Saturday, 9 May 1925 Millington

Post:    One has the feeling that his attempt to overcome the doubtful attractions of the Lady Cyclists Rally, where ever it was being held, did not pan out too well. He was under the influence of a sulk in my opinion, not like Charlie to miss a sing song, especially whilst in the company of the Wigan Wheelers  musical ensemble !  But as his depression is not described we can, once more, only wonder !

Saturday, May 9                                              Millington

The lady cyclists rally is fixed for today, and as every one who knows me in the club, knows I have a fear of such things.  There is only one function that I like to attend in May, and that is the memorial service at Meriden.  Apart from that, I hate anything that savours of a big gathering, even amongst cyclists.  No, two (Tom and I) are enough for me, a bike, and the Road – and be hanged to tea parties, dinners, concerts, pictures or anything else.  When I heard of the Rally, I simply said “I shall not be there”, and the Club takes no offence at my absence – they know I hate such things.

I wandered off on my own this afternoon, against a strong wind, and soon after I reached Atherton, I was inside my cape.  It did not last, however, and soon I was free from its encumbering effects.  In the middle of Chat Moss, I helped a youngster who had skidded, to straighten his front wheel (it was in a bad way), and seeing him off, carried on to Glazebrook and Rixton.  Crossing Warburton Bridge, I reached Heatley, then by various lanes to the Stamford Arms on the Lymm-Altrincham road, where I turned towards Millington.  I found a new and excellent tea place here – Boothbank has become unpopular with cyclists; putting motorists first, and practically ignoring cyclists does not go down too well.

I did not feel like staying much longer when a cyclist, one of the Wigan Wheelers, brought out a concertina, so I made my exit, glad to free myself from the unmelodious strains.  That club is noted for its music!  Not caring for the Altrincham road, I started back the same way as my arrival, getting home quite early.  Anyway, it has been better than a Lady cyclists Rally!                                             40 miles


Sunday, 3 May 1925 Dovedale


Post:    Today we endure a passionate homily about the advisability (or other) of using private hotels for hungry cyclists, and the prices they charge.  I must admit it was a very steep charge and they did well to contain their disappointment.  Just don’t ask about the old lady selling picture postcards and the extra charge of one penny (1d) to see more caves !  I have to say that it was a long and strenuous day, with lots and lots of hills to climb.

Sunday, May 3                                            Dovedale                       

Bk 7 -17018             “Oh, my beloved nymph!  fair Dove,

Princess of rivers…..

How many poets and people of literary fame have enlarged on the wonders of Dovedale?  How many cyclists have urged us to visit this beauty spot, and how often have we made a vow that on the morrow, Dovedale would be seen?  For two years we have been going, yet only today have we got there, and realised what we have missed.  I had acquainted Tom with news of my new lightweight, and left him to fix a run up, making the stipulation that we should have an early start.  To my delight, he suggested (by post) Dovedale, meet Kingsway End 7.30am – and so it was fixed.

I was up at 4.30am, creeping downstairs like a robber – I know the treads on the stairs that squeak from experience!  There is an art in preparing breakfast, having a wash, and eating the meal so quietly as not to awaken light sleepers, and, though in ordinary circumstances I am a very clumsy mortal, when anything like this is on the programme, I become as silent as a mouse.  At 5.40am I was out, no one being any the wiser.  It was daylight, but cold and bleak, and I started at a good pace to get warm.  I took the lane route to Walkden, where I had to meet a clubmate, who had promised to accompany us.  He came, but told me that something had cropped up which prevented him from carrying on with us, and so, after a short chat, he turned back and I carried on alone.  Keeping a steady pace – rather too fast for a start – I crossed Barton Bridge, and covered the suburban miles to Didsbury, and the meeting place, just as Tom came up.  He examined the machine, tried it, and gave the opinion that it is an ideal mount for our purpose, then we started.

We faced the breeze, as we passed through Cheadle and Edgeley to Stockport, then faced the four miles of ‘killing’ setts until Hazel Grove was reached, where starts the steady grind up to Disley.  I changed over to 59” in anticipation of the climb, but before I had gone too far, I knew that something had gone wrong with me – I could not get into my stride, the road seeming to drag painfully.  Of course, it was my own fault, for yesterday I had been climbing every hill, and speeding along too quickly for comfort on the morrow.  Because it takes more than a week to regain form after lying dormant for five weeks, it will be some time before I can regain my form and position – besides which I had only had four hours sleep last night, all contributing to my lethargy.  From Disley we had a level, easy run, with excellent Peakland views on the left to Whale Bridge, where again the climbing started.  Tom, too, was in a poor mood.  Once we stopped for a snack, sitting on a stone with a tantalising view of green Goyt Dale before us, and the high-ridged, brown moors toning the effect.

The drag up through Fernilee would be nothing interesting were it not for the valley on our right, a valley likened by Tom to the Trossachs in Scotland.  At Rake End starts the two mile horse-shoe round the edge of a deep valley, and for a change, we decided to join the old road, which cuts straight across.  We did not find the descent very steep, but the resultant ascent up the grass-grown road was stiff and, of course, unrideable.  At the summit, 1,401 ft, we got a good view of the moorlands surrounding Buxton, and of creeping white ribbons leading over them, with an excellent idea of the situation of the Queen of the Peak.  Down we swooped into residential quarters of Buxton, then to the Spa’s shopping centre, out of which we moved as quickly as possible – we have no use for fashion.

