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 30 May 2017

25th May 2017 : Little Bollington (brisk)

On a sweltering summer's day 4 brisk riders struggled to decide on a destination but all seemed to favour a less energetic pace to keep us from overheating. No-one had prepared a route but I fancied a ride to the “Swan with Two Nicks” in Little Bollington. I hadn't been before but had a previous CER route on my Garmin.

Accompanied by Nick, Tom and Andy B, I left Delamere Station heading towards Norley and after crossing the A49 onward towards Comberbach and Great Budworth. We were careful not to upset the Budworth natives given recent anti MAMIL newspaper reports. The village looked as idyllic as ever under the bright blue skies. 

We sailed on at a steady pace but I was getting a little anxious as Garmins battery was running down rather quickly and because I don't know the area at all. Anyway, we crossed the M6 and things began to go awry. A left turn was indicated but major roadworks made that impossible. We stopped to re-route. Andy rummaged in his rucksack to find the relevant OS map. After a couple of minutes of intense scrutiny, he declared we were in the wrong place. This was Andy-speak meaning he wasn't carrying the map for our location!

By this time I decided we would cut out a loop and go more directly to the pub which was only a few miles away on the other side of Rostherne. Unfortunately, on arrival there more road closed signs were in our path. We decided ignore these but we were soon advised by a local dog walker that the road was impassable and we would have to retrace our route and do a big loop to our destination. At this point Garmin was freaking out and the battery level was heading south with constant recalculations. Nonetheless, we get to the Swan without any more problems.

It's a delightful destination and we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the garden. Reluctantly we eventually left the shade to remount. 

The consensus was that the road to our left (which was what Garmin wanted us to take) was probably one of the closed roads. So we took a right turn and headed for Lymm hoping to pick up the planned route there. Garmin switched to night mode and refused to find the required left turn off before the centre of Lynn. (Looking at Strava later, I noticed we actually stopped at the relevant corner). Andy was happy to head directly west into the sun on the grounds we would eventually cross in to Wales! Nick added a bit of flesh to that idea and on rather more main roads than desirable we passed through Stretton, Preston Brook and Sutton Weaver to arrive at Frodsham.

We stopped for coffee and sitting in the sun were approached by an attractive young blonde who excitedly extolled the benefits of sun cream for bald pates! To prove her credentials she raised her top to reveal a tattoo across her back proclaiming her to be a local barber! Nick foolishly admitted he hadn't applied any protection to his bonce despite the sunny weather and this was immediately rectified by our new friend! Happy her work was done off she went and we follow not long after. Nick, duly protected from UV rays, headed up Frodsham Hill toward Delamere to return to his car. We remaining three travelled via Helsby to Chester and from there wended our separate ways home.

I had done 61 miles which was enough on such a hot day. Andy and Tom as usual had to plod on even further before reflecting on eventful but nonetheless enjoyable day.


Saturday 27 May 2017

25th May 2017: Peover Heath (mod)

We sat outside the station drinking in the sun. George, Bob, Stephen, Dave Matthews, Steve Tan and myself.  This was the moderate group for the day.  Obviously, Steve “pocket rocket” Tan, and David “audax addict” Matthews, were choosing  a less challenging ride today, for their own good reasons. The fast lads were heading for Little Bollington. Bob had received surgery to his face in the week, but was still game to go. Stephen and I agreed on a vague plan, keeping the troops largely in the dark, with few facts or figures, and open to the likelihood of u-turns. Who needs Lynton Crosby?!  It was good to see Jim turn up for a coffee looking well. I thought we had lost him for the summer in Caravan Nirvana, buried deep in the countryside with the fragrant Diane. It turned out this was close to the truth, they had only returned for essential appointments, e.g. court summonses.

