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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 27 December 2015

24th December 2015: Churton

I swung by Ivan’s new abode to ride out with him on his first CER ride post his “Christmas Lights” incident. Wincing on and off as each bump aggravated his healing process, we made our way out to Rose Farm in the gloom. Arriving on time we found the cafe firmly shut. However a very nice man had left a message with the staff that any riders should go on to The Old Fire Station in Tarporley. We found Andy tucking into his toasted teacake and set about doing the same. John soon turns up; once he had realised it wasn’t Manley today. Dave M completed the motley numbers, but he was in the VW and not the bike. 
We took our time over coffee and the teacakes, but eventually we all departed: Andy and Dave for home, and “We Three Kings” for a round about route to the White Horse in Churton. So swinging around the town, we ride through Tiverton taking the right back towards Huxley. Down past the Shady Oak, we ride steadily on through Tattenhall bound for Chowley Oak and Cuddington. The rain clouds are gathering as we make it into the White Horse before they can drop their load. The weather improves and, after an abstemious single pint, we head for home. The sun is out now, but it was not shining on John today. Twice we stopped to try to fix a very dodgy bottom bracket with the bolt holding the left pedal on was coming loose. John waved us on just outside Huntingdon, as he no doubt proceeded slowly into Halfords for repairs. So only 32 miles out and back but we were at least out!

Friday 18 December 2015

17th December 2015: Holywell (brisk)

I was surprised to see so many riders at the Gallery given the definite chance of rain and hills. I offered a 40 mile round trip via Wetherspoons in Holywell, which was accepted in the time-honoured fashion i.e. an absence of any other offers. It rained a little as we slid around Buckley on our way to Sychdyn and then the lanes ever upwards to Rhosesmor. This route was used as a change from the usual way out via Northop. At a catch-up stop at the highest point of 923ft at Moel-y-crio, Dave H suggested an alternate ride to the Red Lion at Llanasa to minimise the ups-and-downs of my round about route to Holywell. So after the majority accepts this, Ken and Mike McC sped after me down the hillside towards Rhes-y-Cae bound for Holywell the long way round. The route is via the lanes of Lixwm, Babell and the edge of Cerwys towards the crossing point over the A55 at the top of Rhuallt Hill. 
Then I realise we could join and “surprise” the Moderates by getting to the Red Lion ahead of them, so we re-route via Trelawynd. There’s just one single chevroned hill left to go now as we all are flagging after 25 miles. However the “surprise” is on us as the Red Lion is shut! I try to call Steve T to advise them to change their lunch venue, but the telecoms are a bit flakey. So we three grind out of the vale and on around Whitford to Holywell and into the busy Market Cross pub with now 32 miles completed. A text from Steve tells me they are actually in Caerwys for lunch! The Moderates must have been psychic, or realised Llanasa was a long way to go. We set off back in clearing skies along the old Chester A road before diving down into Flint and along the coast road to Shotton. Mike and I peel off for the Greenway, whilst Ken powers on via Hawarden completing 46 miles with 2900ft of climbs, before passing through, still on his bike, back to Rossett.

17th December 2015: Caerwys (mod)

On a damp but very mild December morning we assembled at the Gallery Tea room.  Jim was only there to wish us Bon voyage and so Clive, Ken, Mike McC, Dave H, Steve T, Steve H, Keith, Bryan and yours truly set out.  Clive led us through Buckley, and on towards Northop utilising an ingenious set of back roads and country lanes, most of which even a local such as myself was unaware of.  As we approached Northop we all knew that the hard climb up onto Halkyn mountain lay ahead.  Undeterred we dug in and after 20 minutes or so of steady, occasionally testing terrain we got to the summit above Rhes-y-cae.  
A short team meeting concluded that we form two groups at this point.  Clive, along with Ken and Mike McC would push on to Holywell and the rest of us would aim for the Red Lion at Llanasa at a more leisurely pace.  This pace proved even more "leisurely" than we had planned and a further team meeting decided on a change of lunch venue.  Prompted in part by Dave H's rumbling stomach.  The Piccadilly in Caerwys was our chosen venue.

Photograph by Steve Tan

Despite a full car park the bar area was quiet.  Drinks were quickly served and at a £1 a pint for lime and soda the omens were good.  Friendly staff had our food orders sorted and our meals arrived speedily.  The only negative comment came from the potato chip enthusiasts amongst us.  The pub has succumbed to the latest affectation of serving chips in a small wire basket.  A cunning plot to give you less chips was the verdict.  While eating Steve T had a message from Clive to say that the Red Lion in Llanasa was closed.  The cycling gods were smiling on us today.
Suitably replenished we left the pub turning first north and then west.  This convoluted route designed to get us to one of the few crossing points over the A55.  As we approached the top of Rhuallt hill we noticed the field of commercially grown daffodils were well clear of the ground, a mild winter indeed thus far.  Over the A55 we turned east on quiet well surfaced, if a little "clarty" lanes.  I managed to achieve my objective of keeping us off the main A5151 as long as possible.
A short burst took us to the roundabout where the A5151 turns south to join the A55.  We carried straight on through Gorsedd to Pantasaph.  Re-crossing the A55 we cycled past Holywell Golf Club avoiding the suicidal sheep wandering freely on the common land and after a further steady climb regained the top of Halkyn mountain.  The weather had cleared and we bowled along the summit enjoying the fine views across the Wirral.  Retracing our steps down the lanes below Rhosesmor we regained Northop village where I left the five musketeers to make their way back to the start via Northop Hall re-crossing the A55 for the final time.  An enjoyable 42 miles to finish this year's forages into Wales.

Friday 11 December 2015

10th December 2015: Christmas Lunch Ride to The Pant-yr-Ochain

With another year coming to an end it’s the day of our Christmas Lunch ride to The Pant-yr-Ochain and although the weather leaves much to be desired only a couple have signalled their intention to drive rather than cycle.  I arrive at Manley Mere early to find a good number already assembled.  In addition to those already booked it’s good to see David M and Clive who will be joining us for the ride and lunch, together with Mike McC joining for the ride out only as he has to get back early.  Then Steve T introduces Sue who has come along to check us out before joining our rides in the New Year.
While I concentrate on collecting the monies due and advise the Pant of the additional diners the others enjoy a pre-ride coffee: not many toasted teacake orders today!  By 10:30 with the shortest possible route agreed it’s time to leave and I ask Dave and Liz on the tandem if they would lead the ride.  This proves to be something of a poisoned chalice, as I hadn’t allowed sufficient time for the journey: apologies to all, particularly Dave and Liz P.  With hindsight we were never going to make the Pant by noon.
We set off and, deep in conversation, we half miss our second turning necessitating a sharp U turn and from then on it's all downhill.  With new leaders up front the group is soon spread out as we go through Great Barrow.  I drop back to wait for the tail enders and end up with a small sub group but no sign of the tandem.  A call to their mobile gets no response so we decide to press on to Stamford Bridge to cross the main road and take the first left to Waverton.  At The Plough we meet up with the lead group who it turns out had taken the second on the left after Stamford Bridge: no sign of Clive and Andy though, although the tandem duo do report in that they will see us at the Pant.
The remaining eight of us continue on the original route through Saighton, Aldford, Farndon, Holt and Gresford before being joined by Clive and Andy who had been delayed by a rear wheel puncture after turning off the main road to Waverton.  All’s well that ends well and we arrive at the Pant just before 12:30 in time to join those that had made their own way there.

