Sunday, 11 October 1925 Chester

Post:         For me, this day out in Chester is one of the funniest ever Charlie days out.  It ranks alongside the book ‘Three Men in a boat’ (by Jerome K Jerome) which also is a boating story, and if you have never read it, go out and find a copy in a second hand bookshop, you will split your sides !

Sunday, October 11                                        Chester

 We were resolved on a potter today, and had an idea of going to Chester and showing the folks on the river how to handle a boat.  Or is it ‘how not to?’  (Shut up, Joe).  Ben and Joe came at 8am for me and proceeded to let the neighbourhood know it despite my pleas for peace.  However, we pottered away over the setts to Atherton, cinder lanes to Butts Bridge, then good tarmac to Warburton, where macadam gave us the fourth variation.  And all the time Joe had been what he calls singing songs – the noise was there alright, if not the tone.

Tom was waiting at Broomedge, 9.30am with a bicycle that was spick and span – a brand new ‘Grubb’ with BSA fittings (just like my bike!).  Speaks well for my machine, for owing to the satisfaction I have experienced with my Grubb, it has been instrumental in him deciding to emulate my purchase, as well as three other friends over this year.  As the Grubb advert says, “Ask the man who rides one”.  With hopes of seeing it splashed a bit before the day ended, we started along the usual High Legh-Budworth bylanes, the while Joe held forth loudly about ‘My Darling Clementine, or Serpentine, or Caroline’ or something.  I am not well up in modern songs.  Great Budworth was old, quaint, and quiet as ever, we pottered cheerily along to Joe’s accompanying lyrics which fairly roused the countryside.  From Little Leigh we joined the little direct lane that swoops down to the River Weaver with a surface that is alternately a mud bath and a chaos of little boulders called cobbles.

Across the Warrington-Tarporley road, and up the hill to Milton, with Joe carefully scrutinising every blackberry bush, and when he found none he dived into his copious saddlebag and produced a large parcel which he calls a snack, and all the uphill way through Norley he was munching away.  Delamere Forest, as anticipated, was a veritable wonderland of colours.  From the little duck pond at the end of the ‘switchback’, we went through Mouldsworth to the village of Ashton Hayes, where, in the village street, Joe punctured.  Which was good, for we could pull his leg about it, like he does ours, so I found a comfortable seat and presided over the proceedings.  Then we carried on to Tarvin and did a ‘blind’ on the main road to Chester.  Here we found a lunch place, placed our bikes in a tumbledown old shed and proceeded to make merry.  Joe had some brown bread of a brand known as ‘Moorma’ (more, ma); he got his leg pulled over it.  We made it into a popular song, for us.

Then we went down to the River Dee, procuring a boat from a chap who, if he had known us, might never have trusted us.  He did ask if we could row, and we answered him in the affirmative without a blush.  The boat had two sets of oars and a rudder, so as a kick-off, Tom and I took the oars whilst Joe and Ben had a row over who should twiddle the rudder.  We had first turn for the best men always row, besides, as we told the others, they could watch and learn, then when their turn came they would know how it is done.  It is a bit of a job getting a boat under way with one like Joe sat in the back.  Tom rows too slowly, with the result that the oars constantly got in each other’s way; I row lightly and quickly with a grace that others might do well to copy, but of course one cannot expect three dull blighters like they are to see beauty in rowing.  When I explained that to them, they only laughed coarsely.  Still, except for that (Tom’s rowing), and the rowlocks being unsuitable which made the oars slip and send us backwards, and a crab or two, or going a bit too deep, we should have done fairly well, but Joe did not use the rudder in a right manner, with the result that we zig-zagged all over the river, to the rage of other boaters who got unreasonably mad about it.  And Joe would not listen when we told him.

Yet we gradually left Chester behind (to the relief of Chester), embarking on virgin waters.  Scowling fishermen lined the banks, and because we happened to pass near them they kicked up a frightful row, swearing with a violence that might have been better employed.  Joe told them that it was their worm that wasn’t trying, which made them rise in a body and get so aggressive that I thought they were going to swim out to us.  So, being a peace-loving quartet we crossed over to the other side and promptly got in another row for being on the wrong side of the river.  Finally, as a compromise, we kept in the middle.

Near Eccleston Ferry, the river became very beautiful, lined with autumn-tinted trees that bent their branches to the water.  We passed Eccleston Ferry and got near the grounds of Eaton Hall before we decided to turn back – we had been out over an hour as it was.

Joe started to row then, and I must say that he did very well – nearly as good as me, but Ben! – we had to sack him.  And so, aided by the current and my skilful guiding, and hindered by Joe’s sea songs, we meandered back and reached the landing stage after two and a quarter hours on the water. We did not delay for we were afraid that Chester was full of fierce anglers who positively ached to get hold of us, so we slunk through the back streets to our bikes, rescued them and made off.

