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 28 December 2014

26th December 2014: Hanmer

Manley Mere was to be the meeting point but it was closed, so the ever-reliable Hildegard’s was chosen. I arrived just after 10:00 to find John waiting outside.  Hildegard opened up shortly after and gave us a warm Christmas welcome.  A little later Dave M arrived, and we spoke about our Christmases and cycling.  Both John and Dave were only out for a brew and made their ways home.  I needed a bit more exercise after too much Christmas cheer, and followed an old ride southwards out of Holt to the west of the Dee to Bangor, then on to Penley and Bettisfield before looping back north towards Hanmer.  The return was via Cuddington Heath, then northwards east of the Dee to Farndon.
Despite bad weather warnings the ride out was dry though muddy and cold.  After a quick stop at the Hanmer Arms (always a good choice) the return was wet and murky.  A lone walker flagged me down just north of Shocklach – she was lost and wanted to know how to get back to the Carden Arms! I put her on her way and my good deed done, headed back to Farndon and then on to home increasingly wet.  The snow started after my return. 
One of those days when it was well worth the effort to get out.  The round trip from Holt to Hanmer would have been about 40 miles.

Sunday 21 December 2014

18th December 2014: Overton

I’d emailed around to see who might venture out to Alyn, and the few positives duly arrived at Alyn Water. Colin and I had ridden out from Chester to find Steve H already there. The Tandem Two duly arrived near to departure time. I’d original planned a big ride as my last ride of the year, but with inclement weather promised, and the certainty of high winds, the Horseshoe Pass would have to wait!  
We set off bound for Ellesmere into the teeth of a south easterly gale. Just passed Sainsbury’s, the wind really got up as we struggled up to the Maelor Hospital. In theory I had found a short cut to the Erdigg road via the Puleston Industrial Estate and, in practice it actually worked. A useful shortcut for the future methinks.  Erdigg was in the Christmas mood and the ice-decorated gates looked quite realistic.

Photograph by Clive Albany

We go through the various Sontleys and here the hedge shearers had been out. So, as I was thinking, “one of us is bound to succumb to a puncture”, my front tyre goes down. The puncture was not due to a thorn however, but a nasty piece of shattered windscreen. Two punctures in two weeks - enough for a season that is!  I divert down to Erbistock and the Dee is swollen but not too high. We slog up the main road to Overton fighting the incline and the wind. Stopping outside the White Horse to allow the tandem to catch up, there is a presumption of “we’ve had enough and this pub will do”. So solely in the interests of heading off a mutiny, and at only 14 miles from coffee, I readily agree it’s time for a warm bar and a pint. As ever, the White Horse offers friendly service and decent Joules beer. 
As no rain arrives, we decide we can’t stay any longer so I modify the route to connect into my planned return from Ellesmere. We set off bound for Ellesmere but soon take a delightful lane (well in summer it will be) to Lightwood Green. A right and left takes on the lanes to Cloy bound for Bangor. A short section of A525 takes us up to Cross Lanes and thence onwards to the outskirts of Wrexham. I decide to take a distinctly un-pretty direct route through the acres of housing estates bound for the Llay Road. The Tandem miss our left turn, although we see them behind us as we turn.  I chase after them but to no avail.  A voicemail tells us not to worry, so we motor on back to Alyn.  Only a paltry 28 miles and one of the shortest rides I’ve lead in 5 years of CER membership. Although the weather forecast was warning of showers, we barely had any rain all day - the Met Office really does need the £100m computer upgrade.  Colin and I motor back to Chester down Marford Hill and through Dodleston to clock up 60 miles.
Enjoy your Christmas festivities, and I hope Santa buys you that lightweight carbon exotica you’ve always drooled over. See you in 2015.

Saturday 13 December 2014

11th December 2014: Overton (brisk)

A wild day in prospect as four “Briskers" set off bound for The White Horse in Overton. The reason for the lunch location was to head into the stiff westerly winds on the way out and get blown home after lunch. The Moderates decided that they would also go to the White Horse and plotted their own route. So Ivan, John, Paul and myself set off on a non-obvious route up to the Pheasant at Burwardsley and over the top to Peckforton. This "footpath come cycle path" route is cyclable and is a useful shortcut. We have to share it with two white Discos today as their drivers practice their controlled-descent skills - why were they in white cars? - they probably won’t be at the end of the off-road training! At the Bickerton Poacher, we turn towards Bickerton and take the lane that shoulders Larkton Hill. Ducking down past Duckington, we cross the A41 at Edge Green bound for Kidnal. 
In Chorlton, I pick up a rear wheel puncture and don the latex gloves to effect the tube change. The wind is blowing now and the rain is in our faces as we try to make up time. At Cloy, I decide to cut out the experimental loop through Lightwood Green and go straight to the pub into the westerly winds. I’d phoned the pub earlier and was told that they had a Christmas party in but could accommodate us, and it would be OK. True to their word, we all were.
The Moderates were ensconced in one corner of the bar with their food order about to be delivered. We take the other corner and order the food, and Ivan and I sample Joules “Slumbering Monk” ale. The food comes quickly and a further two pints as well. Well it was soon time to get outside into the cold again and hurtle down Overton Hill, Wrexham-way bound. Ivan breaks off to go to Connah’s Quay to pick up his now mended Disco, as we three wend our way back to Holt via Cross Lanes. Eschewing the prepared ride, we now head for home. The route would have been 50 miles, but on a cold, wet, and windy December day the 60 miles I managed from home was quite enough today. The bike looks absolutely filthy - a jet-wash day tomorrow is in prospect.

11th December 2014: Overton (mod)

When a shaven headed guy from Runcorn gives you a steely stare you know it is time to step forward and "volunteer" to write up a ride.  Only kidding Dave.  Not that I am averse to the written word.  I am from the educational era where writing was taught sitting in rows in wrought iron desks bolted to the classroom floor.  Most of the teachers had taught your parents if not your grandparents.  Writing implements consisted of a piece of wood with a bendy metal nib in the end.  Ink the consistency of watered down boot polish was held in a ceramic pot in a hole at the top right hand corner of the desk lid, the least useful place for a left-hander.  Lifting said desk lid revealed the names of the majority of the people who lived in the village, scratched into the wood.  I was related to most of them, we were a close-knit community.
However, I digress.  The weather forecast was for the westerly wind to ease to a moderate gale and the torrential rain to reduce to the occasional hailstorm.  Good enough then.  Eleven of us assembled at the Ice Cream Farm.  Dave M and Bryan had other matters to attend to and Jim looking very fit and tanned after his two weeks in the Canary Islands was off to the Gym where it was warm and dry - sensible fellow.  After a "debate" reminiscent of Prime Minister's Question Time but without Mr Speaker to referee we decided to split into two groups.  Both would head for the White Horse at Overton.  The "brisk" group, which consisted of Clive, Ivan, Paul and John, were going to take the long way round to get the miles in.  The "moderate" group, Dave H, Steve H, Liz & Dave P and yours truly, who just wanted to get to the pub were going to take the direct route.  So out of the Ice Cream Farm and left into the wind.  Then left again heading south through Tattenhall, across the A41, through Clutton and across the A534.  The long sweep past the golf course, through Higher Carden and Lower Carden took us into Tilston.  Still heading south we skirted Horton Green before turning west into the wind again to reach Shocklach.  Turning south again we made Worthenbury before one last adjustment on the compass took us southwest through Holly Bush to Overton.
A friendly greeting from the landlady and a warning that two Christmas groups had rather overwhelmed them and our food could be delayed.  This is a Joules pub with a fine selection of excellent ales so we weren't too disappointed.  In the event the food orders were taken after approximately 15 minutes.  The food arrived after a further 15 minutes just as the "brisk" quartet, who had been wrestling manfully with a puncture, clocked in.   Fully replenished we left our fellow club members to their puddings and the five amigos headed out.  Aware of the weather forecast foretelling of Armageddon after 3:30 pm we decided that retracing our steps would ensure the maximum benefit of any tail wind.  Steve H left us after Tattenhall to head straight for home and the remaining four amigos were enjoying afternoon tea and mince pies back at the Ice Cream Farm before 3:30pm.  A round trip of 35 miles largely dry, we all agreed a bonus ride on a deep winter's day.

