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 July 2015

23rd July 2015: Llanasa (mod)

John, Steve Tan, Dave Heath, Dave Matthews, Liz and Martin, and Mike turned up at The Gallery tea room.  We had time to catch up with Liz and Martin's latest cycle adventures, and chatted about le Tour. The amazing stage 14 win of the Wirral rider Steve Cummings was prominent in our discussion. Mike, Steve and myself agreed to head toward Llanasa or Gwaenysgor.  The rest of the group 'did a Dave Matthews', including Dave Matthews!  Mike's knowledge of the Welsh lanes made him the natural choice to lead, so I offered to write up the ride.  We were soon happily spinning moderately through Northop, and bracing ourselves for the brief but dangerous A55 link in order to climb up to Halkyn village.  Mike had a deviation somewhere around Berthengam and Axton, which he had done following Ivan.  It must be nice to have faith in Ivan's route finding.  To be fair, it was narrow, quiet and sheltered: just what we like!  We also ran into a lovely young lady and a lad who had taken a rescue dog out for a walk and got lost!  The chocolate young Labrador puppy with them was delightful, nearly knocking Steve off his bike in its enthusiasm.  
The Red Lion was under new management again, and the owner didn't seem keen on sweaty lycra being seated in the dining room, but we ignored this. The food and service were fine.  Mike was 'playing dad' on our return via Trelawnyd and Babell, thinking that we might get lost.  He eventually peeled off into the wind in order to return to his posh residence in Rhos-on- Sea.  Evidently, his good lady finds Rhos very different from Newcastle, as their neighbours often wear clothes and stay in on a Saturday night.  We diligently followed Mike's proposed route to Hawarden, although 'Rocket Robin Hood' Steve Tan did miss a turn, no doubt at a great rate of knots, whilst I was watering a hedge! We continued past Soughton Hall to Alltami.  We missed the main roads and busy Ewloe roundabout by skirting the northeast edge of Buckley and heading for the B5125 to Hawarden via Burntwood Pentre.  Forty something miles in good weather, with great views and convivial company.                 

Friday 17 July 2015

16th July 2015: Aston (mod)

The relatively small group that gathered at Manley Mere suggested that the summer holidays have started. Keith, John and Dave M had only joined us for the start, so a smaller group of Bryan, Dave P, Steve T and myself were out for a ride. No one had planned one, so after some confusion from myself as to whether the wind was in the SW or the SE (it was the latter), we decided to head into it outbound and have it behind us on the return.  So we travelled in that direction through Kelsall, Utkinton, Cotebrook and Wettenhall, before pausing outside Nantwich to decide exactly where our destination should lie.  Balancing The Swan at Wybunbury against the Bhurtpore Arms at Aston, we chose Aston, largely based on possible return routes.

Photograph by Steve Haywood

As usual, the Bhurtpore did not disappoint; and well-refreshed and after some adjustment to Steve T’s brakes, we headed off again.  Although only an hour away, the temptation of cakes at Tilly’s led us north through Brindley and into Bunbury. From there, we travelled to Beeston Castle, past the Shady Oak to Huxley, where Bryan struck off back towards Chester.  The three remaining continued through Burton and Oscroft to leave me at Kelsall and then return to Manley.
A day of fine warm weather, good company and decent food with about 54 miles travelled: those not riding today were missing out.

Sunday 12 July 2015

9th July 2015: Four Crosses (mod)

Is this a record? Not getting back to our start in Chirk until quarter to six after only a 38 mile ride. It’s hard to know where the time went, but there are some excuses.
Dave H, Steve T, Keith and myself met in the Chirk Tea Rooms alongside members of the brisk group. No one had brought a prepared route, so I announced that I’d an idea for a ride that involved hills.  This persuaded Dave P (out on his own today) to join us in preference to the brisk group who intended a flattish ride to Shrewsbury.  The idea was to head north over World’s End and back over the Horseshoe Pass. The initial difficulty was working out how to get from Chirk to Trevor, which shouldn’t have been too hard, but delayed our start.  With Dave P’s assistance we tackled some taster hills, before crossing the A5 and the Pontcysyllite Aqueduct (admiring Thomas Telford’s engineering and ironwork) and into Trevor.