The Ashbourne road very soon had us out of the saddle, climbing to Harpurhill, and dropping us down, only to climb again.  The scenery consisted of bleak green moors, quarries galore, which stand out on the hill summit, and faint traces of the limestone dales.  We were clearly out of form, the scenery was barely standard, and we had got into the seat of the hill-making industry, besides which a growing wind persistently tried to push us back.  At the five cross-roads we came to Hindlow, a cold looking place, although the day was warm enough.  Up we went again, then a very short down, and up again, each up meaning a walk of at least half a mile, and when we came to a level (these were very few and far between), the wind made it hard work.  The first nine miles took one and a half hours, from Buxton, and we could see that we were rapidly losing ground.

Hurdlow, then Parsley Hay, and things got a little easier, the ‘downs’ being longer and the ‘ups’ shorter.  At Newhaven Inn, eleven miles beyond Buxton, the scenery improved, and the next seven miles via Alsop en le Dale to Fenny Bentley saw us ‘quids in’, with a general downward tendency, and superior wood and valley scenery, until, two miles from Ashbourne, we reached Tissington, a beautiful little place, and turned right for Thorpe, at the entrance to Dovedale.  We found nothing here except a motor club that made the dust fly and us curse them, but as lunch was due, we wandered away down a bylane.  A notice, ‘Luncheons, Teas’ attracted us into what seemed a farmyard, and Tom ordered a Fruit dinner.  We were invited to a lounge room and then had a stroll down the lawn.  It was a first class, private hotel.  After ages of waiting we were ushered into a dining room, where a dinner of potatoes and leathery meat was waiting for us.  It was not what we had ordered, but we could scarcely say no, so we tucked into it, and cleaned it up.  The next course was some sickly looking pudding, which we also removed, then waited for the next.  It never came, and after half an hour of waiting, we asked for the bill.  Three shillings each!  For a bit of horseflesh and a mashed potato with signs of pudding about, we were charged six shillings! we paid up, glad that we had not had a full dinner.  In future the ‘private family hotel’ will be given a very wide berth.  I knew what would now happen, from experience, with a hot meal on board, we should go worse as far as cycling was concerned, and later events proved that it was only too true.  But now for Dovedale.

Returning to Thorpe, we turned left by the ‘Dog and Partridge’, dipping suddenly downhill past the entrance to the ‘Peveril of the Peak’ hotel,  and across the Dove to Thorpe Cloud, a village, and a hill guarding the entrance to Dovedale.  Up again,  then a rough, steep pitch brought us by the banks of the river again, and led us into the limestone gorge.  A little farther on the road ended suddenly, where a crowd of motors was drawn up, and the hillside was thickly peopled.  The real road lay across the river, and at first we feared that we should have to retrace our steps for half a mile, but Tom discovered some stepping stones, and hoisting the bikes on to our shoulders, we crossed quite easily, to the accompaniment of stares from the crowd.  There, the real glories of this valley commenced, and there lay the most wonderful three and a half miles in the world.

From Thorpe Cloud to Dove Holes, the scenery is as though carried out by a giant artist from a fairy design.  Everything is on so magnificent a scale, yet so exquisitely beautiful in all its detail.  Trees, bushes, undergrowth, elfin dells and goblin rocks are everywhere; the path along which we walked and scrambled with the bikes, was at first on fairly open ground, though rocky and uneven, but across the river the hills were a mass of foliage, of every conceivable shade of green, even now in early Spring, when nature’s awakening is only just beginning.  On the Derbyshire side the limestone had weathered into rugged cliffs and fantastic pinnacles, and a little farther on we crossed Sharplow Dale.  Near here we started to spend money like water, paying 1d for the privilege of visiting the two Reynard caves, the ‘Hill’ and the ‘Kitchen’.  We scrambled up a rocky slope, to the high, bare cliff and, above, the natural arch in a great rib of rock that marks the opening to the two caves.

From a precarious perch over the arch, we got a fine view of the dale.  Returning to our machines, we were persuaded into buying some picture postcards, and were shown one which the old lady in charge of the stall said she wouldn’t sell.  It was of the ‘Hill’ cave with Reynard inside, an effect which is caused by the shadow from the rocks, and which only appears at rare intervals.  That, I believe, is how the caves got their name.  Undoubtedly, if we had paid a price high enough, we could have obtained that print, for probably there were more for others!  Tissington Spires, an array of needle-like pinnacles, could be seen from below the caves, and across the water, half hidden by trees, we could see the limestone spires of Dovedale Church.  This of course is not a church, but just a name given such as abound in Dovedale, to the masses of limestone, and which bear a fanciful semblance to the buildings so named.  A little farther on, we came to the Straits, where the river narrows between its tree-clad banks, and where we could only just scramble along the path.

On the far side of the Straits, we passed a little wood to where the cliff comes down to the river, and where the ‘Lions Head’, a rock which has weathered to a remarkably close resemblance to the head of a lion, juts out.  Here we were at Pickering Tor, a great round bastion of limestone with five distinct points, the Lion’s rock being on the right, and a huge tor, with a cave at its base, being on the left.  There also, we saw Ilam rock standing up like a needle out of a deep pool in the Dove.  There was no doubt that that the scenery was hypnotising us.  We could have scrambled and climbed along this wondrous dale for hours, but we remembered the time, 3.30pm, and the sixty odd miles before us, so with great resoluteness, we tramped, scrambled and carried the bikes onwards.  Passing the big hill with its serrated and weather-worn outlines called the ‘Nabs’, we came to those two natural arched recesses in the rocky hillside called the Dove Holes.  The larger arch has a span of over 50 feet and rises to a height of over 30 feet, but the other is not so majestic.  From here, the dale becomes barren, and a very rough passage of half a mile took us to Milldale, a hamlet, where we gained the Alstonfield road.  An easy climb through a defile to Lode Mill followed – then the road jumped up in front, and very soon we were tramping.  Half a mile to Alstonfield, and a quarter mile beyond that, was walked, then down into the dumps, and up again.  The hot dinner started to tell on us now, making us sleepy and knocking our pace down to a mere crawl.  The road did the rest.

