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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Saturday 27 August 2016

25th August 2016: Grinshilll (brisk)

After a few weeks of cycling in Devon and Cornwall, it was back to Cleopatra's at Holt for today's ride. Always trying to look for new lanes to ride, I had a route to Grinshill and the 'Inn' which I had contacted prior to ensure they would be open. The regular Brisk riders Tom, John W and Ken were already at the café and were ready to ride.

We set off back down the hill from Holt and over the Dee and up the bank through Farndon heading for Shocklach. The weather forecast for today had changed often since Monday but this morning it was being kind with warm and dry conditions although cloudy. We head along the B5069 to the junction for Sarn and Tallarn Green. Bypassing Whitchurch via Fenn's Bank and Whixall, we pass through Wem and a past hostelry 'The Tilly Raven'. We had ridden a good pace to this point and at 11:45 with 10 miles before lunch we were forced to put on our pac mac's. Passing Clive and Yorton, we arrive at Grinshill and the Inn. The Inn is a rather posh pub/restaurant boasting Michelin chef and a shower in the gents!!.

The meal prices reflected the status of the place but, as it was raining, not much was made of the price. We were the only diners but our hosts were very welcoming. After consuming our gourmet meal, we set off with the bonus that the rain had stopped and roads already drying. Expecting to make a left turn, our lane was a blocked track!! - quick recalculation and onward we continue. We join the A49 at Acton Reynald for a short main road ride to Preston Brockhurst.

The remaining route takes us along pleasant lanes and villages up to Prees and Tilstock before arriving on the outskirt of Whitchurch. We ride through the town to Grindley Brook taking the Malpas road. It was now the normal route through Malpas to Tilston and the left onto Wetrains Lane for Farndon, arriving back at Cleopatra's for 15:15. We had ridden 58 miles and enjoyed some new lanes for our efforts. After coffee and cake, Ken bade farewell and Tom, John and I set off for Chester.

See route map and/or gpx download


Friday 26 August 2016

25th August 2016: Maesbury Marsh (mod)

It was a good turnout at Cleopatra’s in Holt, too many in fact to fit in the newly refurbished back room.  The fast lads left early.  Of those remaining, Trevor wasn’t out for a full ride, leaving our newish member Andy, Jim, Mike G, Jane, Charlie, Chris, Bryan, Dave P and myself. I had in mind a visit to the Navigation Inn at Maesbury Marsh, a good destination that we hadn’t been to for some time.

We set off through Farndon, Worthenbury and Holly Bush before taking the sharp right turn at the bottom of the hill that would eventually lead to Duddleston Heath.  It was here that too much enthusiasm on the descent led Andy, Chris and Charlie to overshoot and disappear into the distance towards Penley. The rest of the party continued while I waited, but after nearly 10 minutes the three had not returned.  As someone might have said ‘to lose one rider is a misfortune, to lose another two looks like carelessness’.  I re-joined the main party as we pondered what to do.  Andy had appeared by then, but there was no sign of the others and calling them elicited no response.  We decided to carry on, to be surprised when they eventually appeared behind us.

We crossed the A495 at Welsh Frankton and continued along delightful lanes and two very humpy hump-backed bridges, to pass through West Felton and approach our destination from the south. The Navigation had been warned of our arrival and we settled down to some good food and good beer, justifying the pub's place in our favourites list.

Here we said goodbye to Andy who had to return to Mold for an appointment, and temporarily to Dave P who had to pick up a part for his lawn mower from Oswestry, though we hoped to meet up again later. The return by-passed Oswestry and took us through Whittington, before skirting Gobowen and entering St Martins.  From here we followed the main route, through the steep valley of Shell Brook, to enter Overton.  Here we stopped for refreshments at the Cup 'n' Saucer, previously the Woodlands Deli, another of our favourites.  We were served essential quantities of cake and caffeine, while Dave P re-joined us.

From Overton, it was into Bangor and up the busy main road before turning right and then following the little lanes northwards to the west of the Dee. Here an unexpected move from an errant pedestrian and an oncoming car forced Charlie into the verge, but no harm was done.  We arrived back in Holt with 53 miles on the clock, grateful that under overcast skies we had avoided any serious rain and had a good day out.


