Thursday, 1 October 1925 A Moorland Ride

Post:      This is a real ride, but the way I see it, it is an opportunity for Charlie to use to good effect his wonderful descriptive talents.  The route he takes this particular evening is well known and previously described many times, but he does paint a great picture of the moon effect that night.

Thursday, October 1                A Moorland ride under the Harvest Moon

 It was a glorious evening when Ben and I started out about 7pm for an evening jaunt.  The sky was a blaze of multi-coloured light, which gradually softened to a velvety blue, this giving way in turn to deeper tones as evening crept on.  With lamps lit we stole through Lever park to Rivington Village, then started the long walk over the moors.

As we got higher, the brilliant moon crept over the moors, the ridge of Winter Hill looked strange as fleecy clouds frilled the summit and flitted across the moon, then the clouds sailed away and the moon gained in brightness as it climbed higher.  We stopped at the road summit for a while.  It was light enough to read a paper, the mellow light gave a strange aspect to the hills and the many deep little cwms were thrown into a deeper shadow.  It all forcibly reminded us somehow of the bigger earth-clods and deeper indentations of Bwlch Oerdrws, and parts of the Bwlch-y-Groes, and as we dropped warily down the pass, we almost believed that we had been transported a hundred miles away to the Pass of the Cold Door.  Passing a lake which danced and rippled in the breeze, and gave the reflection of a thousand moons, we came to Belmont, and the main road which had a beauty of its own tonight.  Joe was sat on a form with a friend near the summit; we stopped with them, then all of us came down to Bolton together, and before we parted, Ben and I wished Joe and his partner good luck in the Bolton Wheelers ‘150 in 12’ on this coming Sunday.  We seem to have passed tonight through an enchanted world, a world of strange lights and sights, yet it was just a ride over Belmont moors beneath a Harvest Moon.

20 miles

Sunday, 27 September 1925 Alderley Copper Mines

Post:        Today you are going to learn a lot about the difficulties of mining copper, again following in the steps of trusty Roman centurions, these guys knew a lot about mines and making things.  And when the Roman occupation ended in Britain, we natives went back to not even being able to write, and generally were an uneducated rabble.

Sunday, September 27                                    Alderley Copper Mines

 Broomedge, 9.30am was our meeting place today, for we had decided on a potter and a late start.  That meant that for once we could stay in bed until 6.30am.  That was the time that I got up, and at 7.45 I made a start, and soon got out of industrialism.  A race was in progress whilst I was crossing Chat Moss – a novice’s ‘25’ I believe.  Crossing Warburton Bridge, the trysting place was reached soon after 9.0, and at 9.15 Tom came up.

“Anything new for today?” he asked.  Now that was a difficult question, for we have just about worked Cheshire out.  I do not mean that we have seen everything worth seeing in the County Palatine.  Not by long chalks, for though we have for three years made the Cheshire bylanes a speciality, and have therefore become authorities on the said maze of lanes, we have not traversed half of them.  What I mean is, that to get to something comparatively new, we have to travel such a long way on familiar roads.  Therefore, on almost every run of about 100 miles, at least 80 are known to us – that is in Cheshire of course.  Some ask why we do not go north more often.  The reason is that for Tom, a run north means altogether about 36 miles of towns and setts.  Is it worth it very often?  Derbyshire?  Ah yes, we have a lot to see, but we were there last week.  Soon we hope to start week-ending about one in four, then, our scope will be immensely enlarged.  Fancy a weekend in Snowdonia – or amongst the great earth-clods around Dinas Mawddwy, or the wooded hills of south Shropshire, or the more distant parts of Derbyshire, the wild Yorkshire Moors and sweet Dales or the beautiful Lake District.  All can be achieved by a series of Saturday-Sunday runs.  But, today, here we are at the start – “Anything new for today?

Then I suggested Alderley Copper Mines with a walk round the Edge, and it was settled.  We have a growing enthusiasm for underground exploration, as an interesting phase of cycling – forming a ‘ride with an object’.  I have been down the copper mines before, and have managed to get about one and a half miles down one passage.  In 1923, three of us traversed about half a mile of tunnels and caverns to an underground lake, managing to get round it and climbing a long ladder, which gave access to a long low tunnel.  Halfway along we crossed a deep pit by means of a plank, then passing a spot where a ‘roof-fall’ had occurred, we at length reached another pit which could just be stepped across.  Working our way along a ledge, we descended some steps into a huge cavern, where we gave up exploration, after walking a mile and a half from the entrance.  What lay beyond?  This we meant to find out today, even if it took all day!

We decided to get to Alderley Cross for lunch and then leave the bikes, so, as it was yet only 9.30, we had tons of time for a roundabout journey.  Turning through the lanes we came to Mere Corner, then pottered along Knutsford road, by Tatton Mere where we watched the wild geese and swans and water hens fishing.  Along the old road were many blackberry bushes at which we stopped for a time.  How Joe would like to be here!  Then through ancient Knutsford, with its memories of ‘Cranford’ and the quaint style of houses across the River Bollin, onto Chelford road, where a race was in progress.  Between Ollerton and Chelford, we wandered down a bridle road, which was deep in mud, and which precipitated us on the Alderley-Chelford road.  Another footpath proved to be blind after we had crossed a field of mangle-worzels and waded through a slimy morass.  Then again lanes to Alderley Edge and so to Mrs Powell’s.  It was but 12.30 when, after lunch, we sallied forth with our oil lamps.  There was a remarkable change in the weather, from the past week, for brilliant sunshine flooded the fields and woods, the air was warm and clear and the sky faultless.

In half a mile we reached the huge tips that herald the approach to the workings, then a big quarry with its many burrows and the big main entrance at the bottom, fastened by a gate and barbed wire entanglements.  The keeper would have let us in for a small consideration, if he had been there, but as he was not, we decided to let ourselves in and accordingly vaulted over, aided by ample footholds in the rock.  As soon as we got inside, we could feel the difference in the atmosphere – it was colder – what did Drayton say?

‘Ye dark and hollow caves, the portraitures of Hell

Where fogs and misty damps continually dwell’.

Finding some half-burnt candles on a ledge, we appropriated them and then lit our lamps and the candles, and then made for the third cave on the left, which is the long one.  Owing to recent heavy rains, a stream was flowing from outside into the caverns and down the main passage, but our way was quite dry.  We walked down a long straight tunnel into a large cavern, round a ‘shelf’, below which was a heap of rubble, and then into another tunnel, still shelving steeply downwards, until at length we reached the second cavern where are the stepping stones and the ladder.  The bed of soft sand led us down until we reached a subterranean lake.  “So this is where the river goes, is it?” exclaimed Tom as we stood with our candles and lamps reflecting deeply in the still depths.  It was impassable unless we wanted a bathe – and we didn’t!  So we had perforce to return to the next cavern, from where we explored several shallow levels without success, finding a way, however, into the ‘main’ road.  Right away in the distance we could see the dazzling brightness of daylight in the entrance.

We systematically explored every hole, every tunnel, every cavern, with results more or less fruitless.  Once a deep pit below, once a crawl on all fours – but always – except once – a dead end.  This once we followed a long low level, until we heard the gurgling of running water rapidly growing louder.  Then another passage crossed the end, along which a river was running.  It was an eerie experience watching the dark water rolling past and hearing the hollow splashing higher up.  Then again back to the main caverns, with a short rest to straighten the kinks out of our necks.

Bk 7 -32034

We noticed several new chisel marks on the rocks, and found, near the entrance, a hammer and chisel.  I heard later that a company has been over with a view to buying the mines and restarting the workings.  Then we discovered that the keeper was stood near the entrance, so we hid for a few minutes, because there would probably be a dust-up if he saw us, for he would know that we had climbed the barrier.  But he settled down with a paper and we got fed up of waiting, so we climbed over the barrier and dodged into a small cave.  He saw us coming out of there, and asked if we had been in the mines.  We said we had just been looking round the quarry (which we had) and that put him off.  “I didn’t see you come”, he said!

After that we took the footpath which leads on to Alderley Edge by the Wizard’s Well, which lies beneath a bulging mass of rock down which the water drips into the stone trough and on which is chiselled the legend:       ‘Drink of this and take thy fill, for the water falls by the Wizard’s will’.

In an almost illegible scrawl.  From the low cliff that is called the ‘Edge’, a fine view of pastoral country is obtained even to the moors above Bolton.  Our search for more old copper workings, (which I have once before seen) led amongst some beautiful scenery.  The countryside just now is in the throes (if it may be called so) on that renaissance of wonder known as Autumn.  Twice in the year Nature undergoes a change – a miracle occurs.  In Spring one sees the tender greenery of a new life spring forth from a dead countryside.  Autumn brings out an array of colours of every conceivable shade, tinting the woodlands and making the countryside a veritable earthly paradise.  In one place we trod on a carpet of dead leaves; the sun slanting through the tall slender trees and making a pattern on the sloping brown carpet.