Four miles later, feeling safe, we stopped at Mickle Trafford for tea.  Joe discovered that he had left his bag open in the tumbledown old shed at Chester, and the rats had eaten his tea.  A few chewed bits of paper proved that!  Anyway, he got a full tea for 9d, so he had little room to grumble.  On the Chester road on our return journey, Joe made the following verse up to suit the chorus to a popular song:

“Oh the rats have been at my Moorma, while I’ve been away!

We started to blind, and picked up some more cyclists, but when a motor pulled up suddenly and sent Tom into a bank and us in a mix-up, we proceeded more steadily.  I broke my brake cable again near Frodsham, then we struck a mist and had to go easy to Walton, where Tom left us.  After Warrington we struck a dense fog, and simply crawled to Leigh.

Then home after a merry day.                                              85 miles


Saturday, 10 October 1925 Millington

Post:        Now we have another worry.  Our hero twisted his leg (or ankle) quite badly it seemed, whilst playing football in the field outside the cafe.  He complains of his leg shaking like billy-ho whilst laying on the bench outside the tea place, which has to be a worry, but somehow he gets back home.

Saturday, October 10                            Millington       CTC run

Turned up to Four Lane Ends at 2.30pm this afternoon, with Ben, for the CTC run.  A goodly crowd was out, for it was a beautiful afternoon.  In the lanes around Atherton, Joe turned up for his first ride with the CTC.  The run out across Chat Moss developed almost into a blind, for all were intent on a game of football before tea.  At Heatley I punctured, and two stayed with me, but we were soon off again, and reached Millington just after the crowd.  Sides were picked, and a game of football started.  The very first kick of the match, I twisted my leg, and went as sick as a dog.  Every time I got up I felt dizzy, and I wonder to this day how on earth I got to the room at Boothbank.  The room was stone-cold – I lay on the form for almost an hour, my leg twitching like billy-ho, but I pulled round just as the club rolled in, and in the jollity of the tea-table all traces of dizziness disappeared.  I still had misgivings about my leg, which I could hardly move.

Boothbank has deteriorated as a cyclist’s tea place, for it has become the custom to keep us waiting and attend to motorists who have arrived after us.  They get the best room too; we must be content with a cold, damp place lit with candles.  I know a better place not far away, and am only awaiting a chance to introduce the club to it.  It is a pity that cyclists have become unwelcome at Mrs Duncalf’s, for it is an old world house with a beautiful garden and a good playing field nearby.

When we left Millington, my leg was not so painful, and a lot easier riding than walking.  All the way home we made the air hideous with songs of a jazzy character, conducted ably by Mr John Leigh, and rendered, (above the rest) with greatest gusto by Miss Ethel Jolly, who is known as ‘Some child’.  We met a mist crossing Chat Moss, one of those kinds that come in solid chunks.  Altogether it was a ride that reminded me of the winter runs of three years ago, when only eight or nine used to turn up for the run, and make a merry party.  By the time I reached home my leg had almost ceased to pain me, and I had great hopes for tomorrow after all.                                                              38 miles


Sunday, 4 October 1925 Chee Dale

Post:       This is an interesting account of a day which includes a bit of everything, from severe (or even very severe) rough stuff to the Blue John Mine, famed all over for its bluestone products.  And our heroes, and they were this day, managed all that on a discounted entrance fee.  The would have looked shabby, being covered in Chee Dale mud.

Sunday, October 4                           Chee Dale and the Blue John Mine

 It all started because of a run in February this year.  That day we had attempted to force a way through Chee Dale, along which runs a path – of sorts, but melting snows and heavy rains made the Dale impassable, so we had to admit defeat, ignominious defeat by water that foamed between unclimbable cliffs, and made, by way of some relief for our lowered colours, an eternal vow that Chee Dale had not done with us.  And now, in October, we remembered our vow and arranged for another attempt on the limestone gorge whilst the river was low, for when winter comes there is little hope of getting around the rock barrier for months on end.  Kingsway End, 7.30am we must meet, early as usual, but there are other attractions besides Chee Dale.

The clocks had to be put back on Saturday night, I got up at a quarter to four, had my breakfast, then discovered that it was only 2.45am!  Anyway, I stopped up, and before 6am was on the road in daylight.  There was no sunrise to be seen, a clammy mist shrouded the land, hiding the industrial and suburban outlook effectively.  I got there first, and when Tom came we fell to trying to work out the way which cuts the Stockport and Hazel Grove setts out, and brings one out on the climb for High Lane, a desirable direct way which saves two or three miles, but gets us in an awful muddle at Bramhall Green.  Often in the past two years have we tried to find our way along this cross-word puzzle of lanes, but always at Bramhall Green we have failed, and though we have not given it up, we have started to use another way, longer, but far better than the Stockport setts!  But now we decided to try the maze once more, for – once found, it would never be forgotten.  We did famously at first, then somehow found ourselves at Cheadle Green – and knew that once more we had failed.  So we resorted to the other road and so came to High Lane by a lane that heaved in mud.

