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 20 December 2013

19th December 2013: Calverhall

Having seen the day’s weather forecast for snow and rain over Llangollen way, I hastily cobbled together a replacement 45 miler from Hildegard’s café to the standby lunch venue of the Old Jack at Calverhall. The two Pauls, Brian, Stephen and myself would be the cabal today. The Donaldsons were only taking coffee with us and then off "house rental" hunting having just “bought” a new house (i.e. the plot thereof) in Parkgate. So off we go hoping it won’t rain today; and soon we see the rain clouds over the hills to the west as we ride Shocklach bound, turning off at The Purser to cut down to Threapwood. 
There is evidence of a lot of water in the fields and roads after the overnight downpours. We take the oddly named “The Ln” out towards Whitewell, and then on to Fenn Bank to locate the NC45. The lanes are muddier now, helped along by tractors coming off fields and the overnight deluge. At Prees, we climb out under the A49 and over the A41 and then the long lane to Calverhall village.
The pub’s is open and we are soon organising our own table under an enormous stag’s head. Disappointingly, my pint of Stonehouse bitter is truly “off” and is promptly replaced with Shropshire Gold. The luncheon fare comes promptly, and as ever, it is plentiful and of good quality. As we start to leave, the rain arrives and it feels colder. The return ride is straightforward i.e. through Whitchurch, Malpas and Tilston. However as we enter Whitchurch, Brian has a front wheel puncture on his new tyres (last week it was the rear wheel). It had to happen to one of us given the amount of hedge cutting we have seen today. Soon along the Malpas road, we take a left down to Higher Wych to get off the main drag to Malpas. Thankfully, the rest of the ride is uneventful, and the rain thankfully stops. We all take a hot drink at Hildegard’s and, around 16:00, go our separate ways home where I notice it is 3ºC! For me this is the last ride of 2013, and as ever the mix of good company and the Cheshire countryside is an unbeatable combination even in the dark and cold days of winter.

Friday 13 December 2013

12th December 2013: Winsford

For a murky mid-December day there were a surprising number of riders at Rose Farm. I had prepared a ride to the "Coach and Horses" at Bradfield Green, but a call the evening before found that the pub was closed for refurbishment. So a hastily re-hashed route was loaded up on my iPhone. The tandem two are just arriving as we are leaving but nevertheless plan to meet us in Winsford for lunch. We i.e. Ray, Petar, Stephen, Paul W, Brian, Dave H and Bryan set out on a northerly sweep to Delamere via the top lane at 500+ft past Summertrees. Then swooping down past the Yeld, we end up racing through Delamere to Hatchmere crossroads. Here Dave H and Bryan cut the corner to access the start of the Whitegates Way down at Waste Lane at Cuddington. We however turn left and right up Forest Lane for the downhill run to Crowton. Turning back towards Norley Bank, we take the tiny Sandhole lane to skirt around the steep climb up Norley Bank. The road surface deteriorates until we can ride no more due to a fallen tree preventing any circumnavigation. 

Photograph by Brian MacDonald

So back we go, and steadily grind up Norley Bank. Here it is just a matter of turning left and right around the diving lanes to access Waste Lane and the long flat run to the exit into Grange Lane and onwards to Wetherspoons. We have 21 of the 41 miles now completed. The Tandem Two arrive just after we have eaten and are making their own way back to Rose Farm. So after a very rapid repast, we all set off for Darnhall, but confusion soon sets in when a schools-worth of juniors are crossing the road with a police escort. Ray, Stephen and Petar having been caught up in it, don’t realise that all of us have turned right. A phone call later sets them on the correct course. Meanwhile Bryan and Dave H are making their way back to Rose Farm by the obvious direct route. At the Church Minshull turn just off the Winsford to Nantwich road, Ray, who is now by the "Boot and Slipper", calls to see where We Three are. After a long phone discussion, Petar and Stephen decide to call it a day and go the direct route back, whilst Ray continues on left to meet We Three. So We Four now take the B5074 south for lanes anew. Turning right into Aston-juxta-Mondrum, we head for Barbridge along nice straight and dry new lanes. Here we motor north up the A51 turning off on the back lanes of Calveley bound for Eaton. We grind up the last hill to walk across the A49 and back to Rose Farm. We arrive back at 15:20 with 42 miles ridden, despite several delays due to phone calls and two re-inflations of Brian’s rear tyre! Paul heads for his car, as We Three ride back towards Chester. Brian peels off towards Duddon, and Ray and I head for home. It’s just 16:15 as I get home with 70 miles to bank, and surprisingly no rain in evidence.

Thursday 5 December 2013

5th December 2013: Christmas Lunch ride to Parkgate

The CER annual ride to the Christmas lunch was due to start from The Gallery at Hawarden, but the predicted 65mph winds put paid to that for many members.  I was due to lead the ride today but as the winds down at Parkgate were gusting to 45mph, I thought better of it & went back to bed.  A number of riders set off from home, were blown back/over/sideways by the gusts and returned from where they came.  But the high wind and rain did not stop our two hardiest riders, Ray & Mike G from braving the elements to arrive at The Boat House, Parkgate from Hawarden looking rather bedraggled after only 12 miles: nor indeed Dave H and Roy cycling direct from Chester. All four deserve a medal.

Photographs by Clive Albany and Bryan Wade

Paul W, Trevor, Steve, Roy, Ray, Mike M, Mike G, Martin, Liz P, Liz D, Jim, Dave M, Dave P, Dave H, Clive, Bryan and I met in the bar for pre-prandial drinks followed by an excellent Christmas lunch.  We also had the very, very unusual spectacle of the highest tide for some decades right outside our window; this drew visitors in to watch the residents of the marsh being eaten by the flying predators outside. You can see evidence of the storm’s devastation on Wirral coastal places that we often ride past.
Thank you all for making the job of organising the lunch so painless, by paying your deposits and choosing your menu promptly.


Tuesday 3 December 2013

28th November 2013: Great Budworth

Steve Tan accompanied me by car from Runcorn. It was a mild, calm morning at Manley Mere. We were soon gathered around with Wirral Paul, Ray, Brian Mac, Steve H, Jim, Dave M, Roy and welcome warm drinks. Dave and Liz then joined us with their tandem: eleven in all.
As usual the climb up Sugar Lane had some of us breathing too hard, too early. Dutton Locks were reached via New Pale and Waterloo, down pretty Dark Lane to Kingsley and out again on Roddy Lane, taking Crewood Common Road to the path along The Weaver. At Dutton Locks I rang The George and Dragon to confirm my provisional 12:30 booking and finalise numbers for lunch. As I put my phone away Dave discovered that his tandem front tyre was soft. It was an obscure puncture, so despite Dave’s usual efficiency it was another half hour before we were winding up Friar’s Rough from The Trent and Mersey Canal, before crossing the A533 on Ash Tree Lane.  The ride so far had been slow, with the hilly initial stage followed by a river path and a puncture. Plan B was called for now, my original meandering intentions were switched to a brisk, direct push for Comberbach and lunch at Great Budworth. We were only a little late.

