Sunday, 26 April 1925 Sandy Lane

Post:           Here we have our hero getting into his stride with his new bike, and also on poor terms with his new saddle, which became literally a running sore before the matter was finally settled.  Comparisons with the old bike keep surfacing, with remarks about the easy running of his new steed, which is only to be expected.  And an interesting overview of his reading habits which must have needed a rather large saddlebag.

Sunday, April 26                                              Sandy Lane

           Started at 8.30am this morning, bound for nowhere in particular, although I had an idea at the back of my head, to try the new bike in the lanes of our old, favourite district, Beeston.  It was a beautiful Spring morning, sunny and calm, and once clear of the towns, I felt perfectly at home on the machine, which felt very lively as it whirled me across Chat Moss to Warburton.  Crossing the bridge, I traversed the same route as yesterday to High Legh, then by pleasant, Spring-clad lanes to Great Budworth, which old world village exceeded itself in peaceful tranquillity; indeed, so quiet did it look, that I crept down the crooked street silently, feeling half afraid to make a noise.  Comberbach came next, and the more barren road to Little Leigh, followed by a drop into the Weaver Valley, and crossing the river, I climbed out again to Acton Bridge.  After Crowton came more climbing through Norley, until Hatchmere heralded Delamere Forest.

A glorious woodland ride followed to Cotebrook, where the dear old lanes, so pretty, so winding, and so narrow conveyed me beneath an arcade of trees to beautiful, whitewashed Eaton, to Tiverton – and down to Beeston Brook, where I knew of a good place for dinner (or is it lunch – as in Cerrig-y-Drudion!).

It was after 1pm when I left the precincts of the homely cottage, and climbed the hill to Beeston Smithy, where one can get a good idea of the position and fortifications of the 13th century castle.  On this side which is steeply sloping, the keep is seen on the summit, the two ‘drum’ towers, one on each side of what was the drawbridge, and a high wall with a deep dry moat cut into solid rock, protecting the inner confines, whilst halfway down the hill is a half-circle of thick, high walls, now ruined, and strengthened by several round towers, also in a dilapidated condition, and, like the keep, partly overgrown with ivy.  At the base of the hill, too, were once towers and walls, as the huge gateway by the roadside, with its two portcullis towers, will testify.  I fancy, however, that this gateway never had any portcullis, and that this outer wall was never of great strength.

The inaccessibility of Beeston Castle lay in the Keep.  The other side, being an overhanging precipice, needed no fortifications.  On the other hillside, is seen the castle that never was a castle in the true sense of the word, although, with its embattled walls and turreted towers showing above the trees, it looks medieval enough.  I refer to Peckforton Castle, the Cheshire residence of Lord Tollemache.  Beeston was a ruin before Peckforton was ever thought of (18th century).

The foothills road was more beautiful than ever, the hills seemed easier, although when I turned at Peckforton into that appropriately named track, Sandy Lane, I did not even try riding.  I was too much held by the beautiful Spring colouring to concentrate on the gradient.  I lingered here for a while, then dropped down to Burwardsley, where, in the triangle of roads, I got mixed up, and after wandering down a steep, sunken pathway, found myself at the triangle again.  My next attempt was more successful, and soon I reached the head of Peckforton Gap.  There were no views to be had this time, so I scrambled over the stones and sand to the road again near Bickerton.  A strong wind had arisen since dinner, and my direction lay against it mostly, to add to which, my saddle was giving me some ‘humpy’, therefore I decided to follow a course where I should feel the least wind – in other words I was out to dodge it.

Regaining Beeston, I passed round to the other side, and after gazing my fill at the tinted rock-face and woods, wherein I saw deer, I struck out via Horton’s Mill to Birch Heath, and the main road at Tarporley.  This I patronised for some miles to Clotton, where I regained the byways and through pretty woods, came to Quarrybank.  The climb on the ‘backbone’ of Cheshire, did not give the usual views, though Beeston stood out prominently, not four miles away as the crow flies.  A very rough lane led me along the summit, with the wind doing its utmost to hold me back.

Along here are the remains of Kelsborrow Castle, one of the very early border fortresses, but nothing – or at least very little, is known of its history, and to the ordinary individual there are no signs of it.  I should never have dreamt of its existence if I had not read of it.  A favourite hobby of mine during spare moments at home, is ‘grubbing’ through books and maps.  The library is very useful in this way – I am one member of three [obviously using his parents tickets as well – Ed], from which I can take out six books, and I never get anything but travel books.  Thus I have gained some knowledge of history, archaeology, and geography, which comes in very useful when pursuing my pastime and planning trips.

All that can be seen of Kelsborrow Castle are four mounds of earth, and very shallow trenches, from which some very imperfect idea of the general plan of the extensive stronghold can be got.  I should think it existed long before William conquered the Saxons (1066 AD), and was a ruin 600 years ago.  As happens – or did happen with so many more famous ruins, the ignorant agricultural people found a good quarry for stones to build their houses and farm buildings from here, thus leaving only the excavated earth to show the former position – and in many cases, the more accessible excavations have been levelled by the ploughman, until now, nothing whatever remains.   [It is now generally held to have been an Iron Age Hill fort, one of seven in Cheshire, so the ‘ignorant agricultural people’ of the locality never did raid the ‘buildings’ on site – there were none to start with!- Ed]

A sharp drop down took me across Watling Street, that modernised Roman Highway, then up again to Eddisbury district, where I tumbled down to the outskirts of Delamere Forest, and after a bumpy voyage reached Delamere Station.  Once more I passed through the forest to Hatchmere, Norley, then a very rough track and later the footpath to Mrs Wade’s.  Here I learned that Tom had called, leaving an hour ago, with a Manchester chap, but I decided not to follow him up.

