More business! and leading me to Chester this time. I started at 10.30am, along the old, old road through Atherton and Leigh. A stiff steady breeze faced me when I turned from Lowton to Winwick. At Warrington I was held up at the level crossing, and again held up at the Ship Canal, by a vessel inward bound. The Chester road was very quiet, and the hills from Walton, through Daresbury to Sutton Weaver pulled a little. Between Frodsham and Helsby, I got some very clear views of the Welsh mountains which line the Dee Estuary, and form the beautiful Vale of Clwyd. Some of these are of bold outline, but in the main they are like moorland ridges, and all are dominated by bulky Moel Famau.
I stopped at the little farmhouse at Mickle Trafford for lunch, then pushed against a growing wind for the last four miles into Chester, at 2.30pm. This is a very ancient town, and is the ‘Deva’ of the famous XXth Roman Legion. Parts of the old Roman station are yet to be seen, and the walls, including a tower (Agricola’s Tower) are built on Roman foundations. The city is rich in history, possesses some very fine examples of ‘Black and White’ half timbered houses, and has an ancient Cathedral, St Werburgh’s Abbey. Its position was of vital importance, being the ‘key’ to North Wales, and always stood in danger of attack.
“But in this famous town, most happy of the rest.
From which thou ge’st thy name, fair Chester, call’d of old
‘Caer Legion’ whilst proud Rome her conquest’s here did hold;
Of those her Legions known, a faithful station then
So stoutly held to ‘tack by the near North Wales men,
Yet by her own right name, she’d rather called be,
As her the Britons term’d, the ‘Fortress upon Dee’.”
Chester was also an important port, especially for Ireland, to which turbulent land, troops were mostly sent from Chester. Pageantry too, was seen on the Dee, for in the year
‘Edgar, England’s king of nations, great commander,
About the northern British coast did pass the seas with wonder,
With navy great he did at last, the city of Legions enter,
To whom, eight other petty kings, their homage there did tender’.
Fancy entering the sandy Dee of the present day with a navy! A rowing boat would scarce reach Deva today. The ‘lions’ are not new to me, so, after I had concluded my business, I joined Watling Street, a Roman road modernised, and so passed out of Chester.
The wind was behind now, the gradient downwards, and the sun managed to break through the rough clouds. Tarvin, a rather attractive village, was passed, and I came to the ridge of Kelsborrow, at Kelsall. A walk uphill, then left into a little winding byway. I was sorry to see that all the fine trees on the right have been chopped down, and the work of destruction seems to be going on in the Delamere Forest. I took another cart-track, through the forest to Delamere station. Then the winding roads through Norley to Crowton, Acton, and down into the Weaver valley, across, and over the little hump bridge. I bethought myself of a short cut, a steep, muddy track to Little Leigh, and clambered along it. The hedges had been cut, and the thorns all over the ground made me wonder how soon I should have a puncture.
Sure enough, I picked up a twig, and detaching it from the front tyre, heard an ominous hissing. Twenty minutes later, I reached Little Leigh, after mending the puncture. Short cuts! Dusk was falling as I pursued my way along to Comberbach across two main roads, and walked up the silent, quaint street of Great Budworth, halting at one of the old-world places for tea.
An hour later (6.30), I emerged to find the front tyre flat. I pumped it up hard, lit my lamp, and disappeared into the night. It was raining, so, after giving it time to settle in, I rescinded my decision of last Sunday, that it ‘ain’t gonna rain no mo’, and donned the cape. Then followed a dark, squelching run through flooded lanes to High Legh, and Warburton. At Glazebrook, it fairly swept down, but at Leigh it cleared, and away went the cape. The old, old route once more, and home was reached at 9pm. 88 miles