Sunday 7 December 2014

4th December 2014: Christmas Lunch Ride

The first Thursday in December is traditionally our Christmas Lunch Ride and this year was no exception. In a moment of madness I volunteered to organise it. However, it did give me the opportunity to choose a venue which would leave me with a fairly short ride home after a large lunch - so maybe not so mad after all! I chose the Stamford Bridge Inn near Great Barrow. Apart from it being close to home it is also a sister pub to the Boathouse at Parkgate where we had enjoyed our Christmas lunch the year before so I anticipated that the food would again be good.  

Photographs by Trevor Coates

Seventeen of us had signed up for the lunch. Unfortunately one of us was taken ill overnight (hope you get well soon, Brian Mac) and with 5 riders choosing to make their own way to the lunch 11 of us set off from the Little Roodee. These were Andy, Bryan, Clive, Dave H, David M, George, Ivan, Ray, Steve H, Tom and myself. We headed out along the banks of the River Dee and skirted round Grosvenor Park to emerge on to Boughton. A short dash along the main road took us past the impressive new Waitrose building before turning left into Hoole Lane, which would take us in the direction of the Stamford Bridge.
Now since the Stamford Bridge is only 6 miles from the Little Roodee a bit of a diversion was called for to avoid arriving at 2 hours too early. So, after crossing the A41 we turned right into Hare Lane and headed past the rugby club and across the A51. Then we headed into Christleton and on into Waverton. From there we took the Martins Lane route towards Tattenhall. After turning on to the Tattenhall road we immediately turned left again and cycled up to Huxley. Here we turned left again and in Hoofield turned right into the aptly named Corkscrew Lane. Back across the A51 here and then it was on to Willington & Kelsall.
From here we followed Hollands Lane towards Mouldsworth and from Mouldsworth we headed towards and past the Windsurfing Centre at Manley Mere. A left and right turn took us into Barnhouse Lane, which is the quieter back road into Great Barrow. A short stint down the B-road brought us to our final destination where we met up with Martin & Liz D, Dave & Liz P and Mike.
Here we tucked into an excellent Christmas Lunch thanks to the Stamford Bridge Inn, washed down with one or two selections from their great range of beers. After lunch we all made our own ways home. Thanks to a fairly flat ride we managed 25 miles before lunch. Anyone making their way back to the Little Roodee would have had a 31-mile round trip.  

Sunday 30 November 2014

27th November 2014: Whitchurch

I thought it about time I led a ride after being away so long, so cribbed a route from 2011 but reversed the direction.  Dave M and Trevor met us for coffee at Hildegard’s, to see off 14 riders: Steve H, Andy, George, Liz & Dave P, Dave H, Paul, Steve T, Martin, Ivan, Ray, John, Tom and me.  Was this a record number for a winter ride?  I chose an anti-clockwise route to lunch at Whitchurch, as 40 miles is an advisable mileage with the shorter days.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

We rode south to Bangor then east to Malpas, where we regrouped at the medieval market cross. (photo 1)  As lunch time was pressing, we took the direct B-road south into Whitchurch, where The Black Bear P H beckoned (tel: 01948 663 800). I’d advised them last night that about 7 or 8 riders should be there for lunch, but when 14 turned up, it did not seem to faze them.  As usual, the food, beer and service was very good.
Afterwards, we continued our circular route back, via Wrenbury, No-Mans Heath, and Malpas. Together with Whitchurch Parish Church opposite the pub, we passed 3 or 4 huge ancient churches, dominating their surrounding settlements.  This whole area must have been very prosperous at one time for funds to be found to build these magnificent buildings.  A very pleasant, easy-going, incident-free 40 mile ride finished with afternoon tea at Hildegard’s.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

20th November 2014: Aston (mod)

We were in Keith's big black van when we spotted a rider on a black and white bike striving up Wood Lane. The cyclist wasn't George, the Boardman flash of yellow told us that, but he was heading to Rose Farm in order to join us. His name was John and he had already, inadvertently, completed a Tour de Delamere in trying to reach our meeting place. John was made very welcome, and I hope we see him again. On hearing our estimated average speeds he chose to give the fast group a try. Jim and Dave M. had turned up but were not riding with us today. 
The moderate group consisted of Dave & Liz P, Brian Mac, Andy, Keith, Steve H and myself. Dave Pipe was delayed at the start; I think it was his wardrobe manager demanding a productivity bonus before signing up with the tandem for the winter season. We were soon wafting down to Cotebrook and then Rushton on the southern, crumble-brick boundary of Oulton Park. The roads are pretty flat to Nantwich via Wettenhall and Rease Heath, and it was great to chat and take in the scenery without any pressure of pace. Welsh Row has such a delightful variety of historic architecture that I often find myself wandering which house I would most like to live in. We peeled off to go through the park and avoid the lights, crossing the River Weaver in doing so. Shewbridge Road then took us alongside Nantwich Lake, and we were now on a leg of the route that I had little or no experience of. However, once we had turned left off the A530 onto Coole Lane, everything was relatively straightforward. The route in my head remembered from my paper map, and a reasonable sense of direction, had us turning right at Back Coole Lane and again at Sheppenhall Lane without the need for checking. Andy was trying to be useful, but with the limitations of his GPS and his lack of local knowledge, I may as well have asked Ed Miliband the way forward. 

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

We reached Aston at a brisk rate, with the tandem easing off to avoid breaking their thermostats. The curries at The Bhurtpore Inn met with approval and the battered fish were huge. 
Andy led us out in the afternoon in the direction of Bunbury via Ravensmore and Brindley. We decided to ride to The Fire Station Café in Tarporley for afternoon tea and cake, where we received a warm welcome. It has to be noted that it was exceedingly difficult to pass Tilly's, and head for Tilstone Bank instead!  On reaching Rose Farm, fresh tarmac was being laid right across the entrance, and Keith had to use his charm!!! on the workmen in order to retrieve his van. A very relaxed, true easy ride, and another good turnout. About 40 miles return from Utkinton. Let's keep this up throughout the winter if we can.       

Sunday 23 November 2014

20th November 2014: Barthomley (brisk)

There were a lot of us at Rose Farm today, so with Dave H leading out the Moderates, I lead out the Brisk Group (Ivan, Ray, Tom, Colin and myself) to the White Lion at Barthomley. John W joined us for his first CER ride today as we headed out via Cotebrook and Wettenhall bound for Church Minshull where my chain drops off (Event #1). Briefly on the A530, we turn off to skirt Warmingham before turning south to Winterley. With a winter’s sun in our faces, the run now is down small lanes. Somewhere around here Event #2 occurs in that my iPhone jumps out of its normally secure clamp (due to the appalling road surface) and bounces down the road behind me where the local 41 bus is following us! No phone to be seen on the road, so Ray rings it and it is found safely working right by his feet in the hedge. There was only a slight dent on the side of the case! 
We head now for Oakhanger through more open countryside before taking the lane to Smith’s Green. At the rail crossing, Ivan predicts that the 11:53 from somewhere will be coming by soon and it will be a green train. He was correct on both accounts! Up the lane Event #3 occurs as John W christens his first ride with a front wheel puncture just 5 mins from the pub. 
The White Lion was last visited by CER in Aug 2010 so a return visit was well overdue. We pack into the small bar and ogle a bar’s length of decent ales. The Steak and Ale pie was an instant hit with all of us - quite the best flavour I have tasted and plenty of it. Heated lunch time discussions surround the architectural definition of “folly” and the date of the introduction of glass (see below). 
Lots of small lanes once again on the return route via Wybunbury taking us around the SW side of Nantwich and on to Radmore Green and Bunbury. Here the usual "smell of home" madness infects nearly everybody but I decide to stick to a pedestrian 20mph and let the youngsters tire themselves out. This route was essentially the same as that in Aug 2010, and it manages to miss most of the mess that is Nantwich and Crewe yet takes in some beautiful lanes and countryside and I would recommend it to anybody as a quintessential CER route of 49 miles. For us Chester-bound riders, then 75 miles was a good day’s ride with a wintery sun and no rain!

