.uk.  It was then a trek west through Cumberbatch and Kelsall to the original Ice Cream Farm.  A total round trip of nearly 60 miles.

Thursday 30 August 2012

26th August 2012: Wild Wales Challenge

What a great ride which took place in ideal sunny and dry weather conditions, providing a brief, dry interlude during one of the wettest summers on record.  As I sit here recovering from yesterday’s efforts the rain is bucketing down once again: but who cares after such a fulfilling day out in the glorious Welsh mountains.
This year’s challenge repeats a route of some 10 years ago riding out over the Hirnant Pass from Bala to Lake Vyrnwy and on to the first control at Llanerfyl village hall.  The route then turns east to follow some very lumpy roads to Machynlleth where there is no control but an opportunity to grab some much needed lunch.  After this brief respite the route turns north to follow a small back road to Corris and then the mountain road west to Aberangell and Dinas Mawddwy.  The Bwlch y Groes looms above this control and provides a challenging route back to the finish in Bala after a total of 83 miles and 7,000ft of climbing.
There were 6 of us Chester Easy Riders at the 08:15 start in Bala - the Geneva-Nice team (Martin Donaldson, David Matthews, Dave Pipe & Ray Stigter) putting all that alpine fitness to good use, along with Lowri Evans and Dave Hill who employed locally gained Welsh mountain fitness to get the two of them round the demanding course.
The following account relies mostly on my own experiences as we rode at our own pace and only coincided on the road as circumstances and pace allowed.  The mountain goat team of Martin and Ray disappeared into the distance beyond Lake Vyrnwy never to be seen again.  I believe they finished 2 hours ahead of the rest of us in the speedy time of 8 hours.
Since riding this course some 10 years ago a couple of handy books have been written by Simon Warren which document and grade 200 climbs in Britain’s hills.  Three climbs from the books are included in this ride, which gives some idea of the overall challenge.  The hills between the listed climbs often seemed just as severe as we linked up the well known, “big ticket” ascents.
First up was the Hirnant (grade 7/10), which provided an ideal warm up.  Not too steep at first, but rising to a 15% gradient for a brief section near the top.  The descent was fairly tricky as the road through the trees was damp in places.  There was also a fair amount of gravel that caused at least one rider to crash out.
On the Hirnant

Photographs by David Matthews

Once down at Lake Vyrnwy, whilst I was still in touch with Ray, we had a real blast riding with bunches of cyclists along the level, lakeside road to Llanwddyn.  Beyond this point I left my comfort zone of well-known roads to climb through a series of steep narrow lanes to eventually emerge onto the A458 at Llangadfan.  A short distance after this the first control at Llanerfyl village hall was reached.  There were long queues of cyclists here that caused a wait of 15 minutes or so to get through to the electronic control check and subsequently grab a snack.  Whilst waiting in the queue I met up with fellow Seamons CC rider Stuart Kay, last met on the Costa Blanca in April, so the queue time passed quickly for us as we caught up with the club news.
Leaving the control southwards the route follows one of my favourite roads in Wales along the peaceful and remote Nant y Eira valley, protected by its multitude of cattle grids.  On this occasion the road had recently been covered in liberal quantities of gravel which slowed things down a bit but the wheel crunching noise did give warning of a small convoy of 1930’s touring cars creeping along behind us.
After this relatively gentle interlude, there were yet more steep, twisty, narrow lanes that eventually led out to “big city” Machynlleth.  It seemed that most of the 500+ riders had arrived here simultaneously as every cafe and shop was filled to bursting with hungry & thirsty cyclists.  After standing in a cafe queue for 10 minutes and getting nowhere, I gave up and raided the local Spar shop for water, Eccles cakes and a banana.  Not the best meal---but packed full of energy!
The next section turned north for Corris and the Dyfi Forest climb (grade 7/10) with its 17% and 20% gradients over to Aberangell.  I wasn’t looking forward to this climb as I had traversed it with Ray some 12 days previously when checking the route sheet for the new 208k (130 mile) Audax “The Barmouth Boulevard”.  The three big lifts through the forest seemed really exhausting a couple of weeks ago after riding a challenging 80 miles prior to the ascent; on this occasion the climb coming after 60 miles of hilly roads seemed more reasonable to both of us.
Commemorative slate
Beyond Aberangell, a narrow riverside road leads to Dinas Mawddwy where the village hall control point is overshadowed by the looming presence of Bwlch y Groes. After a quick snack, I nervously rode out along the 4 mile approach road up the Afon Dyfi valley to the foot of the pass (the highest tarmacked pass in Wales; grade 10/10) and the start of the real climbing just beyond Llanymawddwy.  The road immediately rises up at 25% and maintains a similar gradient for the next 3 miles to the summit.  Most riders (self included) walked a few sections of the pass to relieve the strain, so congratulations to Ray and Dave Pipe who rode the whole way.
Once on top of the Bwlch y Groes there is an exhilarating descent to Bala Lake followed by a quick blast round the east side to Bala, the final control, a brew and a well earned commemorative slate.  A great day out and it’s all on again for next year.  
Many thanks to Organiser Denis Holder for coming out of retirement and once again providing such a consistently great event.

