Sunday, 27 June 1925 Some Derbyshire Dales

Post:        The details Charlie sets out below, a mixture of travelogue and history would form the basis of a very interesting guide book of the Derbyshire Dales and mountains.  I do so like the way he mixes things up but keeps them interesting for the reader and everyone else.  And in regard to the first paragraph, who needs a mobile phone ?

Sunday, June 7                                      Some Derbyshire Dales

“I was bound, like a child, by some magical story;

Forgetting the South and Ionian Vales;

And felt that dear England had temples of glory,

Where any might worship, in Derbyshire Dales”.

Tom is on holiday in Lincolnshire, and so he had arranged by post to meet me on Rowsley Bridge near Bakewell.  I had also arranged with one of the Bolton Wheelers to come along with me.  Now Joe (that is his name) is not a bad sort, but I am afraid that he and I do not go together.  He is one of those who rides a rather higher gear (74”) and, although he is alright for the Fylde and Cheshire, he is of little use for Derbyshire.  Besides which he is a ‘blind and stop’ cyclist, whilst I am one who can do the distance work with an early start, and a steady pace, but I am no use for ‘blinding’.

There is a heat wave on just now, and so we are travelling light, no mudguards, no cape, open shirt and alpaca jacket.  Oh for a pair of shorts!  My friend called at 6.30am, and we started together via the lanes to Walkden and Barton.  Joe was soon blinding away in front, and for a time I kept close, but it is no joke twiddling my 59.8 inch against his 74, so I dropped behind.  From Cheadle, he went after a chara, so I let him, hoping to hold the cards myself later.  We turned into the lanes at Handforth, and made good progress, with scenery fast improving, until just beyond Prestbury we reached the Stockport-Macclesfield main road.

Then we were soon in the silk town.  Immediately from here the seven mile climb starts, and here I laid my cards down.  Though the wind was facing, and the sun scorching, I found it none too hard to get ahead, and soon I was well in front.  I think, now, that he realises the value of a low gear, for he has since gone down to 66” (an old favourite of mine).  There are some jolly hard grinds along this road, and this time there were no views, for there was a heat haze covering the more distant points.  However, the moorlands are fine, and so, with a stop at every stream for water, we gained the Cat and Fiddle at the summit of the pass, 1.690 ft.  A short level run, and then, crossing the border into Derbyshire, we flew down into Buxton.

The Bakewell road claimed us now, and soon we were running between the limestone walls into the first ‘dale’, Ashwood Dale.  We stopped once to take a peep at Lover’s Leap, a magnificent little defile with a stream running through, and a fine waterfall at the far end.  I succeeded in slipping and going over the shoe tops, but that mattered little – it would soon dry.  Wye Dale is not as commercialised as Ashwood Dale, but here and there, quarrying tends to spoil the whole effect.  I should like to have my own way with those manufacturers who go about ruining the English countryside!

The climb up to Topley Pike was a hot ‘un, but we were rewarded with a fine view of this wondrous Ravine of the Wye, beneath which is gorgeously coloured Chee Dale.  A stiff headwind now to Taddington, where we started the long descent to the Wye again.  Joe got behind a motor car, and fled away out of sight, whilst I pottered down with brake on, enjoying the wooded loveliness of superb Taddington Dale.  He was waiting at the bottom, where the sparkling Wye comes out of the crag-crowned Dale of Monsal, having seen nothing of the scenery on the way down.  Is this the Bolton Wheelers, then?  Eliza Cook, who wrote the stanza which heads this record, beautifully illustrated Monsal Dale when she wrote:

“And Monsal, thou mine of Arcadian treasure’

Need we seek for Greek islands and spice-laden gales,

When a temple like thee of enchantment and pleasure’

May be found in our own native Derbyshire Dales”.

A wind heckled ride through typical scenery brought us to the flowery quietness of Ashford in the Water, then a motorised road brought us to Bakewell, a pretty town that everyone has heard of in connection with Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall, and her romantic elopement.  We passed Haddon Hall, a many towered and castellated building of great antiquity, as we followed the Wye to its confluence with the Derwent at Rowsley.  Tom was there on the Derwent Bridge: he had been waiting since 9.45am (we were ten minutes late).  He told of how he had come in search of lodgings all through Sherwood Forest, a distance of 25 miles, and had received the same answer – ‘full-up’ – everywhere until at last he had ‘docked’ in a fine little place here at Bakewell on the last minute.

All of us were very hungry, so we searched the handbook for a place but failed to find one suitable in the vicinity and decided to carry on.  Where?  We were at the cross-roads, the one to the right led down beautiful Darley Dale to Matlock, the left through equally beautiful Chatsworth Park to Baslow.  Here came a little strategy.  If we went to Matlock, we should have to get on to the moors afterwards, where the hot sun beats mercilessly down and the roads are more than a little tilted, whilst left leads to the more numerous dales where shelter may be found.  Besides, to go by Baslow meant to get the wind behind!  So Baslow it was.

At Beeley, we entered the Park, travelling along a road that gave fine views across the silvery Derwent to the wooded sides of the East Moor, and farther ahead, the rocks that crown Curbar Edge, whilst now and then we caught a glimpse of that stately mansion and its extravagant gardens, Chatsworth House.  All the lanes leading towards the House were guarded by a man in a sentry box.  At the enclosed and gated model village of Edensor, we passed out of the park, and after a rest (the heat was oppressive) we got along to Baslow.

Joe was done for want of a drink, and I would have found it very acceptable, but not even water was to be found, let alone a lunch place, so we held a confab, and decided to try and reach Eyam, six miles distant, where is a fine place.  The surroundings, as we rode to Calver, were beautiful in the extreme, but at least Joe and I did not appreciate it as we might have done.  Past Calver, we started to enter Middleton Dale – and now even Joe started to take notice – especially after we had discovered a horse trough of cold, clear water, in which we submerged our arms and heads.  It was a luxury.

Stoney Middleton is a queer place.  It is built in a dale, just one straggling street with the limestone cliffs on one side bulging out over the houses.  As we left the village, the road climbed up between those white walls, until we entered Eyam Dale, a superb, wonderful picture of wood and rock.  At the head of this is Eyam, the plague village, and here we found a right good meal, a wash, and – luxury,  a cool room.