The scenery of Alderley Edge is something worth seeing – indeed I think that the National Trust should appropriate the ground for the public, and put an end to the vandalism of the builders who are slowly but surely converting the beauty spot into ‘desirable villa’s’.  Several small caves yielded nothing, so we turned back towards the ‘Edge’, and were surprised to see how soon we had reached it.  We had not gone far enough for the other workings.  In a valley near the ‘Wizard’, we discovered a long tunnel, perfectly straight, but when it went into two after about 250 yards, it petered out.  Another was deep in water, and yet another.  In one level, far from daylight, we discovered a primrose in full bloom, perfect in detail except that the flower was perfectly white in colour instead of yellow, the result of growing in perpetual darkness.  So ended our search on Alderley Edge for underground adventures.

Returning to the bikes, we made our way via Chelford to the Peover lanes and wandered onto a filthy private road belonging to Peover Hall: this led us to some prize piggeries, and after examining the ugly beasts, we squelched on to Peover Superior and Knutsford.  Then by many beautiful but rough and messy lanes to the Chester road, where we passed the Bolton Wheelers.  Joe had left them and gone blackberrying!  From Lostock Gralam we went to Great Budworth for tea.

The pleasant lanes led us home via Arley and High Legh, I returning home across Chat Moss.  Our thirst for subterranean wandering is growing – we expect a deal more of it soon.                            88 miles


Sunday, 20 September 1925 Edale & Speedwell Cavern

 Post:        By the time you have finished this visit to Speedwell Caverns, you will know all there is to know about lead mining.  Lead was first mined in Derbyshire by the Romans, and a lot of money has been made doing so, and some have lost their shirts.  And Tom’s knee is a lot better.

Sunday, September 20                          Edale and Speedwell Cavern

Arrangements had been made with Tom to meet him at Kingsway End, 8am, and ‘Blackberry Joe’ and Ben decided to come as well.  Joe is turning out with us regularly now, and has altered his ways immensely.  He is not the ‘blind and stop’ cyclist that he was, he is a far more even rider, his gear has come down 8” (to 66”), and he can ride at a good pace all day and never tire.  But he can potter too, now, though not ‘really’; he still, however, prefers roads of a better calibre to ‘river beds’ or sewers, but that will wear off if he continues with us.  Like most real cyclists, he cheers up, and sings loudest when the weather is filthiest.

At 4.30am I was prowling about the house cat-like.  You see I awoke at 4.30 and got up because I feared that if I stopped in bed any longer, I would ‘go off’ again and be late.  So I chose the safest way.  At 6.15 Joe came stealthily in, and then stealthily we both slipped away.  Yes, for once, Blackberry Joe was stealthy.  The last time he called at 6.15am, all the house became aware of his presence and some grumbling ensued, and when we told him to keep quiet he let his bike fall over – that’s Joe!   Ben was not waiting at the arranged place, we allotted him an extra ten minutes, but he came not, so off we went.  No need is there, to recite the 17 miles of Not Much to the Cheadle end of Kingsway, at which point we arrived simultaneously to Tom, and which point we left after the usual criticism of bikes and apparel.  Joe’s shoes shone like a mirror; Tom’s and mine were what he called a disgrace, (what is a disgrace?), so as we toddled through Cheadle on the Edgeley-Stockport road, we hatched a plot ‘gainst Joseph’s shoes, and made our most urgent business the downfall of that ultra-reflective gloss.  I thought he’d learned sense by now!

The sky had been a glorious colour-scheme of red shades; now was an unfathomable blue with a cold watery sun blinking at us.  “We shall have rain”, chanted Tom.  At those words we ought to have made all possible haste to get home.  We did hurry, but it was in the wrong direction, for we were not in the least getting nervy over it.  In Wigan, I hear, they let it.  I suppose we would too.  The Stockport-Hazel Grove road gave us a shaking up on the setts, but at the latter place we were delighted to see that a beautiful tarmac surface was being laid.  Buxton road is tarmac on one side, so the drag up to Disley was smooth at least.

After that came some pretty woodlands, then a ‘shelf’ ride, with a grand outlook across New Mills to the wild region of High Peak.  At Whaley Bridge we turned towards Chapel-en-le-Frith, and were fanned along by the cold breeze, uphill to that celebrated village (or town), but on the road beyond, fanning was of little use to get us up to the top, ‘shanks’ was easier.  We had a choice of two roads here, the Sparrowpit-Winnats road to Castleton or the main road over Rushup Edge.  As we had never been on the main road, and as the Sparrowpit road has often been used, we chose the main road.  It was too early yet for the traffic, so we had the road to ourselves.

It was ride a bit, walk a lot through Slackhall, but the scenery was excellent and magnificent views were opening out.  Near the summit we stopped awhile to take in the scenes behind us, which included the pastoral park and finely laid-out buildings of Ford Hall, the enclosing mountains beneath which runs the railway through Cowburn Tunnel, huge green-brown clods of earth rising towards barren Kinder Scout to a height of over 2,000 ft, the valley in which runs the Chapel-en-le-Frith-Hayfield road, with Chapel at the near end and Chinley situated in a recess about the centre between Eccles Pike and Chinley Churn.  Right across the valley at the summit of a spur of Kinder was the line of Andrew Rocks, with brown, steep roads climbing to their base.  The visibility was excellent this morning.

The road flung us ultimately on to wild moors, 1,405 ft high, and ran on a slight down-grade beneath the ridge of Rushup Edge.  On the other hand we got good views of Sparrowpit road and the heights beyond.  It was a freewheel mostly, down to the Edale turn, up which road we tried to rush, but it was too much and our rush up Rushup Edge (pun!) petered out into another walk.  Then we found ourselves level between two ridges, and all at once the ground seemed to drop away beneath us.  We looked down into the Vale of Edale.

Edale is a magnificent, fertile valley, a cul de sac, surrounded by great huge moors, wild and forbidding on a stormy winter day, a vast mass of colour under a sunny autumn sky.  To us it was a picture of sunshine and shadow, for now the transparent blue sky had changed, and the high wind sent dark clouds hurrying across.  Sunshine and clouds chased each other across these swelling ridges, and they appeared first in gold shades, then dark, almost black.  Below us the white road leapt downwards with hurrying gradient and reckless bends to the tiny roofs that are known as Barber Booth; the same white road continuing along the valley, skirting Edale village.  The valley was green, the fields and trees and wooded patches being laid out just as is, as Tom said, a Welsh valley.  I could picture the Glyn Valley here – or was it the Rheidol Valley, or the Vale of Clwyd?  Then down we plunged, bounding towards the rapidly growing buildings.

A corner, a quick pull-up, the one calliper brake (front) straining, the front wheel’s sliding ‘crunch’, the bank, over which is a steep, heathery slope, suddenly jumping alarmingly close to the skidding wheel, a sharp intake of breath as I simultaneously balance carefully to the left and turn the wheel almost imperceptibly, my left foot ready to avert the skid by a dig at the flying road beneath.  Ah! the road suddenly straightens out before me and with a sigh of relief (the calliper taking a stronger grip), I proceed more cautiously round the next bend and decide to descend no more hills like this one on a freewheel.  What would have happened if the strain had proved too much for the brake cable?  Only a fortnight ago I broke two brakes in this way.

Then Barber Booth resolved itself into a village street, and we followed a winding lane beneath the shadows of Mam Tor and Lose Hill, with the River Noe and the railway in close companionship for many beautiful miles, until passing by some prettily set stone cottages, we come to Hope and the main Castleton road.  After a pow-wow, we faced a high wind, crawling along the Hope Valley to Castleton.  We had changed our plans and decided, if we could, to visit one of the three big Lions or more, Peak Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, or the Blue John Mine.  Behind the main road, near the church, we discovered a good lunch place, and repaired thither to line the inner man, before carrying out our voyage of exploration which was to be done on foot.

When we started, the weather was doing its best to rain, and Joe, with commendable forethought, brought his cape along with him.  We made our way through the side streets to a footpath running by a river in a ravine, the while the crags on each side became higher and more sheer.  The river came out of the ground, quite suddenly boiling up about 50 yards from the entrance to the Peak Cavern which we were approaching.  Turning a bend, we came quite suddenly on a huge, bulging mass of rock which assumes the appearance of a huge, depressed arch which forms the mouth of Peak Cavern.  Overhead, on the left, on the verge of a precipitous crag which overhangs the ravine, was the ivy-clad, ruined keep of Peveril Castle.

A vast canopy of rock, which forms the entrance to the first cavern, is 42 feet high, 120 ft wide and more than 300 ft deep.  Here, in the cavern were several poles with arms on them, situate on giant ‘steps’, and reaching into the darkness.  We were much puzzled over them, and I later discovered that they were the remains of a pack-thread or twine works, which has had its home in this sheltered cavern for hundreds of years.  Then our eye caught a notice board which plainly read ‘Closed on Sundays’.  Peveril Castle, we discovered, is also closed on Sundays, so after seeing what we could from the wrong side of the railings, we returned down the ravine and took a footpath which brought us out on the moors, heading towards that impressive gorge, the Winnats.

A heavy rainstorm came on, so we all got under Joe’s cape, and continued thus until we reached the road at the foot of the Winnats, just near the little building and shop which is the entrance to Speedwell Cavern.  Luckily, our arrival made up a party of ten, including four girls (or young women) and three old ladies, so we paid our ‘bob’s’ and passed through the turnstile into the hut which stands over this, the one and only way in.  We were full of anticipation, for many times have we heard of the wonders of these limestone caves.