A drag to Disley was followed by a decent run on a level road, the ‘shelf’ road by New Mills, which gives some excellent views Peakwards, today denied to us.  From Whaley Bridge, the climb starts in earnest, onto the brown moors, and beneath which road lies the Dale of Goyt.  As we got higher we climbed into the mist, until we reached the commencement of the Horseshoe at 1.300 ft, where we could barely see beyond the confines of the road.  The Old Road took us down into the valley, then made us walk out again to the main road at the summit, 1,401 ft.  A shiveringly cold run downhill brought us into Buxton, out of the mist.  The shortest way out of this Fashion Parade is the best way out for us, and very soon we found ourselves running between limestone walls and the sewage works of spoiled Ashwood Dale.

We stopped at the gorge of Lover’s Leap, where we were surprised to see no water coming down the river.  Last February this was a raging torrent, and even during the June heat wave a goodly amount of water was flowing.  We walked between the dripping rock-slabs to the shelf over which some small amount of water was falling.  How was it that none whatever was going into the Wye?  Beyond the waterfall the gorge shallows into a pretty little dell.  Then following the course of the water, we discovered that it was ‘swallowed’ in the middle of the ravine.  The porosity of limestone accounts for this, but it will only take a certain amount, the rest overflowing down to the Wye.  At least that is our version of it, and it sounds feasible.

It came down to rain pretty heavily as we remounted and left the gas and sewage works behind, entering Wye Dale, where the river is released from its concrete bed and takes a more natural course.  Quarries mar the effect somewhat of Wye Dale, whilst some of the lesser dales that converge from it have been turned, lock, stock and barrel, into industrial concerns.  Just where the road tilts upwards to leave the Ravine and climb Topley Pike, we abandoned the main road, passing through a gate and entering on a pathway along which was strewn a generous amount of sharp, flinty stones.  As it leads past a small works, it had probably been ‘repaired’ to allow carts an easier passage.  This route was about a quarter mile long to the cottages at the commencement of Chee Dale, and as we rode it all with a reckless disregard of tyres, the wonder is that they came through unscathed.  Crossing the river, we reached the buildings (in one of which we had our lunch last February), and from there Chee Dale – and the tussle – started.  The limestone cliffs on each side were taller and more sheer here than hitherto, and the path narrowed down to a mere track.  A youngster informed us that the stepping stones would probably be submerged, but we answered that we could swim!

One or two stiles, a rough crossing of broken rock and flinty outcrop brought us along to where the path was all water and mud, and to where we had finally been checked last time.  The river was lower, and we perceived that though it ran flush with an overhanging mass of rock, stones had been placed along by the cliff to enable one to get round, so we shouldered our bikes and stepped out to the water.  It was rough, too, for these stepping stones either came to a point or else rocked or where partly submerged, and to make matters worse, they were too near the cliff face.  The rock, bulging outwards, caused us to bend down here, or lean outwards there, the while we poised artistically on some wobbling stone.

Halfway along was a little beach, on which we rested, sheltered from the rain.  Oh, but the scenery was magnificent, the great rock bastions, the swirling river and the delicate colour that autumn had given to the woods.  White and grey were the enclosing bastions, green and clear was the water, which leapt in many little cascades and rapids, and was turned a creamy white, brown and gold and green in a variety of shades decked the trees, and the ground plants, grass and undergrowth, nettle and bramble, put a finish to this pageant of nature.

We managed to get across the stepping stones alright, though, as a matter of course we got our feet rather waterlogged, but that is a regular Sunday happening, a thing which is liable to obtain even during a heat wave.  In comparison with the route that followed, these stepping stones faded into insignificance.  The general surface was composed of clay, set on a camber steep enough to make us slip continually into a morass, in which grew dense masses of nettles, and here and there we had to climb jagged little crags.  For slipperiness, limestone takes some beating.  The best way to get along – and by far the easiest, was by carrying the bikes all the time.  A huge bastion of sheer rock towered in isolation across the river, Chee Tor, whilst looking back from where we had come, bulging cliffs overhung the stepping stones.  Then the dale narrowed and the river flowed swiftly into a deep, silent pool, hemmed by an impassable precipice, on the edge and sides of which were stately trees, bent over, and:

‘Reflected in the tide the grey rocks stand

And trembling shadows throw;

And the fair trees lean over side by side,

And see themselves below.