After lingering here awhile, we had a walk up the hillside to the Riley Graves, the last resting place of eight of the Hancock family (out of ten) within a week when the plague devastated this little village, 259 dying out of 350 inhabitants.  It is a sad story, too long to be recorded here, and we decided that we would spend a few hours some weekday here when the chance came.  Returning to the bikes, we sped down Eyam Dale to Middleton Dale, and commenced the tramp to the top.

The wind had entirely dropped, and the air was suffocating, besides which, the limestone road was glaring white, so much so that our eyes ached when we stared down.  The machines and our shoes were covered in white dust.  From the top of Middleton Dale came a swoop down to the end of Littonfrith Dale, then a climb up to Lane End just above Tideswell, where we turned right and switch-backed across the moor to Little Hucklow, where we entered Bradwell Dale, a bare defile, in which is situated Bagshawe Cavern, one of those remarkable stalactite and stalagmite caves peculiar to this district.  Then the beautiful if motorised Hope Valley to Hope and Castletown,   Here we had two routes to choose from, both of them involving a hard climb, for this is

“A deep vale

Shut out by alpine hills from the rude world”.

Bk 7 -21022

We chose the Winnats Pass, in preference to Mam Tor, for if the former does not yield the same view of the valley or give a glimpse of the scaly sides of ‘Shivering Mountain’, it is grander and more awe-inspiring – and a durned sight steeper and rougher too.  We generally, intentionally or otherwise, pick the harder and rougher way.  The Winnats is an old coach road; being once an adventure for the traveller, for on days when a gale is blowing, the formation of the pass turns the wind down the gorge with amazing velocity, and has been known to cause death from suffocation (?)   Then again, it was a popular haunt of highwaymen; the story being told of a bridal pair being murdered whilst traversing the Winnats.  And when one stands at the summit and looks upon that tortuous descent and upon the vast walls of limestone on each side, one can quite believe what terror it caused in the ‘bad’ old days.

We crossed the moors after sweating up the pass to Perryfoot and Sparrowpit where we dropped down Barmoor Clough to Chapel en le Frith, and by a good road past Combs reservoirs, reached Whaley Bridge and the Manchester-Buxton road.  Tea at Furness Vale, and a ride in the cool of the evening to Disley, Stockport and Cheadle, where we left Tom and proceeded by the usual way home, as red as berries with sunburn.  Derbyshire has a fresh variety of charms each time we see it, and those Dales possess an inexhaustive beauty of their own.           120 miles

Saturday, 6 June 1925 Walton le Dale

Post:        Charlie is quite correct, there are many beautiful views around here, I live in Blackrod with great views of the western Pennines and Winter Hill.  If you get one of the most clear days, it is possible to see the Isle of Man, but that is a very occasional day indeed.  From Winter Hill I have with binoculars watched the Isle of Man ferry sailing out of Heysham harbour in the past.

Saturday, June 6                                              Walton le Dale

Ben arrived late this afternoon, so we could not get far out or with the club, and as an afterthought decided to visit the long neglected Unicorn Inn at Walton le Dale, by the main road.  There is nothing of real interest on the route through Chorley, but a very bad five miles of setts from Horwich.  I was glad to see, however, that clear of ‘Chorlah’ the road has been resurfaced.  We got down to Walton at 5pm, meeting several Boltonians there, and spending a pleasant hour with them.

Restarting, we retraced the road to Bamber Bridge, branching therefrom on to Wigan Road.  This passes through some quite pleasant scenery, and was quiet too, so we carried on right along it through Euxton.  Near here we got a fine surprise view of the sea and the River Ribble estuary, with Blackpool Tower and the Wheel beyond.  When one looks for a view in that direction, one usually searches for Blackpool Tower – it is a landmark.  We kept along this road until Standish was reached where there was ample warning of the approach of industrialism, and we dodged down a byway which leads between the towns and gives glimpses of quite good scenery.  We pottered, stopping here to have a smoke, there to watch a youth rowing a racing skiff along a canal, and walking most of the little hills.

Entering a park, we got a fine view across the smoky towns and agricultural parts to the Welsh mountains across the Dee estuary.  At Aspull, we struck tramcar lines and collieries, but managed to dodge them, and came by a lane route to Red Rock.  Here again was another very clear view of the swelling moors behind Horwich, Rivington Pike, Winter Hill and the wooded Lever Park.  Then the main road brought us through Westhoughton to Chequerbent and so home into the smoke and grime of Lancashire again.  I only hope tomorrow is as clear, for if so it will be a ‘stormer’.                                                              46 miles

Wednesday, 3 June 1925 Belmont Moors

Post:      Another short rant about Politics I am afraid, but a pleasant enough evening ride.  Charlie is very conscious of his ‘place’ in society.

Wednesday, June 3                               Belmont Moors

 Ben and I started out for an evening jaunt around Lever Park tonight at 7pm.  Horwich was soon reached, from where we entered the park and made a bee-line for the partly built ‘ruined castle’.  Since the late Lord Leverhulme died, all work has been stopped indefinitely, all the beautifying which he had employed many men to do has been postponed, and now the whole lot – except the park itself which was a gift to Bolton – has to be sold, including the art gallery, the fine zoo of animals and the Bungalow gardens.

It seems to me the same old story.  One capitalist spends part of the money he has ‘won’ from the public, for the public’s good, and then as soon as he dies, the successor (the son in this case) sells up so as to realise as much as he can on the estate – the old capitalist regime of ‘grab all I can’.  Thank goodness that there are definite signs of the end of this rotten industrial system, and the beginning of a new and more Christian England – a system of Reward for those who Labour – a system of working for the common good – a system of real religion, not the present religion of money, but the religion of Socialism.  Politics again!  I promised once to keep this record clear of politics, but so closely are the lives of every thinking person today interwoven with politics, that it is absolutely impossible to keep it even out of the most care-free of pastimes.