Photographs by Mike Gilbert

Meals at The Pant are always a pleasure and, judging by the feedback, today was no exception.  A great meal, a superb range of ales and great company: and yes Dave and Liz P did make it just as the starters were being served.  Once the starters were out of the way it was time to raffle off a bottle of Silver Select Jack Daniels whiskey kindly donated by a group of cyclists from the USA as thanks for the help we were able to give them over the summer with the winner being Steve T.
For the record those present comprised: Bryan W, Brian Macca, Mike G, Dave H, Steve T, Trevor, Dave & Liz P, Andy, Steve H, Petar, David M, Liz & Martin D, Clive and Mike McC.
At 15:00 it was time to make a move if we were to get back in daylight.  The main contingent sped back along the B road through Rossett and Pulford with others heading for home in other directions. 

Saturday 5 December 2015

3rd December 2015: Overton (mod)

A handful of members gathered at Alyn Waters under ominous skies and a worse forecast promising heavy rain and strong southerly gusts later. Clive, Tom and Ivan had cycled out from home and it made sense for these ‘brisk’ riders to take a route that led them back northwards.  This left me, Mike Mc and Brian M to dream up our own route that returned us to Alyn.  I chose a personal favourite destination of the White Horse in Overton. 
We set out eastwards, turning at Ivan’s corner for the steep climb to Gresford. After a slight incident at Gresford church that left Brian with access only to his small chainring, we followed lanes south, past the anti-fracking camp on Borras Road, and skirted Wrexham Industrial Estate to pick up the Holt to Cross Lanes road. From here we sped down the A525 into Bangor on Dee and then out on the Overton Road. We arrived at the White Horse early and were treated with good Joules beer and substantial fare. I think this pub may also become a favourite with Mike and Brian.
With only short spells of the threatened rain, we headed onward past Overton Bridge and north to Eyton and then on towards Johnstown. A mix of minor lanes and B-roads led us northwards and into Brymbo.  From here it was a short run on minor roads towards Gwersyllt and back to Alyn Waters.
A relatively early return saw us back before the weather broke with just over 30 miles completed.

3rd December 2015: Northop (brisk)

As I left for Alyn on the 17 mile slog via the Wrexham Road, it was so dark that I had the bike lights on for the first time in ages. Ivan and I rode out of Chester straight up Marford Hill rather than chancing Davenport Corner in the wet conditions - it was mizzling on and off as we arrived at Alyn. There were six riders in total; three more than I expected given the weather forecast. I had put together a short, northern ride to Northop, mainly because I wanted to be home early in the afternoon. Steve H didn’t fancy the return loop into the strengthening wind, so opted for a meander Overton way. 

Photograph by Clive Albany

Ivan, Tom (aka “Jim” see last week’s brisk blog) and I set off up the eponymously named Windy Hill to cross the Minera Steps road towards Ffrith. It is beautiful countryside around here, even at the start of Winter. We motor on through Nercwys towards Gwernymynydd. We divert upwards to 980ft passing the lonely Owain Glyndwr pub and then onwards towards Rhydymwyn and, by this time, I’ve run out of “y”s to type the long Welsh village names. The lane down to R….n runs high up along the Alyn Valley and, in the village, I espy a wall plaque (see photo). Given Felix’s musical talent, we might have had “Rhydymwyn’s Valley” to listen to as well as “Fingal’s Cave” - but no, he wrote a piece about the Alyn river. And, perhaps Charles Kingsley was inspired to write  “The Water Babies” after his visits here. For more interesting facts about the village, Wiki is worth a read on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhydymwyn. The only way out now is up, and taking the tiny, leaf-strewn very steep lane by the limestone quarry, we arrive at Rhosesmor where we know the final part of the ride is all down hill to the “Red Lion” in Northop. 
We are the first punters of the day and relax after a surfeit of steep climbs over the 19 miles. Post lunch, we decide to run for home. Tom has to get ready for a holiday in Goa, and Ivan and I have things to do back in Chester. So the return route would have made a 31 miler, but today the climbs and advancing years and threat of wind and rain influenced us to go home for an early bike wash and hot shower.

Monday 30 November 2015

26th November 2015: Bunbury (brisk)

This is my first attempt of writing up a CER ride and I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing but then that summed up the day as far as route planning was concerned!
There was a good turnout at the Ice Cream Farm despite the damp, overcast day. The moderate group, by far the larger group, headed off to Audlem. That left myself, Jim and John to make up the brisk group. We had no particular route in mind but nonetheless we went off in the direction of Nantwich, turning right out of the cafe gates towards Tarporley, to the rear of Beeston Castle, past the Shady Oak pub (on a section of lovely smooth tarmac) and up Birch Heath Lane into Tarporley village. Here we continued on towards Eaton where we turned off, by the old blacksmiths, in the direction of Wettenhall. So far so good. No rain and the sky now seemed to be getting a little brighter. 
On reaching Cholmondeston, we had a short stop for a chat regarding our route and then headed towards the Rees Heath College, ignoring the way to Church Minshull. At Rees Heath College we had a further stop for a route discussion before heading off in the direction of Nantwich where we followed the road towards Acton. However, before we reached Acton, Jim picked up a puncture, by the canal basin on the A51, which required input from all three of us. Finally we reached Acton continuing through Burland where we turned off into Burland Hall Lane, passing through Spurstow and then reaching Bunbury. Here we stopped for our lunch at Tilly’s. 
Once replenished with food and drink we decided our return route would be Tattenhall, via Peckforton/Beeston, and into Chester before going our separate ways. This we managed without any further incident.
Despite our lack of route planning, it was an enjoyable 100km ride mainly on quiet Cheshire lanes which provided nice the views across Cheshire thanks to the brightening skies. A good day out. 

26th November 2015: Audlem (mod)

Of the 13 riders who turned up at the Ice Cream Farm on an overcast November morning, 10 decided that a ‘moderate’ ride was for them. A rumoured ride to be led by Dave Pipe never materialised (like Dave himself), so a quick re-think was called for. Andy kindly offered a ’40 miler’ to Audlem and he and Dave M offered to lead as long as someone else wrote it up.
So off we set down Tattenhall Lane and around Beeston Castle into Beeston village. Thence south to Bunbury Heath after which there was a short ½ mile section on the A49 before hanging a left into Spurstow. After this we took Long Lane and Capper Lane into Brindley, where we crossed the A534 going on through Gradeley Green and over the Shropshire Union Canal (Llangollen Branch) at Swanley. South again through Ravensmoor and Sound, crossing the A530 at Newton, threading our way down Healey Lane and Holly Green Lane before picking up Coole Lane for the run into Audlem and The Old Priest House café. 
Doubts were expressed that all ten of us could be accommodated by this tiny café, especially since we could see there were already two bikes outside. Andy went on a recce and came back declaring that there was room – just. So we all squeezed in (literally) and placed our orders. Whilst tea and coffees came quickly, the food was a little slower as we’d overwhelmed the kitchen. Nevertheless all were eventually satisfied – especially Dave Heath who played ‘super-sub’ for Dave Pipe by indulging in a pudding.

