Wednesday, 3 June 1925 Belmont Moors

Post:      Another short rant about Politics I am afraid, but a pleasant enough evening ride.  Charlie is very conscious of his ‘place’ in society.

Wednesday, June 3                               Belmont Moors

 Ben and I started out for an evening jaunt around Lever Park tonight at 7pm.  Horwich was soon reached, from where we entered the park and made a bee-line for the partly built ‘ruined castle’.  Since the late Lord Leverhulme died, all work has been stopped indefinitely, all the beautifying which he had employed many men to do has been postponed, and now the whole lot – except the park itself which was a gift to Bolton – has to be sold, including the art gallery, the fine zoo of animals and the Bungalow gardens.

It seems to me the same old story.  One capitalist spends part of the money he has ‘won’ from the public, for the public’s good, and then as soon as he dies, the successor (the son in this case) sells up so as to realise as much as he can on the estate – the old capitalist regime of ‘grab all I can’.  Thank goodness that there are definite signs of the end of this rotten industrial system, and the beginning of a new and more Christian England – a system of Reward for those who Labour – a system of working for the common good – a system of real religion, not the present religion of money, but the religion of Socialism.  Politics again!  I promised once to keep this record clear of politics, but so closely are the lives of every thinking person today interwoven with politics, that it is absolutely impossible to keep it even out of the most care-free of pastimes.

The ‘castle’ was closed, so we carried on via Hall Barn to Rivington, where starts the long climb to the summit of Belmont Moors.  In an enclosure we saw two zebra’s, the first I have seen for a long time.  They are very fine looking animals, enhanced by the even contour of their stripes.  Emu’s too were in the enclosure, and in another Llama’s, Indian Cattle and Deer.

The subsequent route to the summit gives some fine moorland scenery, and if the air be clear, an extensive view across the plains to the sea.  The air however, is not always clear, for westwards stretch part of the great industrial area of Lancashire, with isolated townships helping to cloud the more northerly districts.  At the highest point, we met a chap known to us who ‘rides a bicycle’, and helped him to mend a puncture, then the club, out on an evening spin, rolled up, and we joined them.  A drop through that fine little pass (or cwm) brought us to Belmont, then down the main road and up the cart-way to the top of Scout Road.  Another fine run in a slight rainfall brought us to Bob’s Smithy, and Doffcocker, and so into Bolton by Chorley Old Road.  I think that we, in a great industrial centre, are indeed fortunate to have so near us such fine scenery as can be found amongst the moors East of Horwich.

22 miles

Saturday, 30 May 1925 Great Budworth

Post:    So here is the new bike in its first incident that we know about.  I am surprised Charlie doesn’t make more of it, when he finds his relatively new wheel buckled !

I always recall when reading about these little incidents one dark and frosty night returning through the lanes from Malham, a tandem in the lead followed by another dozen or so on solo’s.  On a short downgrade the tandem screams “Ice” whereupon we all brake and all fall off.  I have always maintained that if the tandem had kept silent no-one would have tumbled off, as it was, the only bike to remain upright was the tandem !

Saturday, May 30                                  Great Budworth

  ‘Joe’ of the Bolton Wheelers came this afternoon, and we started out together, with a glaring sun and a hefty wind before us.  In the lanes between Atherton and Butts Bridge we stopped awhile to watch a cricket match (not that I am interested in cricket, it is too ‘come a day, go a day’).  The wind contested right of way with us, until at Glazebury, we entered another path, which put it sideways.  Joe skidded into me, and both of us sat in the grass suddenly.  It was comfortable, so we stayed there a while, then picked our bikes up, and I found the front wheel buckled.  It was not bad however, although it did interfere with the brake.  We found that a side wind can be quite as troublesome as a headwind, especially on Chat Moss.  Some shelter from the breeze and shade from the sun fell to our lot when we entered the leafy Cheshire lanes after climbing to Broomedge, although after High Legh we had a dust-up now and then.  We were quite ready for tea in that old-fashioned village of Great Budworth by the time we got there.  Restarting with the wind behind, we rode through Arley Park, catching glimpses of the rather handsome brick hall before we reached quiet Arley, and entered another section of the grounds to quaint Arley Green.  Just beyond here, we came to Arley Mere and Mill, which latter timber and brick place with its old water wheel we must needs explore, and have a rest on the parapet over the beautifully situated lake.

Next we inspected the rhyming signpost (see January 25), then finding ourselves once more on the High Legh road, we increased our pace, and with the wind behind, found it no difficult matter to ‘blind’ home.

56 miles

 

Sunday, 24 May 1925 A ‘Blind’ Home

Post:      Before the service starts Charlie gets in a testimonial for Wayfarer, by way of praise for his contribution to cycling and all that Wayfarer represented.  Ironic in that 30 odd years later, Charlie was the moving force behind the erection of a memorial to Wayfarer high up in the Berwyn mountains of mid Wales, and described in ‘Over the Top’.  Search for the story under ‘Nant Rhyd Wilym’ on this website.

Later we get the fine detail of their ‘blind’ home, it couldn’t have been more exciting for them than a real race !

Sunday, May 24                                    A ‘Blind’ Home

We were up betimes this morning, and soon got out for a walk before breakfast.  The morning was sunny and calm, giving every promise of a fine day.  Outside, with our London friend, we met a large party of Boltonians, some of whom had travelled through the night.  What a story they had to tell!  Rain all the way after Newcastle.   One chap, in a moment of supreme optimism, had left his cape and mudguards at home, and very soon was a sorry mess.  At Lichfield, he (when they stopped for a snack), had removed his shoes and stockings and was running about in his bare feet!  At last the cathedral caretaker came and cleared them all away.  When they arrived at ‘The Laurels’, Meriden, they commandeered a mangle and squoze their stockings and even jackets out!  I am not altogether sorry we changed our minds about the time to make the journey after all.

A merry breakfast, then we went out to watch the crowds roll in.  Before 10am the roads were chock full of cyclists; from every direction they came, all kinds and conditions of riders and mounts, but in overwhelming numbers were the lightweights.  ‘Wayfarer’ was there too, and he must have felt proud to think that nine-tenths of this great era of sensible cycling is due to him, that the ever-growing prosperity of cycling has been chiefly wrought by his own tireless efforts.  For all his critics, ‘Wayfarer’ stands head and shoulders above others as a cycling scribe and an enthusiast of the wheel.  The green was filled with fine, sturdy lads, elderly men who look only half their age, lasses, clad for the most part in sensible ‘rationals’.  What a direct contrast to the sallow-faced youths and painted girls who parade the streets and fill the ‘pictures’ at weekends!  At 10am the green was crowded, the main road impassable, all traffic being stopped when the service started.  This was conducted in a simple fashion by the Bishop of Coventry, and at 10.30, after a benediction, it ended.  We made a rush for our machines, and bade our Londoner friend (with whom we exchanged addresses) goodbye.  We had a job to get through the crush onto the crowded Stonebridge road, so that it got to 10.50 before we started.

