I had to meet Tom at Kingsway End, 10am this morning. The day was very boisterous, and black storm-clouds scudded across the sky, as I ran across the wind through Barton, Stretford and Didsbury, reaching the meeting place well within time. Soon Tom came, and we made our way through Cheadle and along the Wilmslow road to Handforth, where we turned left towards Prestbury, but rejoined the main road again a little farther along. At Wilmslow, we again made a foray towards Prestbury, running through some delightful rural scenery, and by many pretty half timber cottages. I tried to sketch a mysterious, carved monolith near Mottram, on the Wilmslow – Macclesfield road, but it was too much for my poor mash, and I gave up. We then left this road and ran through Mottram, coming to the foot of Alderley Edge. We knew that if we kept on, we should have to join the main road once more, so we took a footpath that runs straight to the summit. It was work with a capital ‘W’ getting our machines up there, but when we got there, we had a very clear view of the surrounding country. Just the day for ‘The Cloud’ we thought, and decided to make for that eminence after lunch. From the ‘Wizard’, we rushed downhill to Mrs Powell’s, and were soon sampling her excellent dishes.
After lunch, we joined the beautiful main road through that quaint hamlet, Nether Alderley, by pretty Redesmere, Marton and Siddington, turning left into a byway two miles from Congleton, and joining the Macclesfield road. A few moments later on, we rushed down a very steep decline to the river Dane, across it and so into Buglawton. Now the Leek road, but, two miles farther on we joined a byroad which ran beneath the shelter of ‘The Cloud’. Leaving our machines in a little delph, we continued on foot to its sharp summit, where an amazing view was opened out to us.
Looking towards Manchester, the rippling country, well wooded, dropped sharply to a lower, level plain, and trailed away into the smoke of that city’s satellite towns. The moors behind my home town, forty miles away, were visible, and as Tom had a pair of glasses, they became quite clear. By the aid of the glasses, we could pick out the sweep of the Mersey, the whole of the Wirral and the Dee estuary. On the other side of Chester, rose a jumbled barrier of mountainous uplands, with, on the Denbighshire portion, our old friend, Moel Fammau, as the culminating peak. A little nearer, in the centre of the verdant, rolling plain, rose the Peckforton Hills, with the sharp prominence of Beeston at the end, even to the hoary old ruin on its summit. Looking along the Welsh border, the hills become lower near Oswestry, then higher again, and so clear was the day, that a distinct unmistakeable view could be had of Breidden, sixty miles away. By focussing the glasses we could make out quite easily its well-known peculiarities. The ridges of the hills around Church Stretton (Long Myndd, Caradoc etc), the Wrekin and all its environs, and now – quite near at hand – the ‘burning hills of Staffordshire’, Mow Cop, then our view ended in a wild disorder of ‘bumpy’ hills, moorlands, white roads, a canal, and Rudyard reservoirs. This is by far my clearest view. The wind was so strong up here, that we could almost lean on it! We came down (the climb is quite easy), and retrieving the machines, soon reached Buglawton again.
Now we entered Congleton, a moderate sized manufacturing town, which, as most Cheshire towns, retains some fine examples of black and white work. The best is usually seen in ‘pubs’ or Inns. Joining the Newcastle road – the road to Meriden – we soon came to the little village of Astbury, which is famous for its ancient, curious church. A description cannot be given here. We entered, and spent some time inside. Amongst the things that attracted our attention, was a very beautifully worked stained glass window, some ancient pews, dates, the beautiful doorways and the roof, which was of oak panels, the design of each being different. The pulpit showed some finely carved work. On the exterior were many amusing and grotesque gargoyles and the old Lych gate was interesting. After a cursory examination, we once more joined the Newcastle road – the road to Meriden – and in a very short time came to that gem of old English timberwork, Little Moreton Hall, or Moreton Old Hall.
It is a beautiful example of the Tudor and Jacobean period, situate in the midst of verdant meadow lands, and amongst luxuriant foliage. Seen from the highway – The Road To Meriden! – its projecting upper storeys and quaint windows, its gabled roofs and ivy clad chimneys, its walls chequered in black and white, with trefoils, quatrefoils and chevrons diapered all over it, give one the impression that it is some big, beautiful toy. Of uniformity there is none, but how picturesque is the irregularity! The whole is a perfect specimen of a half timbered manor house, and is said to possess more 16th century character and features than any other existing example of equal antiquity.
It covers about an acre of land, and is approached from the road by what must once have been a graceful avenue, the tall old trees that still line the grass-grown track still suggest it. The moat that yet surrounds it, is rectangular in shape, measuring 80 by 90 yards, and is crossed on the south side – the entrance – by a stone bridge of single span. The rich carving on the massive oak entrance gateway is very fine, and the second double door is worthy of attention. Here are a curious old wooden lock and bolts, and a cunningly devised loop-door, where parleying with an intruder could be ventured upon. On the right is a porter’s lodge, and on the left an ante room leading to the garderobe. In the quadrangle itself is a bewildering picture, impressive and beautiful, a veritable riot in black and white timbering, and oak carving. At the west end is a large kitchen and pantry, erected for convenience, probably, as the original kitchen is badly placed across the courtyard. Perhaps the windows are the greatest glory in the quadrangle, the two great bays which form five sides of an octagon, being of a later date than the rest. We wandered into the chapel, a severely plain place, the great hall with its elaborate carving, the bedrooms with their four posters, the drawing room with its wonderful fireplace, the wainscoted boudoir, the kitchen, in which is seen the old spice chest with its 25 little drawers, the pewter plates bearing the Moreton crest, the old oak table which will easily accommodate a dozen people, and the fireplace which is large enough to roast an ox.
Then crossing the courtyard, we ascended a winding staircase which is attached to a central newel post, to an ante-room with gardarobes adjoining. The retiring room with its richly ornamental fireplace, the wonderfully picturesque banqueting room, the secret hiding places, which are accessible by sliding panel, were all explored, but not thoroughly, for we should need a full day to see all that there is to be seen here. Tom took several photographs which have recently turned out excellent, and after another look at the old quaint mansion, we once more set our faces towards Newcastle (on the road to Meriden!!). A few more miles against a strong headwind, and then we reached Red Bull, where we left the road to Meriden, and sped along towards Holmes Chapel. It was getting near teatime – after 5pm – and we felt the need of it, but if we stopped now, we should have too great a mileage to cover afterwards. Besides, I had in mind, a place at Holmes Chapel, the George and Dragon where, 18 months ago, two of us had obtained a rattling tea. 18 months ago! Anyway, we bounded along at a breathless pace through Smallwood and Brereton Green (the inn there is a fine example in black and white) to our objective. We were not disappointed, yes, they would make tea, and after we had had a wash, we were led into the same room as before in 1923. The walls were decorated with guns of an old pattern, shields, assegais, rare ornamental work both in pottery and metal and also carving.
Tea was quite up to par, and when we went downstairs afterwards, we were shown round. There were large cases of stamps, a fine collection of money, both in coinage and paper, a cheque from Lord Roberts during the South African war, ore, iron, lead, copper, silver and even a piece of gold bearing quartz. The landlady had collected all these! With the wind behind us, we started along the Knutsford road, via Cranage and Rudheath, reaching Knutsford an hour later (8.30pm), then with lamps lit, the road round Tatton Mere to Chester road, and Dunham Hill to Altrincham. We stopped at Stretford, to make arrangements for next week, then each turned our face homewards. Barton, etc and I reached home soon after 10pm.
This has been a remarkably instructive run, and I think that it would make a fine clubrun. I shall have to see about it. 96 miles