Photograph by Brian MacDonald

Lunch was generally enjoyed with good company and friendly service in lovely surroundings. However, some of us weren’t impressed by our pig, fat and apple slurry baguettes. 
Our return was through Budworth Heath and Antrobus. On crossing the A559 we wandered south down small scenic lanes: Well Lane, Scotch Hall Lane, Barrow Lane and Hall Lane. Eventually, we reached the Weaver through Little Leigh. After climbing steeply to Acton Bridge we turned off through the attractive hamlet of Onston, and then to the Delamere switchback via Norley. The usual sting in the tail was the climb past The Goshawk, before sweeping swiftly down Manley Road. We had safely beaten the dusk with 36.6 miles completed. Short and sweet. 

Friday 22 November 2013

21st November 2013: Maeshafn

Clive, Dave & Liz P, Liz & Martin D, Ray, Steve and 3rd week-in-a-row Paul all met at Alyn Waters Country Park café.  I also went to Alyn Waters C P for the first time, only to discover no café; there are two parks on opposite sides of the valley and I was in the other one.  Ah well, they wouldn’t go without me as I had said that I would lead a ride.  Having found a useful 1:100,000 road map that shows every white road & chevron, I thought I would lead on what turned out to be a bright, sunny winter’s day.  I again re-cycled one of Bryan’s rides from two years ago, only this time going in the opposite direction.  
Using the clock-face analogy for the route, we went anti-clockwise from 5 o’clock, through Llay, Ffrith & Nercwys, round to 2 o’clock at Gwernyminydd; here we cycled The 2013 Tour of Britain, stage 4; well, all 200 metres uphill, as the photo shows. 

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

Here Dave & Liz took a short cut to the pub, while we continued past 12 noon (literally & metaphorically) to the ford at Gwernaffield.  The current here was too strong to cycle through this time, but the ford did afford a photo stop.
Continuing backwards round the clock, we stopped at “10:00” at The Miners Arms, in the old lead village of Maeshafn, where once again we had excellent beer & food.  Suitably refreshed, we headed south down a very steep winding hill into Llanarmon at “08:00”, past Four Crosses and then to Bwlchgwyn at “18:00”.  The village name translates to English as “white hill”, as snow falls first and last hereabouts; at 1,090ft, it’s reputedly the highest village in Wales, along with Torfaen.  
Continuing down the Steps, we finished back at Alyn, having completed a total of 3,171ft climbing and a very enjoyable 32 miles.

14th November 2013: Winterley Pool (brisk)

Riding out to the Ice Cream Farm (ICF) I joined up with our leader along Red Lane and we continued together to our venue.  There were already a few riders having tea and coffee.  I had looked at a ride to Winterley Pool and a new pub stop for lunch with a 52 mile round trip.  After consideration of the alternative route (see mod ride below) I decided I would continue with my ride.
Christleton Dave and Wirral Paul joined me and we set off heading from the ICF towards Bunbury with dark skies looming but a tail wind giving us a good pace.  Passing St Boniface Church and the war memorial, which was decorated with poppies and wreaths, the sun was now providing a welcome warmth.
We crossed the A51 and turned left onto Hilbre Bank Lane then a left onto Alpraham Green. 
With the wind assistance the three of us were enjoying a really good pace and were soon passing through Minshall Vernon village crossing over the pretty bridge over the Shropshire canal.
Turning right at the end of Cross Lane we were heading towards Crewe and Leighton Hospital.  Then skirting Crewe via Bradfield Road and Remer St. we got back into the country lanes of Maw Green.
The trio arrived at Winterley in blue skies to enjoy a view of the lake and feeding swans and geese.  It was only 12:05 and I was not sure if the Foresters Arms was open yet!! 
The question was asked shall we continue or have an early lunch, fortunately the verdict was lunch and the pub was open for business.  They offered a OAP 2 Course dinner for £6.00 and a very good selection of north and south ales so good choice. Mine host was very pleasant and our lunch arrived and before long we were ready to start our return trip.
Dave set off at a pre lunch pace leaving Paul and I getting on our bikes.  When he arrived at Wheelock and we were not behind him he sped back to us waiting to turn left near the pub into Elton Lane.  We were now into a head wind that slowed the pace somewhat but after a spotted dick pudding I was glad of the slower pace.
We carried on passing all the flashes around Elworth and Warmingham along Forge Mill Lane and Chapel Lane where we were flagged down by a damsel on her bike looking for company back towards Crewe. As soon as we advised we were headed for Chester she got back on the saddle bidding us farewell.
We then had a short ride along the A530 or Middlewich Road and one I was keen to get off.
Turning right along Brookhouse Lane we headed towards Minshall Vernon where we turned right heading towards Darnhall and the hill.
Continuing on and heading for Wettenhall we took Hickhurst Lane and on route to Tarporley.
At Tarporley we decided to continue on to the ICF instead of stopping for afternoon tea here and took the usual route back to Brassey where Dave continued on to Christleton and Paul and I to the Ice Cream Farm.
Arrived at 15:00 and with no other bikes evident we said farewell and I carried on back to Chester.
I covered 67 miles and the route covered by the group a very enjoyable 52 miles in reasonable autumn weather.

14th November 2013: Grindley Brook (mod)

Following a damp, gusty ride to the Ice Cream Farm the four of us, Bryan, Dave H, Clive and Jim, were not very enthused by Ivan’s suggestion of a speedy 52 mile thrash to the environs of the Potteries, preferring instead a more sedate trot of about 35 miles to Grindley Brook, just north of Whitchurch.
I had chosen a route sweeping to the west of Malpas, through the Wyches to the Horse and Jockey on the A41 at Grindley Brook.  With strong winds forecast for the afternoon, I had planned a shorter ride for the return north through Cholmondely and Brown Knowl: only about 15 miles but far enough in a strong head wind.
As things transpired, the morning threw a few heavyish showers at us but we arrived at the pub reasonably dry. The wind did pick up after lunch but for the most part we were well protected by the hedges.
We returned to the ICF just after 15:00, where Bryan opted for a short re-fuelling stop. Clive, Dave and Jim kept going and just about got back to base before it went dark.
A heartening 55 miles - good going for a cold wet windy day that just shows it's generally worth making the effort.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 8 November 2013

7th November 2013: Overton

With the promise of a fine day ahead I decided on a 13 mile loop via the Greenway and back along the river cycle path to the Little Roodee to warm the legs up.  Upon arrival new rider Paul White was already there and keen for the day ahead. Thirteen riders assembled at the café: Bryan, Clive, Ray, Roy, Stephen, Dave H, Trevor, George, Ivan, new rider Paul W, Dave M, Dave R and myself. I put forward a ride to Overton and the White Lion pub, which was accepted by Bryan, and was happy for me to lead my first ride. Dave M and Dave R were only out for coffee.
So eleven of us set off over the Old Dee Bridge via Handbridge for Eccleston, we pick up the old Wrexham road bound for Marford hill and left past Gresford flash and across the foot bridge and down into Wrexham. We then make our way along Cefn Road to Bedwll Road left at Cross Lanes heading for Bangor-on-Dee, where we stop on the cobble bridge for Bryan to wipe his nose [sorry Bryan] we take the Overton Road out of Bangor onto Cloy Lane and into Overton for about 12:30pm, food was promptly served from the two for £9.95 menu.