Stephen fancied down by the river, so we headed past Hatch Mere, then turned  right down Forest Lane, and continued onto Beech Lane.  We were soon drifting along the side of the Weaver Navigation. It was a beautiful natural environment to be in, on a lovely early summer day. The route out was standard but pretty: through Comberbach, Great Budworth, Pickmere and Higher Wincham, before negotiating the Roman Road (the A559). Just before crossing to Plumley Moor Road, Stephen's back wheel spat out a piece of black plastic. I checked back to make sure it wasn't off his bike, the lights changed, and we never saw the front of the group again for over two miles. I can sometimes empathise with David Moyes. It is difficult to lead a rabble, when they show no respect, and just carry on doing their own clueless thing. Ray Hardman would definitely not have approved!

We turned left, past Smithy Green along the B5081, before a short stretch along the A50, turning off at Radbroke Hall. I must admit, that given more time to plan the route I would normally give busy sections a miss if at all possible. On our return the obvious route from Mobberley to Knutsford was also a quite busy road. I will be checking out possible alternatives this summer. Anyway, we were now back to quiet Cheshire lanes as we trundled through Over Peover to The Dog.

For well over twenty years this pub was called the Gay Dog, but just as Manchester gays were coming out of the closet, this particular Gay Dog was firmly put back into its kennel by new owners in 1988. According to The Penguin English Dictionary “gay” before the 1960's meant “bright, attractive, carefree”. It would be sad to totally lose this uplifting interpretation. In my imagination, I am running through the lush fields around Peover Heath in the late sixties, with a young white dog sporting a bright red collar gambolling alongside: The Gay Dog of Peover! The pub was friendly, and they gave us a table to ourselves in our usual spot. It was too hot to sit outside in the sun. The food was spot on as ever. On the way in we had passed the New Hall Polo Ground, and to further reinforce that this is an area favoured by the rich, there was a vivid orange Lamborghini in the car park attracting the attention of Steve Tan.

Our return was by a more northerly route on back lanes to Mobberley via Marthall, Noonsun and Knolls Green. We managed to find the side road down to the lake and park in Knutsford, and so bypassed the busy junctions around the station. I am familiar with the route out of the centre linking us with the lane to Tabley Hill, so we were soon out of the traffic and cruising. Our next stop was the Ice Cream Cafe at New Westage Farm on the edge of Great Budworth. It was great to relax with a double cornet in the shade. We returned via Frandley, with Dave briefly checking on the house of an old friend. Our return was past Cogshall Hall, and along Ash Tree Lane, before reaching the river, where they are still working on the swing bridge after many weeks of disruption on the A49. Our climb from the Weaver was up to Acton Bridge, and through the desirable little hamlet of Onston. There was the usual big effort required to reach Norley Bank, but we were now as good as back. The Delamere Station Cafe owner was friendly, and some of us found shade at a table around the side to have a cool drink, just before five o'clock. It had been another very enjoyable easyriders day. We had covered 52 miles on a very hot day at an average of 13m.p.h. Obviously, those who had ridden to Delamere would have clocked near seventy or more. I was grateful for the route assistance from Stephen and David Matthews. It was good to have David along for the full ride and in good shape.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Friday 19 May 2017

18h May 2017: Shrewsbury (mod)

When I arrived at Chirk Tea Rooms, Dave H, Ken, George, Bob, Tom and Andy B were already there. Dave asked whether I had a route in mind. I didn’t, but looking on my satnav I could offer a short hilly ride or a longer flatter ride.  Hills were out of favour, so we ended up with a brisk route to Shrewsbury which Clive had led a couple of years earlier, although I hadn’t been on it, which was to present some navigational challenges later.

The day’s forecast was good: warm, little wind with the odd chance of a light shower. So we were immediately disappointed that the rain started as soon as we left the café, And it got a lot heavier. And it got a lot colder. Dave, George and I were fearful of repeating another May outing from Chirk a few years ago when insipient hypothermia threatened.  Thankfully, the rain passed and despite heavy clouds around us, it stayed dry until near the end of the ride. We were even able to relish a little warming sunshine.

