Sunday, 12 July 1925 Axe Edge

Post:       For a cycle ride, it seems to involve a lot of walking up the steep sections, or maybe it was to do with the sun being hotter than normal !  And always remember to take a mirror with you when you go exploring caves !

Sunday, July 12                                              Axe Edge

‘Kingsway End’, 6.30am, was our meeting place today.  We intended doing a whole heap of ‘lions’, the ‘Street’, Goyt Dale, Axe Edge, Roaches and Luds church, and the Dane Valley were all on the card.  Alas, we reckoned without the weather!  I was out at 5am, enjoying the cool, misty morning air.  There is nothing in the world like being astride a light bicycle on an early summer morning; the pure air seems to get into one’s heart and make him sing for joy – the joy of a long, care-free day – a day that was to be for me amongst the great, clean moors.  The one and a half hours of suburb riding before I met Tom, put me in form and anticipation for the ride.  The morning was getting warmer, but a summer mist overhung the country.  One cannot fail to interpret what the mist foretold – a warm day – and we therefore got a move on, for it was in our minds to get as far as possible before the sun strengthened.

We soon got into our stride at our usual ding-dong pace that knocks the miles back so effectively – miles that we had no real use for.  Handforth and that undulating byway that takes one through delightfully rural country, and skirting old world Prestbury, drops on to the Macclesfield main road.  We had barely proceeded ten yards on this shiny black highway, when we again hailed the lanes, and very soon were being jolted through the stony, uphill streets of Bollington, and before eight thirty, we were on ‘shanks’, climbing, climbing – and then some climbing, for mile after mile, towards that thread of road up there, whilst the billowy plains of Cheshire lay below us, bathed in the mist of a July morning.  As we rose, we climbed into the mist; at one point, we could barely see five yards before us.  At length we stood on the highest point, over 1,300 ft above the sea, and tumbled down to Blue Boar Farm, where we patronised a lane that has grown quite popular this year with us – the lane that drops quite a lot of feet in an incredibly short time, and contrives to turn as many bends as possible.  I recollect saying that only a fool or maniac would ride down there – I did it, though it was only at the same speed that Tom walked.  (He had more sense!).  From then on we had another walk past Saltersford Chapel and up again for about two miles to the top of the ridge of Cat’s Tor, over 1,400 ft and on to the line of Roman Road known as the ‘Street’.

When we reached the pine wood on the summit we were positively leg weary with, in all, about five miles of walking, hard, uphill, tramping.  Then we had a long, steady descent, straight as a die down a very rough road.  About 200 yards from the bottom, Tom announced that he had punctured – his Ivory cord had at long last given way.  We walked then to Goyt Bridge, where we had lunch, mended the puncture, and hung about for an hour, watching the trout in the stream.  When we did start, it was walking again up that Valley of Wonders known as Goyt Dale.  The sun had got properly going now, and was letting us know about it!

Goyt Dale!  As the road climbs higher above this stream, it gave beautiful glimpses through the trees of a silver line, hedged with bushes and coloured rock.  We could not tear ourselves away for a long time, standing at each vantage point, fascinated.  Where the road goes level for a bit, it runs through a field of bracken, and over a rocky gorge.  Then it leaves the trees and runs by the stream which has perceptibly lessened, and both are in a kind of moorland pass not unlike the climb to the Trough of Bowland from Marshaw.  The sun got so powerful that we chucked our jackets off and had a dip in the water.

A cave attracted our attention, out of which came a rushing waterfall, and Tom in a playful moment, flashed his mirror into it.  Ye Gods! what a sight it was!  The dancing point of light showed us glittering green-brown walls, a deep waterway, smooth, from which the reflection rebounded a dozen times at once, until the whole tunnel was a fairyland of glittering blue-green emeralds.  The walls jutted out continually into the distance, where the light had lost its power.  It was an unexpected scene, and, therefore was all the more enjoyable.  The climb continued until we gained sight of the Macclesfield-Buxton road, where, on enquiring the time, found that it was 12 noon.  It had taken us over 3 hours to cover about 10 miles.  Ah, but how enjoyable!

We soon reached the main road, and crossed it, preferring a secondary one which led to an altitude of 1,700 ft on the sun-scorched moors before it landed us, after a wild twist to avoid a deep gully, on Axe Edge.  (The Leek-Buxton road).  Frankly, we were disappointed with it: it would give one the impression of absolute wildness, but instead, we found dwellings clustered here and there and plenty of traffic.  We came to Flash Bar Inn, the third highest in England (1.553 ft), but they told us they could not make a modest pot of tea.  A little further on we turned right into the village of Flash and the New Inn served us.  We carried on downhill then, on a narrow, very stony trackway, with good views across the valley.  Our intention was to find the coolest spot – and stay, and we decided to get away to a secluded part of the Dane, divest our clothing, and bathe.  We reached the river in question in due time, took our bikes along a path, and dumped them behind a wall, afterwards having a long walk by the beautiful little river, and as we could not be absolutely secluded, only divested our shoes and stockings.  Nevertheless, we paddled one and a half hours away in this wise.

We returned bare-footed by the banks of the stream until we gained sight of our bicycles, when we replaced our footgear and rescued the machines.  From Gradbach it was all uphill for a time, until a nasty swoop down took us to Allgreave, at the end of Wildboarclough.  Again we had a long, steady climb on to the roof of Cheshire, on the Buxton-Congleton road, forsaking this highway just beyond the summit for the Macclesfield road.  Hot and dusty, we fled downhill, stopping once on seeing a cider notice, but we were in the ‘off-hours’ and had to be content with lemonade, a poor, gassy substitute.  The tar on the road had boiled up, and was fast ruining our clothes and messing our tyres up.  The Silk Town was crowded with sallow-faced ‘paraders’ when we went through.  The potter across Alderley Edge is always delightful, and an all-too short six miles.  Mrs Powell did us well as usual, then we had a long chat with a couple of Leek CTC-ites, criticising the machines about the farmyard.  Some admiration and many enquiries were directed at my ‘Grubb’, and truth to tell, I had nothing but praise for it as well !

As the hour had got late, we decided that our best policy was to ‘crash through’ on the motorised main road, which we did, to our own discomfort.  It has been a jolly hard day, but a potter, and as usual, it was voted A1                                                                                                                      90 miles

 

Saturday, 11 July 1925 Winwick

Post:     The area around Winwick now is nothing like Charlie’s description, it is heavily built upon, mostly houses, and is very close to a very busy motorway intersection between the M6 (north and south directions) and the M62 connecting Liverpool and Manchester.  And one of the original cyclists meeting places, the Old Swan is now a busy eatery for motorists.   

Saturday, July 11                                            Winwick

              I thought that it was about time I showed my face with the club, and as today’s run is only very short, I thought that it would not interfere with tomorrow (early start for Derbyshire).  As one of the lady members has said, I am away from the club for months at a time, and everyone thinks it a wonder when I do turn up.  We pottered to Winwick via Glazebury and Culcheth in pleasant, unfrequented lanes, arriving there quite early.  The garden of Honeysuckle Cottage was at its best – and there was some luscious fruit there, too!

The talk at teatime was all about holidays; I found that the majority had been to Wales, then in order of popularity the Lakes and Scotland, and I learned that everywhere had the same wonderfully fine and clear weather conditions.

After a walk around the churchyard to try and locate an old, carved, stone to which a curious legend is attached, we started back behind the main body, and quickly reached Lowton, from where the terrible setts had to be endured on the way home.  Club runs are worthwhile if only for the sociability they create; I think there is nothing like a cycling club for the companionship they engender, and for drawing the best out of one.  Of course, I cannot compare them to the glorious weekend life awheel which Tom and I jointly pursue.                                                      35 miles

Sunday, 5 July 1925 Abbots Moss

Post:       You get a taste of Cheshire in the summer in this pottering day, its innate beauty, the lush vegetation, the flowers at their best, what more could one reasonably wish for.  And the piece de resistance, throwing cinders at fish in a pond.  As they say in dialect in Wigan 2

Sunday, July 5                                      Abbots Moss

I had promised to see Tom at dinner-time, Mrs Wade’s, today.  We have neglected the place lately, and felt that it was up to us to see how they were going on.  I started at 8.30am, determined to potter all the way, but as soon as I left the industrialism behind, I started at the old ding-dong pace across Chat Moss.  From Warburton, however, I did potter, uphill to High Legh, then – in the open country – I could not help it.  It was a beautiful morning, the lane was quiet, the birds overhead were trilling their song, the sun made a leafy pattern through the trees, the scent of flowers, the humming bees – it made one feel a great contentment come over, made one feel as one apart from the sordid bustle of towns – the curse of man.  Here was Great Budworth, quiet and peaceful, here Budworth Mere, a sheet of reflecting silver, Comberbach, drowsy, quaint, the lanes to Little Leigh, and a ‘back road’ that lurches downhill, skirting a shady wood.  Uphill, and Acton Station, downhill – and Mrs Wade’s.

Tom had not arrived, so I waited, wandering in the garden.  Mr Wade has spared no effort here, and now, for a brief period his labour is rewarded.  What can be more beautiful than a garden full of flowers, where can one find the same rest and peace than amongst the tranquillity of flowers, nodding their heads in the mid-day heat, what can one learn if he but take the trouble to watch and think – he will marvel at what he sees, and marvel still more at his own ignorance.