Photograph by Paul Rose

We set back out at 13:45 returning down Cloy Lane but keep on this road for Hollybush and Theapwood out onto the B5069 and left through the lanes to Tilston left at the Carden Arms left again along Wetreins Lane and into Holt for afternoon coffee at Hildegard’s. Ivan, Stephen, Trevor, and George head back to Chester via Aldford the rest head back along the Rossett Road to Pulford onto Dodleston turning right along Lache Lane and back to the Little Roodee café completing the 49 miles or closer to 60 miles for those cycling home.  Yet again another great Easy Riders day with good company and friends.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

31st October 2013: Ellesmere

Seven of us assembled at Hildegard’s with the prospect of indifferent weather ahead. Both Trevor and Brian Mac had only come for the café, leaving Ray, Andy, Petar, Tish and Steve for the day. Tish is new: she joined last Thursday’s group for part of the ride and obviously liked what she found, for today she was back for a full ride.  Andy suggested Ellesmere as our destination, and so everyone else nominated him as our leader for the day.
We had a delightful journey out with reasonable weather and a modest headwind, passing through Shochlach, Worthenbury, Holly Bush and Duddleston, to approach Ellesmere unusually from the NW. This is where things started to go wrong.  First the weather changed, with an initial shower turning to heavy rain, then Petar was nearly wiped out by a lorry, and then Steve got separated from the group by traffic.  Eventually we reassembled in the warming atmosphere of the Red Lion, where sustained by the over-60s menu, we refreshed ourselves and dried off. 

Photograph by Stephen Haywood

When we emerged from the pub, the rain had stopped and we plotted a return via Penley and Threapwood, before rejoining our outward route for the final few miles. Andy warned us of a few steep hills on the return, but a fine afternoon and an encouraging tailwind helped us on our way.  We paused at Sarn Bridge, near Threapwood, for our photo and noticed the Queen Head Hotel as a possible future pub stop, until we saw it was closed.
A relatively short 35 miles in total brought us back into Holt for a final stop at Hildegard’s by 3pm, in plenty of time before an early dusk following the clocks changing at the weekend. Tish and Petar drove back and the rest of us cycled back towards Chester.

Friday 25 October 2013

24th October 2013: Whitchurch

A couple of thank you: first to all those who gave me their £5 Xmas Lunch deposit, bringing the total number of diners to eighteen.  Secondly to Jim who led today’s ride back in March, but in the opposite direction.  As the pub then was such an excellent choice, it just had to be revisited: more of that later.  I simply copied most of his route onto a very high-tech page from a 3”: 1 mile road atlas. 
It was good to see both Mike M & Dave M at the cafe, even if it was only for coffee.  A new rider from Utkinton “Tish” also joined us for the first 10 miles to Malpas, where she had to turn off; after having read the CER Blogs over recent weeks, she decided to give us a try.  Hopefully we’ll see her again.
George (finally recovered from his SECOND End2End ride), Lizzie, Paul, Ray, Roy, Dave R, Steve and I set off on what promised to be a warm & sunny autumnal day in an anti-clockwise direction through Clutton, Malpas and The two Wyches.  These two villages are said to be named after medieval “wych-elms”, while their larger Roman neighbour “Whitchurch” had a white stone church.  Lunch at The Black Bear, Church Street (01948 663800) opposite the big parish church, again lived up to expectations. On the plus side, drinks and food were both served quickly but a minus point was given to the all-time rip-off £3 for a lime and soda.  £3 was much better spent on a pint of Shroppie Gold, which really was the VERY best pint all year.

Photograph by Brian MacDonald

Shortly after re-starting, we passed the town cemetery that displayed a plaque for “The Commonwealth War Graves Commission”.  I thought that these peaceful places only existed where battles had raged, but here were buried WWll airmen who had died at a Polish hospital to the west of the town.  Continuing NE through Wrenbury, we paused & posed for a photo-stop in front of an unusual mill at Acton.  After 16 miles we adjourned for afternoon tea & cake for the princely sum of 80p at the Metropolitan Knitting Centre Café at Aston-juxta-Mondrum.  Continuing NW through Wettenhall and Eaton, we dropped Lizzie back at Utkinton after 46 miles, George and I stopped at Duddon, while the rest continued to Chester.  All in all, the usual high standard CER day, with sun, gentle wind, good company, fine food and excellent beer.  What more could you ask for?

Friday 18 October 2013

17th October 2013: Handley

Well, here I am writing my first ever blog report, which means I have finally led my first ride. (About time really since I have been cycling with the group for over 3 years.)  I’m still not sure how it came about, though, because when I left home for the Gallery Coffee Shop in Hawarden I had only intended to cycle up to the venue to pay my fiver deposit for the Christmas Lunch ride then wend my way gradually back home through the Cheshire countryside. As I arrived Jim was locking his bike to the railings and said that he only fancied an easy ride and since we live in the same village we decided that we would plot a route home and leave the rest to head off into the hills.
We went in to find Clive, Martin, Bryan, Brian Mac, and Colin already there. Brian Mac was the first to say hello followed quickly by ‘get your wallet out’ and he had soon parted us from our £5 deposits. Jim and I set about plotting our route home and it soon became apparent that several others fancied an easier/shorter ride and suddenly I found myself nominated as the leader. We just had to decide on a suitable lunch stop and the Calveley Arms at Handley was decided upon. Dave P and Liz had arrived on their tandem by this time and just before we were about to leave Dave M turned up but said he wasn’t riding with us and was going to ride straight home. As we climbed onto our bikes Bryan Mac suddenly announced that he had a hospital appointment and promptly rode off in the opposite direction along with our Christmas lunch deposits. (Did anyone get a receipt?). 
The remaining eight of us set off down the Wrexham Road before turning left onto the small road that would take us up the back of Bilberry Wood to the footbridge across the A55. It is quite steep in places and a long gradual climb but I knew that once we reached the top we would have finished climbing for the day (except for the riders returning to Hawarden). After crossing the A55 we turned right then left into Chester Road and continued into Lower Mountain Road by-passing the village of Pen-y-Mynydd. Then a left and right into Sandy Lane and Dave P announced that we were about to pass ‘Jimi Hendrix’. Sure enough in the garden to our right was an old tree trunk that had been carved into the shape of a rock guitarist. No one knows who it is supposed to be but Dave had christened it Jimi Hendrix and I must admit there was a certain resemblance.
From there we turned into Shordley Road and dropped down Cobblers Lane into Burton passing under the A483 and over the railway to emerge in Rossett. At this point several riders expected me to turn right and head up Marford Hill towards Hoseley Bank. I had always turned left here and so I had to assert my authority as leader and we turned left before bearing right towards the Holt road. A quick right again took us down a quiet country lane to emerge onto the Holt Road near the Griffin Inn. I had thought of this as a suitable lunchtime stop but we were far too early. Maybe that’s for another day when we start our ride from the Little Roodee. Another unexpected turn then, when I led them off the Holt road to the right. Someone pointed out that we were now heading away from Holt. Well, yes, slightly but we were heading towards Hoseley Bank which is where they had wanted to go ten minutes before.
At the T-junction on Hoseley Lane Martin turned right to head home and the rest of us turned left. It was then that disaster struck. I had turned round in my saddle to say goodbye to Martin and as a result I think I was in too high a gear for the incline. I tried to change down but in doing so my chain broke. Closer inspection showed that the powerlink had broken. A fairly easy thing to replace - except that I didn’t have one. Up steps Jim to the rescue. He has one for an 8-speed bike. Mine is a 9-speed but the consensus is that it should work and at least get me home. However after placing one half of it in one end of the chain I manage to drop the other half where it disappeared into the fallen leaves. Another disaster! So now I have a power link made up of half 9-speed and half 8-speed but at least we are moving again.
We turned left back towards Holt through Commonwood and arrived in the village close to Hildegard’s. We couldn’t pass Hildegard’s without going in and time was getting on. We solved that dilemma by turning just before the café and took the back road down to the bridge to cross the River Dee into England. We turned left towards Churton then right to Coddington and left again towards Handley. Final we arrived in Handley – a delightful village spoilt only by the fact that Scottish Power seemed to have most of it dug up.
At the Calveley Arms we found that we were behind a large party and had to wait half an hour for our food but the conversation flowed and the time passed quickly. Three of the group had cars parked back at Hawarden so rather than have to cycle through the middle of Chester Dave, Liz & Colin decided to retrace our route back to the start. The four of us remaining made our way back towards Chester via Tattenhall and Waverton. Bryan and Clive peeled off at Christleton and Jim and I made our own way home. A pleasant slow-paced ride on a pleasant sunny autumn day yet we still managed a round trip of 43 miles. 