Friday 19 August 2016

18th August 2016: Norton in Hales (brisk)

In the absence of the usual ‘brisk’ ride leaders, there was a certain amount of indecision, even chaos, before Ken came up with a ride down to Audlem – a nice steady 50 miler, or so it seemed. Mike G offered to help with the navigation and so Ken, Mike G, Andy B, Tom, new rider Garnett and yours truly set off – but not before we’d spent 15 minutes trying to fix Tom’s loose head…I mean headstock... on his new bike. After various CER members had offered allen keys of various lengths and sizes and opinions on how to eliminate the wobble, the bike was no better, so we set off anyway down the road towards Tarporley. From there we took Birch Heath Road and Crib Lane out to Beeston and then on to Bunbury Heath and Bunbury, crossing the A49 as we did so.

From there we followed Long Lane down to Brindley and across the A534. By now, we were fairly whistling along, since Mike G had taken the lead and had his foot down. He explained that he’s usually the slowest of the brisk group, so he’d decided to take the lead and set the pace so as not to hold the rest of us up. Personally, I think he was on something! So on we sped, crossing the Llangollen Canal at Swanley Hall and then on to Brindley (where we crossed the A 534) and Ravensmoor to Sound. Taking in the sights and sounds of the countryside on a beautiful summer's day, we zoomed along the lanes epitomising all that is great about CER. After a mere hour and twenty-five minutes, we arrived at the boundary sign for Audlem, only to turn right and skirt the village. Unbeknown to me, our leaders had decided that our destination should be modified and we would press on towards Market Drayton. Ah, I thought it must be the Joules Brewery …

So we pressed on via Swanbach and Kinsey Heath and ran down into Norton-in-Hales, arriving just after 12.30. The Hinds Head in the village has been a point of call for CER in the past and reports had been good, so it was decided to stop here for lunch. As we trooped in, the landlady was just taking lunch orders for a group of 9, so we ordered our drinks and food, expecting to wait a considerable time for the grub to arrive. Incidentally, the lime and soda here was but 60p a pint, putting The Hinds Head at the lower end of the price range we see. In the end, the food came in about 40 minutes and was unanimously considered to be of a high standard at a very reasonable price. Perhaps Steve H would consider adding this hostelry to the CER list of ‘favoured lunch stops’? (www.hinds-head.co.uk ).

Resting in Wrenbury
After lunch we rode through the village, a really pretty spot, turning up the bucolic lanes of North Shropshire to Adderley and Shavington Park. There was a park at Shavington as early as 1577. The current house was built in 1685 for the sixth Viscount Kilmorey and the landscape park was extensive by 1752. The park was expanded to around 1500 acres by 1851, but it had fallen into a dilapidated 'wilderness' by the 1890s. Although the site is now administered by Parks & Gardens UK, sadly the park is not open to the public.

As we went on towards Aston, Mike G was again setting a cracking pace (who said anything about a nice steady ride!) and we soon found ourselves in Wrenbury. We stopped at the Llangollen Canal partly because the bridge was up, but mostly for a breather…and a photo. Then it was back into the saddle and on towards Cholmondeley Castle Gardens, crossing the A49 as we passed the Cholomondeley Arms (expensive!). Thence on to Bickerton and up Harthill. Reaching the top, we were rewarded by the long downhill stretch into Tattenhall, where Tom, Andy, Mike and Garnett peeled off to head back to Chester; Tom was intending to take his bike into the shop to get his head fixed today if possible.

Ken and I then meandered back to Utkinton via Huxley and Clotton, arriving back at Rose Farm in time to get a cuppa before they shut up shop.

This ‘steady ride’ turned out to be 58 miles at an average speed of 16 mph. Thanks go to Ken and Mike G for guiding the rest of us so ably on a lovely summer’s day.


Photograph by Steve Tan

18th August 2016: Whitchurch (mod)

The prospect of light wind & sun brought the crowds to the beach and the CER ride from Utkinton.  The Mods were ably led out by Steve H, followed by Andy, David M making a rare appearance, Dave P, Liz P, Jim, Petar, Trevor and Macca was back-marker.  We headed
anti-clockwise for Whitchurch, via Clotton, Beeston, Bickerton Poacher, Malpas to Grindley
Brook, the most northerly settlement in Salop. Here we joined the madding crowds messing
about in boats on the Llangollen Canal where it descends from the hills down a staircase of 6 locks onto the Cheshire plain.  A short ride along the canal path and over the lift bridge took us onto the filled-in canal at the edge of Whitchurch.  If you read the history of this canal, it was plagued by poor planning and lack of funds, just like HS 2 & 3 today.  Plus ca change. 

