Day two of the new bike. 104 miles to go, today. And that saddle !! But he revels in the first true day of Spring, everything in the countryside is coming to life and Charlie cannot get enough of it. He puts the new bike to the test and does what I would have done under the same circumstances – pedals to his most favourite place in the whole world – Beeston Castle – to immerse himself in past memories and enjoy the day and the good weather. Apart from the saddle complications, I suppose you could say that it was a marriage made in heaven !
Having reluctantly ridden an old boneshaker from the beginning of his cycling years (due to financial insolvency) a cracked frame finally brought him to his cycling knees. After an enforced period off the road – awaiting funds we must speculate – he is able to order a brand new F H Grubb, no doubt from the bank of Mum and Dad. You can imagine his excitement, 21 years old and his first new bike. He cannot wait to get astride and get going.
The narrow lightweight tyres travelling over Lancashire ‘setts’ (cobbles) made his Brooks saddle uncomfortable to use and in fact it took several changes of saddle, borrowing his friends saddles and suchlike, before he found the answer. It is heartwarming to read at the end of his first day out (of 58 miles) that “And the new bike does run easier”.
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.