A long narrow plank, half rotted crossed the stream, and as we trod warily across, we could feel it creak and give beneath our weight, then on the other side the path climbed to the top of the cliffs, so near the edge that a slip on the clay or rock would send us, bikes and all plunging over into the depths.  Then it descended precipitously to the river again beyond the channel.  Progress could only be made inch by inch with the utmost care.  A stouter plank conveyed us back to the other side, where we came up against the hardest obstacle that it has ever been our privilege to overcome.  We had to scale a 10 ft crag, and just on the top, a big tree had fallen across, two huge fork-branches just being placed in such a position that made it impossible to reach the summit with the bikes.  To the right was a sheer descent to the river, and on the left, the rocks climbed to the roots of the tree which was like a wall.  This was the only way possible.  To make things more hazardous, beyond the tree was a steep slope of clay, upon which it was an impossibility to get a firm foothold – or so we thought.  The slope ended on the edge of the cliff.

We explored roundabout for a while, then thought out the best plan.  I hoisted the bike up from a little ledge, holding it as high as possible, whilst Tom leaned over the tree and managed to pull it to the other side.  Now came a crucial moment.  He left the tree and tried to cross the clay slope with it, but slowly he slid down the slope, despite vigorous efforts to keep a foothold.  Things got desperate, meanwhile, I tried to get round the tree in time, struggling to get round the mass of roots.  Just as he was nearing the edge, I got across the clay and made a grab at my machine, hoisting it to safety, and Tom, free now, soon regained firm ground.  So much for one!  Obviously that plan would not do again, so with a change of tactics, I got astride the tree, Tom lifted his bike over his head, I got it and pulled it to the other side, holding it whilst he regained the treacherous clay.  Now he ‘dug himself in’ by his heels, and carefully drew his machine across.

Then I found that I could not get off the tree, and had to work my way backwards to where I could get a handhold.  It had taken us half an hour to get two bikes over a tree trunk!  Our clothing was full of clay: it showed in big yellow-brown patches all over my black alpaca, our sodden shoes were thick with it – but by gad it was worth it!  The glistening grey cliffs and exquisite colouring and mingling of wood, rock and water were enough payment for us, and if not, why the very joy of dragging a bike through and over the obstacles of Chee Dale satisfied us.  Then we had a long walk by the river, through mud and over crags, in the beautiful woods, carrying the bikes nearly all the time.  Skirting a sinister looking morass, we crossed another deeply wooded dale, and stood wondering which way to take.

A gentleman and three ladies came up, and told us that by turning left we could soon reach a road, but we preferred to turn right and keep to the dale.  They said that it was hard going, and that, like them, we were plucky to turn out on a day like this, to which we replied that we had seen nothing wrong with the day, it was wet, perhaps, but that was nothing extraordinary.  After that progress was more or less easy, and soon we reached the road at Millers Dale.  If they called that latter bit hard going, what would they say to the rest?  At Millers Dale we found that the two and a half miles of Chee Dale had taken us over three hours, and recorded it as the hardest scramble with a bike we had ever had.  We soon found a place for lunch, a cottage that did us well.  Then the road again, the Tideswell road that leaves Millers Dale, but not before giving many entrancing glimpses of this Ravine.  From the Cathedral of the Peak, we crossed the bare green moors which are so much dissected by white walls, then found ourselves running downhill into Bradwell Dale, another limestone gorge which, however, is devoid of trees.

At Bradwell we enquired of an old lady, of the possibility of getting into Bagshawe Cavern, an underground chain of caves and halls that is said to beat all the Castleton wonders into a frazzle, but were told that we should have to find the guide, so realising that this would cost more than we at the moment possessed, we decided to leave it over to a more suitable time, and so carried on to the main road at Hope, and so to Castleton.  A thick mist was gathering which all but obliterated the ruined silhouette of Peveril Castle, and which shrouded the hills in front of us.  We left the main road and made for the Winnats, past the entrance to Speedwell Cavern (of recent memory) but we did not see the pass until we were in it, so thick was the mist becoming.

As we climbed higher up the gorge, the pass became awesome.  Seeing only the base and the rising, tottering crags, we could easily imagine ourselves somewhere in the dark clefts of the Caucasus or the fearsome charms of the Himalayas, an image that grew upon us as we scrambled hotly through the mist.  On the summit we turned towards Mam Tor and flew down to the main road, halting where a blue flag hung dejectedly by the roadside, and where a notice in blue lettering extolled the superior virtues of the Blue John Mine, and invited us to behold the said virtues.