Folly ex Wiki: In architecture, a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration, but either suggesting through its appearance some other purpose, or merely appearing to be so extravagant that it transcends the normal range of garden ornaments or the class of building to which it belongs.

Glass ex Wiki (extract):  The history of glassmaking can be traced back to 3500 BCE in Mesopotamia. Anglo-Saxon glass has been found across England during archaeological excavations of both settlement and cemetery sites. Glass in the Anglo-Saxon period was used in the manufacture of a range of objects including vessels, beads, windows and was even used in jewellery. The 11th century saw the emergence in Germany of new ways of making sheet glass by blowing spheres. The spheres were swung out to form cylinders and then cut while still hot, after which the sheets were flattened. This technique was perfected in 13th century Venice.

Saturday 15 November 2014

13th November 2014: Maeshafn (mod)

With a mixed forecast for the day: dry in the morning but windy in the afternoon it was somewhat surprising to find a good turnout of members at the refurbished Gallery coffee shop, increasing as each minute passed.  At half past the hour we had 14 members present: more than any of the recent summer rides.  Even Brian Mac made an appearance after some three months of absence, many in foreign parts, although sadly he wasn’t riding today due to a bad cold.
Jim suggested that we head south so that the wind would be behind us on the return and suggested Maeshafn as a possible destination.  With no other suggestions Jim and I sketched out a route and 14 of us comprising Ray, Steve H, Jim, Dave H, Keith, Steve T, Clive, Tom, George, Ivan, Dave & Liz P and myself set off for Northop.  A short loop through the lanes brought us to Soughton for a fast descent down to the edge of Mold followed by the drag up to Gwernaffield.  Here the brisk group broke free and headed off for Four Crosses.  The remaining nine of us followed the original plan heading to Cadole and Maeshafn at a more leisurely pace.
We arrived at just gone 12:00 noon to the usual warm welcome and being the first customers of the day were quickly served with drinks including the excellent Theakston’s Old Peculiar.  Meals were ordered and the Landlord/Chef retired to the kitchen while we made ourselves comfortable.  Cooked meals were the order of the day and in surprisingly quick time we were all enjoying an excellent lunch.
Over lunch Jim planned the return journey with options of Hope or Buckley depending on the weather.  It had been warm and dry this morning but on venturing out of the pub after lunch it was clear the weather was on the change.  The temperature had dropped dramatically and a light rain was falling.  Undaunted we mounted up and set off before a cry from the back announced a puncture.  Wisely we headed back to the warmth of the pub while Dave H hunted for thorns on his deflated tyre.  Once repaired we started off again uphill this time but in significantly heavier rain.  By the time we reached the road down to Nercwys the wind had increased and was gusting across the road driving the rain like hail directly into our faces.  The descent down to Nercwys is always exhilarating but even more so today.  Hunched over the bars for protection from the stinging rain I tried to stick to the middle of the road for safety but in practice traced giant parabolas down hill as each successive gust of wind swept the bike across to the side of the road.  At Nercwys we thankfully turned right onto more sheltered lanes and then eventually left down to Leeswood Hall gates abandoning the Hope option.  George left us at this point to make his own way home while we headed for Buckley, Bilberry Wood and Hawarden by a roundabout route due partly to the Chinese whispers effect of relaying messages from the back to the front of a group of eight riders.  Sorry about that Jim.
We arrived back at Hawarden at 15:30 still smiling with 28 miles done (44 for those riding back to Chester), although it felt like more, after what was a most memorable day. 

13th November 2014: Cefn-y-bedd (brisk)

As there were a surprising dozen or so of us at Hawarden, the Brisk Group (Ray, Ivan, Tom and myself) decided to be lazy and follow the Moderates out from Hawarden as far as the edge of Gwernaffield. It was clear that any pub would struggle with a dozen orders, so the Brisk Group coalesced and shot off towards Cadole. The idea was simple i.e. just to follow the main roads in a big anticlockwise circle arriving at the Moors Inn at Four Crosses. 
So it was past Loggerheads, Llanferres and onto Rhydtalod; then up over the moors to the Moors Inn. Well the wind was only worrying us a bit as we started the circular route but over the exposed moorland it was full storm force coming across the road as we literally battled to get to the pub. The lights were on and the door was open but the pub was shut for the day. So onwards up the hill to one of the highest points around (1026ft) we turn left down to Bwlchgwyn to another closed-up pub. The Hollybush says Tom, so down the Minera Steps we hurtle to the warmth of the Hollybush at Cefn-y-bedd. The 2 for £12 menu satisfies us all, as does the range of ales. 
Just as we are leaving the rain starts and the wind gets up even more as we head down to Llay and onto the ominous Dark Lane thence Sandy Lane near Kinnerton. Tom turns left and up along Lower Mountain Road back to Bilberry Wood and then Hawarden to complete a measly 35 miles. The remaining trio heads NW to Kinnerton and Bretton. The wind seems to be in all directions as we are blown all over the place. The Dee footbridge is especially dangerous as we cycle hunched over and at quite an angle to stay on the bike. Cycling down the river is not on with such a gusting gale-force wind, so it’s up Ferry Lane and back to our homes with about 50 miles for the day’s ride. As ever the CER rides are not just about distance, but also about banter, a decent lunch stop and good company.

Saturday 8 November 2014

6th November 2014: Winsford

The Met Office has asked the Government if it can buy a £90+ million supercomputer to take over from the £33 million one, so as to aid better forecasting. They certainly need it as it was forecasted to rain for most of the morning, and heavy at that. With this in mind I think all riders came dressed ready for a deluge. Unexpectedly no deluge came, except for some annoying light rain part way during the morning. So a little over-dressed Ray, Ivan, Steve T, Tom and myself set off from Manley on a non-obvious route for Winsford. Bryan tagged along for a few miles, but dropped off to travel solo.
The route was carefully “designed” to show off the best of the countryside as we headed out to Aston then up via Mouldsworth to Alvanley, and finally, the hill round the back of Frodsham to top out on the road to Kingsley. We then dived down towards the Weaver and along Cliff Lane (a No Through Road apparently with no cliff either) to exit at Acton Bridge. Here we said goodbye to the countryside and exchanged it for the suburban delights of Weaverham, Hartford and Davenham. We take the Bostock Green bypass and then enjoy the industrial delights of Road One of Winsford Industrial Estate (think Bumpers Lane x 4). Finally, we exit this wasteland via some green belt and then back into the edge of Winsford and the Old Star Pub on the Church Minshull road.
There’s a wake due in soon, so we are corralled into the snug with road-side cafe food coming via the attached Diner. The diner proprietor warms to us and soon the generous, tasty and inexpensive fare arrives quite quickly. We all celebrate Tom’s Big Birthday and Ivan and I venture a second pint. As Ivan entertains us with railway tales of yesteryear, Ray surprises us with his choice of music on the electronic juke box. Tom is somewhat quiet, no doubt contemplating life post 60!
The route back takes around Winsford’s western edge and out into the open countryside once again bound for Delamere via Norley. Only 42 miles and we were back at Manley at 15:00 so that Steve could collect his car. We four then head for home with 60+ miles on the clock. It hardly rained, which was a bonus for this enjoyable and entertaining ride.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 1 November 2014

30th October 2014: Llangollen

Only a very select trio today - not sure why, as a dry day was in prospect.
To quote Henry V, “ We few, we happy few, we band of brothers (and a sister)”, and so it was that Ray and I, after riding out from Chester and carefully past Davenport Corner, arrived at Alyn Waters soon to be joined by Liz D, and no one else! We set off bound for the Sun Inn at Rhewl - and here I should have remembered the rule - see below. Up to Summerhill and down to the aptly named Moss Valley, we duck and dive to get round Wrexham to Bersham, past the mill and Talwrn and up the hill to "Rhos…gog". Upwards from here is the back way to the start of the Panorama, and I haven’t been this way before and neither apparently has Ray, until he remembers the Prospect Cafe and various audax rides around here. Anyway the Prospect is now closed until Easter. Turning onto the Panorama proper, we find a lovely smooth road along with several road hog drivers coming the other way. The view is truly worthy of a panorama; especially in late autumn with Dinas Bran castle looking menacing in the distance.

