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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Friday 24 June 2016

23rd June 2016: Harwarden to Caerwys

I was already warm after cycling up to the Gallery Coffee Shop and the expectations for the day were high with no rain, plenty of sun and a little breeze.  This had encouraged a good turnout of 13 moderate riders: myself, Bryan, Keith, Dave & Liz, Charlie & Jane, John Mills, Dave H, Kate, Steve T, George and Trevor. But where were the brisk riders? Rumours that they had worn themselves out with their trip over the Lakeland passes last week were probably untrue.  Despite the turnout no-one had a route.  Reluctantly I found one to Caerwys on my satnav, and as this was to the Piccadilly Inn our enthusiasm grew.  Twelve of us set off, with Trevor deciding to make his own way back.

The route out skirted the north of Bwcle and through Sychdyn, and then came the grinding climb up steep hills to Rhosemor. With the hardest work done, we crossed Halkyn Mountain and passed
Photo by Steve T
through Babell before a joining the busy B5122 for the final mile to the pub. Due to our numbers we had phoned ahead to alert the pub and we received a warm welcome as the landlady seated us in their restaurant.  Good beer and good food followed, justifying the Piccadilly’s place in our list of favourite lunch stops. Conversation covered several topics from satnavs to, inevitably, the referendum with various reports on the nature of polling stations that morning.

On our return the group started to fragment.  John wanted to try out his new satnav and would make his own way back – we assume he made it. The rest of us headed back up the B-road before turning left to cross the A55 at the daffodil fields, now looking bare and ragged. We then looped round for a couple of miles on the main road to Lloc, before taking to the lanes again through Pantasalph, and up towards Halkyn Mountain. On the way we met a bemused motorist as we took a short cut, the wrong way up a one way street. On the mountain Dave H realised that he was a risk of missing his appointment in Warrington and left us speeding ahead. When Keith noticed Dave had gone, he realised that his lift had gone with him, and pelted off to catch him up!

Three riders down, we continued to Rhosemor and retraced our outward route down the steep hills, meeting oncoming vehicles at just the wrong moment. Then on to Northrop where we said goodbye to George. The eight remaining riders crossed the A55 and said farewell to Kate, Jane and Charlie as we headed back into Harwarden. Here Steve T and the tandem dropped off, leaving Bryan and myself to ride back into Chester, but not without first re-fuelling at the Hawarden Estate Farm Shop – well worth stopping at.

Overall, a total of about 42 miles with quite a few hills, a fine day, a good pub and excellent company.


16th June 2016: Special Ride - Grange to The Drunken Duck (mod)

Kate and Macca were already in the Seaview Café when Keith, George and myself arrived, after a quick and trouble-free motorway journey. Keith Metcalf soon joined us. Keith was brought up not very far east from here. The six of us set off at 10.30a.m. for the public conveniences on  Grange promenade. The weather was ideal, and I warned the troops not to overdress at the start, as the first climb to Cartmel would soon have them well warmed up.
Photos by Macca
We wound through Cartmel with its ancient Priory, pretty square and picturesque race course, and started climbing again, before an exhilarating plunge down through Low Wood and on to Haverthwaite. The little lane threading up The Rusland Valley was quiet and beautiful.  The climbing through Grizedale Forest became challenging, and I began to regret the half bottle of red, and watching football late the night before.  The others were politely patient as they waited for the heaviest and oldest rider in the group at the top of the climb! We were soon hurtling down to Esthwaite Water, and then passing through the tourists in Hawkshead. The climb from Outgate gave us terrific views across Langdale Fell.

We arrived at Barngates and the Drunken Duck after twenty miles, and sat in the sun tucking in to fish finger sarnies and the like. This is a very attractive spot, and the service and food was just the job for cyclists wanting to move on.