After tea I started back along the same road home, pottering through Comberbach, Great Budworth and High Legh, with numerous stops en route, so as to gain a little ease from the new, and very uncomfortable B10 saddle.  After Warburton, it didn’t take me long to cross Chat Moss and reach the region of cotton mills – and home, with over a century for the first day run on the new lightweight.       104 miles

The New Bike !

Friday Night, 24 April 1925 

To the New Bike

You are a beauty!  I have tried you out, and what a difference I have found from the old faithful.  You are as light as a feather and jump forward at the slightest touch of the pedal.  At first, I felt little advantage, but now, after a few weeks, I find out what I have been missing.  Truthfully speaking, you are a revelation to me in ease and smooth, free running, and incidentally a credit to your maker.  As I now write (June 1 – five weeks after taking delivery) I am looking back over the rides you have given me, and I find such places as incomparable Dovedale, bleak Moel Famau, the sylvan beauty of Nant-y-Garth, the cyclist’s shrine, Meriden, and all its associations have already been made into past rides.  Five Sunday runs, and four of them centuries – and all of them covered in hitherto unknown ease.

I have not got you for an ornament, for I intend to get as much out of you as I can – and you will not always look clean and neat, for the kind of riding that Tom Idle and I do makes that impossible.  Anyhow, let’s see how you go on, and how you stand the rough tracks, river-beds, sewers – and all that is not a road !

 The present specification is as follows:

Maker           F H Grubb     Brampton fittings

Frame          22” inch ‘A’ quality tubing, disc adjusting bracket, rear forkend forward opening, straight, tapered chain and seat stays, front forks ‘D’ to round, slotted, wheelbase 44” inches.

Wheels         26” x 1” and a quarter, Dunlop steel rims, Brampton ‘Superb’ hubs, Grubb wing nuts.

Tyres            Constrictor ‘Python’ Speeds

Saddle          Brooks B10 no.1 (Changed, first B17 – narrower, then B70, now B19 champion)

Chainwheel and Cranks   Williams best quality 5 screw 46 teeth, 6.5 inch cranks.

Pedals          Stonehouse no. 43

Chain            Brampton, changed to Renold

Brake           Front only, Bowden calliper – 2nd quality.

Handlebars   Continentals 18 inch with Y drop, adjustable clip, changed to Marsh 15 inch

Mudguards   Bluemels ‘Noweight’, stay fitting, extra

Pump           Bluemels

Gear             63” and 66.4” changed to 59.8” and 63”, both fixed.

F H Grubb 1925 001

The above advert, which must mirror Charlie’s, was copied from the Cycling magazine of 1926, all saved by Charlie.

Saturday, April 25                                            Arley

I thought I would give the bike a trial run this afternoon, (I only received it last night), and decided to try it on some well known roads, therefore I made a start along the ‘beaten, well worn track’ via Atherton and Butts Bridge.  The first thing that struck me was the difference on setts.  Instead of gliding comfortably over them, I was bounced and jogged unmercifully – the narrow tyres and smaller wheels accounting for it.  I seemed to find very little difference in the going, except that I could pedal away downhill at any speed without fear of the chain jumping off, but on tarmac roads I was surprised at the smoothness of the transmission.  The saddle is not comfortable, but the handlebars are fine.  From Glazebury, I crossed Chat Moss to Glazebrook and Cadishead, then crossing Warburton Bridge, entered Cheshire.  The long drag from Heatley to Broomedge was quite easy, but I put that down mostly to the lower gear I was using (59.8, a drop from 62.4), and from High Legh, I quite forgot that I was riding a real lightweight (except for the saddle which was in itself a constant reminder!), owing to the change in the countryside.

When I last rode, Spring was only just showing itself, now it was in full splendour, the gardens were full of beautiful flowers, daffodils, narcissi, tulips, and a host of others; in the hedgerows bloomed the primrose and violets; the woods were a carpet of hyacinths; the fields studded with buttercups and daisies; and in the orchards were an abundance of sweet smelling blossom.  Arley Green was greener than ever, the mere was quiet and sunlit, the old water mill was to me older and more mellowed than usual.  I had tea in an old world cottage at Arley, then pottered through the park and along shady roads to Tabley.  I took a peep at Rostherne, Cheshire’s prettiest mere, joined the winding road to Ashley – then reached the border of commercialisation at Bowden – or was it Hale?  The ride home was uninteresting then – I had passed the bounds of Spring.

This sudden conversion from Winter to Spring, from a bare, cold countryside to a warm, sun laden atmosphere, to Green tendrils and riotous blossoms has almost made those stay at home Sunday’s worthwhile.  And the new bike does run easier!             58 miles

The New Bike is Here !

Post:       But first, patience, you have to read his eulogy to the old bike first because we have followed it through thick and thin, and Charlie doesn’t want us to miss out on his thoughts.

To the Old Bike:

Well, old chap, your numbers up.  I am sorry, because for all the trouble I have had with you, you have been a good pal.  You and I have travelled for many years together, under all conditions, and you have rarely let me down.  You have carried me across many counties, into strange places and many, many joyous miles.  You have enjoyed with me the leisurely potter, the fierce ‘scrap’, the struggle against persistent headwinds, the rides (many and varied) in a wet, dripping world, the strenuous all night runs and early starts, the ‘pass storming’, and the finest phase of the finest pastime, touring.