When Tom came we rolled in.  Mrs Wade was pleased to see us; she thought something had happened, so long had we been away.  I showed Tom some photo’s, which set us talking about our beloved Wales, and planning future runs into that delectable land.  We already have decided on something that will prove a great ‘stunt’ if we have the necessary cash – a New Year tour, making Capel Curig as the centre, and doing a bit of climbing for a change.  I long to see those peaks under snow.

We lounged about for a bit – one has to lounge after one of Mrs Wade’s lunches – then Tom suddenly remembered that he would like to take some photos around Beeston, and we bolted by a ‘back way’, that is, a footpath.  In endeavouring to find our way through a maze of lanes to the Tarporley road, we got mixed up as usual, but a map scrutiny took us across the Chester road to a Delamere Forest byway, straight as a die with a rotten surface.  My front tyre gave up the ghost and we invaded a half-built bungalow in search of water.  We found some contaminated with lime, but we failed to detect any leakage, so we put a new piece of valve tubing on and replaced it.  It never troubled me again.

We had got lazy, fooling about on the grassy banks, until we realised that if we went round Beeston we should only have to start ‘blinding’ on the homeward run, and the weather was too hot for that, so we elected to do the very opposite – potter.  As soon as we reached the Tarporley road, one and a half miles from Cotebrook, we turned back towards Cuddington for about a hundred yards, then went through a gate into the wood on the right.

It was only a cart track, and rather awkward for riding, but it took us through wonderful woodlands, across open patches ablaze with gorse and deep in bracken, until, after over a mile of fairyland, we emerged near Whitegate on the Little Budworth road.  So into Whitegate, then by a cinder path to the River Weaver, uphill to Moulton, and through Davenham to Northwich.  We stopped between Witton Flashes, and spent a lazy twenty minutes throwing cinders at fish we saw in the water.  It was but a short run now to Great Budworth, but as the excellent tea-place there was full, we pushed on, entering the beautiful Arley Park to the Village, then by footpath to Arley Green, for tea in the quiet, old-world place there.

It seems strange that we should drop in here just at the end of the Bolton Annual Holidays for the second year in succession!  The homeward run was by Arley Mill and Mere, High Legh, then we chatted the time away at Broomedge.  My way lay once more over Warburton Bridge and across Chat Moss.

For once in a way, we have had a real, short potter, and a very acceptable change it has been too, more so on a day like this.  At Mrs Wade’s I swopped saddles with Tom, for a B 19, and the fourth so far on my 1925 steed.  I’ll get one to suit yet !                                         74 miles

Friday, 3 July 1925 The Vale of Dee

Post:      A brief ending to a marvellous tour in the best of weather.  And no, Charlie’s drawing of the Cromlech in the Llanberis Pass was not on their route, but Charlie added it to his journal to pad out the brevity of his tour !

Friday, July 3                              Bala, the Vale of Dee, Bolton

Bk 7 -26027 We were up early this morning, taking the air before breakfast.  We left at 9am, intent on getting away early – by the way, the ‘Bull Bach’ in High Street is a peach of a place, we paid 5/- for supper, bed and breakfast, with home comforts and thoroughly good food.  Notice the loaves of bread they serve to keep you together whilst breakfast is prepared – they are whoppers!  Bidding our motorist friends goodbye, we left Bala, and entered the beautiful Vale of Penllyn, by the silvery Dee.  Where the road forks, we took the right turn (both go to Corwen, one via Druid being new and easy, and of excellent surface, but devoid of scenery, the other (right) being narrow, rough and hilly, but runs by the Dee through the ‘Sweet Vale of Edeyrnion’).  At Llanderfel, we entered this wooded paradise, this road that never can become weary.  Through leafy dells, with many inspiring glimpses of the ‘Sacred Dyfrdwy’ to Llandrillo, where starts the track over the Berwyns to Pistyll Rhaiadr, and so along to Cynwyd, Llangar, where the valley opens out and the road drops one into Corwen and on to the great Holyhead road, that road of High Romance – Telford’s masterpiece.

A mile beyond the quite ordinary town of Corwen, one finds oneself in the valley of the Dee again amongst unrivalled scenery.  We had long started to potter, stopping here and there, just as the whim took us.  Carrog, Glyndyfrdwy – or to give it full rein Llansantfraidd Glyndyfrdwy, which means ‘The Church of St Bride in the Glen of the Sacred Stream’, Berwyn, and winding round a huge hill we gained a vantage point from where this valley is opened out in its full glory.  Then came a swift rush down to Llangollen, and a halt on the old Dee Bridge.  It was 12 noon but it is highly desirable that we get away from this resort before lunch, so we headed down the Vale of Llangollen.  A sudden storm drove us into capes.  It continued as we climbed away from the Dee at Trevor, entering a squalid mining district at Acrefair.  At Ruabon, where it was fairly pelting down, we found a lunch place after some searching – and it proved unsatisfactory.  We paid 2/- each for bread and butter and some fruit that we could not face, it was so far gone.  Incidentally, this is the only place on our tour that was not up to scratch.

We joined the Bangor road then to miss the industrial area and came in for more storms.  The wind got in front, and the scenery was not much, so that we were glad to cross the Dee once more and run through Bangor Is-y-coed, or Bangor on Dee.  The six mile climb up to Malpas told on Ben, but the improving scenery as we ran along that dear old foothills road to Peckforton and Beeston revived him.  Eaton now, and the winding lanes to Whitegate, where we found a fine tea at Mrs Jones.  Strawberries and cream!  More lanes to Chester road, then down this main road via Northwich, Tabley and Altrincham to Stretford and then home for 9.45pm.

Ben was absolutely wild with enthusiasm with this, his first tour, and now says that touring is the ‘only wear’ for holidays.  And well he might be with what we saw.  We had the best of conditions, the best of food, lodgings, scenery, and no trouble (I had only two punctures).  We covered 337 miles – not bad for four days of hot weather, and for food and lodgings, I spent 26/9d.  Can it be beaten?                                              95 miles

Thursday, 2 July 1925 Tal-y-Llyn to Bwlch-y-Groes

Post:     On this page you will read of Charlie and Ben’s ascent and crossing of the ‘Pass of the Cross’ or Bwlch-y-Groes.  It is a fantastic pass and crossing, and is set down by Charlie in great detail.  I first traversed it in 1956 with two gentlemen, H H Willis and a man who was to become later the Secretary of the Rough Stuff Fellowship, Fred Dunster.  The occasion was the very first AGM of the RSF and a ringing endorsement for travelling on roads that were yet to be tarmaced.

Thursday, July 2                      Tal-y-Llyn to Bwlch-y-Groes

We were all up early this morning, Ben and I going out for a walk. In the street we met four more Boltonians, chatting for a short time, then going in to a fine breakfast.  I had stayed here before in 1923, and as I expected, we found it very reasonable, paying 5/6d.  It is to be recommended.  It got very late – almost 10am before the five of us could get out on the road again, owing to the need for minor adjustments on the part of our friends.  We crossed the bridge, joining the Barmouth road, and having a strong wind behind, made a fast pace.  Rather too fast for the surroundings, I thought, yet as I was one who led, I can’t say anything!  Unfortunately, the sky had assumed a different aspect this morning, one of dull heat, so that the mountains were mostly hidden from view, and there was no distance to admire.  Still, the most befogged atmosphere could scarcely hide the wonders of this estuary road.

This panorama of panoramas is the Wonderland of Wales.  As one draws near to Barmouth one begins to realise fully with how prodigal a hand – with what liberality – things of beauty and amazement and magic have been thrown down here.  The shining river, the half glazed mountains, the trees, the restless sea beyond the bridge, the extensive coast line – the whole range of sights is stunning and overwhelming.  We stopped just by the bridge in Barmouth (Memories!), and had a lengthy talk.  They told us of the atrocious surface of both sides of the Tal-y-Llyn Pass, and asked of our intended route.  We said that we had above half a mind to try two of ‘Wayfarers’ stunts, Bwlch Oerdras and Bwlch-y-Groes, and perhaps Milltir Cerig.  They had only a hazy notion of the route, and as it was off my maps (having but the right one), I could hardly show them, so we let it go at that.  About 10.15 we parted, for they were bound north and we south.

We then got extravagant, spending money with a reckless hand, for 2d each went on the bridge toll.  It is worth 2d of anybody’s money if only for the wonderful views up river it affords.  When I looked at the giant ridge of Cader Idris, I thought of these lines:

‘That rock where the storms heave their dwelling,

The birthplace of phantoms, the home of the cloud,

Around it for ever, deep music is swelling,

The voice of the mountain – wind, solemn and loud’.

Although not nearly so high as Snowdon (being only 2.927 ft, 633 ft lower), Cader Idris ranks second in majesty and finesse of outline, and possibly gives finer views than any of the Snowdonian group, the views to the east stretching right over Shropshire and Cheshire, northward to Snowdonia, westward to the Irish hinterland, and in the south down to the Brecon Beacons.  It is a long railway bridge, Barmouth, the footpath running into deep, dry sands at the southern end.  We must have gone wrong, for we found ourselves in the railway station (Barmouth Junction), and had to cross the line and get over a fence before we managed to reach the road at Fairbourne.