For the next three miles to Hulme End, we did quite a lot of ‘shanks’, but so far the scenery was good, and gave us some wild views, but from Hulme End, it went ‘flat’, but hillier!  Anyway, the milestones were knocking the figures down.  Leek was our objective, the mileage being 8.5, then 7.5, and then Warslow.  A long descent, now, with the road before us curling up the hillside, to creep over a ridge.  A fine wind was behind, but as soon as we started to climb, we came off, and then tramped uphill for 1.5 miles, cursing that hot dinner.  The next milestone indicated ‘Leek, 8.5 miles’; then it dawned on us that we had taken the wrong road.  A perusal of the map showed us that we were making two sides of a huge triangle, but we decided that we would carry on – it was too late to go back.  Then, as we saw the road that we should have been on, we were not altogether sorry.  Westwards a huge ridge bounded the view, and over the ridge we could see the road twisting, for all the world like a piece of string.

Another sharp rush down took us to Onecote, then up again walking another mile to the summit, from where we saw the road winding over another ridge.  Again down and up, with again a view of the string-like road going ‘over the top’.  We knew that before long we should have to branch off, but all we could see were roads that dragged over the hills – and the time was 5.15pm.  Usually, the hillier the road the better, for the scenery and the views lie on the hard, high roads, but this time, we had struck a blank, and the dinner was doing its worst.  Reaching the valley, we came to our branch, which proved to be a good main road, level, and with the wind dead behind us we made some amends.  Another climb brought us above Leek, then dropping down into the cobbled streets, we soon left the ‘Capital of the Moorlands’ behind.  The road, after running level for some miles, climbed, until we stood above Rudyard reservoirs, a huge sheet of water in a very pretty setting.

Rushton, the kicking off place for the Dane Valley, gave us a fine little tea place at 6.15, and thus fortified we started at 7pm to cover the last 38 miles home.  As we sped along the glorious winding road to Bosley we could feel our form returning, so that long before Macclesfield was reached we were humming comfortably along and feeling better than we had done all day.  From Macclesfield we joined the Stockport road for about two miles, leaving it in favour of the winding byways that took us to old-world Prestbury and Dean Row to the Wilmslow road at Handforth.  We wasted no time until Kingsway End was reached, where, after a brief pow-wow, we parted at 9pm.  The same road brought me home for 10.15.

I hardly know what to say about today – except that it has been worth it.  We are introduced to a new district – and a very hilly one too – but Dovedale….   The home of Isaac Walton…..   Of Charles Cotton….  And a worthy pilgrimage for all who seek to see the wonders of nature and the Open Road.  Yes, it was worth it.               122 miles


Saturday, 2 May 1925 Woodplumpton

Post:    Charlie – now how could it be that nine days go by between the last run – on the new bike – and today.  I have a theory.  I think he was giving his new saddle a good talking to with a large pot of saddle cream and a lot of rubbing.  I cannot think of any other reason to give him a weekend off !  However, we are back in the saddle today, but I can tell you that matters saddle will rumble on for some time.  Yes !

Saturday, May 2                                    Woodplumpton   CTC run

Now that I have a new machine, I have no excuse for not turning out on club runs, so I determined to honour (?) them with my presence this afternoon, for only the second time this year.  The rendezvous was the ‘Beehive Hotel’, 2.30pm, so off I toddled via Deane and Lostock to the said pub, where was a goodly crowd.  After being hailed as the returned prodigal, I was button-holed by a lady member and asked to buy a Rally badge.  One can hardly refuse, although I did register a silent vow that at the Rally I should be conspicuous by my absence.  I am no lady’s man, and have a horror of crowds, for, as Stevenson wrote:

‘All I ask is the heaven above,

And the road before me…’

Anyway, at 3pm we got started, and slowly wended our way to Horwich, now joining the Chorley road to the Millstone Inn, where we turned uphill to Heath Charnock.  The rough setts of Limbrick and Cowling were duly crashed over, then a pretty easy run down to Walton le Dale brought us across the River Ribble and into Preston.  I found the road via Moor Park much smoother than the other through suburbia, gaining the North road at Fulwood, from where we kept to the main road for two or three miles until, turning into the pretty bylanes, we soon reached our destination.  Before tea we entered the church, which, though old, has been greatly restored until inside, little of its former self remains.  In the churchyard, a boulder represents the gravestone of ‘Meg Sheldon’, the last of the Lancashire Witches (grain of salt, please).  It is on record that old Meg was buried feet downwards as was the custom with these hags, but she scratched her way out, so she was buried head downwards next time so that should she scratch again, she would go deeper, and the boulder was placed over the spot to ensure her permanent residence there! (a large handful of salt this time!).

After tea, someone produced a football, and a hot game ensued, during which the ball took a morbid delight in going over the hedges.  A small party of us started back earlier, reaching the main road at Broughton, and then traversing the usual route via Preston, Walton le Dale and Whittle to Cowling and Heath Charnock, then Horwich and the New Road home.                                                              54 miles


Sunday, 26 April 1925 Sandy Lane

Post:           Here we have our hero getting into his stride with his new bike, and also on poor terms with his new saddle, which became literally a running sore before the matter was finally settled.  Comparisons with the old bike keep surfacing, with remarks about the easy running of his new steed, which is only to be expected.  And an interesting overview of his reading habits which must have needed a rather large saddlebag.