Photo by Ken P
The route took us through Weston Rhyn and past the old hill fort into Oswestry, where the sat nav led us towards what had been reclassified as a “no entry” road since the original route.  Later we were to meet a right turn which had since been closed off. Slight modifications got us back on track to reach the Queen’s Head after an unwelcome busy mile on the A5. Some pleasant lanes followed as we passed through Ruyton XI Towns and entered Shrewsbury. With the help of directions from a postman, we made our way down to the river and followed it pleasantly before striking up into the town to find some food.

Looking back at Clive’s original ride report, I see they went to Wetherspoons. Without that knowledge we meandered through the streets trying to find a suitable venue. Eventually we were recommended to the Old Post Office pub. This turned out to be a typical Easy Riders stop, with a courtyard to lock our bikes, welcoming staff, and reasonably priced food.

Dave used his local knowledge to guide us out of town and onto the road to Montford Bridge. From here we passed through Shrawardine, and eschewing a typical Clive short cut along a rough track, we passed through Knockin and Maesbury to Whittington. Here my satnav battery dropped to a critical level, but contingency planning earlier in the pub meant that Ken had also loaded the route and so he took over route finding. Around this point George was bold enough to say that at least he wouldn’t need to wash his bike after this ride. We passed through Gobowen and the rain re-started. The route took us back into Chirk through Rhyn and Pont-y-blew, usually a pleasant alternative to the A483 roundabout. But here we met the steepest roughest and muddiest lanes of the day! The bikes were not so clean after that.

After 60 miles we were back in Chirk, where Dave and I retired to the café (which is open till 9pm), while the others made the ways home by bike or car. It had been an eventful ride with some unexpected weather, some unexpected route finding challenges, some discoveries in Shrewsbury, but as usual, good company.

See route map and/or gpx file download


Wednesday 17 May 2017

11h May 2017: Tilley (mod)

There had been a desire amongst the moderates to schedule a few more longer rides. George had suggested meeting on Tuesdays, when we could, in order to build up to a hundred miles. Steve Haywood is leading a moderate riders 100 in August. Two days previous to this ride, Keith, George, Steve Tan and myself, had cycled from Waverton to Sleap and returned via Ellesmere. We had clocked up a very enjoyable 79 miles. I suggested that we could adjust and shorten this route, and still have the pleasure of exploring a lacework of lush little lanes in deep Shropshire. Fortunately, everyone seemed happy with the plan. Steve was stretching his legs with the fast lads, so the moderate group consisted of Bob, George, Keith, Andy W and myself.

We set off from the Ice Cream Farm, with Dave Matthews joining us for a few miles on his road to recovery. Brown Knoll was followed by a fiddle around Duckington before crossing the A41 and skirting Edge Hall, hitting the Roman road near Kidnal, then climbing towards Malpas. We swept down through the village, passing the cross and following the B5395, before taking the quiet lanes off to Higher Wyche and Iscoyd Park. The estate buildings here go back to the 17th. Century, and the impressive Georgian Hall is used for wedding receptions. We turn right down a narrow lane through a green glade. Then, pass a track at Whitewell which leads to St. Mary's: a little white church by a brook. We are soon heading south, crossing two main roads without fuss, and making good progress on the largely flat roads between Fenn's Old Hall and Waterloo. Here I try some delightful unknown lanes around Paddol Green, before heading down the B5476 into the centre of Wem. Left at the church, and right before the railway bridge brings us, hungrily, to Tilley. As we swing right we see the attractive Tilley Raven pub, with people sitting outside in the sun. Perfect! It was my first time here, and it was friendly with really good food. Clive had approved my lunchtime venue choice, so it should be on Stephen's list.