Saturday 25 August 2012

23rd August 2012: Mersey Estuary

Liverpool skyline
All aboard
Ray, Trevor, Dave B, Mike M, Clive, Liz D and Brian were all raring to go from Ness Gardens by 10:25.  Brian had asked for a smart, sharp departure before 10:30; Ray was so quick getting away, that he forgot to pay.  A quick ride diagonally across to Woodside saw us catching a ferry, much preferred to the electric train.  All on board safely, a picture taken of us seven, showed Dave decidedly sea sick and Mike cropped out completely.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

Is Dave sea sick? What's happened to Mike?
After the Albert Dock, an easy ride took us downstream on the Lancs side past Otterspool, through Grassington Park, old Garston village and out at the old Speke Airfield.  A path is marked on the A-Z atlas running between the airport and the estuary.  It may be worth checking out before the next ride to see if it’s passable.  Good time was made to The Wellington Pub in Hale, a Marston’s roadhouse similar to The Eastham Ferry.  A wide menu choice was on offer with the bonus of Lime and S only costing £1 and beer at £2.50.  Result.  Worth a return visit, as this area was devoid of pubs and cafes.  
Widnes staircase

After lunch, the ride saw us on parkland along the river bank and across The Bridge to that other desert, Runcorn.  The place has always been a minefield to cycle through, as it’s devoid of signs & what there are only point to places in the middle of the town.  Dave H had come to the rescue with a map running south to north, which I used on the recee.  Returning south, we saw a sign for a place we recognised called Acton Bridge & followed Sustrans route 562 past bingo halls, parks and motorways, before being ejected out onto the A56.  
Over the bridge
A ride along the main road through Frodsham, took us to the B road across to the Windsurfing Centre, where coffee and cake was consumed.  Suitably refreshed, and with Mike having departed earlier, we set off on the final leg through the Mickles to Mollington, where Clive left us.  Liz, Trevor & Brian arrived back at Ness after 7 hours and with 59 easy miles under our belts.  This ride could be done quicker in winter, provided you did not catch the ferry, which is both more expensive & slower than the frequent trains from Hamilton Square.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 17 August 2012

16th August 2012: Audlem (mod)

With a glorious sunny day in prospect a good turnout at Hildegard’s was to be expected.  Brian Mac just returned from his work at the Olympics was engrossed in a newspaper while demolishing his breakfast when I arrived.  He had apparently been up since five and had already done his ride!  Martin & Liz D, Jim, David M, Dave H, Andy, Trevor, Ray and I made up the remaining nine plus Mike Roberts from the Wrexham Reivers/Café Hoppers joining us for the day on his trike.
Jim had a route in mind to the Shroppie Fly in Audlem via Tilston and Wrenbury that sounded just right.  It was soon apparent that out of the 11 present only eight of us were riding, leaving Brian Mac, David M and Trevor to indulge further.  After a little cajoling we set off with Jim in the lead clutching a scrap of paper that doubled up as his GPS and satnav.  We made good progress through Tilston, then bypassing Malpas to No Mans Heath where we crossed the A41.  Mike Roberts decided to turn off just after Bickley Town as we reached the A49.  From here it was a lovely relaxing ride across to Wrenbury where we arrived with perfect timing just as the canal bridge was being lowered: no waiting today then.  Conversation continued as we made our way on the final stretch through Aston and Brown’s Bank to Audlem.
The Shroppie Fly was already busy when we arrived but we got two outside tables to soak up the sun while our orders were prepared.  The selection of ales was good ranging from Timothy Taylor Landlord to Bays Winning Gold (brewed for the 2012 Olympics) but the lime and soda drinkers found the price excessive.  That aside, it’s a lovely quiet spot here on the bank of the canal: a perfect place to relax and forget about the troubles of the world.  
The route back saw us retracing our steps to Wrenbury but then heading north to Cholmondeley before turning off to Hampton Post and Hampton Heath for the return leg back through Tilston.  Arriving back in Holt by 15:30 we had plenty of time for tea/coffee and a choice of Hildegard’s cakes before it was time to split up and make for home.
A lovely relaxing 43 miles with friends: a perfect day.

