Sunday, 26 October 1924 Horseshoe Pass

I should have met Tom this morning, at Chester, 8am for an early start for Wales, but to my alarm, chagrin, and disgrace, I only awoke at 6.45am!  Anyway, I determined to carry on, and so, at 7.15 I made a start.  The morning was cold and misty, and I was glad to don my gloves for the first time in many months.  From Bolton to Atherton my chain kept jumping off, luckily not causing any damage, and valuable minutes were wasted in adjusting it.  From Leigh, I began to feel myself, and soon I was making a rapid pace via Lowton and Winwick to Warrington, which I reached just after 8.30.  The morning had brightened somewhat, but the day was hopeless for views.  Daresbury, Sutton Weaver, Frodsham were left in quick succession, and passing through Helsby I embarked on the last eight miles.  Between Dunham on the Hill and Mickle Trafford, I saw Tom pottering down the road towards me.

After a greeting and an apology (he had waited nearly two hours), we got along to Chester, reaching that quaint city at 10am.  Passing the famous Rows, and many other fine examples of timber work, we crossed the Dee Bridge, soon reaching Wrexham road.  We had just passed the main Pulford entrance to Eaton Hall, when it commenced to rain.  It did come down, too!  A rapid dive into the capes took place, then we started off again, through Pulford to Rossett, where we joined that well trod road towards Minera.  A few moments were spent at a waterfall on the Alyn, then we started to climb.  An undulating, rainy run followed to Cefn-y-Bedd, then the rather pretty bylane through the valley to Ffrith.

From this hamlet, the road is not uphill – oh no, it is only higher at one end than the other!  But it is a matter of 800 feet higher!  The mist had reappeared, the rain had not disappeared, indeed it seemed to come down worse, and when one’s feet are waterlogged, and cold, one is none too comfortable!  But we shall never let it be said that we are disgruntled by a (large) drop of rain!  We get more cheerful as it goes wetter, and our only comment is ‘send ‘em down, David!’  After a great deal of tramping, we turned down a rutty lane which dropped suddenly, then swung left fiercely and gave a dangerous double twist across a bridge.  The colouring in autumn tints in this little valley were gorgeous, and during the walk up the other side, we had plenty of time to view at leisure, these woods.  The rain, cleaning them, only served to enhance their riotous beauty.

Another long steady climb brought us to Bwlch Gwyn, then a four mile run across the open moors, and we reached Llandegla, and, of course, the Crown for lunch just after noon.  Sixty two miles before lunch – the last 18 being by no means hilly (just higher than 1,000 feet) in five hours.  I think we had earned it.  For the fourth time we added our names to the book and incidentally discovered that ‘Wayfarer’ and Tom Hughes had stayed here last week.  We played havoc with lunch, then settled down for half an hour before the fire which the innkeeper had lit for us.  It was cosy in here, and outside the rain still came down vigorously.  Out of four visits, three had been in rain, and one – nearly.  Llandegla, when shall we see you in sunshine?  A Liverpudlian joined us, and we had a good chat with him.  He told us our mistake re the Moel Fammau run of July 20, when we got lost between Ruthin and Llanarmon.  When we at last got out, (1.30), the rain was still at it, and Tom took a photograph of the Crown, with me adorning the railings at the front.  Then we made a start along the Llangollen road.

After a short run downhill, we started to climb, and though riding was easily possible, we preferred to walk, for our feet were numbed with cold.  Soon we came on to the open moors, and, in an incredibly short time, we reached the summit of the Horseshoe Pass or Bwlch Oernant.  The mist was thick and clammy, but we got a short distance view of the near hillsides.  Steep, partly wooded, the ground covered with bramble, they gave us a perfect picture of autumn colouring.  In Autumn, nature splashes the landscape with generous tints in golden, red, and brown, and in this instance, the effect as far as we could see was gorgeous.  The descent of the Pass now started, and our brakes were called into action on the steep pitches and the extremely dangerous ‘horseshoe’.  We were numbed with cold, and were very glad of the fact that we were riding fixed.  The pace, on the treacherous road surface was necessarily slow, but the scenery, except for the quarrying part at Oernant, was grand.  After negotiating the two sides (and the middle) of the ‘horseshoe’, we had a winding, steeply dropping, well wooded stretch , then again the open hillside to the valley, where we paid a call to Eliseg’s Pillar.  We caught a glimpse of Valle Crucis Abbey, then reached the canal side.  I was glad when the road became level again, and I could feel the forward pressure of the pedals.

llangollen-bridge007

In a few minutes we crossed the canal and reached Llangollen, where we paused a moment on the Dee Bridge in the rain.  Then through the resort and on to the Holyhead road, heading towards London (not for London!).  Came a fine run with the beautiful Vale of Llangollen on our left, and at length we passed the Chirk Aqueduct, and turned into Cefn.  We had made a detour of several miles to avoid the usual road, but we joined it at Ruabon after a dismal run through a colliery district.  Dusk was falling – and so was the rain – when we reached Wrexham.  The next eleven miles to Chester were covered in record time, then through the city, and another four miles brought us to Mickle Trafford for tea.  We had the cosy room to ourselves, so we put our handkerchiefs before the roaring fire to dry, then we pulled our shoes off and put them near the fire.  Then our soaked gloves were pinned on the cover over the mantelpiece, and becoming bolder, we pulled off our saturated stockings and pinned them up too!  Talk about washing day!  All the time, we kept on eating, for we had developed a massive appetite.  When our gloves became dry, we used them for towels on our legs.  Our stockings soon became dry, and before we left, we had dry feet, dry gloves, and a dry handkerchief.  Resourceful!

Outside darkness had fallen, a thick mist enveloped all, and the rain was still going strong.  Lighting up, we proceeded slowly, for the mist was impenetrable, and once we missed our way.  It is a good job that we knew when to turn or we should have had above one crash.  People walking in the roadway in Helsby and Frodsham further reduced our pace, and the bridge at Sutton Weaver, which is being reconstructed, called for extra care.  As we neared Warrington, we nearly missed the hole in that little canal bridge, but at Walton the fog had somewhat dispersed.  I left Tom here, at 9.10pm, and hurrying through Warrington, climbed to Winwick.  That three mile bylane to Lowton required some care, (my lamp is worn out, my Two Bob Lucas) but from Lowton I made good headway to Leigh, Atherton and Bolton at 11pm, still inside the cape.  It has been a glorious run, although we have had thirteen hours rain.  During our last two runs together in Wales, we have had 25 hours in the rain.  The land of the Leek!                                                                                              135 miles

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