We fell for it, leaving our bikes by the inside wall and traversing a misty track to a stone hut that served as shop and paybox.  We refused to pay £5 for a little ornament of the rare, beautiful fluorspar found herein, mostly because we hadn’t £5 between us in the world.  Indeed, we hadn’t much more than 5/-.  We were much impressed by a dismal-looking hole that yawned blackly in the rock, but when the young woman in charge wanted us to pay 4/6d for the privilege of becoming rabbits, we ‘kicked’.  If we just paid that, where would our tea come from?  Neither of us was blessed with undue wealth.  She said that we had just missed a party, but when we showed signs of retreat, she offered to send us to catch them up for eighteen pence each, to which we concurred, and a lad came, gave us each a candle, and led us into the Stygian darkness.

It was a long, downhill, eerie journey; rough steps conveyed us down between dripping slabs of rock, we rounded corners at right angles, and crossed wooden planks from which came a shiveringly hollow sound.  Although the passages were tortuous and narrow, they were very high – we rarely could see the roof.  Sometimes thick white encrustations that glittered in the flickering candlelight, were seen, but our leader never stopped or spoke, except as a word of warning when some dangerous point was reached.  We kept on going down, whilst we dwelt upon the fact that we should have them all to climb again – or else even more, presuming there was another way back.  Just as I thought we should reach the nether regions, we heard voices below us, and saw a ghostly group of five round a powerful acetylene light.  And so we joined the party.

Our guide was not one of the usual traditional, chanting kind; he was an intelligent talker, one who knew what he was talking about, he advanced theories, pulled others to pieces, invited questions and answered them in a convincing fashion.  He had a horrible cough, strange to say, similar to the guide at Speedwell Cavern; perhaps it is one caused by these damp, heavy regions ‘down under’.  About the cavern we were now in:

This is known as Lord Mulgrave’s Dining room, because he used it as a place of repast for the miners who accompanied him on his seven day’s exploration of the mine, in a vain endeavour to find another outlet.  BBC radio has been received in this cavern, on one occasion a whole concert was listened to by an invited audience.  Here have been left veins of the Blue John ore, to show its position and formation.

The guide gave us an interesting lecture on the method of mining it, with the attendant difficulties, then we moved off, by a winding, vaulted, pathway, passing innumerable clefts and cavities, the extent of some has never been discovered, though they have been traced for as far as three miles, to what is known as the Variegated or Crystallised Cavern.  Here we were met with a gorgeous stalactite of varying colours reminding me of a fairy palace.  One group of slender white columns, some of which a vandal has broken, is called the ‘Organ’ from a fancied resemblance to the latter.  Then there was a crystallised waterfall – just like a waterfall that has entirely frozen over, and smooth as glass.  All over the cavern, the walls were coated with this substance, whilst in some places glittering icicles hung or others rose from the ground to meet them.  The formation of these stalactites and stalagmites is interesting enough to be recounted, as the guide told us.

They were formed by water charged with carbonic acid gas coming through the porous limestone; on reaching the cavern, the moisture becomes evaporated by the air, when the lime, previously held in solution, is deposited in a thin layer on the surface of the rock.  Each succeeding drop leaves a fresh coating of solid matter, until in time these successive additions form an irregular, elongated cone resembling an icicle, called a stalactite.  If the water flows too rapidly to allow of evaporation, it falls to the ground and in a similar manner forms a calcareous cone rising upwards.  This is know as a stalagmite.  Sometimes the stalactite above the stalagmite below keep increasing in length until they join together and form a column of delicate beauty.  About one twentieth of an inch of a stalactite forms every 250 years.

The seemingly thousands of steps back to the outside world were made easy by the guide pointing different wonders to us as we ascended.  Then came the ‘tipping’ – and if ever a guide earned a tip, it was ours.

The outside world was wrapped in misty gloom as we retraced our steps and reached the road again.  Rain started to fall, and we rode inside capes along Rushup Edge.  Breathlessly descending into Chapel-en-le-Frith, we rode rapidly along by Coombs Reservoir, for we had a mind to join the club at Bollington for tea, and our route was the reverse of flat.  We crossed the Buxton road at Whaley Bridge, climbing into the mist again.  If in a hurry, don’t traverse the Whaley Bridge to Macclesfield road.  It just isn’t done!  Half an hour’s tramp brought us to the summit, from where we swept into Kettleshulme, and started all over again.  Then another fierce descent and another half hours walk up the Charleshead Pass, decided us as to the tea place.

Too late for Bollington, so Pott Shrigley would serve us; it was lighting up time now and the heavy mist further darkened the world.  Nevertheless we rode lightless down the rough, beautiful road, rapidly unclimbing all that our perseverance had brought us to, and reaching the pretty village in a short time.  A wash, and tea in a hut in the garden adjoining the old-world cottage – a modest tea, for funds were very low.  We timed it nicely, 1/9d each.  Tom was clean broke, having just enough, I had a one and a half pence left.  The first time I have seen Tom so poor!  Anyway, all’s well that ends well, and soon we were skipping lamp-lit along a maze of dark lanes to the Stockport road, leaving it at Poynton, and eventually coming to Cheadle on the same road as this morning.  We parted here and I soon got over the 16 miles of suburbia and factories.