Photographs by Clive Albany

We speed up and down and plan to exit onto the Horseshoe Pass main road just after Rock Farm. The good news was that the intended lane was soon to be very smooth; the bad news was there was no way past the tarmac-laying machine. So we go down the road and next left up the longish hill through the woods. Here a lady on an electric bike overtakes Liz and me - you can see the use for them if you lived around here though! We turn off bound for the Sun Inn at Rhewl - having checked the website, I surmise that its open for business - but no, its well shut - why don’t they just put a message on their website or close it down! The rule is - always phone. Anyway, we backtrack along the Old Coach Road, past the Chain Bridge Hotel (backup lunch stop) and take the canal path to the canal side cafe, which suits us just fine after 24 hilly miles. 
Quick and value service is on offer today. The cafe will now though only be open on Friday and weekends over the winter. We delay our departure to let the only rain of the day pass by and we are on our way on the canal path bound for Cefn Mawr. Here it’s the standard way back via Ruabon, Bersham, Sainsbury's and the Llay Road. While Liz goes back to Alyn and her car, Ray and I speed back to Chester via Marford Hill, Dodleston and Lache Lane. The roundabout route is 41m with 70m for Ray and I. Where were you all? You missed a real visual treat.

Saturday 25 October 2014

23rd October 2014: Hough (brisk)

The weather forecast for today was to be better than expected. After a week of rain and high winds I set off for the Ice Cream Farm passing Jim and friend on Hare Lane. As I was early I intended on doing a little extra before coffee at the farm.
On arriving there were already a collection of bikes including Jim's. I offered a route to Hough (past Nantwich) and Ray, Tom, Colin, Paul and myself set off.
We took the route to Beeston taking the turn via Peckforton. The satnav route was taking a diversion through Cholmondely estate along Cholmondely Lane but when we came to the end of the road it was decided to return back to the main road. We spoke to some estate workers who advised that there is a route to the castle but with the recent wet weather probably not suitable for a road bike. Perhaps a dry summer ride! Turn round and plan B!!
We set off along the main road turning left and passing the Bickerton Poacher. The connection of the two pubs either side of this hill is the Pheasant!! at Burwardsley. 
Riding along at a good pace we were soon into Wrenbury passing the Dusty Miller. Round the corner to Aston and passing the Bhurtpore Inn and only 11:40 so too early for curry yet! Continuing along good dry lanes although we had passed a couple of tractors busy in their duties of hedge management we were racing through Audlem passing another stop the Shropie Fly. Then on to the road to Bridgemere and Wybunbury when the cry is where's the pub. Not far, just round the corner, and another 8 miles we were pulling up at the White Hart at 12:30 with 30+ sunny miles covered. The menu was good and the three beers to sample. We all selected the hearty lamb casserole with suet scones. Excellent choice.
Feeling refreshed the return journey was via Weston and Shavington before heading into Nantwich. Going through the town and Welsh Row we were soon in the lanes again (Marsh Lane). Using Dig lane to Swanley and continuing to the Wrexham Road then enduring the busy traffic until turning left again for Brindley. 
After a reasonable pace all day the brisk riders decided that on passing Beeston along Stonehouse Lane, Wickson Lane and Tattenhall Lane and with the ICF only 4 miles to go, to sprint. I was shown clean wheels with Ray and Colin topping 30mph on the stretch with Tom and Paul in hot pursuit. I can honestly say it was very fast and glad when we got to the cafe. Hot chocolate and cake needed to put calories back and we bid farewell to Colin who was going MTB riding over Moel Famau in the dark.
A good ride on dry lanes in about 16˚ C at an average of 16.7mph over 60 miles (81 to home). 
The ride home to Chester was a little more sedate, at Huxley I had a rear flat but as it hadn’t gone down fast I pumped it up and it lasted home. Too many farmers cutting hedges I think.
Thanks all for an excellent day out    

Monday 20 October 2014

16th October 2014: Lake District (Special Ride)

Trevor had let me know that he couldn't make it. He had felt all right the first two times, but when he had stretched across the table at home for a third piece of Victoria sponge, his hamstring had twinged.  So, Dave Pipe had joined Keith and myself in the big black Renault for the drive up the M6.  Steve H had stayed overnight at a Grange B&B, and met us in the car park at 9:20 a.m.  Dave was polishing off his Full English in the Coffee Pot Cafe "with Bay Views", when we received communication, that Ivan, Tom and Clive had left Chester later than intended and would be arriving after 10:00.  It was good to see Clive, as we thought he would be sailing, but the skipper had called it off.  
We were soon cruising down the promenade alongside Morecambe Bay, and then breathing heavily as we steeply left sea-level for the first hills and Cartmel.  We wended our way through the attractive square, and out alongside the picturesque racecourse.  More climbing on sheltered, quiet lanes led us to an exhilarating plunge down from High Gate to Low Wood.  We crossed the A590 at Haverthwaite, turning right at Causeway End and up the lovely Rusland Valley.  Hard toil through Grizedale Forest led to a splendid vista, before a steep drop and a rare flatish stretch alongside Esthwaite Water took us into the popular village of Hawkshead.  A bit of hummocky climbing soon ended at The Outgate Inn, on the dot of 12:15: exactly the time that I had booked for. The food was really good, and the beer seemed to go down well.
Photographs by Ivan Davenport

The afternoon leg was a long one.  Cream teas had been booked in Cartmel for about 4:15p.m. The weather was incredibly mild for mid- October, and I had to remove my thin shell top, and drink plenty of water to avoid overheating. We reached the most northerly point of our ride at The Drunken Duck before conquering Hawkshead Hill and heading down towards the eastern shores of Coniston Water, past Brantwood, Ruskin's home, and onto a planned stop in order to walk down a jetty and take everything in for a few minutes.  Coniston Water was sun sheened and serene. 
Across the lake, Coniston village nestled at the feet of The Old Man with his head high in the blue sky.  Ivan persuaded a young photographer to take our photo, but decided it wasn't quite right and made him take it again!  
The road became faster and easier down to Lowick Bridge, a section savoured by Bryan Wade three years ago.  From Spark Bridge we were soon at Penny Bridge and then crossing the bridge at Greenodd, where the River Leven flows through the sands.  We then had a pleasant interlude, partly off tarmac, and then alongside the river to Low Wood, crossing our outward route.  Ivan spotted the steam from an engine as we headed towards the Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway, the route of which we roughly followed, before climbing above Great Haag, and then dropping down into Newby Bridge.  We had to carefully overtake a magnificent, large steam vintage road tractor at this point.  We took a quiet, narrow climb up Canny Hill to Seatle and eventually reached a welcome direct and fast road into Cartmel.  
Despite some of our legs beginning to feel the accumulation of many banks climbed throughout the day, we flew down to Cartmel, like Team Sky on a recovery ride!  The incentive of a cream tea, and a comfy chair awaiting certainly worked for me.  We arrived to a warm welcome and in good time at The Priory Hotel, with large pots of tea readily replenished.  The sting in the tail was the last climb of the day to High Fell Gate, before the descent back to the promenade at Grange, with a gorgeous view across the bay in the special, late afternoon light.  I was grateful for the support and convivial company of the guys.  We were so lucky to have a peach of a day. Approximately 49 autumn-tinged miles covered.     