You were old when I first met you – my first machine, and I have put you through a continual gruelling in this inclement weather.  Although your life may be prolonged, you will never again taste with me the real joys of cycling, and your fate will be setts and bricks and mortar, and with you I shall only possess the remembrance of that which is behind….

‘Memories, images, and precious thoughts

Which shall not die and cannot be destroyed’.

Even now as I write this, a flood of memories of bygone rides comes to me.  First, and foremost is that ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and all its associations.  Then my mind flashes back through the tours of the year before, the halcyon days in Derbyshire, the Cheshire idylls.  The ‘freedom of the hills’ in Wales, and the beauties of the woods and dales and plains were conveyed to me, by you.  Who can forget the wild Trough of Bowland, and might of Lancaster, ‘Gaunts embattled pile’,  the wondrous beauty of the River Dee and the quaint old city of Chester with its legends and tumultuous history, ‘The Camp of the Giant Legion’.  Its sisters in old-worldliness, York and Shrewsbury, the craggy heights of Kinder Scout, the infinite dales or the contrasts of the old and the modern in Haddon Hall and Chatsworth, Buxton, the ‘Queen of the Peak’, set in a region of valleys and moors and lonely roads.

The romantic Peckforton Hills, with their old halls and castle-crowned rocky neighbour, Beeston.  The ravishing beauty of the adjoining county and the sleepy rural villages.  The uplands of Wales so much explored even to your second-last run, that gorgeous thrust to the Glyn Valley.  Who can forget that early morning glimpse of Conway Castle and the ride that followed through the incomparable Vale of Conway to beautiful Bettws-y-Coed and the views of mountain ranges.  Oh, I could go on for ever to tell of what you have shown me, and done for me.

During the short period that I am without your new companion, I am chafing at my bonds, the weather is beautiful.  Easter passes in a haze of summery weather – and I am stuck indoors, for without cycling, I am lost !

The narrative continues three weeks later in April 1925, when his new bike is delivered,

 

 

 

 

Catch up Sketches (18)

We have an interesting lunch today, for Charlie, for enjoying their lunch were three French people, one of whom owned the very pub in which Charlie was seated.  But reading Charlie’s account one can almost feel that Charlie played the part of a visitor to the local zoo, so removed was he from the chatter of our nearest international neighbours talking in their national language.

Sunday, 22 March 1925 Delamere Forest

Post:   This is the most dramatic post you will ever read about Charles Chadwick, Esq.  His trusty bike of several years has come to the end of its life.  Mind you, he has been hankering for a new lightweight bike for all the years we have been reading about him, and we all know how much better a lightweight is for speed and distance.  But money, the one aspect of the capitalist society which greases all the wheels, has always been elusive in Charlie’s life, and this time is no different.

He never tells us by what measure he was able to take delivery of a new bike, but he did, and next week you can ‘read all about it’ !  I suspect a tense parental meeting took place at his home at 496 Bridgeman Street, Bolton, when no doubt his many shortcomings would be spelt out and an improvement sought.  I can imagine it all, because it happened to me.

I got a heavy 28″ wheel roadster for passing my scholarship, and quickly realised that I would much rather have dropped handlebars and something better than a Sturmey Archer to get about with.  Then the problem of parents and money reared their heads, and I was talked into buying a second hand ‘racer’, a Dayton Roadmaster, for £9 on hire purchase over 18 months I think.  So yes, Charlie, I know where you’re coming from !  So next week we will read of the excitement he feels when he gets astride his new steed.  But he had to twiddle his thumbs for 5 weeks before delivery, whilst we can leapfrog over the same intervening period.

Sunday, March 22                                           Delamere Forest

During one of those rare cleanings that my old bike gets now and again, yesterday, I made the discovery that the frame was broken.  It had gone at a dent in the chain stays, chain side, and owing to a mudguard clip being over the spot, it had remained hidden for goodness knows how long – I don’t!  It was a crack, not really a break, but when I pulled the wheel out, I could spring it open.  I was not surprised at that – only surprised at the knocking about and neglect it has stood before going sooner.  Nevertheless, it would have to carry me just once more, for I had to meet Tom on the following day at Mrs Wade’s, 32 miles distant, and it was now too late to let him know, so I resolved to go through with it.

I made a rather late start – 9am, and joined the oft trod route via Atherton and Butts Bridge to Glazebury, across Chat Moss to Glazebrook, and so to Warburton Bridge.  Uphill now, from Heatley, to Broomedge, where I came along that never wearisome route via High Legh and the narrow, twisty byways to old world Great Budworth.  Passing quietly down the village street, I crossed the main road and climbed to above Budworth Mere.  Then Comberbach and the open stretch to Little Leigh.  With a fine view of the Weaver Valley before me, I slipped down steeply to Acton Bridge, climbing up on the other side just as steeply, and in a few minutes reached Mrs Wade’s.  Tom had not arrived yet, so I had a stroll around the garden where the first signs of a late Spring were breaking forth.  Then, as Tom arrived, lunch was ordered, and in we went to the cosy sitting room.  A tandem pair from Rochdale (I knew them well) and a Mancunian made good company over lunch, and over an hour was whiled away in this fashion until we thought it time to move and broke up.