After lunch we had to squeeze past a huge logging lorry on the narrow route over Hawkshead Hill. We flew down to the side of Coniston Water, with fine views of the lake and The Old Man of Coniston to our right. Speedy progress was made on the undulating, green canopied lakeside road. We passed Brantwood, the former home of John Ruskin. This area also provided the setting for ‘Swallows and Amazons’, and the brave world water speed record attempts of Donald Campbell.  Campbell’s grave is in Coniston village, and his story is told in the fine museum there.
We stopped at a wooden jetty in order to walk out into the lake and soak in the tranquil atmosphere and majestic surroundings of water, and high mountains one last time. On Tuesday, Steve Tan had accompanied me on a rehearsal of the route. It had been a particularly warm day, and a group of young American tourists had decide to park their bikes and were having a great time swimming in the lake.  They had invited us to join them, but we weren’t sure that the elastic in our nickers was up to it.  On Tuesday the threatened heavy showers had not materialized, and I finished sitting in the sun with Steve on Grange promenade licking an ice cream, as special steam train thundered past.
Today, Macca had been taking lots of photographs in the knowledge that later it would be a bit wet for pretty pictures.  We made brisk progress on an exhilarating stretch to Lowick Bridge.
The rain started, so we headed for the wooden bus shelter in Spark Bridge to get into appropriate gear for a hundred minutes of rain. I made an expedient route decision, and we reached Greenodd and the bridge over the River Leven in short order by using the quietish main road. The cycle route follows an old railway line. It is rough to begin with, but is a pretty flat and pleasant way to make progress east. At Haverthwaite we cycled alongside the steam railway and climbed around Great Hagg. The rain hadn’t been too bad, but now it started to bucket down. Macca overcooked a downhill corner, bounced off a bush and fell off.  He appeared to be o.k. though, as where there is no sense there is no feeling!  We decided to escape into The Swan at Newby Bridge. We were made very welcome despite our drowned rats’ appearance. Cake and coffee lifted our energy levels, and George didn’t seem too bothered, as we saw Sturridge score the late winner for England against Wales on the
tele. With little prospect of the weather clearing up we climbed up the streaming little lane  to Seatle, wondering if the roads would be passable on this last leg toward Cartmel, and, finally, Grange. Keith Barlow was particularly enjoying the challenge of the adverse conditions, and there was a stimulating sense of adventure in navigating rivers of rainwater in order to get back in one piece on tired legs. We really licked along on the fast stretch past Field Broughton to Cartmel, and then faced the final stiff climb from Headless Cross to High Fell Gate. The rain had stopped, and we were soon back down on Grange promenade.
It had been great to have the company of familiar mates, but also to get to know Keith better, and catch up with Kate after four years.  I think we all enjoyed the ride, and I certainly appreciated the support on a day that was bound to have a wet afternoon, and the counter attraction of that big football match on the television at home.  We covered 48 miles or so, with plenty of hills, memorable views and typical easy riders’ camaraderie.        


Friday 17 June 2016

16th June 2016: Hardknott and Wrynose Passes (brisk)

Today it is car assist to Ambleside in Cumbria to ride over two iconic passes. We have an easy drive from Chester to Ambleside on a sunny morning and park up under Loughrigg Fells. Bikes removed from the car, John, Ray, Tom, Ken and I set off towards Clappersgate and up to Skelwith along Bog lane to Barngates crossroads passing the Drunken Duck Inn, a previous lunch stop for CER.

Heading on upwards, Hawkshead Hill is cleared, and then it is a down-hill ride into Coniston for a breakfast stop. At the chosen café, we have choices of egg and bacon and cake and enjoy our stop sitting outside in glorious sunshine. After waiting for Tom to clear his plate, we are now ready and ride through the town and follow Coniston lake along the A593 which today was very quiet with few cars. Passing Torver, we are chasing a big black cloud and can see the rain dropping from the darkened skies and are quietly thinking how our continuing trip is going to turn out! We join the A595 at Broughton in Furness and cross over the Esk river bridge at Bank End and start the climb up to Duddon Bridge. The roads are wet but no rain and, as we continue onwards and upwards, the sky is getting clearer with the start of blue sky appearing – hope yet!
Eschewing mid-morning coffee at Ulpha
We were stopping at the post office at Ulpha for a coffee, but decide to continue. After first photo shoot, we head off in now clear skies for our first significant double chevroned climb out of Ulpha and up Woodside Climb at 25%. No problems and we are now rolling along the fells towards Beckfoot and Boot. We have another stop to admire the fantastic views of the mountains of the lakes with Scafell Pike and Bow Fell dominating the horizon. Riding along the lane from Eskdale to Boot and Dalegarth, we chase the steam railway train. We have enjoyed riding car-free lanes throughout and now are heading towards Hardknott and the ascents of the two passes.

Passing over the cattlegrid at the start of Hardknott, the climb is 30%+. Ken, Ray and John continue pumping up the hill whilst Tom and I decide to walk the steepest bits! Arriving at the top is a great feeling, and the effort used in getting up here well worth the effort. Free-wheeling down Hardknott is not easy, but dry roads in sunshine is a reward and soon we are riding along Wrynose Bottom and start the final ascent up the pass. This one is shorter, and the three KOM riders of Ken, Ray and John have clean soles and are at the summit in no time and wait for Tom and I to arrive.

