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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Thursday 22 May 2014

22nd May 2014: Malpas and beyond

Two Boyos on Bikes.  Today saw two of the club's resident Welshmen sitting in splendid isolation in the Little Roodee café as the rain came gently down.  Jim joined them very smartly attired, obviously not cycling today, as he doggedly pursues those club members who have still to pay their subs for this year.  No names, no pack drill but you know who you are and Jim is talking about sending round the heavies.  As 10:30 approaches options are discussed.  As the two don't have a GPS gismo or even an OS map between them these options of necessity are going to be somewhat limited.  They wouldn't know how to use them anyway, I hear you cry.  A little harsh but probably true.  George tentatively suggests he might remember the way to Malpas.  So after checking with Jim how to actually get home from Malpas our two intrepid Welshmen set off, a little apprehensively for the wilds of rural south Cheshire.  Young Tom fresh from his triumph of last week when keeping pace with the "brisk" group and old George for whom getting out of bed is something of a triumph these days.
Through Handbridge, Eccleston and Pulford.  Turning left we head towards Holt.  We pass Hildegard’s, no cyclists sitting outside in the warm sunshine today, although it has stopped raining.  Over the Dee at Farndon and then across the A534 heading south towards Shocklach.  Bowling along on traffic free drying roads, it is great to be out on the bike.  Turning left at Threapwood, through Oldcastle Heath and up Malpas main street to what used to be the Fire Station café.  25 miles done reports Tom as we enter this re-branded and refurbished establishment.  George orders a baguette from the welcoming member of staff.  Said member returns a few minutes later to report, rather sheepishly that they are out of baguettes and so is the supermarket across the street.  Not a baguette to had in Malpas that day.  A Panini it is then.  Tom had gone for a more exotic option with a side order of chips.  Good chips he announces.
By this stage our two Welshmen are starting to miss the hills of their homeland so the return leg will take in what passes for hills in this part of Cheshire.  Out of Malpas towards Hampton Heath, crossing the A41 headed towards Bickerton.  Around Larkton Hill and Bickerton Hill and back over the A534.  Up Harthill and then right at the bottom.  Up the short climb, always steeper than you think, to pass the Teddy Bears café at Burwardsley.  A long straight run into Tattenhall before turning north over the canal.  We decide to take the scenic route to Waverton as the weather is still holding.  So Huxley, Hoofield and Burton are left behind as the rain finally makes another appearance.  This helps us keep the cadence up as we roll into Waverton and turn north once again for Guilden Sutton and the afternoon tea stop.  Suitably refreshed we join the Greenway.  The rain has now ceased and the Greenway is surprisingly free of dogs and their owners.  George drops down onto the canal to go back into the centre of Chester while Tom carries on for home.  Just over 60 miles for George and approaching 70 for Tom.  A very enjoyable days cycling and, as is often the case, the weather much better than forecast.

Saturday 17 May 2014

15th May 2014: Bradfield Green (brisk)

Today was the first day that bare legs and arms were possible, so, what’s not to like about nearly 80 miles of Cheshire countryside in the sunshine. There were a lot of us at Holt, so a foursome (Ivan, Steve, Tom and myself) set off as the "Brisk Group" bound for Bradfield Green – “Where?” - was the universal cry. North of Leighton Hospital – “Ah, I know where you mean now!” I had led a ride to this destination not quite 2 years ago, so I used the existing gpx plus a few mods on the fly. So up the A534 to Cock o’ Barton and a fast run to Tilston where we turn down Duckington Lane in formation. Around the delightful shoulder of Larkton Hill, we head out for Cholmondeley Castle. Here we go off-piste via the lanes to Bickley Town crossing the A49 at Higher Nab. We loop off the NCR45, past the Cotton Arms and out through Wrenbury bound for Sound Green. Off Mickley Hall Lane, we stop briefly at the Hack Green Secret Bunker tourist attraction (we were the only ones apart from some workmen) before heading north to Nantwich. 

Photograph by Clive Albany

There is no pretty way to easily avoid Nantwich if you want to go due North that is, but we tour round around Nantwich Lake and the Weaver meadows before dragging through suburbia to the Sainsbury’s roundabout on the A51. Ivan’s sister, who lives locally, says there is a new cycleway to Middlewich running parallel to the A530 and she is correct. It’s a wide path that runs for about a mile. We then cross the road and explore its extension which unhelpfully goes NE and we want N. We find our way back via a housing estate to the A530, then past Bentley Motors and Leighton Hospital to the Coach and Horses pub. The pub didn’t disappoint 2 years ago and it didn’t today either - definitely the best pub chips around. 
After the long repast (it was 31 miles) in which we covered world events from the AZ-Pfizer deal to potato stealing by railway employees, we head off bound for Church Minshull. Tilly’s is in prospect, but seeing we are going to arrive quite early, I add a loop in on the fly via Tilstone Bank just to warm up the legs before tea and cakes. The route back to Holt would be straightforward and rounds off at 58 miles, but as we all are Chester-bound, we head for Tattenhall where Steve heads for the hills and the three of us head for the Greenway. As I turn into the driveway, I’ve 79 mile on the clock, and no doubt Tom has a few more when he’s back in Connah’s Quay

15th May 2014: Hindford (mod)

