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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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.

Sunday 15 July 2012

12th July 2012: Calverhall

Today was all about finding a pub that was open at lunchtime for food.  The target was an unknown pub in Prees, but more later.  As it promised to be a sunny dry day, there was a crowd at the Ice Cream Farm. Bryan was in civvies mode and Dave M in recovery mode.  So the rest of us (Roy, Dave H, Ray, Brian, Trevor, Tony H, Tandem Duo and I) set off bound for Prees via Whitchurch.  Up around Burwardsley and Harthill we find the lane to Cholmondeley closed off for water works but still open for bikes.  We circle Moss Wood to Swanwick Green and onto Marbury.  Up some new lanes to Hollyhurst, we enter Whitchurch close by the station.  We exit via a dead-end road to cross the busy A525 towards Brown Moss conservation area.  The Tandem Duo wave us on so we amble through the shady Brown Moss area. 
More on the pubs; Brian's phone call to his mate reveals that the Prees pub is closed (later confirmed as 3 years ago), the Horseshoes in Tilstock doesn't do lunch, so he suggests the Raven on the A41.  We stop across the dual carriageway from it and there is not much enthusiasm despite it being pint time.  I offer the Olde Jack at Calverhall that is unanimously accepted as a better alternative to the Raven.
Whitchurch Canal Basin
Retracing our route, we come across the tandem bound for the A41. The Olde Jack does us proud proffering a large bowl of free chips when I protest that my meal is without them.  After lunch, we re-access the prepared route via Coton. The pub here was the original lunch venue but a web search mysteriously revealed that it was either shut or open! - it was shut as we rode by bound for Alkington and Whitchurch again. 

Photograph by Clive Albany

We join the towpath at Whitchurch canal basin and exit at Grindley Brook.  Going north, we shimmy left and right across the A41until past the Bell o" the Hill pub I offer a route diversion.  Back a shorter way or onwards via Malpas. The call of the Ice Cream Farm is too strong and we arrive back to meet up with Dave and Liz.  They had eschewed the Raven and taken lunch at the truck stop next door, and very good it was according to Dave. 
Today, Tony H was back with us after his extensive long distance practicing in the US, Trevor had new tyres and tubes, and Roy was a ridiculously strong rider, but then he is half our age! So 54 miles of British Summer weather and quintessentially English lanes - a good day to be out in the saddle.

Sunday 8 July 2012

5th July 2012: Beatles Cycling Tour of Liverpool

1. Ringo's birthplace

2. Sefton Park

3. Coffee

4. Penny Lane

5. Strawberry Fields

6. Paul's house

7. Otterspool Formation Team

8. Ferry across the Mersey

9. Disembark
Eight members gathered at Chester Station to catch a train to Liverpool for the start of The Magical Mystery Tour – Trevor, Martin & Liz, Clive, Ivan, Mike, Ray & myself.  Alighting at James Street, we made our way south alongside the Mersey, to view various important places associated with The Beatles.  (pics. follow in numerical order) 

Ringo’s birthplace in Toxteth was first 1; sadly it had seen better days.  Riding thro Princes Park, Trevor had the first of 3 punctures.  Sefton Park followed, 2 and the call went out “I want a wee” (It’s like herding cats or kids) followed by a coffee stop 3.  Penny Lane, 4 was next (are you singing along yet?) soon followed by “A shelter in the middle of a roundabout” at its northern end.  George’s birthplace near the Picton Clock was next.  There we were not sure what all the Japanese tourists would make of the locals sitting outside their houses in the sun in the afternoon, still dressed in pyjamas.

A long ride east took us to the increasingly more affluent area where John grew up with his Aunt Mimi.  First though, we stopped at St Peters Church Hall, Woolton, where 55 years ago to the day, John was introduced to Paul, who had to audition there to join the Quarry Men.  Along the road we came to 5, Strawberry Fields, an old orphanage sadly looking in a sorry state.  John’s house on Menlove Ave was next, now a National Trust property.  As was the next 6, Paul’s house in Allerton.  A massive carvery followed, costing £3, at a recommended boozer.

After lunch, the CER Cycle Formation Team 7 appeared again on Otterspool promenade, though with all the folk out enjoying the sun, otters were few and far between.  As we were early for the first commuter ferry across the Mersey (are you still singing?), we had a pleasant 30 minutes to kill at the best hostelry in the City, the Philharmonic Rooms.  The ferry 8, 9 was busy and the half-hour trip enabled Trevor to change puncture number 2.  Disembarking at Woodside at 16:45, I spotted a new Sustrans sign pointing to Eastham ferry and as time was pressing, we went for this new route.
We soon found in Rock Ferry that some signs had already been re-cycled into scrap and as a result I was not 100% sure of the new route.  Who should then turn up but a knight in shining armour, a k a, Gary from the local wheelers, who was cycling home to Port Sunlight.  He put us right and we returned via Eastham, the missing Link and Ledsham to Chester.  Distances were 23 miles in the city, followed by 20 odd to Chester.

Feedback received was encouraging and I enjoyed being a tour guide for the day, though the tips were miserable!!  I used a booklet on the Beatles for my guidance and you are welcome to borrow it anytime. 

Photographs, tour planning and commentary courtesy of Brian MacDonald

Monday 2 July 2012

28th June 2012: Bradfield Green

Back from two weeks off, namely sitting about on a boat, it was a struggle to get out to Hildegard’s café.  The Alpine Quartet was all there with very professional photos of snow, views and enormous hilly climbs (up to c 2900m!).  Dave M was in recovery mode after his tunnel experience, so the rest of us (Martin, Liz and Dave P, George, Dave H, Ray and I) set off for a 55 mile ride which curiously no one really asked about as I led them out towards Tilston along the main road.
The Secret Nuclear Bunker
“Road Closed” greeted us at the Cock o’ Barton and this was to be a feature three more times. Ignoring the sign, we find it is the annual road patch-up season.  The route takes us through Duckington to the Cholmondeley Arms. Here Martin has had enough for the day and turns back. The same happens with the tandem at Sound as the remaining four cycle towards Nantwich bound for the Coach and Horses at Bradfield Green. On the way we briefly visit the Secret Nuclear Bunker at Hack Green that has a large café – so perhaps an afternoon tea stop on another ride. Several new Bentleys pass us on their way back to the Crewe works and, at nearly 30 miles, Leighton Hospital passes us by and the Coach and Horses is a welcome site.
The reception is very friendly and the food comes quickly and all are replete. I offer afternoon repast at Tilley’s so it is an easy run back into Bunbury via Bird Lane. The heavens open as we sup our drinks (no cakes though).  We wait a few minutes until it clears and make out way back towards the Ice Cream Farm.  Here, George and Dave H make their way back via Tattenhall to Farndon whilst Ray and I wend our way back to Chester with 70 miles on the clock. Apparently there was downpour in Chester whilst we had just a few spots of rain so my rain-avoidance skill/luck still holds.
See route map and/or gpx file download.