A well-earned rest
Powering to the summit

The Captain himself

A fantastic 30 miles ridden and ascents of 4774 feet of climb covered, we now enjoy the down-hill sprint to Little Langdale and the Three Shires Inn. Arriving at 14:30, we are too late for a hot lunch but enjoy sandwiches and soup and a well-earned pint watching England “thrash” Wales at 2-1. Fully recovered and happy, the final leg of our ride to Ambleside is covered at an average of 17mph. Back at under Loughrigg, we say farewell to John in his car, and put the bikes on the car-rack and head for home.

A total ride of 45 miles for the brisk riders is short of our usual mileage, but the climbs we have enjoyed with the whizz of the descents, more than made up the shortfall. A fantastic day out and a massive 10/10 and King of the Mountains go to Ken and Ray who achieved getting over both passes without a foot down. John only stopped once on Hardknott, and cleared Wrynose and well done too. Tom on a 28 cassette and feeling drained, showed how strong he is and, when he buys his new bike, we will try again! Thanks to my buddies today for a great day out.


Photos by Ivan Davenport and Ken Page

Wednesday 15 June 2016

9th June 2016: Ruyton XI Towns (mod)

There were 9 riders who gathered at the (now refurbished) Tea Rooms Café in Chirk for the first time this year – Trevor, Chris, Paul, Dave H, Keith B, Steve T, Brian Macca, Dave and Liz. No-one had a route, but the two Daves agreed to fettle one down to Ruyton XI Towns, using a combination of Dave H’s map and Dave P’s knowledge of the lanes.

So it was that we set off in bright sunshine along Church Street, heading for the Llangollen Canal. Safely over the aqueduct, we carried on along the towpath for longer than usual, only leaving it after we’d gone under the A5. The path was dry, but in several places, coarse hardcore had been put down, which made for difficult riding, so we were please to regain smooth tarmac. Passing Henlie Hall, where you can stay in ‘Woodland Lodges’, we went on to Hindford and Welsh Frankton and thence to Lower Frankton. Skirting round the old airfield at Rednal (and the old Westland Whirlwind helicopter), we cycled on through Haughton, Wigmarsh and Wykey, dropping down the hill into Ruyton X1 Towns and arriving at The Talbot  only 90 minutes and 17.5 miles after leaving Chirk.

To the delight of our beer aficionados, the Talbot is now a Joules pub, having been refurbished by the brewery and re-opened last December. The present tenants have been in place for only a month or so and they were a bit taken aback by the arrival of 9 hungry cyclists, especially since they were expecting ‘a large party’ at 12:30.  They decided to get our orders to the kitchen first and so we were soon seated at two tables with drinks, awaiting lunch. This arrived quite quickly and the opinion of the group was that the quality was good, but probably not up to the standard required for an entry in Steve H’s guide [It’s already in there, Steve]. Lunchtime conversation was wide ranging, covering amongst other things wind farms, the EU and the TT races. Dave P suggested that the afternoon ride should be a little longer (30 miles was mentioned) and this prompted another round of discussion between the two Daves – well, shouting across the pub would be more accurate. Fortunately, the yummy mummies had decided to take their offspring and eat outside, so no disturbance was caused.

Photos by Brian MacDonald
So it was that we re-traced our wheeltracks out of Ruyton towards Wykey. The hill going up seemed to be much steeper than when we came down before lunch – something to do with the added weight we were carrying, perhaps. Turning right before we reached Wykey, we crossed the River Perry and climbed out of the valley; another steep hill just after lunch – thanks Dave! Riding through Weston Lullingfields and on to  Stanwardine in the Wood, we were fully immersed in the delightful lanes of north Shropshire, which are thankfully bereft of the Chelsea tractors found so often in the lanes of Cheshire. Arriving at Cockshutt, there was a short stretch on the A528 before we peeled off right towards English Frankton. At a sharp left just before we got there, Dave H suggested that we divert to the café at Ellesmere for an ice cream, a suggestion that was given the unanimous support of the group. Ice creams, cake, ginger beer and tea were consumed in the beautiful lakeside setting basking in the afternoon sun. Suitably refreshed, we started for home.

The route took us out of Ellesmere on cycle route 455 which we followed for only a mile or so before turning off past Duddleston Hall to reach St. Martins. Passing the parish church, we crossed the B5069 and headed for Pont-y-blew, crossing back into Wales as we did so. This provided the ‘sting in the tail’ that Dave H had mentioned (quietly) a bit earlier. The lane drops down into the valley where the River Dee (or should I say Afon Dyfrdwy) runs and the climb out of the other side and over the A5 is steep, sapping any remaining strength from our legs.

Arriving back at the car park, we had run 44 miles on a warm, sunny (mostly) day through some quite lovely lanes. Thanks go to both Daves for an excellent ‘off the cuff’ ride.
See route map and/or gpx file download.