Beyond Stonebridge however, the road was clear, and we set a rare pace to Coleshill, passing many others, bent, like us, on getting to lunch.  Unconsciously, all of us were set on the same place, so it developed into a kind of race.  [The reader may be forgiven if he believes that Charlie is describing random cyclists all heading in the same direction – not a bit of it, this is the annual ‘blind’ back from Meriden by all the Bolton CTC section].  We had something of an advantage in that we were fresher by a night’s rest than many of the others, so we began to draw away from the main party.  On the gradual climb up through Wishaw to Basset’s Pole, our lower gears gave us the lead over most of the others.  The three spires of Lichfield Cathedral came into view in a very short time, then the streets, and the hill beyond bringing us out of the saddle for the first time (23 miles).  Again, we passed two more, and believing ourselves first, we made supreme efforts along the flat road to beat ‘evens’.

Eight miles further on we reached the place, to find three more there before us, and a whole pack at our heels.  A wash, and a fine meal of fruit and eggs and tea and the best bread and butter I have tasted for a while, (the whole costing us only 1/-), then packing our coats away, we made a start all together.

The wind was behind us, and we soon got beyond Rugeley, where, under a railway bridge was a deep water splash.  I got in the gutter, and went over the hubs in it, (up to the knees), but in the hot sunshine I found it a fine refresher.  Between here and Rugeley one chap caught cramp, and the whole party excepting four of us waited for him.  We four continued our hectic career through Stone and along to Newcastle – 57 miles – where the setts and hills beyond slacked us.  Talke o’ th’ Hill, now, Red Bull, then Miss Hallam, one of the four, punctured, and whilst we repaired it, three passed us.  We soon had it right, and were off again, past Moreton Old Hall to Congleton, where the said three were having a drink, and were joined by Miss Hallam.  After walking the hill, we again started to rush, and simply ‘blinded’ the ten miles to Alderley Cross, where the potterers (from Bolton) were at tea.  We were first of the Meriden ‘crowd’.  Three or four of us started on the last stage of the journey via Wilmslow and Handforth, leaving Tom at Kingsway End, and then catching the rest up, all finishing the run together.  I reached home at 8.30 pm.

Thus went down another memorial service, and another fine run into the Heart of the English Wonderland.  According to the newspapers, 10,000 cyclists had gathered at Meriden that day.  Upon the cyclists Memorial are the words:

‘To all the Cyclists who died in the Great War, 1914 – 1918’

112 miles

Saturday, 23 May 1925 The Heart of England – Meriden

Post:      Charlie really enjoys these annual jaunts to Meriden each summer, not least the prospect of a massive ‘blind’ all the way to Bolton on the following day.  No sightseeing then !  Apologies for not being able to delete the text surrounding part of the picture of Maxstoke Castle, those sharp of eye will be able to locate the said part of the story the Castle occurred !

Saturday, May 23                 The Heart of England – Meriden

Again the months have rolled by, and again the call has gone forth to every real cyclist to steer towards the Mecca – to make the yearly pilgrimage to far-famed Meriden.

“Meriden in Warwickshire,     Where the grass is green….”

We had thought of an all-night run, but being, for the nonce, a little ‘cash in hand’ (to tell the truth), and thinking that we could make one or two detours, we at length decided to make a two day jaunt of it.  Well, to be correct, a one-day-jaunt and a one-day ‘blind’!   Tom, who has sometimes more than a grain of sense (cyclists usually have none at all – the homing bird) wrote for lodgings for the night and was accepted, and we later found the value of this forethought, although as a rule we leave that to chance.  Anyway, the arrangements were Kingsway End, 9am, Saturday morning.

I was up at 6.30, finding the rain fairly sousing down.  Ma and Pa were booked for a picnic to Fleetwood (of all places!) via train.  There was much grousing going on over this ‘spoiled’ outing, and the cry was “What a miserable day we shall have”.  I felt very thankful that Tom and I had such a glorious day before us, whilst they, cooped up in a railway carriage, had such a black, wet outlook.  I started at 7.30am inside my cape, but when I reached Walkden, it was fine.  As soon as I had stowed the cape, down came the dampness again, but I said ‘cob it’, and carried on cape-less.  At Barton I rode along with one who had just finished work, and nearing Stretford my rear tyre gave up the ghost.  I had no solution, but my friend gave me a little.  How insignificant punctures are when one has a quick release!  At this juncture my commuting friend left me, and I put my cape on again, only to doff it at Chorlton.  I was ten minutes late at the rendezvous where Tom was waiting, and then we got on the road together.

We had barely left Cheadle when another storm come on, and for the third time in 18 miles the cape came into use, and stayed on until Wilmslow was reached, where we put them out of sight with a firm resolution that come what may they would stay there for a few hours at least.  At Alderley Edge we had a pow-wow over the route, and decided to carry on, on the main road, and ‘crash through’ the Potteries.  The Congleton road via Siddington and Marton is really pretty, looking better now after rain, so that we had quite a pleasant ride for ten miles to the market town – Congleton – by the River Dane.  The rain had left us now (sailing Fleetwood-wards), and being replaced by a stiff headwind which considerably retarded our progress.  However, that mattered not – we had gained the London road – the road to Meriden.

Astbury with its quaint ancient church dropped behind.  On our left the long sweeping hill dominated by Mow Cop was falling away, Moreton Old Hall came into sight, and we stopped a minute to view this gem of timbering which stands in a coppice and facing a field, looking from the road just like a big beautiful toy.  After a few minutes we restarted, and after an undulating run came down to Red Bull, and the commencement of the Potteries.  Luckily this road only traverses a corner of this industrial area – about four miles, but what we do see of it is quite enough.  As Tom Hughes says: ‘he who goes through the Potteries twice in a day un-necessarily is a maniac’.  The stricken area starts with a long walk through Talke, ‘Talke o’ the Hill’, until the summit is reached, when on a clear day, parts of nine counties may be seen.  It was not bad today, but our views were mostly ugly buildings and chimney stacks.  To Newcastle we passed, (I will leave out the rest) and leaving its crowded streets behind, we regained good roads, and, from Trent Vale, the beginning of some really charming scenery.

The Trent is only a small river – or a large stream here, but its surroundings are a direct contrast to those behind, and gave us plenty to admire until we reached Trentham, where we found a fine little lunch place.  For my part, I felt like it too, after 52 hard miles.