From here the road climbs uphill, giving a beautiful sea-view of a beautiful sea.  The sun was warming up now, and every stream – as on Tuesday – was requisitioned to remove a constantly returning thirst.  After the climb comes a gradual drop to Llwyngwril, which is pronounced by taking a deep breath, and with tongue against your upper teeth, rattle it out ‘Thlooingooril’.  It is advisable to practise in a quiet spot first, otherwise objection might be taken, even then it is impossible to pronounce it as the natives do.  Llw-etc is a very primitive village, and would make a nice little place for a quiet holiday.  More fine coast views to Llangelynin, where we turned inland and caught the wind which blew against us in solid chunks.  At Rhoslefain we obtained more water (which had become so scarce that we shouted ‘Alleluia’ when we discovered some), then ultimately came to Trychiad.

A road led towards the mountains whilst the main road ran round to Tywyn, and with a shrewd suspicion that this byway would cut out a number of dull miles, we enquired and as expected, found that we could get to Tal-y-llyn that way.  So we went on our way rejoicing.  Passing through another primitive village that used the road as a farmyard – Llanegryn – we approached the mountains, the scenery becoming more and more wooded, whilst in front on the right, was a huge bulging rock that overhung the road.  At length we crossed the River Dysynni, and stood beneath the crag which is called Bird’s Rock, in Welsh, Craig-yr-Adeyryn.  It towered overhead very impressively in huge bulges, and the innumerable cracks and ledges on it were alive with birds – it is a very appropriate name.

Gates appeared on the road, the surface was developing into a shambles, and little hills constantly got in the way.  The Dysynni was crossed again at Pont Ystumaner, where we had the pick of four roads, the signpost (half wrecked) pointing straight on for Llanfihangel-y-pennant, left for Bodilan, right for Abergynolwyn, and behind us, Towyn.  It was just here where the map I had lent would have proved a boon, but as it was we had to guess – and we decided to keep straight on.  When we reached the top of the next climb I knew something was amiss, for mountains made a complete cul-de-sac in front.  We swept downhill fiercely on a road that would have made the bed of a respectable mountain torrent.  It ended altogether at the village of Llanfihangel-y-pennant, where was a Temperance Inn that seemed to be just the place to stop a growing hunger.

They did us well in the shape of eggs and jam and beautiful bread and butter and cakes for only one shilling, and they apologised for having nothing in!  We asked if there was a way of any kind over to Tal-y-llyn, but were told that we should have to go back to the cross roads and turn for Abergynolwyn.  Llanfihangel-y-pennant, we learned was a centre for climbing Cader Idris, and so quiet is it that besides the young lady of the Inn, we never saw a soul.  Book that down Ben, it might come in handy!

We turned back by the little stone church and up the hill, dropping swiftly to Pont Ystumaner again, and turning left along a gated road that looked none too promising.  After a short climb it ran through a fine little moorland pass on the slope of Moel Caer Berllan (1,233 ft), with the hurrying Dysynni below, and the steep side of Gamallt across the river.  It was a rare tit-bit.  When we climbed out of the pass, we stood above a deep valley, with Abergynolwyn mapped out below by the Afon (river) Fathew, and lines of gully-rent crags across.  A road led by some cottages on the left, and with an idea that we did not need to take the breakneck route down to Abergynolwyn, we enquired and again got an affirmative reply.

This was a grass-grown path, gradually descending, unfurling all the while panoramas of the valleys.  Rock, bracken and heather constituted this slope, making in all as magnificent a run as one could wish for.  We entered a wooded part and came in with the Dysynni again, quite suddenly reaching Tal-y-llyn lake, which is a fine sheet of water, surrounded by pleasant woods and fields, and overshadowed by a ridge of crags on each side.  I commend the Dysynni valley route as we took it, to anyone, as the best approach to Tal-y-llyn from the coast.  And please not to forget Llanfihangel and the Temperance Hotel.Our road ran round the right bank of Tal-y-llyn, then struck across a flat green meadow.

Bk 7 -25026

Here we spoke to an elderly couple from London, who were staying at Aberystwyth, having a very interesting chat with them.  They were wildly enthusiastic about the standard of scenery in Wales, but oh! it was so hard, walking!  At Minffordd we joined the other road that comes down from Corris – a road that I knew, and immediately we found ourselves entering Tal-y-llyn Pass.  Of course we were very soon walking, although the gradient was quite rideable; the heat was getting unbearable.  Ben was feeling it, I yearned for water, every motor that passed threw up a cloud of dust, choking us, and making things generally unpleasant.

I minded that in 1923, two years earlier, I came over this pass on just another such day – a Thursday in the same Wakes Week, a day of boiling heat, dust-laden atmosphere and annoying motors.  I also remembered a certain waterfall half-way along, and in the hope that there may be a drop left for us, we pushed on.  Ah! there it was.  Only a tiny trickle down the rocks, but as this is a very long, fine fall, in several leaps in wet weather, at the bottom of each leap is a deep rock-pool, and today these pools were full of clear, crystal-like water.  We divested our shoes and stockings and jackets, and stood knee-deep in it whilst we had a good wash, submerging our heads in it and letting the sun dry us.  About an hour was spent thus, until the merciless sun crept round and made us perspire freely as we stood there.  The water even got warm.  Had there been a little more water, I, at least, would have thrown all my clothing off, for we were secluded from the road here.

I put my jacket in the saddlebag – that is the advantage of an alpaca – before we started the long tramp to the summit.  A view of Tal-y-llyn lake down the Pass was in part spoiled today by a heat-haze that persisted over the lowlands, but the opposite crags and gullies of Cader Idris were clear and sharp to the eye.  After Llanberis and Nant Ffrancon, I think this ranks very highly for Welsh passes for rocky grandeur, and for a bad road surface, it is an easy first.  The summit was reached at 938 ft (a rise almost from sea level), where is a small lake (almost dried up today) called Llyn Trograieryn, ‘The Lake of Three Pebbles’, (because of three boulders which stood near the edge).  The descent which followed was through open green moors, wild, but except for a fine rock-group (Gau Craig on the western side), not very interesting.  The road surface was the worst that we struck in the whole of Wales – and that is saying something.

Lower down we came by a stream and into a belt of woodlands, in which is situated the Cross Foxes Inn at the Dinas Mawddwy turning.  We stopped, and I asked Ben if he felt up to another pass before tea, pointing to a white thread of road that curled laboriously up a distant hillside.  “Certainly, carry on”, he said, and from those words we became introduced to two of the wildest passes imaginable.  Just by Cross Foxes was another waterway which held enough to dismiss the persistent thirst for the nonce.

If we had forgotten the wind, we suddenly became aware of it now; it did its level best to stop us.  Before long we gave it best and got down to shanks.  All the time we were climbing into a region of wild green uplands, and behind us were magnificent views of the Cader Idris precipices.  Bwlch Oerdrws!  The summit revealed a country of huge green clods of earth with deep narrow valleys cutting in all directions into them.  Charles Lamb once said “I don’t much care if I never see another mountain”.  Can anyone stand on Bwlch Oerdrws and looking towards Dinas Mawddwy, repeat the words!  I think not.

The name, Bwlch Oerdrws may be very apt, for even on a blazing day like this was, the wind was cooling.  It would be the ‘Pass of the Cold Door’ indeed on a January day when the north-easterly gale was driving the sleet across the grassy green mountains.  Ugh!  A bus was coming up behind, and not wanting to get another dust bath, we started – keeping it behind.  As one swoops downhill around many nasty corners into the valley of the Cerist, one realises the immensity of these lumps of earth.  The cwms on the right are so deep and narrow that little sunlight can ever get to the streams below, whilst some points seem in perpetual shadow.  For about three miles we swooped downhill, then the road in one place made a sharp twist to avoid a deep cwm.  A byway kept straight on down into the dumps, and, curious, we followed it.  It was a pretty spot spoiled by a dump of empty tins, ashes, etc.  Crossing a footbridge, we climbed back to the road, and then entered Dinas Mawddwy.

The first consideration now of course, was tea, and again in luck’s way, we struck a peach of a place, ‘Brynmair’, opposite the Post Office.  Tea, eggs, fruit (pears), and bread and butter, and cake, for 1/3d.  Ben, it goes better!  Dinas Mawddwy is set amidst beautiful surroundings in the narrow, deep valley of the Dovey; here an infant river.

‘Heddycol ddyffryn tlws’

Which George Borrow, who was enamoured of the valley, translated to ‘Peaceful, pretty vale’.

One thing that was very conspicuous from the Bwlch Oerdrws road was a mansion, the roof and inside of which has been entirely burned out, leaving just the bare walls.  It is situated in the centre of the little town. A signpost says: ‘To Bala, 28 miles.  To Bala, 18 miles.  Motorists are advised to take the longer route, as the short one via Bwlch-y-Groes is unsafe’.  The short one was ours.

As soon as we left Dinas, we found ourselves on a beautiful winding, hilly road which very soon brought us to Aber Cowarch, where Borrow, on discovering that this was the place where Ellis Wyn composed his immortal ‘Sleeping Bard’, in his own words “Sprung half a yard into the air”.  “No wonder the ‘Sleeping Bard’ is a wild and wondrous work, seeing that it was composed amidst the wild and wonderful scenes I here behold”, he ended.  We thought so too!

The valley got deeper and narrower and more beautiful at every mile, whilst we, high spirited with the type of country, composed words to fit popular music, sang snatches of Cumraeg verse, and sang such songs as fitted in with the land we were passing through:

‘My heart is in the mountains,

In the mountains, in the mountains;

My heart is in the mountains

My cycle as well!’

