What a ride! Yet worth it, all are. Being the holidays, I decided to make for Bettws-y-Coed, so I started at 2am. It was pitch black when I got beyond Atherton and Leigh, and the morning was rather warm. Groping my way from Lowton to Winwick, I located another squeak, which I murdered on the road to Warrington. Running through the dark streets, I soon gained Chester road beyond the swing bridge, upon which, my pace was eased a little. At Sutton Weaver, I began to get just a little sleepy, and try as I would, I could not shake it off. Frodsham, Helsby – it grew worse, and whilst sitting on a bridge just beyond here I started to doze. I had a bit of lunch, then made a move, turning my lamp out. Dunham passed slowly, Mickle Trafford, and at 6am I dragged my weary bones into Chester.
Here I tried to get some breakfast, knowing that something hot would awaken me, but I was too early, so after a sleepy ten minutes on the old Dee bridge, I joined the Wrexham road. My pace was dead slow – it took me an hour to get to Rossett, where, to my joy, I found the Golden Lion open. A wash, then I entered the dining room. Breakfast was a long time coming, and when it did come, I was caught ‘napping’ – the rattle of crockery awoke me! I made a wakes of that meal, and the price of it made a wakes of my pocket! From the Golden Lion – which must be given a wide berth in future – I joined the Cefn-y-Bedd road, which at first runs by the Alyn, then bucks up suddenly. I was much better now. From the little war memorial at the top, an excellent view of the Plain of Chester was spread out before me, culminating in the Mersey and the sea on one hand, Beeston and Peckforton in the centre, and the lower hills in Shropshire on the other.
A short run brought me to Cefn-y-Bedd, then along a pretty vale to Ffrith, and the climbing started in real earnest. Very little riding is possible from Ffrith along the Bwlch Gwyn road, and I wonder if any ordinary motor traverses it. As a rule, we walk the lot to the Nant-y-Ffrith turning, which we have always taken, down (and up) the Nant-y-Garth. This is undoubtedly a short cut, but owing to the unrideable hills , we have often wondered if it was really the quicker. I therefore determined to see, so I carried on instead of turning just beyond the level crossing. Walk, walk, walk. When I did get a ride, I ducked steeply down, and had to start the walk again. It took me two hours to cover that nine miles to Bwlch Gwyn. I am certain of one thing – Nant-y-Garth is by far the quicker, and easily the most scenic. At Bwlch Gwyn, a glorious panorama was set out before me, of the whole of Cheshire to the Derbyshire Hills, the Staffordshire Hills, the Wrekin in Shropshire, and even the moors around Bolton. Frodsham and Helsby headlands looked like two molehills! I could pick out towns quite easily, Chester, Tarporley, Whitchurch, Nantwich, the industrial haze of Northwich, Winsford and Over, Middlewich, and the dark, smoky Potteries. Beeston castle, the far-seen feudal ruin, at the end of a low range, stood quite clear.
I spent some time here, then, deciding that to go farther inland would be foolish in my still sleepy state, I made for Nant-y-Garth. A hundred yards down the road, I turned left, by a notice board that states that no motors or vehicles of any description are allowed down the Nant-y-Ffrith. I did not see it of course – but from my experiences afterwards, I am sure that only cycles are possible down here, and those with some ‘back work’. The road led to a large hall, and a footpath from the road seemed to go down the valley, so I joined it. It was rough, and stony and muddy, but the scenery across the wonderful, rocky gorge was grand. The side of the valley was very precipitous with a small stream at the bottom, and a private footpath ran first along a ledge on the cliffs, then crossed the stream at a dizzy height by a slender bridge, recrossing, and winding amongst the rocks, sometimes precariously, sometimes boldly.
My path kept to the top of the cliffs, running through some glorious woodlands, and bracken and giving exquisite glimpses of the vale below. Lower down, quarrying was in progress on the opposite side, and this robbed it of some of its beauty. I heard blasting in progress also. I spent a long time here, and my route became a mere scramble, but this ‘bit’ was all the more beautiful because it was something of a surprise. I never expected anything quite like it. At length I went through a farmyard, and soon reach Ffrith again. From Cefn-y-Bedd, I turned for Caergwrle, and running by the base of the hill on which stands the castle, I swung right, uphill, then dropped down, soon coming to Dodleston.
A few miles of winding byways, then I attempted to follow a track, and got lost. I wandered for one and a half hours across flat, marshy fields, always being stopped by a deep, wide, stagnant dyke, and at last gave it up, almost entirely retracing my steps. I noticed that strung across several gates were the rotting carcases of rats! I do not know what they are for. At long last I found the right way, and utterly weary, I sank down on a grassy bank for a long rest. Then I joined Wrexham road, and entered Eaton Hall estate. That grand run through the sylvan glades to the Hall made me forget my weariness. Then another fine byway brought me out on the crossroads just across the Dee Bridge. Running through tourist ridden Chester, a short four miles brought me to Mickle Trafford, and Dennison’s for tea. That tea and the rest that followed, put me in grand form, and I soon left the main road for a byway which led towards the hills. I traversed many miles of seductive byways to Mouldsworth and along the ridge to Tarvin, on the Chester – Northwich road. Then Kelsall, and the byways again via Ashton Hayes to the duck pond near Mouldsworth again. The switchback through the beautiful woods followed, and out of Delamere Forest at Norley. Downhill to Crowton, and I stopped at Mrs Wade’s, Milton, to warn her of the clubrun I lead next Sunday. She made me have some supper, and it was 9.30 when I left.
In the gathering dusk, I ran to Acton station, then down to the Weaver, and joined the well known lanes toward Gt. Budworth. I lit up at Little Leigh, and pursued my silent way through the bewildering maze of byroads which Tom and I know so well, through Comberbach to Gt. Budworth. The ancient village was sleeping, and very quiet, when I passed through and re-entered the byways. So intricate is this route from Delamere to Warburton, that to a stranger, it would be well nigh impossible to traverse without several mixups, and although it is easy for us to follow in daylight, some care has to be taken at night. I lost my way! but knew that road, and rejoined the route after completing two sides of a triangle. Yet, only a week or so since, I traversed the route to Comberbach five times in seven days. This gives an idea of its invaluable use to us. I soon reached High Legh, then Broom Edge and Heatley. Between here and Warburton I passed some men, who tried to jump in my way, and a few yards farther on I saw some more stood across the road. I made a dash into them, and they jumped aside. I reached Warburton after that at evens! Warburton Bridge, then from Rixton I joined the dark road across Chat Moss to Glazebury and Leigh, reaching home in fine form at midnight. PS. Between Kelsall and Delamere, on the Ashton Hayes road, I saw several cows in a field, each having a bell tied round its neck. The bells were of different tone, giving an effect to the ear of some musical beauty, but the amusing part of it was the fact that as each bell rang, the cows tail swung rhythmically. One can picture the comic appearance it caused! 170 miles