Friday 11 October 2013

10th October 2013: Shrewsbury

The weather was perfect; bright skies, lots of sunshine and a northerly headwind - an autumn day to relish riding down, for most riders, new country lanes - what's not to like about this ride! So a cyclist's dozen of bikes with 12 riders (Liz, Martin, Liz & Dave, Petar, Steve, Dave M, Bryan, Brian, Ray, Andy and I) congregated at the Sleap Airfield café overlooking runway 05-23. Bacon sandwiches and coffee set us up for a 47 miler calling at Shrewsbury for lunch at the Coach and Horses on Swan Hill. 

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

There were so many small villages and hamlets on this ride that I have chosen not to name them all including the blogger's eponymously named village that we cycled through, but the photo tells all. On an easterly loop out, I manage not to disappoint the group in finding a tiny lane to Stanton upon Hine Heath; it was metalled once about 25 years ago! The countryside is open and rolling with high-hedged lanes protecting us from the wind. Turning south to Ellerdine Heath, I deviate from the planned route to ensure we end up in Shrewsbury on time. We wiggle our way to Upton Magna and here, at the confluence of NCR 81 and 45, we take the 81 right into the town centre. My bike nav is playing up, but luckily Andy has been this way before so at Uffington he correctly accesses the former railway line towards the banks of the River Severn. We cycle right on along the river bank for nearly a mile exiting right by Swan Hill. 

Thanks to Clive for this one
The Coach and Horses pub was chosen on the advice of Brian's mate, who is a Shrewsbury pub aficionado. He wasn't wrong; a group table was laid up for us whilst we park our bikes behind an office block. There is a good choice of ale and food, and soon seated, the food arrives promptly. Back down Swan Hill, we continue a leisurely cycle along the river bank before walking across the bridge to begin our Shrewsbury exit route. There next follows quite a lot of thankfully quiet main road, although it is still the NCR81. At Montfort Bridge, we get back onto country roads bound for Baschurch. From here, the looping lane to Myddle sets us up for returning to Sleap café. The chocolate cake is demolished and Christmas Lunch deposits expertly extracted by Brian. A perfect ride to finish off the "summer" season.

Thursday 3 October 2013

3rd October 2013: Delamere

The weather forecast was dreadful, and the thought of being drenched in the hills above Chirk did not appeal. So given that there was a fine weather window locally, a modified Roodee ride was cobbled together this morning at 07:30. The idea was to meet at the Roodee but cycle out to the end of the Greenway to sample the new café at Meadow Lea Farm before then riding in a loop not too far from home, just in case the deluge came earlier than expected. The café is in a brand new building and the fare was good - perhaps an alternative start point for Roodee or Manley rides? So Dave H, Dave R, Steve, Ivan, Andy and I set off bound for Delamere station café for lunch. Liz and Martin were back from their high altitude training in Bolivia and Peru, but were only out for coffee today. 
It was not an obvious route out in that we went north to Cheshire Oaks Cycles then down the aptly named Oil Sites Road to Ince and Elton. "Are we going over the marshes" - "No, we're going to Manley!" So over the motorway we go, then up onto the Avanley Road past Manley School and onto to the Delamere forest road. At the junction at Hatchmere, I turn left to cries of "the cafe is the other way". All in good time! We now ride down two idyllic lanes (except for White Van Man!) towards Crowton, then back round the loop through Norley to Hatchmere again and, this time, turn left to the Delamere Station cafe arriving around 13:00 with 25 miles completed. 
Anxious not to push our weather luck, we leave before 14:00 bound for Kelsall via Eddisbury Hill. In Kelsall, Steve drops off to go home, while I notice that Dave H is missing. Apparently, he wanted to make his own way back to Mickle Trafford where his car was parked. We now head for Mickle Trafford via Oscroft (where Dave R heads for Waverton) and then Barrow. There was a little rain in the air now, but as Andy, Ivan and I enter Mickle Trafford on the A56, the heavens open and the promised heavy rain has now arrived. Andy presses on to take the Greenway whilst Ivan offers to run me home from his house where we are now bound. He was locked out (don't ask), apologies profusely, but there was nothing for it for me now to press on in the rain while Ivan headed for the Royal Oak to keep warm and out of the rain. The route was 39 miles and as I arrived home early at 15:00, I decided to wash the bike there and then - the first time in what seems months.

PS: Please ensure you have registered for the Shrewsbury Special Ride next week.

Sunday 29 September 2013

26th September 2013: Wybunbury

On arrival at the Ice Cream Farm Clive and I were greeted by Mike M holding open the gate for us to pass and join the group already waiting for coffee.  Mike was himself joining us for coffee and promising to get the bike out!
Already gathered were Dave M and Andy, both out on their bikes but also only joining for coffee.  Well-done Dave (wife and friends) on his contribution for the MacMillan fund raising cake morning and raising £230.00.  Andy back from his epic 1,500 mile cycle ride but sadly not joining the group today.  Harder ride looming Saturday.
Two routes were proposed for today by Dave H and Ivan, and the saunter to Wybunbury won the vote!  Ready for a prompt start were Dave H, Steve T (out for his second ride), Kevin, Dave & Liz on the tandem, Clive, Dave Raynor and Ivan.  So with a turn right on the road we say farewell to the coffee hoppers and set off towards Beeston.
It was a lovely autumnal morning and the Tandem was cracking the pace on the front.  Passing Beeston Castle and heading towards Bunbury and doing a loop round Dob lane we join Cappers lane to Brindley, Baddiley and passing the secret bunker (French lane), into Nantwich and on to Wybunbury.
Arriving at the Swan at 12:30 and ready for lunch.
As a new venue for CER the pub offered good food although half the menu was not available.
As the group had sprinted the outward leg of 23 miles in good time it was agreed that Clive would increase the return route back to the ICF so after lunch we set off again towards Wrinehill.  Thursdays would not be the same if we only encountered country lanes so before long we were bumping along the grassy verge of Gonsley Green lane to Chorlton.  On through Hough, Shavington and Nantwich and taking a right hand diversion along Welshman’s Lane and the well cycled route through Wettenhall, Eaton and afternoon tea at the Old Fire Station at Tarporley.
After the welcome tea and cake stop we happily set off for the final miles home.  At the junction of Brassey Green we split with some riders going back to the ICF and Clive, Ivan and Dave sprinting back to Waverton and Chester.
The round trip from and to the ICF was 53 miles and for the Chester riders 72miles.  An enjoyable good days riding with the bonus of lovely autumn weather.