There have been a host of attractions on the plate for today, from a tough dale scramble to cave exploring, a phase which ‘grows by what it feeds on’ with us, and the countryside is at its best.  Autumn Glory!                 114 miles


Saturday, 3 October 1925 Astley Hall

Post:        As Charlie describes, Astley Hall is a wonderful and interesting example of an Elizabethan Hall.   A lot of history here, the owners, Chorley Council have certainly got their act together, and the cafe indoors isn’t half bad either !

Saturday, October 3                                        Astley Hall    CTC run

 I was late for the clubrun this afternoon, but meeting another, we proceeded along the main road at a goodly pace.  The day was misty, half-raining, not enough for capes, but still enough to get wet, and I would rather have a downpour than this kind of stuff.  Along the dismal Horwich-Chorley setts, my clubmate regaled me with stories of subterranean wanderings in Alum Pothole, and told me of the limestone wonders of Yorkshire.  Just past Chorley Town Hall, we turned into Astley Park – no cycling allowed – and walked to where a large crowd of bicycles lined the wayside.  Adding our machines to the array, we soon came to Astley Hall, an ancient mansion which has been acquired by Chorley for a war memorial art gallery.  It is set out inside precisely as a hall of the 17/18th century.  The club were inside.

The building shows some wonderful plaster and leather ceilings, inlaid oak and ivory chests, some quaint furniture, oak panelling, some of which is extremely rare, and a hall full of fine art and paintings.  I could not hope to explain here what we saw, and as someone gave me a catalogue, I could follow each item individually.  The Hall and grounds are worth anybody’s while to visit, and everything is free of charge.

Reaching the main road, we pottered down a lane to a place for tea between Wigan Road and this main road.  A game of football which, when the ball burst, developed into an ugly scrum, only ended when we were thoroughly waterlogged.  The return was made by the main road again, arriving home soon after 9pm.  I bet I am stiff tomorrow with this football !                 28 miles

Thursday, 1 October 1925 A Moorland Ride

Post:      This is a real ride, but the way I see it, it is an opportunity for Charlie to use to good effect his wonderful descriptive talents.  The route he takes this particular evening is well known and previously described many times, but he does paint a great picture of the moon effect that night.

Thursday, October 1                A Moorland ride under the Harvest Moon

 It was a glorious evening when Ben and I started out about 7pm for an evening jaunt.  The sky was a blaze of multi-coloured light, which gradually softened to a velvety blue, this giving way in turn to deeper tones as evening crept on.  With lamps lit we stole through Lever park to Rivington Village, then started the long walk over the moors.

As we got higher, the brilliant moon crept over the moors, the ridge of Winter Hill looked strange as fleecy clouds frilled the summit and flitted across the moon, then the clouds sailed away and the moon gained in brightness as it climbed higher.  We stopped at the road summit for a while.  It was light enough to read a paper, the mellow light gave a strange aspect to the hills and the many deep little cwms were thrown into a deeper shadow.  It all forcibly reminded us somehow of the bigger earth-clods and deeper indentations of Bwlch Oerdrws, and parts of the Bwlch-y-Groes, and as we dropped warily down the pass, we almost believed that we had been transported a hundred miles away to the Pass of the Cold Door.  Passing a lake which danced and rippled in the breeze, and gave the reflection of a thousand moons, we came to Belmont, and the main road which had a beauty of its own tonight.  Joe was sat on a form with a friend near the summit; we stopped with them, then all of us came down to Bolton together, and before we parted, Ben and I wished Joe and his partner good luck in the Bolton Wheelers ‘150 in 12’ on this coming Sunday.  We seem to have passed tonight through an enchanted world, a world of strange lights and sights, yet it was just a ride over Belmont moors beneath a Harvest Moon.

20 miles

Sunday, 27 September 1925 Alderley Copper Mines

Post:        Today you are going to learn a lot about the difficulties of mining copper, again following in the steps of trusty Roman centurions, these guys knew a lot about mines and making things.  And when the Roman occupation ended in Britain, we natives went back to not even being able to write, and generally were an uneducated rabble.

Sunday, September 27                                    Alderley Copper Mines

 Broomedge, 9.30am was our meeting place today, for we had decided on a potter and a late start.  That meant that for once we could stay in bed until 6.30am.  That was the time that I got up, and at 7.45 I made a start, and soon got out of industrialism.  A race was in progress whilst I was crossing Chat Moss – a novice’s ‘25’ I believe.  Crossing Warburton Bridge, the trysting place was reached soon after 9.0, and at 9.15 Tom came up.