Bk 7 -16017        Tom and I took the footpath to Cuddington, and after a maze of bylanes, pretty and otherwise, we emerged at Norley.  Then a potter to Hatchmere, and the beautiful switchback route to Mouldsworth conveyed us through the best of Delamere Forest.  A cinder path made a short cut to Manley, then gaining the uplands, we climbed past the Manchester Corporation Open Air Sanatorium to a fine viewpoint from where the whole of the Mersey Estuary, the Dee Estuary, the Wirral and the heights of Clwyd lay before us.  We stayed here quite a while before dropping swiftly down (regardless of the cracked frame) through well wooded country and between Frodsham and Helsby headlands to the petrol-riven highway, the Warrington-Chester road.

We had no desire to traverse it at that time of day, but we had to, because the district we wanted to get into was only accessible by traversing the main road unless we went back to Acton Bridge.  The River Weaver, which is navigable for small steam boats, cuts off one section of Cheshire from another, and there are only three ways to cross it up to Northwich.  It is used mainly for the huge works at Northwich (Alkali interests), and makes an easy passage for the salt and chemicals to the Manchester Ship Canal – and Runcorn, Widnes and the other Mersey ports.  Therefore, having no choice, we had to keep to the main road for two miles through Frodsham and across the bridge at Sutton Weaver.  On top of the hill beyond, we joined the lanes once more, through a rather dull agricultural district to Stretton, and across the Warrington-Tarporley road to Appleton.  We now began to cast about for a tea place, not because we were very hungry, but because it was teatime.

We had struck an unlucky day evidently, for on reaching Poplar Farm between High Legh and Lymm, we found the place flooded out – with a cycling club there before us, and having memories of a past tea there when the place was full, we did not feel inclined to repeat the ordeal, so off we trundled through a maze of lanes to Thelwall Brook, where we remembered a ‘teas’ notice in a cottage window.  The notice was there alright, but the occupants were out.  Then we decided to try the Pickering Arms, an old fashioned place at Thelwall, half a mile away.  A little girl answered the knocker, and told us that no one was in, the fire was out, and other innkeeper stories.  Whilst we stood outside debating our next move, we saw the curtain lift and an elderly woman’s face peep through the window!  Tom gave her the hint that he had seen her.  Of course we could have forced them to provide us a meal, but would rather not go if we were not welcome.  On a beam across the exterior of the building are the words:   ‘In the year 923 King Edward the Elder, founded a cyty here and called it Thelwall’.

Here is an instance, not of a decayed city, but of one that has disappeared, and the only traces of its former greatness are the words on the beam of the Pickering Arms, the truth of which has been verified.  It is interesting to note that in 1923 the people of the district celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of the foundation of the ‘cyty’.

I was feeling hungry now, but Tom was not, and as Lymm had nothing to offer us, and the place at Rush Green was unsatisfactory, he decided when we reached Heatley, that he would carry on home.  Meanwhile, I tried the Inn there, and Tom left me.  I was successful just as Tom found another and came back to tell me.  I found a cosy room and a good tea here.  The return journey was made via Warburton, Glazebrook and Butts Bridge to Atherton and Bolton.  Thus ended the last day on the old bike, and from then on dawned a new cycling era for me, the beginning of a time when I could class myself as one of the growing army of real cyclists, and when cycling efficiency – and the efficiency of little, low lightweights is quickly being reached. On the old bike, I have covered some decent mileages, 170 in a day, 212 in 25 hours, but on the new machine I find myself riding easier and farther, and with a minimum of effort.  ‘Wayfarer’ is right when he tries to drive the case for the lightweight into the minds of all and sundry, and I, for one, shall henceforth ridicule the idea of 28” wheels, a 26” frame, and the numerous unnecessary gadgets of a roadster machine.

A lightweight is suitable for everybody.                                 78 miles

Sunday, 15 March 1925

Post:  You almost have to take a reality check today, Charlie’s description of his lunch and village surroundings read almost as if from another world.  We also get an unusual illustration today, a view of Llangollen from 23 years before this piece was written.  I can only assume Charlie has come across this pic somewhere and faithfully copied it, because there it is in his journal as large as life.  On green feint lined paper as ever.

Llansantffraidd Glyn Ceiriog

Sounds Welsh doesn’t it!  Tom and I had planned a thrust into Wales, but had made no arrangements whatever as to destination, leaving that for the weather to decide.  Should it be clear, we might climb Moel Famau – then again we might not, if it were wet we might go over the Horseshoe – then again we might not, if it was dull and hazy, we may go to the Vale of Clwyd – then again we may not.  In short, we did not know where we would get to.  Our meeting place was the Dee Bridge in Chester, 9.30am.

I was up at 5.45am, and at 6.30, with my saddlebag full of ‘snacks’, I made a start.  It was quite light, but a heavy mist clung to the ground, which I took for a good sign.  The sun would soon disperse that, I thought.  Crashing over the Leigh setts, I made good progress via Winwick to Warrington and on to the Chester road.  Signs of spring were not wanting, for the trees were budding, and early flowers were breaking forth, the heavy rains of Friday and Saturday freshening up the foliage.  I kept a steady pace up through Daresbury and Preston Brook to Sutton Weaver, then the climb to Frodsham and the run to Helsby, with the bold headlands on the left entirely blotted out.  After Dunham, and old world Mickle Trafford, Hoole, a residential suburb of Chester came into being, then I entered Deva.

In the morning mist, Northgate Street with its timbered and gabled old buildings, seemed to give me a peep into the past, and it needed but little imagination to people the city with jaunty cavaliers, be-smocked labourers, and crinoline.  From the castle gates came the music of a military band, and just as I met Tom, a regiment came swinging into the street, headed by the aforesaid band.  It sent my mind scurrying back to the dark days of the War.  One does not hear a band of this kind so often nowadays.