The ‘castle’ was closed, so we carried on via Hall Barn to Rivington, where starts the long climb to the summit of Belmont Moors.  In an enclosure we saw two zebra’s, the first I have seen for a long time.  They are very fine looking animals, enhanced by the even contour of their stripes.  Emu’s too were in the enclosure, and in another Llama’s, Indian Cattle and Deer.

The subsequent route to the summit gives some fine moorland scenery, and if the air be clear, an extensive view across the plains to the sea.  The air however, is not always clear, for westwards stretch part of the great industrial area of Lancashire, with isolated townships helping to cloud the more northerly districts.  At the highest point, we met a chap known to us who ‘rides a bicycle’, and helped him to mend a puncture, then the club, out on an evening spin, rolled up, and we joined them.  A drop through that fine little pass (or cwm) brought us to Belmont, then down the main road and up the cart-way to the top of Scout Road.  Another fine run in a slight rainfall brought us to Bob’s Smithy, and Doffcocker, and so into Bolton by Chorley Old Road.  I think that we, in a great industrial centre, are indeed fortunate to have so near us such fine scenery as can be found amongst the moors East of Horwich.

22 miles

Saturday, 30 May 1925 Great Budworth

Post:    So here is the new bike in its first incident that we know about.  I am surprised Charlie doesn’t make more of it, when he finds his relatively new wheel buckled !

I always recall when reading about these little incidents one dark and frosty night returning through the lanes from Malham, a tandem in the lead followed by another dozen or so on solo’s.  On a short downgrade the tandem screams “Ice” whereupon we all brake and all fall off.  I have always maintained that if the tandem had kept silent no-one would have tumbled off, as it was, the only bike to remain upright was the tandem !

Saturday, May 30                                  Great Budworth

  ‘Joe’ of the Bolton Wheelers came this afternoon, and we started out together, with a glaring sun and a hefty wind before us.  In the lanes between Atherton and Butts Bridge we stopped awhile to watch a cricket match (not that I am interested in cricket, it is too ‘come a day, go a day’).  The wind contested right of way with us, until at Glazebury, we entered another path, which put it sideways.  Joe skidded into me, and both of us sat in the grass suddenly.  It was comfortable, so we stayed there a while, then picked our bikes up, and I found the front wheel buckled.  It was not bad however, although it did interfere with the brake.  We found that a side wind can be quite as troublesome as a headwind, especially on Chat Moss.  Some shelter from the breeze and shade from the sun fell to our lot when we entered the leafy Cheshire lanes after climbing to Broomedge, although after High Legh we had a dust-up now and then.  We were quite ready for tea in that old-fashioned village of Great Budworth by the time we got there.  Restarting with the wind behind, we rode through Arley Park, catching glimpses of the rather handsome brick hall before we reached quiet Arley, and entered another section of the grounds to quaint Arley Green.  Just beyond here, we came to Arley Mere and Mill, which latter timber and brick place with its old water wheel we must needs explore, and have a rest on the parapet over the beautifully situated lake.

Next we inspected the rhyming signpost (see January 25), then finding ourselves once more on the High Legh road, we increased our pace, and with the wind behind, found it no difficult matter to ‘blind’ home.

56 miles


Sunday, 24 May 1925 A ‘Blind’ Home

Post:      Before the service starts Charlie gets in a testimonial for Wayfarer, by way of praise for his contribution to cycling and all that Wayfarer represented.  Ironic in that 30 odd years later, Charlie was the moving force behind the erection of a memorial to Wayfarer high up in the Berwyn mountains of mid Wales, and described in ‘Over the Top’.  Search for the story under ‘Nant Rhyd Wilym’ on this website.

Later we get the fine detail of their ‘blind’ home, it couldn’t have been more exciting for them than a real race !

Sunday, May 24                                    A ‘Blind’ Home

We were up betimes this morning, and soon got out for a walk before breakfast.  The morning was sunny and calm, giving every promise of a fine day.  Outside, with our London friend, we met a large party of Boltonians, some of whom had travelled through the night.  What a story they had to tell!  Rain all the way after Newcastle.   One chap, in a moment of supreme optimism, had left his cape and mudguards at home, and very soon was a sorry mess.  At Lichfield, he (when they stopped for a snack), had removed his shoes and stockings and was running about in his bare feet!  At last the cathedral caretaker came and cleared them all away.  When they arrived at ‘The Laurels’, Meriden, they commandeered a mangle and squoze their stockings and even jackets out!  I am not altogether sorry we changed our minds about the time to make the journey after all.

A merry breakfast, then we went out to watch the crowds roll in.  Before 10am the roads were chock full of cyclists; from every direction they came, all kinds and conditions of riders and mounts, but in overwhelming numbers were the lightweights.  ‘Wayfarer’ was there too, and he must have felt proud to think that nine-tenths of this great era of sensible cycling is due to him, that the ever-growing prosperity of cycling has been chiefly wrought by his own tireless efforts.  For all his critics, ‘Wayfarer’ stands head and shoulders above others as a cycling scribe and an enthusiast of the wheel.  The green was filled with fine, sturdy lads, elderly men who look only half their age, lasses, clad for the most part in sensible ‘rationals’.  What a direct contrast to the sallow-faced youths and painted girls who parade the streets and fill the ‘pictures’ at weekends!  At 10am the green was crowded, the main road impassable, all traffic being stopped when the service started.  This was conducted in a simple fashion by the Bishop of Coventry, and at 10.30, after a benediction, it ended.  We made a rush for our machines, and bade our Londoner friend (with whom we exchanged addresses) goodbye.  We had a job to get through the crush onto the crowded Stonebridge road, so that it got to 10.50 before we started.

Beyond Stonebridge however, the road was clear, and we set a rare pace to Coleshill, passing many others, bent, like us, on getting to lunch.  Unconsciously, all of us were set on the same place, so it developed into a kind of race.  [The reader may be forgiven if he believes that Charlie is describing random cyclists all heading in the same direction – not a bit of it, this is the annual ‘blind’ back from Meriden by all the Bolton CTC section].  We had something of an advantage in that we were fresher by a night’s rest than many of the others, so we began to draw away from the main party.  On the gradual climb up through Wishaw to Basset’s Pole, our lower gears gave us the lead over most of the others.  The three spires of Lichfield Cathedral came into view in a very short time, then the streets, and the hill beyond bringing us out of the saddle for the first time (23 miles).  Again, we passed two more, and believing ourselves first, we made supreme efforts along the flat road to beat ‘evens’.