The guide lit a brilliant acetylene torch and distributed candles amongst us, then we descended a very long flight of rough steps which led into the bowels of the earth.  There are 106 steps, and it was impatiently slow work waiting for the old ladies coming.  At length we reached a platform over a dark waterway where a long narrow boat was moored; into this we stepped, finding some amusement watching the trembling old ladies hesitatingly enter.  At length all were seated, we three being behind, and with a push, the boat was started, and the guide got the boat under way, sending it along by pushing the roof with his hands, and at intervals placing lighted candles on the wall by means of clay.  We noticed that he always placed one just near or where another had been.  He must know the place inside out.  The passage is 9 feet high and never over 7 feet wide, so that there was just room for the boat to pass; the water in the passage is about three feet deep, and so low was the roof that we had to keep our heads down if we wished to avoid a nasty crack.  All the while the guide was chanting sonorously such as guides do, in ‘book fashion’.  This canal is 750 yards long to the bottomless pit, so that including the return, we had nearly a mile of boating.  Drill marks on the roof and sides became more numerous as we got deeper, for the rock was harder and therefore needed more drilling prior to blasting.

The tunnel was driven 150 to 200 years ago, and took 6 to 7 years to excavate.  The expense incurred was very great – £14,000 I think.  This of course is not comparable to present day monetary value, but when it is known that nearer the deeper end, drilling became so expensive that the cost was around about a guinea an inch for drilling alone, it will be realised that a large outfit would be required to make the mine pay.  It was worked entirely for lead, for though fluorspar was found in rich veins, there was not sufficient quantity to make it a paying proposition.  The mine proved a dead failure, for only £3,000 worth of lead was ever found.  Progress, proving very slow, the owners of the mine sent down to Cornwall for experienced tin-miners, but they were used to softer rock and were an utter failure; the Derbyshire men could work faster.

Here and there, small recesses marked the places where the miners huddled to escape the flying splinters of rock during blasting, and at intervals were the scooped-out ‘pockets’, where pure lead had been mined.  In one place we passed a narrow, tortuous cave, where a vein of lead had been followed out.  It illustrates the awkward, dangerous positions in which those early miners had to work.  Across the roof could be seen thin veins of lead, and great white and blue tinged masses of the beautiful topazine fluor, or fluorspar.  As all the lead and fluorspar veins run from east to west, the mine was driven due south, so that the veins would be crossed.

About 200 yards on, we passed below a corrugated iron sheet, and the walls were dripping wet.  This is the only place apart from the entrance where there is an air passage to the outer world, and the corrugated iron has been placed there to protect the visitors from the natural shower-bath which starts up in wet weather.  Half way along, another canal goes off to the right, but is partly choked by debris.  This is known as the ‘Half Way House’.  Behind us, the chain of lighted candles with the rippling reflection in the black water gave us a wonderful sight.  Then we became conscious of a hollow, murmuring sound which gradually increased into a roar which became deafening in its intensity.  Then we stopped and stepped on to a concrete platform, finding ourselves in a circular cavern.

This is known as the Bottomless Pit.  The guide took us to the railings, and with his powerful light shaded behind, shone it down to where a waterfall, coming from directly beneath us, shot down into an abyss.  We could dimly see the boiling flood foam on to a shelf of smooth limestone, and then shoot over into blackness.  At a depth of 90 feet below us, the water entered a stygian pool, the depth of which has never been ascertained.  Colouring was once dropped into the pool, and it emerged 22 hours later at the stream which issues from the ground near Peak Cavern.  This points to the existence of a vast subterranean lake.  During the aforesaid excavation of the mine, the miners threw some 40,000 tons of rubble into the pool without any apparent diminution of either its extent or depth.

Above us the huge dome towered into eternal darkness.  Rockets have been fired to a height of 450 ft, but have not yet reached the roof, neither have skilled climbing members of the Kyndwr Club who have made scientific explorations of these caverns, had any measure of success in that direction, though they have discovered natural galleries high up in the rock.  This platform we stood on is 860 ft below the surface of the mountain above.  Stakes driven into the rock form rude steps up which the explorers climb to the higher levels.  Straight opposite the point where we entered the cavern, another canal runs for 50 yards, and from which is drawn the water for the fall.  The miners, during their excavations of the first tunnel suddenly broke through the rock into this mighty cavern, the first time eyes had ever been set on it.  They built the arched platform on which we stood, to enable them to cross the black abyss, and continue their work on the other side.

After tunnelling for 50 yards, they came upon a natural waterfall, which flooded the passage, and so took to using boats instead of working in the water.  When the level was opened for visitors, it was made higher and broader for convenience.  The whole half mile of passage is dead straight, so that from the platform we could see half a mile of glimmering candles.  And a fine sight it was, too!  An arrangement enabled the guide to shut off the water, so that we could hear him speaking.  The infernal roar of the waterfall in this place would, I am sure, drive a man mad in a few hours – the whole thing produced a feeling of awe in us.  After a last look at this great hole with its limitless depth, roaring waterfall and great splashes of white and blue fluorspar, we stepped back into the boat, and after what seemed an age, reached the entrance.  As we got out of the boat, the guide sat with his cap, and chanted “It is the custom here for the guide to place his cap on his knee”.  We saw the hint.  Then up the 106 steps to the outer air, which seemed warm after the cold atmosphere below.  The air temperature down there averages 52 degrees F all the year round, with little change, and is always pure, for where there is running water there is always fresh air.  Although it was dull and raining out here, the light seemed dazzling.

Joe’s cape came in handy once more as we tramped down the road to Castleton, and retrieved our bikes, retracing our steps to the junction with the main road, which we joined, and commenced the big climb up Mam Tor.  When we reached the Odin lead mine, we stopped and had a scout round, entering one or two deep, tortuous ravines and scouting for caves, one of which produced abundantly the stickiest, slipperiest clay that it was ever my privilege to sink over the ankles in.  Happily, Joe’s shoes were by now in a parlous dirty condition.  That’ll larn him!  When mooching round the place where the ore was washed, we discovered numerous pieces of fluorspar, many of which we brought home with us.  Some of it is like smoked glass with several different tints of blue and green across it.  Others are brownish, with beautiful colours like glass in it.  More are of a regular parallelogram, in shape, milk-white in colour, and when held up to the reflection of a strong artificial light, I discovered a perfect pattern in green and red and gold.  Wonderful stuff, this fluorspar!  I think it is a kind of Calcite.

Odin lead mine was worked very successfully by the Saxons, 2,000 years ago, and its stock of ore is still not finished.  It also yields about 3 oz of silver to the ton of lead mined, and many beautiful crystallisations are found in it, including blende, barites, fluorspar, sulphate of iron etc.  A curious mineral called silkensides, whose properties of explosion when struck by a pickaxe, is well known and feared by miners, is also found here.  Another inflammable substance found in this mine is elastic bitumen.  It is dark brown in colour, and on being touched by a candle, burns slowly, giving off a disagreeable sulphurous odour.  In earlier times North Derbyshire was a penal settlement, and convicts worked in Odin mine.  We could have got into the mine proper by ignoring a notice board, but there were too many people about to make it worthwhile (not that we had any qualms!), so we regained our machines and carried on past the huge shaley precipice that gives Mam Tor the appellation of ‘Shivering Mountain’.  The mountain is geologically placed just above the limestone, and is composed of shale and micaceous grit in alternate stratifications which speedily decompose by atmospheric agency and fall down the face of the cliff in large quantities.  Mam Tor is the old British name signifying ‘Mother Hill’.  On a steep pitch on the road we had the pleasure of seeing a motor-cycle ‘conk out’, and for pity’s sake gave him a push up.

At the summit we took the old Sparrowpit road via Perryfoot to Mrs Vernon’s at Sparrowpit for tea, with a grand total of five miles for the afternoon.  I was very sorry to learn that the motherly old soul, Mrs Vernon, has ‘passed on’ and the Toll House is now run by her daughters.  We started at 5.45pm on free-wheels, swooping down Barmoor Clough to Chapel-en-le-Frith and making great headway past Combs Moss to Whaley Bridge.  The earlier rain had damped down the wind, and now the night was one of those still, peaceful autumn evenings.  At Whaley Bridge, we decided on a fresh route home, and crossed the Buxton road, climbing uphill for a long time until we stood above a long, narrow reservoir, with the finest view of the Peak I have yet witnessed.  The sun was on the great clods of green-brown earth and on the valleys; we could see Hayfield beneath the mountains, Sparrowpit stood out on a ridge at what seemed an incalculable distance away, and all around us were massive steep moors and rounded peaks.  A swoop down to Kettleshulme and the Saltersford Valley, another long climb on shanks up the side of the hill into a land-locked valley, while the direction of the road had us guessing.  It turned back and formed a huge horseshoe, on which we got many grand views.  At the summit we deserted this highway for a bypass that started to ‘fall-off’ the hills down a fine little pass to a wooded glen, then through a brickyard and so into the beautiful little village of Pot Shrigley.

Many winding lanes, all with a downward tendency led us to the main road at Poynton, where we plunged into the lanes again in another (about our fifth attempt) to solve the ‘crossword’ puzzle – a maze of lanes with a way through to Cheadle.  We managed it this time, and emerged triumphantly at Belmont just on lighting-up time.