Friday 17 October 2014

16th October 2014: Irby Mill (mod)

With most regular riders in the Lake District on Dave H’s special ride I wasn’t at all sure that there would be many, or indeed, any riders meeting at Ness Gardens.  On entering the tea room I was therefore delighted to find Ray already halfway through a cappuccino and eager to ride.  Interestingly we had both cycled out from Chester with a planned easy ride to Irby Mill with the aim of getting back early before the forecast rain arrived at a predicted 16:00.
Once the obligatory coffee/tea and scones were consumed we were on our way up to Ness to then take the usual lane bypassing Willaston on the way to Raby.  Determined to stick to the lanes as far as possible we continued on to Thornton Hough, Brimstage and Storeton enjoying the perfect autumn weather.  With the sun shining and clear skies after the overnight rain the views were stunning.  Entering Storeton we debated the pros and cons of the Landican vs Barnston/Pensby route.  I had heard that the Landican route had been improved, so what the hell, we’d give it a go and with time in hand we had little to lose.  Well, it had been improved: not perfect but no worse than the Wirral Way was our conclusion.  From here it was only a short ride to Irby Mill skirting the edges of Heswall and Irby.
Irby Mill was closed when we arrived at 11:45 but we chatted and relaxed at one of the outdoor tables soaking up the sun until 12 noon.  No wonder the pub is Camra recommended with something like eight cask ales to choose from.  I tried the Trojan Horse, a delightful black beer, while Ray went for a lighter summer ale: both superb.  To eat it had to be the lunchtime ‘small’ fish and chips that left us wondering just how big the full size version would be.  A great pub but after chatting for well over an hour it was time leave.
Determined to avoid the traffic we decided on a return route along the Wirral way.  From the pub we skirted Royden Park before dropping down to Caldy where we joined the Wirral Way for an easy ride back to Neston.  Here we decided to use the Burton Marshes route and the Millennium cycleway to return to Chester.
Halfway across the boardwalk section of the Burton Marshes route we were flagged down by a cyclist heading towards Neston but asking for directions to Garden City!  We invited him to join us rather than try to provide directions through the industrial estate and it emerged that he had arrived from Hungary two days earlier and had accommodation in Garden City.  As a matter of priority he had just bought a second hand bike and was out exploring while looking for a job.  At the Millennium Cycle Bridge he knew where he was and we directed him back to Garden City before we continued on to Chester.
Back in Chester by 15:30 we missed the rain, which started half an hour later.  A perfect day’s cycling in true CER tradition.  Only 25 miles from Ness Gardens back to Ness Gardens but 47 miles overall Chester to Chester.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Sunday 12 October 2014

9th October 2014: Queens Head (brisk)

Setting off from home to meet Clive in Chester for the ride to Holt we were both kitted out in wet weather gear and cycles with mudguards, as the forecast was a wet day. We arrived at
Hildegard’s for coffee without a drop of rain falling.  Already gathered and still arriving were Jim, Tom, Dave H, Keith, Steve, Colin, Trevor, Liz & Dave on the tandem, Clive and Ivan. The brisk group today would consist of Tom, Colin and Ivan. A route to Queens Head was agreed and we set off. 
Leaving Holt we crossed over the Dee and up through the town heading for the usual route to Shocklach and Worthenbury. After a short time it was the first and only call to stop and put on rain jackets, as the rain fell in buckets, but thankfully only for 15/20 minutes. This was the one and only drop!!  Otherwise a fine day in 14˚C sunshine - weathermen!!
We cycled on passing Lightwood Green, crossing the A539 to Doddleston Heath.  We then passed through our first flooded lane giving Tom a dirty bike and face as he was pushing up the rear keeping us together but suffering with spray from our wheels. Riding along Birghill Lane (no hill) was similar to a summer’s day in glorious sunshine, onto the B5009 taking us to Queens Head and the excellent Queens Head pub. We had a good lunch stop here although Tom would have preferred a pub with a bigger heater as he was wet and chilled.

Photograph by Ivan Davenport

We were soon back in the saddle and taking the left hand lane from the pub, Woodhouse lane, it was a change to have a flat ride for a few miles instead of a climb straight after lunch following the Montgomery canal and on to Hordley. Here we encountered Road Closed but continued to be greeted by nice tarmac engineers who only advised us to travel cautiously which we complied with. After leaving the very bumpy roads we were through Techhill and not remembering the hill after enjoying the sweeping downhill ride to be greeted with the steep climb as soon as you round the bend - wrong gear!
Passing through Ellsmere we were then passing Penley and Horseman's Green when Tom announced he had a mechanical problem - slipping gears. Ensuring Tom's continued progress we slowed our pace to Tilston and Crewe by Farndon arriving in Holt just after 15:00. 
Tom decided to carry on home and sort his bike out so Colin and myself set off for Chester and decided to stop at Aldford for a break.
Overall a reasonable dry day and enjoyed the lanes but they are now muddy with farmer’s tractors etc. The standard of road surface is certainly improving with only a few really pitted roads encountered but some lovely smooth lanes to allow a cranked up surge in pace. 
Thanks to Tom and Colin for a good ride. 71 miles total journey (51 miles from Holt) and 914 metres of ascent at an average 14.8mph.

9th October 2014: Gobowen (mod)

For a forecasted showery day, there were a lot of us at Hildegard’s cafe. A brisk group had coalesced and set off for Queens Head, and the rest of us (Dave & Liz P, Dave H, Jim, Trevor, the two Steves and myself) slowly assembled for a ride to Derwen College at Gobowen. Taking the back lane to the head of Wrexham Industrial Estate, we trail through smart and run down areas, mainly because I missed the cycleway turn into Red Wither Lane. Anyway, at Cross Lanes we were back on track, taking the repaired lanes around the back of Erdigg and Sontly bound for Ruabon. 
The Dennis brickworks looked more decrepit than ever, but still sells heather brown quarry tiles, for a price. Then we all enjoy the long hill out of Cefn Mawr towards Chirk. Taking the back lane, we pass the Marina and Golf Club, and the entrance to Chirk Castle before descending into Chirk proper. The canal path east brings us out at Chirk Bank on the main drag up to the A5 roundabout. A few hundred yards up the St Martins road, the right into Henlle lane guides us parallel to the A5 and into Gobowen town. 
The college is off the Whittington Road, and turning into it, we take a grand tour eventually finding the Orangery restaurant. As ever it’s busy, and the students are “off” today. The manager opens up a small dining room just for us eight. Within 10 minutes, we have chosen the main course and having it delivered to our table in double quick time. The hot puddings are even more quickly delivered. At under a fiver for two course and coffee, and of excellent quality, the college doesn’t ever disappoint. 
The sun is out briefly and we take a delightful lane off the 455 route circling back towards the big hill into St Martins. Onwards to Overton, there is a bit of rain as we meet up by the cafe crossroads. Steve H and I decide to take the run back to Farndon via Cloy, Hollybank and Worthenbury; whereas the others take the main road to Bangor. At the Shocklach turn, a "Road Closed" sign informs us that a bridge is being repaired at some place we can’t find on the OS map. The others then appear, and we set off assuming we will be able to get through. The bridge is just around the corner and we were able to walk the bikes over half of a new bridge. It’s due to be finished in three weeks: so they had better get a move on! I decide I need to get back to Chester, so I motor on leaving the seven Easy Riders to find their own way back to Hildegard’s cafe. 
A round trip of 46m at the start of Autumn with rain in the air, wet leaves on the ground and flailed hedges. It’s 65m from Chester, and it’s clear that the weather has turned and warmer clothes and lights, are now required.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

2nd October 2014: Aston (mod)

Steve Tan was my passenger from Runcorn. Road works in Frodsham meant a u-turn and a diversion down the motorway, and another about turn was required for a blockage when trying to head up towards Kelsall from Helsby. We were running a little late by the time we arrived at Utkinton. It was an easy decision when faced with our admirably fit and fast comrades on their best bikes, to decide to just relax and do a familiar, pleasant route to the Bhurtpore at Aston at an easy pace. The reality was, that I was about 24kg. heavier than Ray, and Steve's hybrid was about 9kg. heavier than Ivan's Willier, and that's before comparing our relative cycling fitness levels!  A unified ride just wouldn't have worked. Although it did make me determined to lower my calorie intake, and up my training before the Lake District ride.          
It was yet another ideal cycling day, and the tinge of autumn colours added to the pleasing rural landscape unfurling before us. Our route took us to Eaton and Wettenhall, and on to Ravensmore via Reese Heath and Acton. I tried to use my map to direct a lorry driver to a farm, but accidently sent him the wrong way, and also lost my gloves. This was made worse, because they were two odd gloves, so I now have two matching, now useless, gloves at home!  
The Bhurtpore was welcoming as usual, but the curry wasn't cheap and was just below average in quality. I'd already got lost around Sound on the way, and a similar casual attitude had us turning west too early at Chorley on the route home. We headed briskly up the A49 from the Cholmondeley Castle entrance to Spurstow, and then rode to Tarporley through Peckforton, Beeston and Birch Heath. The service was exceptional at the Old Fire Station, and we enjoyed coffee and cake in the sun at the back. We also had a long chat with a very elegant old lady, with Steve exchanging stories of Yorkshire towns and Leeds University, with which they were both familiar. We soon whacked up the last climb to Rose Farm and my now clean car. We had covered a very relaxed 40 miles, savouring every mile of lovely Cheshire countryside and the blessing of an Indian summer.