Photographs by Steve Tan

Outside the café, we took the group photo next to the Buttermarket. Brian ‘Macca’ took the time to explain that the ‘Bear Stone’ standing there, was a ‘glacial erratic’. Erratics (a description sometimes used about Easy Riders) are actually pieces of rock which differ from the size and type of rock native to the area in which they rest. "Erratics" take their name from the Latin word errare, and are carried by glacial ice, often over distances of hundreds of kilometres. According to the plaque, this one could have come from Cumberland or the Mountains of Mourne! 
Andy decided to put in an extra loop after lunch, so we set off on the Newcastle road before looping around to run through Swanbach and Burley Dam. Then north through Aston where we hooked left through Wrenbury, crossing the canal again at the Dusty Miller. Fortunately the bridge was down, unlike my last visit here in September. Once over the canal we picked up the Cheshire Cycle Way heading towards Malpas and crossed the A49 at Bickley Moss. Here we left the CCW, to take the small lanes going to Cholmondeley Gardens. It’s worth pointing out that many of the small lanes during the ride were quite wet and/or muddy, so everyone got ‘splattered’ and mudguards got ‘clagged up’ on a regular basis.
Heading into Bickerton, Dave M peeled off for home, leaving the rest of us to face the climb over Harthill. On the positive side (this bit is especially for Dave H!), you get the reward of a long run down the other side, leaving only a few zigzags before taking Newton Lane back to the Ice Cream Farm.
A rain-free run of 45 miles at an average speed of 14.0 mph – not bad for the ‘moderates’.

Sunday 22 November 2015

19th November 2015: Rock Ferry (mod)

After the excellent turnout of the last four weeks and with reasonable weather in store, I was amazed and pleased to see a dozen riding from Ness Gardens, especially as I’d promised hills. 
You can see them all lined up outside my house in a posed photo reminiscent of a very early CER ride.  Shortly after this was taken in Heswall, the tandem left us, probably a wise move as we then tackled 6 steep hills in West Wirral.  My intention was to hill-climb for two hours until lunch beckoned.  We managed this around Little Neston, Lower Heswall and then across the peninsula to climb Storeton Hill, before Ivan put a stop to proceedings with a puncture.  Fortunately it was only two miles straight down to the recently re-opened Refreshment Rooms, Rock Ferry.  The former hotel served the passengers using one of the six ferries from Wirral to Pier Head and can be found at Bedford Road East, Rock Ferry, CH42 1LS, tel: 0151 644 5893.  A poster inside advertised ferries on the half-hour, EVEN on Christmas Day 1916.
Photographs by Brian MacDonald

Having heard good reports about this place, I had been keen to bring CER here since it reopened two years ago.  I had provisionally booked us in from the previous day and noticed they offered an Over 60’s two courses for £7-50.  On asking if we could have it, the lovely Millie and her sister Olivia agreed.  We all thought that we should use this place whenever we depart from Ness.  It was a gem, and even if service was slightly slow, we didn’t mind.  
The gods were doubly kind to us after such an excellent meal and Conway Bitter, we came out to find it had rained when we were at lunch.  By now it was 14:20 and wintery, so we pressed on back down the eastern shoreline to Bromborough, before crossing The Wirral via Hargraves, Willaston and Ness.  Arriving back at the Botanical Gardens by 15:30 still gave the Chester riders time to cycle home while four of us enjoyed afternoon tea in the warmth.  Thanks to Clive and Steve for the .gpx that recorded an amazing 1400 feet of ascent on a short 30 mile route around Wirral.  I received an email afterwards; “I don’t know how you manage to find more different routes around the Wirral but thank you for making it interesting today”.  

Saturday 14 November 2015

12th November 2015: Erbistock (mod)

After the excellent turnout of the last three weeks and with reasonable weather in store, another large group assembled at Cleopatra’s in Holt.  As I’ve been out of the country for months, I did not recognise a number of new faces but with so many riders, it was easy to split into two groups.  Trevor also had another moderate route on his Garmin but as I was still using pen & paper, it was easy for him to save it for another day; thanks Trevor.  My plan was for an easy flat sausage-shaped route out via Malpas, into the wind to Erbistock for lunch.  We started with 14 but Dave Hill left us early on and the Pipe tandem soon decided on their own route, leaving Andy, two Daves, Charlie and Jane, George, Keith, Mike, Steve, Trevor and me to battle into the beginning of Storm Abigail.  The photo at Malpas Cross belies this and shows how unseasonably sunny  it was for mid-November.

Steve kindly provided the gpx file, but after Malpas we turned SW heading past Overton to Erbistock.  My intention was to try to catch one of nature’s autumnal mysteries on the two weirs there over the R Dee.  The first weir was inaccessible down a Private Drive and the 2nd was across muddy fields, clearly unsuitable for our cycle shoes.  You can see what we missed on this U-tube video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jzg0wg_vuZo

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

Lunch was at The Boat, Erbistock tel: 01978 780666 down on the riverside.  I didn’t want to leave as it had a cosy log fire roaring away and in summer, I could see the pub being a magnet with the benches out on the riverside.  An excellent lunch was had by all, but the non-beer table looked very serious except for George showing that he uses Colgate to achieve that extra sparkle.

With the wind behind us after lunch, we soon past Bangor on Dee, to arrive back at Holt for afternoon tea at 15:15pm, giving some daylight to those who still had to ride home.  Four new members paid me cash for their subs without much persuasion, bringing CER membership to 30+ for the first time.  Riders’ feedback was very positive and appreciated after an easy 38-mile autumnal ride.  Next week, I have an interesting lunchtime pub lined up for the first ever visit of CER.

12th November 2015: Loppington (brisk)

A grand day’s weather in prospect with high winds forecast, and they were right for once. We four, Ken, John, Tom, and myself, set off on a straight up-and-down route that was designed to get most of the climbs and 60% of the miles over by lunch and then enjoy the wind-assist 20 miles run back to Holt before the promised rain arrived. So, out the normal way to Bangor-on-Dee and then off passed the racecourse dodging left through to Cloy. Always into the wind, we press on through Dudleston Heath, through Crickett and Perthy bound for Tetchill.  Now we make an anti-clockwise loop through these tiny lanes to Hordley bound for Cockshutt. 
We arrive at the Dickin Arms in Loppington with 30 miles spent. The pub could do with a make-over, but the staff are welcoming and the fare quickly presented. The run back via Lyneal is at rocket speed as the wind is with us all the way back now. The game birds spread before us, and buzzards flap off their lookouts, and mushrooms abound in the leaf filled lanes; a proper November landscape. At Welshampton, I go off piste slightly to arrive at Tarts Hill and then onto Pigeon and Peartrees Lanes. These have to be the poorest surfaced lanes in the area as we bone-shake our way towards Sarn. It’s a short motor now along through Shocklach back to Holt where, after 50 miles, we arrive at 15:00. 
The sky looks threatening and so Ken peels off towards Rossett and we three head for Chester. Arriving in Chester, the light rain starts and the gloom descends. So 75+ miles, glorious morning sunshine, deserted Shropshire lanes and good company. No one could ask for more out of ride.

