Today I lead the club into the heart of Cheshire. The meet was fixed for 8am at Four Lane Ends. I only awoke at 8am! and in a terrific hurry I got ready, snatched a bit of breakfast, and joined the road, reaching the rendezvous at 8.30am. The club was waiting, and a few minutes later 13 of us started. This was not as large a turnout as I had expected, but it had just ceased raining, and the sky was dark and cloudy. Besides, not everyone takes kindly to an 8am start!
We soon got going via Atherton and Butts Bridge to Glazebury. Whilst crossing Chat Moss, the two Hindley chaps joined us, swelling our number to 15. The going was remarkably easy, and with a tandem to help us along, we made a fine pace over Warburton Bridge and through Heatley, climbing up to Broomedge, and joining the bylanes (which were in a muddy state) from High Legh. As the time was very early, I decided on a detour, so three miles beyond the latter village, we turned along a rutty track. At the entrance to this road is a signpost with the following legend printed on:
‘This road is closed to all,
Unless they wend their way to call
At Mill, or Green, or Arley Hall’.
Immediately we came to Arley Mere, a small but beautiful expanse of water, with an old world mill at one end and two or three rustic cottages nestling on the well-wooded banks. A short, muddy lane now took us to a small collection of old cottages, Arley Green, then a footpath through the park, another muddy road and we reached the pretty village of Arley. Such places as this I like to linger in on a summer evening, when the setting sun and lengthening shadows give one a tranquil, peaceful feeling. Here again is another rhyming signpost (they were composed by Egerton Warburton of Arley Hall). This one goes something like this:
‘No cartway save on sufferance here,
For horse and foot the road is clear
To Lymm, Hoo Green, and Arley Mere’.
I suppose he wrote them before the days of cycles – or he might have added something to the effect that it is quite possible to take a cycle along. Then we entered Arley Park again, cutting right across towards Great Budworth.
Here an accident happened. One of the Hindley chaps got stuck in the mud, and tried to wrench his handlebars round with the result that his front wheel doubled up! He was riding on Endrick rims, and they are noted for their delicacy. We straightened it on the parapet of a bridge, and made such a good job of it that there was only the slightest signs of buckle in it! He carried on with it, and it never showed signs of the accident after that! One thing about Endricks, they can be trued up on the road!
After that we soon reached Great Budworth, that ideal English rural village, then across to Comberbach, with Budworth Mere (or Llyn Budworth!) on our left, and the main road to the huge chemical works at Winnington in the valley of the Weaver. Passing that war-time housing scheme, we climbed uphill, reaching at length the Chester road at Hartford. The supreme humorist of the section was at his best that day, keeping us all in the merriest of moods. The owner of the Endricks came in for a heap of chipping. Just above Sandiway, we turned along a pretty lane to Whitegate, and across Vale Royal to the Winsford road. More byways, the Little Budworth church came into view, and in a few minutes we were stopping at the Red Lion, a typical Cheshire Inn, at 11.40am.
After a wash, we trooped in to lunch. One member could not find his saddlebag in which was his lunch. He hunted high and low, the while he was chipped unmercifully by all, until at last he found it cooking in the oven! Tom Idle arrived now, and when we had finished, we had a look inside the old church. Not much of the interior shows the ancient characteristics that are so prominent externally. Whilst I was counting up the ‘doings’ at the Red Lion, the Landlord, a big, burly individual asked me “Who is the captain of this uncivilised lot?”. I replied, rather surprised, that I was leader. “Well, even if we do live in the country, we are civilised”, he answered, “look at this table”. The table in question was flooded with tea, but as it was the usual ‘pub’ table, and without any cloth whatever, I could not see that it mattered much, and said so, adding that the teapot wouldn’t pour, and the tea came out of the top. “You should get a fresh teapot” was his parting shot. We who were inside sat flabbergasted at this, but the humorist did not fail to convert it into a joke, so that before long we laughed it away. We shall remember ‘Ye Olde Red Lion’ in future.
Well, we made a start, 16 now all told, and after the pretty run through Oulton Park and by the Mere, to old-world Eaton. Then Tiverton, and in a few minutes we dropped down to Beeston Brook. Climbing sharply, we came to Beeston Smithy, with the glorious fortified hill on our right. The undulating byway took us pleasantly through Peckforton, and followed the rolling hills to Bickerton, just beyond where we turned into the hills. The sun came out on this climb, and Tom took advantage of it with his camera. We climbed by the gorse-covered rock to the summit, but half the glories were gone by the disappearance of the sun and by the mist which utterly spoiled the views.
The rough track led us down the hillsides to a level stretch, where some of us tried to mount, but after a short, hectic rush into deep sand, we gave it up. Then we soon reached Harthill. That view of the range and Beeston was hardly perceptible today, but what we did see of it, was fine. The undulating byways again led us to Burwardsley, and just as we reached the point where the Sandy lane route joins this, a tyre went flat with a loud complaint. It wasn’t mine! Whilst some squatted down near the Garden Arms Inn, the rest of us examined this delinquent. Unluckily the wires had broken, rusted through. The puncture was repaired first, then we proceeded to tie the tyre to the rim, by means of strong and adhesive tape. What fun we had over it ! The result was like a ring of sausages. Meanwhile the Landlord of the pub was exhorting some to try a bottle of pop. Anyway, we made the tyre temporarily rideable, then proceeded on that route through the wood. Here we picked up two more, who had hunted for us all afternoon. Some of us did manage to ride most of it, and to say it was thrilling was to put it mildly.
Then all started again, back to the Smithy, then between the hills, with a castle on each side to claim attention, and so round the back of Beeston, and to Horton’s Mill, with backward glances at the rock-fortress. Birch Heath, then Tarporley was reached, where a new tyre was procured. It was now 4.30, and a hasty rush had to be made to Cotebrook and through darkening Delamere Forest to Weaverham and Bartington, where 20 of us had a hearty and right merry tea.
We started back in several parties, Tom and I riding together, via the main road to Stockton Heath where we parted company. I soon got beyond Warrington to Padgate, where a pedal kept troubling me, but some borrowed oil put it right, and I returned as far as Butts Bridge with the tandem. All were surprised at the rough Cheshire tracks, and had never dreamt of scenery like that. It was an immense success.