Leaving Tom at Kingsway End, we came back home at a rapid pace by the usual route, arriving home at 9.45pm.  Today has been a treat, and we have not by a long way done with the Castleton Caverns.                  96 miles


Saturday, 19 September 1925 Clayton Green

Post:            So this is one of those pouring with rain days one could never enjoy, but one is still driven to get those pedals round and make something of the day !   In Charlie’s earliest days awheel, he couldn’t even afford a cape, so at least those days are behind him.

Saturday, September 19                         Clayton Green    CTC run

 Ben came over in time for the club run this afternoon.  It was one of those consistently wet days, a day that seemed to hold out no hope of clearing up – what some folks would call a dreary day, but a day that was to us the same as any other, if a trifle wet.  We reached the Lawson’s Arms at 2.30pm, and by 3.00, when we started, there were eight of us present.  Belmont Road was taken, over the soaking moors – by the way Belmont claims the doubtful honour of being the wettest place in Lancashire – to Abbey Village, turning into the lanes just on the bend near Hoghton, and proceeding, still in the drenching downpour via Brindle to Clayton Green, and the Lord Nelson, an old coaching Inn for tea.

The Landlord, when he saw us, said: “Well, I always thought cyclists were a bit potty, but I know now!”  Our shoes and jackets were put to dry before a fire in the billiards room, whilst Billy, the club humorist, ran about  on the linoleum making ‘footprints’, and generally amusing us with his antics.  After tea, the piano was brought into action, and we amused ourselves by singing songs for an hour or more, and telling tales, some of which had to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

The rain had gone when we started again, in a strange light, caused by the sun amid rain clouds.  The main road took us swiftly to Chorley, then the lane route via Cowling, Limbrick and Heath Charnock, where I punctured.  Ben stayed with me to repair it, then both of us proceeded home via Chorley New Road.                                            35 miles

Sunday, 13 September 1925 Goredale Scar

Post:          This was a solo ride today, Tom Idle has a bad knee and is resting it, and our hero feels the need for some solace awheel, so solo it is.  Charlie mentions the couple of arches over the road at Sawley, alas they are no more, taken down by careless motorists in the past.  Goredale Scar is one of my favourite places to visit.

Sunday, September 13                          Gordale Scar and Threshfield

Tom has been troubled by a knee complaint not uncommon amongst cyclists, so he informed me that he would lay off the bike for a week and try a remedy for it.  I took the chance for a run north for a change.  As it happened, it was one of those days when one feels that one would like to be alone, to be left to one’s own thoughts for a space, and I found it very acceptable, though it did get a trifle lonely as I got on familiar roads after tea.  Though I would not care to ride alone every time, there are occasions when a quiet jaunt away from the rest of the world, brings me into closer touch with nature – and then on the next ride a companion is a boon – a companion such as Tom, I mean.  Below is an account of a lonesome run that proved to be a wonder-run in that part of the English Wonderland known as Yorkshire.

I made a rather late start – 8am – and with the intention of getting our right away, headed for that black smudge on the map known as Blackburn.  Between Bolton and Darwen, however, as one rises to an altitude of 900 ft, some fine moorland scenery can be enjoyed, but beyond that, the best one can hope for is a speedy journey, and even that is made painful by the setts.  In Blackburn I somehow missed my way, rediscovering myself some time later on Whalley New Road.  However, at the junction with Whalley Range, I turned right and after a hilly run came upon the Blackburn-Whalley road.  Then Whalley, and through the ancient village.  Halfway to Clitheroe I joined a lane route which cuts the latter town out and takes me by the foot of Pendle, through really delightful scenery to the picturesque village of Worston.  I see that where bylanes lead away from the main road about here, notices have been placed bearing the legend that:  ‘Motorists are warned that this road is narrow and tortuous’ – Great!  That will help keep them off the best roads.  The narrower and more tortuous the better!

I regained the main road again at Chatburn, then the road takes a winding course near the River Ribble to Sawley, where are a couple of arches over the road, [not any more – Ed] all that remains of the Abbey.  Sawley Brow negotiated, the scenery became good again and the road full of steep little ups and downs to Gisburn, a decent little place even if motorised, and one that calls to memory ‘Guy of Gisborne’ of the Robin Hood Ballads.  This was part of the bold outlaw’s happy hunting ground.  I turned near the Church and followed the now shallow valley of the River Ribble through Newsholme to Nappa.  On this road too, I got some wonderful views of the limestone heights that ‘grow’ east of Settle, to an altitude of over 2,000 ft.  With fine glimpses of the Ribble through sylvan woods, I reached Hellifield, the railway junction, from where I joined that lane which is full of stiff little hills to Airton, where I again turned on just as hilly a road, but more beautiful, through to Kirkby Malham, with a view of Malham Cove, looking like the face of a great white quarry, growing ever nearer.  Reaching the rather picturesque Craven village of Malham, I discovered a topping lunch place.

I started again beneath a glaring sun on a little uphill lane, climbing spasmodically, then dropping down again in a sheer descent to Gordale Beck, here but a large stream issuing from a deep, barren dale to the left.  I put my bike in a shed without asking, then set out on foot for the said dale.  As one approaches, nothing striking is seen about it except, perhaps, the broken, rocky slopes and crags of limestone on each side, but farther in it seems to get more sheer and enclosed, until turning a corner, I found myself suddenly in a terrific gorge.

It was narrow, with great overhanging precipices on each side, bulging outwards towards each other.  The height of the rocks, the bulge and the roar of water made this an awe-inspiring sight, and when I turned the next bend, I found a waterfall pouring over a precipice which seemed to enclose the chasm, then yet another waterfall higher up which shot through an arch and jumped over a cliff, falling then like a mill race, down a steep smooth slab, to the next cascade.  I was amazed – I expected nothing like this, and stood staring at the wonderful sight before me.  With a bit of trouble, I managed to climb up past the lower fall, and by negotiating the leaping water, got to a position below the upper fall, where I could observe the arch of rock, the river-made leap over it, and the enclosing masses of rock – one of the effects of that great geological fault which we know as Gordale Scar.

I stayed a while, wandering about, and taking it all in, then leaving the falls, I walked slowly down the dale.  I was surprised to find that I had to cross a rapidly flowing river when I knew that I was clear of the Aire, so I turned about and walked up a few yards, where I found that the water was boiling up out of the ground.  Somewhere on the moors above, the water is ‘swallowed’ and passes beneath the ground, coming to daylight here in Gordale Scar.  The force of the descending water forces it up out of the earth.  It is a strange sight to see a stream, rather deep and two feet wide, suddenly bubble up out of the ground, but it is very common on these limestone moors, both in Yorkshire and Derbyshire.  The action of these subterranean rivers has formed the wonderful caverns such as the Blue John Mine, Speedwell Cavern and Peak Cavern in Derbyshire, and the much grander Alum Pot Hole, Ingleborough Cave and Hartle Pot etc, in Yorkshire.  On my return to my machine I came across two more large streams issuing from the earth, and I tasted the water, but beyond the delicious coldness, could find nothing different with the water from any clear stream.  So, delighted with this little detour, I reached my machine again, and walked slowly uphill on that wide track, Hawthorns Lane, which at the top connects with Mastiles Lane, which leads across the moors to Kilnsey, in Upper Wharfedale.

It was a climb too, winding upwards with increasingly beautiful views behind, until at an altitude of 1,191 ft, I was in a wild region of swelling moorland ridges, broken with little white crags of limestone outcrop; in the distance – all around me the hazy, sweeping heights stretched.  My intention was to cross to Kilnsey, the ride down the east side of the River Wharfe from Conistone to Grassington, crossing the river again to Threshfield, but I must have gone wrong, and in ignorance crossed Malham Moor, descending furiously  towards broad Wharfedale, which hazily stretched before me.  A gentleman and his wife and youngster stopped me, asking the way to Clapham.  They were going to walk it all that day, but when I showed them the distance on my map, they changed their minds.  (It would have been about 20 miles for them over the hills).  They were very nice people, with whom a talk about the district and exchange of opinion was a pleasure.  As I left them I made the alarming discovery that I had lost the clip on my Renold chain.  It was lucky that I saw it then, for the link was just coming off – and I should have been absolutely stranded.  I tied some string on as a temporary measure, and when I reached Wharfedale – finding myself at Threshfield – I changed over to freewheel as an added precaution.  From there I followed many winding and hilly lanes, by Cracoe, Hetton and Flasby, through delightful hills and woodland scenery to Gargrave, where I procured a new clip for my chain, then soon reached the main Skipton road at Broughton.

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This is a beautiful, if hilly road but badly motorised, and it therefore seemed a long way back to Gisburn, where I was able to shake myself free of the petrol, turning on the Nelson road, but leaving it again in favour of a little bylane which dropped downhill to Rimington, then undulated beneath the shadow of Pendle Hill, bringing me to the pretty village of Downham.  All the tea places were full up with motorists, so I carried on to Chatburn, then Clitheroe, with tea at the Craven Heifer.