A feature of the Trent valley are the picturesque villages, which the road passes through, little timbered cottages, flowering gardens and a tranquil peaceful air does much to enhance the journey.  Stone is not a pleasant place – just an ordinary, every day kind of town with narrow awkward streets and plenty of traffic, and beyond, the scenery becomes less notable except for little instances where the real beauty of the valley asserts itself.  The wind caught us here, and made us some hard pedalling, so that I was glad to drop my gear down to 59.8”, from 63”, obtaining some ease therefrom.  Gradually the scenery improved, at Sandon, (a wonderful little place) becoming gorgeous, and again taming down until beyond Weston, we were cautioned (notice board) to drive slowly for two miles through ‘villages’ – beautiful places.

Just past Colwich, we came to the edge of the hilly and scenic Cannock Chase, then running beside a privet hedge of immense thickness, we reached Rugeley.  The thing that struck me most about this town, was the smell – you know what a tannery smells like!  The sun had been out since Talke, but now he went back, and thunder was rolling nearer.  We stopped on the fringe of the town to decide which way to go, the hilly road to Lichfield or the flat one, as a signpost obligingly informed us!  We had taken the hilly one in the dark last year, so we decided to see what it was like by day.  Capes became a necessity before we left the shelter of a railway bridge in Rugeley, and soon a thunderstorm came into being.

The rain had its own way too – well, it didn’t rain, it just hissed down.  Oh, it was grand, the thunder roaring deafeningly, lightening playing before us, and the road like a running river below us.  The hilly road was hilly, but we did not want to dismount because we were drier riding – we could hardly have been any wetter though – so we forced our way up each hill, and rode down with the river.  The storm slackened after about 15 minutes, and seeing a notice over a house ‘home-made lemonade’ we decided to stop for a refresher.  The lemonade tasted suspiciously like that 1d an ounce (or was it 2 ounces?) stuff we used to get when we went to school, mixed with cold water.  Thus, with water both inside and out, we carried on.  Between Brereton and Longdon we got another sample of South Staffordshire rains; a worthy example it proved too.  The scenery however, was splendid, and the rain worthwhile if only for the freshening up of the woods and hedgerows.  The rain continued this time for about five miles, until we joined the other road and dropped down into Lichfield, turning aside to view the massive frontage of the ancient cathedral, which rears itself high above all the other buildings.  It is a beautiful picture.  Then passing through the busy, narrow streets, we passed the humble birthplace of ‘Ben Johnson’, and regained the open country beyond.

The scenery was getting better again, changing into rolling, tree-clad hills, never high, but very verdant and how green!  The road surface too, was beyond criticism, whilst every cyclist we met (and there were many) called out ‘Cheerio’ as he passed – a difference we found very welcome from those around Manchester.  Jogging along, now inside capes, now without them, we climbed to Basset’s Pole and found that we were in leafy Warwickshire.  We also found a tea place, which provided us with fruit and cakes (one could bounce the cakes without making much of an impression) and bread and butter and tea, and, withal, a shelter from a particularly sharp storm.  After tea we slid down by tree-clad ways to Wishaw, and accompanied a Nottingham party to Coleshill.  We were only a matter of 8 miles from Meriden now, and as the evening had turned out to be one of those peaceful, calm nights, we had a mind to prolong the ride, so getting out the map, we soon found a route that would get us to Meriden via the bylanes.

Bk 7 -20021

 

A swoop down to Cole End, then a footpath (we were off again on one of our ‘stunts’) which wandered about of its own sweet will, making three sides of a square, and taking us through a park to an indescribably beautiful scene – Maxstoke Castle. This mediaeval, imposing picture of a moated fortress came rather as a surprise, for though we knew about it, we never expected anything quite like that.  The brown walls, mellowed with age, the gateway with its two fine towers, the quiet moat full of water-lilies, the woods around, all tinted with the rays of the dying sun, gave that air of beautiful tranquillity that only the English countryside on a summer eve can offer.

We lingered long here, Tom took some photographs, then we pottered down the broad avenue to the bylanes.  These are in a bad condition, but that is a matter of no account when the scenery is of a standard like this.  The road was a little hilly, winding, but the buildings and hamlets, ‘black and white’ properties adding an additional touch that was fine in the effect.  At Maxstoke, we tried to get to the ruins of the old priory, but had to be content with a fine archway on the roadside, and a walk round the old church.  Thus we pottered through woodland scenery, and by pastoral land, where the tilled soil was of rich, reddish variety, via Great Packington to Meriden – our destination.  A wash, then a walk down the road in the gathering darkness with a London cyclist who was excellent company.

The optimism of some people is startling.  Cyclists were rolling in at 10pm to 10.30pm, still looking for ‘digs’.  Of all places, Meriden, of all nights, when already the full capacity has been booked up and the village was four times its normal size, some had come with the hope of getting in!  Some went off to Coventry, six miles away, others blithely talked of getting a barn or even an old shed.

Tom Hughes, the Wigan veteran was in our place.  When we met him he was asking some where they were from.  “London, originally Oldham”, was their reply.  “So yore fro’ Owdham” said Tom.  “An theh’t from Wiggin” I said; at this he turned round and answered “An theh’t from Bowton!”.  We made a jolly supper party, London and Oldham, Wigan and Bolton, Manchester and Worcester, and the dialect which we gave caused some amusement.  Lancashire had the monopoly of our bedroom, and the conversation lasted until well after midnight.  112 miles

Sunday, 17 May 1925 Moel Famau & Nant-y-Garth

Post:        Well, well, how many of us get up early for a long ride, and have to get breakfast and all our stuff together by candlelight ?  We oldsters tend to forget that electric light only came along for many houses during our infancy, which is true, we, parents and I, moved into a better house than the one we were currently living in, and that had gas lighting in every room.  But my father soon had the electric wiring in place and we joined the modern age !  That was in the 1940’s.  No mention of Charlie’s saddle today, but the problem still has to be resolved.

It seems to me that Charlie is enduring a spell of working full time, as there have been no midweek excursions for some time, and if it helps to pay off the bill for his new bike we can congratulate him into the bargain.

Sunday, May 17                                    Moel Famau and Nant-y-Garth

 Arrangements had been made for another long run into Wales, our intention, if the visibility warranted it, being to make the ascent of Moel Famau.  The run would serve a dual purpose by getting us fit for the all-night pilgrimage to Meriden next weekend.  Therefore we proposed to meet at Dennison’s, Mickle Trafford, at 7.30am, the first there to order a pot of tea.  The weather just recently has become quite stifling, if hardly sunny, and rain has been conspicuous by its absence.

I was up before 3am, stealthily making preparations by candle light, and at 4.15am, the door was quietly closed and I was off.  I had started rather early, giving myself a good three hours to cover the 34 miles, because a run of this length demands a careful beginning.  I started with my lamp lit, but soon put it out, when, as Shakespeare says:

The morning steals upon the night

Melting the darkness……….