Eight miles further on we reached the place, to find three more there before us, and a whole pack at our heels.  A wash, and a fine meal of fruit and eggs and tea and the best bread and butter I have tasted for a while, (the whole costing us only 1/-), then packing our coats away, we made a start all together.

The wind was behind us, and we soon got beyond Rugeley, where, under a railway bridge was a deep water splash.  I got in the gutter, and went over the hubs in it, (up to the knees), but in the hot sunshine I found it a fine refresher.  Between here and Rugeley one chap caught cramp, and the whole party excepting four of us waited for him.  We four continued our hectic career through Stone and along to Newcastle – 57 miles – where the setts and hills beyond slacked us.  Talke o’ th’ Hill, now, Red Bull, then Miss Hallam, one of the four, punctured, and whilst we repaired it, three passed us.  We soon had it right, and were off again, past Moreton Old Hall to Congleton, where the said three were having a drink, and were joined by Miss Hallam.  After walking the hill, we again started to rush, and simply ‘blinded’ the ten miles to Alderley Cross, where the potterers (from Bolton) were at tea.  We were first of the Meriden ‘crowd’.  Three or four of us started on the last stage of the journey via Wilmslow and Handforth, leaving Tom at Kingsway End, and then catching the rest up, all finishing the run together.  I reached home at 8.30 pm.

Thus went down another memorial service, and another fine run into the Heart of the English Wonderland.  According to the newspapers, 10,000 cyclists had gathered at Meriden that day.  Upon the cyclists Memorial are the words:

‘To all the Cyclists who died in the Great War, 1914 – 1918’

112 miles

Saturday, 23 May 1925 The Heart of England – Meriden

Post:      Charlie really enjoys these annual jaunts to Meriden each summer, not least the prospect of a massive ‘blind’ all the way to Bolton on the following day.  No sightseeing then !  Apologies for not being able to delete the text surrounding part of the picture of Maxstoke Castle, those sharp of eye will be able to locate the said part of the story the Castle occurred !

Saturday, May 23                 The Heart of England – Meriden

Again the months have rolled by, and again the call has gone forth to every real cyclist to steer towards the Mecca – to make the yearly pilgrimage to far-famed Meriden.

“Meriden in Warwickshire,     Where the grass is green….”

We had thought of an all-night run, but being, for the nonce, a little ‘cash in hand’ (to tell the truth), and thinking that we could make one or two detours, we at length decided to make a two day jaunt of it.  Well, to be correct, a one-day-jaunt and a one-day ‘blind’!   Tom, who has sometimes more than a grain of sense (cyclists usually have none at all – the homing bird) wrote for lodgings for the night and was accepted, and we later found the value of this forethought, although as a rule we leave that to chance.  Anyway, the arrangements were Kingsway End, 9am, Saturday morning.

I was up at 6.30, finding the rain fairly sousing down.  Ma and Pa were booked for a picnic to Fleetwood (of all places!) via train.  There was much grousing going on over this ‘spoiled’ outing, and the cry was “What a miserable day we shall have”.  I felt very thankful that Tom and I had such a glorious day before us, whilst they, cooped up in a railway carriage, had such a black, wet outlook.  I started at 7.30am inside my cape, but when I reached Walkden, it was fine.  As soon as I had stowed the cape, down came the dampness again, but I said ‘cob it’, and carried on cape-less.  At Barton I rode along with one who had just finished work, and nearing Stretford my rear tyre gave up the ghost.  I had no solution, but my friend gave me a little.  How insignificant punctures are when one has a quick release!  At this juncture my commuting friend left me, and I put my cape on again, only to doff it at Chorlton.  I was ten minutes late at the rendezvous where Tom was waiting, and then we got on the road together.

We had barely left Cheadle when another storm come on, and for the third time in 18 miles the cape came into use, and stayed on until Wilmslow was reached, where we put them out of sight with a firm resolution that come what may they would stay there for a few hours at least.  At Alderley Edge we had a pow-wow over the route, and decided to carry on, on the main road, and ‘crash through’ the Potteries.  The Congleton road via Siddington and Marton is really pretty, looking better now after rain, so that we had quite a pleasant ride for ten miles to the market town – Congleton – by the River Dane.  The rain had left us now (sailing Fleetwood-wards), and being replaced by a stiff headwind which considerably retarded our progress.  However, that mattered not – we had gained the London road – the road to Meriden.

Astbury with its quaint ancient church dropped behind.  On our left the long sweeping hill dominated by Mow Cop was falling away, Moreton Old Hall came into sight, and we stopped a minute to view this gem of timbering which stands in a coppice and facing a field, looking from the road just like a big beautiful toy.  After a few minutes we restarted, and after an undulating run came down to Red Bull, and the commencement of the Potteries.  Luckily this road only traverses a corner of this industrial area – about four miles, but what we do see of it is quite enough.  As Tom Hughes says: ‘he who goes through the Potteries twice in a day un-necessarily is a maniac’.  The stricken area starts with a long walk through Talke, ‘Talke o’ the Hill’, until the summit is reached, when on a clear day, parts of nine counties may be seen.  It was not bad today, but our views were mostly ugly buildings and chimney stacks.  To Newcastle we passed, (I will leave out the rest) and leaving its crowded streets behind, we regained good roads, and, from Trent Vale, the beginning of some really charming scenery.

The Trent is only a small river – or a large stream here, but its surroundings are a direct contrast to those behind, and gave us plenty to admire until we reached Trentham, where we found a fine little lunch place.  For my part, I felt like it too, after 52 hard miles.

