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 28 April 2015

23rd April 2015: Whalley, Pendle and Beacon Fell (long)

Keith, Dave Pipe and myself had cycled a recce of the proposed route at the beginning of the week.  The lunch stop pub had been closed, and Keith mashed his gears and chain before the end. Oh! and the pub we diverted to in Chipping resulted in heads smacking a low beam for the second year on the run. We eventually got back to Runcorn well after 9pm. We had a beautiful day out, nevertheless.
Today we were lucky; the weather was still great.  We had settled on two routes, one for the tandem and those who wished to go slower, and the longer one, which was never going to be actually brisk given the hills and the mixed ability of the group.

Photograph by Steve Haywood

Keith, Steve and Steve, Paul and Tom and myself made up our long ride team, and it all worked out great! It was warm with beautiful views on Padiham Heights. We stopped for an investigation of the last Clarion Room in the country, and sat on the benches looking toward Yorkshire with the sun on our faces. After grinding around the orca-like hulk of Pendle we were soon hurtling down into picturesque Downham, used as a location for both Whistle Down The Wind and Born and Bred. We were soon cruising through Waddington where I'd booked the other group in at The Higher Buck. When we reached The Dog and Partridge at Hesketh Lane, it was a relief to find it open, and very popular. The welcome was warm, our table reserved, and the food and the waitress were very tasty.  Tom would have liked more crust on his pie, but there were plenty of nice vegetables to fill up on. 
Beacon Fell was a new destination for most, although the hot hazy day limited the full extent of the panoramic view available. I had worked out that we may run into the tandem group, and we did, on the Quiet Lane out of Chipping. They looked a bit overdressed to us; perhaps Dave and Liz had been trying to lighten their costume pannier! We eventually hauled ourselves up past the Wild Boar Park and whooshed down to Burholme Bridge. We stopped at Dunsop Bridge for a quick break and coffee. After Slaidburn it was hard work around the hairpin for the lardy lads, but it’s a lovely route back over the fell, and the descent is long and exhilarating to Holden. We broke our necks to reach the cream teas booked at The Calf's Head at Worston before the 5 o'clock cut-off. Most of the staff were fine, but the Cream Tea Queen was dour and sour, despite Steve Tan's friendly greeting. We sat in the garden, still in sunshine, knowing that we only had about five easy miles back to the car. 
Everybody seemed to enjoy the day, and it was Paul's first Special Ride. 62 miles, and over 5,900 feet climbed according to Steve's gizmo. I thoroughly enjoyed the company and the pace never seemed an issue, despite three of us being fast, and three not so fast!   Many thanks to Jim and Dave Pipe for being so accommodating in ensuring that the shorter ride could take place, and Keith for taking time off work twice, and providing the convenience of the big black van. Also, many thanks to Bryan Wade for putting information on the website at short notice.

Friday 24 April 2015

23rd April 2015: Ribble Valley (mod)

With Dave’s recommended driving time just about spot on we all assembled at the café fairly close to 9 o’clock. With the prospect of a long day ahead Dave P was taking no chances with possible malnutrition and was already chomping his way through a full English when the rest settled down for the customary tea and teacakes. With Dave H threatening a 60+ mile route, four of us: Dave and Liz on the tandem, Trevor and Jim opted for a revised 45 mile version, to be followed at a much more leisurely pace. 
From Whalley we went east over the A671 and up the lanes towards Padiham Heights. The views were magnificent if a little hazy due to the surprisingly warm weather and we were soon removing our top layers as we continued to climb up to the top of the ridge. Soon, however, we were descending quickly, and after a short stop at the famous Clarion Room, pressed on northwards to Newchurch and Barley. The easy riding soon ended with a long slog up towards Pendle Hill followed by a welcome thrash steeply down to Downham. Here we paused briefly to study the unique design of the local toilets before pressing on through Chatburn to our lunch stop at the Higher Buck at Waddington. The service was excellent and we sat soaking up the sun by a dribbling stream, before leaving less than an hour later.  
Westwards to Hodder Bridge was very relaxing, tootling along enjoying the scenery, but we were soon faced with another long uphill round the north side of Pendle before dropping down to Chipping. We had just turned north towards the wild boar farm when the brisk group appeared. We set a very relaxed pace up the west side of the Hodder valley to give them a chance to get ahead (they had several more coffee stops to complete) and we were soon heading back south past the Whitewell Hotel and then eastwards to Bashall Eaves. We skipped a possible coffee stop here and instead opted to continue back to Whalley where we re-convened at our breakfast stop. 
44 miles of good riding, some downhills and great scenery: much better than tiling the bathroom!   