Photograph by Steve Tan

From Trevor a steep ascent led us to the Panorama Walk giving great views on such a fine day. This took us beneath imposing limestone crags into the World’s End valley, where we came to a standstill behind a flock of sheep being shepherded slowly up the valley. Then ascending steeply, we crossed the very slippery ford and up onto Esclusham Moor. Everything was perfect as we descended into Minera and then Dave H got a puncture “from a leaf”. Close examination revealed a tyre worn close to the canvas in several places: “even worse than my tyres” said Dave P, who rescued us from a shambolic team attempt to change the tyre. Somewhat past our usual lunchtime, we pressed on to the Moors Inn at Four Crosses to a friendly welcome and some well received steak pies.
From here we had a fast run down the main road, past the Llandegla Forest, before turning left at the Plough Inn onto a minor road and then onto the main road up to the Ponderosa Café. From the top we took the more attractive Old Horseshoe Pass Road steeply down and on towards Llangollen.  As soon as the canal appeared we transferred to the towpath, passing above the tents and crowds of the Llangollen Eisteddfod. Apparently Burt Bacharach was performing, but we only saw a female choir. A stop was needed so we sat in the sun and ate ice creams. 
From Llangollen we continued along the canal, past the Trevor canal basin, back over the aqueduct and onwards through the seriously long and dark tunnel, before emerging by the railway station back in Chirk. 
So, the excuses: a slow start, sheep, a puncture and 4850ft of ascent.

9th July 2015: Shrewsbury (brisk)

Jeremy Clarkson’s car blog in the Sunday Times is invariably a rant about a current personal issue padded out with a car review. Well this blog is similar except it’s not a rant, but a celebration and a ride description. There is a misconception that all brisk rides are long, hilly, fast and furious. Well some are, and some are not. Our unofficial Tuesday rides are invariable long, fast, and hilly and furious (well relatively so for 60+ers). As Ivan had planned the Tuesday ride to the new Wetherspoons in Sandbach, I said I would plan today’s ride from Chirk. So often from Chirk we attack the hills but I wanted something different today. As I was feeling a bit sore from my unfortunate dismount in the rain on Tuesday, I planned a flat ride to The Shrewsbury Hotel (aka Wetherspoons) in Shrewsbury. The aforementioned celebration is that of the beautiful Shropshire countryside between Chirk and the county seat. Out through Western Rhyn, there is a tiny arrow-straight lane that gives you marvellous views of the land around culminating in the foreboding Old Oswestry Iron Age hill fort. Sliding out around the town, we are soon away from Oswestry and riding through Queens Head. The road down through Ruyton XI-Towns passes by many old country estates. The views are of the Wrekin and Caer Caradoc beyond. At Fitz, we now go east then south through suburbia to access the superb Severn river embankment in Shrewsbury itself. Following it clockwise as far as we can go, we arrive at the pub after 30 miles. 
Wetherspoons is fine except they forget to bring out my lunch, so I ask for my money back and in doing so get a free pint. A few of Ivan’s chips will have to suffice today supplemented by a Snickers bar. Back along the river, we exit via the cycleways to Montford Bridge. Over the Seven and the A5, the ride back is largely along highway 81. Moving North Eastwards, we pass by the Army training camp at Wilcott and the radio telescope at Knockin. The sun has warmed the air, the roads are good, and the countryside is quintessentially English in these former Marcher bad lands (as evidenced by quite a few former Motte and Baileys). Across Maesbury Marsh, we complete the figure-of-eight routing by crossing the A5 towards Gobowen. My lack of lunch necessitates tea and cake at Derwen College as it is obvious that we three (Ivan, John and myself) will not make it back in time for the 15:50 Chester train. A leisurely return is completed via the Rhyn valley with its steep climb out. Sixty miles in just over 4 hours. Acres and acres of wonderful countryside so rarely seen and appreciated by motorists. A Magnum ice cream rounds off a superb day's cycling!

Monday 6 July 2015

2nd July 2015: Coton (mod)

