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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Sunday 24 April 2016

19th/21st April 2016: C2C Whitehaven to Sunderland

 Whilst out on CER rides there was a discussion of doing a long distance ride and C2C was considered a challenge so Tom, John and Ivan agreed that the ride was good to go.
Train tickets, cycle reservations and B&B’s booked we set off on the best weather to date this year.
Tom enjoyed two punctures before getting to Shotton Station, an Omen? In basking sunshine we arrive into Whitehaven and straight into Wetherspoons for Tuesday steak night and tuck into 14oz Aberdeen Angus steak and chips. We will need the protein!! Our first bed for the night was an annexe to the hospital Summergrove Halls and a 3.5 mile ride out of town. Not a problem as a bar included in the accommodation and a good night had.
Day 1 and after a hearty breakfast of egg and bacon we set off towards Whitehaven. We took a different route to return into town, as we had to ride to the official C2C post in the harbour. Unfortunately we head down a steep lane and into a Fford – wet feet for Tom and I and John flew over the cobbles!!! This was about 3-5 minutes into the ride – oh dear!!
We arrive at the harbour side and duly sink our rear wheels into the Irish Sea and photo taken we set off at 08:55.
Heading out of Whitehaven we ride on the Sustrans route 71 that runs along the old railway line to Kirkland. We continue to follow the route passing lovely views of lakes and villages and the weather is getting warmer every minute. We are heading to Keswick for our first coffee stop and cycle around the edge of Derwent waters to a coffee shop outside of Keswick which was very cycle friendly and welcome.
After our break it is along converted railtrack again (Keswick – Penrith) to Threlkeld but hurricane Desmond had washed away two bridges so lanes again. Passing St Johns we pass an ancient Stonehenge type-site complete with huge stones and ice cream van so another stop for 99’s!! What a life.
We pass Threlkeld and decide to remain on the A66 as lunch time is beckoning and we hungry and 40 miles covered. We arrive into Penrith and lunch at the Station Hotel and enjoy good food served quickly for us as I only get to sample one pint!
We still have 30 miles to ride after lunch and 20 of these are all uphill, so it’s onwards and upwards passing well-known railway villages of Langwathby and Little Salkeld where we stop and have a photo call with a scarecrow C2C rider. The big climb is to Hartside Café and we were all glad to get to the top.
Now it is all downhill into Alston and we can get off the bike for the rest of the day.

Photographs by Ivan Davenport

Arriving at the Victoria Inn our overnight B&B we are greeted and shown our room. A little sleep, shower and into town to eat again.
Thursday morning and the sun is still shining we head off. John has posted his rucksack home compliments of the landlady. Again it is mainly uphill but along fantastic lanes and through the moorlands of Nenthall to Nenthead, passing through Northumberland along the B6295 to Allenheads then uphill again to Rookhope then downhill to Stanhope. The shock then was beware Crawleyside bank displayed on my Garmin!! Last time I walked up this hill, as it is steep!!!! A long 17%.
John to the rescue and takes the lead and Tom and I hang on and up we go to the top and Parkhead Station Café. A tough ride covering 23 miles and 1400 meters of climb and 300 descents!! No average here then!
After an enjoyable toastie we now ride over an old rail way line (converted) which was the coal line link to Consett.
There are 40 miles to ride to Sunderland and this part of the C2C route is all on dedicated cycle route – absolutely fantastic.
Passing Consett we stop to take a photo of a steel telescope and microscope, a reminder of the lost industry!!
Arriving into Sunderland it is up to the pier and the official C2C landmark where a fellow biker takes our commemorative photo.
It’s been a great two days cycling in the best of the weather to date – good accommodation and great cycling buddies.
We covered the distance of 135 miles and 11,000 feet of ascent in 11.5 hours and an average speed of 13 mph.
Thanks to my two fellow cyclists on this trip it was very enjoyable but hard.
Will keep shtummm of our evening debates!!!

See Day 1 route map and/or gpx file download.
See Day 2 route map and/or gpx file download.