I am sure that if anyone heard us they must have thought us a trifle silly!  Llanymawddwy!  That reminded me of those fierce, bloodthirsty hillmen who one time roamed these hills, putting fear into the hearts of travellers and natives too, and were called ‘The Red Robbers of Mawddwy’.  The one and only shop was closed (I was after cigarettes), so we had to carry on, I with a fear that I should soon be cigarette-less until morning, a gloomy outlook, a calamity indeed!  Ah! the valley was narrower, the green hills steeper, hemming us in, then running through a wood, we got our first sight of Bwlch-y-Groes.

For three years I have read, marked, learned and inwardly digested anything pertaining to this region.  ‘Wayfarer’ has exhorted all and sundry to see it, guide books speak of it in awed terms, road books warn people of the rashness in taking four wheels over, contour books show a gigantic hump and tell cyclists not to ride over it after dark, even signposts denounce it as unsafe, all adding to a growing wish to go over it – and now, here we are, on the threshold of this ‘Pass of the Cross’.  And if I expected something uncommon, I got more than I expected.

At Aber Rhiwlech, where a deep, rocky nant bites into the craggy hillside on the left, behind which is a rugged peak showing to fine effect, the road gives a sudden, sickening lurch upwards, immediately skewing completely round at a gradient of about 1 in 5 and a half.  “Death trap No. 1”, I said (for anything coming down), and we started.  The road was rough and very narrow, the gradient easing off after the first bend, to about 1 in 9 – dangerous even at that.  Across lay a line of steep precipice, at the end of which was a black, gloomy chasm, down which the Dyfi (Dovey) came.  The road is cut on a shelf out of the side of the hill, sometimes being overhung by crags of various forms, whilst on the outside edge there is often no protection, nothing to stay the unwary traveller from going over the edge and exploring the foot of the steep slope unwillingly.

Over the edge of the cliffs across, could be seen a very thin streak of dampness, that would make a fine single-leap waterfall of at least 200 ft in wet weather.  After some climbing of the gradient quoted above, the road again tilted upwards at a fiercer gradient than ever, climbing over a thousand feet in less than a mile, turning nasty bends and cambering towards the precipitous edge.  Here and there was a gate across the road.  As we sweated slowly uphill, with the road high (but not far) above us, we saw a whirl of dust sweeping round the bend on the road, and go fluttering across the ravine, to be followed by yet another.  The light was beginning to deteriorate too – it was only about 7.30pm, whilst looking back towards Dinas Mawddwy, expecting to get a fine view, we were rewarded with a distant view of misty rounded summits, one or two craggy peaks, the glen of the Dyfi below, and a mass of black clouds overhanging all, a wild, sombre, desolate picture that was little relieved by the tree-clad vale below.  The puffs of dust beyond the bend, the brooding sky, foretold a coming storm – and our jackets were replaced (the first time since Tal-y-llyn), though one might as well be without as with mine, an alpaca.

A figure appeared, coming towards us downhill, and as he stopped we asked him how much further to the top.  He was a tramp to judge from his clothing and talked as if he was a professional one too, though he never tried to beg from us, and was quite nice, though once or twice I thought he was slightly ‘off his rocker’.  It was an excuse for a stop.  Once more we sweated uphill, with the atmosphere stiflingly close, and a heavy pall hanging over us.  Then we heard distant, rolling thunder, the sky got blacker and blacker, whilst I, knowing the properties of Welsh rain on shelter-less moors, opened my bag and put my cape within easy reach.  Turning a bend, the road ran more level, and another road – of sorts – a narrow, grass-grown track led away to the right; beside it was a notice, ‘To Lake Vyrnwy’, and in big unmistakable print ‘Impractical for Motors’.  It is bad enough with a bike, and apparently steeper than Bwlch-y-Groes.   The photograph below, taken by me in 1956, during a crossing of Bwlch-y-Groes, shows clearly the surface, probably little changed from 1925.  The gentleman at the front, Vic Ginger, followed by H H Willis and a very good friend of mine John Barrow, were all attending the RSF Inaugural meet at Easter 1956.  Ed]

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A moment later we reached the summit of the Pass of the Cross, the highest carriage road in Wales, 1,790 ft above the sea at Tywyn.  Gad, wild!  Bare swelling moors, a rocky peak, a white ribbon of road that followed the contour, not a building, not a soul, a heaving black sky that seemed very near, and distant thunder which found a rolling, reverberating echo in every peak, and shook the ground beneath us.  I prayed for a real storm, I was willing to get wet through for the experience of thunder and lightening at this altitude, I was willing to take what risk there might be, but after a few large drops of rain, the sky brightened up a little.  The heat had gone, and though the wind had dropped to a breeze, we shivered with the chill.

We restarted carefully, for the road was rough, the gradient was not very steep however, and we were able to look around at the wide bare moors and rocky outcrops, and a deep valley that was just opening out on our left.  Views, there were none, though for what I hear there is a mighty fine view to be had from the summit; George Borrow, who came over in about 1850 stated that he had a fine view of the Lake and Vale of Bala, the lake looking like an immense sheet of steel.  We were unfortunate in the weather in this respect.  About a mile further down, the road turned and ran across a precipice.

We stopped.  Above, on the right, the cliff towered fifty feet or more, on the left we looked down into the valley.  There was no protection, the road simply crumbled over the edge and dropped perfectly sheer into the valley.  What an adventure in a mist!  Farther down a gate appeared, then the two or three houses of Ty-nant, and we came along a sunken, winding lane, with the high banks ablaze with flowers, and the still, close atmosphere heavy with their scent.  The view opened out later from the edge of Bala lake to an extraordinary jumble of mountains terminating in the rocky Cader ridge to the west, and the fine rock peak of Rhobell Fawr, and the sharp hump of Arenig farther north.

Some time later we reached the shore of Bala Lake, keeping to the south side.  It is the largest sheet of water that Ben has seen – and is the largest natural lake in Wales, being eleven miles in circumference.  (Lake Vyrnwy, the property of Liverpool Corporation Waterworks is the largest, but is artificial).  Flies again were in much evidence, and once more my eyes suffered.  With grand sunset views over the Arenigs, we reached Bala Bridge, where is a fine full-length view of the lake (Llyn Tegid), then entered Bala, just in time to get some cigarettes (9.20pm).  We had a confab as to whether we should carry on or not, and scanned the CTC handbook but as there was nothing short of Cynwyd, ten miles away, we decided to pack up, and repaired to the Bull Bach where I had been before, receiving an immediate welcome.  We met a couple of motorists (man and fiancée) who were on holiday.  He was a humorist of the first water, a fine, interesting talker, and so was his girl.  Of course we had the usual red rear light argument, but no malice was shown, and we got on together fine.  We talked on many subjects from hills to Socialism – I learned that he was a Labour Agent for the Middlewich Parliamentary Division of Cheshire.  I told them of Llanberis Pass and Nant Ffrancon and Idwal and Twll Ddu – and then I heard that she had been brought up at Bethesda!  I shut up then!  It was well after 11pm when we ‘chucked the guff’ and went to bed – the last night away on our wonderful little tourlet, dreaming of the Mawddach, Tal-y-llyn, Cold Door Pass and the latest thrill, Bwlch-y-Groes.             60 miles

Wednesday, 1 July 1925 Llanberis to Dolgellau

Post:      Charlie’s arising today was a direct result of the length of yesterday, of that there can be no doubt.  I have to say that the ride today goes through some of the most dramatic and incredibly beautiful scenery in North Wales.  His holiday may well have been on a slender budget, but my goodness the route was well chosen.  And he doesn’t get off lightly, several people who are known to him and hail from Bolton catch up with him !

Wednesday, July 1                  Llanberis, Aberglaslyn and Dolgellau

           It was a glorious morning with the sunlight streaking the straits and warming the rolling land of Anglesey when we awoke.  We had ordered breakfast for 7.30, it was now 8.30, and the meal was waiting for us.  When we asked for the bill, Mrs Perry asked us if 5/- was too much.  Gramercy!  It goes cheaper!  After a little study, we discovered a route to Llanberis which cut Caernarfon out.  Both the road from here to that town, and from there almost to Llanberis are not blessed with scenery, and Caernarfon itself is a dirty, disappointing town (although I’ll allow that the castle is worth a visit), so we welcomed the byways.  And they proved well worthwhile.

As soon as we left Sea View Terrace we came in view of a noble array of peaks – Snowdonia, a jumbled mass of towering crags, with the gap of Llanberis dividing them from the rough group between the two passes.  Farther southwest, the lesser, but very imposing isolated peaks of Y Garn and Carnedd Goch (not to be confused with those about Llyn Ogwen) stood in rugged silhouette, a clean-cut skyline.  The lanes we traversed were scented with woodbine and wild rose, the fields yielding an odour of new mown hay.  Winding and undulating, we came to Bethel, a quiet, stone built place, and then rapidly nearing the rugged contours, we turned at Pen-isar-waen, crossed the river Seiont and the railway, and joined the main road between Caernarfon and Llanberis.  At Cwm-y-glo – ‘The Hollow of Coal’, we reached the shores of Llyn Padarn, and thence our road lay by the shore of the lake, a fascinating, devious road, by banks of coloured rock, with pleasant woods and tinkling rills to keep us interested.

Very soon we dropped down to Llanberis, where we bought some more ‘Judges’ picture postcards, then passed out of the place.  High above us was the Queen peak, the Wyddfa (3,560 ft) situated above a chaos of precipice and boulder-strewn slopes, the little cabin on its summit being visible.  Across the Llyn were the huge quarries that entirely deface the western flanks of Glyder Fawr and Fach, biting 2,000ft into the mountain side, and marring the beauty of the lakes.  We stopped between Llyn Padarn and Peris and paid a visit to that last home of Welsh Independence, Dolbadarn Castle, just a round tower with a flight of steps on the outside, giving a fine view both seawards and into the Pass.