Saturday 7 November 2015

5th November 2015: Marston

The weather forecast was for heavy rain for the afternoon, so I was surprised to see a small crowd at Rose Farm.  It soon became clear that only three of those present were riding out today. The others were “just out for coffee” - like we really believed it!  So Bryan, Dave P and myself set off in the dry bound for the Salt Barge pub at Marston.
I’d been out on Tuesday with Ivan and Tom and we had arrived at the Salt Barge too early, so I fancied a return ride to sample its fare.  We weaved out through Cotebrook via an unconventional route to access Whitegate Way all the way into Winsford.  Out via Wharton, we were riding the main roads a bit before sliding through Bostock Green bound for Davenham.  Out past Davenham Church all was going well until Dave P had a puncture.  By this time it was clear that we were going to arrive 30 minutes behind schedule at the Salt Barge; the schedule being to be in the pub before the rain started. So, on the fly, I re-route to Lostock Green.
As we hit the A556 dual carriage crossing, Bryan spent a few greasy minutes sorting out his chain, cassette and front chain ring. Off across the dual carriage we slide through Lostock Graham noticing the first signs of its industrial heritage i.e. brine fields.  At the lights I shoot off down the hill, being just a couple of miles from the first pint, that is, until Dave P on his fixie, pedals furiously past me to say Bryan has another transmission malfunction.  Back up the hill, Bryan demonstrates a masterclass in removing the chain split link to re-thread the chain through the rear hanger.  The rear hanger looks decidedly dodgy, so Bryan elects to minimise gear changes from henceforth.
We arrive at the Salt Barge just as the rain starts around 13:00. The pub is very quiet, and soon three pints of Tatton Brewery’s “Yeti” ale are pulled in double quick time.  Mein Hostess takes our orders, and soon we are tucking into wholesome fare.  Having put the world to rights and re-sampled the Yeti, we set off on a hill-avoiding modified return track.  We take the track through Marbury Park, which is quite delightful in the late autumn rain.  Cogshall Lane brings into Little Leigh.  At Acton Bridge, it’s up through Weaverham to Gorstage.  Here disaster strikes once again for Bryan, as the rear hanger breaks away completely and Bryan comes to an abrupt halt.  Quick as a flash, there is another masterclass from Bryan in converting a 30 geared bike into a free-wheeling fixie! So delayed again, we start off even more gingerly through Sandiway.  Bryan’s car is at Rose Farm, but he quickly realises that gradient and time is against him to retrieve it, so we progress at a leisurely pace along the main road to Old Kelsall Hill road.  A diversion to Tarvin takes us back to town via Waverton and Pearl Lane.
By this time its proper dark, but we are all back into Chester safely.  So we end up with three bikes returning; one original fixie, one free-wheeling fixie and 22 speed compact. Oh, I need to mention that the rain was not torrential, and only lasted a couple of hours.  Mindful of the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, and with due apologies to Shakespeare lovers, those in the warm and dry at home this Bonfire’s Night day might like to enjoy the following verse which has been freely adapted from Henry V’s rousing battlefield speech.  I’m sure Bryan felt like it was a battle today!

(Cue rousing music)
We few, we happy few, we band of riders
For he today that gets his boots wet with me
Shall be my co-rider; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall improve his fitness level;
And CER riders then at home in the warm and dry
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here
And hold their saddles cheap while any speaks
That rode out with Bryan, Dave P and Clive
To Marston upon that Bonfire Night’s day.

See route map and/or gpx file download.

Saturday 31 October 2015

29th October 2015: Gronant (brisk)

The rain caught me just before arriving at the Gallery where six of us (Brian M, George, Ken, Tom, Martin and myself) ended up in the warm but a bit wet. Liz D was also out “breaking in” her healing fractured foot on the bike. I proposed a ride over the Halkyns to Gronant via St Asaph, 51 miles around. So we set off under leaden skies with the rain clearing going the usual way towards Northop. Down Magazine Lane, we espy an enormous waste lorry slowly making its way down the very narrow lane towards us. After we managed to get past via the stinging nettles in the verge, we find out why the lorry was going slowly. It was acting as a branch slayer. We had to stop many times to remove broken branches off the roadway. Out through Northop, I elect to take The Green up towards the Bluebell pub. We sensibly agree to go at our own pace and further agree to meet at the Bluebell pub. Ken, Martin and I arrive to find Tom already there! He had been at the back and hadn’t heard the routing instructions, but nonetheless had figured out where we would be. We wait for 15 minutes or more, and Ken goes back down the lane (twice) to try to find George and Brian whilst I send George an explanatory text. After 20 minutes, we four decide to ride on to Rhuallt via Babell.

Photographs by Clive Albany

The sun is out now and the visibility is extensive. At Pant, I decide to go off-piste by taking the lane to Sodom. This lane is almost level with a kick up to the top of the hill outside Tremierchion. A few more turns takes down the tiny dead-end lane to overfly the A51 and down into Rhuallt proper. Running parallel to the A51 we fly down to ride the wide footbridge over the A51 and up into St Asaph. Here we follow cycle route 84 northwest towards Rhyl, before going through Rhuddlan bound for the “Bells of St Mary” at Gronant. The castle built by Edward I in 1277 is magnificent in the sunshine as are the “Three Knights of the Road” posing by the Medieval homage sculpture at the bridge over the Clwyd river. 
The pub is heaving as it is Half Term week but service is brisk as we tuck in after 32 miles. The return is along the coast road with a few shimmies to get us running parallel but not actually on the road. Coffee and cake is at the cafe behind Sainsburys. A few more wiggles and we are in Connah’s Quay where we four go our separate ways home. So, not a spectacular routing, a mystery as to where George and Brian got to, but nonetheless an enjoyable, almost dry, bright day over the Halkyns to 900ft and back.

Sunday 25 October 2015

22nd October 2015: Cholmondeley (mod)

After the excellent turnout of the last two weeks, a total of 8 riders braved the wind and met at Manley Mere this week. With a strong westerly forecast for most of the day, Dave’s plan to visit the hanging gardens of Grappenhall was abandoned for a route south to Cholmondeley, with the wind on our right for the outward journey and on our left for the return. At least no rain was forecast, so Ray, Steve T, Keith, Dave H, Tom, Jim, Brian M and Dave M meandered along the back lanes towards the Motor Museum and Ashton. A quick sprint took us across the Kelsall by-pass and up onto the Utkinton road. Here Dave M departed on grandchildren duty and the remaining 7 skirted Tarporley to the east to cross the A51 at Tilstone. The autumn sun appeared briefly from time to time and the wind appeared to be suspiciously behind us as we continued south through Bunbury, even passing Tillys coffee and cake emporium, much to Dave’s disappointment. 
Just north of Brindley we came across a couple of fellow riders whose journey had been interrupted by an incursion of hedge cuttings. Fortunately an alternative route was available and despite a short section on main road we were soon heading south again towards Larden Green. Here we turned to the west and into the teeth of the wind, but fortunately for only a short distance before we reached our lunch stop at the Cholmondeley Arms, a pub/restaurant using the former village school building. The prices were a little above our usual budget but acceptable for good quality food. However, Ray was decidedly underwhelmed by his steak, which would have made an excellent seat cover, but to the credit of the management, a refund was agreed. 
Skirting Cholmondeley Castle Deer Park we steadily turned northwards and here Ray and Tom decided to sprint ahead, while the rest of us made our way towards Beeston. The wind showed no sign of easing off so we took the lane to the east of the ridge to gain some shelter, and from Beeston continued downhill to the Shady Oak and the Shropshire Union canal. After a brief climb we were into the wind again, but generally the hedges gave us good protection as we went through Burton, and to the rear of Okells Nurseries.  Crossing the A51 at Duddon took us into Tarvin and then over the A54 towards Barrow, where we passed to the east of the Barrowmore Estate and the last lane back to Manley Mere.
Total distance 42 miles or about 60 for those from Chester and Runcorn. Considering the strength of the wind a good day’s riding.   