Saturday 23 April 2016

21st April 2016: Yarnfield Special Ride (mod)

A good turnout of a dozen riders met at Waitrose Café for a run out in pastures new, thanks to Clive’s initiative.

The moderate group, consisting of Bryan W, Brian Macca, Dave H, Mike McC, Trevor, Petar and Jim set off on a slightly shorter route than the brisk group in good sunshine and clear skies, though with a fairly chilly breeze. Heading north through the town centre we skirted Chetwynd Park, crossed the A41, and continued northwards on well-maintained, quiet lanes, through Knighton, Adbaston, Fairoak and Charnes before turning into the wind for a few miles eastwards. The landscape was undulating but not unduly so, though a couple of disrobing stops were deemed necessary as we began to warm up. The villages were typically representative of the Shropshire rural countryside, and we were regarded with occasional bemusement by heifers and several horses as we breezed by. The pace was steady, enabling us to maintain a reasonable level of conversation, one of the pleasures of ‘Easy Riding’.
Just to the west of Stone we passed by what looked to be some sort of MOD facility on the map, but the lichen-encrusted sign suggested that either very little training had taken place here for a considerable time, or that it was very well camouflaged.  Shortly after passing the camp we arrived at our lunch stop, the ‘Labour in Vain’ in Yarnfield, a distance of 21 miles, and met up with the brisk group who had travelled a little further. The food was good, and reasonably priced, and the beer drinkers more than happy with the choice of refreshment.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

After lunch we parted company once again, though Steve H also joined us for the run back to base. We meandered southwards through Great Bridgeford, and Seighford until we met the Shropshire Greenway just west of Stafford. We were a bit unsure about the quality of the surface for our road bikes, but our concerns were unfounded, and we were able to get into the big ring and maintain a steady pace, helped by the wind, now on our backs. The downside of finishing the day on a cycleway is the lack of visual interest as most of the route seemed to be in a cutting, but at least we had no traffic to contend with. Arriving back at the A41, we quickly crossed and took one of the local roads back to the car park. Apart from weaving between the departing schoolchildren, the route back to the café was uneventful. 

A total of just about 40 miles in really pleasant countryside. Thanks Clive.

21st April 2016: Yarnfield Special Ride (brisk)

The weather was pleasantly spring-like as a dozen of us met at the Waitrose Cafe in Newport - and what a pleasant market town it is. Jim had organised a shortened version of my 52 miler, so I gathered up Steve H, Chris, Paul and John M for the brisk route out to Yarnfield and the “Labour in Vain” pub. The route out was NCN552 NE towards Cheswardine. Crossing the line of the Roman road at Camp Farm, we arrive at the mile marker plaque in Cheswardine installed for the Queen’s Jubilee, and not as I previously thought in the June 2014 blog entry, the distances on the E2E route. Onwards via Chipnall and Hales, we arrive at 700ft at the A53. Here at Blore Heath, in 1459, was the second battle in the Wars of the Roses, but I couldn’t find the commemorative plaque, so here is the photo ex Wiki. The Yorkists won apparently.

Photographs by John Mills and Clive Albany

We now plod into the wind and uphill to the “foolish” town of Loggerheads. Apparently Loggerhead meant “a fool”. There was a large TB sanatorium here from1920 to 1969. Up and over the hill, we turn off right to dive through Ashley running parallel to the A53. We soon back on it for a mile before turning right into the delightful village of Maer. We are running well now through the gentle hills of Staffordshire before heading briefly for Swynnerton, which was granted a charter by Edward I in 1309! We now have to circle the former Royal Ordnance factory site near Cold Meece, which employed 18,500 staff to fill shells with explosive in the early 1940’s. We arrive at the pub almost simultaneously with the Moderates. The ale choice is good, as is the menu, but my omelette could have been better cooked.
Suitably refreshed and energy levels refilled, we set off (minus Steve H) bound for Stone and “enjoy” its bypass before picking up the NCN5 rolling around Stafford. We exit the town passing by the 11C castle (the one you can see from the M6) and now we have 15 miles or so of tiny lanes ducking and diving around various hamlets before crossing the A41 just south of Newport. Close to the town centre we are buzzed by two large helicopters that came out of nowhere sounding like machine guns. 
We find the Moderates are at the tea and cakes in the Waitrose cafe and we reluctantly joint them, with 52 miles completed and a surprising 2,900ft of climbs. Lots of new lanes today, through the very pleasant Staffordshire and Shropshire countryside.