Monday 20 April 2015

16th April 2015: Bodelwyddan (brisk)

I was a little late arriving at the Gallery Café at Hawarden after a front flat tyre passing aerospace. The Dynamic Tandem duo had even finished their coffee so they were very early today!
George was leading out for the Mod's and he advised it was going to be a slow ride to the Eagle and Child. This was taken as go your own way, so Tom and I set off on my route to Bodelwyddan and the Ty Fry Inn, not as quoted in the mod blog as Tai Bar, the Welsh pronunciation. It is surprising when we read the blogs, as their route was similar to ours.
Tom and I set off and via Wood Lane to Buckley. Crossing the Mold road and through Mynydd Isa and New Brighton. This route also avoids the A55 when heading to the Halkyns and Rhosemor. The views on the top provided us with clear views of the estuary and Liverpool. Heading towards Lixwm and the infamous climb out Tom advises he did this Tuesday with Clive and co.
Stopping on the top of the hill at Tremeirchion we had views of Snowdonia and the North Wales coast line from St Asaph to Llandudno.
There is then a good down hill run to Alt Coch crossing the St Asaph road. We then had to climb again going over a bump before dropping down to the Gates to the castle on the B5381.
From this point it was an enjoyable down hill roll to our lunch venue the Ty Fry. A good choice with a 2 for 1 menu and we enjoyed succulent gammon steak, egg and pineapple with chips and salad all for £4.00 each.

Photographs by Ivan Davenport

The ride was then a flat run into Kimmel Bay and along the sea front. We took a photo shoot on the newly opened bridge for route 5 and met up with Mike G who had been out with his brother and was returning on his way home.
Along the sea front passing Rhyl and Prestatyn before turning to Gronant and up the hills again.
We followed route 5 all the way to Halkyn and Northop before catching up with the Mod's near Ewloe.
Tom bid me farewell before the roundabout and turned towards Shotton and I rode on through Hawarden and home.
A good days ride of 85 miles to and from Chester or 65 for the round trip from Hawarden and 5,510 feet of ascent.

Friday 17 April 2015

16th April 2015: Gwaenysgor (mod)

A fine dry day had encouraged a reasonably good turn out of riders at the Gallery Tea Shop in Hawarden, despite the prospect of some Welsh hills to climb.  Brian Mac and Trevor were only there for the tea and tea cakes as they had other calls on their time.  The “brisk” group was much depleted in numbers today but Ivan had a plan to visit a Thai restaurant in Bodelwyddan, I think that was what he said, and he and Tom went searching for said restaurant.  That left eight of us: Dave H, Keith, Steve T, Dave and Liz P, on their trusty tandem, Jim, Steve H and yours truly.
I had come up with a route to get us to the Eagle and Child at Gwaenysgor with the aim of avoiding that horrible stretch of the A55 just west of Northop that has to be my least favourite bit of road.  So setting a very steady pace, as I knew what climbs lay ahead, we made our way through Northop Hall to cross over the A55 and into Northop.  Here I diverted from our usual route past the college and turned left up the Green.  We began a long, occasionally demanding, climb through the lanes to get up to Rhosesmor.  Crossing the B5123 we continued to climb and were treated to some fine views of the Clwydian Hills, to our left, as we gained the top of Halkyn Mountain.  With the climbing over for a short time we flew down the long decent into Rhes-y-cae.  A pleasant change, as we usually have to climb up this big ascent much later in the day.  However, hills are not absent for long in North Wales and two further steady climbs brought us to the Pentre Halkyn to Babell road.  This is one of my favourite rides on this my home turf.  Heading west along the top of the ridge on a good surface, virtually traffic free, we were treated to some spectacular views.  The Vale of Clwyd was laid out before us, rising behind were the Denbigh Moors and behind those the mountains of Snowdonia were clearly visible in the sunlight.

Photographs by David Pipe

Turning north we crossed the A55 at the top of Rhuallt Hill and followed a newly resurfaced lane northwest towards Dyserth.  I was anxious not to lose all our height gained by dropping all the way down to Dyserth and studying the OS map, the previous evening, I had identified a lane which would save us height but which was new to me.  Although little used, the lane proved perfectly serviceable, I am sure the recent dry spell had helped, and we turned right onto the A5151 for about 100 yards before turning north again onto the minor road to Gwaenysgor.
We were soon settled in our usual corner of the bar.  The landlord was as ever friendly and efficient.  As we awaited our food we were entertained by Keith who demonstrated for us the finer points of speed dating.  Some of our members lead such interesting lives!  Suitably replenished we called at the neighbouring viewing point to take in the panoramic views up and down the coast and the ever-multiplying wind farms out in the bay.  Leaving the village we turned left for a gentle leg stretching few miles to Llanasa, where we picked up National Cycle Route 5 and started the series of steady climbs, through Whitford and Pantasaph to get back onto the ridge at Brynford.  One more steady climb brought us on to the summit of Halkyn Mountain.  Here we could let the bike take the strain as we rolled down the B5123 back to Rhosesmor and retraced our outward journey via Northop to return to Hawarden.  45 satisfying miles on a fine dry day in some lovely countryside.