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

The New Bike !

Friday Night, 24 April 1925 

To the New Bike

You are a beauty!  I have tried you out, and what a difference I have found from the old faithful.  You are as light as a feather and jump forward at the slightest touch of the pedal.  At first, I felt little advantage, but now, after a few weeks, I find out what I have been missing.  Truthfully speaking, you are a revelation to me in ease and smooth, free running, and incidentally a credit to your maker.  As I now write (June 1 – five weeks after taking delivery) I am looking back over the rides you have given me, and I find such places as incomparable Dovedale, bleak Moel Famau, the sylvan beauty of Nant-y-Garth, the cyclist’s shrine, Meriden, and all its associations have already been made into past rides.  Five Sunday runs, and four of them centuries – and all of them covered in hitherto unknown ease.

I have not got you for an ornament, for I intend to get as much out of you as I can – and you will not always look clean and neat, for the kind of riding that Tom Idle and I do makes that impossible.  Anyhow, let’s see how you go on, and how you stand the rough tracks, river-beds, sewers – and all that is not a road !

 The present specification is as follows:

Maker           F H Grubb     Brampton fittings

Frame          22” inch ‘A’ quality tubing, disc adjusting bracket, rear forkend forward opening, straight, tapered chain and seat stays, front forks ‘D’ to round, slotted, wheelbase 44” inches.

Wheels         26” x 1” and a quarter, Dunlop steel rims, Brampton ‘Superb’ hubs, Grubb wing nuts.

Tyres            Constrictor ‘Python’ Speeds

Saddle          Brooks B10 no.1 (Changed, first B17 – narrower, then B70, now B19 champion)

Chainwheel and Cranks   Williams best quality 5 screw 46 teeth, 6.5 inch cranks.

Pedals          Stonehouse no. 43

Chain            Brampton, changed to Renold

Brake           Front only, Bowden calliper – 2nd quality.

Handlebars   Continentals 18 inch with Y drop, adjustable clip, changed to Marsh 15 inch

Mudguards   Bluemels ‘Noweight’, stay fitting, extra

Pump           Bluemels

Gear             63” and 66.4” changed to 59.8” and 63”, both fixed.

F H Grubb 1925 001

The above advert, which must mirror Charlie’s, was copied from the Cycling magazine of 1926, all saved by Charlie.

Saturday, April 25                                            Arley

I thought I would give the bike a trial run this afternoon, (I only received it last night), and decided to try it on some well known roads, therefore I made a start along the ‘beaten, well worn track’ via Atherton and Butts Bridge.  The first thing that struck me was the difference on setts.  Instead of gliding comfortably over them, I was bounced and jogged unmercifully – the narrow tyres and smaller wheels accounting for it.  I seemed to find very little difference in the going, except that I could pedal away downhill at any speed without fear of the chain jumping off, but on tarmac roads I was surprised at the smoothness of the transmission.  The saddle is not comfortable, but the handlebars are fine.  From Glazebury, I crossed Chat Moss to Glazebrook and Cadishead, then crossing Warburton Bridge, entered Cheshire.  The long drag from Heatley to Broomedge was quite easy, but I put that down mostly to the lower gear I was using (59.8, a drop from 62.4), and from High Legh, I quite forgot that I was riding a real lightweight (except for the saddle which was in itself a constant reminder!), owing to the change in the countryside.

When I last rode, Spring was only just showing itself, now it was in full splendour, the gardens were full of beautiful flowers, daffodils, narcissi, tulips, and a host of others; in the hedgerows bloomed the primrose and violets; the woods were a carpet of hyacinths; the fields studded with buttercups and daisies; and in the orchards were an abundance of sweet smelling blossom.  Arley Green was greener than ever, the mere was quiet and sunlit, the old water mill was to me older and more mellowed than usual.  I had tea in an old world cottage at Arley, then pottered through the park and along shady roads to Tabley.  I took a peep at Rostherne, Cheshire’s prettiest mere, joined the winding road to Ashley – then reached the border of commercialisation at Bowden – or was it Hale?  The ride home was uninteresting then – I had passed the bounds of Spring.

This sudden conversion from Winter to Spring, from a bare, cold countryside to a warm, sun laden atmosphere, to Green tendrils and riotous blossoms has almost made those stay at home Sunday’s worthwhile.  And the new bike does run easier!             58 miles

The New Bike is Here !

Post:       But first, patience, you have to read his eulogy to the old bike first because we have followed it through thick and thin, and Charlie doesn’t want us to miss out on his thoughts.

To the Old Bike:

Well, old chap, your numbers up.  I am sorry, because for all the trouble I have had with you, you have been a good pal.  You and I have travelled for many years together, under all conditions, and you have rarely let me down.  You have carried me across many counties, into strange places and many, many joyous miles.  You have enjoyed with me the leisurely potter, the fierce ‘scrap’, the struggle against persistent headwinds, the rides (many and varied) in a wet, dripping world, the strenuous all night runs and early starts, the ‘pass storming’, and the finest phase of the finest pastime, touring.

You were old when I first met you – my first machine, and I have put you through a continual gruelling in this inclement weather.  Although your life may be prolonged, you will never again taste with me the real joys of cycling, and your fate will be setts and bricks and mortar, and with you I shall only possess the remembrance of that which is behind….

‘Memories, images, and precious thoughts

Which shall not die and cannot be destroyed’.