Sunday 18 October 2015

15th October 2015: Ruyton-XI-Towns (brisk)

I hadn’t seen so many riders at a previous CER meet, especially one from Chirk, which is always more of an effort to start from.  Clive volunteered to lead a brisk ride into Shropshire again on what was his 6th Anniversary as a member of CER.  On the promise of small hills, I joined him along with Darren, Ivan, Steve T and Tom and agreed to write the ride up.
As we rode in a giant figure of eight, it was not long before Clive suffered a p@@@@@@@ due to the seasonal hedge trimming.  He was then supervised by the others while changing his tube.  (See photo)

Photograph by Brian MacDonald

Passing the Queens Head PH, we continued south, skirting the shop at Knockin and headed along unfamiliar lanes around the north side of The Wrekin escarpment.  Turning back north, we completed about 60% of the ride before searching for the only pub in Ruyton-XI-Towns to have lunch but found it was closed for renovation.  We then stopped at a lovely place on the old A5 at Cafe Eleven, Ruyton-Xl-Towns, SY4 1LA, tel: 07976 024 654. 
The day, as promised, stayed dry; always a blessing at this time of year.  As the brisk pace continued after lunch, after skirting Ellesmere, I decided to veer off at a more sedate pace & arrived back at the Chirk cafe with 56 miles at 15 mph on the clock.  A pleasant final ride from Chirk till next year.  

Brian Mac, now known as Macca, so as not to be confused with the new member Brian M

15th October 2015: Burlton (mod)

A large group of Easy Riders plus two guests met at the café in Chirk, for our last departure from here this year. We were also honoured by the presence of Dave M who had ridden from Holt to join us for coffee but had to return home to Oscroft for a prior afternoon appointment. The ten moderate riders of George, Trevor, Dave H, Keith B, Bryan, Brian M, Petar, Dave & Liz P, and Jim, were joined by guest riders Chris and Dave R. 
The plan was to depart via the attractive Ceiriog Valley and then descend into Shropshire for some pleasant ‘lane riding’. Prospective member Dave R used his skill to winkle out a lunch stop at Burlton and all went well until we got to Whittington, where we followed the B 5009 south to West Felton. The road was wide straight and boring: clearly the old main road downgraded after the opening of the A5. To the local drivers this was an opportunity to make good progress without much traffic. For those who enjoy main road riding, fine, but not for us. I would recommend a change of route in future. However, we were soon onto the lanes after the village, and began to make good progress until Bryan picked up a puncture. This was soon repaired and we continued eastwards towards Wykey and Stanwardine in the Fields. The chilly autumn weather was briefly relieved as the sun came out for part of the route to Marton and our lunch stop at Burlton. 
The Burlton Arms turned out to be a real find: newly re-furbished with a range of beers and good choice of food. Soon we were back on the road again, this time to the north and Loppington, where we took a sharp left to English Frankton and Colemere. Continuing westwards, we passed the sailing dinghies on White Mere on our way to Welsh Frankton. By the time we got to Hindford we had another puncture, this time to guest rider Dave R. While this was fixed Brian M spent some time talking to the owner of the land we had stopped on and he learned that the owner is in the process of constructing an outdoor snack bar and food area for canal boaters and cyclists. A stop to look out for in the future.
Soon we were back in Gobowen and the road to Chirk. The traffic island on the A5 was an experience, but we all survived to reach the village car park at about 16:30. 
A total distance of about 43 miles on mostly pleasant lanes and above all another dry day. How long can this go on?          

Sunday 11 October 2015

8th October 2015: Whitchurch to Shawbury Special Ride (mod)

With the promise of another dry day our biggest group yet met at Sainsbury’s café in Whitchurch for a day out in Shropshire. The CER members of Dave H, Dave M, Keith, Bryan, George, Trevor, Andy, Dave & Liz P, Petar and Jim were joined by two guest riders, Jane and Keith M.
The most difficult part was finding Alkington Road out of town, but Andy and Dave M skilfully led us in the right direction (by following the signs!) and we were soon heading south towards Whixall.

However, hardly had we exited Alkington before we came across a ‘Road Closed’ sign. Mindful of our experience the previous week, we ignored it again and found ourselves faced by a raised canal bridge. AND, a canal bridge that looked like it was not going to be lowered for some considerable time. Fortunately, the canal narrowed substantially at this point, presumably to reduce bridge building costs, and a narrow boat, the Ottar, was slowly moving through the pinch point. Much to our delight, the ‘bargees’ Jeff, Jim and Peter suggested that we simply cross onto the barge and onto the bank opposite. Without further delay, we passed our bikes and bodies over the cut and in no time at all had defeated the road closure. Southwards we went, into Whixall Fen, an area with a very interesting WW2 history. The lanes were well-surfaced and coupled with the lack of traffic, the ride through Waterloo, Horton and Loppington was a delight. We soon arrived at Burlton, where the brisk group had gone south but we were heading east. A short stretch of main road led to us to Myddle where we got into a bit of a muddle on a hill and found ourselves ‘tandemless’. Keith retraced our route, and using the modern miracle of the wireless telephone we agreed to meet up further along the road. Passing through Harmer Hill and Yorton, we were soon all back together again, and continued eastwards through Grinshill and Acton Reynald.

Photographs by Andy Whitgreave and Bryan Wade

A short diversion found us posing for photos outside the sadly ruined Moreton Corbet Castle, and then skirting the boundaries of RAF Shawbury, we arrived at the ‘Elephant and Castle’ as the brisk group were finishing their meal. We were given a very pleasant reception by the hotel staff, who had even organised a ‘cyclists special’ menu for us, and were not at all put out by having a group of 13 appear for lunch mid-week. Service was good, and we were soon ready for the return. Dave M had set off in advance as he had matters of state to attend to, leaving the remaining 12 to the climb up Marchamley Hill. To their credit, most of the group rode to the top, though some of us took the opportunity to have a gentle stroll. From then on it was mostly downhill north to Prees Heath where we crossed the A41 and up to Ightfield, then Ash Parva and Ash Magna to the Whitchurch ring road.
45 miles on some of the best lanes we have ridden on for some time. An excellent route and great autumn weather: a day to remember.      
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 9 October 2015

8th October 2015: Whitchurch to Shawbury Special Ride (brisk)

I hadn’t quite expected 21 riders out for the last Special Ride of the year, but the numbers kept rising in the last few days; some I knew were coming, and some I didn’t! - but all were well rewarded by quite the best ride of the year - but then I’m biased! Firstly, my thanks to Jim who kindly agreed to lead the Moderate group out. No doubt a mammoth job with 12 bikes and just an unfamiliar squiggly line on his bikenav.