Sunday 12 April 2015

9th April 2015: Marston (mod)

It was a beautiful spring morning as I rode out to this week’s venue at the Windsurfing Centre and I anticipated a large turnout. I wasn’t surprised to find that there were 15 of us and for the first time this year we were able to sit out in the sunshine with our teas and coffees. I had come armed with a route which would take us to out to the far side of Northwich so was able to sit and enjoy my cuppa and the conversation while the brisk riders studied their maps.
We all set out together and made the short, sharp climb up to Sugar Lane. At this point the brisk group started to disappear off into the distance so time for a quick roll call. There were 10 of us left, these being Andy, Brian Mac, Bryan, Dave H, George, Keith, Liz D, Mike, Steve & Trevor. At the end of the lane we turned right heading down Dark Ark Lane before turning left for the run through Delamere Forest. From here it was straight across the junction at Hatchmere then right towards Norley and left towards Acton Bridge. Too busy talking, I missed the turning down Onston Lane but a short bit of back tracking got us back on course.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

As we left Acton Bridge the brisk group who had reached the same junction as us but via a different route cheered us on. We dropped down to the A49 and crossed the River Weaver on the Bartington swing bridge. Then it was back on to the country lanes and up the steep incline to Little Leigh. We crossed the main road, cycled on to Comberbach and turned right down towards Great Budworth. When we reached the A559 we were only 10 minutes ride from our lunch destination but it was too early for lunch. So we crossed over to Great Budworth and did a loop through Bate Heath, Pickmere and Wincham before heading back towards Marston and The Salt Barge. Opened in 1861, the Salt Barge sits opposite the old Lion Salt Works (soon to be opened as a tourist attraction) and adjacent to the Trent & Mersey canal. It took a while for our food to arrive (to be fair there were 10 of us) but the wait was worth it and we all tucked in to an enjoyable meal. 
Marbury Country Park
After lunch we turned towards Northwich but after a few hundred yards turned into Marbury Park. You can’t go anywhere in Northwich without being reminded of its salt mining history. (‘Wich’ is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning saltworks or salt-mining town and salt has been mined in the area since Roman times.) Marbury Park is no exception. It is now a country park, criss-crossed with paths over what was once a huge brine field. We circled around the southern end of the park and onto the old Warrington Road, which cuts through the middle of the park and is now traffic-free, before emerging onto Marbury Road and heading back towards Comberbach.
A short stint back along the morning’s route out then we were heading along Senna Lane towards Higher Whitley passing the picturesque village pond with Willow Bank Farm behind it. We crossed the A49, passing Grimsditch Hall and reached Frodsham via Dutton, Aston and Sutton Weaver. We followed the main road through Frodsham and turned left up Tarvin Road followed by the steady drag up ridgeway. We were given a brief respite on the way up when we had to stop while some tree fellers dropped a branch onto the road. Then it was back onto Sugar Lane and downhill back to Manley Mere having covered 45 miles since leaving there that morning.

Saturday 11 April 2015

9th April 2015: Winsford (brisk)

Like the warm weather brings out the caravans on the roads, there were a fair few of us at Manley Mere. It was definitely the “First Day of Shorts” after what seems like an interminable long cold period of bib tights. Trevor and the mod group were bound for the excellent “Salt Barge” pub at Marston, so I rustled up a brisk ride to Winsford for Tom, John, Steve T and Darren. 
We all start out the same way up Sugar Lane. We then turn left to Alvanley and down the fast descent to the outskirts of Frodsham only to slog up Howey Lane to take the top road to Kingsley. There’s definitely a spring in our cleats today as we rush through Kingsley and then off left towards the Weaver down two No Through Roads. We stop briefly at the top of Acton Bridge Hill to salute the Moderate group on their way to Marston. Out through Weaverham, we take Burrow Hill to Hartford. I’d planned to go through Davenham and Bostock Green to Winsford, but we would have arrived before we started out, so a loop goes in on the hoof towards Lach Dennis. The main roads are fast and quiet as we turn back towards Middlewich and the outskirts of Winsford. Clive Lane takes us down to the Weaver Park and out via an agricultural track by the Bottom Flash of the Weaver Navigation. 
The lunch time choice was the Diner at the Old Star pub, but in the absence of any bar staff, a couple of the clientele tell me that lunch finishes today at 12:30! So back to Winsford metropolis and the Queen Anne pub. So after 33 miles, we sit outside in the sun, and Wetherspoon’s does not disappoint on price, food or beer choice; all of which come PDQ. 
By Bottom Flash