Even now as I write this, a flood of memories of bygone rides comes to me.  First, and foremost is that ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and all its associations.  Then my mind flashes back through the tours of the year before, the halcyon days in Derbyshire, the Cheshire idylls.  The ‘freedom of the hills’ in Wales, and the beauties of the woods and dales and plains were conveyed to me, by you.  Who can forget the wild Trough of Bowland, and might of Lancaster, ‘Gaunts embattled pile’,  the wondrous beauty of the River Dee and the quaint old city of Chester with its legends and tumultuous history, ‘The Camp of the Giant Legion’.  Its sisters in old-worldliness, York and Shrewsbury, the craggy heights of Kinder Scout, the infinite dales or the contrasts of the old and the modern in Haddon Hall and Chatsworth, Buxton, the ‘Queen of the Peak’, set in a region of valleys and moors and lonely roads.

The romantic Peckforton Hills, with their old halls and castle-crowned rocky neighbour, Beeston.  The ravishing beauty of the adjoining county and the sleepy rural villages.  The uplands of Wales so much explored even to your second-last run, that gorgeous thrust to the Glyn Valley.  Who can forget that early morning glimpse of Conway Castle and the ride that followed through the incomparable Vale of Conway to beautiful Bettws-y-Coed and the views of mountain ranges.  Oh, I could go on for ever to tell of what you have shown me, and done for me.

During the short period that I am without your new companion, I am chafing at my bonds, the weather is beautiful.  Easter passes in a haze of summery weather – and I am stuck indoors, for without cycling, I am lost !

The narrative continues three weeks later in April 1925, when his new bike is delivered,





Sunday, 22 March 1925 Delamere Forest

Post:   This is the most dramatic post you will ever read about Charles Chadwick, Esq.  His trusty bike of several years has come to the end of its life.  Mind you, he has been hankering for a new lightweight bike for all the years we have been reading about him, and we all know how much better a lightweight is for speed and distance.  But money, the one aspect of the capitalist society which greases all the wheels, has always been elusive in Charlie’s life, and this time is no different.

He never tells us by what measure he was able to take delivery of a new bike, but he did, and next week you can ‘read all about it’ !  I suspect a tense parental meeting took place at his home at 496 Bridgeman Street, Bolton, when no doubt his many shortcomings would be spelt out and an improvement sought.  I can imagine it all, because it happened to me.

I got a heavy 28″ wheel roadster for passing my scholarship, and quickly realised that I would much rather have dropped handlebars and something better than a Sturmey Archer to get about with.  Then the problem of parents and money reared their heads, and I was talked into buying a second hand ‘racer’, a Dayton Roadmaster, for £9 on hire purchase over 18 months I think.  So yes, Charlie, I know where you’re coming from !  So next week we will read of the excitement he feels when he gets astride his new steed.  But he had to twiddle his thumbs for 5 weeks before delivery, whilst we can leapfrog over the same intervening period.

Sunday, March 22                                           Delamere Forest

During one of those rare cleanings that my old bike gets now and again, yesterday, I made the discovery that the frame was broken.  It had gone at a dent in the chain stays, chain side, and owing to a mudguard clip being over the spot, it had remained hidden for goodness knows how long – I don’t!  It was a crack, not really a break, but when I pulled the wheel out, I could spring it open.  I was not surprised at that – only surprised at the knocking about and neglect it has stood before going sooner.  Nevertheless, it would have to carry me just once more, for I had to meet Tom on the following day at Mrs Wade’s, 32 miles distant, and it was now too late to let him know, so I resolved to go through with it.

I made a rather late start – 9am, and joined the oft trod route via Atherton and Butts Bridge to Glazebury, across Chat Moss to Glazebrook, and so to Warburton Bridge.  Uphill now, from Heatley, to Broomedge, where I came along that never wearisome route via High Legh and the narrow, twisty byways to old world Great Budworth.  Passing quietly down the village street, I crossed the main road and climbed to above Budworth Mere.  Then Comberbach and the open stretch to Little Leigh.  With a fine view of the Weaver Valley before me, I slipped down steeply to Acton Bridge, climbing up on the other side just as steeply, and in a few minutes reached Mrs Wade’s.  Tom had not arrived yet, so I had a stroll around the garden where the first signs of a late Spring were breaking forth.  Then, as Tom arrived, lunch was ordered, and in we went to the cosy sitting room.  A tandem pair from Rochdale (I knew them well) and a Mancunian made good company over lunch, and over an hour was whiled away in this fashion until we thought it time to move and broke up.

Bk 7 -16017        Tom and I took the footpath to Cuddington, and after a maze of bylanes, pretty and otherwise, we emerged at Norley.  Then a potter to Hatchmere, and the beautiful switchback route to Mouldsworth conveyed us through the best of Delamere Forest.  A cinder path made a short cut to Manley, then gaining the uplands, we climbed past the Manchester Corporation Open Air Sanatorium to a fine viewpoint from where the whole of the Mersey Estuary, the Dee Estuary, the Wirral and the heights of Clwyd lay before us.  We stayed here quite a while before dropping swiftly down (regardless of the cracked frame) through well wooded country and between Frodsham and Helsby headlands to the petrol-riven highway, the Warrington-Chester road.