Sunday 5 June 2016

2nd June 2016: Coton (mod)

It was a cool start, but the day promised to be dry, sunny and warm. I had two possible destinations in mind when I arrived at the Ice Cream Farm: the Joules Brewery Tap in Market Drayton and the Dog & Bull at Coton. The brisk group had separately chosen the brewery, so for variety I suggested Coton. Our group comprised Liz and Dave, George and Brian Macca.
We hit a problem immediately. My combination lock refused to open. After several attempts we gave up and Brian went to find someone with a boltcutter. However, just before one turned up, George put his hidden safe-cracking skills to work and miraculously it opened. Dumping the offending lock in a bin, we headed out through Bunbury and Brindley, then Marbury, before heading through Whitchurch towards Whixall. Somewhere along the route we met an escaped sheep and two farmers failing to get it into a field.  They told us to carry on, which we did slowly pursuing the ewe along the lane. Soon a quadbike roared past, overtook the ewe and turned it round.

Photographs by Brian MacDonald

With no more events, we hit the B-road between Wem and Whitchurch and soon turned into the Dog and Bull. We were the first customers and received a warm welcome and thankfully the TV loudly broadcasting “Loose Women” was turned off.  Good food and beer arrived and was consumed accompanied by reminiscences of Sunderland and the North East.
Our return took us back towards Whixall, and we almost immediately came across a couple riding a tandem tricycle. This excited much interest from our tandem and Brian, and after comparing notes; we left them behind heading west to Northwood, and then north through Hanmer before turning right in Shocklach.  At this point Dave asked whether we could pass a café on our return, and I had to admit that I hadn’t planned one, and the ICF itself wasn’t tempting due to expected hoards of half-termers. Dave & Liz knew of a small establishment in Tattenhall village, but this was closed. Old Ma’s was a possibility but would this be open after 4pm? As it happened the ICF was winding down, as evidenced by a great flow of cars on the roads leaving it.  We were quickly served with drinks, but in paper cups, and we weren’t allowed to sit in our usual area, so we finished the day on a bench outside in the fine afternoon.
A good day’s cycling on quiet lanes with few hills in good weather, we clocked up a little over 53 miles.
See route map and/or gpx file download.

Friday 3 June 2016

2nd June 2016: Market Drayton (brisk)

Ivan and I had proposed essentially the same 52 mile route to Market Drayton so a deal was done; Ivan would lead, and I would write the blog. The Brisk Group are six this week; Ivan, Tom, Steve T, Ken, John W, and myself. We set off up around Burwardsley and Harthill, bound for Bickerton and Aston. The sun peeps through after the chilly start but we're not cold at 20mph! We are soon rounding Audlem down Royal Green Lane and out into beautiful open countryside. Passing Tilleney Pool and Shavington Park, it's a 7 mile run down tiny lanes to the outskirts of Market Drayton. We arrive at the Joules Brewery “Red Lion” pub after 26 miles in 90 minutes averaging 17 mph.No wonder we need that pint of excellent beer.

The Red Lion is as good as ever and we have the panelled “Mouseman” dining room to ourselves as we need the shade whereas the other punters take the tables outside in the full noon day sun. No 3 “P's” this week either (just to prove I read the blog!) but rather wide-ranging non-serious chitchat. 

Photograph by Ivan via the barman
Surprisingly, we set off south, and, after 3 miles, I just check with Ivan when he is planning to veer off left and homewards. The Garmin appears to be playing up, so I offer to lead the pack back to the other side of Market Drayton to get back onto the prepared track. 

Photograph by Clive Albany
This entails a trip down new lanes at Tyrley Lock and a steep climb up onto the canal-side to bypass the town. 

Photograph by Ivan Davenport
Back on track, we motor passing Betton towards Adderley. Ivan has included a canal-side meander towards Audlem, so we bump our way along the grassy track. It becomes clear that, with a further mile or so of this to go, it's attraction is waning. So off we get back onto “smooth” roads wheeling around Audlem bound for Sound and Ravensmoor. Up passing Brindley, we decide a cuppa at Tilly's is required. Off again at a mad pace, we end up back at ICF with 62 miles completed i.e. a full 10 miles further than advertised! 

There is no let up on the pace in the hot afternoon's sun going back to Chester either, as I arrive home with 87 miles on the clock at 16 mph average. 


P.S.  Why is it that when the summer sun is out we tend to ride hell for leather? Is it the lower density air? Is it feeling good in the sunshine? On this ride it was both of these but mainly it was all down to Ivan!

See route map and/or gpx file download.