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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Saturday 31 January 2015

29th January 2015: West Kirby (mod)

With Brian Mac’s warning of gales, snow, rain and plagues of locusts, it was with some trepidation that myself, Dave H and Steve T set forth onto the Greenway into the teeth of a stiff breeze. The cloud cover threatened, but we arrived at the café at Ness a bit late but dry, and hopeful that once again the meteorologists had got it wrong. However, hardly had the brisk group helmeted up but it began to snow in Alpine quantities. The car park was soon covered in about an inch of wet snow, but they bravely set off into the unknown. Steve decided to go for a burn and joined the group leaving Dave and me to fly the flag for the moderates. We hung around for a while waiting for the blizzard to go over and set off southwards for Burton. The riding was tenuous to say the least not helped by the local drivers who clearly had little understanding of how to drive in wet slush. We slowly climbed up to the old station at Willaston, the snow steadily turning to rain and the going becoming easier as we continued north to Thornton Hough. Any thoughts of abandoning the ride were forgotten as we headed up to Brimstage and Storeton under steadily clearing skies. 
We ignored any temptation to take the unsurfaced Landican Lane at this point and turned west towards Barnston and then Irby. We even had a few sunny spells as we continued northwards to Pensby, Greasby and Meols. Our enthusiasm got the better of us briefly and we took to the sea front just outside Hoylake. The ‘breeze’ was well into double figures here and after struggling into a freezing head wind, we soon moved inland to get the shelter of the suburbs. Once into West Kirby we opted for a café instead of the usual pub lunch and found a very enticing establishment sporting a Victorian veranda that is probably very pleasant in summer but not at the end of January.
The service was speedy and despite the cosy interior we were soon heading back along the Wirral Way with a strong tail wind. Back at Ness we received a message from Clive that Steve was heading straight back along the Greenway, unfortunately having to stand around for a very cold hour before we arrived. Dave stoked up the Mazda however and Steve soon thawed out. A total of 56 miles in probably the worst conditions for a long time.

29th January 2015: Wirral Périphérique to New Brighton (brisk)

The weather forecast was for snow, high winds, hail, and rain; and for once it was spot on. As Steve T, John and myself battled around the familiar Wirral Périphérique route in a clockwise manner, we got the lot. I was the first to arrive at Ness, and then a solitary rider, aka Mike, asked if I was from CER. Mike knew of us from John who soon arrived. The Moderates arrived (Jim, Dave H and Steve T) and were doing their own thing, but Steve T decided to chance his ride with the three Briskers - little did we know how much of risk the ride might turn out to be! Just as we left, there was a huge deluge of hail rattling on the cafe glass roof. Did we sit down and take another coffee? No! We set off down towards Burton Marsh and the Nets café lane to the Harp. Mike decides he’d already had enough and peeled off for home. 
We remaining three then literally battled along the track being shot-blasted by the hail stinging our faces. We reached much needed cover near the Harp and the wind dropped a little but the hail turned to heavy snow. As we battled on near to Allans Meadow, I was tempted to call at Brian Mac’s house and seek sanctuary. We have a quick conference, and after brushing off the rapidly accumulating snow from our wet weather gear, we elect to get onto the Wirral Way that would offer us grip in the snow and hail. The snow eases off and we agree to keeping going to West Kirby and make a decision there. The newly widen trackway is somewhat bumpier than I recall, but we make good progress and arrive in West Kirby with the sun out. We elect to go on as the wind will be behind us all the way to New Brighton. So, taking the cycleway past Hoylake station, we end up on the North Parade prom. Here I easily manage 35mph under wind assist, and John a bit more as he glides by me. We quickly arrive in New Brighton somewhat frozen even with the sun out and opt for the familiar but distinctly cold and draughty Seaside Cafe and the all-day breakfast while our gloves dry and warm on the single radiator. 
Wot No Snow!

Photographs by John Wilkie

As we leave in the sunshine, the wind gets up as we trundle easily along Magazines Promenade, past Seacombe and Woodside ferry terminals for the familiar Wirral Wander trail back towards Chester. Around Rock Ferry Park, the clouds darken ominously and we get shot-blasted again with hail until Eastham Ferry. Here it’s a quick run to Childer Thornton. As none of us need to get back to Ness Gardens, we access the NCN 56 cycleway towards Mollington.  
Mersey Ferry Smiles
Steve motors on to pick his car up at Jim’s, and John breaks for Saughall as I trundle down into the Mollington metropolis. If we had gone back to Ness, it would have been along the Wirral Way again thus completing the 40-mile loop. We were lucky with the weather as it didn’t get any worse after Parkgate, but it could have easily turned out differently. Steve found an inch of snow back home in Runcorn!