Atherton and Leigh soon slipped by, and I came to Pennington Station, where the railway crosses the swamps and stagnant morass of that part of Chat Moss that has not been reclaimed, and over which I saw billions of little greenfly.  There were so many that the air was hazy with them, and I was glad to see that the road itself had not been invaded.  At Lowton I joined the lane route to Winwick, and then downhill into the dirty streets of Warrington at 5.50.

None too soon was Chester road reached.  How beautiful everything was on that sweet May morning, how green the fields and hedgerows were, how pretty the gardens, with apple blossom and flowers of all hues, how clean the air, and how quiet and free the Open Road.

“Good god!  How sweet are all things here,

How beautiful the fields appear!”

The sky too, was wonderful, full of fleecy clouds, white and grey, and in the west, a delicate pink.  I pottered along, walking all the stiff little hills, taking in the views, and watching the sunlight slowly spreading over the colourful headlands of Frodsham and Helsby.  Would that all could seem as peaceful and lovely every day, as the Chester road was to me that early morn.  I reached Mrs Dennison’s first, Tom coming a little later, and before 8am we were having breakfast (the second!), 34 miles from home.  Mrs Dennison predicted rain to us, and Tom said to me: “Whatever shall we do if it rains?”   (Let it!).

Well we soon got going again, covering the last four miles into ‘Caer Gawr Lleion’ by 8.30.  The day hardly warranted the ascent of the ‘Hill of Mothers’, but we decided to carry on to it, by the direct road via Mold.  From Chester came five flat, dull miles, until at Bretton we turned and crawled uphill for two and a half miles through fine woodland scenery to Pen-y-Mynnydd.  There were some spectacular views, if not very clear, of Caergwrle Castle in the Hope Valley, and Moel Famau in front, rising above in massive bulk, before we dropped into the Vale of Alyn, and speedily came via Llong to Mold at 9.30am.  Very soon it was ‘shanks’ from Maes-y-Ffynnon, and the scenery was nothing to shout about until we reached the summit  at Gwern-y-mynydd, the ‘Swamp on the Moors’, but the subsequent drop into the Leete Valley at Cat Hole revealed some gorgeous wood, rock and water scenery.

From the Loggerheads (where is an old water mill), we tramped up to Tafarn-y-Gelyn, picking primroses and violets which grew profusely by the wayside.  At the latter place, the old Ruthin road over Bwlch Pen Barras was joined, a rough, steep, disused track, but, withal, in fine scenery, though wild and barren enough farther along.  The Bwlch (pass) runs between Fron hen(?) and Moel Famau, and just beyond the farm of Ty-fy-nain, the well defined path to the summit of the latter starts.

We had not got far along before it developed into a scramble of the first magnitude.  In addition, the air was sweltering, so that the stops for ‘breathers’ were many, and varied by the awkward poses necessary to keep us from going backwards.  Then a level mile or so, where we could snatch a ride, and up again over slippery turf, and clay, and stones, with a diversion climbing over fallen trees, and networks of bracken.  Again level with the peak now only just above us, then clambering over a stile, we left the bikes and ran up the remaining few feet to the ruined Jubilee Tower, 1,821 ft above sea level.  Only in one direction was there a view, and that was overlooking the Vale of Clwyd, which lay below, a huge expanse of fields, with Ruthin in the centre, the buildings only just discernible.

Beyond that lay a wild expanse of moorland peaks, above which, in the far distance stood two twin peaks with a kind of bridge between them.  To our minds they seemed to be the Carneddau Dafydd and Llewellyn, on the threshold of Snowdonia, both of them being over 3,400 ft high.  For the rest, all was enclosed in a blanket of rain-mist, which was slowly creeping over the valley.  Tom got his camera going, and none too soon was he either, for in a few moments a cloud of the pea-soup variety came over, and blotted everything out.  The mist came about us until we seemed to stand amidst escaping steam.  Then the sun, a weak watery affair, would come out, and for a moment the vale would open out to us, closing up again immediately.  The sea at Rhyl was not 12 miles away, but we never saw it.

It is possible to ride down on the Ruthin track, and we tried it.  Let me say emphatically it is not a ride for a nervous person.  For the first mile it is a test of steering skill, for the path abounds in boulders and a false move may easily snap off a pedal.  This part passed, we embarked on a grassy way winding down the hillside.  Above on the left, the moors climb steeply, the path is about two feet wide, sloping towards the right, where is an almost sheer drop of 150 ft.  The grass was slippery, the gradient easy, but the heart thumps as we skidded towards that hollow, were many.  More than once, we found ourselves looking over the edge as we rode along, our wheels being inches away.  But we were far from being the biggest fools, for we saw two motor-cycles coming up, and we just managed to climb the slope and let them pass.  They had one person on the pillion too, and made our tubbies ache as we saw them jolting from one side to the other.  Nerves!

This lasted about a mile, until it comes to Bwlch-y-Pare – and a road that is more precipitous and rough, though a little safer.  At length it got too steep to ride, so dismounting, we walked down to a farmyard, round a field, and over a stile into a wood where the ground was thick with bluebells and we trampled primroses under foot, so numerous were they.  Crossing a stream by means of a rickety wooden footbridge, we gained a road of doubtful pretensions, and then soon came to the main road at Rhiwysg.  We were now in the wonderful Vale of Clwyd, and very soon reached the quaint, anyhow-built town of Ruthin.

We made for Parkinson’s in Clwyd street for lunch, a place we had called at before and found ‘tres-bon’, neither were we disappointed this time.  The old gent knew us, after all this time (July 20 last), and recalled that last time it was my birthday, a thing I had forgotten!  He also remembered that we had ascended Moel Famau, and that it was raining (we had twelve hours of it that day).  After a pleasant chat we left at 2pm, through Ruthin, and catching a glimpse of its castle, from which the town is named.  ‘Rhudd-ddin’ was the original name, and means the ‘Red Fortress’.  It is quite easy to see how it has been corrupted into Ruthin, for the ‘dd’ is always pronounced as ‘th’ as in ‘thus’, ‘the’, etc, thus being spoken of as Ruth-thin.  The castle was built by Lord de Grey in the 14th century, and has undergone some hard knocks until, in 1646 it was dismantled by order of Parliament.  Old Churchyard, the poet, says of it:

“The Castle stands on rocke much like red brick,

The dykes are cut with toole through stony crags,

The towers are hye, the walls are large and thicke,

The work itself would shake a subject’s bagge”.

After getting out of the narrow streets, we regained the open country, and headed for Llanfair-Dyffryn-Clwyd – and the hills.  From this place there seemed to be no way out for us but the mountains which rose in blunt peaks, all arrayed in a line before us.  It was only when we got right under the shadow of one giant that we discovered the road running into a narrow, wooded defile.