Monday 18 April 2016

14th April 2016: Coton (brisk)

Another good turnout at the Ice Cream Farm so two rides.  A rural ride to the Dog and Bull at Coton was the accepted Brisk ride joined by Clive, the two Johns, Paul and self.
We set off going through Tattenhall and on to Clutton where we joined the A534 for a short sprint to Barton before turning left for Kidnal. We were heading towards Hanmer and with the rain last night the farmers were making a good job of muck spreading the lanes. I even got accused of choosing lanes some what on par to Clive’s lanes!!
We drop down hill to Salters Mill, which looked beautiful with rolling lawns, mansion and a huge mill pond. CER have visited this location previous and after the down hill there is a bumpy uphill on an unmade track: fortunately rideable.
Turning left at the end of the lane head towards Whixall and on to Clotton. We had covered 30 miles to lunch at the Dog and Bull in arriving for 12:30 and were the first into the pub. Although not busy the food was good although a little slow in delivery.
The return route to the Ice Cream Farm was via Whitchurch, Malpas and Bickerton.  At Hart Hill the fitter of the brisks raced up to the top and had to wait for Clive and I. Here we picked up a Nantwich rider so heading straight down hill to Tattenhall the three raced off and the rear took the alternate ride via Burwardsley.
We said farewell to our new rider and Clive and I arrived first at the café followed by the three briskers who said they had waited for us thinking we were following!
It wasn’t long after that the mod’s arrived from their ride. We had covered 50 miles round trip and another minimum 20 to and from Chester so a good day’s riding on a dry day but muddy lanes.

14th April 2016: Audlem (mod)

There was a good turnout at the cyclist supporting Ice Cream Farm. The fast lads were self-selecting, and planned to go to Timbuktu and back at an average speed of 29.89 m.p.h. using their latest app. 'Banzai Back Wheel'. The moderates weren't sure what they were doing. Then Mike Gilbert rang to say that he was behind schedule, and Jim came up with a route quickly, so that Mike would have a chance of finding us later. Lunch would not be at The Shroppie Fly or The Bridge at Audlem, but at "the other one". There were nine of us: Jim, Steve Tan, Dave & Liz P, Mike McC, Charlie, Jane, Keith Metcalfe and myself. The pace was easy through Beeston and Bunbury as we headed for Brindley, and Ravensmoor via Swanley.  Passing the Farmers' Arms reminded me of Mike Morley, who enjoyed this pub for its decent food, beer and shapely barmaids. 
We crossed the main Whitchurch Road and headed south down Coole Lane towards Audlem Bridge, in the hope that it was not closed for repairs. The bank up to Audlem is always a tester, and it was nice to stop for lunch. We were due a breather and a bite. The Combermere staff were very friendly, and the food was good. Three locked bikes were blocking the binmen's path, and the keyholder was temporarily awol. The guy outside was amazingly patient and affable. It probably helped that they were on an hourly rate! 
Mike G arrived, moist and cheerful as usual, and he was served quickly. I believe he had ridden all the way from his Welsh Riviera home. Our return took us past the Bhurtpore Inn, and, like a dog that had just moved house, we found it hard to go straight past. Cholmondeley Castle and Peckforton were eventually reached at a stress-free pace. The stretch of gently undulating road in the lee of the Peckforton Hills is always pleasant, easy and sheltered, with a few very pretty cottages studding the greenery. You also know there is not far to go at this point. We edged around the southeast side of Beeston Castle, and Steve wanted to know if I fancied a Cake Race. I wasn't in best fettle so declined, but the group were bunching up as we drifted down over Crimes Brook, so I cruised gently past. Next second, Tonkin' Tan shoots by on the outside. I sprinted to catch him and stayed on his wheel for a mile, but as we turned right towards Newton I decided prolonged redlining was not good training practise with a bit of a virus, and Steve got the gap. Another day, perhaps, but only if he puts on three stones and gets off those steroids! 
About 41 enjoyable and dry miles had been covered, when we rejoined our fast friends back at the Ice Cream Farm. About 65 miles for those riding back to Chester, and a lot more for Mike Gilbert. Many thanks to Jim for another very pleasant trip, despite a handful of aggressive motorists.      