Tuesday 27 January 2015

22nd January 2015: Hanmer (mod)

The bridge was closed between Farndon and Holt, and there were significant delays at the junction of the A55 and A483, but everyone made it on time to Hildegard's. Well, I say everyone, but obviously not our tandemists, yet. Dave and 'Liz duly arrived at 10:26, and Dave ordered porridge, a kipper, toast and marmalade and continuous coffee top-ups. (O.K., I am ever so slightly exaggerating!). We were very happy to welcome Martin and Sarah, a friendly and athletic looking couple who appeared to be proper cyclists, so inevitably went with the brisk group of Ivan, John and Ray.
Jim, George, Liz Donaldson, Dave & Liz P, Steve Tan, Brian Mac and myself set out north, mainly on the pavement as the road was up. At Churton we tuned east for Coddington and headed south for Tilston via Barton and Stretton.  We turned right at Tilston and then worked an intricate web of small lanes in order to avoid Malpas and enjoy some peace in typical easy rider terrain. Horton Green, Chorlton Lane, Cuddington Heath, Oldcastle Heath, then left along Bishop Bennet Way, right at Manor Farm to the usual hilly challenge of the area around Lower Wych. On reaching Eglwys Cross we headed down what was the grottiest surface of the day. It started to dawn on me as we approached the sea of mud at Hanmer Hill Farm that this was part of a previous Clive route in reverse. No surprise there! Never mind; we were soon racing down the hill with pretty Hanmer Mere on the left, before turning up to the Hanmer Arms with 20.5 miles recorded. 
The service and food at the Hanmer Arms was really good, as ever, at one of our favourite pubs. Liz and George instigated an interesting discussion ranging around books and films, with Wolf Hall and the character of Cromwell at the fore. I then overheard Dave Pipe interrogating the waitress about portion sizes; after my comments about eating last week, you couldn't make it up! 
Dave H's wish comes true a week late
The route back was intended to be relatively direct and speedy. We returned via Three Fingers, Tallarn Green, Threapwood and Shocklach. Some of us started to wind up the pace towards Farndon, as is now the tradition. It was only 8/10ths stuff, but it at least it raised our heart rates for a sustained few miles. Between my map and reading glasses tied around my neck with shoelaces, and Jim's GPS a hundred yards back, we had navigated without any hitches or delays.

Photograph By Brian MacDonald

It had been a very enjoyable ride, and back at Hildegard's we had a good laugh with our excellent hostess, and plenty of tea and cake, of course. Conversation covered the pros and cons of dog ownership, and the hokey cokey of the Sun's page three. Actually, I've just realised that you can't mix the images on page three with the lyrics of the hokey cokey and expect to go to Heaven!
Our ride back was once again shorter than our fitness levels required in order to improve. We probably need to stretch ourselves a little further now as the days become lighter. A lovely day with friends, nevertheless and 32 miles done.

Friday 23 January 2015

22nd January 2015: Tilley (brisk)

Riding out from home with Ray the temp was 5˚C and it was chilly. Clive was sailing today so someone else needed to lead the ride and I had a ride prepared in case needed.  Arriving at Hildegard’s John was already tucking into his tea and tea cakes and soon the cafe was full with riders taking advantage of an expected dry day with little wind, albeit cold.
The Brisk team today would consist of Ray, John and Ivan with new riders Sarah and Martin.  A big welcome to both new riders, they are long distance cyclists and very fast with Sarah demonstrating her speed sprinting up all the hills and today we covered 791 meters!! on a route to Tilley (Where!!).
The road from the river bridge at Farndon to Holt is under resurfacing and pretty bumpy so leaving the cafe we departed along the Wrexham Rd to the main road for the chosen route out via Crewe by Farndon and Shocklach. We are soon enjoying the frost free and relative quiet roads and soon rolling down hill at Sarn Bank. 
Our route is direct to Hanmer and passing the Hanmer Arms Hotel I advised the group that this is where the moderates are heading for their lunch, it was 11:20 so we carried on. The lanes passing Bettisfield and Nortwood were excellent and a pleasure to be cycling along.
We arrive at Wem and the Garmin did not let me down, following a path in the direction of a dead end car park supposedly, we got to a gate that required we had to lift our bikes over if we were to go through so we about turn back into the town.

