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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Tuesday 24 February 2015

19th February 2015: Great Budworth (mod)

The weather forecast was grim, and if it hadn't been for our commitment to the club, I guess most of us would have chosen a different day to ride. It was heartening to see a decent turnout at Manley Mere. Steve H was still having physio for his back, but had ridden out to meet us. Dave Matthews was in civvies. Next week he may Skype us over his boiled egg at breakfast. By the end of April he will be just a virtual image in the corner of the café.
Once again the staff were very welcoming. Alistair, who appeared to be in charge, was the catering manager who had very successfully organized Steve Tan's retirement do at I.C.I. That must have been difficult on a budget of five Yorkshire shillings a head!
John kindly lent me some gloves, as I had managed to leave mine at home. We set off together as most of the fast lads had been knackering themselves on speedy long rides earlier in the week. I have long recommended that the fast group consider using Thursdays as a gentle recovery ride to make the pace more inclusive. Nevertheless, by the time we had reached the top of Pingot Lane reality had kicked in! I found myself urging Clive to go ahead, as it was already apparent that an average pace would be taxing for some, and pedestrian for others.
The moderate group became Jim, Mike and myself. We headed for Kingsley via New Pale, dived down Dark Lane, and left the village down Roddy Lane. Next, we took the quiet roads to Actoncliffe and crossed the River Weaver and Trent and Mersey Canal. We reached Arley Hall through Frandley. Wherever possible the very quiet lanes, like Keepers Lane, were chosen. It had been a bit damp, but not enough to stop our enjoyment so far. We now began to head for The George and Dragon, past the scene of my hospital crash, and out of the estate at Moss End. 
We had covered 23 miles by lunch, and were soon ensconced by the fire with our drinks. The brisk group then appeared, having travelled a little further and being delayed by Steve sustaining a puncture. Clive then recalled one of his first rides with the club, when only the two of us turned up on a wet day, and we both ordered liver and onions. The pub has gone up-market since then, to the extent that I decided to return there with family and a very muddy dog for lunch on Saturday. The food was excellent and the service very friendly. They even made a fuss of the dog and gave him treats.
Steve changed his inner tube in the pub car park and joined the moderate group for the return journey on his mountain bike. Our route back was direct via Comberbach and Little Leigh, although we did take the picturesque route down the river before reaching Kingsley. We had a stiff climb through Newton, but were soon speeding down to the B5393, and then up the last steep bank at Simmond's Hill and on to Manley Mere via Sugar Lane. Mike waited for Jim, as Mike was also heading for Mickle Trafford, and then taking The Greenway to his car parked in Wales. Steve and I stopped for coffees and cake in front of the log burner. We had covered an enjoyable, if modest 35 miles.

Saturday 21 February 2015

19th February 2015: Great Budworth (brisk)

The weather forecast was for light rain, heavy rain, dry then light rain: it wasn’t wrong!  So, I was a little surprised to see a lot of riders at Manley for the off. Dave H proposed Option One, the "George and Dragon" at Great Budworth, and, in the absence of Option 2, it was carried unanimously. So we set off in the pouring rain up the road and hill towards Manley School. 
It became clear that splitting into two groups was a better option so John, Steve T, Ray, Paul R and myself pushed on towards Kingsley, and, via the Dark Lane traverse, out via Roddy Lane. We then took the familiar "no-through" road route up Cliff Road to Acton Bridge. Out via Little Leigh, we were in danger of arriving at the pub far too early and so a diversion was called for. A handy, yet defunct, bus shelter appeared and I got out the iPhone from its protective enclosure to plot the diversion. I had to get out of the rain because, although the clear cover allows you to operate the phone through the clear cover, it doesn’t do so when the cover is wet, and it was wet and we were wet!  So now we head northeast towards Antrobus on our roundabout way to Arley Hall. I espy a footpath in Reed Lane and the “shortcut” to Laurel Farm. It was OK, but will be better in summer when it’s dry under the tyres. 
We now go round the compass down new lanes to enter Arley Hall. There seems to be a lot of prohibition notices about cyclists and private bridleways but my OS says that the back lane around the hall is a public footpath and so, because it was wet, we continued to cycle over the cobbles to exit east of the estate. It’s now an easy 2 miles to Great Budworth. I switch off the satnav as the battery is a bit down and we end up in Pickmere!  Across the vale, I can see Great Budworth church, so apologise for the minor diversion. Steve T arrives walking with a flat tyre. John and Paul shoot off to bag a table at the pub whilst Ray pumps up the errant tyre and we then send Steve off to maximise the cycling time on a punctured tyre. Ray and I catch him up after a quarter mile stationary, at the roadside, with the same flat tyre. Steve offers to use the "pump/ride/pump/ride" strategy to get to the pub and sends us on our way. Well, there are no direction signs, and we initially take the wrong lane to the pub but realise that it’s the next one 25m up the road. So Ray and I are not surprised to find Paul and John arriving after we start supping our pints. We have arrived after 27m and about 15 minutes after The Moderates. 

Photograph by John Wilkie

The pub looks after us well, as we all tuck in to decent fare and use the hot radiators to dry out the “waterproof” gloves. Steve T repairs the puncture and elects to go back to Manley with the Moderates. The journey back, thankfully in the dry, takes us for a brief stop at the Anderton Boat Lift and then out to Weaverham and a quiet run down to Sandiway. Here we elect to go straight back to Chester so take the main drag to Kelsall. John splits off to power down the bypass, Saughall bound. We three take the old Kelsall road, and then loop out via Barrow to find the Greenway. The route back to Manley would have been 47miles but to Chester it was mid 60’s. As ever, it’s the banter and the other riders that take your mind off the rain, pain and the mud to make the ride thorough enjoyable.