Friday 3 October 2014

2nd October 2014: Timbersbrook (brisk)

Looking for a destination not visited before I decided on a trip towards Congleton.  Setting off for Rose Farm I was joined by Ray and we enjoyed the quiet but chilly roads.  We were the first to arrive but were soon joined by Dave H, Paul and Steve T.  Ray and Paul accepted my proposal for a ride to Timbersbrook.  
We set off promptly via Cotebrook and the route towards Winsford and Middlewich.  Along Cledford lane to Breton Green and the Bears Head Inn we arrived at 11:30 covering the 20 miles in a sprint time.
We now sauntered along the new lanes towards Congleton being rewarded with a lovely autumnal morning with very light traffic. No problems skirting Congleton but we were greeted with our first climb of the day and arriving at the brow of the hill we found we had arrived at the Coach and Horses at Timbersbrook.

Photographs by Ivan Davenport

The views from the garden were panoramic and I could watch the Virgin Pendolinoes crossing the big viaduct over the town.  Good beer and choice of food were ordered and we were soon served with our meals.

After 45 minutes we were back in the saddle and heading upwards again!!  We passed a field of Lamas with a wooden Giraffe and a bear in a tree: strange garden furniture!  We were now on the left hand side of the ridge leading to Mow Cop. Biddulph was the next big town we passed through and it was still looking very floral. Taking a right hand through the town we went up hill on Mow Cop lane, this was to be a easy ascent to the folly at the top and with such a sunny day and high cloud it was the perfect day to ride here.
A fast descent down hill to Church Lawton and Alsager coasting plus 20mph then on the route via Malkins Bank and Winterley stopping at the pool to see the geese, swans and ducks on the water.  It was then onwards to Bradfield Green and an afternoon cake stop at Tilleys.  Arriving at 15:20 we enjoyed cake and cappuccinos.  
After resting it was the Beeston Castle and Waverton route arriving back into Chester for 16:45 after covering 86 miles on some new lanes.  It had been a good ride and we wonder how many of these fine days we can experience before the start of the wet and cold months ahead.  It has been a great summer of cycling.

Monday 29 September 2014

25th September 2014: Tattenhall (mod)

With other commitments in the afternoon I hadn’t intended to go on the ride, far less lead it. When I left home for the Gallery Coffee Shop in Hawarden I had only intended to cycle up to the venue to start collecting deposits for the Christmas Lunch ride then wend my way gradually back home through the Cheshire countryside. George didn’t want a hard ride into the Welsh hills and asked if he could tag along and when I mentioned that I would be going through Farndon Dave M said he would join us as he had left his car there. Before I knew it there were five of us, so by default I became the leader. George, Dave M, Dave H, Steve and I set off with the intention of lunching at Hildegard’s in Farndon. (We were briefly joined by Mike who soon disappeared into the distance as he had somewhere he needed to be.)
We 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. We then took a left and right into Sandy Lane before turning 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 I surprised several riders by turning left (They had expected me to turn right and head up Marford Hill towards Hoseley Bank) before bearing right towards the Holt road. A quick right again took us down a quiet country lane to emerge onto the Holt Road. A long straight road (fortunately with the wind at our backs) and a left turn brought us into Farndon where Dave M was reunited with his car. As it was not yet mid-day the remaining four decided to continue on to Tattenhall for lunch.
From Farndon we crossed the River Dee into England. We turned left towards Churton then right to Coddington and left again towards Handley. Then it was up to Chowley Oak and across the A41 to Tattenhall where we stopped for lunch at the Sportsman’s Arms. After lunch I took off my leader’s hat to make my way straight home for a 43-mile ride leaving the other three to explore the Cheshire countryside. 

Photograph by Steve Haywood

It had been a long lunch break at The Sportsman's Arms, but the food was good and the service friendly. The back room was filled with what appeared to be a local old buffers' gathering, which no doubt delayed our service. We appeared to be sitting in an area that had been a butcher's shop, but faux bookcases now replaced pig's heads. This didn't stop Trevor giving us the chop! He had not planned to ride today, and needed to return home. His morning route had been idyllic. 
For the afternoon we were grateful for Steve taking the lead on a sort-of-agreed route. Near to Beeston we met Mike who had been doing his own extra loop, but rejoined us as we headed for Bunbury. At Bunbury we inadvertently disturbed the filming of a new ITV Second World War drama called Home Fires. Mike's raucous laugh disturbed their sound track, and then he had a little chat to one of the female actors! To be fair, four cyclists brainlessly pedalling through a 1940's scene wasn't our cleverest moment, regardless of Mike's unwitting insouciance. The cast seemed friendly, perhaps too nonplussed to be angry!  Anyway, we were soon spinning along to Wettenhall via Alpraham, and then briskly to Rushton and Cotebrook. The four of us agreed that we had forgotten how demanding the climb was to Utkinton. This was partly due to the brisk pace that Steve was setting. Many of the roads in the area had been resurfaced since last year, making progress smoother and faster. 
At Willington Corner we decided to try and make the cafe at the Mickle Trafford end of The Greenway before it closed. We really had to go for it, swooshing down through Oscroft, and moving properly fast down the A51, and then tore through Guilden Sutton. We were dripping, but made it!  We enjoyed our well-earned coffee and cake. Steve headed back to Kelsall and Mike, George and myself cruised down The Greenway back to Wales. A great day in excellent company: easy riding in the morning and some pacey training in the afternoon. 62 miles Hawarden to Hawarden, 70 or so for George, more for Mike and Steve.

25th September 2014: Meliden (brisk)

There were a surprising number at the Gallery this week, but six of us set off as the Brisk Group (Ivan, Ray, Colin, Tom, Martin and Clive) bound for Meliden. “Where?” you ask - near Dyserth and Prestatyn. Ivan had led a ride this way recently, but it soon became clear that my route was not the same as his. 
We headed for Alltami then the back lane to Sychdyn, taking the exhilarating run down to the A541. At Rhydymwyn, we turn right up a long climb to the edge of the Halkyns. A left takes us to Rhes-y-Cae, then up to top out at 923ft. A quick left and right down the hill takes on a straight run through Brynford and through to Lloc. On the A5151 to Dyserth, we turn left down a beautiful autumnal lane resplendent with pheasants launching themselves off at our arrival. This lane swoops up and down getting us to the top end of Dyserth. A quick left and right finds us diving down a tiny lane shadowing the old railway cycleway to Prestatyn. As we rise and fall and with a mile to go, Martin succumbs to a rear wheel puncture. After a short time, we descend rapidly down into Meliden for the Red Lion. 
Inside, the Red Lion is in need of a makeover, but there’s Brains bitter on tap and £6.95 two-course meal on offer. All bar one of us plump for the fish and chips main which comes surprising quickly given that the dining room was pretty busy with an 80th birthday party. The food is wholesome and good for the price as well. 
Leaving around 14:00, we make our way back to Dyserth and then take the long chevroned 20% climb up the hillside to reclaim 750ft of elevation. Across the hills we see the rain coming and it annoying lasts for about 15 minutes on an otherwise dry but cloudy day. The route back is the usual run to Babell, the Windmill and down to Northop. 
Martin’s super Garmin tells me that we have had 3,900 ft of accumulated climbing, with some 20% gradients, but my aching thighs told me that anyway! A fast ride today with many sections seeing madcap speeds, peppered with grinding ascents. The round trip to the Gallery was 48 miles, with 60+ for Chester starters.


Tuesday 23 September 2014

Monday 15 September 2014

11th September 2014: Ruyton-XI-Towns (mod)

Our last ride of the summer season from Chirk and the forecast was for a warm sunny day. Although not one of our more popular venues, Chirk does give us quite a variety of rides to look forward to. However, I was determined that I was not going up into the Welsh hills again, so scrutinised the map and came up with a relatively low level route around Shropshire. A message from Dave P the night before showed that he had similar thoughts so between us we chose the strangely named Ruyton-XI-Towns as our destination. A group of seven, consisting of Steve H, Steve T, Dave H, Bryan, Dave & Liz P and Jim duly set off from the café at 10:30. Ivan had plans to test his new bike against the hills and set off with Tom for the slopes. 