14th August 2012: Barmouth Boulevard

The Barmouth Boulevard is a brand new audax 208km event heading out from Corwen round Lake Bala, over the Trawsfynydd mountain road and on to Harlech and Barmouth.  The return is through the Bird Rock road to Abergynolwyn, Corris, the mountain road to Mallwyd, Cross Foxes and Bala town.  It is scheduled as a calendar event for October 20, but can be ridden anytime as a "permanent". 
The purpose of today’s ride, apart from having a great day out, was to get Ray to check out the route sheet as initially prepared by DM.  It is quite remarkable how many first time errors appear in route sheets (as well as subsequent changes put in by road makers) and the best way to counter this is to get a second person to ride the route and see it through their eyes.
After several false starts caused by rubbish weather, we eventually left Corwen at 07:30 on Tuesday 14 August and headed out to Bala on a day that threatened just a few showers.  We turned off the main Bala road to ride alongside the E side of the lake, which road was covered in rather dangerous new gravel in several places, to the first control at the Eagle Inn in Llanuwchllyn.  After a good fill of coffee and doorstep toast, we set off for Trawsfynydd over the narrow mountain road.  The gravel spreaders had been at work here also and made the first 10k dangerous as well as strenuous up the steep hills.  The gravel rather spoiled the spectacular mountain views, as all our senses were required to stay on the bike.
Fortunately the gravel ended abruptly just before the last hill, so we could then enjoy the ride and views over to Trawsfynydd and the subsequent main road route to Harlech.  After a deli stop in Harlech, we then continued down the main road to Barmouth, followed by a ride over the Causeway to the Towyn road.  This section of road is really beautiful as it climbs above the sea before finally turning inland near Llanegryn, leading to the fantastic mountain views along the Bird Rock road to Abergynolwyn.
The official control here is at the local library/cafe/post office which we now know is open 6 days per week - closed Tuesdays.  Fortunately we spotted a nice pub down the road where we got our cards stamped and filled up selves and bottles with liquid refreshment.  The route now leads northeast past several lakes and a big climb to Corris.  After Corris, we turned off along another mountain road through Aberllefenni that has been recently resurfaced.  This nice surface helps just a bit on the 17% and 20% ascents over to Mallwyd and civilisation.
The next part of the ride was one of the hardest in our fairly tired state, as we had to climb 10k from Mallwyd up to Cross Foxes on the main road.  No chance of falling asleep here as white van men and tourists whizzed close by on the road and Tornado jets screamed overhead on low level exercises.  Once recovered in Cross Foxes, we headed off through Brithdir and then the main road to Bala followed by the Pale route to Corwen.
Overall a hard but very fulfilling day out of 132 miles (212K) and 12,000ft (3500m) ascent in 13.5 hours.  Thanks to Ray for his company, improvements to the route sheet and for waiting for me at the summit of the hills.
David M

Sunday 12 August 2012

9th August 2012: Dunham Massey (brisk)

Arrived at Rose Farm cafe, Utkinton at 10:00 to find Ivan sat on the benches outside in glorious sunshine. 
No one else had turned up by 10:30 so we set off for the Red Barn at Dunham Massey via Antrobus and all sorts of obscure lanes.  A few miles beyond Antrobus, we alighted on an old aircraft runway where Ivan pulled out his DNA test kit to confirm that the bloodstains on the runway had in fact been left by Trevor a couple of weeks ago.
To Ivan's dismay we could not find the pub at Dunham Massey, so settled for soft drinks, sandwiches and supercharged German almond cake (DM only on this one) at the Red Barn farm.
Still in glorious weather, we returned through Hale (excellent for ornithology according to Ivan who fell off my back wheel at this stage) along DM's old Seamons CC tracks and onward through Tatton Park to Knutsford.  From here we followed the now traditional route past The Bells of Peover to Davenham and the secret road to Whitegate and the Shire Horse Cafe for a well-earned brew.
Finally we rode along the secret lake road to Utkinton and Oscroft where Ivan continued onward to Chester.  70 miles round trip for DM and 80 miles for Ivan; at a pace somewhat above brisk.

Saturday 11 August 2012

9th August 2012: Tracks & Trails of the High Peak

The cast of thousands - well 14 of us - assembled at the car park at the start of the Monsal Trail at 10:00 and set off at 13 mph: true Easy Riders pace! for coffee.  Martin, Liz, Trevor, Jim, Andy, George, Dave Hill, Bryan, Tony, Dave & Liz P and Dave H with special guest Collette.