We left Chester then, heading for Wrexham.  I had a peep into my saddlebag then, for I had covered 40 miles and was more than a little hungry.  The road is passably pretty, skirting the Eaton Hall Estate, and at Pulford, entering Wales, Flintshire.  Just beyond Rossett, Tom photographed an old, timber and brick-built water mill, long disused and very picturesque.  The Vale of Gresford was mist-shrouded, and the climb over the shoulder of the hill above Marford did not reveal the usual views, though we obtained a good view of the ‘black and white’ Horsley Hall.  Very soon we came to Wrexham, and made a slight detour to see the wonderful old church there, one of the seven wonders of Wales.  Now we decided to make directly for ‘Wayfarer’s’ Glyn Valley, and for once, face the weary stretch from Wrexham to Chirk.  Tramlines, collieries and a general squalid outlook fell to our lot as we covered the five miles via Rhostyllyn and Johnston to Ruabon.

Then Cefn Mawr, a township built any-old-how fashion, all over a hillside, to Newbridge.  The mist had cleared enough, however, to give us a fine view westwards, looking up the beautiful Vale of Llangollen, with the greater heights of Berwyn on one hand and Eglwyseg Mountain on the other, mist capped, whilst the conical peak on which stands Dinas Bran appeared vaguely at the end of the Vale.  A drop to Newbridge in the Dee Valley, revealed the river in a pretty, woodland setting, the climb out on the far side giving us a good view of the huge Chirk aqueduct, which carries the Shropshire Union Canal across the Vale of Llangollen.  From Plas Offa we had a dull run to Chirk, where we joined the Llanarmon-Dyffryn-Ceiriog road, and immediately started rushing downhill through the beautiful woods into the Vale of Ceiriog.  On the left, by the roadside, ran a narrow gauge railway, and on the other side of the line, the River Ceiriog babbled noisily over its stony bed.  The mountains in front seemed to lock this glorious valley, and we fell to speculating where it escaped.  The road was level, and the surrounds made the drab run from Wrexham well worth while.

Passing the Deer Park of Chirk Castle we reached Herber, just beyond which we discovered a rope bridge, a small replica of the famous rope bridge of Carrick-a-Rede in the north of Ireland.  It proved quite a sensation to cross!  Pontfadog was the next village, then the mountains became nearer, until we were certain that there was a big climb coming, but at Dol-y-Wern, the road swungright, and entered the wonderful defile of the Glyn Valley.  We stopped several times to watch the frolics of young lambs and ewes – there must have been hundreds of them.  We soon entered Llansantffraid Glyn Ceiriog, where we decided to have lunch, and as luck would have it, a native made our acquaintance and directed us to a good place.

The kitchen was old fashioned where we had lunch, the fireplace being one of those big open ones with iron pots and accessories hung conveniently around.  The people were real Welsh, the old lady understanding little English: “Dim Saesnig”.  Once I thought I was learning a little of the interesting Cumraeg tongue, but when I heard them gabbling away at high speed – well – “Dim Cumraeg” – No Welsh!  I asked about the road over the mountains to Llangollen, and this was the reply:  “A mile up, a mile straight, a mile down, an evil road, barren moors – a terrible road altogether” or words to that effect.  The map shows a waterfall just off the road, and I asked the name.  “Creigiau Fawr” was the reply.  The falls of the great crags.  It was nearly 2pm when we got going again, and almost immediately we started on the ‘mile up’.

It was a climb to be remembered, a scramble, but behind, the views were opening out.  I feel sorry for the inhabitants having to climb this lot to the church which stands halfway up, and just above the steepest pitch; it must test their religious faith at times.  From just below the church, a magnificent view down the Glyn Valley and into the Vale of Ceiriog could be enjoyed, whilst beyond the town, the valley ran narrowly into the mountains, mounting higher, until the mist about Llanarmon DC closed it.  It was in the Vale before us that a great battle took place in the year 1165, between the forces of Henry II and the Welsh under Owen Gwynedd.  The Welsh drove the English invaders back over the border, and the battle proved significant and important in the struggle for Welsh Independence.  Sir Theodore Martin, despite his affection for the adjoining Dee Valley in which he resided, said in praise of the Vale of Ceiriog:

“I have often lingered on in the enjoyment of this beautiful valley and its sparkling streams, and the invigorating air of its mountain slopes.  A more delightful retreat for a quiet holiday ‘far from the madding crowd’ I do not know.  I feel assured that it only wants to be better known to become the pet resort of the better class of tourist”.

It certainly is very beautiful.  Then as we stood there, watching, the mist slowly crept up and obliterated everything before us.  We turned and resumed the scramble, the ‘mile up’ to Bryn-y-Groes, a farmstead standing amidst a belt of bare, wind-swept trees.  Came the ‘mile straight’, a rough track heaving with mud in places, but quite rideable.  The mist had reached us, and made seeing beyond a few yards impossible, so not knowing the lie of the land, we decided to postpone the journey to Rhaiadr Creigiaw Fawr.  At the tiny hamlet of Penllan ‘The church on the headland’, the ‘mile down’ started.  Simultaneously, the mist cleared, until a little further down, we got a grand view of the Vale of Dee, with Llangollen nestling at the foot of the encircling heights.  Behind the town were the silhouetted remains of Dinas Bran – ‘Crow Castle’, on its peak, whilst on each side, the Llantysilio Mountains and Maes-y-Chain were half shrouded.  Near the summit of Eglwyseg Mountain, the line of white rocks Creigiou Eglwysegle, made an effective picture.  A motor cycle trial was taking place on this road, and we stayed a few minutes watching the struggle of man and machine against gradient and boulders.  It is a good thing for tyre makers!  Of course, it was far too precipitous to ride down, but the views were double payment.