Photograph by Bryan Wade
We crossed the valley on the canal towpath and were treated to magnificent views up the Dee to the Welsh hills. The first real obstacle was crossing the traffic island on the A5 but we were soon safely on the lanes circumventing Gobowen and heading for Whittington. This seemed to have some potential for a more lengthy visit in the future, but for today we took the back lanes towards Maesbury and then east for West Felton. By and large the route was almost traffic free and we bowled along enjoying fine weather and the many unvisited hamlets, such as Eardiston and Wykey. The terrain was generally undulating with enough uphill bits to make us work reasonably hard at times, but soon we started picking up the signs for our destination. A quick check of the history reveals the correct title of the village “Ruyton of the eleven Townships”, referring to a time during the Middle Ages, when there were many small townships in the area, Ruyton being one of them.
The village itself was not particularly scenic, but the pub, The Talbot, was right in the centre, and served a good choice of local brews and a light bite menu. This was fine for us, as it is not easy pedalling for two hours when full of the pensioners three course special!
Special thanks to our friends at Camra and their website ‘whatpub.com.’ where I found the details and phone number of the pub.
After a pleasant break we set off back northwards through Stanwardine in the Fields, Bagley, Lower Hordley, and then the Franktons.  We were soon skirting round the east side of Gobowen and back to the café for coffee and cake. A very pleasant 38 miles in mostly uncharted territory.  A fine day out that will provide us with pleasant memories when we are splashing round the Wrexham Industrial Estate next winter.

Sunday 14 September 2014

11th September 2014: Llangedwyn (brisk)

On arriving at the tea rooms in Chirk there were already a group of CER riders ready to enjoy another Thursday of sunshine riding!  Jim had a ride sorted and I offered an alternative that was accepted by Tom.
Tom and I set off turning right and riding along the Ceiriog valley which was bathed in sunshine with the odd tree already changing and turning golden/brown.  We took the old road to Llanarmon and kept left through the town going up and over the good single-track road to somewhere!!  This was a steady climb and the decent was fast.  We arrived at a brown sign pointing to Radyr waterfalls so set off to view.

Photograph by Ivan Davenport

We returned along the same road to Llangedwyn arriving just after midday.  Although advised three good inns in the town I had looked at the Green Inn at Llangedwyn so decided to stick with the plan.  Our route forward out of the town was blocked with a large HGV struggling to turn round so offered my assistance to the driver and we duly turned him around and received hoots and thanks (all in a days ride).
Arriving at the Green Inn, Tom and I were not disappointed with the choice and sat out in the garden letting our limbs relax in the sunshine.  Topic of conversation to hot for the blog but informative!!
We had enjoyed some good climbing to this point and Tom was tucking into his large lunch when I advised him we still had two lumps to get over yet so he decided to put knife and fork down.
Leaving Llangedwyn we set off at a fair pace and were soon climbing again through Trefonen and on to Oswestry.  Through the town which was as usual busy, going up hill again to Selattyn.  We cruised down to Western Rhyn and were lucky to miss a fast motorist heading in the opposite direction and arrived back at Chirk at 15:00.
Tom put his bike in the car and we retired to the Hand to watch the final 20k of the bike race.  A total of 44 miles, 1,100+ meters of climbing and 20˚ C average temp.
Enjoyable day and wish it had been longer.

Tuesday 9 September 2014

4th September 2014: Audlem

We were sitting in the sunshine by the canal outside the Shroppie Fly in Audlem having enjoyed a good lunch, when Dave Matthews, our leader, asked for a volunteer to write-up the ride.  As is common, no one leapt to volunteer, and so in the absence of others I stepped forward.
Now, writing the report is a lot easier when you know about it at the start.  Otherwise there are several problems.  It’s easy to note the names of those currently with you on the ride – Dave M, Tom, Paul R, George, Dave H and myself, Steve H.  But who had turned up at the Ice Cream Farm and didn’t join us? This required some prompting to remember it was Jim and Trevor.  And then wasn’t Ray with us?  Yes but he peeled off early at Bunbury as he was preparing for his trip to the Pyrenees.
The next problem is the route, especially as I was missing my satnav.  Some landmarks get fixed in your mind, while others get muddled or maybe lost altogether.  We did set off from Tattenhall towards Bunbury, and then I remember a longish stretch travelling south on the A49 before turning left and ending up travelling through Brindley and Ravensmoor.  We headed more or less due south after that to join the A525 heading into Audlem, turning off by the canal to the Shroppie Fly (apparently a fast boat used on the canals).

Photograph by Paul Rose

Aware of my responsibilities, the return journey fixed itself better in my mind. We left Audlem by the same route, but veered more to the west.  We sped past our regular haunt, the Bhurtpore Arms in Aston, but instead of using the level crossing in Wrenbury, we passed through Marbury and Bickley.  Soon we reached the perimeter of Cholmondely Castle grounds and turned left to Bickerton.  We joined the main road and passed by the Bickerton Poacher, Peckforton and Beeston Castle where Dave M left for the quick route home.  A brief conference among the remainder agreed that tea and cakes were needed, so we returned to the Ice Cream Farm.
A good ride overall in very pleasant September weather with good company - we wondered how many more fine Thursdays we had before autumn would set in properly.  How many miles? Maybe 45-50.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

28th August 2014: Hildegard's Holt

Three members turned up at the Little Roodee: David M, Andy and Tom.  Rode over to Kinnerton via Bluebell woods---then Hildegard's and home.  Stiff wind on road from Rosset to Hope.

Friday 22 August 2014

21st August 2014: Ellesmere

A select band of Bryan, Andy, George, Clive, Steve T, Dave & Liz P and Dave M gathered at Hildegard’s in Holt. Missing were Dave Heath (en vacance a Provence) and Keith (waiting for a shed in Runcorn). Andy offered to take us to Ellesmere using a 6th May 2010 route starting ‘by the usual route’ to Bangor on Dee.  Thus suitably refreshed, we set out along Wrexham Road. The only thing missing was a bit of sunshine….and Dave M, who ducked out of the ride, citing ‘grandchildren and a bad back’ as the reason for not joining us. We meandered down through Bangor-on-Dee and were soon in the country lanes of Shropshire, which are delightfully free of the traffic often found in the similar lanes of Cheshire. Crossing the A495 and then the Llangollen branch of the Shropshire and Union Canal at Lower Frankton, we crested the memorable hump back bridge and looped through Hordley and Tetchill to arrive in Ellesmere in good time for lunch. A discussion about which pub to go to ended when Clive suggested the Red Lion. This turned out to be an excellent choice, as their ‘over 60s’ two-course lunch for £5.45 proved to be of good quality and even better value for money.

Photograph by Clive Albany (with apologies to Andy)

After lunch, Clive suggested that we try an alternative route back via Colemere and Tarts Hill. With Clive leading we left Ellesmere on the A 495 alongside The Mere, but soon turned off on to the lanes towards Colemere.  From here we followed Clive north on a collection of lovely lanes unfamiliar to many of us, through Welshampton, Breaden Heath and Tarts Hill.  We then continued north eventually passing through Worthenbury and the usual route back to Holt. At Crewe-by-Farndon Clive headed off to Chester while the remaining six, led by the tandem, took the “short cut” into Farndon by the back way past the Church.  Andy and George disappeared while the tandem, Steve T and Bryan made it back to Hildegard’s for coffee.
A great day out, enjoyed by all, with Clive’s return route further enhancing Andy’s choice of outward route.  Cool and dry all day with 46 miles done or 60+ for those heading back to Chester.

Sunday 17 August 2014

14th August 2014: The Lanes and Fells of Lancashire

You know those days when the forecast is 'iffy', but once you are out on your bike it's perfectly fine?  Well this wasn't one of those days!  Rain showers were plentiful and heavy, and the best sunshine was on the M6 return drive.  Ivan was full of praise for the food and service at No. 61 King Street.  The route down to the River Ribble was soon rural, and easy, and green.  On reaching Roman Ribchester I tried to show the group the ancient bathhouse, but the great unwashed were sneeringly dismissive, asserting that Chester's were bigger and better!  The cafe at Ribchester was friendly and cosy, and we were soon tead, teacaked and toiletted ready for our first climb in the direction of Hurst Green.  A short diversion took in the well-preserved and pretty almshouses at Stydd.