Photograph by Ivan Davenport

It didn't take long and we were on Tilley lane and approaching lunch at our lunch venue the "Tilley Raven" last visited 8th September 2013. As then we were made welcome providing a big table for 5, although all tables were shown reserved, and our lunches were ordered. As per Clive’s write up of this inn nothing changes, we had arrived at 12:05 and lunch arrived 13:00 but it was worth the wait enjoying good cask ales and Ray selecting a Rump steak to build his stamina up for the return ride home. No puddings today!! so we rejoined our bikes and returning via Wem town and turning right for Creamore Bank we are again enjoying some lovely tarmac. The only dirty road was experienced at Welsh End and a single track taking us over the Shropshire Union Canal via a wooden drawbridge.
We were fast going down Shothill and trying to read the route on the Garmin at speed in sunshine I call a wrong turn and bring our down hill roller coaster to a halt only to advise the group we are carrying on - Sarah and Martin lead us up the hill but if any of you can recall this bank it is a long steepish climb.
Once over the brow we are then heading for Malpas with a good view of the church from this direction then on to Tilston and Stretton where our new riders leave us heading for Pulford. Prior to arriving at this juncture we had an altercation with the BMW mentality driver. We were running at 24+ leaving Tilston and just as you approach the right hand little bridge the idiot overtook us and nearly took a car out approaching in the opposite direction. He then slowed and held up his two fingers but kept far enough in front of John otherwise he would have found them elsewhere in his anatomy (he did take note of the number plate!!).
The trio arrived back into Chester and all departed for home after completing a 72 mile journey from home although from the cafe it was probably a 49 mile round trip.
A good day out for January at an average of 15.4 mph. 

Tuesday 20 January 2015

15th January 2015: No Mans Heath (mod)

Telephone commitments had been made, barring snow and ice. There was also the forecast of very strong, gusty winds to consider: enough to deter our intrepid tandemists for once. Keith, Steve and myself arrived at Utkinton in the big, black van. John, Ivan, Clive, Jim and Liz also made it, with Bryan in civvies as he was preparing to go to the Caribbean. Jim had already briefly mentioned a couple of possible destinations with me the day before, and we had since independently decided exactly the same route. It is slightly disturbing to find one's thinking processes to be synchronized exactly with Jim's! The splitting into two groups was needed as the pace differential between the fastest and slowest was likely to be considerable. 
The moderate group comprised Liz, Jim, Keith, Steve and myself. We set off on a route that we often return by: Rhuddall Heath, Tilstone Fearnhall, Bunbury and Brindley. We then navigated our way to Larden Green and up Chorley Bank before heading west for Bickley Moss and The Wheatsheaf at No Mans Heath. We had selected this route so that any strong wind or wintery showers would not be directly in our faces after lunch, but so far we had enjoyed some blue sky, and only a little rain, and the wind had not really bothered us.  Our hosts at the Wheatsheaf were friendly and helpful, and the food was very good and excellent value. I made sure that I ordered my food first, but was served last - there's a moral there somewhere for pushy people! There was a choice about portion size, but without Dave and Liz to collude with, we all seemed too self-conscious to order the larger meals. 
The uncertainty about the weather had us heading more directly back than if we could have been sure that we wouldn't find ourselves coping with possible snow and high winds. As it turned out it was a very pleasant ride back via Hampton Green, right at Ashton's Cross, and avoiding Harthill by heading north-east to Peckforton with the wind largely behind us. We were soon rounding Beeston Castle and diving down to the tricky humpback at the Shropshire Union Canal. We arrived early in Tarporley, but I was out-voted, so we didn't stop at The Fire Station for coffee and cake. Being a true democrat I accepted the group's decision, but really what's the world coming to? I suppose the hard up peasant culture of their youth is never really forgotten by natives of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, who enjoy being ' tight' even with themselves. Medics enjoy doing without in order to boast about their exemplary low blood sugar levels. Am I going to be the only fat man on a bike in this club? It's not as if the moderate riders are trying to emulate Chris Froome, or even second-rate horse jockeys. Where were the Pipes when I needed them!  32 very enjoyable miles in excellent, if slightly stingy company, finishing rather early, because of the tragic omission of a coffee stop.  It wouldn't have happened if Bryan Wade had been able to ride. . . .etc., etc.
DH for Jim