This solitary remnant is all that remains of the only fortress in Snowdonia, and this was not very strong, the inhabitants relying more upon the then impassable mountains.  It was built in the 13th century, and little history of it is known beyond the fact that Owen Goch was imprisoned here for 20 years by his brother, Llewellyn the Great, and later was defeated by Dafydd, brother of the last Llewellyn, against the Earl of Pembroke.

The weather was getting hotter, and a thirst was growing on us which could not be kept away, however often we drank.  Almost without exception all the streams were dried up – and the few that we did see were only mere trickles of warm water.  From the spoiled shores of Llyn Peris we gained the scattered hamlet of Nant Peris, and then we entered the jaws of Llanberis Pass.  This, the wildest valley in Wales, at least equals Nant Ffrancon, and is certainly more hemmed in, being a V-shaped defile, deep-set between black and towering walls of rocks, and almost blocked by boulders and debris.

The impressive aspect of the glen defies even the marring effect of the electric power wires that traverse it from end to end.  Climbing gradually past a group of enormous boulders, one of which has been wrongly called a cromlech, we crossed the bridge Pont-y-Gromlech, and seeing a decent amount of water coming down, we pulled our shoes and stockings off and paddled about for half an hour.  This point gave us the best position for viewing the precincts of the Bwlch.  On the left, (climbing), the precipitous crags of Ersgair Gelin, the ‘Yellow Shank’ of Glyder Fawr, descend in abrupt disorder, while on the right the arms of Crib Goch open to disclose a splendid view of the almost rectangular Cwm Glas, one of the most remarkable glens in Wales, for on the cliffs the marks of glacier action are very distinct, whilst on the west side rises the great rock bastion of Cwm las ‘Grey Horn’, and east is the north ridge of Grib Goch and a spur of Crib-y-Ddysgl with those fantastic turrets, the ‘Crazy Pinnacles’, in view.

The rest of the ascent was made on foot, the gradient being steep and the surface in keeping with the littered rock about us.  The three mile climb ended at the Gorphwyspha Hotel, from where one could look down the Pass and marvel (as Ben especially did) at the huge masses of stone.  The steep descent on the other side round a shoulder of Moel Berfedd to Pen-y-Gwryd was broken by the wonderful views of Crib Goch and Snowdon (Y Wyddfa).

Then, with wondrously clear views of the peaks around, we dropped down the barren Nant Cynnyd by a vile-surfaced road, into that dream valley, the Vale of Gwynant.  It was upon this narrow road that a motorist deliberately tried to run me into a telegraph pole.  It was so obvious – there was plenty of room and the road was clear, that I was blazing with anger and shook my fist after him.  He stopped, and an altercation ensued, during which one of the occupants said: “I am a cyclist, you know!”   “I don’t care what you are, you are a set of fools, I know that!” I answered, and he never retaliated.  He knew it was so.  Next time they passed they gave us plenty of room.  Llyn Gwynant is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen, the blending and colour of the wood and rock and water completing a rare picture, and the ride by the Wood of the Eagle (Coed Eryr), and the park of Llyndy to that other beautiful sheet of water, Llyn Dinas, provided a perfect entry to Bettws-y-coed’s chief rival, Beddgelert.

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We got a fine lunch at Llewellyn’s Cottage, just across the bridge.  This place, though very obviously set out in the dining room for tourists, is very old, showing a fine open fireplace and inglenook, and across the low roof, on aged oaken beams are hung many ancient knick-knacks, guns, horn and much hunting tackle.  For food in Beddgelert, I recommend Llewellyn’s Cottage, and should anyone care to stay the night, Tan-y-Craig, first house of the first row on the Capel Curig entrance, will supply all their wants satisfactorily.

After the inevitable walk to Bedd Gelert (which is also a good viewpoint for looking up the Vale of Gwynant), we regained our machines, and after a short run found ourselves dropping down that ravishing little defile, the Pass of Aberglaslyn.  Some vandal company has been and built a railway through it; although it has missed the finest part, the entrance has been marred.  I should like to shoot the man who was responsible for it!  Pont Aberglaslyn demanded a stop.  It always does, and I have yet to meet the traveller who has crossed this bridge without stopping.  I have heard of a lady, who, when motoring from Capel Curig to Bangor, never took her eyes off a newspaper, even whilst stopped over Ogwen Falls, but even she, I think, would not do that in this spot.

Here we met a large party of Bolton roadster cyclists, the Victoria Hall CC (I had never heard of them before).  One of them had fallen in the river, we saw his clothes drying on the wall.  They told us to try a drink from the river, stating that it tasted like lemonade, and with visions of unlimited supplies of delicious cordial, we went down to get a drink.  We got a disappointment, but still, there is a different taste with the waters of the Glaslyn, no, I will not say lemonade, I won’t commit myself.  Try it.  Spring water is sold at the hotel, vide notice.  We hung around here for quite a long time, praising this wonderful pass to each other, only tearing ourselves away by sheer will-power.  About a mile further on a notice board in the garden of a cottage attracted our attention; I had seen it before, and ‘Wayfarer’ has a slide of it.  It runs:

TEAS

HOT WATER

KNITTED STOCKINGS

I wonder how the last named is served?

I always thought that the narrow winding steep road along the edge of Traeth Mawr to Penrhyndeudraeth was not very good in the matter of scenery, but this time I got an eye opener.  It is simply gorgeous, with its little woods, rocky banks, flowery hedges, and its views which change at every one of the numerous bends.  Across the flats, the bold peaks, Moel Ddu and Moel Hebog stood glistening grey above the wooded lower slopes, behind, in all their rugged grandeur were the vast precipices of Snowdonia, its tentacles Llechog, Y Llynwedd, Grib Goch, Clogwyn etc, making a rugged silhouette with the Wyddfa as the central peak.  On our side were a motley array of sharp points – Moelwyn, Moelwyn Bach, Manod Mawr, but most striking in its clean-cut profile was Cynicht, one that reminded me in a way of conical Tryfan.

After Garreg, Penrhyndeudraeth was the next place, noted only for its steep hill.  We climbed steeply to the Ffestiniog toy railway, then by a very narrow street with a sharp bend in the middle and a reckless gradient all the way to the valley of the Dwyryd.  Halfway down the hill we had to dismount to allow a lorry full of telegraph poles to pass.  It seemed a gigantic struggle for the engine.  At the bottom we turned left and enjoyed a glorious woodland run along the Vale of Ffestiniog to Tan-y-Bwlch and Maentwrog, where we joined the Trawsfynydd road.  Maentwrog is one of the prettiest of Welsh villages, situated as it is on a kind of shelf, with an outlook in both directions, and with a fine river below and glens all around.  I should like to spend a day around Maentwrog.

We now seemed to have got onto a very rough byway, climbing extremely steeply, and long enough to make Ben start ‘conking’.  From the summit however, as expected, an excellent all-round view was enjoyed, the peaks about Ffestiniog being especially striking.  Here we suddenly met a motor-cycling party who lives near us (Mr Broadbent from Pennington Road).  After the usual greetings we asked how the tour was going down.  Then they started to revile the roads.  “The worst roads we have ever seen, river beds, I don’t know why they put such roads on the map” etc.  “The scenery?” oh, beautiful, never seen anything like it in our lives”.  I wanted to know what it mattered about road surfaces so long as the scenery was there, but it seems that with a motor vehicle, roads are of great importance.  After assuring them that they would strike excellent roads beyond Maentwrog, they carried on – and so did we.  Another undulating four miles brought us to Trawsfynydd, where the Highgate Temperance Hotel provided us with an excellent tea.  It also gave us shelter from a very heavy rainstorm accompanied by some thunder.

The rain had gone when we started again, but black clouds hung menacingly over the peaks, hiding altogether the higher ones.  The road now was straight as a die, up and down continually, and surrounded by drab moors, which, were it not because of the line of mountains to the west, would become dreary and monotonous.  The surface was quite good.  Near the large Artillery encampment, a huge gap in the mountains shows to the best advantage.  It is known as the Devil’s Gap to the soldiers in the camp, but the true name is Bwlch Drus Ardudwy, “The Pass of the Gate to Ardudwy”.  A track leads over to the coast road.  After about five miles of moors, we started running into a valley, the valley of the Eden.  I punctured, providing an excuse for a stop by the gurgling waters, and then on to Pont Dolgefelio.

The ride afterwards, dropping all the time deeper and deeper into the wooded glen, could not be rushed, it was far too beautiful.  A little away from the road is one of the finest single-leap falls in Wales, Pystill-y-Cain or Caen, but as former experience had told us, the dry period made it not worth a visit, so we left it over to some future time.  Again, just below lovely Pont-ar-Eden, a short detour can be made to Rhaiadr Du – ‘Black Cataract’, but this, which would have been worthwhile even now, we missed through ignorance.  As we got farther down this dale, the scenery got finer and the crags above higher, until, just beyond where Precipice walk can be seen high up on the eastern hillside, we reached Llanelltyd, and joined the Barmouth-Dolgellau road.  A two mile run along the glorious Mawddach estuary brought us to Dolgellau at 8.20pm, and after a pow-wow, we decided to chuck it for the day, getting ‘digs’ immediately at the Aran House Commercial Hotel.  Before supper we had a walk up the hillside, from where was a fine view of the rocky heights of Cader Idris.