Photographs by Clive Albany and Brian Mac

Stonyhurst College is a stunning vision as you turn the corner and see this impressive baroque building for the first time.  It was from here that my devious plan was to operate.  The faster riders could take off and ride alongside Longridge Fell's northern edge, eventually circumnavigating Beacon Fell, and meeting the less ambitious back at Chipping for lunch.  They seemed a bit reluctant to clear off!  Mike and Brian tried to be helpful with regard to taking my marked map.  Mike's excellent local knowledge would be invaluable.  The advantages would be a quiet, scenic extra 10 mile for some, while the tandem group could cope with the climb to Chlpplng at a slower pace.  This arrangement would also slightly stagger lunch, and get the tandem out ahead of the game for the afternoon.  Like most of my inspired ideas the plan never really got off the ground.  Heavy rain and a farmer scattering thorns meant that the fast group abandoned Beacon Fell, and we all arrived at The Sun simultaneously.  Well, not quite, Dave broke the chain on his tandem in a last effort to reach a menu card first.  He expertly fixed the tandem in the backyard of the pub, with support from Keith, and the use of a puddings board acting as an incentive to work quickly.  The food was fine and the service friendly at The Sun, but despite my pre- booking we were there a little while with eleven orders and probably one chef.  However, the upside was everyone chatting and getting on so well together.
We took the Quiet Lane out of Chipping and headed for the Wild Boar Park.  I was grateful to Mike for leading the faster group, and to Brian, Keith and the two Steves for supporting the tandem.  Before the exhilarating swoop down to Burholme Bridge there was a wonderful, panoramic view of Bowland and beyond.  The road to Dunsop Bridge was alongside the river and true easy riding for a while.  Steve H and Brian were advised of a short route on foot past the road closure at Newton, while the tandem and co. climbed up the fell and came down again at Slaidburn.  Slaidburn is an attractive, stone- housed village, but once across the burbling water there is a steep climb.  Steve and Brian had waited for us, and the fast group was well ahead at this stage.  The rain started lashing down as we approached the lovely sweep down toward Sawley Abbey on the Lancashire Cycleway route.  You can normally clearly see the peaks in the Yorkshire Dales here.  Because of the weather Dave and Liz had done more costume changes than Kellie Maloney!  As we came down it looked as if the road had been dry all day.  Grindleton and Downham were by-passed in order to reach our ordered cream teas at The Calf's Head in Worston.  We just made it, gratefully tucking in to jam, cream and scones and hot drinks.
Our few miles back were flat and leafy, and we met Clive and Ivan at The Eagle in Barrow.  Despite the weather the camaraderie had been excellent.  Everyone had been helpful and tolerant, and this made the day enjoyable and worthwhile.  That Keith has to bust a gut to arrange shift swops to cycle with us in the rain, and loved it, says it all!  Attendees: Dave H, Dave & Liz P, Keith, Clive, Ivan, Brian Mac, Petar, Mike G, Steve H and Steve T. 

Saturday 9 August 2014

7th August 2014: Caerwys (mod)

Enjoying the hills and the splendid views of the Welsh mountains but not be able to keep up with the brisk group in this sort of terrain on the tandem we came prepared to lead an easy ride. With the other “easy” riders away on holiday or otherwise committed we set off at our own pace towards Northop and up into the Halkyn Mountains via Rhosesmor, Moel y Crio and Rhes y Cae. Here the map showed a narrow tarred road to the left that looked interesting and which certainly was. Quite rideable but very narrow and rapidly grassing over: an ideal diversion on a summer’s day. A return to higher ground and more open views and a quick look at the time confirmed we should head for the nearest pub that was the Piccadilly Inn at Caerwys.
After lunch we found a new narrow track (road) up to Babell and then a similar beauty down to Brynford. From here a relatively gentle run with a slight tailwind along the side of the Halkyns and a climb over Windmill Hill with its splendid views and open moorland before dropping back down to Northop and tracing the route to Hawarden.
35 enjoyable miles at just over 10 miles an hour which seems to be our pace in the mountains these days.
Pub Review
The Piccadilly Inn, Caerwys on the main street at north end of the village Tel 01352 720284 Open 12 noon – midnight all week. 
Recently fully refurbished and is now a busy modern eating-place with a good range of draught beers. Food from the lower price menu looked good and the Faggots and mash at £7.95 did not disappoint; nor did the Old Speckled Hen. 

Friday 8 August 2014

7th August 2014: Rhuddlan (brisk)

Brian (back from his travels), Clive, Ivan, Ray, Tom and the Tandem Duo met on a perfect summer’s cycling day at The Gallery.  The Duo decided not to join us on a hilly ride over Halkyn Mountain to Rhuddlan with Clive leading, as he said he wanted to be home smartish. After passing Lixwm and Caerwys, Ivan suffered a broken spoke from a hilly newly tarred and stoned road; this required much pushing & pulling of bits from his hub, but soon we were on our slightly slower way.  Down the steep Rhuallt hill on the old A-road and onto the coastal flood-plain, we stopped at the first pub in Rhuddlan, but were denied entry as there was a funeral taking place. Whether the coffin was still there, I know not.  We soon found another hostelry, The New Inn Hotel, High Street, LL18 2TY, tel: 01745 592027.  The two meals for £8 were good, the lack of real ale, not so.

Photographs by Clive Albany

After lunch, we had the obligatory photo stop at Rhuddlan Castle, one of 14 giant fortifications that Edward I had constructed after he overran N Wales in 1282. From the castle ramparts, we headed north along the tidal River Clwyd estuary that was full of wading birds seemingly unperturbed by the megopolis of the surrounding caravan parks. We then headed east along the coast past the hordes of sun-worshippers on the golden sands of Rhyl, Prestatyn and Talacre.  Heading back on the coastal A548, the pace hotted up as Ivan had been watching too much time-trialling at the recent Commonwealth Games. A steady 23mph cruise took us quickly down to Flint for afternoon tea.  Replenished, but slightly weary from the pace, miles and sun, we bimbled back through Connah’s Quay, crossing the Dee at Hawarden rail bridge.  Here Brian swung off while the other four carried on to complete 71 miles back to Chester.  Round trip from Hawarden 55 miles.

Saturday 2 August 2014

31st July 2014: Over Peover

Gathered at Manley Mere were Brian Mac & Dave Matthews, who had just joined us for coffee, and the rest: Dave H, Keith, Clive, Ray, Tom, Trevor, Steve T, Dave & Liz Pipe and Steve H.  Dave H took the initiative to organise us, and I asked whether we’d ever ridden out to The Dog at Over Peover.  That was enough to be elected as leader for the day; not that I’d ever been to The Dog, but it looked OK on the web.
We laboured up the hills over the New Pale, before enjoying the fast descent to Kingsley. We crossed the Weaver at Acton Bridge, then on to Great Budworth, Plumley and Lower Peover that gave us a misleading sense of closeness to our destination. The two Peovers are about 4 km apart, but wishing to avoid main roads and have a decent morning ride, we took a loop through Ollerton and Marthall to reach what the map said was Over Peover’s pub.  But it wasn’t The Dog. The Dog is actually in Peover Heath, less than half a mile away.

The Dog was bustling with activity – there appeared to be a barbeque and a beer festival.  Unfortunately the barbeque was a private party and the beer festival starting the next day.  Still, we found a good range of real ales and food, which turned out to be of very good quality - a place to return to.
The return route took us through Goostrey and Lach Dennis, where Dave H bid us farewell. We then sped on to Davenham and Moulton to descend the rough track that allows the Vale Royal Cut of the Weaver Navigation to be crossed.  Through Whitegate, after which we said goodbye to Tom, Clive and Ray who headed towards Chester.  Then to Sandiway where Steve H left, allowing the others to make their way back to Manley.  Overall 59 miles and just under 1,000m of climbing on a mild dry day which was much better for cycling than the hot weather of recent weeks.