As I started again I got a puncture, but it was soon right again, and I made great progress home via Whalley and Tockholes for 9pm.  I must get Tom into this district soon!                                                   122 miles

Saturday, 12 September 1925 A Druidical Circle

Post:      Although this is a short Saturday run today, I feel that Charlie is loosening up, and is much more free with his style of writing and what he says.  One of the reasons could be that he has made, or is in the process of making, a decision on the future format of his journals.  His decision, I can reveal, is that he is going to change his format, and make all his journal entries stories from this week on, more or less, and is a precursor to next years book, 1926, in which there are no diary entries at all.

Saturday, September 12                                  A Druidical Circle

 Joe and Ben came up this afternoon, but by reason of a couple of punctures which I had discovered, it got 3.30pm before we started.  The brothers Eastwood were seen, and the brothers Pearson and Bill Siddle were later spotted, and more time was wasted in reciting Odes and Stanzas to ‘Blackberry Joe’ of Nant-y-Ffrith fame.  All of us then started together via Deane and the new road to Chorley, where Joe left us.  (He does a bit of courting sometimes!).  At Horwich Ben and I left the rest who were bound as usual for Walton le Dale, and after a hard scramble reached the Bungalow on Rivington Pike.  The views therefrom were very extensive including lots of coastline that looked like a streak of silver from Mersey to Ribble.  Near the join with the Rivington road, we struck a damp, grassy track, which led us a merry dance and eventually brought us to Mytton’s Farm, where we had tea.

Then the slimy track to Belmont road, the cart-track by the reservoir and a fine moorland byway to Blackburn road, along which we rode for a few yards, deserting it in favour of a poorer but better road.  Again we joined a track that led us over the open moors, the while the setting sun lend a wealth of colour to the western sky.  Leaving all paths, we pushed our way over the turfy moors in search of a druidical circle marked by Bartholomew.  We found it, just a few old worn boulders, hardly discernible, forming a rough ring on a high ridge.  More rough walking, then we joined a path that led us down to Turton, which place was in the throes of a fair.

The road to Bolton, then via a wall and gates, into a private wood, where we got caught and were threatened with dire penalties.  We pleaded innocence and bluffed our way out, afterwards cutting for it.  Then Tonge Moor road and home.                   32 miles

Tuesday, 8 September 1925 The Glyn Valley

Post:     Like the ride of two days ago, this was another ‘biggy’ with a similar mileage to the three passes day.    It is difficult to remember that only six months ago Charlie took delivery of his new bike, after a wait of over five years, and boy, has he had his moneys-worth already.  Today we visit one of the highest waterfalls in the British Isles, one Charlie has had on his ‘to do’ list for a few years, so get reading.

Tuesday, September 8                           The Glyn Valley

         Ever since I had heard of it, I had determined at some opportune time, to visit Pistyll Rhaiadr, the highest single leap waterfall in Wales, lying off the beaten track, just four miles from Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant.  I had asked ‘Wayfarer’ of the ‘Cycling’ magazine for the best, but not necessarily the shortest or easiest way, to it from Chirk, and he had sent me, amongst other ‘Over the Top’ routes, the routes via the Glyn Valley to Llantsantffraid – Glyn-Ceiriog, Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog, and over the top via Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant etc.  Now I was decided to try it.  as the Rhaiadr is about 80 miles away, I proposed a 6.30am start, visit the falls, then go over the Milltir Cerig if daylight permitted, returning from the Vale of Edeyrnion by night – a round of about 190 miles.  Joe and his friend promised to come, so arrangements were made, and a route via the Cheshire lanes to Ruabon was fixed.  Alas for Pistyll Rhaiadr!

The alarm clock woke me at 5am, but I stopped the infernal racket and got back in bed for a few minutes.  The minutes, in some mysterious and uncontrollable way, developed into two hours!  I made a hurried breakfast, and was just packing some ‘tommy’ up, when Joe and his pal Bert came.  They too had overslept!  So all came off as a joke – it only meant two or three more hours riding in darkness, we thought.  It got 9am when we started, and then we did pretty bad – we could not get into our stride, besides which ‘Blackberry Joe’ further consolidated his title by stopping to pick the fruit on the road to Great Budworth, and beyond Whitegate on the Beeston bylane.  When once Joe gets on the scent, wild horses will not drag him away.  We made our way at little more than a potter from High Legh to a pump near Great Budworth, where I made the alarming discovery that my only remaining brake was almost gone – the cable was going strand by strand and was already half broken.  In all probability the next time I used it with pressure, it would snap altogether, so I turned my wheel round to the fixed sprocket, deciding not to use the brake except lightly.

Our way lay by the well-used bylanes via Comberbach, Hartford, the Chester road to just above Sandiway, then the lanes again through Whitegate, the brief but exquisite Oulton Park, flowery, sleepy Eaton, and then Tiverton Lane Ends, dropping to Beeston Brook with the ever-inspiring view of the castle and Peckforton before us.  Climbing from the Whitchurch road, we came to Beeston Smithy for lunch.  Rain had fallen heavily earlier in the day, and in consequence the lanes were in an awful mess, transferring the sticky, brown mud to our machines and shoes.  We later discovered that we had been for all the morning travelling between rain clouds, though for us the sun had mostly been shining.

The more I traverse that sunken lane at the foot of the ‘old red hills’, the more I realise the supreme beauty of this part of Cheshire.  The wooded slopes, the winding, dirty, rough lane, the slumbering villages and neat ‘black and white’ cottages with their flower-decked gardens hold me entranced with the peaceful nature of everything.  There is no harsh note, no motors – nothing to mar the even tranquillity of this part of the English Wonderland.  Peckforton, then Bickerton, now downhill swiftly across the Chester-Whitchurch road and Malpas, an old Cheshire market town.  As expected, we romped downhill now, for nigh on seven miles through Worthenbury to Bangor-is-y-coed, where we stopped by the old River Dee bridge.  We were all in far better form now.

On the subsequent climb to Ruabon, through not so good scenery, the wind harassed us more than a little, and I, for one began to think that the run was not panning out as I had hoped, but the fact that another few miles would bring us to something worthwhile kept me in good spirits.  After the squalid Cefn Mawr district was passed, and Newbridge, from which the Dee is seen to fine advantage, and from above which one gets a comprehensive view of the beautiful Vale of Llangollen, we came to the Holyhead road and were soon in Chirk, then in a moment we were swooping joyously downhill past the two Aqueducts, and into ever beautiful Vale of Ceiriog.

Our earlier lethargy – boredom if you want – was forgotten, for six miles we rode in a beautiful Welsh valley, for six miles we trod a fairyland.  Woods, green fields, high, swelling hills of green and red and brown and gold locked us in, a chattering river with shady banks and stony bed wandered across and twisted through this valley.  The road was good, it had apparently been forgotten by the mechanical world – no, a narrow gauge railway line kept us close company, and once we saw a quaint, fussy engine with some equally ancient carriages and wagons panting along proudly – that was all.  As the road is a ‘dead end’ at Llanarmon DC, it is unpopular, and little known, becoming therefore, all the more beautiful for its isolation.  I knew now that it was useless – even foolhardy to attempt to reach Pistyll Rhaiadr that night – it was 5.45pm when we reached Glyn Ceiriog after lingering in this valley (no one can rush the Glyn Valley).  Pistyll Rhaiadr lay about 18 miles away, and most of the distance would be on rough mountain tracks – very dangerous at night, so with reluctance we gave it up.  It needs a weekend – and I shall have it too, if I can help it.

A teas notice attracted us to a cottage garden in Wynne Terrace, so we called.  “Come inside”, said the genial lady of the house, “It is a washing day, and I have nothing in except eggs”,  – then eggs will do with jam and bread and butter, we agreed.  We asked for a wash, then we were given – or offered – brushes and boot polish for our shoes.  Bert used them, but my shoes turn at cleaning, and when I brushed the day’s mud from them, another layer was revealed beneath – so I left it at that.  Lumps of road from eight or nine counties cling tenaciously to my cycling shoes, and then again, the cyclists superstition that if shoes are cleaned it is a sure sign of rain, asserted itself.  Joe has got the same habit too, but Bert, our ‘recruit’ is not learned in these things.  I would like to call on Mrs Robert’s when she has something in the house; as it was, the ‘nothing’ developed into two eggs each, a dish full of tomatoes (I have a weakness for tomatoes), lettuce, a huge lump of sweet cake with icing all over it half an inch thick (Bert is keen on that kind of stuff, while neither Joe nor I exactly disdain it! – Jam (Oh Joe, it was blackberry) and beautiful bread and butter and, of course tea.  We were immensely hungry, but Mrs Robert’s, who kept bringing fresh supplies, stowed us.  Our meal cost 1/6d each – jolly decent considering the thoughtfulness of Mrs Robert’s who made us feel quite at home.

I have sent the place in as a recommended house for inclusion in the CTC Handbook, and also Beeston Smithy.  It was 7.15pm when we walked through Glyn Ceiriog on the Llangollen route.  This road is the one we traversed on March 15, and to all who get the chance, I say, take it.  Quaintly expressed by the Welsh girl that day as a ‘Mile up, mile straight, mile down’, it approaches the category of a track – is steeper than some, un-motorable, and perfectly glorious for views.  Past the church we stopped and sat down on a fence to admire the view that was laid out below us – not very extensive, just the valley and its enclosing hills.