Photos by Macca

Our photographer
Whitchurch has a plethora of decent pubs which CER has frequented and Steve chose an old favourite that’s recently changed hands - the Old Town Hall Vaults tel: 01948 664 682 at SY13 1QU.  Even though we had not booked 9 for lunch, they quickly served us, washed down with excellent Joules beer; general opinion said that the food was only average, but the L&S was only 50p.  After an Ulster £20 note was used as payment, discussion ensued over what comprised legal tender; Google and texts to an I O M tax adviser found that while Ulster and Scots money was acceptable, CER’s off-shore funds in the IOM were not.

After visiting the Grade ll listed privy we headed NE to Wrenbury and Chorley, where Trevor decided to snap his gear cable.  We “bimbled” along with him in one gear to Tilley’s at Bunbury where even Dave P with all his spare parts, could not fix the problem.  Afternoon tea finished, we cycled  north through Tarporley back to Rose Farm, having completed a hot but easy 48 miles at 12mph average and 70 miles from Chester.  


Friday 12 August 2016

11th August 2016: Maeshafn (mod)

Clive had “pre-advertised” a 65 mile ride from Hawarden Rooms circling the Clwydian Hills. This sounded a bit long and a bit hilly to me, so I threw together a shorter 35 miler to Maeshafn trying to avoid the steeper hills.  However, at 10:20 in the Gallery Tea Rooms, all the riders were intending to follow Clive, excepting Jim and David M who were not out for a CER ride.  Dave P then arrived and decided to join me, so the two of us set off.
We started heading south out of Harwarden and took the steep lane leading to the A55 footbridge, and then on lanes south again skirting Penyffordd and Hope, to cross the Afon Alun by packhorse bridge into Caergwrle.  Then it was steeply uphill along the flanks of Hope Mountain to Ffrith, after which we followed the course of Offa’s Dyke to reach Treuddyn.  On again to Nercwys where we turned left up another steep hill and then right past a No Through Road sign.  This may have been a mistake. Before long we were faced with a deeply rutted, overgrown and boulder strewn track. The only choices were to retrace our steps or dismount and walk up it.  We chose the latter and several hundred metres later emerged. Lunch was only 2 or 3 miles away so we pressed on, but either I’d suddenly lost my leg strength or something was wrong with my bike. Upending it and clearing the mudguards and brakes seemed to make a difference and soon we were at the Miners Arms in Maeshafn.
Tucking into our lunch we noted that the menu had become fancier then previously and saw that the local CAMRA had awarded “the most improved pub of the year” award to our venue. 
The morning had been marked by very low cloud and some intense spells of rain, so we were hoping the afternoon would be an improvement. Our hopes were in vain as we soggily crossed the A494 to meet the Moel Famau road by the forest – no views today! Then north through Cilcain, over the A541, and up another steep hill to pass through Moel-y-crio and Rhosesmor. Then it was through Northrop and the familiar route through Ewloe back to our start point.
Just over 35 miles on the clock but the satnav showed almost 3,500ft of climbing, so not such an easy alternative to Clive’s ride.  There’s a lesson for me in that: pay more attention to the contour lines when planning a route. Nonetheless a very good ride, but one to be done in good weather to appreciate the views.


11th August 2016: Clwyd Circular Special Ride

Another day of Pocket Rockets on and off as I set off in the rain for Hawarden. There was a hardy group of four (John M, Steve T, Tom and Andy B) who elected to hitch their ride with me over the hills and along the Vale of Clwyd today. Out via the main roads to Buckley, we were soon passing Llong and up into the hills as the gloom and heavy drizzle descended along with more wind than advertised. We have now hit the highest point of 1190ft passing through Nercwys and arrive at a crossroads. It dawns on me that the planned road is actually a closed road to a quarry, although OSCycle shows it as patent. A quick re-route finds us going down double-chevroned exit to Maeshafn and into Llanferres.