The Brisk group, consisting of Ivan, Ray, Paul, Steve T, Ken, John, Tom and myself, set off around Whitchurch and out bound for Alkington. There is a steady climb out of Whitchurch over 3 miles before we dropped down through familiar villages before skirting Loppington and arriving at Waterloo. Then there is 7 miles of quiet tiny lanes before Myddle. Here as the Moderate group would go eastwards, we were turning south through the middle of Myddle just passing the middle of our outward ride. From thence onward it was all new lanes to all of us, and what lanes they were. Fourteen miles of tiny yet fast lanes with fabulous Salopian countryside to enjoy in the sunshine. The Garmin riders lead the ride for me here, eager to get to the pub.

Photographs by Clive Albany

We arrive in under two hours with 30 miles up. The “Elephant and Castle” were ready for us with tables set and stoves ready. Given eight orders went in, they came out quite promptly and were appreciated by all (I think?). A useful venue for future rides perhaps. Leaving at 13:30, we set off north and briefly stopped at Moreton Corbet castle ruins. What a site it must have been in February 1216 when William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, besieged it on the orders of King John. The Elizabethan additions were also magnificent in the sunshine. So we now head inexorably for Marchamley Hill, the only obstacle on the way back. Although most of the route back was familiar to me, the sunny countryside was magnificent in its autumn colouration. At Prees Higher Heath, a nip across the A41, sends on our way via Ightfield, back to Sainsbury’s for a drink and cakes by 15:00. For me Shropshire seems to be a cyclist paradise of quiet lanes and big views without too many big hills, so maybe more away rides will be planned there in the future. As we got into our cars, Paul was joined by John on his ride back home to Chester - a 100 up today for Paul. Hopefully Keith M and Jane maybe tempted out again with us in the future.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

PS: Thanks to Sainsbury’s Whitchurch store for allowing us to park at the store.

Monday 5 October 2015

1st October 2015: Cefn-y-bedd (mod)

An impressive turnout of 13 Easy Riders met at the Roodee Café to be joined by guest rider Chris on a very chilly morning but with the promise of sun later.
The brisk group had had a long ride on Tuesday and decided to join us for the ride originally planned for Pant-yr-Ochain, but just as we were about to set off Brian M spotted a puncture: rear wheel of course! Then Ray noticed a broken spoke and set off home for a change of bike. Meanwhile, Martin, Dave H, Dave M, Trevor, Keith, George, Jim, Clive and Dave & Liz, helped fix Brian’s tyre. 
Several minutes later we set off for Handbridge, Kinnerton and Hope. Crossing the Alyn valley, we continued upwards round the flank of Hope Mountain and onto the Corwen road at Treuddyn. With most of the climbing done we sped down the Cegidog valley towards Ffrith. A ‘road closed’ sign was ignored and we continued to within a few yards of ‘The Steps’ to be informed by the workers that the road was indeed closed due to several large holes that had appeared: we couldn’t even walk through.  Reluctantly we retraced our route to the diversion through Ffrith: uphill naturally. Much to our surprise we met George at the junction. He had had a slight mechanical problem and got a bit off pace due to our rather enthusiastic downhilling. By now, time was also speeding away, and we decided not to head for our original destination, but to go to Cefn-y-bedd. There we found the Hollybush - ‘food served all day’. Ideal for us, and the staff were not phased by such a large group.  The meals were well priced and a good choice: will definitely go there again. Chris left us at this point to take up grandparent duties. I hope he enjoyed his first foray with CER.
Ivan's Corner, Llay

Photograph by Clive Albany

Martin peeled off a little later as we took the back road through Llay for a photo stop at ‘Ivan’s Corner’. Clive recommended a very nice lane parallel with the A483 that took us to Marford but without having to climb the steep hill up into Gresford. Here it really was all downhill and we soon reached the Cleopatra’s in Holt. Too soon for some, but the general feeling seemed to be for coffee and cake, so we reclined in the afternoon sun taking in the bustle of Holt Main Street. The return was through Farndon and the Churton and Aldford by-passes, before we split again at Saighton. The Chester group continued on to Sandy Lane, while the rest headed for Waverton and Guilden Sutton.
About 45 miles in total, and a very sunny afternoon. Met men right again!

Saturday 3 October 2015

24th September 2015: Ellesmere (mod)

There was an excellent turnout at Cleopatra's in Holt: Ray, Brian Miller, Dave Matthews, John, Clive, Jim, Keith, Dave and Liz, Mike, Steve Tan and myself.  John wasn't riding with us today, probably going to track down a car driver who had invaded his space in order to have a therapeutic rant!  Dave Matthews was able to make it today.  We did feel privileged.  It was like having Prince William agreeing to go with you to watch the rugby.  
Jim had a route to Ellesmere that I also had been thinking of, so he agreed to lead, and I offered to write the ride up.  The rest of the group was happy to go along with the suggestion.  It was a pleasure to have everybody out together: just like the good old days, before Jeremy Kyle and electric handbrakes.
 After crossing the river to Farndon we were soon bowling along south through Shocklach and Threapwood toward Hanmer.  We made steady progress.  The late summer scenery looked lovely, and there was only marginal slowing for dress adjustments.  I think Dave and Liz must have been practising their routine like the Mercedes pit- stop team.  It is that time of the year, in terms of cool starts that could stay chilly or become warmish.  Shorts or tights?  Long or short sleeves?  Shell outer or not?  Or, increasingly with our group, the burlesque-like unzipping and peeling off of sleeves from Aldi gilets.
Hanmer Mere looked attractive in the sun, then we climbed alongside Bettisfied Park.  The narrow, rolling lanes around Cole Mere and White Mere were delightful.  It is a great pleasure to pedal, buried in Shropshire's warm, late season lushness.
We decided on The Black Lion for lunch with Keith falling off in his eagerness to reach the back entrance. Steve thought that an attractive lady on the pavement had distracted him, not the first time he's fallen for a blonde, I bet! 
Lunch was fine for most, but Ray and I endured the most underwhelming chili con carne of our lives. Talk about no frills!  No real chef would have had the face to present this as an acceptable dish. Do you remember Vesta meals?!  And, they forgot my pot of tea!  Our return was via Penley, Holly Bush, Bangor on Dee and north up the B5069.  After climbing up from the River Clywedog, Steve and Keith took off for the now traditional last few miles thrash.  Mike waited to take to the little lanes up from Sutton Green with half the group.  I speeded up, with the pull of cake and coffee getting ever stronger. 
Clive and Ray caught up just before Holt, and a number of us ended the day relaxing in Cleopatra's where they treat us just fine.  Forty very scenic and social miles.