Sunday 18 January 2015

15th January 2015: Plumley (brisk)

The weather forecast for today's ride must have put some cyclists off venturing out today but the threat of severe winds and cold did not materialise for our ride.
On arrival at Rose Farm there were already 10 riders braving the wind. As the moderates had considered one ride I proposed a ride out to Plumley and the Smokers Inn.
Clive, John and Ivan set out with the wind behind us. Turning left and left after leaving the cafe I was following route along Utkington Lane. We were flying without any hard pedalling. Cycle route 71 turns right at the main A49 with a right hand join which goes along a real Clive track. We decided to reverse and go via Oulton Mill and Whitegate. Our revised route went via Little Budworth and Whitegate Road to pass Winsford. Following my Garmin it does read tracks as a road when researching a proposed route and we end up facing a proper boggy lane/track so Clive thankfully diverted us again round this style and onto the Whitegate Way which surface was very hard and clean.
Off we came at the end by the rock salt plant and crossed over the Weaver and under the two bridges. There followed a nice ride passing Moulton and Davenham and on to Lach Dennis. The wind was behind us all of the ride and good time was being made. After taking the usual route through Davenham and over the river bridges we turned left heading towards Plumley.
We arrive at the Smoker Inn at midday day but we're not the first patrons to arrive. We were soon enjoying an early lunch and thoughts now we're the facing wind for the 24 miles ride home.
After a good lunch and liquid refreshment we set off crossing the busy A556 and riding along the footpath before turning into Linnards Lane to Wincham. This road takes us into Northwich and we navigate our way through, reading the Garmin screen in bright sunshine on busy roads is not easy!!
However we get through without a wrong turning and we are up hill along Winnington Lane. We continue along facing a wind but nothing that we haven't faced before and we're still averaging 14/15 mph through Weaverham and Acton Bridge.
After passing the railway station John starts to have chain drop and over the next 10 miles he stops to put his chain on at least six occasions.
We pass over Norley and sprint along through Delamere ups and down and finally for those bound for Chester along Manley Lane and back to Mickle Trafford and home.
A good days riding cut short due to reported weather that really didn't live up to the write up but our ride did.
John got back in good time to Halfords and the Boardman is again all systems go.

Friday 9 January 2015

8th January 2015: Llanasa (mod)

A good-sized group of 10 met at the café, including Bryan, out for a short ride after illness, and Trevor. The moderate group, consisting of Dave and Liz, Steve T, Dave H, George and myself, decided to head for Llanasa in view of the somewhat limited hours of daylight available to us. I had a plan that if we did our usual route but in reverse, the climb up past the quarries would be all downhill but as Dave pointed out we have to gain the height at some point.
We set off for Northop with the tandem and George in the lead and me speaking from the rear: now there’s a novelty!
The lane to Pentre Halkyn led us steeply up to the top road and then downwards towards Babell. A right turn northwards took us over the A55 on the rather muddy farm bridge and then towards Whitford. A sharp left then took us down to the Red Lion for Lunch. Some enjoyed a tasty lamb stew though others went for the gourmet option of fish finger ciabatta!
As usual we spent too much time in conversation and the time was approaching 2 o’clock when we departed for the return journey. The first half-mile was a rather unwelcome steep climb on top of a full belly but we were soon bowling along the lane towards Whitford again. The promised strong westerly afternoon winds only occurred in gusts and were little help as we climbed steadily up to Gorsedd, past the old priory and east to Brynford. In Pentre Halkyn we turned south up to Windmill and the peak of our day’s climbing. Avoiding the narrow muddy lane by the fishing pond in Halkyn Mountain, we passed through Rhosesmoor and then turned left onto the Northop lane. 
This being winter the farmer had been doing some hedge cutting and sure enough, hardly had we reached the lane to Soughton before I felt my valve bumping along the road surface. Luckily Dave P had his ‘master blaster’ pump with him and with a few strokes my tyre was rock hard again. This Lasted until we got to Alltami at which point we decided to take the B road back to Ewloe and Hawarden High Street arriving back at the car park just after 4 pm.
42 stiff, hilly miles, but reasonable dry weather. A good ride for a January day.

