“Another glorious day” I murmured, as I got ready for ‘off’ this morning. Anticipating a warm day, I left my waistcoat and sweater at home, and as yesterday I left ‘rolled up to it’. I was on the road at 6.45, and at 8.10, after some waiting, Tom came up (Stretford), and we both started along towards Altrincham. Taking Chester road we turned down Dunham Hill to Mere Corner, where we joined Knutsford road. A chara passed us near Tatton Mere, and a little farther on we saw a hen in the roadway, and feathers all around. We took it to a farmhouse nearby, and the farmer, after eyeing us suspiciously, killed it (it was still alive). Reaching Knutsford, we passed along the picturesque, narrow streets, and continued uphill on the Chelford road. A byway then led us to the Holmes Chapel road, and soon we were heading for Middlewich. Near Lower Peover, we lingered awhile on a little bridge for some refreshments. Leaning over the parapet, we saw a host of tiny footprints which we took to be otters, on the sandy banks. Continuing, we had a fine run via Byley to Middlewich and along the narrow streets on the Winsford road. Winsford is in a hole – and is a hole, a place totally unexpected in such pretty surroundings. Over village is not much better, although both have some typical old houses to help relieve them.
As soon as we left Over, we took a track through a gateway, and all went well until we missed it, and wandered across two meadows. The farmer called us back, and contrary to our expectations, he proved a genial sort, and put us right. After some experience of mudbaths, we reached Little Budworth, and then had a short ride through one of the prettiest ‘bits’ imaginable, through Oulton Park. Just beyond here, we saw a pump by the wayside. Gee, that water was fine and cold. We drank it, let it run in a cool stream over our arms, drank again – until we had almost exhausted the supply. Then we entered Eaton, that rural little village providing us with more water. Soon Beeston castle, the same wondrous old relic, hove in view, and in a few minutes we were having a wash prior to lunch at a cottage at Beeston Brook. Lunch was set in a garden by the canal, a place that would delight the heart of ‘Bob’. At 1.00 we were on the road again, making uphill for the gates of the castle. A little to the left, halfway up the hill, were the castellated walls and turreted towers of Peckforton Castle, its weatherworn, brown walls giving it striking effect against a perfect green background. Although residential, and only built in the 18th century, the 150 years has given it much of the real, ancient quality. The castle is of course, in perfect condition.
Passing the historical gateway of Beeston, we came to Beeston village, a fine collection of old-world cottages, and carrying on around the base of the hills, we passed the fine lodge at the Peckforton gates, and reached Peckforton village, another old-world example. Near the first house in the village is a doubtful looking path or track which leads up the hill. We joined this. The gradient soon had us out of the saddle, but it was better walking; for it now became a sunken lane with steep banks ablaze with flowers of all hues. The wild rose lined the bank top, and great trees overarched the track. The surface itself was like a river bed, but that is nothing, for the gradient was far too steep to ride, even if we had the minds. But it was hot with a scorching sun blazing down upon us. Climbing the bank, we sat at the foot of a tree, drinking in the extensive view before us, which reached to the moorlands beyond the Potteries. Again we climbed, until we reached the bare summit: This was Peckforton Gap. The road improved up here, and soon we were descending.
Reaching a hamlet, we took another lane, from which we had a fine view of the Plain of Chester, and the Welsh frontier hills from the Berwyns to the Dee estuary. The sun was upon them, showing range after range, jumbled into peaks, some rounded, some of sharp outline, and, as usual, Moel Fammau was the most conspicuous. The low hills of the Wirral, showed us the Dee estuary, which terminates in Hilbre Island. Our lane led us back again to the hamlet, from where we dropped to the outskirts of Burwardsley, turning again, on a road that led us into Peckforton estate. It ended here in a path, and a quagmire and roots of trees made it bad for riding. The next one and a half miles through the beautiful woods gave us many a heart thump.
The way we dodged those ruts, dykes, trees – and the path itself, was a revelation in trick riding, and yet we found time to look around. We came out on the Beeston – Peckforton road again, and reaching the former village, we swung around along the road that encircles the castle hill. On a little green patch in a triangle of roads, we stopped to survey the incomparable scene. Last time, the woods at the base of the hill were only just donning their colours, this time they were richly adorned in leafy splendour, the jagged rocks above were lined in every crevice with bracken, tufts of grass, or creepers. The walls of the ruin were perched on the very edge, yet they have stood there for 700 years, over on our right arose from the woods, Peckforton Castle, and the range of hills, the black and white of some old house, the white washed walls and thatched roof of some cottage; views – scenes like this are always hard to leave. Tearing ourselves away, we took the road via Horton’s Mill to Tarporley, a wonderful lane to Cotebrooke, and by devious ways to Mrs Wade’s at Acton for tea. At 6 we started back via Little Leigh to Comberbach, Gt. Budworth, and over Warburton Bridge to Cadishead. Between here and Irlam, we again saw the motorcyclist of last night. Tom and I left each other at Patricroft, and I reached home at 8.45pm. All too soon! 108 miles