Sunday 10 April 2016

7th April 2016: Neston (mod)

When I threw back the curtains I was greeted by rain battering the window. At this point I would have decided that it wasn't a good day for cycling. However since it had been my suggestion to meet at Meadow Lea instead of the Little Roodee Café (currently closed) I felt obliged to turn up. Besides the weather forecast said the rain would clear around 10.00 leaving just the wind. So I got myself ready and I got my bike ready and I waited for the rain to stop. Sure enough, just before ten it did, and off I went for the short cycle to Meadow Lea.
It was obvious from the number of bikes outside the cafe that other cyclists had also had their eyes on the forecast and the place was already buzzing. Because I was local I had a number of circular rides in mind but one in particular seemed suitable, as we would be cycling into the wind on the way out and have it behind us in the afternoon. I didn't know a suitable place for lunch though so Brian suggested The Wheatsheaf at Neston that he had heard served a reasonably priced 2-course lunch.
Eight of us set out on the moderate ride, these being Steve H, Dave H, Keith, George, Chris, Jim, and Brian Macca with me leading. We turned north out of Meadow Lea and into the wind. Our route took us out through Mickle Trafford and Picton, round the back of the zoo and over the canal to Chorlton where we turned left to cross the A41. At Mollington we joined Sustrans route 56. We followed it alongside the railway and up through Capenhurst & Ledsham before crossing the Welsh Road.
Shortly after this route 56 turns down a farm track and through a farmyard and it was just after this that Keith's front tyre punctured. As is often the case with slim line bike tyres it was a struggle to get off and a struggle to get back on again. Nothing could be found inside the tyre so it was with fingers crossed that we continued on our way. Route 56 turned off along the Wirral Way as we carried on up Heath Lane and in to Willaston. From here it was up to Raby then left towards Neston, crossing the A540.
As we approached Neston I let Brian use his local knowledge to guide us to the Wheatsheaf.  After 50p for a pint of lime & soda last week this week's asking price of £1.95 came as a bit of a shock. Brian had been right about the cost of the food though. £5.65 for 2 courses seemed like a good offer. Service was a bit slow, though, partly because they didn't seem able to overlap the courses. Consequently six of us had to sit and watch Keith & Jim eat their starters before any of us got a main course. Some found the food a bit disappointing too. I guess you get what you pay for sometimes.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

After lunch we crossed Burton Marshes, played dodgems with the lorries on Deeside Industrial Estate and headed over to the River Dee where we followed the path towards Chester. We were making good progress now with the wind behind us and could have been back by 15:00 but our ride wasn't over yet. At the Ferry Lane bridge we crossed the river and headed out towards Bretton and Kinnerton. Jim left us here to take the short cut home while the rest of us continued on a loop around Lavister, Pulford & Eccleston. We were now heading in the direction of home. At Handbridge we said goodbye to Chris (home), Brian (cafe) and George (back to his car). That left Steve H, Dave H, Keith and me to complete the ride back to Meadow Lea via Hoole Lane & Guilden Sutton Lane with 47 miles clocked.