We had no desire to traverse it at that time of day, but we had to, because the district we wanted to get into was only accessible by traversing the main road unless we went back to Acton Bridge.  The River Weaver, which is navigable for small steam boats, cuts off one section of Cheshire from another, and there are only three ways to cross it up to Northwich.  It is used mainly for the huge works at Northwich (Alkali interests), and makes an easy passage for the salt and chemicals to the Manchester Ship Canal – and Runcorn, Widnes and the other Mersey ports.  Therefore, having no choice, we had to keep to the main road for two miles through Frodsham and across the bridge at Sutton Weaver.  On top of the hill beyond, we joined the lanes once more, through a rather dull agricultural district to Stretton, and across the Warrington-Tarporley road to Appleton.  We now began to cast about for a tea place, not because we were very hungry, but because it was teatime.

We had struck an unlucky day evidently, for on reaching Poplar Farm between High Legh and Lymm, we found the place flooded out – with a cycling club there before us, and having memories of a past tea there when the place was full, we did not feel inclined to repeat the ordeal, so off we trundled through a maze of lanes to Thelwall Brook, where we remembered a ‘teas’ notice in a cottage window.  The notice was there alright, but the occupants were out.  Then we decided to try the Pickering Arms, an old fashioned place at Thelwall, half a mile away.  A little girl answered the knocker, and told us that no one was in, the fire was out, and other innkeeper stories.  Whilst we stood outside debating our next move, we saw the curtain lift and an elderly woman’s face peep through the window!  Tom gave her the hint that he had seen her.  Of course we could have forced them to provide us a meal, but would rather not go if we were not welcome.  On a beam across the exterior of the building are the words:   ‘In the year 923 King Edward the Elder, founded a cyty here and called it Thelwall’.

Here is an instance, not of a decayed city, but of one that has disappeared, and the only traces of its former greatness are the words on the beam of the Pickering Arms, the truth of which has been verified.  It is interesting to note that in 1923 the people of the district celebrated the 1,000th anniversary of the foundation of the ‘cyty’.

I was feeling hungry now, but Tom was not, and as Lymm had nothing to offer us, and the place at Rush Green was unsatisfactory, he decided when we reached Heatley, that he would carry on home.  Meanwhile, I tried the Inn there, and Tom left me.  I was successful just as Tom found another and came back to tell me.  I found a cosy room and a good tea here.  The return journey was made via Warburton, Glazebrook and Butts Bridge to Atherton and Bolton.  Thus ended the last day on the old bike, and from then on dawned a new cycling era for me, the beginning of a time when I could class myself as one of the growing army of real cyclists, and when cycling efficiency – and the efficiency of little, low lightweights is quickly being reached. On the old bike, I have covered some decent mileages, 170 in a day, 212 in 25 hours, but on the new machine I find myself riding easier and farther, and with a minimum of effort.  ‘Wayfarer’ is right when he tries to drive the case for the lightweight into the minds of all and sundry, and I, for one, shall henceforth ridicule the idea of 28” wheels, a 26” frame, and the numerous unnecessary gadgets of a roadster machine.

A lightweight is suitable for everybody.                                 78 miles

Sunday, 15 March 1925

Post:  You almost have to take a reality check today, Charlie’s description of his lunch and village surroundings read almost as if from another world.  We also get an unusual illustration today, a view of Llangollen from 23 years before this piece was written.  I can only assume Charlie has come across this pic somewhere and faithfully copied it, because there it is in his journal as large as life.  On green feint lined paper as ever.

Llansantffraidd Glyn Ceiriog

Sounds Welsh doesn’t it!  Tom and I had planned a thrust into Wales, but had made no arrangements whatever as to destination, leaving that for the weather to decide.  Should it be clear, we might climb Moel Famau – then again we might not, if it were wet we might go over the Horseshoe – then again we might not, if it was dull and hazy, we may go to the Vale of Clwyd – then again we may not.  In short, we did not know where we would get to.  Our meeting place was the Dee Bridge in Chester, 9.30am.

I was up at 5.45am, and at 6.30, with my saddlebag full of ‘snacks’, I made a start.  It was quite light, but a heavy mist clung to the ground, which I took for a good sign.  The sun would soon disperse that, I thought.  Crashing over the Leigh setts, I made good progress via Winwick to Warrington and on to the Chester road.  Signs of spring were not wanting, for the trees were budding, and early flowers were breaking forth, the heavy rains of Friday and Saturday freshening up the foliage.  I kept a steady pace up through Daresbury and Preston Brook to Sutton Weaver, then the climb to Frodsham and the run to Helsby, with the bold headlands on the left entirely blotted out.  After Dunham, and old world Mickle Trafford, Hoole, a residential suburb of Chester came into being, then I entered Deva.

In the morning mist, Northgate Street with its timbered and gabled old buildings, seemed to give me a peep into the past, and it needed but little imagination to people the city with jaunty cavaliers, be-smocked labourers, and crinoline.  From the castle gates came the music of a military band, and just as I met Tom, a regiment came swinging into the street, headed by the aforesaid band.  It sent my mind scurrying back to the dark days of the War.  One does not hear a band of this kind so often nowadays.

We left Chester then, heading for Wrexham.  I had a peep into my saddlebag then, for I had covered 40 miles and was more than a little hungry.  The road is passably pretty, skirting the Eaton Hall Estate, and at Pulford, entering Wales, Flintshire.  Just beyond Rossett, Tom photographed an old, timber and brick-built water mill, long disused and very picturesque.  The Vale of Gresford was mist-shrouded, and the climb over the shoulder of the hill above Marford did not reveal the usual views, though we obtained a good view of the ‘black and white’ Horsley Hall.  Very soon we came to Wrexham, and made a slight detour to see the wonderful old church there, one of the seven wonders of Wales.  Now we decided to make directly for ‘Wayfarer’s’ Glyn Valley, and for once, face the weary stretch from Wrexham to Chirk.  Tramlines, collieries and a general squalid outlook fell to our lot as we covered the five miles via Rhostyllyn and Johnston to Ruabon.