Saturday 19 September 2015

17th September 2015: Audlem (brisk)

A large number gathered at Rose Farm and it was obvious that we would need to split into two groups. The ‘moderates’ had at least two routes to choose from, but the ‘briskers’ – comprising of John, Tom, Ray, Steve T. and Ken – did not have a route as, neither Clive nor Ivan, the usual leaders, had turned up due to other commitments. John consulted his Garmin and offered a 70km ride to Audlem. So, 10 minutes after the moderates had left, we set off, only to find the moderates waiting at the entrance to Rose Farm where Dave P had lost his helmet!
We went along Utkinton Lane and down through Cotebrook, passing the ‘Knickerbrook’ entrance to Oulton Park race circuit. Then on through Rushton and Wettenhall, with John setting a good pace and navigating with great confidence. All went well until we reached Reaseheath College, where ‘Garmin’ was telling John to take the road through the college grounds. Dave Heath later told me that this was possible, but we were not confident, so continued down Wettenhall Road, across the A51 and into Nantwich via Welshman’s Lane and Welsh Row. We threaded our way through the centre of Nantwich with John following the satnav’s instructions – whereupon we found ourselves at the other side of Reaseheath College - the clever thing had re-routed to take us back to where we had departed!
After a good 10 minutes consulting various Garmins and Google Maps, we deduced that we needed to be on the other side of Nantwich, heading out on the A529/A530. So, completing a circuit around the town we picked up the A529 and then A530 and then headed off towards Audlem down Coole Lane. Half way along, we came across the signpost to the ‘Secret Bunker’. Built in 1950 the 35,000 square foot underground bunker would have been the centre of Regional Government had nuclear war broken out. It was declassified only in 1990.
We arrived in Audlem at about 12.30 and decided to see if there was room at The Old Priest House café. Squeezing the five of us onto a table for four, we ordered our food and admired the many cycling photos, including one of ‘Harry the Bike’ as he marked his 500,000 miles in the Guiness Book of Records. Apparently he averaged 280 miles to the pint!

Photographs by Steve Tan

Although a little slow to arrive, the meals were excellent and enormous, especially John’s ‘Mega-breakfast’. Suitably restored we set out for home, retracing our route from Audlem back to Coole Lane.  About one-third of the way along, we turned left towards Broomhall Green and Sound, crossing the A530 there. Thence on to Wrenbury, where we had to stop, as the bridge over the Shropshire Union Canal near the Dusty Miller pub had been raised to allow a barge through. This allowed us a short breather, as John had been setting a furious pace, fuelled no doubt by his ‘mega-breakfast’. This continued as we zoomed through Bickerton and across the A49 at The Cholmondeley Arms, heading past Cholmondeley Castle Gardens to Bickerton and then over Harthill to Tattenhall. John was still flying, fuelled by a desire to catch up with and berate the driver of a Land Rover and trailer combo that had nearly taken him off. Luckily for the driver, the chase was in vain.
Reaching Hoofield, John, Tom and Ray peeled off to head back to Chester leaving Ken and Steve to wend their way along the aptly-named Corkscrew Lane back to Rose Farm, arriving just in time to  enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
A total of 50 miles/80 km at an average speed of 16.4 mph, this was a definitely a proper ‘brisk’ ride.

Friday 18 September 2015

17th September 2015: Goostrey (mod)

Despite earlier warnings of the tail end of the Hurricane reaching Cheshire by Thursday morning, a fair sized group of easy Riders assembled at the welcoming Rose Farm café at 10:00. The moderate group, consisting of Bryan, Andy, Mike G, Steve H, Dave H, Trevor and Jim decided to head for the Red Lion at Goostrey. Dave and Liz arrived just as the group were setting off and decided to follow on when ready. We followed a well-recognised route past Oulton Park and Little Budworth down to Whitegate and crossed the Weaver by the locks. The rough track up to Moulton is still as rough as ever but we rode it valiantly and then sped down through Davenham, Lach Dennis and Lower Peover. We made good progress, helped by a slight tail wind and what seemed to be a generally downhill route. (Perhaps the training is beginning to pay off!) 
Arriving in Goostrey there was no sign of the pub, but fortunately a passing local knew the area well, so we were practically the first customers in at 12.15. The local beer, Hancocks, a new one to most of us, was well recommended by Bryan and Steve, and we had just ordered our meals when Dave and Liz arrived.
The return journey took us south towards Holmes Chapel, where we followed a lane of slightly dubious quality across the River Dane and up into the village. A short spell of main road followed until we took the lane south of Sproston Green and to the south of Middlewich. This is sometimes used as a short cut for drivers also wanting to miss the town centre, as we witnessed when one nearly flattened the tandem with his impatience. 
Following another short section of main road near Wimboldsley, it was with some relief that we reached the turning for Church Minshull, and the quieter lanes up through Wettenhall and Oulton Mill. At this point the lure of afternoon cake was too much for the two Daves and together with Bryan, Steve, Mike and Liz they took off for the café at the Shire Horse Centre, leaving Andy, Trevor and Myself to head straight back to Rose Farm. 
Despite a slight occasional headwind on the return, a very pleasant 45 miles, or just short of 70 for those from Chester.

Saturday 12 September 2015

10th September 2015: Cwm (brisk)

An Indian Summer’s day had riders galore at The Gallery, but Jim and Martin only came for coffee.  Steve had re-cycled a 2012 route and decided to lead a ride to “the 2012 pub find of the year” at Cwm near Dyserth. Bryan started with us to Halkyn, but the hills got to him and he pealed off, leaving Steve, John, Clive, Paul, Tom and myself on a fast ride.   After passing through Babell and past the monastery, Steve announced that the pub only served food from 13:00, so an extra 10 miles were added near Trelogan.  With perfect timing, we rolled up at 13:05.  The jury in my opinion are still out on The Blue Lion, Cwm LL18 5SG tel: 01745 289229. I didn’t think it was that special and Trip Advisor reviews have 44 Excellent but 9 as “Terrible”, so you decide.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald and Clive Albany

The return up over the steep climb that crosses the A55, saw just Steve and Brian going for afternoon tea after a sunny fast CER ride with 3,800 feet of ascent and 48 miles round trip back to the Hawarden Estate Garden Centre for coffee and obscene-coloured cake.  If ever The Gallery is closed, this place on the old main road east of the town is very pleasant with plenty of parking

Friday 4 September 2015

3rd September 2015: Little Bollington (mod)

Chilly, but a bright start today so first time for the long-johns for me at Manley Mere. The start time came and went and then Steve H offered “The Swan with Two Nicks” and we were late away, except he didn’t have a route! So, recycling a lot of the outward Cheshire Cycleway Long Ride route, we i.e. Steve’s T and H, Dave and Liz, Mike G, Ray, Dave M, and myself, set off via Delamere, then down to Croxton, bound for Comberbatch. The ride is uneventful until we get to High Legh where I realise I need to look at a map to navigate the lanes down to the pub. It’s not far now as we pass the John Wesley monument under the M56. The pub doesn’t disappoint and the food arrives promptly. At 14:00 and after only 26 miles, we set off homebound via the Trans-Pennine Trail aka NCW62. This sounded like a “good idea" because it’s flat, bypasses areas of no outstanding beauty i.e. Warrington, and is new to most of us. Ivan had cycled this Merseyside route so I know we could get through.
So off over the trip-trap bridge, we edge round Dunham Massey to try to find the access to the trail. The OS shows a tiny lane, which then finds us gingerly cycling around the edge of a gas pipeline enclosure and then scrambling down a bank to finally get on the former rail track. Anyway it’s an adventure! The track is muddy in parts and there are groans from some riders about binding brakes etc but I don’t care since I’m on my winter bike with disc brakes. The signage is poor, and a few times we have to guess which is the right way through Warrington.