Photograph by John Wilkie

As we congregate to leave, I notice a bald spot on Tom’s rear tyre; it had worn through to the casing and there were worrying bulges in the sidewall. Tom informs us that the tyre is “not very old". A local cyclist offers advice and informs us that Cyclone Cycles, next to the Salvation Army, should have a suitable tyre and thus will be Tom’s (and our) salvation. A Schwalbe Lugano is soon fitted and we are off for a flat ride back. Contrary to popular myth, brisk rides are not all hills! 
Steve T offers that it hasn’t rained since Saturday, so this confirms to me that the entire 5 miles of the Whitegate Way will be suitable, and indeed it is. The old track is rock hard and bestrewn with walkers, their dogs, and other cyclists. At the station stop, Darren decides that the previous two days cycling have taken their toll, and he elects to wend his own way back. After exiting onto Norley Lane, we eventually take the delightful Gallowsclough Lane to enter central Norley and thence on to the Delamere roller-coaster. Rather than going up the Mouldsworth Hill, we take a bypass lane to Ashton Hayes and thence back to Manley with 51miles duly executed. Tom, John and I then make our circular way back home via Cheshire Oaks for 70-90m on the clock. 

Saturday 4 April 2015

2nd April 2015: Llanymynech (mod)

The clocks went forward at the weekend so this is the first ride of the year in British Summer Time and we’re meeting at Chirk.  The forecast is for fine, dry weather, warmish and little if any wind: indeed it’s the only dry day forecast for the week!  A good turnout then?  Not a bit of it: with only three of us present by 10:30 it was going to be a very select group indeed.  None of us had prepared a ride so with the maps out, as we finished tea, we planned a circular route that would take in some of the lowland areas east of Oswestry and some of the hills to the west.  Steve wisely suggested we ride anti-clockwise to get the hills in early.
With the route agreed, the group of John, Steve and Bryan set off south at a moderate pace to Weston Rhyn and on to Selattyn where the real hills started.  While Steve and John forged ahead I struggled on the hills but the views and sound of the new born lambs more than made up for the heavy going. By Llawnt we were back together for the descent to Llansilin, slowing as we past the site of the crashed Wellington bomber (January 1943).  A few miles further and we took a left turn onto new lanes south to Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain by way of an exciting, and not to be repeated, encounter with a heavily laden tractor coming up a narrow chevroned lane as we came hurtling down desperately trying to brake on the wet and muddy surface.
Good time was being made as we approached Bryn Tanat Hall on the A495 where we planned to cross the Afon Tanat on the footbridge, shown on the map, to the public road on the other side.  Well it was just possible to see the bridge in the Hall gardens by standing on the wall outside but access was clearly impossible other than over the manicured lawns and through the house gardens.  A diversion was called for so we retraced our route back to Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain and followed the B road to Llanymynech adding a few extra miles but still arriving for lunch at 13:00.
The mechanic at the local garage advises that the best real ale pub in Llanymynech is the unlikely sounding Bradford Arms so that’s where we end up.  A traditional pub, with workers at the bar, plenty of banter, three cask ales on tap and substantial good value food.  We stick with the excellent Black and Golden Sheep ales noting for next time Ditch Chaser brewed down the road at the Six Bells brewery Bishops Castle.  Well worth another visit I’d say.
John decided that he would make his own way back, at a somewhat faster pace than the outward leg, as he was riding back to Chester.  Steve and I sorted out a pleasant route on lanes we had done before.  It was 14:00, or thereabouts, when we left the pub and before we knew it John had shot off heading south to Four Crosses!  We hoped he knew where he was going as there was no chance of us catching him.  Steve and I headed east to Maesbrook, then north to Maesbury Marsh, Maesbury, Whittington and finally, skirting Gobowen, back to Chirk from the south.  Although we had ridden all these lanes before the route, as a whole, surprised us both comprising a delightful set of lanes with little traffic and almost completely flat.
We arrived back at Chirk by 15:30 in plenty of time for coffee and elderflower cake with 40 miles done.  A superb ride of contrasts from the lambs on the upland hills to the lowland lanes with the first signs of oilseed rape in the fields.