Photographs by Dave Hill

The route followed the trail and tunnels for the first 9 miles avoiding the unlit walkers and ghostly cyclists appearing out of the gloom. We soon reached Bakewell Station and shot off down the unusually named Station Road to the town centre.  A bit of dicing with the locals and we were heading uphill on Yeld Road towards Youlgreave (why is it that downhills are always shorter that uphills? I bet there is a mathematical formula for that).  On reaching Youlgreave we realised that 5 of the group were missing. We had stopped to look at the medieval village at Conksbury, which we didn't find; perhaps they were still there? A phone call sorted out the problem and we agreed to meet at the pub at lunchtime. Onwards and upwards, through Middleton by Youlgreave and Elton, past the two faced stone and finally to the pub at Winster.  We seemed to have been going continually uphill for the last hour - Clive would have been proud of us!

After a leisurely lunch in the beer garden at The Miners Standard. We all set off north towards the High Peak Trail.  After a toilet stop by the junction with the Tissington Trail at Parsley Hay, the route continued north to the end of the trail.  A short dogleg across the A515 and we were following the Midshires Way north back towards Taddington. The track became steadily rougher culminating in a true off-road downhill descent to Blackwell Hall. Then a quick thrash down the B road (max 37mph) to Millers Dale followed by a short and final uphill to the car park and the coffee wagon. Then 3 miles back along the trail to our starting point. Nearly 40 miles, tough in places and easy in others, but with brilliant weather all the way.  A spectacular day was had by all.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

2nd August 2012: Llanasa

The team assembled at Spiros in Hawarden at 10:00 am like the cast from the Usual Suspects:
Martin & Liz, Mike M, Ray, Tony, Clive, George, Dave H and Jim.
There was a general atmosphere of disinterest for a long ride so I proposed a shortish trot to Llanasa for lunch and back (about 40 miles) leaving us back in time to catch the cycling at the Pleasuredrome.  All were in favour so we set off at a steady pace for Northop, Halkyn, Whitford and Llanasa.
Service was a bit slow but we didn't mind as it was heaving it down outside and I'd left my helmet on my handlebars!  Dim move, but we all make mistakes! The route back was up that interminable hill towards Trelawnyd, over the A55 and up towards Babell and Windmill. The group split at that point with those eager to see Victoria Pendleton in her lycra leading the way with myself, Dave, George and Mike following at a more sedate pace.  A slight detour from Halkyn Hill allowed us to miss the little narrow lane, at present full of mud so George assured us, and back to Northop, then Hawarden.
40 miles, with 60 for those from Chester, and we still got home for 4 pm.

Wednesday 1 August 2012

26th July 2012: Moore

The sun was out at Manley Mere and a cyclist's dozen were out to day - 12 bikes but 13 riders.  No one had a route; so the one I had prepared last November would do. I'd been out with Harry last November but didn't fancy his extended route from Grappenhall, so found my way home via Runcorn's canals. To mix it up a bit, the obvious way to Kingsley was ignored as we exited Helsby and ground up the chevroned road to Alvanley; then up onto the top via Commonside and Newton. Somewhere here the message came that Jim and Mike M were going to do their own thing, so we pressed on via Kingsley to Acton Bridge.  Aren't English lane names fascinating; there was Cliff Lane without a cliff, and Roddy Lane with a rod, and thankfully no offal in sight in Offal Pit Lane! Somewhere near Frandley, Martin and Liz decided to make their own ride, so the rest of us (Ray, Ivan, George, Trevor, Roy, Paul, Tandem Duo and myself) found ourselves zigzagging down the lanes towards Appleton Thorn via the old airfield. Here Trevor involuntarily left some of his DNA on the road as he skidded trying to avoid water-filled pots. He was OK, as was his bike, but attention was cleverly diverted to George's mudguards. Once all fixed, we skirt the Young Offenders Institution and savour the downhill run into Grappenhall. Out towards Stockton Heath, George's mudguards feature again as we ride up to Appleton Reservoir. Soon we run down into Moore and at 28 miles, are ready for lunch. The Red Lion needs a bit of TLC but the food is good. In fact, Trevor liked so much that he is due to return to collect his saddlebag sometime soon! The novelty part now starts as we "admire" the outer Runcorn estate housing architecture, and access the Runcorn branch of the Bridgewater Canal at Norton. We ride the canal towpath all the way to near the station thus bypassing most of Runcorn's architecture. Here Roy is on home territory and helps us out and up to Weston to admire the Mersey view and the Castner Kellner plant.  In Frodsham, we enjoy lattes in the air conditioned Costa Coffee before tackling the long hill out and up towards Riley's Bank and the downhill back to Manley Mere. The route was a leisurely 44 miles, but around 65 for those of us Chester bound.