Photograph by Clive Albany

Here Steve T comes into his own and offers to lead us out of the mess. So ducking and diving through former industrial areas, we end up riding for miles along the side of the defunct St Helen’s canal and the Manchester Ship canal. We go past Ferry “marina” and Fiddlers Ferry power station before stopping to view the new coffer dams with their cranes, which are busily building the new Runcorn bridge. Steve acts as an excellent guide as we have to take a diversion around the works to access Runcorn Bridge. After two hours riding covering only 18 miles, we are now ducking and diving around Runcorn as Steve leads us out on yet another new way around the town. Steve drops off now as he is only 30 yds from home so we then run down to Costa in Frodsham. The way back to Manley is easy now and with 56 miles up, this has been a very interesting if somewhat novel ride. So, the day started out with no idea where we would go and ended up with 75 happy miles, yet without Steve T, we might still be finding our way out of Runcorn!
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 28 August 2015

27th August 2015: Montford Bridge (mod)

I was first to arrive at the Chirk Tea Rooms soon followed by Brian Miller on his second outing with CER. Later Paul, Tom, Steve T, Trevor, Liz & Dave P turned up, as well as John fresh from his Paris-Brest-Paris success. I say fresh; which was remarkable seeing that he told us he’d only managed one hour’s sleep a night through the whole four days.
Trevor intended to ride directly back home, which left the rest of us. I’d planned a ride based on Clive’s brisk group outing to Shrewsbury last month because it sounded an interesting route. However, instead of the full distance I intended to avoid the town itself by lunching at Montford Bridge. Reversing the route and making some other minor changes completed the plan.
Having promised a flattish ride, I felt a little guilty as we struggled up a single chevron gradient climbing from the River Ceiriog to reach Rhyn, although this was the exception. From then it was through Gobowen and Whittington, crossing the A5 to Maesbury, past the radio telescope at Knockin. The route was showing the effects of heavy rain in the week with some large patches of gravel and mud. So we initially missed Clive’s track leading down towards the River Severn because it just looked a muddy mess.  On closer inspection, it was a muddy mess, one that even he might have avoided.  So we continued by a more sensible road to the riverside, where we logged an appealing looking pub for future use, the Royal Hill near Pentre.
Continuing through Shrawardine to Montford Bridge where we stopped at the Wingfield Arms. A friendly welcome led to a very long wait for food, though when it came it was substantial, well received by many but not by all.
Refreshed, we headed back through Little Ness, Ruyton XI Towns and on to Queens Head. From here we chose to avoid the A5 making for Oswestry along minor roads. We soon heard the wail of emergency sirens, and a little later began to meet many vehicles and heavy lorries on our route – Oswestry itself was clogged with traffic – the A5 had been closed.  We eventually broke away from the congestion, headed north past Old Oswestry Fort, into Western Rhyn and finally over the canal viaduct into Chirk in time for tea and cakes in the café.
In all about 48 miles in generally fine sunny weather, though somewhat longer for John, Paul and myself who had cycled from our homes
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

20th August 2015: Audlem (mod)

Awaiting ride report.

Teddy Bear Café
Photograph by Bryan Wade

Saturday 22 August 2015

20th August 2015: Market Drayton (mod plus aka brisk)

Arriving at the Ice Cream Farm with Trevor and Tom I found there was quite a turnout for today’s rides.
I had prepared an outline route to visit the Red Lion in Market Drayton, a first for me. It was a sort of ‘moderates plus’ ride, that could be varied depending on the group, how people felt, time and the weather conditions. I had the flexibility of my manual GPS (printed extracts from OS maps) to make any changes.
Following Dave M’s announcement on John Wilkie’s success in the PBP (see posting below) and excusing himself from the rides as he had to look after the grandchildren, we duly split into two groups, mine containing Ken, Paul (with new bike), Steve T and Tom. The other group contained Liz & Dave P, Andy, Bryan, Steve H and Trevor who were off to Audlem. I had one request from Steve T, could I make our ride at least 60 miles.
At 10:30 sharp with a slight south-westerly breeze against us we set of in the direction of Malpas. It was a fairly direct route via Bolesworth Castle, Brown Knowl and Ashtons-cross; crossing the A41 at Hampton Heath. Left in Malpas, and followed the B5395 for a short distance then on through Higher Wych, crossing the A525 and taking the A495 as far as Bronnington. A left turn ensued and we were cycling steadily through Whixall, Coton, and onto Prees. After Prees we took in Darliston, Fauls where we observed the local council collecting from the roadside verge a lorry load of dumped tyres. The weather was beginning to threaten and it started to rain as we cycled on the A53 to Market Drayton. They have a wonderful one-way system in the town, and to get to the Red Lion/Joules Brewery we cycled almost all of it. We arrived at about 12:50 having covered just over 32 miles. It was a delight, lovely food and the Joules Pale Ale well; I could have stayed there all afternoon, but I would have had difficulty getting on my bike again.

Photographs by Steve Tan

After lunch we headed in a north-easterly direction towards Norton in Hales. We turned left at Betton to Adderley, left again onto the A529, then right to Aston passing Shavington Park on our left. The wind was generally in our favour but distant rain clouds were observed, fortunately we were following so didn’t get wet. At Aston we met the other mods group and cycled with them as far as Wrenbury, where they went on their way whilst I reconfigured my GPS for the final run back. At Chorley Bank we parted with Ken (our expert on telephone exchanges) who was to make his way home to Rossett, whilst the remainder of us turned right passing through Brindley, Bunbury and Beeston returning to the Ice Cream Farm just before 16:00 for afternoon tea. We covered 63 plus miles at a steady average speed of 14.3 mph (according to Steve T). Those who cycled in from beyond Chester will have covered in excess of ninety miles.
Overall, a lovely ride in pleasant company taking in some new lanes.

Friday 21 August 2015

CER congratulates John Wilkie

CER member John Wilkie completed the 1,200 km Paris-Brest-Paris Randonnée in 77 hours and 45 minutes on Wednesday evening having started the gruelling event on Sunday.  This, a truly great achievement in itself, is made even more remarkable when one considers that John rode his first 50 km audax in September 2014: from virtually nothing to full PBP in 11 months!
Paris-Brest Paris (PBP) from Paris to Brest on the west coast of France and back to Paris has become one of the most prestigious events on the global randonneuring calendar and is run once every four years.  For more information go to the official site.

John's official ride stats are given in the table below:

Suivi de la plaque / Track the frame number:  

ContrôleKmTempsPassageMoyenne tronçonMoyenne Totale
START 016/08 17:31
VILLAINES 22108:5317/08 02:2424.8 km/h24.8 km/h
FOUGERES 31013:1017/08 06:4120.7 km/h23.5 km/h
TINTENIAC 36416:0917/08 09:4018.1 km/h22.5 km/h
LOUDEAC 44920:1717/08 13:4820.5 km/h22.1 km/h
CARHAIX 52525:0917/08 18:4015.6 km/h20.8 km/h
BREST 61830:1117/08 23:4218.4 km/h20.4 km/h
CARHAIX 70340:1918/08 09:508.3 km/h17.4 km/h
LOUDEAC 78246:5818/08 16:2911.8 km/h16.6 km/h
TINTENIAC 86752:0818/08 21:3916.4 km/h16.6 km/h
FOUGERES 92155:1119/08 00:4217.7 km/h16.6 km/h
VILLAINES 100961:3219/08 07:0313.8 km/h16.3 km/h
MORTAGNE 109067:4119/08 13:1213.1 km/h16.1 km/h
DREUX 116573:3719/08 19:0812.6 km/h15.8 km/h
FINISH 123077:4519/08 23:1615.7 km/h15.8 km/h