All week I have been thinking that the run I scouted last week was not adequate. I very particularly wanted to get a certain viewpoint in, and last Sunday’s run missed it. Besides, the lunch place was not at all satisfactory, and the more I dwelt on the matter, the more convinced was I that I could at least do better. Mind, last Sunday’s run was grand, but I want to make it a ‘bumper’, for it is a joint run, and given a decent day, there should be a big turn-out.
I kicked off at 9am, joining the club at Four Lane Ends. There was a large crowd out, and after ascertaining a decent lunch place at Little Budworth (for them to make for), I left them, and crashed my way through Atherton, and over the lane route to Butts Bridge. Crossing Chat Moss, I paid the toll at Warburton Bridge, then carried on from there to Heatley, uphill to Broomedge, and High Legh, joining the wandering bylanes that Tom and I know so well. The morning was glorious, sunny, with a steady breeze facing me. I was pottering now, contented to take things easy and note the passing scenery. Once I made a detour of an extra mile through a pleasant wood.
Great Budworth was quiet, quaint as ever when I rode down its crooked street to the ‘Running Pump’. The road led me now by the glimmering sheet of Budworth Mere to old-world Comberbach, then passing through a belt of woodlands belong to Marbury Hall, I dropped down to the huge chemical works of Brunner Mond, in the valley of the River Weaver. Thence to Winnington, and uphill to motorised Chester road at Hartford. Half a mile further on, I turned down a fast road to pretty Whitegate, and then crossed Vale Royal. A cross-country run brought me now to Little Budworth and lunch, which was procured at ‘Ye Olde Red Lion’ opposite the church. Over this important meal, I engaged in a long chat with the villages ‘oldest inhabitant’ – at least I took him for that!
After making arrangements for next week, I joined the road again, and rode through that all too short woodland ‘bit’, Oulton Park, and past the gleaming waters of the Mere to Eaton, and the Beeston road. The winding tree-shaded lanes carried me to Tiverton cross-roads, then, with the tantalising ruin of Beeston before me, I dropped down to the station. Beeston Towers, a gem in modern black-and-white work, stood in full view on a rise on the Whitchurch road. Another lane wound up to Beeston Smithy, then I joined that road along the foothills, the Malpas road, which is lined with old-world cottages, now sleeping peacefully in the January sunshine. Beside the woods I rode, the road rising and dropping easily, each rise giving me some charming view, each drop gave me some little woodland scene, round each bend a new vista was opened out to me.
Peckforton’s little village green and tall poplars are passed, the swelling, russet brown ‘Gap’, the receding hills, Bickerton, and again the ridge draws near, until once more the road rises and falls gently as it winds around the foot. Half a mile beyond the latter village, a road turns into the hills, by the side of some scanty ruins, the remains, no doubt of some old works. Nature has a way of covering all ugliness, and these crumbling walls are covered with ivy, lichen, and other creepers, whilst the lower parts are covered in masses of intangible brambles.
I joined this road to see where it would lead, for I had forgotten to bring my maps. It climbs steeply towards the summit, winding between huge boulders, and often cut through the brown and green sandstone rock. As it nears the summit, wonderful views of the verdant plains to the Derbyshire Hills and the ‘burning hills of Staffordshire’, are opened out behind me. It was not clear enough to discern minute objects such as meres and hamlets and distant towns.
Tom and I like to stand on some eminence and pick out familiar places with the aid of our maps. A short level run brought me to the road-end at a gateway. The surface was so good, and the end so sudden, that I was greatly surprised, for when a road ends, it usually gives ample warning by its deteriorating and obviously little used surface, or else by narrowing down to a mere track. Though much surprised, I was not mortified, for several tracks led into the bracken-covered heath. But before me, the hills swept down to a wooded, rippling face, and beyond that, a level agricultural district to the twelve mile distant Welsh Hills, around the foot of which, smoky blots proclaimed the Wrexham coalfields between Ruabon and Cefn-y-Bedd, and industrialised Mold further north. As before stated, I could only make out the more obvious places. All of the tracks ended at a barred gateway but one, and ducking under the pole, I proceeded down it.
It was unrideable, for the sandstone outcrop formed rude steps, down which I trundled the bike. The left bank was high and rocky, studded with gorse, whilst on my right was an open view of this beautiful range. After half a mile of this, a wood took the place of the left bank, then a short run on a stony road, and I reached the foot of the village of Harthill. Then a short climb to the church in the neat, compact village. Halfway down the opposite hill, I stopped to look at that ‘certain view’ which I want to include in the clubrun. The range trails away, first rocky, then wooded, then covered with bracken, and again wooded, to the turrets of Peckforton Castle.
At the end of the range, standing ‘aloof in proud isolation’ is the precipitous, jagged rock, on the extreme end of which stands Beeston Castle. Below, the fields are marked off in so many squares, each ‘square’ retaining a distinctive shading of colour, the whole making a pretty patchwork scheme, and the view bounded by the ridge that runs from Quarry Bank to Frodsham. The view is rendered all the better by its being an unlooked-for surprise. A hilly road brought me now to Lower Burwardsley, from where I climbed into the range again to Upper Burwardsley. A short, steep walk uphill, and once more I stood on the summit of the range. The old ‘gap’ road (not the real ‘Gap’) took me across to the bridge, from where I watched a motor-car make a spectacular descent, afterwards imitating the same descent with moderation, and reaching the edge of the village of Peckforton. Then an easy run down to Beeston Smithy again.
Now I joined the road that runs round the foot of the hill, coming to rest at the foot of the castle-crowned rock. Sunset, with the red rays tingeing the burly Welsh moorlands, the sky a graphic colour scheme, Peckforton’s turrets and castellated towers standing in bold profile against the sky, and the line of golden hills traced as far as the eye can see, until hills and sky merge into one. Beeston’s wooded slopes rise gently from the road to the foot of the jagged cliff, an unclimbable jumble of rock, green, brown and black, with the red sunset creeping down. On the very edge stands the crumbling grey walls of the 13th century castle. For 500 years have those walls and that keep with its defensive ‘drum’ towers guarded the height, until now they but satisfy the curiosity of tourists and inquisitive trippers. Wordworth’s version of Castell Dinas Bran –
‘Relic of kings, wreck of forgotten wars;
To the winds abandoned, and the prying stars’.
Could well be applied to this grim sentinel of old, a reminder of more feudal days. Tearing myself away, I faced the red sky to Horton’s Mill, then with the old fortress on my right, a climbing road brought me to Birch Heath, on the Tarporley-Whitchurch road. Through a beautiful wood I climbed, then a long swoop took me down to Cotebrook, where I joined Frodsham road. Dusk was approaching when I reached Delamere, and rode through the forest glade to Hatchmere. Winding lanes, and a rush down through Norley to Crowton. Then Acton station and down steeply into the Weaver Valley at Acton Bridge. A few yards brought me to Bridge Farm at Bartington, for tea in the cosy kitchen.
Here was a pleasant surprise. I saw four of the Wigan Wheelers, one of whom I rode with on that hectic rush home from Meriden last May. The meeting revived old memories, and until 7.15, we chatted on most topics, from the Plague Village of Eyam to politics, from drowning to tours.
I left first, and had a dark run through Whitley to Stretton, Stockton Heath and Warrington. I had to go carefully over the setts, owing to the treacherous grease, which made skidding a real danger. The four Wheelers caught me up here, and I proceeded along with them to Winwick, where they joined Wigan road, then I the dark lanes to Lowton, and so home via Leigh, skidding being the order of the day. If the run next week is on another such day as this, then it will be glorious being amidst such scenery. 97 miles