On our return, we got talking to a motorcyclist from London, an interesting chap, but one who was so talkative that we could not get a word in edgeways, many prospective arguments were spoiled by the impossibility of us to speak for his tongue!  Then in rolled three Bolton Wheelers who live quite near to me, and with whom we have had many runs.  Greetings, an exchange of experiences, etc, occupied us until it was hinted that bed was a desirable place.                                      56 miles

Tuesday, 30 June 1925 Bettws-y-Coed

Post:     Today has become a fascinating read, starting with his monetary problems and a do or die determination to get away at all costs.  And he does us, the reader, very proud indeed.  Charlie tells us he must travel light, as he is only going to be away for four days, and the list of things he packed in his saddlebag is so brief you might miss it.  And get this.  They started from Bolton at 5 ish in the morning and fetched up at a B & B at 10pm at night.  Now that is what I call cycle touring !

Tuesday, June 30                 Bettws-y-Coed and the Wilds of Ogwen

It is the Bolton ‘Wakes’ Week annual holiday – it has been since Friday night, and by rights I ought to be miles and miles away by now, but I am not.  A simple money calculation has shown me that it is impossible to go away for a whole week, so after much juggling and scraping I might manage four days.  Blackpool ?  No!  Isle of Man ?  No!  Where then? I am asked.  That was the great question – where shall I go?  One thing is absolutely certain – it will not be a resort.

I have a friend – Ben – who cannot do very much cycling, and who, like me, wanted to go somewhere, so we put our heads together and decided that a-touring we will go.  But now we come to the original question – where?  It is really hard to decide where to go when one is in such a country as this is.  There are so many places where we would like to go.  The Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, Derbyshire, the Midlands, Salop, Mid Wales and North Wales, the Dukeries, Sherwood Forest, the Cotswolds, Warwickshire – oh, a hundred and one districts accessible in four days.  At length we fixed on one….  North Wales, and so as to make the most effective break in the holidays we fixed the start for Tuesday morning, 5am.

A long first day would get us right out, and that was all we wanted.  As we were only going for four days, our luggage was light – cape, tools and a handkerchief or two sufficed besides maps.  I took Bartholomew’s half inch to a mile sheets of Cheshire, North Wales and Shropshire; the one map which we might need most I had lent, not expecting to use it at first – the Aberystwyth sheet.  I forgot, there were two more items, which were the most necessary of all that I carried, a towel and a drinking cup.

By the look of things we were in for a beautiful day when Ben called round at 5am, and we immediately got started.  After a bumpy half hour we left the setts of Leigh behind, heading for Lowton, where we entered the bylanes.  Just as we reached Winwick I punctured (back tyre) but it was soon repaired and once more we started, dropping down into dirty Warrington for 6.45am.  Cheshire now, on a quiet main road, really a beautiful main road – and new to Ben.  Daresbury, Sutton Weaver, then the foliage coloured slope of Frodsham Hill, with the red, rocky headland of Helsby before us, giving a remarkable silhouette of a judge’s head from the road.  People were going to work in Helsby – we hardly envied them, then the road became quiet again, and at Mickle Trafford – Mrs Dennisons – we stopped for a snack.

Another four miles brought us into Chester, where we stopped at 9am to see one or two of the ‘Lions’, walking down Bridge Street to the old River Dee bridge.  Ben is a stranger to the City of Legions.  We decided to cut Wrexham road out, entering Eaton Park instead, and enjoying a beautiful run through the woodlands to the Hall, and making a worthy detour to the iron bridge over the Dee.  The river here, with its wooded banks and deep, smooth flow makes a lovely picture.

As we rode through the trees towards Pulford, hundreds of rabbits fled at the sound of the wheels.  The sun had now warmed up to its work, and with a steady breeze behind, we began to get warm too.  From Pulford we entered Wales, coming to Rossett, and turning right, we rode by the tiny river Alyn in the pretty Vale of Gresford.  A sharp ascent brought us above the Vale, giving us a heat-hazed view of the peaceful plains of Cheshire.  Level now to Llai, then with the ruin of Caergwrle Castle before us, we dropped to Cefn-y-Bedd in the Hope Valley.  This road becomes more and more useful to us for getting into Wales – if one is not in a hurry.  The little valley, then the long climb, the drop to the twisty little parapet-less bridge, then the climb out of the glen by Glasfryn, with the tall hedgerows on each side and the foxgloves adding colour to it all.

At the Nant-y-Ffrith entrance we walked down to a vantage point above the gorge so that Ben might see the scene.  He was now getting wildly enthusiastic – I was taking care not to lead him over many dull stretches, for on this tour I wanted both of us to see the very best in the time at our disposal.  We reached the summit at Bwlchgwyn, launching therefrom on to the moors for two miles, until we slipped between the hills, and after another two miles of verdant fields, reached the Crown Inn at Llandegla for lunch.

We were fully started now (so I considered, though Ben avowed that we had really started at Warrington!).  We climbed a little, getting a good view of this valley of the Alyn, and its encircling moors, with now and then a glimpse of the Llangollen road as it climbed over Maes-yr-y-Chain, prior to swooping down the Horseshoe Pass.  From the Llangollen branch, we started switch-backing downhill, between high, flowery hedges, and with a strong breeze behind, we fairly ticked the miles off.  Up a little again, then down to Bryn Eglwys (The Church on the Hill) in the valley of the Morwynion, and with the pleasant green slopes of Llantysilio Mountain across to keep our interest at par.  We were immensely thirsty, but all the wells and streams had dried up or were unfit for drinking.

There being nothing of great interest except the beauty of the surrounding countryside, on this road, we kept a lively pace up, covering the eleven miles to Corwen without a dismount – and without seeing one motor vehicle.  We did not touch Corwen, but joined the Holyhead road about a mile west at Tyn-y-Cefn, and proceeded towards Cerrigydrudion.  Soon we reached the banks of the Alwen, and had a wash – which in itself is a good cure for thirst.  Remounting, we came to Druid, where the new Bala road branches off, and then we entered a paradise.  On the right, the hillside was deeply wooded, whilst on the left was a gorge.  Niches have been built into the wall here and there, and I recommend anybody who traverses that road to get off at each niche and peep over.  All we could see was a dense array of leaves, with just an opening here and there to show us a sheer drop to the river which boiled and foamed over its rocky bed.  It was gorgeous.

A little beyond Y Maerdy we spotted a stream, and allayed the returning thirst.  Through such scenes of wooded beauty we passed, until, gradually climbing, we came upon the open moors and reached Cerrigydrudion ‘The Rock of the Heroes’.  I cannot say anything of the five miles between here and Pentrefoelas.  The wind faced us, and made the straight road almost unbearable, Ben started to feel it.  Once more we were on the lookout for water, obtaining it near Pentre.  From here came another change, from the dullest five miles in North Wales to the beginning of some of the loveliest valley scenery in the world – the descent to Bettws-y-coed.  It started to rain here, but soon gave over, although we had one disappointment.  The mountains were mist covered, and only Moel Siabod and the lesser heights were visible.

As we entered the woods, the wind was screened from us, and riding was at once easier.  The River Conway accompanied us, giving us peeps over the wall or through the foliage of a boulder-strewn bed, of a lightly dancing river, of cataracts, waterfalls, and rapids, whilst on each side the rocky slopes were tree-protected.  Ben was again delighted, and when we came in sight of the Lledr Valley on the left, with the rock-strewn slopes above and the semi-circular precipice of Moel Siabod behind, he raved over it.  Never in his life, he said, had he seen anything half so beautiful.

The descent down Dinas Hill continued until we reached that earthly paradise, Bettws-y-coed.  We crossed Waterloo Bridge, got some postcards (by the way, I commend Judge’s for the very best views), lingered on Pont-y-Parc, then left Bettws behind, climbing uphill for two miles, (which, because of the scenery seemed like two yards) to Miner’s Bridge.  We stopped on the bridge for a little while, watching the boiling Llugwy down the gorge beneath.  Then feeling a hunger, we crossed the road to the cottage of Bryn Hyfryd, where we obtained a decent plain tea for 1/3d.  Thirty five miles since lunch, and 84 from home!

Bk 7 -23024         An hour later we emerged, eager to be getting amongst the mountains properly.  We were in the right country now, what mattered where we went for the night, five miles or fifty?  The road climbed gradually by the side of the high-spirited river, which provided us with many charming pictures.  The sun had gone now, and a heavy gloom and close, still atmosphere pervaded, which, I feared would rob us of the mountain views.  Coming to Pont Cyfyng, we stopped a minute to watch the water madly leaping down a deep, rocky gorge, then pushed on to Capel Curig, where a heavy drizzle came on – and where we just caught the post.

The river was there alright, the view that I was afraid the rain would spoil, the view of three immense peaks.  Snowdon.  Dull, but clearly outlined, and there were the Glyders too.  And Moel Siabod, from here looking like a huge moor, dreary, uninteresting.  “So that is Snowdon”, said Ben, “I never dreamed there were such high mountains in Britain”.  Of course, he has never been on holiday anywhere but the Lancashire coast resorts before, so mountains bigger than the Bolton moors were a surprise to him.  “But wait”, I said, “Before we ‘pack’ for the night you will see the cliffs and masses of rocks different than the Anglezarke quarries!”, and at that we remounted and continued along the Holyhead road.