At first it was rather open, and densely wooded, then it closed in, climbing slightly, with a noisy stream running beside us – a boulder strewn stream, with the rock-banks interwoven with lichen and ferns, a stream that was a succession of little, crystal waterfalls and rapids and dancing light, a stream that meandered restlessly from one side of the pass to the other, constantly crossing the road above it.  Higher up, when the road became steeper and we got warmer, we stopped, and bathed our hands in the rushing water, and drank of it.  Ah!  How cold and sweet it tasted.  The exquisite blending of wood and rock and water was only such as a Welsh valley can show, it was a pity not to linger here awhile and get full measure of enjoyment from the scenery, but home was a long way off (70 miles) and we were in a hard district for speed.  So we kept on, until the quiet sylvan beauty gave way to bare rocks and moorland slopes, and the steepening gradient forced us out of the saddle.  Then we reached the summit, and paused a moment to remark on the two-mile loveliness of this pass, Nant-y-Garth.

The high road claimed us now, and with increasing velocity we sped towards Llandegla.  At the Crown Hotel we stifled a strong desire to add yet another pass to the day’s bit by going over the Horseshoe; perhaps the thought of that dismal Ruabon-Wrexham road prevented us, so we wormed our way into the moorland col that leads to Bwlchgwyn.  Along here we saw a sheep that had been shorn of its wool on its body, whilst the neck and head was covered, looking just as if it were a ruff!  Perhaps the shearer had ‘knocked off’ on the stroke of the hour according to trade union regulations!  At Bwlchgwyn it started to rain, and this we attributed to our being in the vicinity of Llandegla.

It always rains when we visit Llandegla.  I see that a notice has been placed at each end of the Nant-y-Ffrith pass road, stating that the said road is in a dangerous condition.  We always thought it would prove a bit arduous for motors.  Thank goodness for that!  We joined this route, and almost immediately Tom punctured.  We repaired it leisurely beneath some trees whilst the rain poured down, and when it began to come through we got inside our capes and rode off.  The road certainly is in a terrible condition, full of loose stones, and demanding extreme care on the hairpin bends leading to the tumbledown bridge in the Ffrith.  I still wonder how Tom managed to escape even more punctures with that worn open-sided tyre he had on.

A stiff climb brought us to the better road, from where we crashed downhill to Ffrwd and through the pretty little vale to Cefn-y-bedd, the ‘Ridge of the Grave’.  Here the rain ceased, but started again immediately capes were packed away, and after a while we replaced them, and so reached Rossett on the Chester road.  A mile of the main road was enough; we were glad to turn into one of the lanes of the Eaton Hall estate and escape from the featureless highway to the beautiful foliage of the Park.  Violets and other delicate-hued flowers lined the wayside, whilst nearer the hall, the ground was a yellow carpet of primroses.  Tom contrived to take a photograph of the Hall, then passing the studs of the Duke of Westminster’s famous racehorses, we rode in view of the beautiful River Dee to Eccleston, where we passed out of the Estate – and put our capes away.

It was but a short run to Chester, where we passed the Dee Mills famous in song and story – which, although they are so old that William the Conqueror drew revenue from them, look modern enough now, crossed the old Dee bridge, passed under the historical walls and walked up Bridge street, a street that I will lay against any I have seen for richness of medieval architecture in houses;  Some buildings are old and bulge forward, others stand to the edge of the pavement, others show some beautiful timbering in trefoils, quatrefoils and gables, with latticed windows, mullioned windows, cross-beams and old oaken stanchions.  Were it not for the present day dresses and clothing, and motor-cars, one could easily persuade oneself that he was living in the 16th and 17th century.  Tea was calling, so we did not linger, but rushed through this City of Legions as is, I am afraid, our wont.  If Chester were a hundred miles or more away, we should appreciate it far better.  After a gradual climb through Hoole, we started dropping slightly, until, four miles past Chester, we stopped for tea at the little farmhouse at Mickle Trafford.

On the road again, in company with hordes of motor-cars – the same road that 12 hours ago seemed so pretty and quiet – a road that we now wanted to cover as quickly as possible.  Helsby and its prominent rocky headland, Frodsham with its wide main street, a drop to the canal-river – the Weaver, and a long drag up to Sutton Weaver, then an undulating, slightly favourable road through Daresbury and Warrington was in sight.  We skirted the town by taking the suburban road through Stockton Heath and Thelwall, then a narrow bypass into Lymm with its old market place, cobbled, and its sandstone sundial and stocks.  At Heatley, we stood planning the next ride – the pilgrimage to Meriden, and came to a last minute decision to make a weekend of it instead of an all-nighter.  Thus we left each other, I crossing Warburton Bridge, and facing a steady breeze across unsheltered Chat Moss.  I reached home before 10pm.  Another splendid day in Wales, with a mountain of 1,820 ft to our credit and three passes –Bwlch Pen Barras, Nant-y-Garth, and Nant-y-Ffrith.  Is it worth it ? there is little need to answer that, we knew before we started.                                                               140 miles

‘Proud of her ancient race, Britannia shows

Where, in her Wales, another Eden glows,

And all her sons, to truth and honour dear,

Prove they deserve the Paradise they share’.

Miss Sewell

 

Sunday, 10 May 1925 Pennsylvania

Post:        This was another gentle potter of 90 miles, in which Cheshire is well and truly crossed hither and thither.  A good way to properly christen the new bike was it not ?

On days like this Charlie was very descriptive, and we all benefit from his ability to describe the country he passes through beautifully.  And no panics today.

Sunday, May 10                                              Pennsylvania

We had arranged for a potter somewhere in Cheshire today, our arrangements being Broomedge, 9am, meaning a 7.30 start for both of us.  It is now an understood thing to start early during the summer months, not so much for distance as for getting clear of the towns and main roads before the traffic becomes too objectionable.  [Whatever would he have made of the traffic in 2010?].  I had a shock when I discovered that the time was 7.45am on awakening, and had to get a move on, leaving home at 8.15.  I knew I should be late, for it is a sheer impossibility for me to cover those 20 miles in 45 minutes, but by pushing on as fast as possible, I arrived at 9.30, and so, after apologies, we made a start together, plunging into the quiet lanes immediately.

The weather was warm and the outlook for the day seemed good, although that was little to worry about, but the evidences of Spring being fully awakened made the world seem a wonderful place to live in and us seem privileged above most others to enjoy it fully.  We pedalled along chatting over each new scene as it came in sight round the next bend.  Some people say we are always in Cheshire.  If they saw and loved this County Palatine as we do, they would be like us, and would never have enough of those twisting byways, old world hamlets and shady woodlands.  Rural Great Budworth came into being; we passed slowly down its one narrow street, crossed the main road at the bottom, and with Budworth mere below us, carried on to Comberbach and the lanes again.  Little Leigh now, then an old track over an extremely rough and muddy surface, with a sheer fall to the Weaver Valley; across, then up to Acton Bridge, and the climbing road from Crowton to Norley brought us into the wooded precincts of Delamere Forest.  The main road from Hatchmere was fast, bounding us along to Chester road at the Abbey Arms, where we crossed this motorist’s speedway and very soon reached Cotebrook.