Particularly on these longer rides, the lunchtime stop is not necessarily the furthest point from home, so a second planned stop well before four o'clock is desirable, otherwise the return journey can be a bit of a long cafe-closed slog. It can feel particularly unremitting if you find yourself having to make polite small talk with Andy for over forty miles. Stage two then was to end with coffee and cake on the side of the Mere at Ellesmere. Our route took a sweep west along quiet, easy lanes, threading through lots of little villages including Loppington, Cockshutt, Bagley and Hordley. Somewhere on the way, a lasting image was of a smiling woman approaching us on a magnificent grey horse, controlled as in a dressage event. We then headed north to Ellesmere via Tetchill. Passing the college, with young people sporting in the sun on the cropped green turf, made me wish that I was fifteen again. Sitting on the side of The Mere with a drink and a thick slice of bara brith was just smashin'! Stage three was about twenty six miles, beginning with a climb past Sandyhill and on to Penley, Holly Bush, Worthenbury and Shocklach. Leaving Ellesmere late reminded me of a traditional mid-summer long ride led by Bryan a few years back. After slow service at a late lunch stop we were somewhere the wrong side of Shrewsbury, and it was late afternoon with many miles to go. A break at the Black Lion in Ellesmere led to a discussion as to a choice of routes back. I remember being assertive with Ray Hardman in ascertaining the shortest route home, and arguing that this was the only sensible option! We duly returned via Penley and Holly Bush, arriving back around Chester late enough for your mum to have the police out looking for you. These days I am more used to enjoying the last leg of a longish ride, rather than just feeling trepidation. Mind you there is nothing wrong with 40-45 easy miles, and I feel that the need to contest the last few miles home at a very fast pace is also becoming a bit of a tiresome normal expectation. You can make a moderate rider go faster and longer, but you can't stop some of us wanting to be very happily, very moderate at times.

At Crewe-by-Farndon, we turned right for Stretton, Barton, Coddington and Chowley before reaching Tattenhall with 66 miles on the clock. Steve Tan had had to ride home to Runcorn, as when I rang him from Ellesmere he had already finished his ride with the fast group! Andy still had to get back to Upton, so probably clocked up around 80 miles. It was a great group to be out with, and those smoothly surfaced, quiet, little Shropshire lanes were an absolute treat.                      


Friday 12 May 2017

11th May 2017 : Market Drayton (brisk)

I was expecting dozens of CER riders out at the Ice Cream Farm given that the day’s weather forecast was for 20C and sunny, but “only” about 30% of our membership turned out. After being in sheep mode for the last few rides, I had prepared a route to the Olde Jack at Calverhall. The Mods were off Loppington way, or was it Tilstock. So at 1030 prompt, I set off by myself while the rest of the Brisk Old Wives were still chatting with the Mods. Eventually we become five as John M, Steve T, Nick and Tom catch me up on the road towards Bolesworth Castle. By the time we are up Brown Knowl, there is a brief stop to partially disrobe as the heat of the sun warms us up from the chilly start. Passing Cholmondeley Castle, we’re on our predictable way to Wrenbury and Aston. 

In Aston a smell similar to malting barley is emanating from the H J Lea Oaks plant, but I find from their website that “HJ Lea Oakes is one of the longest established independent animal feed manufacturers in Britain, with a history dating back to Swettenham Mill in 1675 where the Lea family began milling feeds to supply the Cheshire farming community”. Maybe I had a pint or two of ale on my mind!

Crossing the A530, I pick up a slow puncture, so we stop to fix it, annoyingly not finding any obvious reason for the slow. It’s now a 10 mile straight run down tiny lanes passing Shavington Park and Wilkesley to the Olde Jack. Tom mentions that he needs to find an ATM so, knowing there will be none on the planned route, I re-route to Market Drayton adding several more miles to the route. Still the Following Four look happy enough, so we plough on to Longslow and into the metropolis of Market Drayton. With Tom’s wallet replenished, the Red Lion now beckons. What’s not to like about this pub: the Joule’s brewery is spewing out spent grain, the “ Slumbering Monk” ale is crystal clear, the food is plentiful and delicious, and the service is first class, it’s still sunny so we sit outside enjoying the rest after 28 miles.