“Anything new for today?” he asked.  Now that was a difficult question, for we have just about worked Cheshire out.  I do not mean that we have seen everything worth seeing in the County Palatine.  Not by long chalks, for though we have for three years made the Cheshire bylanes a speciality, and have therefore become authorities on the said maze of lanes, we have not traversed half of them.  What I mean is, that to get to something comparatively new, we have to travel such a long way on familiar roads.  Therefore, on almost every run of about 100 miles, at least 80 are known to us – that is in Cheshire of course.  Some ask why we do not go north more often.  The reason is that for Tom, a run north means altogether about 36 miles of towns and setts.  Is it worth it very often?  Derbyshire?  Ah yes, we have a lot to see, but we were there last week.  Soon we hope to start week-ending about one in four, then, our scope will be immensely enlarged.  Fancy a weekend in Snowdonia – or amongst the great earth-clods around Dinas Mawddwy, or the wooded hills of south Shropshire, or the more distant parts of Derbyshire, the wild Yorkshire Moors and sweet Dales or the beautiful Lake District.  All can be achieved by a series of Saturday-Sunday runs.  But, today, here we are at the start – “Anything new for today?

Then I suggested Alderley Copper Mines with a walk round the Edge, and it was settled.  We have a growing enthusiasm for underground exploration, as an interesting phase of cycling – forming a ‘ride with an object’.  I have been down the copper mines before, and have managed to get about one and a half miles down one passage.  In 1923, three of us traversed about half a mile of tunnels and caverns to an underground lake, managing to get round it and climbing a long ladder, which gave access to a long low tunnel.  Halfway along we crossed a deep pit by means of a plank, then passing a spot where a ‘roof-fall’ had occurred, we at length reached another pit which could just be stepped across.  Working our way along a ledge, we descended some steps into a huge cavern, where we gave up exploration, after walking a mile and a half from the entrance.  What lay beyond?  This we meant to find out today, even if it took all day!

We decided to get to Alderley Cross for lunch and then leave the bikes, so, as it was yet only 9.30, we had tons of time for a roundabout journey.  Turning through the lanes we came to Mere Corner, then pottered along Knutsford road, by Tatton Mere where we watched the wild geese and swans and water hens fishing.  Along the old road were many blackberry bushes at which we stopped for a time.  How Joe would like to be here!  Then through ancient Knutsford, with its memories of ‘Cranford’ and the quaint style of houses across the River Bollin, onto Chelford road, where a race was in progress.  Between Ollerton and Chelford, we wandered down a bridle road, which was deep in mud, and which precipitated us on the Alderley-Chelford road.  Another footpath proved to be blind after we had crossed a field of mangle-worzels and waded through a slimy morass.  Then again lanes to Alderley Edge and so to Mrs Powell’s.  It was but 12.30 when, after lunch, we sallied forth with our oil lamps.  There was a remarkable change in the weather, from the past week, for brilliant sunshine flooded the fields and woods, the air was warm and clear and the sky faultless.

In half a mile we reached the huge tips that herald the approach to the workings, then a big quarry with its many burrows and the big main entrance at the bottom, fastened by a gate and barbed wire entanglements.  The keeper would have let us in for a small consideration, if he had been there, but as he was not, we decided to let ourselves in and accordingly vaulted over, aided by ample footholds in the rock.  As soon as we got inside, we could feel the difference in the atmosphere – it was colder – what did Drayton say?

‘Ye dark and hollow caves, the portraitures of Hell

Where fogs and misty damps continually dwell’.

Finding some half-burnt candles on a ledge, we appropriated them and then lit our lamps and the candles, and then made for the third cave on the left, which is the long one.  Owing to recent heavy rains, a stream was flowing from outside into the caverns and down the main passage, but our way was quite dry.  We walked down a long straight tunnel into a large cavern, round a ‘shelf’, below which was a heap of rubble, and then into another tunnel, still shelving steeply downwards, until at length we reached the second cavern where are the stepping stones and the ladder.  The bed of soft sand led us down until we reached a subterranean lake.  “So this is where the river goes, is it?” exclaimed Tom as we stood with our candles and lamps reflecting deeply in the still depths.  It was impassable unless we wanted a bathe – and we didn’t!  So we had perforce to return to the next cavern, from where we explored several shallow levels without success, finding a way, however, into the ‘main’ road.  Right away in the distance we could see the dazzling brightness of daylight in the entrance.

We systematically explored every hole, every tunnel, every cavern, with results more or less fruitless.  Once a deep pit below, once a crawl on all fours – but always – except once – a dead end.  This once we followed a long low level, until we heard the gurgling of running water rapidly growing louder.  Then another passage crossed the end, along which a river was running.  It was an eerie experience watching the dark water rolling past and hearing the hollow splashing higher up.  Then again back to the main caverns, with a short rest to straighten the kinks out of our necks.