The drizzle continued as we climbed gradually on to a kind of moor.  The scenery here was nothing to go dotty over, but in front were dim mountains, half obscured precipices, into which we had to go, and through which there seemed no way.  The next three miles brought in the region of these crags, giving us an idea of the rocky nature of the pass in front, but the next mile seemed never to bring us nearer to that for which we were impatient.  On the right were the slopes of Pen Llithrig-y-Wratch and Pen Helyg, with the Carneddau beyond them, whilst to the left successive cwms broke the foothills of the long Glyder range.  Then, as we rounded a cliff called Gallt-y-Gogof, the ‘Cuckoo Cliff’, the whole wild view bursts suddenly before us.

Before us rose that remarkable pyramid Y Tryfan, with the mountains beyond Llyn Ogwen in the background.  Then we crossed the Llugwy, a tarn which lies just below the Long ridge of Carnedd Llewellyn, and we soon reached the highest altitude (1,000 ft) at Llyn Ogwen, by the banks of which we rode to Ogwen Cottage, a habitat of cragsmen and anglers.  To say that Ben was astonished and awed is to put it mildly.  Think of the effect of this lake, grandly set in a deep hollow between the black and rock-strewn slopes of Y Glyder Fawr and Braich Du, the precipitous spur of Carnedd Dafydd to one who has never really seen a natural cliff.  We left the bikes by a wall and took a self-made route by a leaping stream to Llyn Idwal.

There was not a soul about besides ourselves, and we stood in the rain, in a kind of half-light, which, however, did not cap the peaks, but gave them a shadowy, unnatural air.  I could quite believe that anyone with a weak nerve suddenly transported from, say, our home town to this spot would be terror-stricken at the savage, sombre, picture – we were awed to silence – our voices might break the spell.

The Llyn is overhung by the precipice of Glyder Fawr, a very steep scree coming from the base to the lake, chock-full of boulders.  Not a tree, not a sign of life, hardly a blade of grass relieved the wild chaos of rock and the impenetrable blackness of Idwal.

Whichever way we looked, it was the same, the towering precipice of the Glyders with the huge crack of Twll ddu (the Devils Kitchen) scarring the cliffs above the screes at the head of the lake, the line of cliffs which wall Nant Ffrancon on the West, Y Garn, Foel Goch etc, the dreaded impasse of that mighty cone, Tryfan, unclimbable (except to the expert) on all but one place, a scarred jumble of jagged grey rock, Braich Du, (the Black Arm) extending a rugged maw out to enclose Ogwen.  Ah, a scene that, under such conditions could easily unnerve one, even I, who by this time got quite used to the Welsh Mountains, could never have imagined such a thing, could never have dreamt that those piles of rock could possibly assume such a menacing, awful aspect.

“Ye are the things that tower, that shine whose smile

Makes glad – whose frown is terrible – whose forms,

Robed or unrobed do all the impress wear…”

That night they were unrobed – stark, startling, fear impelling.  And this on just a drizzly evening!

We walked back to Ogwen by the slippery path, then climbed over the bridge and looked down the gorge, where the water from Llyn Ogwen forms an impressive waterfall.  Owing to the abnormally dry weather recently, little water was flowing, indeed, of all our tour we never saw a decent fall, and many planned detours to waterfalls were dropped – they were hardly worthwhile.  The run down Nant Ffrancon Pass was punctuated by innumerable stops – we found it impossible to rush it, for the views behind were too fine.  At Ogwen Bank at the foot of the pass, the rain ceased, and we packed our capes away.  Having no watch with us, we had completely lost touch with the time, so we decided to ask at Bethesda, and then decide about lodgings.  Bethesda is a quarrying town, therefore of no especial virtue, and as we found that it was not yet 8.30pm, we decided to push on.  The road, after leaving Bethesda, runs through some very pretty woodland scenery by Afon Ogwen.  There were hordes of flies on the descent too – I caught with my eye, four in ten minutes.  They were an absolute pest; probably a National Fly Week, and judging from the attendance it was a phenomenal success.

We pottered through the woods, obtaining a glimpse of Penrhyn’s turreted castle as we dropped to the main gateway at Llandygai.  When we reached Bangor, we found that the time was 9.20pm, but the crowded aspect of the place and the knowledge that it was a city deterred us from staying there.  The next place listed in the CTC handbook was Port Dinorwic, six miles away.  Could we reach it? (they retire early to bed in Welsh villages).  We decided to chance it, and as Kipling wrote, ‘With our best foot first, and the road a-sliding past’ we made famous headway.  The scenery, as I knew, was nothing to linger over except where it skirts the tree-shaded Vernol Park just on the outskirts of Port Dinorwic, so we, being in form, just ‘blinded’ to Port Dinorwic, which is a place for the shipping of slate and granite from the quarries at Bethesda and Llanberis.

It is a very picturesque village away from the quays, and lies on the Menai Straits.  “Sea view Terrace, right up the hill to the top” came in answer to our enquiries, and we turned left, up a steep hill, climbing for about a mile until below us lay the silvery straits, the broad lands of Anglesey and the blue sea beyond.  It was 10pm when we located Mrs Perry, 5, Sea View Terrace, but we were given a warm welcome, and after a wash we had a hearty supper, turning in at 10.45.  From the window, we enjoyed a fine red sunset, tinting the sea beyond Anglesey with a ruddy glow, and lighting the sky beyond.  After a long, happy day we were tired and slept right away, with a gentle sea breeze blowing over the green fields of Mona into our room.                                                       126 miles

 

 

Sunday, 28 June 1925 Trough of Bowland

Post:     Ideal weather for them today, if a little hot, but no rain.  This really is a nice route, but rather busy these days, and it is easy to forget that the vast majority of this route would have been devoid of tarmac or rolled chippings.  That was the fire in Charlie’s belly that drove him on to become the Chairman of the Rough Stuff Fellowship in later years.  Rough Stuff !

Sunday, June 28                                             Trough of Bowland

         We were up at 5.30 this morning, but as usual when we are together, it was 7.30 before we could get away.  Passing through the yet sleeping town, we gained Belmont road, and faced a stiff breeze through the village and over the moors, gaining some relief when we dropped into shelter at Withnell.  The Belmont road is not at all bad, scenically, with the fine moorlands around and little wooded patches here and there, so that one soon finds the 18 miles to Preston’s rough setts covered.  We took the Moor Park route out of the town, gaining the north road at Fulwood.  This road is very beautiful beyond Broughton at this time of year, but is apt, as are all the roads to resorts, to get motorised.  At Brock we stopped for a pot of tea, making a short meal, then with increased pace got through Garstang and Galgate to Lancaster, turning here towards Wyresdale.

We made a slight mistake at one of the turnings here, but our map showed us a correction, and after passing the reservoir at Mt Vernon, we turned left along a poor surfaced byway, but giving us fine views across the Conder Valley to the fells beyond.  About one and a quarter miles further on, we turned right, and swept round a hair raising bend on a steep gradient, down to Lee End in the valley.  Then a few yards to the Temperance Hotel at Quernmore for lunch.  We had to have it in the hedges and were hampered by hordes of flies which contrived to get in the cups and milk-jug.  But the view of park-like wooded hillsides and higher fells and the green valley repaid any such discomfort.

We ‘padded the hoof’ after that for the better part of two miles, and hot work it was too, with the gradient all against us and a loose surface on which walking was a real discomfort.  A backward look when we neared a rideable part showed us that we had not climbed in vain, for a fine view from West to Northeast presented itself to us.  Westwards, the flat Fylde country stretched, with the silver ribbon of the broad River Wyre as it nears Fleetwood streaked across, then the townships of Blackpool (not forgetting Blackpool Tower and the Big Wheel) and Fleetwood with the open sea beyond.  Veering round, we saw Morecambe Bay, its background of hills, which further behind developed into the craggy heights of Lakeland; below us, Lancaster and its grim old castle above the tidal River Lune, with the fine mausoleum of the Williamson memorial on a higher plane to the East of the town.  Then Lunesdale and the hills around, wooded and moorland, rising to a respectable height nearer Kirkby Lonsdale completed a fine prospect, worth the climb above.

Concentrating on the ‘ard ‘igh road’ before us, we reached some fine moorland scenery and experienced some vile road surfaces, until the decrepit Jubilee Tower on the highest point claimed our attention.  A rush downhill now, terminating in an awkward drop to a river, where we lingered, engaged in the classic pursuit of throwing stones at a particularly fine specimen of a trout.  The run that followed along an undulating road through some fine scenery was punctuated by a similar stop at every stream which seemed to be packed with the aforesaid trout, and each of which supplied us with a drink.

At Marshaw, we entered the glen that signals the approach of the Trough itself, and very soon after, the trees were behind us, we had dismounted and were tramping up a wild little pass.  Another stream kept us supplied with cooling beverage, a necessity in this kind of weather, until we neared the summit, where it trailed off into nothing.  From the head of the Trough (1,000 ft), nothing but wild moors, barren defiles, and heathery turf is visible, a wild picture indeed on the sunniest of days.  The breakneck descent on the Lancashire side is amplified by the boulders which lie strewn all over the road.  Alas, the Trough has lost much of its terror to travellers now, for we actually saw a charabanc there.  I still wonder, however, how on earth two pass each other on these roads.