A feature of the Trent valley are the picturesque villages, which the road passes through, little timbered cottages, flowering gardens and a tranquil peaceful air does much to enhance the journey.  Stone is not a pleasant place – just an ordinary, every day kind of town with narrow awkward streets and plenty of traffic, and beyond, the scenery becomes less notable except for little instances where the real beauty of the valley asserts itself.  The wind caught us here, and made us some hard pedalling, so that I was glad to drop my gear down to 59.8”, from 63”, obtaining some ease therefrom.  Gradually the scenery improved, at Sandon, (a wonderful little place) becoming gorgeous, and again taming down until beyond Weston, we were cautioned (notice board) to drive slowly for two miles through ‘villages’ – beautiful places.

Just past Colwich, we came to the edge of the hilly and scenic Cannock Chase, then running beside a privet hedge of immense thickness, we reached Rugeley.  The thing that struck me most about this town, was the smell – you know what a tannery smells like!  The sun had been out since Talke, but now he went back, and thunder was rolling nearer.  We stopped on the fringe of the town to decide which way to go, the hilly road to Lichfield or the flat one, as a signpost obligingly informed us!  We had taken the hilly one in the dark last year, so we decided to see what it was like by day.  Capes became a necessity before we left the shelter of a railway bridge in Rugeley, and soon a thunderstorm came into being.

The rain had its own way too – well, it didn’t rain, it just hissed down.  Oh, it was grand, the thunder roaring deafeningly, lightening playing before us, and the road like a running river below us.  The hilly road was hilly, but we did not want to dismount because we were drier riding – we could hardly have been any wetter though – so we forced our way up each hill, and rode down with the river.  The storm slackened after about 15 minutes, and seeing a notice over a house ‘home-made lemonade’ we decided to stop for a refresher.  The lemonade tasted suspiciously like that 1d an ounce (or was it 2 ounces?) stuff we used to get when we went to school, mixed with cold water.  Thus, with water both inside and out, we carried on.  Between Brereton and Longdon we got another sample of South Staffordshire rains; a worthy example it proved too.  The scenery however, was splendid, and the rain worthwhile if only for the freshening up of the woods and hedgerows.  The rain continued this time for about five miles, until we joined the other road and dropped down into Lichfield, turning aside to view the massive frontage of the ancient cathedral, which rears itself high above all the other buildings.  It is a beautiful picture.  Then passing through the busy, narrow streets, we passed the humble birthplace of ‘Ben Johnson’, and regained the open country beyond.

The scenery was getting better again, changing into rolling, tree-clad hills, never high, but very verdant and how green!  The road surface too, was beyond criticism, whilst every cyclist we met (and there were many) called out ‘Cheerio’ as he passed – a difference we found very welcome from those around Manchester.  Jogging along, now inside capes, now without them, we climbed to Basset’s Pole and found that we were in leafy Warwickshire.  We also found a tea place, which provided us with fruit and cakes (one could bounce the cakes without making much of an impression) and bread and butter and tea, and, withal, a shelter from a particularly sharp storm.  After tea we slid down by tree-clad ways to Wishaw, and accompanied a Nottingham party to Coleshill.  We were only a matter of 8 miles from Meriden now, and as the evening had turned out to be one of those peaceful, calm nights, we had a mind to prolong the ride, so getting out the map, we soon found a route that would get us to Meriden via the bylanes.

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A swoop down to Cole End, then a footpath (we were off again on one of our ‘stunts’) which wandered about of its own sweet will, making three sides of a square, and taking us through a park to an indescribably beautiful scene – Maxstoke Castle. This mediaeval, imposing picture of a moated fortress came rather as a surprise, for though we knew about it, we never expected anything quite like that.  The brown walls, mellowed with age, the gateway with its two fine towers, the quiet moat full of water-lilies, the woods around, all tinted with the rays of the dying sun, gave that air of beautiful tranquillity that only the English countryside on a summer eve can offer.

We lingered long here, Tom took some photographs, then we pottered down the broad avenue to the bylanes.  These are in a bad condition, but that is a matter of no account when the scenery is of a standard like this.  The road was a little hilly, winding, but the buildings and hamlets, ‘black and white’ properties adding an additional touch that was fine in the effect.  At Maxstoke, we tried to get to the ruins of the old priory, but had to be content with a fine archway on the roadside, and a walk round the old church.  Thus we pottered through woodland scenery, and by pastoral land, where the tilled soil was of rich, reddish variety, via Great Packington to Meriden – our destination.  A wash, then a walk down the road in the gathering darkness with a London cyclist who was excellent company.

The optimism of some people is startling.  Cyclists were rolling in at 10pm to 10.30pm, still looking for ‘digs’.  Of all places, Meriden, of all nights, when already the full capacity has been booked up and the village was four times its normal size, some had come with the hope of getting in!  Some went off to Coventry, six miles away, others blithely talked of getting a barn or even an old shed.

Tom Hughes, the Wigan veteran was in our place.  When we met him he was asking some where they were from.  “London, originally Oldham”, was their reply.  “So yore fro’ Owdham” said Tom.  “An theh’t from Wiggin” I said; at this he turned round and answered “An theh’t from Bowton!”.  We made a jolly supper party, London and Oldham, Wigan and Bolton, Manchester and Worcester, and the dialect which we gave caused some amusement.  Lancashire had the monopoly of our bedroom, and the conversation lasted until well after midnight.  112 miles

Sunday, 17 May 1925 Moel Famau & Nant-y-Garth

Post:        Well, well, how many of us get up early for a long ride, and have to get breakfast and all our stuff together by candlelight ?  We oldsters tend to forget that electric light only came along for many houses during our infancy, which is true, we, parents and I, moved into a better house than the one we were currently living in, and that had gas lighting in every room.  But my father soon had the electric wiring in place and we joined the modern age !  That was in the 1940’s.  No mention of Charlie’s saddle today, but the problem still has to be resolved.

It seems to me that Charlie is enduring a spell of working full time, as there have been no midweek excursions for some time, and if it helps to pay off the bill for his new bike we can congratulate him into the bargain.

Sunday, May 17                                    Moel Famau and Nant-y-Garth

 Arrangements had been made for another long run into Wales, our intention, if the visibility warranted it, being to make the ascent of Moel Famau.  The run would serve a dual purpose by getting us fit for the all-night pilgrimage to Meriden next weekend.  Therefore we proposed to meet at Dennison’s, Mickle Trafford, at 7.30am, the first there to order a pot of tea.  The weather just recently has become quite stifling, if hardly sunny, and rain has been conspicuous by its absence.

