Sunday, April 26 – Sandy Lane

Started at 8.30am this morning, bound for nowhere in particular, although I had an idea at the back of my head, to try the new bike in the lanes of our old, favourite district, Beeston. It was a beautiful Spring morning, sunny and calm, and once clear of the towns, I felt perfectly at home on the machine, which felt very lively as it whirled me across Chat Moss to Warburton. Crossing the bridge, I traversed the same route as yesterday to High Legh, then by pleasant, Spring-clad lanes to Great Budworth, which old world village exceeded itself in peaceful tranquillity; indeed, so quiet did it look, that I crept down the crooked street silently, feeling half afraid to make a noise. Comberbach came next, and the more barren road to Little Leigh, followed by a drop into the Weaver Valley, and crossing the river, I climbed out again to Acton Bridge. After Crowton came more climbing through Norley, until Hatchmere heralded Delamere Forest.

A glorious woodland ride followed to Cotebrook, where the dear old lanes, so pretty, so winding, and so narrow conveyed me beneath an arcade of trees to beautiful, whitewashed Eaton, to Tiverton – and down to Beeston Brook, where I knew of a good place for dinner (or is it lunch – as in Cerrig-y-Drudion!).

It was after 1pm when I left the precincts of the homely cottage, and climbed the hill to Beeston Smithy, where one can get a good idea of the position and fortifications of the 13th century castle. On this side which is steeply sloping, the keep is seen on the summit, the two ‘drum’ towers, one on each side of what was the drawbridge, and a high wall with a deep dry moat cut into solid rock, protecting the inner confines, whilst halfway down the hill is a half-circle of thick, high walls, now ruined, and strengthened by several round towers, also in a dilapidated condition, and, like the keep, partly overgrown with ivy. At the base of the hill, too, were once towers and walls, as the huge gateway by the roadside, with its two portcullis towers, will testify. I fancy, however, that this gateway never had any portcullis, and that this outer wall was never of great strength.

The inaccessibility of Beeston Castle lay in the Keep. The other side, being an overhanging precipice, needed no fortifications. On the other hillside, is seen the castle that never was a castle in the true sense of the word, although, with its embattled walls and turreted towers showing above the trees, it looks medieval enough. I refer to Peckforton Castle, the Cheshire residence of Lord Tollemache. Beeston was a ruin before Peckforton was ever thought of (18th century).

The foothills road was more beautiful than ever, the hills seemed easier, although when I turned at Peckforton into that appropriately named track, Sandy Lane, I did not even try riding. I was too much held by the beautiful Spring colouring to concentrate on the gradient. I lingered here for a while, then dropped down to Burwardsley, where, in the triangle of roads, I got mixed up, and after wandering down a steep, sunken pathway, found myself at the triangle again. My next attempt was more successful, and soon I reached the head of Peckforton Gap. There were no views to be had this time, so I scrambled over the stones and sand to the road again near Bickerton. A strong wind had arisen since dinner, and my direction lay against it mostly, to add to which, my saddle was giving me some ‘humpy’, therefore I decided to follow a course where I should feel the least wind – in other words I was out to dodge it.

Regaining Beeston, I passed round to the other side, and after gazing my fill at the tinted rock-face and woods, wherein I saw deer, I struck out via Horton’s Mill to Birch Heath, and the main road at Tarporley. This I patronised for some miles to Clotton, where I regained the byways and through pretty woods, came to Quarrybank. The climb on the ‘backbone’ of Cheshire, did not give the usual views, though Beeston stood out prominently, not four miles away as the crow flies. A very rough lane led me along the summit, with the wind doing its utmost to hold me back.

Along here are the remains of Kelsborrow Castle, one of the very early border fortresses, but nothing – or at least very little, is known of its history, and to the ordinary individual there are no signs of it. I should never have dreamt of its existence if I had not read of it. A favourite hobby of mine during spare moments at home, is ‘grubbing’ through books and maps. The library is very useful in this way – I am one member of three [obviously using his parents tickets as well – Ed], from which I can take out six books, and I never get anything but travel books. Thus I have gained some knowledge of history, archaeology, and geography, which comes in very useful when pursuing my pastime and planning trips.

All that can be seen of Kelsborrow Castle are four mounds of earth, and very shallow trenches, from which some very imperfect idea of the general plan of the extensive stronghold can be got. I should think it existed long before William conquered the Saxons (1066 AD), and was a ruin 600 years ago. As happens – or did happen with so many more famous ruins, the ignorant agricultural people found a good quarry for stones to build their houses and farm buildings from here, thus leaving only the excavated earth to show the former position – and in many cases, the more accessible excavations have been levelled by the ploughman, until now, nothing whatever remains. [It is now generally held to have been an Iron Age Hill fort, one of seven in Cheshire, so the ‘ignorant agricultural people’ of the locality never did raid the ‘buildings’ on site – there were none to start with!- Ed]

A sharp drop down took me across Watling Street, that modernised Roman Highway, then up again to Eddisbury district, where I tumbled down to the outskirts of Delamere Forest, and after a bumpy voyage reached Delamere Station. Once more I passed through the forest to Hatchmere, Norley, then a very rough track and later the footpath to Mrs Wade’s. Here I learned that Tom had called, leaving an hour ago, with a Manchester chap, but I decided not to follow him up.

After tea I started back along the same road home, pottering through Comberbach, Great Budworth and High Legh, with numerous stops en route, so as to gain a little ease from the new, and very uncomfortable B10 saddle. After Warburton, it didn’t take me long to cross Chat Moss and reach the region of cotton mills – and home, with over a century for the first day run on the new lightweight.

104 miles