The road after that claimed most of our attention on account of its resemblance to a river bed, but we stopped often before we reached Whitewell, for the surrounding country is too good to be missed.  At Whitewell, we entered that ever beautiful gorge, which took us to the Vale of Chipping, where we stopped at a bridge over that princess of rivers, the Hodder.  Whilst crossing the shingle to get a photographic viewpoint, both of us slipped in, and then, thinking it not worthwhile to hop from stone to stone, splashed through to an island in the middle.

The next item was a steep, stony scramble to the summit of Jeffrey Hill, whence was an extensive vista of the Vale of Chipping – and a well full of gloriously cool water.  Down now, on the other side with another fine view of the serpentine River Ribble, to Ribchester, then Miss Bolton’s for tea.

Crossing the Ribble, we climbed uphill to the Whalley-Preston road, patronising it to Mellor Brook, where we turned towards Blackburn, but dodged that industrial brick-heap by means of a footpath which led us to Cherry Tree.  The Tockholes road of atrocious surface and many hills brought us at length to Belmont, then down to Bolton and home.  Some supper, then we started again to Moses Gate and Kearsley, where Tom and I talked until 10.10pm, then Tom carried on home and I did a ‘blind’ to get back before lighting up time.                                      108 miles

 

Saturday, 27 June 1925 Great Budworth

Post:         Charlie and his finances !   As ever living on the edge, hours to go to the Bolton Holiday Wakes Week and it is all doom and gloom – for now !

Long discussions with Tom Idle did little to lift the financial gloom, so we must be patient as to the outcome.  (You will not be disappointed!).

Saturday, June 27                                           Great Budworth

 This is the first day of the Bolton Holiday Wakes Week, but owing to financial strains, I find it impossible to tour all week  I may, however, manage three or four days later in the week.  Tom is coming over for the night to enjoy Home Rule with me, and for a run north tomorrow, so I had arranged to meet him at Great Budworth, tea-time.  I started at 3pm, with a helping wind behind, via Butts Bridge and across Chat Moss to Warburton.  Just beyond Heatley, I met three Boltonians and one of them, an active CTC-ite, was helping the other two to start a tour.  As they were going my way, I joined in with them, and so we proceeded along the lanes via High Legh together.  Two got behind, and we had to search for them, finding them with a broken thermos flask.  (They were starting their tour with an all-night run).  After that we made good progress to Great Budworth, where they decided to stop for tea.  Tea was ordered, then Tom came up, and after a wash we tucked in.  We spent quite a long time here, chatting, then bidding the others goodbye – and a fine tour – (Wye Valley), we started back.  TShe same road was good enough, for who can beat that winding, shady lane to High Legh?  With the wind behind it did not take us long to cross Chat Moss and get into the smoky regions again.  We got home and to bed early, following the maxim ‘Early to bed and early to rise’.            55 miles

Sunday, 21 June 1925 Nant-y-Ffrith

Post:     This long ride, without a single mention of saddles, seems to have pleased all on the run today.  And I am reminded of how we used to communicate on those long runs, when we somehow missed each other, many of us carried a stick of chalk and we would leave messages at likely stopping points for those missing, that they could catch us up.  Try telling stories like that to the ‘Youff’ of today !

Sunday, June 21                                   Nant-y-Ffrith   CTC run leader

The fine spell of weather is still continuing, and I expect great possibilities of my run today.  At 6.15am, I started for Four Lane Ends, arriving to find that I was not the first.  Whilst trying to open the display case at the cross-roads, we nearly pulled the hut down and succeeded in breaking the glass, but for all our struggling, we did not open it.  At 6.45am, there were nine of us, so, not having much time to throw away, we made a start.  Once clear of the industrial areas to Glazebury, it did not take long to get into our stride, with the result that we went hurtling along, covering the 18 miles to Warrington in one hour and eight minutes.  Without delay, we got the sordid streets behind us, and gained the cleaner Chester road.  We were in form, it was clear, and we had a vivacious girl of sixteen years leading, and so well did we do that in two hours and twenty minutes, we were in Chester.  We stopped at the Castle to watch the troops drilling in the yard and hear the band, which was very impressive.  ‘Billy’, our humorist, made light of the officers’ bawls and soon had everyone around grinning.  Meanwhile, I left a chalk mark near the road edge to let Tom know our time of passing.

Wrexham road accommodated us now; we swung along at a fine pace, by the grounds of Eaton Hall to Rossett, where we turned left into the pretty Vale of Gresford, climbing to a higher plane where we could look down upon the rich plains of Cheshire.  A level run brought us past the Llay Main Pit, the scene of a recent disaster, then a switchback to Cefn-y-Bedd, ‘the Ridge of the Grave’.  The little valley to Ffrwd was admired by all, and the subsequent climb on shanks started to open views out that were blocked by mist in the distance.  I did not mistake the Ffrith turn this time, and we dropped down cautiously past a notice which glared out in bold lettering ‘Danger, Landslide’.  However, the obstruction had been removed, and only the rotten surface and the clay hillside told us where the problem had been.  At Ffrith I enquired for the footpath to Nant, for it was a long time since I was along there, and soon we were walking up a rough little lane under a railway viaduct.  Several barred gates and stiles had to be negotiated, causing much amusement, and it was getting hot too.  Then past a farmyard and we entered Nant-y-Ffrith, by a very narrow walk between high, thick hedges that we had to brush past.
The walk then lay through the most beautiful woods, and by bushes ablaze with bloom, with a glimpse here and there of the stream where,

‘The young river gods in maddest play,

Come laughing silvery laughter, lightly leaping adown the cliffs’.

And here and there the dense growth on the opposite side of the valley would give way to a sheer white crag, not unlike those in the Derbyshire Dales.  Sometimes we would be running through the wood, where the roots of trees spread across the paths, then a little open space where we would walk on deliciously springy grass which made it just like the carpet of some Eastern mosque, then we would wind round a tumbled mass of rocks all covered with creepers and moss and set amidst the everlasting trees.  For about two miles this continued until we found ourselves climbing steeply, a gate got in the way, and lifting the bikes over iron railings, we found ourselves on a drive, each side of which was a riot of rhododendrons.  From this drive, which is private, leading to Nant-y-Ffrith Hall, we got a bird’s eye view of the steep valley.  Everyone was absolutely carried away with this beautiful valley, some said they had never seen anything like it before.

The drive climbed for about a quarter of a mile, winding round all the time between the rhododendron bushes, and higher up, the trees form a leafy canopy overhead.  Then we joined the Pass road, and in a moment stood at the shelf at Bwlch Gwyn.  Much of the Cheshire plains were visible, but it cannot be said that the views were in any way good – at least to what they might be.  All the time a wordy warfare had been raging as to what constitutes a Pass.  One said that a pass is a way over the hills, I contended that it was either over or through the hills, to which the reply came that a way through was a valley, it finally ended by the remark that every road is a pass!  The run across the moors was fast and furious, whilst good views could be had towards the Clwyds, Moel Famau standing out especially clearly.  Soon the moors gave way to rippling, verdant country, and then the lunch place, the far-famed ‘The Crown at Llandegla’ was reached.   A wash, then lunch, and an hour in the cool parlour.  The sun was blazing down now, and a high wind was sweeping away the last vestige of mist which clung to the hillsides.  I asked which road they would like to take, the Horseshoe Pass or Nant-y-Garth, and they settled on the former.

The strong wind helped us along the Corwen road, and swept us along from the Ruthin-Llangollen turn, downhill, with fine views of the beautiful country around, chequered fields and shady lanes and brown moors.  Except for a short bit near the Travellers Rest Inn, the majority rode to the summit of Bwlch Rhiwfelin, but two or three of us preferred to walk because of the views around.  The whole club run was surprised when the clustered peaks of Caernarfon came into sight.  Clear and grey and well defined, they rose sublime behind the green and brown country that stretched away towards them.  There were the Carneddiau and their satellites, and as we reached the summit at 1,353 ft, the whole range of them appeared, and, with the poet, I said:                     “Behold Cryri !”

There was Snowdon and the Glyders, Cynicht and the bold Ffestiniog peaks, the Merioneth Moels, Arran and Arenig, Rhobell Fawr, Pen Llithrig – a host of them.  Turning about, we looked down the Horseshoe to the Valley of the Cross, and Llangollen in the Vale of Dee, backed by the brown Berwyns.  Dinas Bran on its conical peak, the Eglwyseg Rocks and the winding roads.  We spent half an hour here, then one went off to take the direct road, and the rest of us slid cautiously down the Pass.  In one place a motor car had come to grief and was hanging over the precipice.  So well was it balanced that it seemed as if a touch would send it rolling down the steep scree to a certain smash up at the bottom.

Bk 7 -22023

Then came pretty woods, and passing Eliseg’s Pillar and Valle Crucis Abbey, we made good headway until a puncture occurred on the canal bridge near Llangollen.  Whilst it was being repaired three of us paddled in the canal regardless of passers-by.  A moment on the Dee Bridge, then along the Vale to Trevor and Acrefair, from where we had a headwind and an awful, industrialised, run to Wrexham.  Then the Farndon road, in the ‘Part of Flint’ to Holt, and another halt on the old Dee Bridge there.  A winding lane now led us to Aldford, and the beautiful grounds of Eaton with still another halt on that Dee Bridge, and at the Hall.

A swinging run to Chester, and Mickle Trafford for tea which proved unsatisfactory.  As six of the ten of us on the run today were training for the Lancashire Road Club ‘12’, the pace home was furious.  The run has been an absolute success – some of them have had their eyes opened as to what Wales really is.                                                   135 miles