I was up before 3am, stealthily making preparations by candle light, and at 4.15am, the door was quietly closed and I was off.  I had started rather early, giving myself a good three hours to cover the 34 miles, because a run of this length demands a careful beginning.  I started with my lamp lit, but soon put it out, when, as Shakespeare says:

The morning steals upon the night

Melting the darkness……….

Atherton and Leigh soon slipped by, and I came to Pennington Station, where the railway crosses the swamps and stagnant morass of that part of Chat Moss that has not been reclaimed, and over which I saw billions of little greenfly.  There were so many that the air was hazy with them, and I was glad to see that the road itself had not been invaded.  At Lowton I joined the lane route to Winwick, and then downhill into the dirty streets of Warrington at 5.50.

None too soon was Chester road reached.  How beautiful everything was on that sweet May morning, how green the fields and hedgerows were, how pretty the gardens, with apple blossom and flowers of all hues, how clean the air, and how quiet and free the Open Road.

“Good god!  How sweet are all things here,

How beautiful the fields appear!”

The sky too, was wonderful, full of fleecy clouds, white and grey, and in the west, a delicate pink.  I pottered along, walking all the stiff little hills, taking in the views, and watching the sunlight slowly spreading over the colourful headlands of Frodsham and Helsby.  Would that all could seem as peaceful and lovely every day, as the Chester road was to me that early morn.  I reached Mrs Dennison’s first, Tom coming a little later, and before 8am we were having breakfast (the second!), 34 miles from home.  Mrs Dennison predicted rain to us, and Tom said to me: “Whatever shall we do if it rains?”   (Let it!).

Well we soon got going again, covering the last four miles into ‘Caer Gawr Lleion’ by 8.30.  The day hardly warranted the ascent of the ‘Hill of Mothers’, but we decided to carry on to it, by the direct road via Mold.  From Chester came five flat, dull miles, until at Bretton we turned and crawled uphill for two and a half miles through fine woodland scenery to Pen-y-Mynnydd.  There were some spectacular views, if not very clear, of Caergwrle Castle in the Hope Valley, and Moel Famau in front, rising above in massive bulk, before we dropped into the Vale of Alyn, and speedily came via Llong to Mold at 9.30am.  Very soon it was ‘shanks’ from Maes-y-Ffynnon, and the scenery was nothing to shout about until we reached the summit  at Gwern-y-mynydd, the ‘Swamp on the Moors’, but the subsequent drop into the Leete Valley at Cat Hole revealed some gorgeous wood, rock and water scenery.

From the Loggerheads (where is an old water mill), we tramped up to Tafarn-y-Gelyn, picking primroses and violets which grew profusely by the wayside.  At the latter place, the old Ruthin road over Bwlch Pen Barras was joined, a rough, steep, disused track, but, withal, in fine scenery, though wild and barren enough farther along.  The Bwlch (pass) runs between Fron hen(?) and Moel Famau, and just beyond the farm of Ty-fy-nain, the well defined path to the summit of the latter starts.

We had not got far along before it developed into a scramble of the first magnitude.  In addition, the air was sweltering, so that the stops for ‘breathers’ were many, and varied by the awkward poses necessary to keep us from going backwards.  Then a level mile or so, where we could snatch a ride, and up again over slippery turf, and clay, and stones, with a diversion climbing over fallen trees, and networks of bracken.  Again level with the peak now only just above us, then clambering over a stile, we left the bikes and ran up the remaining few feet to the ruined Jubilee Tower, 1,821 ft above sea level.  Only in one direction was there a view, and that was overlooking the Vale of Clwyd, which lay below, a huge expanse of fields, with Ruthin in the centre, the buildings only just discernible.

Beyond that lay a wild expanse of moorland peaks, above which, in the far distance stood two twin peaks with a kind of bridge between them.  To our minds they seemed to be the Carneddau Dafydd and Llewellyn, on the threshold of Snowdonia, both of them being over 3,400 ft high.  For the rest, all was enclosed in a blanket of rain-mist, which was slowly creeping over the valley.  Tom got his camera going, and none too soon was he either, for in a few moments a cloud of the pea-soup variety came over, and blotted everything out.  The mist came about us until we seemed to stand amidst escaping steam.  Then the sun, a weak watery affair, would come out, and for a moment the vale would open out to us, closing up again immediately.  The sea at Rhyl was not 12 miles away, but we never saw it.

It is possible to ride down on the Ruthin track, and we tried it.  Let me say emphatically it is not a ride for a nervous person.  For the first mile it is a test of steering skill, for the path abounds in boulders and a false move may easily snap off a pedal.  This part passed, we embarked on a grassy way winding down the hillside.  Above on the left, the moors climb steeply, the path is about two feet wide, sloping towards the right, where is an almost sheer drop of 150 ft.  The grass was slippery, the gradient easy, but the heart thumps as we skidded towards that hollow, were many.  More than once, we found ourselves looking over the edge as we rode along, our wheels being inches away.  But we were far from being the biggest fools, for we saw two motor-cycles coming up, and we just managed to climb the slope and let them pass.  They had one person on the pillion too, and made our tubbies ache as we saw them jolting from one side to the other.  Nerves!

This lasted about a mile, until it comes to Bwlch-y-Pare – and a road that is more precipitous and rough, though a little safer.  At length it got too steep to ride, so dismounting, we walked down to a farmyard, round a field, and over a stile into a wood where the ground was thick with bluebells and we trampled primroses under foot, so numerous were they.  Crossing a stream by means of a rickety wooden footbridge, we gained a road of doubtful pretensions, and then soon came to the main road at Rhiwysg.  We were now in the wonderful Vale of Clwyd, and very soon reached the quaint, anyhow-built town of Ruthin.