Sunday 22 September 2013

19th September 2013: Irby Hill

I’d been looking forward to today for quite some time: my first day back cycling with CER after an enforced five months out of the saddle.  A start from Ness gardens promised an easy first ride, so even though the wet weather didn’t put me off, it did confirm the decision to drive to the start!  By 10:00 I was the only one there although Steve turned up a few minutes later, to be followed by Dave H in his civvies.  Given his extended tale of woe and jobs to be done, including his new post of kennel master, we were honoured that he made the time to join us for coffee.  Steve and I agreed a route: Eastham Ferry, Port Sunlight, Storeton, Barnston and Irby for lunch at Irby Mill or the Farmers Arms.  At half past the hour Ivan arrived to make a riding group of three.
From Ness Gardens we head up to Ness and turn right towards Willaston to join the Wirral Way for a couple of miles.  Then it’s the back roads to Childer Thornton and on to Eastham Ferry where we stop to admire the hazy view across the Mersey where it’s just possible to make out the grey mass of the Anglican Cathedral through the drizzle.  Oh the joys of cycling!

Photograph by Ivan Davenport

Leaving Eastham ferry behind we take the off-road cycle path along the coast before turning off along the disused rail line path to Port Sunlight.  Port Sunlight is gearing up for it’s annual festival when we arrive.  We make do with a leisurely tourist circuit from the Heritage Centre to the Lady Lever Gallery and back, before leaving the town to climb through the suburbs to Storeton.  It is now decision time: Landican or Barnston?  Personally I prefer the more scenic Landican route but bearing in mind the weather we opt for Barnston and find ourselves heading straight into the wind.  Ivan kindly goes in front to give me some shelter but I just can’t stay with him and so struggle on to the main road where we at last get some shelter.
On the way through Pensby Steve notes that it’s already lunchtime and Ivan consults the Good Pub Guide on his smartphone and announces that we are only a few miles from a list of “good” pubs.  I was pleased to note that his list included the intended lunch stop of Irby Mill.  No change of plan needed, so it was only a few more minutes before we were flying through Irby and turning into Irby Mill pub off the roundabout.
Irby Mill proved to be much better than I remembered: a brilliant choice of ales including Tribute, Two Hoots and Autumn Red plus an excellent range of food.  Steve’s choice of fish and chips saw the arrival of the largest battered fish imaginable.  Another venue to add to the repeat visits list then.
14:00 hours saw us ready to leave the pub with the decision made to head back along the Wirral Way.  A left turn at Royden Park and we were heading downhill to the coast to join the Wirral Way in Caldy for a leisurely ride through to Parkgate.  From here on, we looked out for a link path down to the old docks and the Harp Inn but missing the link we came off the Wirral Way by the rail bridge and took the road to descend from the mini-roundabout to the Harp and onto the Burton Marshes link path.  The newly opened farm café, aka Net’s Coffee Shop, along here proved too much of a temptation and we stopped for coffee and cake where Steve admitted that he had eaten more cake since he started cycling than ever before! 
After a relaxing break Ivan headed back to Chester across Burton Marshes while Steve and I climbed back up to Ness Gardens to complete an enjoyable 33 mile ride.  Thanks go to Ivan and Steve for staying with me on my first ride back.

Sunday 15 September 2013

12th September 2013: Ellesmere

I had ridden out to Hildegard's with Ivan. His Garmin told him he was running his heart up to 166 beats/min - so that's why we got there so quickly! No one had prepared a route, so I offered to make one up "on the tyres" towards Ellesmere. So Steve, Dave H, Paul, Ivan and myself set off with the Tandem Two bound for Wetreins Lane (mercifully "repaired") and Tilston. Here the tandem sanctioned an early split by making their own way to the favoured Red Lion. We duck down to Chorlton bound for a reverse Dymock's Mill transit to cross Wych Brook. This transit is best made from south to north, but was OK today since it was dry under tyre. Out through Talland Green, we head for Little Arowry and Hanmer. We discover that the "Hanmer Arms" is closed and up for sale! Rejoining the A539 for a short while, we dive off left down a narrow grass-centred lane Welshampton way. Just off the main road in Welshampton I notice an even narrower and grass centred "lane" towards Colmere so up and down it we go. In the dip by the canal and the mere, we find a beautiful thatched cottage: the cue for a Lord Litchfield moment. 

Photograph by Clive Albany

Turning right on the outskirts of Colmere, we find another lovely lane taking us to Spunhill and the main drag into Ellesmere. As ever the Red Lion is welcoming and the food is plentiful, tasty and excellent value on the Pensioners Two Course special. Very soon the tandem appears to join us for lunch. Bizarrely they have covered a mile further than we did to get to the pub. The weather has improved as I guide the group back along my favourite lanes to Farndon. Only 40 miles round trip today with only one off-road lane, plus two grass centred lanes. On a day that started out with wet roads, but just got better as the day progressed, I shall nevertheless need to wash the bike - sometime soon.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

5th September 2013: Aston (mod)

Two Runcorn guys were joining us for the first time:  Karl Ashton and Steve Tan.   I knew they were both strong and fit, but were only just getting into cycling, so a moderate ride led by Jim had been planned.  It was great to see Mike Morley looking and feeling relatively well, and learning later that he had been inspired to take a short ride that afternoon.  
The aspirational group led by Clive took off as agreed, including George on temporary loan.  The newcomers and myself then headed downhill behind Jim.   Jim promptly fell off due to gravel as he attempted to turn left into Smithy Lane.  Fortunately, his accident was at low speed so although badly winded and a bit damaged around the edges, we didn’t need to call the air ambulance for him.  Once we had walked back to Rose Farm Garden Centre with Jim we set off again, unfortunately without him, and only myself having any knowledge off possible routes.  We didn’t even have a Chester and Wrexham OS map.  We headed for Nantwich at a steady pace via Heath Green, Eaton and Wettenhall.  We tried to cycle through the grounds of Reaseheath College, but retreated having been confronted with large tar rolling vehicles, and not wanting to invite any further accidents. On reaching the edge of Nantwich we turned west passing the marina, where you can enjoy a snack sitting in the sun on the boardwalk, next to the narrow boats and glittering waters of Basin End.  On our left was Dorfold Hall, a Grade1 listed Jacobean building.  We passed The Star pub that has recently won a good food award, but it is too early for eating.  Left at St. Mary’ Church, Acton with its fine C13th. Tower.  We decide to give the Farmer’s Arms a miss at Ravensmoor, and eventually cross the River Weaver by footpath down the delightful track past Woodcotthill Farm direct to the Bhurtpore Inn.  Three curries and three lime and sodas; for the record there are lots of interesting beers on offer, and a pretty barmaid.  Mike Morley would be purring like the Cheshire Cat if he was with us today.
Our route back is via Wrenbury, and a combination of my sketchy memory and a map app on Steve’s phone got us back through Chorley before crossing the A534 at Brindley.  On reaching Tilly’s at Bunbury we met Petar and Steve who had lost touch with their brisk brethren.  Cake and coffee arrived at the same time as Clive and the rest of his merry men.  It was a pleasant surprise for us all to be together again, before we went our different ways back on the last leg.  Our hilly route back to the cars, particularly the steep climb at Tilstone Bank, showed our newcomers that even easy riders on a moderate ride have to put their back into it occasionally!  My two new guests thoroughly enjoyed their ride and I fully expect to see them again. They coped admirably, and although we deliberately went at a modest pace it was obvious that they are easily capable of going further and faster if required.   Cappuccino and cake-curry-to cappuccino and cake was about 2,000 calories. Distance just short of 38 miles. 