Friday 8 April 2016

7th April 2016: Bradfield Green (brisk)

There were a lot of us at Meadow Lea farm and so it became clear that Jim’s 40 mile ride to Neston area would be oversubscribed. Ray had downloaded an “old” ride to Warmingham and so he led out with Tom, Steve T, Ken and myself in tow. The routing wasn’t ideal given the strengthening NW wind, but we enjoyed its support on the way out via Manley and Delamere Forest. Rolling around Norley, we were soon in Sandiway and bound for Foxtwist Green. We arrive at the Weaver Navigation planning to take the Weaver Parkway Path on the right hand bank, but the access gate was padlocked shut. Maybe this was to protect wildlife at the start of the breeding season; so we take the main drag of Bradford Road into sunny Winsford. We leave the town via Clive Green and end up going south on a short section of the A530 towards Crewe, before turning off at Wimboldsley Green, and, via Ecclestone Green, approach Warmingham. 
It’s too early for lunch, so on the fly I navigate on to the “Coach and Horses" at Bradfield Green where we arrive having been somewhat drenched in the unwelcome rain. This pub should definitely be on Steve H list of CER lunch stops. They produce the best chips anywhere in my opinion and I have had a few of them here before! All agreed that the food, decent ales and the welcome were wholesome. 
We can’t put off the return route any longer, so into a strengthening NW wind, we are off via Church Minshull, Bunbury bound. It’s hard work and we take it in turns leading the pack back home. Eschewing Tilly's, we head for the Ice Cream Farm for a welcome hot drink. The place is heaving as its Half Term week, but we go in and out via the specially labelled “Cyclists Exit” door. At Waverton, Ken heads for Rossett and Steve T heads back to Meadow Lea farm with 56 miles completed. The return home wasn’t exactly “brisk” but the NW wind definitely was!

Thursday 7 April 2016

31st March 2016: St Martin’s (leis)

Despite a frosty start the forecast was for a dry, warm and sunny day with little or no wind: ideal conditions for cycling. It was no surprise then to find that Cleopatra's was heaving when I got there. I tried to count heads but with people milling about I failed. There must have been at least 18 members present. For various reasons several people wanted a fairly slow ride, or at least slower than the usual moderate rides. So for possibly the first time in CER history three rides were planned. It had been a while since I had completed a ride so I offered to lead a relaxed one that would take us to the Greyhound Inn at Street Dinas (St. Martins). The moderate riders were also heading to the same place but by a different route.
Five of us, Dave P & Liz on the tandem, Dave H, Keith and myself set off across the 14th century bridge over the Dee into Farndon then down through Shocklach, Tallarn Green, Horseman’s Green & Penley. We skirted past Ellesmere before turning back up towards St Martins, arriving at the Greyhound Inn with 22 miles on the clock.
We were greeted with a warm welcome at the Greyhound and were delighted with the 50p cost of a pint of lime & soda - the same as it had been on our previous visit to the Greyhound almost 5 years ago! The blog on that occasion had reported that the food had been disappointing. Not so on this occasion. The service was good too and we were already tucking in to a delicious meal when the moderate group arrived. Our conversation started with a discussion of the morning's route out before moving on to more important topics such as the forthcoming EU in/out vote. No doubt the latter topic will come up many times before referendum in June.
We left the moderates to finish their meal and set off on a more direct route back to Holt. We followed the main road into Overton and then on through Worthenbury just beyond which we joined our outbound route. We retraced our route back through Shocklach but turned off it at Crewe-by-Farndon to take the short cut back to Farndon. A short dash back over the bridge to Holt and we were soon sampling a selection of Cleopatra's cakes having enjoyed a very pleasant 39-mile ride.