We made for Parkinson’s in Clwyd street for lunch, a place we had called at before and found ‘tres-bon’, neither were we disappointed this time.  The old gent knew us, after all this time (July 20 last), and recalled that last time it was my birthday, a thing I had forgotten!  He also remembered that we had ascended Moel Famau, and that it was raining (we had twelve hours of it that day).  After a pleasant chat we left at 2pm, through Ruthin, and catching a glimpse of its castle, from which the town is named.  ‘Rhudd-ddin’ was the original name, and means the ‘Red Fortress’.  It is quite easy to see how it has been corrupted into Ruthin, for the ‘dd’ is always pronounced as ‘th’ as in ‘thus’, ‘the’, etc, thus being spoken of as Ruth-thin.  The castle was built by Lord de Grey in the 14th century, and has undergone some hard knocks until, in 1646 it was dismantled by order of Parliament.  Old Churchyard, the poet, says of it:

“The Castle stands on rocke much like red brick,

The dykes are cut with toole through stony crags,

The towers are hye, the walls are large and thicke,

The work itself would shake a subject’s bagge”.

After getting out of the narrow streets, we regained the open country, and headed for Llanfair-Dyffryn-Clwyd – and the hills.  From this place there seemed to be no way out for us but the mountains which rose in blunt peaks, all arrayed in a line before us.  It was only when we got right under the shadow of one giant that we discovered the road running into a narrow, wooded defile.

At first it was rather open, and densely wooded, then it closed in, climbing slightly, with a noisy stream running beside us – a boulder strewn stream, with the rock-banks interwoven with lichen and ferns, a stream that was a succession of little, crystal waterfalls and rapids and dancing light, a stream that meandered restlessly from one side of the pass to the other, constantly crossing the road above it.  Higher up, when the road became steeper and we got warmer, we stopped, and bathed our hands in the rushing water, and drank of it.  Ah!  How cold and sweet it tasted.  The exquisite blending of wood and rock and water was only such as a Welsh valley can show, it was a pity not to linger here awhile and get full measure of enjoyment from the scenery, but home was a long way off (70 miles) and we were in a hard district for speed.  So we kept on, until the quiet sylvan beauty gave way to bare rocks and moorland slopes, and the steepening gradient forced us out of the saddle.  Then we reached the summit, and paused a moment to remark on the two-mile loveliness of this pass, Nant-y-Garth.

The high road claimed us now, and with increasing velocity we sped towards Llandegla.  At the Crown Hotel we stifled a strong desire to add yet another pass to the day’s bit by going over the Horseshoe; perhaps the thought of that dismal Ruabon-Wrexham road prevented us, so we wormed our way into the moorland col that leads to Bwlchgwyn.  Along here we saw a sheep that had been shorn of its wool on its body, whilst the neck and head was covered, looking just as if it were a ruff!  Perhaps the shearer had ‘knocked off’ on the stroke of the hour according to trade union regulations!  At Bwlchgwyn it started to rain, and this we attributed to our being in the vicinity of Llandegla.

It always rains when we visit Llandegla.  I see that a notice has been placed at each end of the Nant-y-Ffrith pass road, stating that the said road is in a dangerous condition.  We always thought it would prove a bit arduous for motors.  Thank goodness for that!  We joined this route, and almost immediately Tom punctured.  We repaired it leisurely beneath some trees whilst the rain poured down, and when it began to come through we got inside our capes and rode off.  The road certainly is in a terrible condition, full of loose stones, and demanding extreme care on the hairpin bends leading to the tumbledown bridge in the Ffrith.  I still wonder how Tom managed to escape even more punctures with that worn open-sided tyre he had on.

A stiff climb brought us to the better road, from where we crashed downhill to Ffrwd and through the pretty little vale to Cefn-y-bedd, the ‘Ridge of the Grave’.  Here the rain ceased, but started again immediately capes were packed away, and after a while we replaced them, and so reached Rossett on the Chester road.  A mile of the main road was enough; we were glad to turn into one of the lanes of the Eaton Hall estate and escape from the featureless highway to the beautiful foliage of the Park.  Violets and other delicate-hued flowers lined the wayside, whilst nearer the hall, the ground was a yellow carpet of primroses.  Tom contrived to take a photograph of the Hall, then passing the studs of the Duke of Westminster’s famous racehorses, we rode in view of the beautiful River Dee to Eccleston, where we passed out of the Estate – and put our capes away.

It was but a short run to Chester, where we passed the Dee Mills famous in song and story – which, although they are so old that William the Conqueror drew revenue from them, look modern enough now, crossed the old Dee bridge, passed under the historical walls and walked up Bridge street, a street that I will lay against any I have seen for richness of medieval architecture in houses;  Some buildings are old and bulge forward, others stand to the edge of the pavement, others show some beautiful timbering in trefoils, quatrefoils and gables, with latticed windows, mullioned windows, cross-beams and old oaken stanchions.  Were it not for the present day dresses and clothing, and motor-cars, one could easily persuade oneself that he was living in the 16th and 17th century.  Tea was calling, so we did not linger, but rushed through this City of Legions as is, I am afraid, our wont.  If Chester were a hundred miles or more away, we should appreciate it far better.  After a gradual climb through Hoole, we started dropping slightly, until, four miles past Chester, we stopped for tea at the little farmhouse at Mickle Trafford.

On the road again, in company with hordes of motor-cars – the same road that 12 hours ago seemed so pretty and quiet – a road that we now wanted to cover as quickly as possible.  Helsby and its prominent rocky headland, Frodsham with its wide main street, a drop to the canal-river – the Weaver, and a long drag up to Sutton Weaver, then an undulating, slightly favourable road through Daresbury and Warrington was in sight.  We skirted the town by taking the suburban road through Stockton Heath and Thelwall, then a narrow bypass into Lymm with its old market place, cobbled, and its sandstone sundial and stocks.  At Heatley, we stood planning the next ride – the pilgrimage to Meriden, and came to a last minute decision to make a weekend of it instead of an all-nighter.  Thus we left each other, I crossing Warburton Bridge, and facing a steady breeze across unsheltered Chat Moss.  I reached home before 10pm.  Another splendid day in Wales, with a mountain of 1,820 ft to our credit and three passes –Bwlch Pen Barras, Nant-y-Garth, and Nant-y-Ffrith.  Is it worth it ? there is little need to answer that, we knew before we started.                                                               140 miles

‘Proud of her ancient race, Britannia shows

Where, in her Wales, another Eden glows,

And all her sons, to truth and honour dear,

Prove they deserve the Paradise they share’.