Saturday 7 September 2013

5th September 2013: Swettenham (brisk)

The "last day" of the long run of summery weather found us at Rose Farm with two rides in prospect. Dave H had arrived with two friends and was going to be riding with Jim. My ride to Swettenham was an easy sell to Petar, Dave R, Steve and George. As it happened, both the rides went out towards the Whitegate Way and then across the canal and railway into Davenham albeit by slightly different routes. Dave M was out for a local ride round, so accompanied us to Cotebrook. The ride out was unremarkable except that the roads were largely deserted and we were speedy. Arriving at the Swettenham Arms just after 12:00, we were sitting in the sun discussing literary historical writing styles and munching our somewhat expensive repast. However there was a wide range of good ales.

Photograph by Clive Albany
We were soon setting out again at 13:00 and took the rideable bridle path through the Davenport Estate in the lovely river Dane valley. The lonely long lanes through Brereton soon found us on the outskirts of Middlewich. There is no pretty way round this town, so after a lot of housing estate, we exit on the Nantwich road bound for Winsford. Ditto here, to enable us to out onto the Wettenhall Road. It was still early, so I proposed a deviation to Tilley’s, which was seconded and approved. Towards the end of Long Lane, the leading trio turn right and as I can see Steve and Petar not too far behind, I assume they have seen us turn. The trio dawdles along the lane then waits at the Tollemarche Arms for the duo to appear but appear they do not. As they know where we all going, we set off bound for Bunbury. Guess who is sitting down at Tilley's then - the dynamic duo plus Dave H plus two friends but minus Jim. Jim had taken a fall but was OK, though he had gone home. The circular return would have been via Tarporley for a 54 mile circuit. However as George had his car at Duddon, Steve was going to Kelsall, and Dave R to Waverton, the four of us set off via Beeston and Burton bound for our respective homes. As I arrive home with 80 miles under the tyres, I can't remember when I needed to wash the bike over recent weeks - no doubt this is about to change!
PS: It was really an unexpected pleasure to see Mike Morley at Rose Farm café this morning. It was good to catch up on events. He was looking very well and upbeat. He hasn't been out on his bike yet but doesn’t rule it out. Hopefully we shall see him for coffee again when we are meeting not too far from Delamere.

Friday 30 August 2013

29th August 2013: St Asaph

Another lovely summer's day - when will it end? Paraphrasing Bryan's explanation of why we start in the Gallery Café "Hawarden means hills" and so it was. Jim and Bryan were riding out for coffee only so I lead out Ray, Ivan, Martin, Steve and George on a 50 mile circular to the Plough at St Asaph. I figure that the main roads will be quieter just now so this is a chance to go on a few rather than duck around all the lanes. The idea was to follow the A541 out of Mold to Bodfari. Apparently this is the most dangerous road in North Wales but I only find this out the following morning! So off via Buckley and Altami we head for Sychdyn. Here Martin's front tyre goes flat; this being the second of the day as I had found my own tyre flat in the garage at home before I set out today. No more flats I instruct the group and they comply! Up towards Gwernaffield, we exit right down a delightful lane to Rhydymwyn just touching the A541 before climbing out to run parallel for a mile or so then back on the A541 for two miles before exiting through Nannerch. A similar approach here finds us back on the A541 just before Ddol. Now we have nearly 5 miles of a slightly downhill run at 20mph to Bodfari. A quick right takes us along to Tremerchion where the locals seem to be celebrating, in tableau format, various aspects of breakfast (and PG Tips + monkeys).  (Bryan: cue picture and no comments pls!)
Photographs by Ivan Davenport

Taking the B road into St Asaph, we arrive at the Plough after 27 miles. Although it is a bit pricey (£1.50 for a L&S), the food is plentiful and enjoyable. Martin correctly predicts the return route will be using Rhuallt Hill Old Road. We exit the back way out the town to start the 3 mile uphill climb as we run parallel to the A55. The route back is predictable from here via Babel, but I add a twist by taking in Lixwm and Rhys-y-Cae before the fast run down to Northop. Here George splits for home as the rest of us run back into Hawarden where Martin drops off home. A 50 mile circuit with "only" 2,242ft of climbing but it felt considerably more to my legs! So as the four of us take the Dee path into Chester we will have 65 on the clock and I wonder if this the last summery day's ride? - next week will tell.

Friday 23 August 2013

22nd August 2013: Lymm

Another lovely summer's day in prospect at Manley Mere.  Relaxing in the sun as I arrived was Bryan, Dave M and George. Dave M was in "not on my bike for some time" mode, but the good news was that Bryan was in CER cycling strip and had cycled out for coffee. Having been given the "you can get back on your bike" medical approval he was taking it steady for a while. Another pair of lost souls then arrived - Jim was out today as was Ivan back from his motor home summer peregrinations. "Where are we going?" is the cry – “50m to Lymm or 60m to Croft” - George decides on the basis that he is unsure where Croft is. To be honest, I hadn't prepared a ride today but just downloaded two routes from summer 2011. So with the Pike Pair completing the group of five bikes I lead out for Delamere. At Hatchmere Jim turns for home and we cut through Forest Lane and down the lovely Beech Lane bound for the Weaver. Out via Acton Bridge, we head for Antrobus and the winding lanes towards Lymm. A quick diversion to the koi carp pool in the centre of Lymm then finds us at the Crown Inn's beer garden tucking into "2 for £10" repast-and tasty it was!

Photographs by Clive Albany

The afternoon is warming up to the high 20s as we take a modified route back since I wanted to explore a short cut in Grappenhall. So we take the cycleway past the cricket pitch and circle Grappenhall Heys Garden to Fox Covert Cemetery. Down the third "No through" road, we exit at Appleton reservoir bound for Moore.
Runcorn has a maze of cycleways but I stick to the canal side complete with herons and canal boats. Out via Weston we decide to take a Costa Coffee in Frodsham. Here Ivan splits for home, then George and I do the same leaving Liz and Dave to wend their way back to Manley. So 50 miles in glorious sunshine with some panoramic views on the way and a recycled 2011 route to enjoy.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

15th August 2013: Llanarmon DC

Only Roy, Liz and Martin arrived at the Tea Rooms in Chirk.  This, a rather upmarket cafe with good scones and coffee but a poor taste in piped music that even follows you to the toilet.  We decided to take a route SW to Llanarmon DC and a flatter return along the Ceriog valley back to Chirk.  On walking out of the cafe we met Dave and Liz P driving down the main street.  They pulled up and after a short discussion they decided to do their own thing in view of the hilly terrain with the possibility to meet up for lunch.  The three of us set out and immediately hit a short steep hill out of the town.  The hills continued with 15-20% gradients appearing frequently on the Garmin.  Roy, of course, led on the climbs but was happy to wait at the top for the oldies to catch up.  The further west we rode the wilder the countryside became with views to the left of the Berwyn summits.  Finally a long steep climb brought us to the highest point.