Saturday 2 April 2016

31st March 2016: St Martin’s (mod)

A total of 17 CER members assembled at Cleopatra’s on a glorious sunny Spring day and decided to ride off in three groups, which I think is a first for CER.  The medium Group decided to meet up for lunch with the slowees (?) more moderate (?) at Street Dinas (St Martins), past Ellesmere.
Martin led us away, followed by George, Mike, two Steves and myself. We bowled along at 13+ mph in a large clockwise direction south through Shocklach, Penley, Ellesmere and W Frankton before arriving at The Greyhound.  Here the more leisurely (?) group were just finishing lunch and gave us their recommendations.  60p for lime & soda went down well with some.  We considered the good beer and a tasty varied menu should put the Greyhound on Steve Ronay’s list.  St Martins, though rural today, was once at the edge of the Derbyshire coalfield until the last mine closed in 1968; all that remains of that industry is the Miner’s Institute.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

After lunch, the shorter return was due north through Overton, Bangor on Dee and along the B5130 towards Holt, where Macca hit the wall (metaphorically) as he hadn’t been out for weeks.  Guinness cake + coffee revived him in Cleopatra’s, where the handsome CER members lined up for an advertising group photo for the business. A sunny 46 miles at a moderate 13mph, cafe to cafe.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

31st March 2016: Llanymynech (brisk)

I cycled out from home and was meeting John at the Rake and Pikel to ride together to Cleopatra’s at Holt.  On Wednesday John had completed a 120K audax involving 3000 meters of climbing so I was hoping he would go easy today!!
On such a lovely morning with the prospects of a good day it wasn’t surprising to see such a good turnout of riders.  There were going to be 3 groups today and I was leading the Brisk ride along with John W, Tom, Paul, Ken and John M. My route was a round trip of 68 miles to Llanymynech.
We set off from the café and headed down to the A534 and crossed over to the B5130, which we followed to Cross Lanes. We take a right turn onto Bwgan ddu lane where we find a young bullock blocking our path. We were passed by a car driver who led the way forward, only to shove the bull further along the road. John took the bull by the horns and got up to speed and passed the animal and ushered it into a farmer’s mansion front garden. He promptly closed the drive gates and hoped the bull would now be safe. No idea if this was the owner’s beast but it seemed at home chomping away at his shrubs!!!

Photographs by John Mills and Ivan Davenport

We continued our ride and passed through Overton and on to St Martins. It was rumoured the mods were heading this way also but at 11:30 we saw no sign of them yet. Onwards passing Gobowen and Whittington and on to Queenshead the Brisk group today are a good peloton and enjoying a good pace and I could even hear the happy banter behind.  The sun was shining and the daffodils were still splendid on the kerbside displays. What lovely flowers to take us into summer.
We take the B4398 from Knockin via Maesbrook and into Llanymynech. On arrival at the Dolphin Inn, which I had contacted on Wednesday to ensure they were open, we had a table set up for six. As this week has seen the introduction of the CER hot list of eating-places there was a debate from a borders man that this is not our usual eating spot in the village. For me when there is a choice of venues it is worth trying them out before discarding all alternatives and the Dolphin was a very friendly pub and the food of good quality. Perhaps for Tom the ladies also enjoying lunch may have been a bit senior for him but he chose to sit nearest to them for a chat!!
Back in the saddle we retrace a little of our route before taking a turn and going uphill only to find nearly at the top I had missed the turning. Turning round we raced back down the hill and the turning was a left nearly at the bottom but this little detour added to our 2654 feet of climb for the day.
Back on track we are riding along some very quiet and good dry lanes passing through Pant and Moreton and on to Babbinswood and Whittington. We turn right passed the lake onto the A495 before turning left to Hindford. My next missed turn was during a fast down hill descent and again going upwards before halting to return down and taking the correct turn. Every little helps in the ascent climbs.
We again pass through Overton and on the Bangor on Dee where there is jockeying for pole position for the descent passing the race course and Paul was well in front on his very black Trek with Tom hanging onto his rear wheel. It was then the normal route back to Farndon where we arrive at 16:30. Ken and John are going to return to Holt and try a coffee if Cleopatra’s is still open while the remaining four continue back to Chester.
Today’s ride was for me the first summers day ride of 90 miles to and from home and probable 100+ for the other three, A fantastic day with no incidents other than a couple of minor wrong ways so thank you to my riders today for making it such fun!!
See route map and/or gpx file download.