Byways again, sweet-smelling, tree clad byways lined with quaint ‘wattle and daub’ cottages, whose gardens displayed a beautiful and varied array of flowers, sent us comfortably along to Tiverton cross-roads, and then, dropping downhill with venerable old Beeston Castle before us, we halted for lunch at Beeston Brook.  We stayed over an hour here, then, at 1pm we took to the road again, climbing up to Beeston Smithy.  The afternoon had turned out sunny and calm, but a heat mist enshrouded the more distant views, whilst the scenery and warmth was making us want to potter.  Rounding the foot of the woody slope on which stand the turrets and castellated walls of Peckforton, half castle, half mansion, we came to the gateway leading to the estate, and immediately entered the beautiful woods.  The track was chiefly stones and very deep mud, but what matters how rough the way, or how muddy and wet we get so long as the scenery is good?  The best lies off the beaten track.  We sat down on some wooden railings, to listen to the life of the woods, to review the kaleidoscope of colour – the tender greenery of leaves and grass, the russet brown of leaves that are dead, on trees not yet awakened, to admire the setting of a little cottage, its black timbering and whitened bricks showing vividly against a dark setting of trees, to watch the slow progress of some insect along a tree-trunk, and the speedy flight of birds.  One could have stayed here for ever!

Bk 7 -18019

Then to the little row of quaint homesteads marked on the map as Pennsylvania, and to Upper Burwardsley, from where the head of Peckforton Gap was reached.  A sandy, precipitous scramble downhill brought us to the road along the foot of the range.  A change now was coming over, the black clouds rolling towards us, giving a queer silence and semi-darkness.  ‘Ne’r cast a clout till May is out’ as we recalled the old adage.  We rode towards the darkness, then at Bickerton, branched on to a dirt road, which developed into a mudbath before we regained the tarred road at Bunbury, a typical Cheshire village.  An adventure with a hen which touched my front wheel and flew screaming away unhurt marked our progress down to Highwayside, where we found the black clouds had gone and left wet roads behind.  Quite moderate scenery fell to us during our next ramble through the lanes until Eaton, picturesque as ever was reached, and glorious little byways along by Oulton Park, where primroses and violets held sway in the hedge sides, brought us to Little Budworth.

We now remembered our tea, and urged our wheels more quickly to Vale Royal and Whitegate, then reached Chester road at Sandiway.  It is but a short road down to quaint, dirty Northwich, but we saw more motor vehicles then than we had all day.  We discovered that the cinder road between Witton Flashes had subsided, making the two huge lakes into one, but decided to carry on.  It is a rather eerie experience riding through six inches of water and knowing that a few feet on each side might be – was – several feet deep, and not being sure that the road had not cracked!  Anyway, except for wet feet we came out alright and passed on to Great Budworth, discovering here that our pet tea place had been invaded by motorists.  Motorists and us do not get on so well together, so to avoid the usual arguments we carried on to Arley Green.  The last time we called here was at the end of my summer holidays last July, when one visitor broke his ankle and we had to rush to Budworth to call out the doctor.  The incoherent story we put to the doctor, due to inadequate information given to us at the time, had not ended well.  The ankle apparently had been set wrong and it had to be done again, as we now discovered,  and its owner now had a limp.  Curiously enough the patient was here again today but wasn’t about at the time of our visit.

It was a fine little place and in beautiful scenery.  Leaving by the park road to Arley, we followed a wayward path, and eventually reached that fine moated mansion, Swineyard Hall, which Tom photographed.  High Legh reached, we dropped down to Broomedge and Heatley, then joined the ‘tons’ road via Warburton, Partington, (fine views of the steelworks across the Ship Canal), Carrington and Flixton.  It almost takes an expert to follow the route afterwards traversed, to Urmston and Barton.  We parted at Patricroft, thoroughly satisfied with the potter.                                                   90 miles

 

Saturday, 9 May 1925 Millington

Post:    One has the feeling that his attempt to overcome the doubtful attractions of the Lady Cyclists Rally, where ever it was being held, did not pan out too well. He was under the influence of a sulk in my opinion, not like Charlie to miss a sing song, especially whilst in the company of the Wigan Wheelers  musical ensemble !  But as his depression is not described we can, once more, only wonder !

Saturday, May 9                                              Millington

The lady cyclists rally is fixed for today, and as every one who knows me in the club, knows I have a fear of such things.  There is only one function that I like to attend in May, and that is the memorial service at Meriden.  Apart from that, I hate anything that savours of a big gathering, even amongst cyclists.  No, two (Tom and I) are enough for me, a bike, and the Road – and be hanged to tea parties, dinners, concerts, pictures or anything else.  When I heard of the Rally, I simply said “I shall not be there”, and the Club takes no offence at my absence – they know I hate such things.

I wandered off on my own this afternoon, against a strong wind, and soon after I reached Atherton, I was inside my cape.  It did not last, however, and soon I was free from its encumbering effects.  In the middle of Chat Moss, I helped a youngster who had skidded, to straighten his front wheel (it was in a bad way), and seeing him off, carried on to Glazebrook and Rixton.  Crossing Warburton Bridge, I reached Heatley, then by various lanes to the Stamford Arms on the Lymm-Altrincham road, where I turned towards Millington.  I found a new and excellent tea place here – Boothbank has become unpopular with cyclists; putting motorists first, and practically ignoring cyclists does not go down too well.

I did not feel like staying much longer when a cyclist, one of the Wigan Wheelers, brought out a concertina, so I made my exit, glad to free myself from the unmelodious strains.  That club is noted for its music!  Not caring for the Altrincham road, I started back the same way as my arrival, getting home quite early.  Anyway, it has been better than a Lady cyclists Rally!                                             40 miles

 

Sunday, 3 May 1925 Dovedale

 

Post:    Today we endure a passionate homily about the advisability (or other) of using private hotels for hungry cyclists, and the prices they charge.  I must admit it was a very steep charge and they did well to contain their disappointment.  Just don’t ask about the old lady selling picture postcards and the extra charge of one penny (1d) to see more caves !  I have to say that it was a long and strenuous day, with lots and lots of hills to climb.

Sunday, May 3                                            Dovedale                       

Bk 7 -17018             “Oh, my beloved nymph!  fair Dove,

Princess of rivers…..

How many poets and people of literary fame have enlarged on the wonders of Dovedale?  How many cyclists have urged us to visit this beauty spot, and how often have we made a vow that on the morrow, Dovedale would be seen?  For two years we have been going, yet only today have we got there, and realised what we have missed.  I had acquainted Tom with news of my new lightweight, and left him to fix a run up, making the stipulation that we should have an early start.  To my delight, he suggested (by post) Dovedale, meet Kingsway End 7.30am – and so it was fixed.