Wednesday 25 July 2012

19th July 2012: Pendle Witch Country

The weather was uncertain, but the lemon cake was a sure thing at Number 51. We were having a communication problem with Dave M., who had apparently turned back in the face of miserable motorway rain. So it was that the certainties, myself, Brian Mac and George were conjoined by the last minute surprise trio of Mike Morley, Jim and Bryan Wade. 
We scooted around to briefly view Whalley Abbey entrance, and then headed for the golf course. There was a lot of up: Clive’s altimeter would have been whirring its wheels off. We weren’t in much risk of whirring our wheels off though as we strained slowly up from Sabden Brook. The narrow ridge road passed through a grotto of green onto the top of Padiham Heights, with Burnley below. Soon we were cruising, the weather was dry and the riding was easy.
After the delightful hamlet at Sabden Hall, it was 100% effort again just before reaching steeply situated Newchurch in Pendle with its strong connections with the Lancashire witches. In 1612 ten witches from the Pendle area were sent to the scaffold. In the graveyard of St. Mary’s of Newchurch is a tombstone with a skull and crossbones known locally as ‘the witches grave’. George appeared to be the expert on witches having married a local girl; he even knew where one of the Nutters was buried. 
East from Newchurch we bowled down Jinny Lane to the last remaining Clarion Room in the country. 

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

Hundreds of mill workers and their families used to come up here for refreshment and fresh air at the weekend. But there was much more to the Clarion movement than this, and fitness and fraternity through a national network of cycling clubs was a significant element of this socialist movement. Cyclists and walkers still come here for a drink and a break on Sundays. From here we rode into Barley, ignoring the cosy tea rooms as my little black timetable book had us behind schedule. We then whacked our way around the impressive green bulk of Pendle Hill. Right and ahead was a panoramic view stretching as far as the Yorkshire Dales. Our geographers, Jim and Brian Mac, recognised Pen-y-Ghent and Ingleborough on the horizon. We hurtled down the multi-arrowed Pendle Road to famously filmed Downham. Here we ran into two lively ladies who stalked us to the post office tea shop. I think they were looking for Specsave!
We crossed high above the A59, and over the Ribble at Chatburn (site of a yummy ice cream shop) and made our way south west to wonderful Waddington. The Lower Buck tempted, but I wanted the back of the ride broken by lunch, so we carried on easily to Higher Hodder Bridge. We ground around the heavily wooded Waddington Fell and up the Hodder Valley. We had done a lot of climbing, and after at least three hours in (and out of) the saddle, our lunch stop, at Chipping’s haunted 17th Century Sun Inn, arrived not a moment too soon. The food was excellent and the service was courteous and friendly.
We wound out of Chipping up a lush Quiet Lane past Legram Hall. The peaceful road meandered between Burnslack and Fair Oak Fell soaring to our left, and the wooded River Hodder below. The Wild Boar Park was passed, and we soon sighted the unlikely red telephone box as we steadily gained height and faced the last really steep bank of the day by Knot End cottage. The reward was a panoramic view across The Forest of Bowland to Yorkshire, and a lovely long descent to Burholme Bridge. The return to the Ribble Valley was by the route of least resistance! The famous Inn at Whitewell was passed as we followed the Hodder before winding left up the Roman road to Cow Ark, and past Browsholme Hall the ancestral seat of the Parkers, Bowbearers of the Forest of Bowland since Tudor times.
It was mostly downhill from here as we sped to coffee and cake at Balshall Barn. As we sipped next to the cows, Mike, George and I decided to have a look at the breathtaking Stonyhurst College, a magnificent 16th. Century manor house now home to a famous independent Catholic school. We passed ‘Cromwell’ Bridge over the Hodder and the beautiful old Alms House in Hurst Green on our extra loop. We finished by crossing the River Ribble at Great Mitton and returned to Mike’s former home village of Whalley.
It was a pleasure to cycle in such pleasant company. It was quite a demanding ride, and for those, who, because of various circumstances were not at their fittest, very hard at times. I hope now that the lactic acid has dissipated they will look back with pleasure and remember the fine views.  Mileage 46 or 51 with the Stonyhurst College loop.