Photograph by Liz Donaldson
Outside The Hand in Llanarmon DC

From here it was down hill all the way to Llanarmon DC where we found a choice of two pubs.  A conversation with a group sitting outside The Hand made the choice for us.  In particular they recommend the steak sandwich.  Before even entering the pub we saw Liz and Dave riding towards us having followed the Ceriog valley - almost perfect timing!  The food was excellent albeit expensive (£8 for steak sandwich and chips). We all took the same route back along the Ceriog Valley and this was much easier but very pleasant. Liz and Dave decided to do some exploring whilst the remainder of us returned to our cars in Chirk having clocked some 33 miles, 850m of ascent and no punctures.
I think Chirk deserves to be a more popular starting point.  It is short drive in terms of time with the alternative of a train journey from Chester.  There is beautiful surrounding countryside with quite lanes, plenty of interesting hills, a good cafe and choice of lunch stops.

Tuesday 13 August 2013

8th August 2013: Aston

On yet another lovely summers day Ray, George, Dave & Liz P, Clive, Steve, Mike G, Trevor, Liz and Martin D gathered at the Ice Cream Farm.  Dave M also turned up for coffee but did not ride.  Martin, in the absence of any other contributions, suggested a ride to the perennial favourite - the Bhurtpore Arms at Aston.  We took a fairly standard route at a moderate pace over Harthill and then through Brown Knowl, skirting Malpas, No Mans Heath and Marbury.  With only a few miles to go there were two punctures in quick succession for Clive and Martin but we still arrived at the Bhurtpore Arms in good time for lunch.  The usual wide selection of excellent real ales and curries were on offer.  I think the curries produced by this traditional English pub are easily superior to those offered by most Indian Curry Houses.  All but two of us ordered the spicy fare.  In Clive's case this might have not been a wise choice as on the way back he had to drop off the back into the bushes for a call of nature and there was quite a wait before he rejoined the group.  The route back was in a northerly direction with a stop at Tilley's Cafe, Bunbury for tea/coffee and cakes.  From there it was a short ride back via Beeston to the Ice Cream Farm. A ride of only 40 miles but pleasant enough and still a reasonable distance for the majority of riders returning to Chester.

Saturday 3 August 2013

1st August 2013: Birkenhead

With the long ride happening today, only a select group was expected at Little Roodee. It turned out to be very select with just Brian Mac and Steve, though Bryan joined us for coffee at the start. 
Brian proposed a tour of the Wirral and we set off along the River Dee to Hawarden Bridge and then across Burton Marshes (PIC 1) before striking out NW for the Mersey shore by way of Port Sunlight. Passing the Lever Art Gallery our eyes were caught be the sight of a dozen new and shiny cycles, including a tandem, set out on the grass.  With a small detour we discovered a young guy who’d just launched a cycle hire enterprise (www.wirralcycle.weebly.com).

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

Shortly after we hit the shoreline and followed this on generally quiet roads and tracks to Birkenhead and a photo stop (PIC 2) with Liverpool and the Three Graces behind us. Just up the road was Gallagher’s Pub and Barbers. Yes a barbers!, though drinking and having a haircut at the same time don’t mix – you get hairs in your pint. It has the distinction of being a CAMRA Merseyside pub of the year. It served good beer, but unfortunately not food, although they were open to customers bringing their own from the café at 32 Market St. 
After our stop we headed for the seaside and the crowds, passing a pirate ship made from driftwood swarming with children (PIC 3), as we followed the Wallasey shoreline to New Brighton and loads of families enjoying the hot sunshine. Weaving carefully through the crowds we then followed the north Wirral coast to West Kirby, there picking up the Wirral Way and heading speedily down to our afternoon tea stop, Elephant Coffee in Neston, winner of the Café Society’s Gold Award (PIC 4).
Being on his doorstep, Brian headed home shortly after and Steve continued back until meeting the Greenway and heading home to Kelsall. If we’d returned to the Little Roodee it would have made a 62 mile round trip.

1st August 2013: Eccleshall (2013 long ride)

The day promised to be the hottest day in the year so far (in fact since 2003 according to the BBC) so the obvious thing to do is to ride for 100 miles in the heat. Were we put off? - No! There were nine of us starting out at 08:00 at a chilly (18˚ C) Chester station - Martin, Dave P, Dave H, Mike G, Ray, Colin W, Paul, Roy, and myself. To get out of Chester quickly, we take the canal all the way to Waverton. Up Guy Lane we run apace since we are 10 minutes late in meeting up with Jan at Duddon. Out via Utkinton, we take the Tarporley "bypass" to Eaton and thence on to Calveley Lane running parallel to the A51. A quick dash up the A51 takes us off at Barbridge and down Wettenhall and Welshman's Lane to access, via the back streets, the Nantwich café stop. We arrive slightly before they open at 10:00 but we are enthusiastically allowed in from the rear "bike park" door and are soon filling up on calories. 22 miles done 75 to go. Suitably refreshed the route takes us out passed the Secret Bunker turn to the outskirts of Audlem. Skirting the town to the south, we access national cycle route 75 to Norton in Hales. Crossing towards Mucklestone we are now in uncharted territory. The countryside here is gently rolling and turning out of the pretty village of Ashley, we take a long narrow lane to Slindon and Sturbridge on the outskirts of Eccleshall. 
Stomachs are rumbling as we pass through Eccleshall with cries of " Are we nearly there yet?" Well we are, as the Star Inn comes into sight at Cop Mere. 52 miles done, 44 to go. A really welcoming pub this is, who have reserved us a section of the bar following my earlier call. The selection of ale is good, as is the service and the food. 
Although we haven't seen much of the sun until now, it is out in full force as we meander up the lane taking the Bishop's Offley "bypass" via Walk Mill, and then towards Market Drayton. Passing Chipnall, we enter a hidden vale growing elephant grass (for biomass use) in the fields around. I really like this vale and have cycled it a few times now. Into Market Drayton we pass enticing close to the Jules brewery but soldier on to take the long 5 mile lane that takes up to Calverhall. After Ash Magna, we take the back way into Whitchurch. As one café eschews our custom, we find Jacks Café where we are enthusiastically welcomed with waitress service. 
Which way to leave Whitchurch? Why go up the main road when you can take the canal; so the canal ride brings us welcome shade and we end up near to the Malpas turn at Grindley Brook. A few miles from Malpas there is a rifle shot sound and Ray's rear tyre explodes. There is plenty of advice on hand and a patch is applied to the torn side wall, which holds all the way home for Ray. The plan is to meet up at the Carden Arms, so we all storm off from Malpas to Tilston. On counting up, a few are missing as Martin succumbs to a puncture. Nonetheless as he arrives at the pub, we all take a pint in the shade. Jan heads for home via Carden Hill and Tattenhall. We decide to amend the published route to go via Cuddington and Churton back to Chester. Here for some unknown reason (probably the sun getting to our heads) we steam along at c 20mph all the way back to Chester. Martin and Dave Pipe however took a slightly different route from Tilston via Farndon. 

Photographs by Clive Albany

Only 96.5 miles back in Chester, but with over the magic 100 on the dial as I arrive at home after a memorable day's cycling. Oh, just to say that Roy had cycled from Frodsham, so set off back with 130+ on the clock! My thanks to Dave M for the initial route suggestion - some beautiful Staffordshire countryside on display.
PS: They say things come in threes, so I shouldn't have been surprised to find a flat front wheel on my bike the morning after!