Bk 7 -15016

When we were able to mount, we soon reached Llangollen, and stopped on Dee Bridge to watch the swirling waters below, and the beautiful reaches of this Queen of Rivers, the Welsh Dwynyd and the English Dee.  How many times have we stopped on the Dee Bridges?  The bridge at Queensferry, the Chester bridges, the Suspension bridge at Chester, the neat little iron bridge at Eaton Hall, the stone structures at Bangor Is-y-coed and Overton, Newbridge near the Chirk Aqueduct, this one at Llangollen, the one at Corwen, and two more in the ‘Sweet Vale of Edeymion’ near Bala.  Twelve Dee bridges, and all of them showing the rich beauty of the Dee.

 

And see the rivers how they run

Through woods and meads, in shade and sun;

Sometimes swift, sometimes slow’

Wave succeeding wave they go

A various journey to the deep,

Like human life, to endless sleep!

 

After a dreamy ten minutes, we crossed the bridge, and ran along the shady road to Trevor, where, climbing, it brought us out of the saddle and gave us advantageous views of the valley to the Chirk Aqueduct.  Soon, however, industry took control, and from Acrefair we had the unwelcome company of colliery slag heaps and tips, until, reaching the main road once more, we came to Ruabon.  The time was 3.30pm, and we were 57 miles from home as the crow flies.

The route we proposed was over 70 miles, but we should have been prepared to cover twice as much rather than cover those six weary miles to Wrexham.  The 70 miles involved a lot of hard climbing, whilst there was only six comparatively level miles of industrialism to the good scenery beyond, but we were in a fresh – for the day – country, and without a seconds hesitation we plumped for the longer route – via Bangor Is-y-coed.  The first few miles were dead easy, a kind of switchback to the flat lands near the Dee.  Then we turned north, and for two miles fought a stiff headwind, turning again to Bangor Is-y-coed.  The second name is to distinguish it from the other Bangor, in Caernarfonshire, and the name Bangor means ‘Beautiful choir – Ban-choir’.  The full translation is ‘Beautiful choir in the wood’, a very picturesque name.

The village is not at all as its name suggests, but its past history is interesting enough.  The village was formerly the site of the oldest conventional monastic establishment in the kingdom.  It was founded in the 2nd century AD, and in the year 596 numbered no fewer than 2,400 monks.  Not long afterwards, in 601, the place was attacked, and 1,200 of its unarmed monks were slain by Elfred, King of Northumbria, who left the place well nigh a ruin.  The rest of the monks fled to Bardsey Island.  A few monastic remains are still to be seen, after over 1,300 years!  Bangor is also held by those learned in these things to be the Roman Bovium of Antoninus.  We did not stay one moment longer than was necessary to ride through, heading now for Malpas.  Immediately we started to climb, gradually, but with each succeeding mile it grew harder.  Just beyond Worthenbury we reached the ‘Frontier House’, then a moment later, ‘Cheshire Cottages’, and so we passed out of Wales.

The scenery was good, but the grind uphill after the days ride was beginning to tell on us.  A last steep pitch, after a seven mile climb, brought us into old-world Malpas at 5pm, and then, rushing downhill, we crossed the Chester-Whitchurch road, and faced the glorious Peckforton Hills.  The narrow lanes seemed to first lead to them, then go back on its tracks, winding in an alluring manner, but never seeming to get any nearer.  We were ravenously hungry, the roads were tilting again, and it is a fact, that however beautiful the scenery, it cannot cure hunger.  But all roads go somewhere, and we at length came to Bickerton, and the old familiar foothills road.  Peckforton was passed, and proud old Beeston Castle on its rocky knoll came into being.  We were not far, now, and from Beeston Smithy, a downhill dash brought us to Beeston Brook at 6.10 for tea.

At 7pm, refreshed, we joined the road in the deepening twilight, walking the hill to Tiverton Lane Ends.  The hush of night had fallen, lights were appearing through the latticed windows of the old cottages.  Behind us, the hoary ruin stood in ghostly silhouette against a velvet sky; soon the old stone keep and its broken walls would be given over to the spectre of the night, and the knights of old would rise from the dead to rehearse in creepy, unseen silence, and to rebuild the ruin in shuddering imagination.  The trees overhead sighed faintly in the breeze, and our lamps threw a dim, yellow light on the roadway.  The glamour of night riding was upon us, and we tasted its joys and surprises to the full.  Tom had broken the spring of his oil lamp, and at every jog in the road it went out, but a pair of elastic garters, ingeniously fixed, cured the trouble.  At Eaton, my light went out, and I found the carbide swamped.  Luckily, with the aid of a youth, I managed after some searching, to get a refill, and after that all went well.  Now we entered the bylanes.

Complete darkness prevailed, our only means of telling the rise and fall of the road were by the quickening of the pedals, or the extra pressure needed.  Oulton Park, with its great shadowy trees was passed, then we turned to avoid Little Budworth and after a silent run, rushed down to Vale Royal.  Whitegate now, the road populated, then the Chester road with its glaring lights.  Northwich was reached at 8.45pm, and we were not sorry to get out of it.  Beyond, few motors troubled us, so, with the wind (now only a slight breeze) and the general gradient in our favour we were able to keep a rapid pace, which inside the hour brought us to Altrincham.  After a ‘Horlicks’, we regained the road, and at 10.30 parted at Stretford.  I was in fine form, and soon reached Barton Bridge, where starts a grind to Worsley and Walkden, home being reached at 11.30pm.