Have you ever lingered in a lane or wood or on a brown hillside on a summer night, when the sun has gone, the sky is of a perfect hue, the hush of evening has fallen, even the birds are silent and all the world is at peace?  Add to that the inimitable charm of a Welsh Valley, and you will get a slight idea of what the Glyn Valley seemed to us on that night.  And on the summit from Rhyd-y-Groes (the cross roads), the same peace and calm was evident.  Had we been able to ride down to Llangollen, I thing we should have preferred to walk, for in the gathering twilight, the Vale and the hillsides were superbly beautiful.  Across, the scattered ruin on Dinas Bran seemed like sharp fangs on the hill top, Creigiau Eglwyseg was a broad white line round the hillside, the brown moors left of the Bwlch Rhiwfelin depression were turning black, and Moel-y-Geraint cast a shadow over Llangollen.  The descent was more of a slide down than a walk, the rock outcropping  on the stony bed that is called a road.  Nearer the town, careful riding was possible, and we halted to look at the neat timber-work of Plas Newydd.  Then Llangollen was reached.  I got some lamp oil, Bert some Judges Little Pictures, then we met on the Dee Bridge and discussed our route for the homeward run.  It was 8.30pm, and quite dark in the town.  Bert wanted to go home by Ruabon, Joe and I rebelled and cast our votes for the Horseshoe Pass, and we won.  It would be an experience over the mountains at night – especially for me with a brake on the last strand and only my pedals to rely upon, but that did not deter me in the least, for there were no particularly severe patches on the route.

We started, singing songs and stanzas to the glories of night riding, kind of imbibing the night air and oozing enthusiasm.  Already darkness had fallen and the roadside dwellings and hillside farms were lit up.  Still we rode lightless, over the canal and onto the heathery, rocky hillside, past the darksome ruins of the Abbey of the Valley of the Cross.  At the Britannia Inn, we lit up, then our road lay beneath a thick, heavy canopy of leaves – beautiful woods even in the dark.  A ‘pit-a-pat’ on the leaves, then a heavy, sudden pattering told us rain, so we put our capes on, and left the shelter of the woods, emerging on the open moors.  Fickle climate!

The rain came down in torrents, the gradient soon got too much for us, so we walked, turning onto the Horseshoe.  Down in the valley were the lights of Pentre Dwr, twinkling lights here and there betrayed lonely farmhouses, someone on the opposite side was wandering about with a bright storm lantern; the difference between hill and sky was black and black – nil, everything was mystical, unreal, even with very real rain coming down.  A long tramp then the ‘turn back’ at Oernant and we simply swept up the hill to the summit.  1,351 ft above the sea, the lights of Llangollen deep down in the valley twinkling in the distance, before us, around us, blackness, pricked here and there by a solitary glimmer.

The rain ceased as suddenly as it came, we packed away our capes, then crept carefully down the open hillside guided by the feeble rays from our oil lamps, tiny, infinitesimal things in this great black world.  Slowly we dropped – I was only holding back by the pedals, I dare not use the brake, where the wind sighed through a belt of trees, where water tinkled musically, where a blacker shadow would rise by our side, until an upward pull, then down and up again, and the lights of the Crown Hotel at Llandegla stayed us.

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In front was darkness except for an upper window which glimmering panes guided us to the Inn.  It was 10pm.  Would they make us a pot of tea?  We knocked, and after a while a voice came from behind the door “Who’s there?’ Joe gave our request, then came a pause, and “I’m sorry, they’ve all gone to bed and the fires out”.  Oh, worn, ancient tale – we’d seen the lights at the rear, from one room came the flicker from a fire!  “Oh alright, sorry to trouble” we answered.  Perhaps they were afraid of robbers – it is a common fear in these quiet parts, for it was so unlike the people at the Crown to refuse cyclists.  We did not blame them, however, for it is a queer request at 10pm.  We got a drink of water at a cottage higher up, then started once more on that rough and tumble road to Chester, 18 miles away.

Rain, a road that was terribly mutilated, a falling gradient and the encumbrance of capes, feeble oil lamps and intense darkness – it sounds undesirable, but to us three mudlarks it was thoroughly enjoyable.  At Tryddyn the rain ceased and away went the capes.  In the deep wooded glen before Pen-y-ffordd we ate our lunch and for drink had an unlimited supply of clear cold water, using a bell dome as a drinking cup.  What more could we wish for?  I had put a couple of eggs in boiling water before I started , but forgot them for nearly 20 minutes.  It was “lend me your jack-knife, Joe!” when I came to eat them.  Then the rain came down again, and Joe had a puncture.  Messy job fiddling with tyres on a dark wet night!  We reached Chester at 1am, beneath a starry sky, seeing the city as a dead, forgotten town, quaintly glamorous.

Chester road, and the miles sliding by as we blinded along for all we were worth.  At Helsby the rain reasserted itself and swept down with grim determination to wash us off the map.  Surely the solitary policeman in Frodsham thought us mad to see us singing and joking and laughing as our shoes became filled and the water found its way ‘in’ via the back of our necks?  Perhaps he smiled and said ‘Cyclists!’  But when we reached Warrington, we saw a change coming over.  The novelty, the glamour, was wearing off, Bert was yawning, I did not feel like singing, noisy Joe had gone quiet.  Another 18 miles, during which my eyes constantly tried to close, and during which Joe and I had a startling experience, then we reached home, tired out, but happy in the memory of a ride worthwhile, at 5am.                                  148 miles

Sunday, 6 September 1925 Three Wonderful Passes

Post:     This is a classic example of how not to run a website and publish books at the same time !   By any standard this story should have been included in one of my books, but it is the old story that one cannot include everything, so I have failed the test.  However, read this page below and you will be back in the position I would have had you had I been more diligent.  There were quite a few out on this ‘run’ and I don’t know if it is me or not, but I feel that Charlie has really excelled himself today, both in his descriptive language and his travels, the views he records and the days mileage !  Well done Charlie, and thanks for a very interesting day ! 

Sunday, September 6                  A Welsh Mountain and Three Passes

 There was Joe and Bert, his friend, the brothers Pearson and myself – oh and another acquaintance of Joe’s, and we all met just after 4am on St. Helen’s Road, just above where I live.  Tom and his pal Bill were to meet us at Mrs Dennison’s at Mickle Trafford, four miles from Chester, at 7.30am, for today, we had great ambitions on that blunt, ruin topped peak, Moel Famau, the guardian sentinel of Ruthin, the highest peak of the range, the oft seen and twice (by me) climbed ‘Hill of Mothers’.  Pray the Lord it may be a clear day, for twice before have the rain mists relentlessly laid their impenetrable blanket over the land, repenting only to give us an alluring peep at the broad, fertile Vale of Clwyd and the high jumble of moors around.  That momentary glimpse of ‘What Might Be’, had served to make us register a vow that again and again would we scale the shaggy sides until the ‘Reward’ came.

That was Tom Idle and I, and now there were others who knew little of the wonders of northeast Wales, but were well prepared to sacrifice a few hours of bed to see what a long, hard day made possible to see.  Cyclists they are to their finger-tips, real cyclists and lads who can ride a hundred and fifty miles, can scramble with their lightweights anywhere, and are unafraid of any inclement weather conditions that may prevail.  Those are the lads that have become part of the Greatest Game – and the lads we want for an adventure – a rough and tumble hard-riding jaunt of this description.


We made a start.  It was quite dark, a slight breeze blew very chilly, and Joe and his two mates sprinted off in front.  We caught them up on Squire’s Brow; one of them had had an accident.  His front fork lamp bracket had dropped into the wheel, ripping four spokes out and badly buckling the wheel.  We helped him find the scattered bits of lamp, and then examined the wheel, finding that it was hopeless for the day, so he turned back, and we proceeded more steadily through Atherton and Leigh and on to the Winwick road from Lowton.

The dawn of a new day.  A light streak across the dark, eastern sky, the darkness giving way to a grey, cold light.  Beyond Warrington we found the Chester road, rain-soaked, although it was fine.  Near Frodsham the sun rose mistily, but as it mounted higher it broke into a golden blaze, too bright to last.  We were all agreed that it was well worth it to get up so soon, if only for the pleasure of the sweet morning air and the beautiful, fresh greenery all around.  We got to Mickle Trafford for 7.15am, and later Tom and Bill joined us, all of us sitting down to a merry breakfast.  Bill had to return, so we bade him ‘Good morning’, and then started, six of us, for Chester.  Just after 9am we had passed through the fair City of Legions and were turning on to the Holywell road, the first five miles of which are straight and flat and monotonous.

We rushed it, turning at Broughton for Mold, and climbed slowly uphill for over two miles, amongst improving scenery.  Three of us stood in dire need of cigarettes, but Wales on a Sunday is a desolate land for smokers, and after Pen-y-ffordd was passed, our only hope was Mold.  A strong wind was growing and pushing us along, but what gladdened our hearts was that fine mountain view and clear blue skies.  The day for Moel Famau.  The peak on which we were targeted came into sight more than once, each time in a different posture as is its wont.

