We see a totally different style today, a mile eating roundup of a lot of Charlie’s favourite haunts just over the Border into North Wales. But they had picked the right weather for once, and there were floods then, just like now !! Once you read the words ‘Peckforton Gap’, you know for sure that Charlie’s most liked place in the whole world, Beeston Castle, will sail into view, and so it did. A day of sunshine and good visibility on the last Sunday of the year. A perfect 110 miles.
Where are all Charlie’s friends today, one might ask, enjoying Christmas Day or resting after a large lunch, but life is too boring for Charlie if he is not awheel. So he makes his way to the Unicorn pub in Walton le Dale, a famous cycling hostelry of the best kind. Chatting to the Blackburn Clarion there till 7.30pm he then decides he will need more carbide to get home safely. You just wonder whether his head is in the same room as his body ! This is Christmas Day, remember !
An evening ride in the dark turns into Rough Stuff of the worse kind, (not a complete surprise for Charlie, I feel) best tackled in daylight, one could argue. But Charlie knows better, he loves every aspect of cycling, always did, day or night it makes no difference to him. Of course, this evening run was well before the doubtful attractions of television. Now we have an excuse for not doing something.
The Bolton section of the CTC’s Annual Christmas lunch sounds like a proper bunfight, and is the focal point of today’s journey, But that is too straightforward a plan for Charlie, he has to add miles of detours, a hike to the top of a local landmark and eventually a solo run home, just to book some extra miles in. His lunchtime diet is of particular interest, but hardly a recommendation from an athlete, I think. And I never knew that Prestbury harboured a Bishop’s house !
This day’s diary entry reads like a travel brochure. What an interesting and extended day, more suited, I should have thought, to a summer excursion than a mid-December outing. Charlie’s enthusiasm for cycling shines above all the negatives (like lots of steep hills) he encountered on this particular outing. He certainly brings the Peak District to life including details of the Great Plague, and Robin Hood’s right hand man, Little John. We are very fortunate to be able to read of his travels and thoughts first hand.
A stormy December in which we hear about the vagaries of trying to cycle on a wet and windy day. The one extra trial you don’t need on such a day is a temperamental carbide lamp, but it doesn’t seem to depress anyone’s spirits. It was also the sort of day when the good old cyclists’ cafe came into its own.
This particular run starts at 7pm and ends at 10.15pm on a winters night. A solo run, it is Charlie to a T. This is how things used to be, no telly, no telephones – well not for the workers anyway – so what to do when one is bored? Get the bike out, that’s what. Forty two miles in a little over 3 hours on an old boneshaker of a bike, at night, in the cold with one carbide lamp. Now that’s what I call cycling. To Charlie, this run would seem quite normal, an everyday event, quite unremarkable. It speaks volumes for the man.
On this expedition Charlie and his friends undertook a pedestrian exploration of Roman Deva. There are many interesting towers built into the city walls, some quaint names amongst them. Chester Castle was still in use as a military barracks in 1924, as Chester was still considered to be a border town with a leaning towards lawlessness. The quaint ‘promenades’ as Charlie describes them, are still there in the shopping area, a joy to behold.
This became an interesting meeting because it is the first of Charlie’s comments anywhere in his writings about the growing groundswell of opinion, for or against, of the possibility of red rear lights being made compulsory by Parliament. It would appear that the Bolton Watch Committee had come down in favour of making such lights compulsory at some point in the future. This was hotly debated and eventually unresolved. They also seemed to be having difficulty in keeping the clubruns together (nothing new there then) and the authority of runs leaders was under threat. Its amazing how often these same old problems keep cropping up !
The Cycling World magazine will be reviewing Charlie’s book in their Christmas edition (which is a combined edition covering the months of December and January) on sale at W H Smith from the [date to be advised].
They are also going to reproduce (from page 91 of the book) his seasonal story ‘In Festive Mood’ in the same edition.
In some ways that is a bit of a shame as it was one of the stories that I had thought of publishing here for the festive period but I doubt that they would thank me for producing a ‘spolier’ like that. So, I will take another look into Charlie’s archives, where I am sure I can find something else with a festive bent for you delectation over the yuletide break.