Some cyclists talk about the scenery on the Wirral Peninsula as though it was something great, but, though I have traversed it three or four times, the only thing about this arm of Cheshire that is attractive are the views across the Dee estuary, to my mind. Tom holds the same opinion, but until today, we have traversed mostly the main roads which are very badly motorised, and except for the Deeward views, are of the Cheshire type – pretty, but apt to become boring on successive occasions. Anyway, the outcome of it all was that we should follow our ‘unwritten law’ and give the bylanes our attention in Cheshire. The arrangements, therefore, for today were to meet at the Warrington ‘bottleneck’ at 9.30am.
Huggh! It was cold and raw and misty at 8am when I made a start. The fog was so thick that I could not see a dozen yards in front, whilst I thought that we could not have picked a worse day, the Wirral would be featureless on a day like this, for I never thought that it could clear sufficiently to give the anticipated views. Leigh and the drab road via Lowton to Winwick was passed, and soon after the arranged time, I was stopping at the rendezvous, where Tom was waiting. We decided to take the bottom road to Liverpool as the lesser of two evils, so off we hiked, ‘speeding along to get the engine warm’. Our route lay via Penketh and Cronton, and to the first named the road was quite good. Then we got it good – in places – the bad being of a particularly bad type.
On this particular 16 mile stretch we were thankful for the mist, inasmuch as we did not see the ugly, scarred ‘scenery’ about us. From Cronton came a long, level run to Huyton, and tram lines via Roby to Old Swan, where a four mile ride through the streets of Liverpool commenced. Here, as if by a miracle, the fog had entirely lifted. Passing the fine buildings encircling the Exchange, with their many statues and monuments, we rode between two huge skyscrapers, and reached the landing stage. We had decided to take the Seacombe ferry to avoid Birkenhead, and after a little waiting our ship came in and we went aboard.
During our short sail, we noted many big ships in the estuary, and the huge Royal Liver Insurance buildings, with the clock which is supposed to have the biggest diameter in the world. We soon reached the other side, and passing along the gangways, we joined the Wallasey road. A run through suburbs took us to the latter place, from where we mingled with petrolism along a straight, wide, flat road, utterly dull and devoid of scenic interest. We were only too glad to reach Leasowe Castle, which is not really a castle, but a rather modern building with a fancy name and now a convalescent home. There are a great many modern more or less pretentious buildings that are called castles and which really have no claim whatever to the title. The main road turns opposite the gateway, but an inferior road keeps straight on, and as we were already sick of the petrol fumes, we kept straight on. It was very inferior, a ‘tidal’ road in fact, and judging by appearances, the tide had not long left it, for the surface was of treacly sand, and numerous deep waterways, full of sea ran across it. Many people watched our submarine feats as we ‘took’ these channels, and got more amusement from it than us!
Near an old ruined mill, the road turned inland towards Moreton, and immediately improved in calibre. Came a run through a land full of housing schemes, sundry wooden homesteads of all designs, ugly, quaint, and small, never pretty, and always bearing signs of homemade shacks; the overflow of the big city. We soon reached Moreton, where we found a moderate lunch place.
An hour later we emerged into bright, warm sunlight on the Hoylake road. Like the other road, this is motorised and monotonous, but we had little more than a mile of it, turning into a rough byway to Saughall Massey, then along to Greasby, a rather quaint little place. The afternoon was wonderfully bright and clear, and the scenery was quickly improving as we climbed up Irbyheath. From Irbymill Hill we gained a good view across the flat, shanty-littered land to a calm blue sea beyond.
A drop downhill took us through Backston to the Chester-West Kirby road just Chesterwards of Heswall. This is really a beautiful road, but suffers badly from the traffic complaint, so we soon turned off on the right along the Neston road. In a few moments we came into view of the Dee with its background of mountains. Down we dropped to Parkgate, from the ‘prom’ of which town, we obtained a comprehensive scenic effect. The broad River Dee, over three miles wide, is tidal, and as the tide was out, it was a wide vision of sands with very little water in sight. Kingsley’s pathetic poem is founded on these treacherous shoals, and is well known, running something like this:
“O Mary go and call the cattle home
And call the cattle home,
And call the cattle home,
Across the sands o’ Dee;
The western wind was wild and dark wi’ foam
And all alone went she.
The creeping tide came up along the sand,
And o’er and o’er the sand,
And round and round the sand,
As far as eye could see;
The blinding mist came down and hid the land –
And never home came she.
Although today there was nothing about these bright yellow sands to suggest danger, one can realise when the foam comes roaring over the level sands, and the wild nor’wester whips the waves into lashing fury, or drives the dense sea fog inland, what drove the poet to write the well-known lines above.
Across the estuary, the mountains formed a barrier whilst Moel Famau and its fellow-peaks, lay under a mantle of snow. The furnaces of Connahs Quay, Flint and Mostyn rather spoil the coast, and on this side Denhall Colleries mar Dee-side. Straight across the river, on a low promontory, we could just make out the black ruins of Flint Castle. Parkgate was once a fashionable resort, but the Dee left it, and now the beach is only washed at high tide. Riding down the ‘prom’, we came to the Neston road and in a short time reached the large village – or small town of that name, from where we made for Burton along a wonderful byway and through fine scenery, with views unobstructed across the estuary from Chester right away to sea beyond the Point of Ayr.
Burton is a neat, old world sort of place, well situated near a small headland known as Burton Point. A quiet bylane led us to the West Kirby road, where we turned Chester-wards, but after two motorised miles, fled into the lanes again, and made for Capenhurst, a quiet retreat. Then along to the Birkenhead road, and Chester-wards once more to Backford. Then came a run through a bewildering maze of rural lanes, which we had only a hazy recollection of ourselves, but we emerged triumphantly on the Chester-Warrington road at Mickle Trafford. Half a mile further on we halted at Mrs Dennison’s for tea at 4.45pm.
Some Liverpool DA chaps came in, and treated us to humorous dialogue for half an hour, and then, at 6pm, we rejoined the road in the spring-like twilight. Climbing Dunham Hill, we ran through Helsby, and near Frodsham lit our lamps. I had found my rear tyre flat after tea, but now, after pumping it up, it seemed quite hard. The stiff pull up to Sutton Weaver followed Frodsham, then an undulating ride through Preston Brook, and an easy descent from Daresbury to Walton. After a chat near the swing bridge, we parted company. My tyre went down again here, but after pumping it up again, it carried me home. The setts of Warrington were set behind, then Padgate, and an inky road across Chat Moss to Culcheth, Glazebury and so via Atherton home for 9.15pm.
My opinion of the Wirral is improving, but I still assert that the good is only in places and certainly not on any main road. In this instance, we found the best scenery nearer Chester, from Parkgate onwards, but the run has been well worthwhile if only for the fine views it embraces. 103 miles