I was up at 4.30am, creeping downstairs like a robber – I know the treads on the stairs that squeak from experience!  There is an art in preparing breakfast, having a wash, and eating the meal so quietly as not to awaken light sleepers, and, though in ordinary circumstances I am a very clumsy mortal, when anything like this is on the programme, I become as silent as a mouse.  At 5.40am I was out, no one being any the wiser.  It was daylight, but cold and bleak, and I started at a good pace to get warm.  I took the lane route to Walkden, where I had to meet a clubmate, who had promised to accompany us.  He came, but told me that something had cropped up which prevented him from carrying on with us, and so, after a short chat, he turned back and I carried on alone.  Keeping a steady pace – rather too fast for a start – I crossed Barton Bridge, and covered the suburban miles to Didsbury, and the meeting place, just as Tom came up.  He examined the machine, tried it, and gave the opinion that it is an ideal mount for our purpose, then we started.

We faced the breeze, as we passed through Cheadle and Edgeley to Stockport, then faced the four miles of ‘killing’ setts until Hazel Grove was reached, where starts the steady grind up to Disley.  I changed over to 59” in anticipation of the climb, but before I had gone too far, I knew that something had gone wrong with me – I could not get into my stride, the road seeming to drag painfully.  Of course, it was my own fault, for yesterday I had been climbing every hill, and speeding along too quickly for comfort on the morrow.  Because it takes more than a week to regain form after lying dormant for five weeks, it will be some time before I can regain my form and position – besides which I had only had four hours sleep last night, all contributing to my lethargy.  From Disley we had a level, easy run, with excellent Peakland views on the left to Whale Bridge, where again the climbing started.  Tom, too, was in a poor mood.  Once we stopped for a snack, sitting on a stone with a tantalising view of green Goyt Dale before us, and the high-ridged, brown moors toning the effect.

The drag up through Fernilee would be nothing interesting were it not for the valley on our right, a valley likened by Tom to the Trossachs in Scotland.  At Rake End starts the two mile horse-shoe round the edge of a deep valley, and for a change, we decided to join the old road, which cuts straight across.  We did not find the descent very steep, but the resultant ascent up the grass-grown road was stiff and, of course, unrideable.  At the summit, 1,401 ft, we got a good view of the moorlands surrounding Buxton, and of creeping white ribbons leading over them, with an excellent idea of the situation of the Queen of the Peak.  Down we swooped into residential quarters of Buxton, then to the Spa’s shopping centre, out of which we moved as quickly as possible – we have no use for fashion.

The Ashbourne road very soon had us out of the saddle, climbing to Harpurhill, and dropping us down, only to climb again.  The scenery consisted of bleak green moors, quarries galore, which stand out on the hill summit, and faint traces of the limestone dales.  We were clearly out of form, the scenery was barely standard, and we had got into the seat of the hill-making industry, besides which a growing wind persistently tried to push us back.  At the five cross-roads we came to Hindlow, a cold looking place, although the day was warm enough.  Up we went again, then a very short down, and up again, each up meaning a walk of at least half a mile, and when we came to a level (these were very few and far between), the wind made it hard work.  The first nine miles took one and a half hours, from Buxton, and we could see that we were rapidly losing ground.

Hurdlow, then Parsley Hay, and things got a little easier, the ‘downs’ being longer and the ‘ups’ shorter.  At Newhaven Inn, eleven miles beyond Buxton, the scenery improved, and the next seven miles via Alsop en le Dale to Fenny Bentley saw us ‘quids in’, with a general downward tendency, and superior wood and valley scenery, until, two miles from Ashbourne, we reached Tissington, a beautiful little place, and turned right for Thorpe, at the entrance to Dovedale.  We found nothing here except a motor club that made the dust fly and us curse them, but as lunch was due, we wandered away down a bylane.  A notice, ‘Luncheons, Teas’ attracted us into what seemed a farmyard, and Tom ordered a Fruit dinner.  We were invited to a lounge room and then had a stroll down the lawn.  It was a first class, private hotel.  After ages of waiting we were ushered into a dining room, where a dinner of potatoes and leathery meat was waiting for us.  It was not what we had ordered, but we could scarcely say no, so we tucked into it, and cleaned it up.  The next course was some sickly looking pudding, which we also removed, then waited for the next.  It never came, and after half an hour of waiting, we asked for the bill.  Three shillings each!  For a bit of horseflesh and a mashed potato with signs of pudding about, we were charged six shillings! we paid up, glad that we had not had a full dinner.  In future the ‘private family hotel’ will be given a very wide berth.  I knew what would now happen, from experience, with a hot meal on board, we should go worse as far as cycling was concerned, and later events proved that it was only too true.  But now for Dovedale.

Returning to Thorpe, we turned left by the ‘Dog and Partridge’, dipping suddenly downhill past the entrance to the ‘Peveril of the Peak’ hotel,  and across the Dove to Thorpe Cloud, a village, and a hill guarding the entrance to Dovedale.  Up again,  then a rough, steep pitch brought us by the banks of the river again, and led us into the limestone gorge.  A little farther on the road ended suddenly, where a crowd of motors was drawn up, and the hillside was thickly peopled.  The real road lay across the river, and at first we feared that we should have to retrace our steps for half a mile, but Tom discovered some stepping stones, and hoisting the bikes on to our shoulders, we crossed quite easily, to the accompaniment of stares from the crowd.  There, the real glories of this valley commenced, and there lay the most wonderful three and a half miles in the world.

From Thorpe Cloud to Dove Holes, the scenery is as though carried out by a giant artist from a fairy design.  Everything is on so magnificent a scale, yet so exquisitely beautiful in all its detail.  Trees, bushes, undergrowth, elfin dells and goblin rocks are everywhere; the path along which we walked and scrambled with the bikes, was at first on fairly open ground, though rocky and uneven, but across the river the hills were a mass of foliage, of every conceivable shade of green, even now in early Spring, when nature’s awakening is only just beginning.  On the Derbyshire side the limestone had weathered into rugged cliffs and fantastic pinnacles, and a little farther on we crossed Sharplow Dale.  Near here we started to spend money like water, paying 1d for the privilege of visiting the two Reynard caves, the ‘Hill’ and the ‘Kitchen’.  We scrambled up a rocky slope, to the high, bare cliff and, above, the natural arch in a great rib of rock that marks the opening to the two caves.

