We were up at 7.30 this morning (last up as usual), and at 8am breakfast was ready. The Manchester chap had come the way that I had intended to return, and was returning the way that I had come, so the chance of a companion home was gone, but Tom promised to come as far as Church Stretton with me, so after I had borrowed some oil for my complaining chain, we made a start. The morning was fine, though dull, and that is a good sign. Walking up the steep street at 9.15, we noticed how prettily situated, how beautiful the ‘black and white work’ houses looked, how charmingly irregular and steep and narrow the streets were. This little, hillside town was, to my mind, an ideal old English village. Our road, little more than a bylane, twisted about in an amazing fashion amongst some fine, ever-changing hill and valley scenery, and always keeping us on the tiptoe of expectation as to what was around the next bend, or what lay over that ridge.
All the time we were approaching the higher hills, the clean-cut ridge of Long Mynd lay ever before us. Near Eaton, we saw the exact image of a ‘rural farmer’, the sort one sees in pictures or reads of in books, but thinks of as in bygone days. He bade us a cheery “Good Morning”, then we ran into the deep, gloriously wooded valley of the river Onney at Plowden. Since leaving Bishop’s Castle, we had been dropping mostly, but at Horderley, we commenced to climb along the Church Stretton road. A squeak made its appearance around my front wheel and I could not locate it, although I pulled the wheel out and examined the machine. I decided to oil it thoroughly at the next garage. We walked uphill out of the valley for over a mile, whilst all around wonderful wooded and river scenery opened out to us.
Near a very small church at Cwm Head, we remounted, and swooped down into Marshbrook, where we struck the main Shrewsbury – Ludlow road. We had come nine miles, and it was sixteen to Shrewsbury. With Wenlock Edge behind us, we entered that wondrous valley between Long Mynd and Caer Caradoc Hills, soon coming to Little Stretton, a picturesque village, but splashed with ugly garage and motor spirit notices. A short run took us through the spread-out suburbs of Church Stretton to the town centre, at the far end of which we stopped. At first we had decided to visit Carding Mill Valley, but the time was getting late – it was 11am, and I had about a hundred miles to go. Here we oiled our machines again, and silenced the squeak, then after a few minutes, we left each other, Tom to go – somewhere – for another 7 days, I to go home. Didn’t I wish that I was accompanying him!
There was a strong wind behind, and the road had a downhill tendency, therefore I maintained a good pace. All Stretton was as pretty as its namesake, and near Leebotwood, the valley opened out, giving me fine views of the surrounding country, including the boldly outlined Wrekin, which was not far away. Villages, each as picturesque as the last, rolled by. At Baytonhill, I got a fine view of Long mountain, and the wonderful Breidden Hills came into sight again. Then Meol Brace – such place names – and the vicinity of Shrewsbury, ‘Fair Salop’.
Shrewsbury is a queer place to enter, or leave. Crossing the English Bridge over the Severn, I walked along the hilly street, noting the fine timbering of the old houses, ran down beneath the railway arches, and more by good luck than management, I got on the right road without any trouble. There are two roads from Salop to Whitchurch, and by all accounts I took the right one – the prettier one. Not that I was particular at that time, for I was a stranger to both.
At first the road ran through some mundane suburbs, and past a large RAF camp, but beyond this it was scenery again. Just beyond Battlefield, a notice gave an account of the Battle of Shrewsbury, AD 1403, and within sight of the road is a memorial church. Now it is a rolling, verdant plain. I continued now through Hadnall, a pretty flowery little town, and cast about for a lunch place. I could not find one, so I was obliged to carry on. I continued along this road for mile after mile, deriving the keenest pleasure from the glorious verdant scenery around, but always keeping an eye open for a likely lunch place.
The road was undulating, but the strong wind behind made the going remarkably easy, and now the sun was shining. Preston Brockhurst and Lee Brockhurst are delightful places, but no sign could I see. Just beyond the latter place, the road climbed a rather stiff hill, whilst behind me was unfurled an extensive view of Salop, the Wrekin, and the dim Breidden Hills. Running through a kind of miniature pass, I dropped down to Weston, then Prees Green, where a ‘teas’ notice attracted me. I found the place full up, so I decided to continue. Prees came into view, but nothing came of my enquiry.
I was now getting desperate, as I had gone five hours since breakfast. Crossing Prees Heath, the scene of a big army camp during the recent war, I at length entered Whitchurch, an old-fashioned market town on the Cheshire – Shropshire border. I could not find a little place, so I entered an Hotel, where I obtained a substantial lunch at a decent price.
Now I took the Tarporley road, passing through some glorious Cheshire scenery via Bickley Moss, Cholmondeley Castle Estate and Spurstow, branching off to Beeston Towers, a fine example of ‘black and white’ work – though not ancient. On my left were the well wooded Peckforton Hills and the bold height of Beeston. Dropping down to Beeston Castle railway station, I found the road blocked with cattle, and spent a lively time dodging them. The bylanes to Eaton, then Cotebrooke, and the secondary Frodsham road carried me through glorious Delamere Forest, which was crowded with trippers. Hatchmere followed, then those winding roads through Norley and Crowton and down to Acton Bridge. Came the climb to Little Leigh, Comberbach, and then wonderful Gt. Budworth. In one of the old world cottages, I had tea and a chat with a Manchester chap. The wind had now dropped, the sun was sinking, and the run through the lanes to High Legh constituted a beautiful quiet idyll. Crossing Warburton Bridge, I ran across Chat Moss to Glazebury, then the ugly route home at 8.30pm. Had I known that I should have been home so soon, I should have visited Carding Mill Valley. Tom said it was well worth it. Thus ended a wonderful weekend, which, if it could be repeated more often, would open out a new phase to our cycling experiences. 110 miles