Mold for cigarettes!  I asked once and was refused, at another place they said they dare not, but there was a Woodbine machine outside!  It jammed after two packets, but I managed to buy another, so the three of us ‘whacked’ them.  The Cilcain road took us uphill and down dale to Waen, where we called a halt.  Our first intention had been to ascend the mountain by a fresh route, the Cilcain track, but it was 10am and we wanted to make Llandegla for lunch, so it was decided to go via the old Bwlch and climb from the Loggerheads side, and, as a side line, we would take the path from here by Cefn Mawr Hall for the sake of the picturesque view of the Leete from the crags.  Strangely, we found ourselves on quite a decent road, and then were suddenly on the Ruthin road, just above Loggerheads.  We had gone wrong.

From the beautiful Leete valley we climbed uphill to where the old Ruthin road branches off, taking this one now.  The road was rough and steep with gates across, but ran between moorland slopes red with heather.  Bwlch Pen Barras.  About halfway through the pass, we turned along that rough path on the right, and soon the six of us were perspiring up a stony, muddy track.  It was beautiful though, with the many shades of heather covering the swelling rippling moorlands.  A hard struggle to the top it is; one of our number who is yet a recruit, did not know how to carry his bike to the best advantage, and on the last precipitous stretch just before the junction with the Ruthin route, he fell backwards with it !  No damage was done.  Then leaving our bikes by a wall, we scrambled up to the ruined tower.  The view was almost perfect, the outlook amazing – it was something to rave over.

Below us stretched the broad Vale of Clwyd, a sweeping patchwork quilt of green fields dotted with tiny-looking farms, hamlets and villages, Ruthin looking for all the world like a toy town.  At our feet was a red and brown and gold colour scheme – the autumn moors, sloping in graceful curves and sweeps to the Vale below.  Northwards, the Clwydian range of which ours was the loftiest, were in the same variable colours, sunlit, each rounded summit, one behind the other, in an almost even line to the end of the Vale, where was the plain of Morfa Rhuddlan, across which the winding river Clwyd ran, running to the sea, 20 miles away.  North by East, the sandy Dee estuary could be traced to Connah’s Quay and Queensferry with their many chimneys, and the Wirral coast.  So clear was it that we could see the waves breaking in glistening crescents around Hilbre Island, at least 26 miles distant.  The sea beyond was deep blue, with touches of scintillating sunlight playing on the waters and one or two steamships, tiny, infinitesimal objects.

A huge smoke pall over the Mersey coast proclaimed Liverpool and hid from us the Lancashire coast.  Chester to the East, the huge wood-dotted green plains with a smoke pall here and there denoting towns – the plain of Cheshire, and the Derbyshire Hills, seventy miles or so away.  Nearer, a steadily growing jumble of ground culminated below our peak, where several large pools, reservoirs and llyns appeared like sheets of glass below us.  Turning towards the South, the country stretched right away through Shropshire into a haze that might be Worcestershire or Warwickshire, and directly South, the bold moors broke from a jumble to high ridges and were lost to sight.

But it was Westwards where the best was.  From the coast to the gradually increasing highs, the more northern eminences being the Carnddau peaks, which were capped by mist.  The Glyders were in ragged profile, Snowdon was there, but its topmost peak was hidden, but we got the clean-cut silhouette of some of its spurs.  To the left of Snowdonia, in what would be the Ffestiniog district, the very shapely head of Cynicht was reared in the sky, and travelling westwards, our eyes ran along the ragged line that runs south from Trawsfynydd – Llawr Llech, etc, with the Devils Gap clearly outlined.  Next came Cader Idris, rather like a table mountain from here, with a cloud bank just clearing the summit ridge.  Then moors, high, level ground, behind which peeped out the ‘hump’ of Plinlimmon.  It was not by any means a perfect day – Lakeland, the Isle of Man, Anglesey, Ireland and the Black Mountains in South Wales are all visible from here on exceptional days, but it was very clear, and the view that we got more than repaid the climb.

As it was very cold up here, after perspiring freely, we stayed just long enough to take it all in, then returned to the bikes and the Ruthin track.  The tower on the summit was formerly 150 ft high, and 60 ft in diameter at the base, but so utterly have gales destroyed it, that the highest point now is not 20 ft high.  When it was built to commemorate the Jubilee of George the third, the mountain was thought to be 1,850 ft high, so the tower brought it up to the 2,000 ft mark.  Subsequent measurements revealed the exact height at 1,821 ft.  The summit is also the spot where two counties and four parishes meet.  The tower was built in 1810.

The run down on the Ruthin track – a ‘shelf’ on the hillside, was more exciting than ever.  I had a freewheel on for a change, and two calliper brakes, but even they were hardly sufficient for the wet, slippery grass.  I, who was in front, turned my head once to see how the others were faring, and found myself over the edge.  As I was going very slowly, I fell off and soon regained the path without accident.  Another had a similar fall, but on the Bwlch-y-Pane road, I did a really ‘star’ turn.  Reaching the end of the path, I stood at the end of the Bwlch, watching them come down.  It is very spectacular to see cyclists riding on what seems the steep mountainside.  Then as they all arrived safely, I started down the steep, grassy road towards Ruthin, admiring the view along the Vale of Clwyd.  I had my front brake on, and in pulling it harder, the wheel stopped and skidded on the grass.  I came over the bars and went sliding down the road on my shoulder, suddenly coming to rest in a bed of prickly gorse.  I regained my feet – with a speed that did me credit – even if it was a little ungraceful.  I was unhurt and the machine undamaged, so we roared with laughter at the undignified dismount.

As soon as I started again, I used the safer rear brake, but all at once the cable snapped, and again I had to resort to the front brake – with more care this time, but not without skidding the wheel.  One punctured just on a bend, and I must say that we heartily congratulated him for puncturing in such a delightful spot.  I couldn’t have done better myself, and I’ve changed the air in my tyres at a few pretty places in my time – and I suppose I shall do so again.  I did my share of assistance by sitting on a gate watching the sun chasing clouds across the brown and red and gold hillsides and picking out the Caernarvonshire and Merioneth peaks.  Then another grassy descent, with the front brake making the wheel jazz sideways, and my heart in my mouth.  It would have been quite easy to walk – but I would ride.  Very soon we reached the main road , and swept down into the valley.

A consultation of the watch told us that it was after 12 noon, but hunger had not assailed us seriously, so we scanned the map, found a way to cut Ruthin out, and climb Nant-y-Garth before dinner.  Which was just what we had hoped to do in order to get through Nant-y-Ffrith, for only I had seen this glorious glen, and wanted to do so again.  Besides, I had a keen delight in showing others what I have seen.  So we took a pleasant meandering lane beneath the slopes of Moel Gyw, through Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, a singularly picturesque name, typical of Wales, meaning the ‘Church at the Ford in the Vale of Clwyd’.  We passed the bylane that we had taken in July 1924, and which led us a merry dance, then beneath a canopy of trees, climbed and dropped jerkily to the hamlet of Pentre Celyn, the ‘Village by the River Bank’, soon afterwards reaching the Ruthin-Llangollen road, just below Ty-isaf, and at the entrance to Nant-y-Garth.

I have explained this sweet sylvan glen before, with its rushing, wandering stream and its tree-clad slopes and mossy banks.  The pass is about three miles long, but the wooded portion is less than one and a half miles.  It climbs from the Ruthin side, gradually – perhaps a drag – but that is alleviated by the exquisite beauty of everything contained in it.  Higher up, the road winds around bare – no, gold and brown and red moors, and leaves one on the Llandegla moors.  The name Nant-y-Garth is short, but means much, implying the Valley below the Hill that bends round the Buttress.  A series of swoops and climbs brought us to the Crown Hotel at Llandegla, where a wash and lunch was forthcoming.

The time was 2.45pm when we left Llandegla, and with the wind behind climbed up the cwm between Moel Gareggog and Moel-y-brain, to the open moors, where we caught a glimpse behind of the Arenig peak also of Moel Famau again.  At Bwlchgwyn we stopped, to admire the fine panoramic view of Cheshire from the ‘shelf’ road.  Beeston and the hills of Peckforton looked like molehills from this elevation, the Wrekin and the Shropshire heights east of Church Stretton were visible, whilst the whole of Cheshire lay below us.  Then the ‘Dangerous beyond Glascoed’ road soon brought us to our objective, the afternoons ‘piece de resistance’, Nant-y-Ffrith.

The drive that leads down to it is exquisite, first lined with rhododendrons, then with tall old trees, and then giving entrancing glimpses of the lower limestone crags, twisted, cracked, potted with caves, and the river below, first leaping little falls, then flowing into an almost still basin, the clear water giving an almost perfect reflection of rock and trees and sky.  On the footpath in the glen proper, it was easy enough to ride in places, but no one attempted to do so; sacrilege is it to pass by such scenery with no more than a cursory glance.  Trees gnarled and bent, young saplings, fleeting views of shimmering water, glimpses of limestone bastions, tumbled brown rocks overgrown with satin-like moss, bracken in a dozen shades, sunlight weaving a leafy pattern on the footpath, the voices of the woods – and peace, soothing, strangely contrasting with the harsh town-world, that is Nant-y-Ffrith the Beautiful, as we saw it.  From a joking, noisy cycling party, we became silent, wondering, nature worshippers; we go not to churches on Sunday, perhaps, but roam about under a greater dome than that of St Pauls – not in a man-made edifice, but in one that was made and consecrated by God for man, under the greatest Dome and in the cleanest Church.  Vagabond cyclists we may be, we are not, as some think, ‘beyond the Pale’, for –

‘Neath cloistered boughs each floral bell that swingeth

And tolls its perfume on the passing air,

Makes Sabbath in the fields, and ever ringeth

A call to prayer.’