Miss Sewell


Sunday, 10 May 1925 Pennsylvania

Post:        This was another gentle potter of 90 miles, in which Cheshire is well and truly crossed hither and thither.  A good way to properly christen the new bike was it not ?

On days like this Charlie was very descriptive, and we all benefit from his ability to describe the country he passes through beautifully.  And no panics today.

Sunday, May 10                                              Pennsylvania

We had arranged for a potter somewhere in Cheshire today, our arrangements being Broomedge, 9am, meaning a 7.30 start for both of us.  It is now an understood thing to start early during the summer months, not so much for distance as for getting clear of the towns and main roads before the traffic becomes too objectionable.  [Whatever would he have made of the traffic in 2010?].  I had a shock when I discovered that the time was 7.45am on awakening, and had to get a move on, leaving home at 8.15.  I knew I should be late, for it is a sheer impossibility for me to cover those 20 miles in 45 minutes, but by pushing on as fast as possible, I arrived at 9.30, and so, after apologies, we made a start together, plunging into the quiet lanes immediately.

The weather was warm and the outlook for the day seemed good, although that was little to worry about, but the evidences of Spring being fully awakened made the world seem a wonderful place to live in and us seem privileged above most others to enjoy it fully.  We pedalled along chatting over each new scene as it came in sight round the next bend.  Some people say we are always in Cheshire.  If they saw and loved this County Palatine as we do, they would be like us, and would never have enough of those twisting byways, old world hamlets and shady woodlands.  Rural Great Budworth came into being; we passed slowly down its one narrow street, crossed the main road at the bottom, and with Budworth mere below us, carried on to Comberbach and the lanes again.  Little Leigh now, then an old track over an extremely rough and muddy surface, with a sheer fall to the Weaver Valley; across, then up to Acton Bridge, and the climbing road from Crowton to Norley brought us into the wooded precincts of Delamere Forest.  The main road from Hatchmere was fast, bounding us along to Chester road at the Abbey Arms, where we crossed this motorist’s speedway and very soon reached Cotebrook.

Byways again, sweet-smelling, tree clad byways lined with quaint ‘wattle and daub’ cottages, whose gardens displayed a beautiful and varied array of flowers, sent us comfortably along to Tiverton cross-roads, and then, dropping downhill with venerable old Beeston Castle before us, we halted for lunch at Beeston Brook.  We stayed over an hour here, then, at 1pm we took to the road again, climbing up to Beeston Smithy.  The afternoon had turned out sunny and calm, but a heat mist enshrouded the more distant views, whilst the scenery and warmth was making us want to potter.  Rounding the foot of the woody slope on which stand the turrets and castellated walls of Peckforton, half castle, half mansion, we came to the gateway leading to the estate, and immediately entered the beautiful woods.  The track was chiefly stones and very deep mud, but what matters how rough the way, or how muddy and wet we get so long as the scenery is good?  The best lies off the beaten track.  We sat down on some wooden railings, to listen to the life of the woods, to review the kaleidoscope of colour – the tender greenery of leaves and grass, the russet brown of leaves that are dead, on trees not yet awakened, to admire the setting of a little cottage, its black timbering and whitened bricks showing vividly against a dark setting of trees, to watch the slow progress of some insect along a tree-trunk, and the speedy flight of birds.  One could have stayed here for ever!

Bk 7 -18019

Then to the little row of quaint homesteads marked on the map as Pennsylvania, and to Upper Burwardsley, from where the head of Peckforton Gap was reached.  A sandy, precipitous scramble downhill brought us to the road along the foot of the range.  A change now was coming over, the black clouds rolling towards us, giving a queer silence and semi-darkness.  ‘Ne’r cast a clout till May is out’ as we recalled the old adage.  We rode towards the darkness, then at Bickerton, branched on to a dirt road, which developed into a mudbath before we regained the tarred road at Bunbury, a typical Cheshire village.  An adventure with a hen which touched my front wheel and flew screaming away unhurt marked our progress down to Highwayside, where we found the black clouds had gone and left wet roads behind.  Quite moderate scenery fell to us during our next ramble through the lanes until Eaton, picturesque as ever was reached, and glorious little byways along by Oulton Park, where primroses and violets held sway in the hedge sides, brought us to Little Budworth.

We now remembered our tea, and urged our wheels more quickly to Vale Royal and Whitegate, then reached Chester road at Sandiway.  It is but a short road down to quaint, dirty Northwich, but we saw more motor vehicles then than we had all day.  We discovered that the cinder road between Witton Flashes had subsided, making the two huge lakes into one, but decided to carry on.  It is a rather eerie experience riding through six inches of water and knowing that a few feet on each side might be – was – several feet deep, and not being sure that the road had not cracked!  Anyway, except for wet feet we came out alright and passed on to Great Budworth, discovering here that our pet tea place had been invaded by motorists.  Motorists and us do not get on so well together, so to avoid the usual arguments we carried on to Arley Green.  The last time we called here was at the end of my summer holidays last July, when one visitor broke his ankle and we had to rush to Budworth to call out the doctor.  The incoherent story we put to the doctor, due to inadequate information given to us at the time, had not ended well.  The ankle apparently had been set wrong and it had to be done again, as we now discovered,  and its owner now had a limp.  Curiously enough the patient was here again today but wasn’t about at the time of our visit.

It was a fine little place and in beautiful scenery.  Leaving by the park road to Arley, we followed a wayward path, and eventually reached that fine moated mansion, Swineyard Hall, which Tom photographed.  High Legh reached, we dropped down to Broomedge and Heatley, then joined the ‘tons’ road via Warburton, Partington, (fine views of the steelworks across the Ship Canal), Carrington and Flixton.  It almost takes an expert to follow the route afterwards traversed, to Urmston and Barton.  We parted at Patricroft, thoroughly satisfied with the potter.                                                   90 miles