With a sunny dry day forecast a goodly number of members met at Hildegard’s for morning tea and coffee.  We were joined by newcomer Lyn Arnold who was out to build his fitness after some years out of the saddle.  Clive offered a 56 mile ride going east to Bradfield Green while others favoured an easier paced ride heading south.
After some discussion, and the promise of help from Dave H, I led off the moderate ride with Ye Olde Boote Inn at Whittington as the provisional destination.  Crossing the Dee and up through Farndon the group comprising Dave H, Keith, George, Dave & Liz P on the tandem, Lyn and myself kept up a steady pace as we headed south through Shocklach and Worthenbury to Holly Bush.  At this point Lyn left us to return home via a different route while we continued south to Dudleston Heath where we entered a network of lovely narrow lanes through New Crickett, Crickett and Old Marton with Dave H more than fulfilling his promise of help with the route finding.
At Hindford immediately after crossing a branch of the Shropshire Union Canal we stopped to check directions and noticed the entrance to what looked like an interesting old pub we hadn’t visited before: the Jack Mytton Inn.  Although only a mile and a half short of Whittington curiosity got the better of us and we turned in to grounds of the Jack Mytton Inn a converted Victorian farm building with extensive grounds.  With Stonehouse and Six Bells ales on tap and a good menu we were soon ensconced in the conservatory.  The food proved to be both substantial and well above the average pub quality with prices perhaps a tad higher than some are used to.  All in all, well worth another visit.
The plan for the return journey was to pull in some more of the delightful lanes before heading back through Overton and Bangor on Dee.  From Hindford we set off westwards before swinging north to the edge of St Martins.  Here we joined more of the lanes following an arc until we turned north at Dudleston to Shelbrook Hill where we joined the road to Overton, then past the racecourse to Bangor on Dee.  The smell of Hildegard’s coffee got the better of some at this point and the group fragmented as we made our way through the familiar back lanes to Holt.
With everyone back by 16:00 there was plenty of time to chat over coffee and cake before wending our respective ways home.
A great day out in lovely weather with excellent company and with 40 miles done or 60 for those Chester bound.

Saturday 10 May 2014

8th May 2014: Aston

Keith, Tom, Dave R, George, Martin and Steve assembled at Rose Farm facing a forecast of incessant rain for the day - quite a change from the hot temperatures Martin had faced on his recent cross-USA ride.  Jim who was there to collect subs, declined to join us on the ride, understandably given his drenching last week.  In view of the prospects, we elected for a relatively short ride to a reliably popular destination – the Bhurtpore Inn at Aston. 
Accompanied by light rain we headed out eastwards, crossing the A49 at Cotebrook, skirting the walls of Oulton Park, making for Wettenhall and then Nantwich.  From there it’s a relatively short journey out on Route 74 to Wrenbury - in fact so short that we were in danger of arriving at the pub before opening time.  We opted to explore a few of the nearby lanes before reaching our destination at 12:30.  We weren’t the only ones to choose the pub as a party of 15 ramblers arrived at the same time.  Getting our orders in first, we were soon enjoying the curries, pies and other fare, washed down by the usually excellent beers.

Photograph by Steve Haywood

Surprisingly the weather was dry as we left Aston, heading northwards through Chorley and crossing the Nantwich-Wrexham road at Brindley, to make for Tilly’s in Bunbury.  Coffees, teas and chocolates consumed we struck out again under dry skies to assemble outside Beeston Castle for our photo.  We crossed the Shropshire Union Canal by the Shady Oak, travelling through Huxley to Clotton where we said goodbye to George and Dave, finally arriving back at Rose Farm just before 3:30, luckily half an hour before the heavens opened.  
A much better day than the forecast had predicted, we covered around 42 miles.

Saturday 3 May 2014

1st May 2014: Loggerheads

The six of us, George, Dave H, Keith, Tom, Petar, and Jim were joined by Trevor for morning coffee to the hits of Cyprus, courtesy of Spiros and internet radio. All very Mediterranean, except for the weather, which actually wasn’t too bad while we planned the day’s ride. I had an idea for a change to the usual thrash up towards Prestatyn by swinging west towards Cilcain and Llandegla. A bit hilly, but should give us good views of the Dee valley and surrounding hills. Everyone seemed to like the idea, so, with the exception of Trevor, who had just joined us for refreshments, we set off into the light patter of occasional raindrops. Not too bad, I thought, if it stays like this we’ll be ok. Unfortunately, the forecasters were right and I was wrong, for as soon as we reached Northop the intensity of the rain increased, necessitating a stop for waterproofs before joining the A55 briefly at Halkyn.
We steadily climbed up to Halkyn Mountain to views, not of the Dee Valley, but of misty hilltops and glowering cloud. Once on the top, we went southwards through Rhes-y-Cae and Moel-y-crio to cross the Mold-Denbigh road and head steadily upward to Cilcain. 12:15 was too early to stop for lunch, though by now we were pretty wet through, as the rain hadn’t stopped once, so we pressed on towards Loggerheads. The road, which skirted the east flanks of Moel Fammau, was by now streaming with brown water, grit and sand, though the local drivers didn’t seem to think it much of a problem as they sped past throwing huge waves of water skywards.
The original plan of going to Llanferres was abandoned in favour of Café Florence and it was with some relief that we entered the Country Park some time later, only to see the café in darkness. Our hearts sank as we began to prepare to mount up and ride up to Maeshafn. However, one of the staff came out to tell us that they had had a power cut, but could offer hot drinks, soup and toasties.
Saved again! We wrung the water out of our gloves and joined the only other customers near the window, as it was too dark further inside.
Carefully unpeeling our sodden maps, we plotted the return journey, and decided to cut out any thoughts of visiting Llandegla in favour of a short, speedy return to the car park. Accordingly we set off uphill through Cadole and Gwernaffield, skirting round the west of Mold to Soughton. We then picked up our outward route at Northop where George left us for an early bath.
The rain had eased a little by the time we had loaded the cars but we were too wet to care at that stage.  Only about 30 miles but far enough for the conditions.