At the end of the ravine of the Ffrith, Joe suddenly became alive to more earthly matters and attacked some blackberry bushes on which grew the most luscious fruit, just right for Joe.  After trying in vain to stop him, we showed him one with a little white, worm-like grub on – quite common on blackberries, but he just flicked it off and ate the berry with the comment “All I can say is that they are sensible grubs!”

At length we got him away, and traversed many gated lanes to Ffrith, then to Cefn-y-Bedd and so to Rossett.  To avoid the motorised main road, we entered Eaton Park, riding swiftly through this wooded paradise, past the Hall, and so to Chester, with tea in old Newgate.  Tom left us here, bound for his home in Manchester, and we joined our outward route, now for home.  The sun was setting in a blaze of glory behind blunt Moel Famau as we headed for Helsby, singing that well-known verse:  “This is the end of a perfect day-“.    And a perfect day it was too, as one and all acclaimed.  We reached home making odes to Joe – one of which is set down here.                      145 miles

A Limerick to ‘Blackberry Joe’



There was a young cyclist named Joe,

Never fed-up with blackberries you know:

When he got on the scent,

To those bushes he went –

He’d show ‘em the way they should go!


Now this here young cyclist named Joe,

Inside him the blackberries could stow:

Till you’d reckon at first,

That he’d jolly soon burst,

If he didn’t cease making them flow.


But a marvellous fellow was Joe,

He always knew where they would grow:

And before you got there

He’d have picked the bush bare,

And would be on to another, I trow!


But disaster was coming on Joe,

His breath came laboriously slow,

He’d packed himself tight –

He ‘clocked off’ that night –

And we buried him near where they grow.


So take heed all ye who would go,

To equal the feats of poor Joe,

In the fruit there’s a grub –

If it gets in your tub –

You’ll hand in your checks and join Joe!


Friday, 4 September 1925 Great Hill

Post:      We’ve all been there a grassy track which turns out wetter and wetter and eventually one begins to wonder what on earth am I doing here ?   And for the benefit of Mr David Miller, the work to create the reservoir at Belmont is found to be a work in progress.   Now used for dinghy sailing.

Friday, September 4                                        Great Hill

Having a leisurely half-day, I bethought myself of an ‘over the top’ route, so I started via Belmont road against a high wind.  At Belmont I watched the workmen engaged on the new big reservoir for a while, then with the main road almost to myself, sped along to a gate opposite a pub.  Passing through this gate, I got onto a rough track which entirely petered out at another gate.  I continued however, over the gate, and got on to the moors.  It was a job, carrying the bike mostly, sinking into a bog, just missing stagnant pools of oozy, slimy, water, and negotiating wide, crumbling drains.  I could see the rounded hill before me, and could just make out a faint scarred track – I must make for that, but owing to the roundabout way I had to take, it never seemed to get any nearer.  Once I found myself entering an area of rushes – I had to cross it, and it became awkward work I can tell you, with the bike on my shoulder, balanced with one foot on a little knob of grass, and striding across little dank, murky pools to the next sod.  At length I found myself getting deeper in the mire, so I had to retrace my steps across the little lakes of bog.  Then I spotted a ruined farmhouse surrounded by trees, so I made my way to it, and there found the track.  After that I was able to trace it up the very steep hillside to the summit where there was an ordnance mark surrounded by railings.

I got an extensive view though, from the summit, the Ribble Valley, Pendle Hill, Malham Fells and table-topped Ingleborough to the North and East, then the Fylde and the Lancashire coast from Morecambe Bay down to Liverpool, with the great black and green patch of South Lancashire between.

I missed my way afterwards, and wandered through many ruined farmyards, along very rough tracks, eventually coming out in the village of Brinscall.  Then by various lanes to Clayton Green for tea at the Lord Nelson, an old coaching house dated 1688.  I returned by Wigan road to Euxton, then by a newly discovered byway skirting Chorley and crossing the main road at Yarrow Bridge, came home via Limbrick and Heath Charnock.           40 miles

Tuesday, 1 September 1925 Hall i’ th’ Wood

Post:      This is a jaunt ’round the back of Bolton’ to explore part of our local history, but Charlie gets caught up in the history of the Romans, (I don’t quite understand the connection!) and we get an interesting article.

Tuesday, September 1                           Hall I’ th’ Wood and the Jumbles

 At 7pm tonight, Ben came over, and we headed up Blackburn road to Astley Bridge, turning down a cinder road that gave way to a ‘ginnel’ and crossed a footbridge, afterwards climbing steeply to the fine, timber-fronted mansion called Hall I’ th’ Wood, where Samuel Crompton invented the ‘Spinning Jenny’, an invention that revolutionised cotton spinning, and from which eventually sprang the ‘mule’, that mechanical wonder of modern times.  Hall I’ th’ Wood was purchased by Mr W. Lever, (afterwards Lord Leverhulme), who presented it and a sum of money for its restoration to his native town, Bolton.  The Corporation then restored the property and opened it as a Museum in memory of Samuel Crompton, furnishing it throughout with genuine furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Hall is bigger inside than would seem from the outside, and is vastly interesting, with its old chairs, tables, chests and massive sideboards, pottery, cooking utensils including a weird device for turning the spit, paintings, wainscoted walls and rich plaster ceilings.  The staircase, circular, is attached to a central newel post such as is seen in the round towers of ruined castles, except that it is of oak.  The oak floors are uneven and knotted with age, and the whole timber work is held together with wooden pegs, no nails being used.  From one of the latticed windows a gorgeous sunset streaking the rugged clouds above the moors was beheld, then we took a walk round the rear of the house, where is a smooth lawn and tastefully laid out garden.  The back of the Hall is stone-built.

Carrying on up Tonge Moor Road we came to Bradshaw, where the church there has a detached tower, then to Ruins Lane at Harwood, and up the rutty lane past the cottage where my Grandparents lived and died.  This lane, with the old, worked out quarries at the head, brought memories back to me of the times, 12 years ago, when I used to accompany my father on Sunday mornings to visit the old folks.  I always used to look forward eagerly to the huge piece of apple pie made in the good old fashioned way, and I never failed to get it.  There is the same old hen-pen that Grandpa owned.  There never were hens like those of Grandpa!  Or eggs.

Higher up, amongst the quarries, my cousin George and I used to play at soldiers or climb the precipice.  ‘Spion Kop’ is still there, the hill that was oft defended and rarely taken, a fortress of childhood – or boyhood – days.  I looked for that tree at the foot of which we firmly believed it was an apple tree, though whenever we went there, no fruit was to be found.  It is a sycamore!  Those ‘dear dead days beyond recall’!  A happy memory with a tinge of sorrow that the cottage is not in the hands of the good-hearted old folks who always gave us a welcome and who gladly gave us the best of their simple food.  I am not one who thinks that my boyhood days were the best – I am enjoying my best days now, thanks to the wheel, but still……   they were happy days.

We traversed the narrow tracks which I had almost forgotten, over many stiles and through moorland farmyards, the while twilight deepened and a great golden moon tried to break through scurrying clouds.  A high wind was blowing and the evening was chilly when we struck that line of Roman Road, Watling Street.  Up here, almost 1,000 ft above sea level, the increasing darkness, with the wind-swept village street of Affetside before us and across a moorland valley the blunt ridge of Holcombe with its tower in black silhouette, little imagination is needed to stand aside and let the Legion’s pass.  I wonder if the villagers, looking through their bedroom windows on some such night as this is, catch a glimpse of the ghostly legionaries as they march along towards the wild North?  Or hear, as I thought I did, the crunching of chariot wheels, the rattle of reins and the hoarse shouts of Roman captains, borne down to them on the wind?  Sentimentalism perhaps, but what a sentimental night!  We came to the ancient cross which we used to call Roman, and which we used to kiss, though why, I never could find out.  It is just a cylindrical shaft about three feet long placed on three round steps, and I have an idea that its origin is not Roman at all, but Saxon, as the name Affetside seems to suggest.  Probably it is a Saxon market cross.  A rapid descent took us to Hawkshaw Lane Ends, where is the Edgeworth road and then a dark, bumpy tree-shaded track brought us out above Turton Bottoms.  It was quite dark now, but we joined a track, carrying our bikes down to a mill, and then crossed the River Tonge by a narrow footbridge, and entered the Jumbles.  This is very pretty, with a deep waterfall and a river course over huge masses or rock just as is found in the wilder rivers of North Wales.  It was a long, beautiful walk beneath shadowy trees and by a tinkling stream, but there is one marring effect – the odour.  Regaining rideable roads, we soon sped down to the Oaks and then home.  I think that the various types of scenery about Bolton would justify a ‘Beautiful Bolton’ campaign.  Who’ll start it?                                                   15 miles