Then Cefn Mawr, a township built any-old-how fashion, all over a hillside, to Newbridge.  The mist had cleared enough, however, to give us a fine view westwards, looking up the beautiful Vale of Llangollen, with the greater heights of Berwyn on one hand and Eglwyseg Mountain on the other, mist capped, whilst the conical peak on which stands Dinas Bran appeared vaguely at the end of the Vale.  A drop to Newbridge in the Dee Valley, revealed the river in a pretty, woodland setting, the climb out on the far side giving us a good view of the huge Chirk aqueduct, which carries the Shropshire Union Canal across the Vale of Llangollen.  From Plas Offa we had a dull run to Chirk, where we joined the Llanarmon-Dyffryn-Ceiriog road, and immediately started rushing downhill through the beautiful woods into the Vale of Ceiriog.  On the left, by the roadside, ran a narrow gauge railway, and on the other side of the line, the River Ceiriog babbled noisily over its stony bed.  The mountains in front seemed to lock this glorious valley, and we fell to speculating where it escaped.  The road was level, and the surrounds made the drab run from Wrexham well worth while.

Passing the Deer Park of Chirk Castle we reached Herber, just beyond which we discovered a rope bridge, a small replica of the famous rope bridge of Carrick-a-Rede in the north of Ireland.  It proved quite a sensation to cross!  Pontfadog was the next village, then the mountains became nearer, until we were certain that there was a big climb coming, but at Dol-y-Wern, the road swungright, and entered the wonderful defile of the Glyn Valley.  We stopped several times to watch the frolics of young lambs and ewes – there must have been hundreds of them.  We soon entered Llansantffraid Glyn Ceiriog, where we decided to have lunch, and as luck would have it, a native made our acquaintance and directed us to a good place.

The kitchen was old fashioned where we had lunch, the fireplace being one of those big open ones with iron pots and accessories hung conveniently around.  The people were real Welsh, the old lady understanding little English: “Dim Saesnig”.  Once I thought I was learning a little of the interesting Cumraeg tongue, but when I heard them gabbling away at high speed – well – “Dim Cumraeg” – No Welsh!  I asked about the road over the mountains to Llangollen, and this was the reply:  “A mile up, a mile straight, a mile down, an evil road, barren moors – a terrible road altogether” or words to that effect.  The map shows a waterfall just off the road, and I asked the name.  “Creigiau Fawr” was the reply.  The falls of the great crags.  It was nearly 2pm when we got going again, and almost immediately we started on the ‘mile up’.

It was a climb to be remembered, a scramble, but behind, the views were opening out.  I feel sorry for the inhabitants having to climb this lot to the church which stands halfway up, and just above the steepest pitch; it must test their religious faith at times.  From just below the church, a magnificent view down the Glyn Valley and into the Vale of Ceiriog could be enjoyed, whilst beyond the town, the valley ran narrowly into the mountains, mounting higher, until the mist about Llanarmon DC closed it.  It was in the Vale before us that a great battle took place in the year 1165, between the forces of Henry II and the Welsh under Owen Gwynedd.  The Welsh drove the English invaders back over the border, and the battle proved significant and important in the struggle for Welsh Independence.  Sir Theodore Martin, despite his affection for the adjoining Dee Valley in which he resided, said in praise of the Vale of Ceiriog:

“I have often lingered on in the enjoyment of this beautiful valley and its sparkling streams, and the invigorating air of its mountain slopes.  A more delightful retreat for a quiet holiday ‘far from the madding crowd’ I do not know.  I feel assured that it only wants to be better known to become the pet resort of the better class of tourist”.

It certainly is very beautiful.  Then as we stood there, watching, the mist slowly crept up and obliterated everything before us.  We turned and resumed the scramble, the ‘mile up’ to Bryn-y-Groes, a farmstead standing amidst a belt of bare, wind-swept trees.  Came the ‘mile straight’, a rough track heaving with mud in places, but quite rideable.  The mist had reached us, and made seeing beyond a few yards impossible, so not knowing the lie of the land, we decided to postpone the journey to Rhaiadr Creigiaw Fawr.  At the tiny hamlet of Penllan ‘The church on the headland’, the ‘mile down’ started.  Simultaneously, the mist cleared, until a little further down, we got a grand view of the Vale of Dee, with Llangollen nestling at the foot of the encircling heights.  Behind the town were the silhouetted remains of Dinas Bran – ‘Crow Castle’, on its peak, whilst on each side, the Llantysilio Mountains and Maes-y-Chain were half shrouded.  Near the summit of Eglwyseg Mountain, the line of white rocks Creigiou Eglwysegle, made an effective picture.  A motor cycle trial was taking place on this road, and we stayed a few minutes watching the struggle of man and machine against gradient and boulders.  It is a good thing for tyre makers!  Of course, it was far too precipitous to ride down, but the views were double payment.

Bk 7 -15016

When we were able to mount, we soon reached Llangollen, and stopped on Dee Bridge to watch the swirling waters below, and the beautiful reaches of this Queen of Rivers, the Welsh Dwynyd and the English Dee.  How many times have we stopped on the Dee Bridges?  The bridge at Queensferry, the Chester bridges, the Suspension bridge at Chester, the neat little iron bridge at Eaton Hall, the stone structures at Bangor Is-y-coed and Overton, Newbridge near the Chirk Aqueduct, this one at Llangollen, the one at Corwen, and two more in the ‘Sweet Vale of Edeymion’ near Bala.  Twelve Dee bridges, and all of them showing the rich beauty of the Dee.