We were late back – and all because we would not face six miles of industrialism, but by taking this route, we had gained an infinite amount of pleasure bought at the cheap price of being late.  And when I got home, and reviewed with satisfaction the days ride, the ‘thrust’ into Wales at a mileage of 145 miles, I thought that I, at least, could honestly say: ‘Something attempted, something done’.       145 miles

 

Catch up Sketches (17)

Heading home once again on the August Bank Holiday weekend – it used to be at the beginning of August – but it was changed after the war sometime to the end of August to hopefully alleviate some of the monster traffic jams that came after the war.  Charlie took the opportunity to have a good look around Shrewsbury, a fine border town boasting an ‘English’ bridge across the River Severn.

Sunday, 8 March 1925 The Wilds of Cheshire

Post:     This seems to have been a day of many contrasts, starting with a blizzard of snow, which came to very little in the end.  They visit Salterford Chapel today, a place to which I have never been, but one thing is for sure, it is a very hilly and difficult place to reach, buried deep into the Derbyshire Hills.  And an amateur inventor from Wigan is also on the agenda today, not your normal Charlie thing !
Sunday, March 8                                   The Wilds of Cheshire

One may wonder at the title of this run.  ‘The Wilds of Cheshire!’, a county of pastoral scenery, rural hamlets, woods, and gentle slopes, of sleepy villages, of sunken lanes and wandering byways.  That is usually identified with Cheshire, but the eastern portion, wild and rugged, is often thought to be Derbyshire, and of this district, the following jargon deals.

I was up at 6am this morning, and a wilder, more wintry day could not be imagined.  A blizzard was blowing from the northwest, and the roofs and streets were rapidly being hidden beneath a white mantle.  Snow!   I was glad, because now we had a chance of seeing the county under a new aspect, and Tom and I had been waiting for it.  The blizzard however, was of short duration, and at 8.15 when I made a start, there were very few signs of snow.  I called on a friend, one who knows little of this part of Cheshire, and had to knock him up!  When he saw the snow, he got back into bed!  However, at 8.45 he was ready, and we started with the wind behind for Kingsway End, where we were to meet Tom.  Our progress was rapid, being held up by one or two minor things at first, but we made up for lost time traversing the Barton-Stretford-Didsbury route just on time.  After waiting for a few minutes at Kingsway End, Tom came, and we all restarted together.

From Cheadle we joined the Wilmslow road, and soon got fed up with it, though we traversed but a short distance to Handforth, where we turned for Prestbury via the bylanes.  The hills drew near, and we could see snow on them, so I asked “Why not the hills today?”  We became enthusiastic, and headed for Bollington.  Our ‘recruit’ had never been in really hilly country before, and the brown roads scaling the hillsides at a precipitous gradient came as a surprise to him, but the bigger surprise was yet to come.  Immediately beyond Bollington we started the climb, and very soon Bollington was a collection of roofs, whilst at the roadside the snow lay thick.

Mounting higher, we got some fine views of the Cheshire plains and low Alderley Edge, whilst before us, the snowy ridges looked grand.  Farther along, at an altitude of 1,080 ft, we were able to ride a little.  The road ran along a ridge which was piled up with snow.  Below, now, were the sweeping white valleys, the rolling white moors, brown roads and black walls forming a picturesque contrast.  Higher up, beyond the blunt hill tops, and overcast by a storm-tossed sky, the rocky, jagged edges of Kinder Scout and its neighbours of the Peak made a wild prospect.

Coming to the cross-roads at Patch House, we enquired about lunch, and were welcomed into the cosy kitchen.  Whilst the housewife was busying about, the husband awakened a lethargic fire by means of an ingenious, self-invented contraption, fixed to a pair of bellows, which he worked by simply turning a wheel.  He was a genial sort, and chatted to us the while about his big wireless outfit, which he showed to us.  He seemed to be something of an inventor by the number of mechanical appliances, some of them quite original and useful, which were hanging about.  After dinner, they told us that they were Lancashire folks themselves, having come here only a few months ago from Wigan – and by their talk we guessed that not long would elapse before they were back again!

We asked how they found the Cheshire people, and received in answer a surprising opinion.  ‘Not bad, but very narrow and close’.  They are not at all free, homely and generous as are Lancashire people.  “They keep very much to themselves, and when they do earn a bit of money, they know how to keep it”, was the comment.  Quite opposite to what Tom and I have found them, as I must say in fairness.  Neither like the old Cheshire legend is it –

“Cheshire born and Cheshire bred,

Strong i’th arm and weak i’th yed!”

A few whirling snowflakes made their appearance as we left Patch House behind, and climbed the hill to 1,307 ft, from which altitude was a wide vista of the Saltersford valley, beneath a white blanket and the Derbyshire heights above it – Hoo Moor, Cat’s Tor and Shining Tor.  Down we swooped for 300 ft to Blueboar Farm, where we turned along a track.  The snow lay thick here, often throwing us, until we reached the edge of the corkscrew, where of course, we dismounted.  All this was a revelation to Ben, and we could see that he was enjoying it all immensely.