Friday 26 July 2013

25th July 2013: Maesbury Marsh

Mixed bag of weather predicted for the day as eleven of us congregated at Hildegard’s for the ride; Liz & Martin, Liz and Dave P (tandem), Jan, Brian Mac, Petar, Ray, Steve, Trevor and Mike G.  Bryan came out to survey his ‘clan’ and enjoy a morning coffee. He is not yet up to riding with us but I suggest when he does we have a ‘special ride’ to celebrate his return to the saddle.
Brian Mac enquired whether I had any suggestions for a lunch stop, I knew of a reasonable pub next to the Montgomery canal at Maesbury Marsh (Navigation Inn) a round trip of about 55 miles and this was accepted.
With a south westerly breeze against us we took the minor roads to Sutton Green, on through Bangor on Dee passing to the east of Overton via Cloy Hall and Adrafelin; then on through Dudleston Heath, Perthy and Welsh Frankton taking in the panoramic views to be found. We joined the A495 for a short length before turning left to Babbinswood, crossing the A5 near Aston Hall. The tandem duo were having difficulty keeping up with the main group of largely ‘brisk riders’ and decided they would proceed at a more leisurely pace to our lunch stop. As we were not far away I showed Dave P the intended route we were taking and agreed to meet up later. On to Maesbury Marsh with the remainder of the group or so I thought until when ordering lunch ‘Where’s Trevor & Petar?’ Mutterings of Bryan having me publicly flogged for losing two members of the group particularly after what happened earlier in the year were raised. Telephone calls were made to respective mobiles but no answer. Then out of the ‘blue’ they arrived about twenty minutes later having had a little tour of Maesbury and remembering the pub is next to the canal. 

Photographs by Mike Gilbert

After pleasant lunch and some nice ‘Stonehouse Station Bitter’ bitter we set off passing through Woolston, with a ‘tail wind’ taking us through West Felton and Grimpo. We bypassed Ellesmere by turning right at Tetchill and on through Lee and Colemere taking in some of the ‘Meres’ crossing the A495 at Welshampton. The sun was out and the cycling conditions were good.
Return to Hildegard’s was via Breaden Heath, Penley, Threapwood and Shocklach the group arriving back just after four thirty having covered 56 miles. Those from Chester and beyond will have cycled in excess of 75 plus miles.
Overall a very pleasant cycle ride. 

Friday 19 July 2013

18th July 2013: Goostrey

My recent e-mail suggestion for a volunteer to write the weekly CER Report was met with deathly silence, as was Bryan’s request to the group when we met up in Rose Farm; so, I thought that I’d start the ball rolling as the Pipe Duo were leading this ride out to Goostrey.   It was good to see both Bryan and Mike M for coffee before the start, where Bryan reminded us to sign up for the Special Rides coming-up soon.  

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

Andy, Brian, Dave M, Dave P, Dominic, Lizzie, Paul, Ray, Roy, Steve and Trevor all assembled for a disjointed group photo outside (pic 1).  Dave M initially led us at a smart pace out past the Race Track to the start of the Whitegate Way, where he peeled off home. A meander along the shaded former rail line (pics 2 & 3) brought us out near the canal in Winsford.  We continued east via Davenham (pron: Dave – n – ham, I was told), crossing the old Roman road that is now the A530.  Ten of us arrived at The Red Lion at Goostrey without a booking, but the manager didn’t mind, as they had served 50+ cyclists “much older than us” the previous day, with no problem.  
Our resident chemist Andy gave us good news when he announced that beer at 3.6% hydrates in this hot weather, but at > 4%, it doesn’t.  Question:  Can I have a skinful then at 3.4%?  I thought that the beer at the pub was better than the food, but it was good value, considering that the place is in the Manchester commuter belt.  
We took a southerly route back, led by our newest and youngest member, Dominic. After skirting Holmes Chapel, we passed to the south of Middlewich; for those who studied Latin, it was named “Salinae”, as the town was their largest supplier of that precious commodity, salt. A helmet-cam would have been useful here, when a plonker driver of a skip-lorry blasted his air-horn right next to us, causing Dave P to take to the hedge, fortunately without injury.  Unfortunately, it all happened so quickly, no one took his reggo or business name.
Passing through Church Minshull, we were all gasping in the very high temperatures by the time we reached The Shire Horse Centre at Cotebrook for a cuppa.  Continuing on the final leg, Liz and Trevor peeled off to their cars at Utkinton, after a very hot 50 miles, whilst the remainder went downhill to Chester, clocking about 75 miles.

Some lessons learned today for future leaders and writers of these Reports:
1 Make a note of who is riding before you set off, as you won’t remember a few days later.
2 Ask the leader where we have been, BEFORE you go home
3 Write it up asap, when details are still fresh
4 It doesn’t take long to scribble something down; this took < an hour
5 Bring an OS 1:50,000 map and a pencil.  It worked for Dave P & Dominic today.  Garmins are not compulsory
6 Leading by committee actually can work.  Most members have some local knowledge of an area, and don’t even need a map; just ask 


Friday 12 July 2013

11th July 2013: Horseshoe Pass

For Hawarden there were a lot of riders today viz; Brian Mac, Ivan, Ray, Steve, Roy, Paul, Dave P and his son, Dominic, and myself. Dave M was there in civvies nursing "you know what". It was going to be a hot one - weather-wise, hill-wise and rider-wise. "Where are we going then Clive? Up and over the Horseshoe Pass with lunch at the Abbey Grange Hotel complete with its "Llangollen" brewery attachment". No dissenting voices as we head out and over Buckley bound for Nercwys and Eryrys hills. After Llong, Roy breaks a link and quickly repairs it. Off again, we meet the local sheep farmer and his flock.  

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

The slog up to Eryrys is rewarded with a long swoop down to Llanarmon-yn-Lal. Here we briefly view the remains of a Welsh motte and bailey castle as we head out bound for the top of the Nant-y-Garth Pass. The slog up to the Ponderosa is rewarded by panoramic views of the hinterland. A text from Brian Mac confirms that he is not feeling too good, so he takes the Llandegla road back presumably to the Penyffordd railway station. We all enjoy the 3 mile helter-skelter ride down the new Horseshoe Pass, and passing the Britannia Inn, we stop at
Abbey Grange Hotel. The in-house brewed ale is judged to be good and the meals appear one at a time as we sit in the sun outside. I cannot elicit a serious discussion about blog writers (ref Brian Mac's email), so I settle for a generously provided second pint, and hence know I shall be writing the blog tonight!

Photographs by Dave Pipe

At 14:00, we set off for what turns out to a 29 mile return against the 22 mile outward journey. We take Old Coach road for a while, then up onto the A5 for a 100yds, then back down on a parallel lane with a very steep turn back to the A5. The original idea was to go back via the Llantysilio mountain road, but I judge the ascent to be too steep and terrain too exposed in the hot afternoon sun. So we motor along to

Carrog where some of us top up on fluids. We then take a long climb out and back up to the A5140 at Bryneglwys. Nipping off to the left we run parallel to the main road with fine views over the Vale of Clwyd. The route back was straightforward from here on the A5104 via Penyffordd to take on more fluids. We have ridden 51 glorious miles and "bikeroutetoaster" calculates 3560ft (1085m) of ascents. Not quite up to the Alpine lads sojourn, but exceptional on a very hot summer's day (at last!). With five of us returning to Chester, we will have cycled 70 hot miles, with Roy probably notching over a 100!