We are now on the A494 Ruthin Road bound for the Clwyd Gate and Llanbedr. The rain starts again as I suggest care on the downhill run into the right turn at Llanbedr. All are down safely and then a crashing sound as John slides off just after the turn. He is OK and so is the bike except for a front puncture. We huddle under a tree as we take ages changing the tube and annoyingly can't find anything wrong with the inner tube or tyre. We now wander along the floor of the valley ending up on the Ruthin-Denbigh main road. I decide to cut out the Brenig loop section to try to make up some time. 

Out and around St Asaph, there is now 6 miles of cycleways as we ride right along the Clwyd River path in a fierce crosswind into the Wetherspoons in Rhyl at around 1400. The “Sussex Arms” is heaving with holidaying families, but as ever, we are served quickly and the food arrives promptly. Just what we needed after 38 miles of rain and high winds. I promise a flat and wind-assisted return as we access the promenade for 10 miles of NCN5 to Talacre. As we pause for a photo, the wind is whipping the sand off the beach and sand blasting our legs and bikes.

Being sandblasted at Rhyl

Cycling at 20mph we feel no wind on our faces as I am tempted to see if the cycleway extends passed Talacre;- and it does!. So we circle the flattened Point of Air coal mine and commence our transit of the A548 coast road race track. I employ the usual dodges on the way to Flint to ameliorate the boredom of the main road and we end up in the usual cafe behind Sainsbury's.

Steve T needs to get back so he makes his way to Oakenholt and then up to Hawarden with 66 miles cycled with 2900ft of ascents and several mm of rain! We remaining four run along into Connah's Quay where Tom and Andy head for home as John and I access the Greenway. So thanks to the group for "scouting ahead on the hills" today and enhancing a very enjoyable Clwydian Circular in very unseasonable August weather.


PS: It seems the likely reason for John's dismount was a slowly deflating front tyre as he later found a pin-prick hole in the tube. He was very fortunate that this didn't cause him to come off on the downhill run into Llanbedr.

Photograph by John Mills

Friday 5 August 2016

4th August 2016: Little Bollington (Mod)

The moderate riders group comprised: Steve H, George, Keith B, Trevor, Petar, Kate and myself. I offered to lead to The Swan with Two Nicks at Little Bollington. I had checked on other attractive pubs around Dunham, but some reviews had put me off. Continuing the trend of counter-intuitive starts we headed west, then south-east to Ashton Hayes. Here we headed north, but then snuck up a narrow lane past The Grange, which I had fancied checking out. Some of the troops thought I was taking a wrong turning, and were a bit reluctant to follow.

This was to be a recurring theme! I suppose if you choose to join a cycling Dad’s Army, there are bound to be moments of reticence and confusion.  At Brine’s Brow I wanted to go right, then left. Steve, however, thought I wanted to emulate Colin McCrae, and headed uphill, then down a rough forest track to nowhere useful. As Steve was now forty yards ahead, further discussion would be as effective as arguing with my wife when she had moved into another room, totally confident that she always knows best. Just past the Delamere Forest Visitors’ Centre, I thought we could cut diagonally down a pleasant forest trail past Blakemere Moss, and avoid the dodgy B5152. George and Trevor reacted like stubborn holiday donkeys on a Greek Island, being urged up a rocky track with 16 stone women from Manchester onboard.  So, not having a big stick handy, we headed for the B5152. 

We reached Acton Bridge via Norley and the lovely, quiet hamlet of Onston. We seemed to have spent a long time getting this far! We started to make brisker progress north-east to Frandley, passing Bartington and the attractive Cogshall Hall estate on the way. After crossing the double-dodgy A559, we turned right at Antrobus and headed for Bate Heath, then north-east past the back of Arley. An intricate ‘home-made’ route of little lanes then took us to Hoo Green, Booth Bank (with its historic Methodist connection), and finally, and hungrily, to Little Bollington and lunch. We had endured some persistent and heavy showers, and covered over thirty miles, but everyone was in good spirits. Kate went to The Ladies to blow dry her pony tail. Most of us didn’t have to worry on the hair drying issue.

Lunch was a little slow being served. Keith was ecstatic over his, because he had a huge portion. Kate, however picked up on the fact that some full meals were no bigger than the light bite cheaper versions. She’ll be doing a survey on lime and soda prices next! Kate’s relative youth, gender and bright smile adds pleasure to the group, so I hope she doesn’t become too institutionalised in a pensioners’ world of lunch value trivia.  Besides, the post of Far Too Intense Lunch Scrutineer is already more than adequately filled by Brian Mac.