“Yer life’s yer life yer know, an there’s no stop – “.  Those words on February 1 came to my mind as we walked down that ‘impossible’ road and round those ‘S’ bends, to the stream at the bottom, and up a stony track almost as recklessly graded.  A very short tramp after that took us to Saltersford Chapel, described in the Goyt Valley run on February 1.  Tom had his camera with him, and whilst he went to find a position to ‘take’ it, I copied the inscriptions over the doorway.  They run something like this:

Bk 7 -14015 The lettering was in places only just legible, and was chiselled in the same lettering and order as I have shown above.  Then came a phenomenal snowstorm.  We saw an almost solid sheet of flakes, driving up the valley en masse.  They sent no forerunners, but just came in a body, so to speak.  The hills on each side and the valley behind were obscured, whilst we stood there watching it slowly advance…..   then we found ourselves in a whirling mass of impenetrable flakes.  For a moment we sheltered, then joined the byway by the chapel, which leads back to the Wildboarclough road.  By the time we had traversed the short distance via Saltersford Hall to the road at Bent End, we looked like snowmen, and on the following climb, we endeavoured to sing songs about snow.

The going was not bad, however, until we reached the Macclesfield-Buxton road.  The road was covered, and away on the horizon, we could see the famous Cat and Fiddle Inn.  After a short pow-wow by the roadside, we decided to make for the Inn, for the sake of seeing what the country looked like from 1,690 ft.  The four mile climb that followed in the deep snow was just rideable, but was solid ‘graft’ , which, however, was alleviated by the grand views around and the peak of Shutlingslow, which was enhanced by the fleeting rays of a sun struggling to appear.  The Cat and Fiddle and its surroundings looked cold and bleak, when we stopped for a moment whilst Tom took our photographs, then we swept on to the Congleton turning.  We discovered that this, England’s second highest Inn, was in Cheshire, and not Derbyshire as we had supposed.  What a boast for ‘flat’ pastoral Cheshire!  Down the Congleton road we swooped, until Tom punctured, asking me to thank him for stopping at so beautiful a spot.  I did so, then left the two of them to mend it whilst I climbed a part of Birchenough Hill to gain a better vantage point for viewing the scenery.

The puncture took some mending, and when I returned I urged them to it, chaffing them to “slap the patch on when the hole wasn’t looking”, and to mind how they bit the pimple off the solution muzzle etc.  At last we got going again, soon reaching Allgreave, and crossing Wildboarclough climbed up to New Inn, from where more fine views were enjoyed.  From here to Macclesfield via Cletlowcross, Sutton and Fodenbank, the gradient was all with us, but in the ‘Hovis’ town, it was plain to see that Ben, our ‘recruit’, was ‘all out’.  We joined the Alderley road here, and a little further on, I asked Tom to go on in front and order teas, whilst I stayed with Ben.  I had a hard job with him, for he kept insisting on sitting down, but by walking in front with both machines I got him to keep going.  It was all ‘tramp’ through those beautiful pine woods to the ‘Wizard’, where he mounted, and rushing downhill we soon reached Mrs Powell’s.

Tea and a walk in the glorious twilight put him right put him right for the road.  We kept to the main road via Wilmslow and Handforth, leaving Tom at Kingsway End again, and reaching home in easy stages.  Today has been a revelation to Ben and the sight of familiar scenery in a new garb has been something fresh to us too!

90 miles

 

Saturday, 7 March 1925 Great Budworth

Charlie’s conscience plays him up today, so off he toddles to make amends for his slackness, with only a day to spare !   But it gets him out as he puts it, perhaps he was feeling a little under the weather himself.

Saturday, March 7                                 Great Budworth

I had promised to notify the people at the café in Great Budworth today that the club would be calling tomorrow for tea, so at 2.30pm I started with a steady breeze before me, and a rather strong sun keeping me warm.  At Walkden I met a cyclist I know well, and accompanied him to Patricroft, where he left me en route for Sleighs shop (a well known cycle place).  After waiting fifteen minutes at Barton whilst a ship went through, I joined the lanes to the Stretford-Barton road, then more lanes via Urmston to Altrincham road, which, as expected, I found laden with petrol traffic.  None too soon that town was reached, from where I joined the Chester road.  From Bucklow Hill, this road is very pretty when the motors have gone, and I traversed it for many miles via Mere and Tabley to Holford Hall, where I entered the bylanes.  The scenery was rather moderate, and the wind aggressive to Pickmere, but later it backed up, and soon I reached my destination, just at twilight.

During tea, the leader of the run turned up, thus making my journey unnecessary, but it mattered little – it had got me out.  We started back together in the dark, traversing the rough winding route to High Legh, then down via Broomedge to Warburton.  Whilst crossing Chat Moss, a violent rainstorm came on, but we managed to weather it without capes – we follow ‘Wayfarer’s’ idea of letting it thoroughly settle in before donning capes, for very often, as in this case, the rain eases when capes are put on, starting again when they are packed away.  Glazebury, then lamp-lit roads to Butts Bridge, lanes to Atherton, and up Squires (or Fair’s) Brow, brought us home about 10pm.

58 miles

Website Information

Post:     Just to remind our readers that this coming Sunday, 30 April 2017  I shall be altering the format to get around changes that have been made to the website by the Website owners, WordPress.

From this Sunday, apart from the two remaining Catch up Sketches pages still in the pipeline, all Posts and Pages will be rolled into the Post page and there will in consequence be no links needed to get to the page, cos there will be no separate page.

You will all find it easier, and my propensity for mucking up the links will have gone on a very long holiday indeed.  Incidentally, I shall be out of the country from the 27 of May, apart from ten days in July (6th to the 16th), until late September, relaxing in my caravan.

David Warner          And many thanks for your support.