From a precarious perch over the arch, we got a fine view of the dale.  Returning to our machines, we were persuaded into buying some picture postcards, and were shown one which the old lady in charge of the stall said she wouldn’t sell.  It was of the ‘Hill’ cave with Reynard inside, an effect which is caused by the shadow from the rocks, and which only appears at rare intervals.  That, I believe, is how the caves got their name.  Undoubtedly, if we had paid a price high enough, we could have obtained that print, for probably there were more for others!  Tissington Spires, an array of needle-like pinnacles, could be seen from below the caves, and across the water, half hidden by trees, we could see the limestone spires of Dovedale Church.  This of course is not a church, but just a name given such as abound in Dovedale, to the masses of limestone, and which bear a fanciful semblance to the buildings so named.  A little farther on, we came to the Straits, where the river narrows between its tree-clad banks, and where we could only just scramble along the path.

On the far side of the Straits, we passed a little wood to where the cliff comes down to the river, and where the ‘Lions Head’, a rock which has weathered to a remarkably close resemblance to the head of a lion, juts out.  Here we were at Pickering Tor, a great round bastion of limestone with five distinct points, the Lion’s rock being on the right, and a huge tor, with a cave at its base, being on the left.  There also, we saw Ilam rock standing up like a needle out of a deep pool in the Dove.  There was no doubt that that the scenery was hypnotising us.  We could have scrambled and climbed along this wondrous dale for hours, but we remembered the time, 3.30pm, and the sixty odd miles before us, so with great resoluteness, we tramped, scrambled and carried the bikes onwards.  Passing the big hill with its serrated and weather-worn outlines called the ‘Nabs’, we came to those two natural arched recesses in the rocky hillside called the Dove Holes.  The larger arch has a span of over 50 feet and rises to a height of over 30 feet, but the other is not so majestic.  From here, the dale becomes barren, and a very rough passage of half a mile took us to Milldale, a hamlet, where we gained the Alstonfield road.  An easy climb through a defile to Lode Mill followed – then the road jumped up in front, and very soon we were tramping.  Half a mile to Alstonfield, and a quarter mile beyond that, was walked, then down into the dumps, and up again.  The hot dinner started to tell on us now, making us sleepy and knocking our pace down to a mere crawl.  The road did the rest.

For the next three miles to Hulme End, we did quite a lot of ‘shanks’, but so far the scenery was good, and gave us some wild views, but from Hulme End, it went ‘flat’, but hillier!  Anyway, the milestones were knocking the figures down.  Leek was our objective, the mileage being 8.5, then 7.5, and then Warslow.  A long descent, now, with the road before us curling up the hillside, to creep over a ridge.  A fine wind was behind, but as soon as we started to climb, we came off, and then tramped uphill for 1.5 miles, cursing that hot dinner.  The next milestone indicated ‘Leek, 8.5 miles’; then it dawned on us that we had taken the wrong road.  A perusal of the map showed us that we were making two sides of a huge triangle, but we decided that we would carry on – it was too late to go back.  Then, as we saw the road that we should have been on, we were not altogether sorry.  Westwards a huge ridge bounded the view, and over the ridge we could see the road twisting, for all the world like a piece of string.

Another sharp rush down took us to Onecote, then up again walking another mile to the summit, from where we saw the road winding over another ridge.  Again down and up, with again a view of the string-like road going ‘over the top’.  We knew that before long we should have to branch off, but all we could see were roads that dragged over the hills – and the time was 5.15pm.  Usually, the hillier the road the better, for the scenery and the views lie on the hard, high roads, but this time, we had struck a blank, and the dinner was doing its worst.  Reaching the valley, we came to our branch, which proved to be a good main road, level, and with the wind dead behind us we made some amends.  Another climb brought us above Leek, then dropping down into the cobbled streets, we soon left the ‘Capital of the Moorlands’ behind.  The road, after running level for some miles, climbed, until we stood above Rudyard reservoirs, a huge sheet of water in a very pretty setting.

Rushton, the kicking off place for the Dane Valley, gave us a fine little tea place at 6.15, and thus fortified we started at 7pm to cover the last 38 miles home.  As we sped along the glorious winding road to Bosley we could feel our form returning, so that long before Macclesfield was reached we were humming comfortably along and feeling better than we had done all day.  From Macclesfield we joined the Stockport road for about two miles, leaving it in favour of the winding byways that took us to old-world Prestbury and Dean Row to the Wilmslow road at Handforth.  We wasted no time until Kingsway End was reached, where, after a brief pow-wow, we parted at 9pm.  The same road brought me home for 10.15.

I hardly know what to say about today – except that it has been worth it.  We are introduced to a new district – and a very hilly one too – but Dovedale….   The home of Isaac Walton…..   Of Charles Cotton….  And a worthy pilgrimage for all who seek to see the wonders of nature and the Open Road.  Yes, it was worth it.               122 miles

 

Saturday, 2 May 1925 Woodplumpton

Post:    Charlie – now how could it be that nine days go by between the last run – on the new bike – and today.  I have a theory.  I think he was giving his new saddle a good talking to with a large pot of saddle cream and a lot of rubbing.  I cannot think of any other reason to give him a weekend off !  However, we are back in the saddle today, but I can tell you that matters saddle will rumble on for some time.  Yes !

Saturday, May 2                                    Woodplumpton   CTC run

Now that I have a new machine, I have no excuse for not turning out on club runs, so I determined to honour (?) them with my presence this afternoon, for only the second time this year.  The rendezvous was the ‘Beehive Hotel’, 2.30pm, so off I toddled via Deane and Lostock to the said pub, where was a goodly crowd.  After being hailed as the returned prodigal, I was button-holed by a lady member and asked to buy a Rally badge.  One can hardly refuse, although I did register a silent vow that at the Rally I should be conspicuous by my absence.  I am no lady’s man, and have a horror of crowds, for, as Stevenson wrote:

‘All I ask is the heaven above,

And the road before me…’

Anyway, at 3pm we got started, and slowly wended our way to Horwich, now joining the Chorley road to the Millstone Inn, where we turned uphill to Heath Charnock.  The rough setts of Limbrick and Cowling were duly crashed over, then a pretty easy run down to Walton le Dale brought us across the River Ribble and into Preston.  I found the road via Moor Park much smoother than the other through suburbia, gaining the North road at Fulwood, from where we kept to the main road for two or three miles until, turning into the pretty bylanes, we soon reached our destination.  Before tea we entered the church, which, though old, has been greatly restored until inside, little of its former self remains.  In the churchyard, a boulder represents the gravestone of ‘Meg Sheldon’, the last of the Lancashire Witches (grain of salt, please).  It is on record that old Meg was buried feet downwards as was the custom with these hags, but she scratched her way out, so she was buried head downwards next time so that should she scratch again, she would go deeper, and the boulder was placed over the spot to ensure her permanent residence there! (a large handful of salt this time!).

After tea, someone produced a football, and a hot game ensued, during which the ball took a morbid delight in going over the hedges.  A small party of us started back earlier, reaching the main road at Broughton, and then traversing the usual route via Preston, Walton le Dale and Whittle to Cowling and Heath Charnock, then Horwich and the New Road home.                                                              54 miles

 

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