I had arranged to meet Tom this morning at Northwich, 9.30am. He was bringing a recruit to the pastime, a prospective CTC-ite, and we thought that our duty was to introduce him to some of the best scenery within a moderate days run. Therefore, what finer, more glorious scenery could we find than that around Beeston Castle? I think we could not have found anything more impressive to a newcomer on his first long ride. I was up early – 5.45am – and with a calm, clear sky above, dry roads below me (for once), I started at about 7am. I passed over the well worn route via Atherton, Glazebury and over Warburton Bridge, reaching High Legh at 8.10, with 18 miles behind me. Again I ran along the time honoured, beautiful, never wearisome road to that rural gem, Gt. Budworth. At the ‘Wishing Well’ at the foot of the village, I joined the Lostock Gralam road, which runs between ‘Lock Pick’ and Budworth Mere. As is my wont on these early starts, I had a bit of lunch, then leaving this road, I passed between Witton Flashes into Northwich, soon reaching the rendezvous, where Tom and his friend were waiting.
After a formal introduction, we made a start up Castle Hill. Proceeding through Hartford on the main Chester road, we soon reached Sandiway, where we turned for Whitegate. This road, beautifully wooded, led us to the latter place, a gem of a village, with whitewashed and half timbered cottages and a church set on a little rise, in Vale Royal. Across the vale, and uphill to the crossroads, taking the Little Budworth road. By many pleasant byways we sauntered, stopping awhile in one place to pick blackberries, then skirting Little Budworth, we entered Oulton Park. Short it is, but, in its early Autumn colour, it cannot possibly fail to captivate the most critical eye, and for once, the woods are free, no hedge or fence or bank, wall the roads that run through this all too short paradise. A little further along, we came to a pump by the roadside, and for some time we played with the sparkling, cool water. The sun was strong, and the day hot. Then running by a little mere, we joined another byway, coming in a few moments to the prettily set village of Eaton. More bylanes, and then the grand old ruin of Beeston hove into view, as always recalling the words:
‘Relic of Kings, wreck of forgotten wars,
To the winds abandoned, and the prying stars –‘
We drew nearer, until we joined a main road, and in a moment had reached Beeston Brook, with a grand view of the castle-crowned hill before us, and the reddish brown turrets of Peckforton Castle. Came a climb, and a few moments later, we reached our lunch place, The Smithy. Standing at the corner of the little black and white cottage, an entrancing view of the outer walls, ruined and broken, and the bracken-covered steep slope, with the old keep on the summit, met the eye, a pleasing picture indeed, and from the little room where we had tea, looking through the latticed window, which was thrown wide open, the winding lane and verdant pastures. A man was walking down the road, clad in plus fours which hung from his knees in such generous folds, that we screamed with laughter. Oh! for a sketch book or camera. He cut such a figure, but seemed quite proud of himself, by the way he strutted about!
Lunch over, we made a circuit of the wall which bounds the hill, more for the sake of showing our friend the ‘other side’, the coloured cliff on which the castle is perched. He was enraptured, delighted, amazed with it all. The completion of the circle brought us back to the Smithy, from where we struck off towards Peckforton village. The road wound round by the estate, passing the gates of the park. At the entrance to the village, we turned up a lane, which at first is roughly paved, then sandy. Fifty yards further along, it bucks fiercely uphill, by a lumber wagon, which, by the way it is placed, must have been there months, and will take some shifting. All the while that we climbed, the panorama behind gradually unfurled. The rich, rolling plains of Cheshire were spread before us when we turned about.
At the foot of this gently swelling hill, situated in lovely, flowery gardens, with creepers over the walls and roses round the doors and windows, are the peoples cottages, those timbered homes that abound in England – in rural England, symbols of peace and quiet, the neat black and white work – or, maybe, cream and black humble palaces, better, far, than palaces, as the thatched roof does not shelter ‘blue’ blood, but good, rich red blood. It seems a pity to me, that this, England’s premier class, should be so exploited, so ill treated as it is at the present time, and it is only to be hoped that the power they wield as voters will be used for their own benefit rather than others – my eyes fell upon Cholmondley Castle, my mind went to Peckforton, Chatsworth, and a host of other aristocratic homes that I have seen this year. Their castles are fine – I like to see their architecture and scenic beauties, but the owners…… well I place them on the same average that Tom and I place motorists. Yes their castles are fine, but finer are the cottage homes of England, and the real owners of England. Sometimes, perhaps, they will see this, and in the same quiet and peaceful way that they live, they will strike off their shackles and create a cleaner better England. I am not a ‘red’ revolutionary, but a white revolutionary, for I love England too well to help strike ‘red’. In short, I am a strong upholder of the present much abused minority government, for I see them striving against overwhelming odds to make a better England. But you must excuse this, it is not a political diary, and my intention should be to keep politics out.
The black pall hanging over the southeast denoted the five townships of Staffordshire, the Potteries. Right across this smiling plain, the Highlands of Cheshire and West Derbyshire marked the confines of this county in the east, and when we reached the summit, the western portion was revealed to us. But the finer view on this side was that of the Welsh Mountains, blunt, swelling moors for the most part, rising higher with every succeeding range, the whole dominated by the usual ‘Hill of Mothers’, good old Moel Fammau (see my run there on July 20). We tumbled down to a village – or hamlet, then right, downhill to where the road ended at a gate. Through the gate, and then a two mile acrobatic feat through the glorious woods of the Peckforton estate. The feats of balancing, rough riding, mud plugging, twisting, winding, jumping, stopping – and starting – were quite marvellous – for us. We at last entered on a road, from where a grand view of the old castle of Beeston, could be had. Still, the view of Beeston is ‘grand’ from anywhere! Our road we knew well, and in a few moments we were once more at the Smithy.
Then Beeston Brook, and Eaton once more. At Cotebrooke, we swung slightly left, and ran for several miles through Delamere Forest to Hatchmere. Then our usual ‘puzzler’ (for newcomers) via Norley and Crowley to Mrs Wade’s at Acton Bridge. We promised ‘Bill’ a free lunch each if he could follow this route from Hatchmere to Warburton, and we would allow him three mistakes! After tea came the run down to Acton Bridge, across the Weaver valley, and up to Little Leigh, where our lamps were lit. The twisty road to Comberbach, even more twisty to Gt. Budworth, then the dark lanes in which one has to be careful even in daylight if one is not sure of it. We took the wrong turn, but as soon as we turned we knew that we were wrong, and the mere circling put us right. ‘Bill’ got more confused, and by the time High Legh was reached, he said he was in a maze. Between High Legh and Warburton, we stopped, for they would leave me here.
Before we parted, Bill said, “well, if this is a sample of cycling – real cycling, you can book me down, and I will join the CTC inside next week!” That is the kind of recruit we want. Beeston has opened the eyes of yet another! After taking leave of them, I made my way over Warburton Bridge to Rixton, then once more across Chat Moss to Glazebury. The bylanes brought me to Atherton, and then to Bolton, ending one more first class run in Cheshire. 95 miles