12th February 2015: Pontcysyllite Aqueduct (mod)

Although this was our last ride from Alyn Waters this winter, a good sized group of eight, consisting of Dave and Liz P, Dave H, Steve T, Keith, Ray, myself and Andy (on his first ride for some time) met for tea and crumpet at the café, to be joined by Brian Mac who was doing a short ride.
The plan was to aim for Llangollen, but with the fall back choice of the Telford at Pontcysyllite if time was short. We set off for Windy Hill to be met immediately with ‘Road Closed’ signs. This was not on the agenda so we decided to press on regardless; a good choice as it turned out as there was no sign of road workers though some grids had been tampered with. Onward and upward onto ‘the steps’ which seem to get steeper every year, then Minera, Talwern and Rhosllanerchrugog before dropping down into Acrefair. Heading for the canal basin we realised that time was slipping away so stopped for lunch. I would like to say that the pub was warm and cosy but it wasn’t, though the food was welcome, and we were soon back in the saddle and heading across the famous aqueduct towards Chirk. 

Photograph by Steve Tan

Once over the Dee valley at Pentre we took the old main road, past the local landfill site and uphill to Cefnmawr, passing the well-known caravan sales site at the top of the hill. We noticed the usual large range of second hand vans on offer in any colour as long as you like mossy green! 
Northwards towards Ruabon, the town with more nail salons than population, and onto the back lane past New Hall recycling site, the two well known slag heaps that we all pass alongside the A483, and the old brickworks; a journey full of interest and architectural heritage! To the west of Wrexham we followed the lanes alongside the main road until we reached New Broughton. Here we went north along quite pleasant lanes and suburbs until we picked up our outward route at Windy Hill. 
However, the trials hadn’t finished yet as the mysterious road workers had appeared and were laying a lovely smooth layer of tarmac down our off route, and they definitely didn’t want several sets of tramlines spoiling the pristine surface. Carrying our bikes up the hedge bank we passed without any aggravation and arrived safely back at Alyn Waters in time for afternoon tea. All except Ray that is who had ridden out and set off for Caergwrle and Chester; a total distance of 60 miles for him but only 30 for us although they were very hilly.   

5th February 2015: Burleydam (mod)

A good turnout today allowed the group to split into a moderate and a brisk ride. Jim had planned a ride to Burleydam but was unable to make it so Dave P, Steve T, Keith, Paul and Andy took an impromptu route via Harthill and Wrenbury. With favourable conditions and a slight tailwind we were ahead of schedule so took in an additional loop south of Audlem and back to the Combermere Arms at Burleydam. 
To return we took a more direct route via Ravensmoor and the southern side of the Peckforton hills where three of us took a leisurely excursion to admire the cottages and views of this delightful lane before retracing to cut around the eastern end of the hills to return to the Ice Cream Farm to join the others for coffee and cake.
Combermere Arms Tel: 01948 871 223: Good menu and 6 real ales. Cosy and warm in the traditional Pub Group style. A bit pricy for food and beer but a good choice for a lazy winters day. 
About 40 miles round trip to/ from Ice Cream Farm

5th February 2015: Northop (brisk)

There were a lot of us at the Ice Cream Farm and so the Brisk group, consisting of Ivan, John, Tom, Ray and myself, set off slightly ahead of the Moderates bound for the unusual lunch stop of the Boot in Northop. I must admit to being a bit self-indulgent with the lunchtime target as I hadn't been to the Boot for several years. Due to its location, Northop is unlikely to be a lunch stop on a "normal" ride. The other reason for the choice was that I wanted to get back home in good time as I was off to Norfolk that evening, and, Ivan needed time to get his glad rags on to take Mrs D out for her birthday treat. Also, he had been kindly let out on licence for the day even though it was Mrs D's birthday! The ride split neatly into three sections. 
We set off for gentle climbs bound for Beeston and via Peckforton, the slide around Larkton Hill and then down into Duckington. The Moderate group slide by us at Bickerton church as we were stopped briefly to tighten my boots ready for the climbs I know will come later in the long ride before lunch. Through Tilston we motor on towards Holt. Once at Holt, the second section of the route is now "flat" as we take the old lanes past Wrexham Rugby club to sidle around Wrexham to get onto the Llay road and then onto Gwersyltt. Here the final third of the ride begins i.e. the hilly bit. Up towards Windy Hill we take the delightful Glyon lane to arrive half way up the Minera Steps. We run down briefly into Ffrith and then the long climb out to the Llandegla road just outside Treuddyn. Through the village I know that most of the climbing is now over as we head down and up dale with the final fast downhill run into Mold town centre to almost finish with the hill for the day. Here Ivan advises that there is a Wetherspoons and I say, "next time" as we head out up and past the Glasfrynn pub and continue the tiny lane up past Theatr Clywd towards Soughton. We're 5 minutes from the pub now but the rough lane takes its toll on Tom's rear wheel. 
After 50 miles from home and 37 miles from the Ice Cream Farm, we arrive at the Boot around 13:30. I check if the food's still on and a not-so-welcoming Mein Host advises that it is. We are the only diners so I worry that the food will take forever. There's Doom Bar behind the bar so all is not lost. The fare reads well and is a bit more expensive than I recall, but it has had a makeover thus explaining the pricing. Nevertheless the lights bites look inviting and come quite quickly and most importantly are substantial enough and taste fine as well. The lunchtime banter covers the usual range of topics from current affairs to mobiles. The run back to Chester (as no one needed or more specifically wanted to cycle 37 miles back to the ICF) was uneventful, running through Ewloe, past Aerospace and down the Dee path. We had 65 miles on the clock with a decent amount of altitude on yet another cold but dry day. Oh, and we got home relatively early as well!