8th January 2015: Holywell (brisk)

I’d decided upon a circuitous route to a Holywell lunch stop with two options for the return making either a 38 mile or 45 mile ride. Lunch was planned at the old Woolworth’s in the High Street, which would be 26 miles of the route completed with Wetherspoon’s to look forward to. We four (Ivan, Ray, John, and myself) set off bound for Buckley heights. We head for Llong down new lanes out of the back of Buckley, then off towards Gwernymynydd. Ignoring the short double-chevroned hill at Fron Hall, we turn right down a small new lane bound for the Mold suburbs. We wiggle through some attractive housing areas before accessing the westerly Gwernaffield road then turning right off it at Bryn Farm. Here we take the delightful lane across and down to the A541 west of Hendre. Just before we get to the A541, ominously black clouds appear, and we get ready for an icy deluge. It arrives promptly and we have to endure the car and lorry spray on the A road before turning right and up the steep climb towards Lixwm. 
Thankfully the rain soon stops and the sun comes out as we head north for Babell down more new lanes. It’s a straight run to Gorsedd and Carmel before accessing the pedestrian High Street into the warm arms of Wetherspoon’s. As ever, service is prompt, there are good beers, and the price is right. The lunchtime discussion ranges through the history of religion in England, and in the wake of the Paris massacre, the need for understanding other peoples’ or country's viewpoints, but also not necessarily agreeing with them. 

Photograph by John Wilkie

I offer the two return options, and as soon as I suggest we go up onto the top, there is a preference for the going down route. Leaving briefly by the main road to Bagillt, we dive off down a single chevon lane and up the steep complementary climb out onto the top again, to good views of the Wirral and beyond in the afternoon sunshine. We wend our way down tiny lanes into the back of Bagillt and take the old road and contra-directional cycle path to the outskirts of historic Flint. Opposite Sainsbury’s I spot the NCN5 sign and dive off towards the Dee estuary. We cycle up the little inlet as the tide comes in at Flint Point to get a magnificent panorama of the Dee estuary with Parkgate opposite us and the “new” bridge and Shotton steelworks in the distance. I wonder out loud what the scene would have been like back in the 13C when Edward I built the castle and what the inlet had been used for. Was this where Griff Rhys Jones came ashore to start his Holywell Pilgrimage? We wander passed the forlorn castle and, as going back to Hawarden was unnecessary, we head the usual way home via the now newly cream Hawarden railway bridge and along the greenway. It would have been only 38m back to the Gallery, but I was pleased to ride some new lanes and to have sampled the forgotten past of Flint.

Saturday 3 January 2015

1st January 2015: Tilston

The New Year was seen in with a party and champagne last night, but that was some hours ago.  Now it was New Year’s Day and time to set off for the first CER ride of the year.  With the Blue Moon Café closed for refurbishment the decision was made to join up with the CTC Chester Section at Christleton Pond for a leisurely joint ride out to the Carden Arms at Tilston to join the annual New Year’s Day meet of local cycle groups.  Of the eleven riders who met up at 10:30 there were three CER members (David M, John and myself).
Sue Booth demonstrated her new selfie stick before Martin led us out via Waverton and Tattenhall.  The weather was much warmer than it had been on New Year’s Eve and we soon had to stop to shed a layer of clothing.  Then it was on to Tilston via Chowley and Lower Carden arriving just after 12:00 noon.
Judging from the number of bikes outside, the pub was already busy and so it proved.  There was a queue of Wrexham Reivers at the bar and with only a single barman on duty it took a while to get served but at least the food order of beef or veggie stew could be ordered at the same time.  Lessons learned from last year when a separate food queue meant twice as long standing in line.  The stews were excellent and were served and consumed quickly.  Then it was time for the serious business of catching up with old friends from the other cycling groups; quite a few of whom I only get to meet once or twice a year.  Mike Cross made the presentations to the leading local female and male tourist competition riders: Lowry Evans and Peter Dilworth.  Soon it was 14:00 and time to leave.
Sue Booth led the ride back by way of Crewe-by-Farndon, Aldford and Saighton where we split up with some heading back to the start and others taking the direct route to Chester.  In all about 30 miles done; dry with the wind against us in the morning and wet but with the wind behind on the way home.  A great way to start the New Year.