And see the rivers how they run

Through woods and meads, in shade and sun;

Sometimes swift, sometimes slow’

Wave succeeding wave they go

A various journey to the deep,

Like human life, to endless sleep!


After a dreamy ten minutes, we crossed the bridge, and ran along the shady road to Trevor, where, climbing, it brought us out of the saddle and gave us advantageous views of the valley to the Chirk Aqueduct.  Soon, however, industry took control, and from Acrefair we had the unwelcome company of colliery slag heaps and tips, until, reaching the main road once more, we came to Ruabon.  The time was 3.30pm, and we were 57 miles from home as the crow flies.

The route we proposed was over 70 miles, but we should have been prepared to cover twice as much rather than cover those six weary miles to Wrexham.  The 70 miles involved a lot of hard climbing, whilst there was only six comparatively level miles of industrialism to the good scenery beyond, but we were in a fresh – for the day – country, and without a seconds hesitation we plumped for the longer route – via Bangor Is-y-coed.  The first few miles were dead easy, a kind of switchback to the flat lands near the Dee.  Then we turned north, and for two miles fought a stiff headwind, turning again to Bangor Is-y-coed.  The second name is to distinguish it from the other Bangor, in Caernarfonshire, and the name Bangor means ‘Beautiful choir – Ban-choir’.  The full translation is ‘Beautiful choir in the wood’, a very picturesque name.

The village is not at all as its name suggests, but its past history is interesting enough.  The village was formerly the site of the oldest conventional monastic establishment in the kingdom.  It was founded in the 2nd century AD, and in the year 596 numbered no fewer than 2,400 monks.  Not long afterwards, in 601, the place was attacked, and 1,200 of its unarmed monks were slain by Elfred, King of Northumbria, who left the place well nigh a ruin.  The rest of the monks fled to Bardsey Island.  A few monastic remains are still to be seen, after over 1,300 years!  Bangor is also held by those learned in these things to be the Roman Bovium of Antoninus.  We did not stay one moment longer than was necessary to ride through, heading now for Malpas.  Immediately we started to climb, gradually, but with each succeeding mile it grew harder.  Just beyond Worthenbury we reached the ‘Frontier House’, then a moment later, ‘Cheshire Cottages’, and so we passed out of Wales.

The scenery was good, but the grind uphill after the days ride was beginning to tell on us.  A last steep pitch, after a seven mile climb, brought us into old-world Malpas at 5pm, and then, rushing downhill, we crossed the Chester-Whitchurch road, and faced the glorious Peckforton Hills.  The narrow lanes seemed to first lead to them, then go back on its tracks, winding in an alluring manner, but never seeming to get any nearer.  We were ravenously hungry, the roads were tilting again, and it is a fact, that however beautiful the scenery, it cannot cure hunger.  But all roads go somewhere, and we at length came to Bickerton, and the old familiar foothills road.  Peckforton was passed, and proud old Beeston Castle on its rocky knoll came into being.  We were not far, now, and from Beeston Smithy, a downhill dash brought us to Beeston Brook at 6.10 for tea.

At 7pm, refreshed, we joined the road in the deepening twilight, walking the hill to Tiverton Lane Ends.  The hush of night had fallen, lights were appearing through the latticed windows of the old cottages.  Behind us, the hoary ruin stood in ghostly silhouette against a velvet sky; soon the old stone keep and its broken walls would be given over to the spectre of the night, and the knights of old would rise from the dead to rehearse in creepy, unseen silence, and to rebuild the ruin in shuddering imagination.  The trees overhead sighed faintly in the breeze, and our lamps threw a dim, yellow light on the roadway.  The glamour of night riding was upon us, and we tasted its joys and surprises to the full.  Tom had broken the spring of his oil lamp, and at every jog in the road it went out, but a pair of elastic garters, ingeniously fixed, cured the trouble.  At Eaton, my light went out, and I found the carbide swamped.  Luckily, with the aid of a youth, I managed after some searching, to get a refill, and after that all went well.  Now we entered the bylanes.

Complete darkness prevailed, our only means of telling the rise and fall of the road were by the quickening of the pedals, or the extra pressure needed.  Oulton Park, with its great shadowy trees was passed, then we turned to avoid Little Budworth and after a silent run, rushed down to Vale Royal.  Whitegate now, the road populated, then the Chester road with its glaring lights.  Northwich was reached at 8.45pm, and we were not sorry to get out of it.  Beyond, few motors troubled us, so, with the wind (now only a slight breeze) and the general gradient in our favour we were able to keep a rapid pace, which inside the hour brought us to Altrincham.  After a ‘Horlicks’, we regained the road, and at 10.30 parted at Stretford.  I was in fine form, and soon reached Barton Bridge, where starts a grind to Worsley and Walkden, home being reached at 11.30pm.

We were late back – and all because we would not face six miles of industrialism, but by taking this route, we had gained an infinite amount of pleasure bought at the cheap price of being late.  And when I got home, and reviewed with satisfaction the days ride, the ‘thrust’ into Wales at a mileage of 145 miles, I thought that I, at least, could honestly say: ‘Something attempted, something done’.       145 miles


Catch up Sketches (17)

Heading home once again on the August Bank Holiday weekend – it used to be at the beginning of August – but it was changed after the war sometime to the end of August to hopefully alleviate some of the monster traffic jams that came after the war.  Charlie took the opportunity to have a good look around Shrewsbury, a fine border town boasting an ‘English’ bridge across the River Severn.