My odometer is showing 40 miles out, so that’ll be a 80+ miler today then. I can’t face the usual way back to Calverhall via the ever-upwards Newstreet Lane via Longslow, so re-programming again, I opt to get to Calverhall via Moreton Say. We are passed by a rather attractive young rider who now acts as pace leader as we all try to catch her up. We do so, just as she is turning off towards Prees. Now in Calverhall, passing the Olde Jack, it’s a straight run northwestwards to Whitchurch through Ightfield and Ash, Parva and Magna.

The legs are up to another hill, so out of Whitchurch, we grind up Wirswall Hill passing the golf course and to the pleasing vista at 500ft overlooking Marbury and the Cheshire plain with the Peckforton Hills in the background. Steve takes a rather good photo of us all resting at the field gate. The route back now crosses the out-going route by Cholmondeley Castle but goes anticlockwise around the Peckforton Hills towards Beeston Castle and the Ice Cream Farm. 

Photo by Steve T

So the route is around 56 miles and 2220ft of ascents as we settle down for a drink or an ice-cream. Steve finds out that his lift back to Runcorn is still in Ellesmere, so opts to ride back to Runcorn adding a further 20 miles to his tally. Nick heads for Tilston, and we three head for Chester with 80+ under the tyres and 16 mph average.


Friday 5 May 2017

4th May 2017: Higher Kinnerton (mod)

A day of forecast sunshine had brought out a crowd of new and prospective members to the Meadow Lea café. There were the non-riders: Dave & Liz P; the “doing their own thing”: John W and Bryan; the riders: George, Macca, Clive, Keith, Dave H, Andy W, Tom, Paul, Jim, Trevor, David M and myself; and the prospective members: Anne, out for a short taster and Linda, wishing to try a ride. Unusually, I was the only one with a planned ride and so a large group of 14 set off from the café heading for Higher Kinnerton.

We cycled through Waverton and Tattenhall to Churton, by when 4 of the group had turned off on their own planned shorter routes.  A little later Tom and Paul took off wanting to stretch their legs further.  So a more manageable group of 8 passed through Farndon, Pulford and Doddleston to arrive at the Royal Oak after 24 miles.  We had tried calling the pub to book a table, but no-one answered, so it was with some relief we discovered that it was open, it was serving food, and it could accommodate 8 cyclists.
Photos by Macca
We were efficiently seated in their dining room, and served reasonably priced light bites at around £7-£8 a head. I believe this is a new venue for CER, being too close to our starting points to have been used before, but it proved a good choice. As usual the conversations ranged far and wide, but then dwelt on a new topic for us – pharmacology – including the benefits of an emergency aspirin.

Leaving the pub, we headed towards Hope before striking north on good lanes to then turn towards Buckley just before the A55.  We made a right at the Parrot Pub, through Ewloe on an exceptionally rough surface besides St David’s Park, on to Northop Hall and then down the steep and long roads into Connah’s Quay. Here we said goodbye to George and then crossed the Dee by Hawarden Bridge, and returned by the Greenway, gradually losing riders as they took their own routes home.

Most of us sped by someone standing on a ladder, but Macca had the curiosity to talk to them. He reports: On the Greenway near Saughall one of the Sustrans Millenium mile posts was being carefully painted to highlight the various features on the story displayed.  Macca stopped to speak to the painter, to find that Ann from Stafford is a Sustrans volunteer who is painting these mileposts in N Wales and the NW.  Each post takes her 3 days and she started 9 posts ago near Bangor – there are 1000 in the UK, so she will be at it for some time. Most posts are still the original boring matt black.  By painting them various colours, the stories which are depicted on each post by one of 4 original artists can be revealed.

After 50 miles of riding only Linda, Dave H, Keith and myself arrived back at Meadow Lea café at about 3.45pm.  I was hoping for coffee and cake, but was told that the machines were off and they were clearing up.  It was disappointing to find that a café which should be open till 4pm stops serving well before.  Anyway, this doesn’t detract from a good ride, and new pub and lots of sunshine.

See route map and/or gpx file download