Another large turnout at the Ice Cream Farm saw us sitting outside in the early morning sun discussing possible destinations. I suggested the Dog and Bull at Coton, midway between Whixall and Prees, and with no other offers forthcoming it was agreed. The group consisted of Steve T, Steve H, Trevor, George, Keith, Dave H, Ray, Paul and myself. Liz and Dave P arrived on the tandem but with Dave wearing his wedding shoes by mistake they decided to just stay for the cake and coffee.
We followed a fairly traditional route out through Tattenhall, Carden, and Shocklach to Threapwood and the Wyches. The temperature was steadily approaching the 20’s that we had been promised but we also had a few short showers that were not due until later in the day. We made steady progress, despite me reading the satnav upside down at one point! and were soon climbing up past the Hanmer Arms towards Bettisfield and Northwood. A sharp turn to the east then took us to the run in for lunch through Dobsons Bridge and Whixall. The rain was beginning to become irritating at this point, so it was with relief that we parked our bikes under the sun umbrellas in the pub’s beer garden.
Service was good and the food reasonably priced and enjoyable as we watched the rain on the road outside. As we had hoped, we emerged to dry weather but wet roads and set off for the return journey. Our pleasure was short-lived, however, as the rain returned with increasing intensity, prompting some of us to don waterproofs. The temperature had by now dropped to 17˚C; still reasonably warm but not a pleasant summer’s day any more. 
We took the direct route north through Fenns Bank and Whitewell towards Malpas. I had planned to return via Harthill from here, but the rain suggested otherwise, and we continued north towards Tilston and our outward route.
The stronger group missed the turn in the village and continued on to Barton and Coddington, while the rest of us returned via Tattenhall. Though we had split into two groups, we were confident that once Dave got a whiff of the cake he would irrevocably find his way to the cafe and that was indeed the case.
Spirits dampened by the continual rain, we abandoned the plan of afternoon snacks, and continued homewards.
A good route, despite the weather. 46 miles, or nearly 70 for those from Chester. 

2nd July 2015: Baldwin’s Gate (brisk)

There were hordes of us at the temporary cafe at the Ice Cream Farm today. The weather was overcast and rain threatened. The brisk group of Ivan, Tom, John, Jan and myself set off bound for Baldwin’s Gate; “Where’s that” was the uniform response - “near Newcastle-under-Lyme" was the answer. Jan was “back” after a 2-year layoff, but you wouldn’t have known it from her riding form today. So, out and through Tarporley to Eaton, and then riding the length of the Wettenhall to Nantwich road, finds us on the edge of Nantwich. A short run along the A51 Bypass finds us taking a right down via Willaston and into Wybunbury via the cyclist-friendly road bridge over the A500 at Blakelow. A left by the Wybunbury church eventually takes us up to Wrinehill, where after a mile of the A531, we turn right and up the hill towards Madeley, which is only a stone’s throw from the M6. It’s “only" then a slog up and over the next hill and down into Baldwin’s Gate. After 30 miles we are ready for a stop. Apparently the village acquired its name “ from one of the properties on the main road where the occupant collected tolls from users of the road” according to Wiki. 
It’s quite awhile since I visited the Sheet Anchor pub and its transformation into a modern decor pub was a pleasant surprise. The fare was pricier, but the food was plentiful and good, which combined with good service and a Lime & Soda for 80p, produced a satisfying dining experience. Meanwhile, the threatened rain had wetted the roads as we left for our 30 mile return. 
Up and over Camp Hill and through Aston we find delightful lanes in the cool air. In and out of Woore and going north, we take the lanes across to Hunsterson and Hatherton to ride the main drag back into Nantwich. It’s raining more now, and a rain-check coffee stop offer in Nantwich is eschewed, thus we motor on via Acton and Brindley before arriving dripping wet in Tilley’s. There’s always a warm welcome here, and we sit and chat hoping the rain will stop. It doesn’t, but it abates enough to get us going again back towards the ICF. It’s a 60 miler round trip, with 80+ for Chester riders. I suppose it had to rain sometime!

Sunday 5 July 2015

25th June 2015: Bunbury (mod)

Ten riders set out for the moderate ride from the Little Roodee Café in Chester. The Dysart Arms in Bunbury was the destination with a southern loop in the morning and a northern loop in the afternoon. 
We set out along the riverside by the Groves and picked up the canal path for a short while to escape Chester via River Lane and on to Aldford and Churton where we detoured around the back lanes of the villages to admire the old cottages and pretentious Victorian chimney pots. In Farndon we again diverted into the back lanes to admire the church then took the old road south, now a byway cut by the Farndon bypass, to emerge in Crewe-by-Farndon. Onwards via Tilston turning left for Bickerton and a little bit of climbing to stretch the legs before skirting the Peckforton Hills on the east side and on to Bunbury and the Dysart Arms with about 25 miles covered. The sun was glorious and so were the garden and the food.

Photograph by Dave Pipe.

 After lunch we headed down to Tilston Bank to cross the railway and canal then the payback for the descent to climb up from the canal and on to Cotebrook via a meandering route taking in as many narrow lanes as possible. The Cafe at Cotebrook was closed for the day but the suggestion of pushing on to Walk Mill was an excellent choice. Open until 5pm – worth noting for future sunny day rides.
After a relaxed stop we headed back to Chester via Waverton and the canal path. 50 miles round trip.
Note: Cotebrook cafe is only open in the middle of the day according to the chap in the house opposite when we passed on Tuesday afternoon. The Shirehorse Centre 300 yards South on the main road is a good alternative.