We started back by crossing the narrow bridge over the River Bollin, and skirting the deer park of Dunham Massey, before cruising along the Trans-Pennine Trail toward Lymm. I then cut off on an obscure path which becomes a small road coming out near Lymm centre. Few if any followed at first. Was that shouting, or the braying of a stubborn Greek donkey, digging its heels in again? Actually, it was Trevor who thought I’d gone wrong. To be fair, Ray Hardman wouldn’t have followed me either! Trevor is familiar with Lymm, and took his leave in order to visit his son’s house, or perhaps to munch a few carrots.

The back lanes south of Lymm led us to Sworton Heath. The weather was now dry and sunny, and Keith was ploughing through the wind like Ian Stannard. We turned towards Whitley Reed, crossing the old WW2 Royal Navy airfield. Near Antrobus Hall a plane could be spotted in a field. These lanes west of Arley Hall are quiet, lush and sheltered.  Little Leigh was soon reached, and at Dutton Locks we rested for five minutes with the warm sun shining on our faces, and the Weaver twinkling. Two horses crossed our path alongside the river on the south side.

The pain of the last lap started at the steep bank up from the river, continued through the back routes of Kingsley, and on up to Birch Hill. Steve and George were on good climbing form. Kelsall and North Wales must provide good climbing training grounds. Or, perhaps they eat less jelly babies and sausage rolls.  Steve insisted that turning up New Pale was the best direction for Manley, but more rolling hills were more than my legs fancied, so I bailed out after 30 yards, and took the Simmonds Hill route as I had planned. I was enjoying an ice cream with Steve Tan, when the remains of the mutinous mob finally turned up at Manley Mere. Just over 57 miles were covered together, with more like 77miles for Keith. Petar had left us at pace just before Kingsley as he had to pick up family at Manchester Airport. He made it on time! Leg-pulling apart, it was another really good day’s exercise in the convivial company of Easy Rider friends.

See route map and/or gpx file download

4th August 2016: Chelford (brisk)

There were a lot of us at Manley today, so two groups where always in prospect. The Briskers consisted of Tom, Steve T, Dave P, John M, and myself along with guest rider Andy B. Andy had ridden over from Mold and was keen to join the 60 miler today. We set off out around Mouldsworth and Delamere Forest bound for the Egerton Arms at Chelford. The weather was threatening rain and did so as we end Onston Lane near Acton Bridge.

Do we put our wet weather gear on or not? We did and needed it, but as so often happens, as soon as you have it on, you need to take it off again and vice versa. As on the Long Ride, a few riders got ahead of themselves around Little Leigh, but I went with it today as we marched on towards Great Budworth. Conscious of the recent anti-cycling publicity hereabouts, I take the northern bypass which actually meant we were spared the drag up through the village itself. Maybe the Cheshire Cycleway 70 can be re-routed this way now?

We now are motoring along towards Tabley Brook when Andy christens his first ride with us with a puncture. I remember that John W did the same on his first ride to Barthomley. In and out of busy Knutsford, we get a mini-drenching and, just short of the pub, shelter under a very large tree. As ever, the Egerton Arms is busy yet always welcoming, and soon we are ordered and watered watching the rain pouring down outside.

Andy B peeping out from behind the tree.

Big houses need big Sky dishes!

Soon its time to leave, and I plan a re-route via Bate Mill. Jodrell Bank looms over the landscape as we make our way, in improving weather but strengthening wind, towards Goostrey and Middlewich. A mini-diversion here takes us along a short section of the canal path before entering the metropolis of Winsford. It's not a pretty town, so we head on out via Cassia Green to Sandiway.

I'm feeling thirsty, so plan a major diversion to the “Lounge” cafe at Oakmere Lodge Country Park. We sit outside in the sun reflecting on the reason for pink bales of silage amongst other things. Our roving farming reporter John M finds the reason later. See http://www.fwi.co.uk/news/share-your-pink-bale-pictures-with-farmers-weekly.htm. I've had enough of hills today so junk the planned return via Norley and Delamere for a run down Kelsall Hill and the back way out of Ashton towards Manley. So 60 miles around with Pocket Rockets on and off – a grand day out and Andy has still to cycle back to Mold.


Photographs by John Mills