Sunday, April 27 – Llanarmon

All through the winter, Tom and I have been impatient to have more of the long runs that brightened last year so much.  Not that we are afraid to ride in winter, this record will prove that, but it must be admitted that with the cold weather and dark days, it is unsuitable for early starts and big mileages.  Often the particular roads that we want to traverse are impassable, and rarely fit for fast riding.  But the summery Easter last week put us on our mettle, and we arranged to meet in Chester at 9.30am.  I was up at 3.30am, and after breakfast, I started at 4.45am.  Before starting I had heard the wind howling outside and the rain beating a tattoo on the window pane, but now, on the road, the wind had calmed, and the streets were dry.  In the half daylight, I proceeded via Atherton, Leigh, and at Lowton I bore left for Winwick.  Here I watched a glorious sunrise, then sped down to Warrington.  I was more than glad to get away into the open country again on Chester road, which did not seem half so weary as usual.  Probably this was due to the wonderful freshness of the green countryside, the warm sun, and the absence of motor vehicles.  Having plenty of time, I pottered easily, walking ridiculous hills.  Beyond Frodsham, I speeded up a little, coming to Mickle Trafford, where the homely farmhouse made me a pot of tea at 8am.  Half an hour later, I emerged into the bright sunshine, and soon covered the intervening four miles to the ancient city.  Passing along Frodsham street, I ran beneath the old walls in Northgate street, and soon reached the Dee bridge, our meeting place at 9am.

Five minutes later, Tom came up, and thus, half an hour inside schedule, we both started.  We were in fine form, and bounded along Wrexham road to Rossett, where we turned off for Cefn-y-Bedd.  Soon we came to the uplands, walking and riding alternately, with the hills facing us.  In coming to Cefn, we left the county of Denbigh, entered Flintshire, and again Denbigh within two miles.  The border here seems a hopeless mix-up.  A narrow valley led us to Ffrith, then the hills commenced in earnest.  For two and a half miles we tramped uphill, then a narrow path swooped us down into a sylvan glen, led us across a tumbledown bridge, and then we started to climb again, walking through the Nant-y-Ffrith pass.  Now the sun had gone, and dark clouds scudded across the sky.  A high wind had risen which pushed us along to the upland village of Bwlch Gwyn.  Usually, from Bwlch Gwyn, a glorious view can be enjoyed, but today it was hopeless.  Now it commenced to rain, and having had some experience of the deluge of these Welsh moorlands, we ‘put a jerk in it’, that sent us flying along the already wet road.  Soon we commenced to drop between the ridges, houses came into view, and before long we were entering that cyclists haven, the Crown Hotel at Llandegla.

Trooping into the cosy parlour, we ordered lunch, and settled by the fire with the visitor’s book – a book that has been made famous amongst cyclists with such names as ‘Wayfarer’ and W P Cook, and such clubs as the Anfield BC, and almost without exception, the CTC.  For the third time we added our names, then ‘got down’ to lunch.  The wind howled around the building, a steady downpour of rain settled in, and the room was warm and cosy.  No wonder we lingered on for two hours.  Then a chara party, complaining of the weather, came in, so we trooped off, out of it.  A hurricane, blowing from the southwest, met us as we rounded the house to look at the hills we intended to cross.  We did not see them, for although they were only beyond the valley, they were hidden in a thick mist.  Around them, the gale seemed to be at its worst, the shrieking wind and drenching rain seemed to dare us, to defy us, to take the lonely pass over them.  Half inclined to go, half hesitating, we faced the breeze, but after some confabulation, we decided to abandon the horseshoe route, and search for another.  Even yet we glanced over the valley, remembering these lines:

“Something hidden, go and find it!     Go and look behind the ranges.                     Something lost behind the ranges,   Lost, and waiting for you, go!

But we did not go, shaping our course along the Ruthin road instead.  About two and a half miles farther along, we turned into a narrow, sticky bylane which wound about, and climbed and dropped in an amazing fashion, landing us eventually at Llanarmon.  This little village quite took my fancy, its little ancient church and village Inn seemed to blend in harmony with the place itself.  Anyway we had little time to hang about, so getting a map out, we found a temporary shelter beside the church yard wall, and commenced to plan a way back.  Not being fastidious in our taste, that was soon settled.  Another sticky bylane was resorted to, and running through Rhiw Vale, we joined the Ruthin – Mold road, one and a half miles Ruthinwards from Llanferres.  It had now ceased raining, so off came the cumbersome capes.  Our machines and our legs were covered with the brownish white sticky bylane aforementioned, for it was of a clinging nature that rain would not wash off.  Behind us, in the Vale of Clwyd, towered Moel Fammau, the Jubilee Tower on its summit appearing vaguely at intervals as the rain clouds scudded across its blunt peak, whilst the rocky summit of Moel Findeg, and its serried ridges looked grand.  The hefty wind, which had carried us from Llandegla, pushed us along, through Llanferres, and down to Cat Hole, a pretty little spot despite its name, with a curious old Inn called the ‘Loggerheads’.  The sign depicts two men quarrelling, and bears the legend ‘We three loggerheads be’ – I am not clear about the third person.

The scenery here, in the Leete Valley is excellent, the broken cliffs and old world habitations harmonising with the river and woods to fine effect.  Next came a long, trying ascent, then a rush downhill into Mold.  The next twelve miles were commonplace, and weary in the extreme, and both of us were glad to get back to Chester.  Threading our way through the narrow streets, we sped along to Mickle Trafford, and then reached Dunham Hill for tea at 4.30.  The tea was not up to much, and the second pot of liquid was so weak that we spent some time trying to get it out of the pot!  Moreover, the bill was exorbitant.  We left at 6, inside our capes, for the rain had not forgotten us.  A rapid pace took us through Helsby to Frodsham and up to Sutton Weaver.  The wind had entirely dropped, but as we neared Warrington, we got a generous sample of Cheshire rain.  We skirted the town, running through Grappenhall to Thelwall, where a bylane, known to us, led us into the old fashioned market square of Lymm.  Negotiating the steep canal bridge, we sped down to Heatley, where we halted.

After making arrangements for next weekend, we each took our own way.  I soon reached Warburton Bridge and Liverpool road beyond, turning for Glazebrook.  I had not gone a hundred yards when I was met by a terrific gale.  With nothing to impede its progress, it swept across the dreary marshy flats with mammoth force, immediately unsaddling me, and tearing my well-worn cape to ribbons.  I have never before experienced anything like it in my life.  Yet on the exposed Warburton Bridge five minutes before, it was perfectly calm!  All along that monotonous waste, Chat Moss, I contested every inch of the way.  The rain cut like a knife, and at each bend, I was sent floundering across the road.  At length I reached Culcheth, and, as anticipated, the turning placed the wind in my favour.  I need not enlarge on my whirlwind flight through Glazebury to Leigh, the ease with which I tackled those bumpy hills through Atherton, and how I reached Bolton in record time.  Thus was completed one of the best days I have had, sunshine and rain, gales, and the effervescing Welsh moorlands combined to show me what a wonderful means of travelling the bicycle really is.  Yes, it was a fine wet day, which wind and rain only served to enhance rather than mar.  Give me more, as wet, as fine, as rough, yet as beautiful                                                                                                                                              130 miles