Bk 7 -32034

We noticed several new chisel marks on the rocks, and found, near the entrance, a hammer and chisel.  I heard later that a company has been over with a view to buying the mines and restarting the workings.  Then we discovered that the keeper was stood near the entrance, so we hid for a few minutes, because there would probably be a dust-up if he saw us, for he would know that we had climbed the barrier.  But he settled down with a paper and we got fed up of waiting, so we climbed over the barrier and dodged into a small cave.  He saw us coming out of there, and asked if we had been in the mines.  We said we had just been looking round the quarry (which we had) and that put him off.  “I didn’t see you come”, he said!

After that we took the footpath which leads on to Alderley Edge by the Wizard’s Well, which lies beneath a bulging mass of rock down which the water drips into the stone trough and on which is chiselled the legend:       ‘Drink of this and take thy fill, for the water falls by the Wizard’s will’.

In an almost illegible scrawl.  From the low cliff that is called the ‘Edge’, a fine view of pastoral country is obtained even to the moors above Bolton.  Our search for more old copper workings, (which I have once before seen) led amongst some beautiful scenery.  The countryside just now is in the throes (if it may be called so) on that renaissance of wonder known as Autumn.  Twice in the year Nature undergoes a change – a miracle occurs.  In Spring one sees the tender greenery of a new life spring forth from a dead countryside.  Autumn brings out an array of colours of every conceivable shade, tinting the woodlands and making the countryside a veritable earthly paradise.  In one place we trod on a carpet of dead leaves; the sun slanting through the tall slender trees and making a pattern on the sloping brown carpet.

The scenery of Alderley Edge is something worth seeing – indeed I think that the National Trust should appropriate the ground for the public, and put an end to the vandalism of the builders who are slowly but surely converting the beauty spot into ‘desirable villa’s’.  Several small caves yielded nothing, so we turned back towards the ‘Edge’, and were surprised to see how soon we had reached it.  We had not gone far enough for the other workings.  In a valley near the ‘Wizard’, we discovered a long tunnel, perfectly straight, but when it went into two after about 250 yards, it petered out.  Another was deep in water, and yet another.  In one level, far from daylight, we discovered a primrose in full bloom, perfect in detail except that the flower was perfectly white in colour instead of yellow, the result of growing in perpetual darkness.  So ended our search on Alderley Edge for underground adventures.

Returning to the bikes, we made our way via Chelford to the Peover lanes and wandered onto a filthy private road belonging to Peover Hall: this led us to some prize piggeries, and after examining the ugly beasts, we squelched on to Peover Superior and Knutsford.  Then by many beautiful but rough and messy lanes to the Chester road, where we passed the Bolton Wheelers.  Joe had left them and gone blackberrying!  From Lostock Gralam we went to Great Budworth for tea.

The pleasant lanes led us home via Arley and High Legh, I returning home across Chat Moss.  Our thirst for subterranean wandering is growing – we expect a deal more of it soon.                            88 miles


Sunday, 20 September 1925 Edale & Speedwell Cavern

 Post:        By the time you have finished this visit to Speedwell Caverns, you will know all there is to know about lead mining.  Lead was first mined in Derbyshire by the Romans, and a lot of money has been made doing so, and some have lost their shirts.  And Tom’s knee is a lot better.

Sunday, September 20                          Edale and Speedwell Cavern

Arrangements had been made with Tom to meet him at Kingsway End, 8am, and ‘Blackberry Joe’ and Ben decided to come as well.  Joe is turning out with us regularly now, and has altered his ways immensely.  He is not the ‘blind and stop’ cyclist that he was, he is a far more even rider, his gear has come down 8” (to 66”), and he can ride at a good pace all day and never tire.  But he can potter too, now, though not ‘really’; he still, however, prefers roads of a better calibre to ‘river beds’ or sewers, but that will wear off if he continues with us.  Like most real cyclists, he cheers up, and sings loudest when the weather is filthiest.

At 4.30am I was prowling about the house cat-like.  You see I awoke at 4.30 and got up because I feared that if I stopped in bed any longer, I would ‘go off’ again and be late.  So I chose the safest way.  At 6.15 Joe came stealthily in, and then stealthily we both slipped away.  Yes, for once, Blackberry Joe was stealthy.  The last time he called at 6.15am, all the house became aware of his presence and some grumbling ensued, and when we told him to keep quiet he let his bike fall over – that’s Joe!   Ben was not waiting at the arranged place, we allotted him an extra ten minutes, but he came not, so off we went.  No need is there, to recite the 17 miles of Not Much to the Cheadle end of Kingsway, at which point we arrived simultaneously to Tom, and which point we left after the usual criticism of bikes and apparel.  Joe’s shoes shone like a mirror; Tom’s and mine were what he called a disgrace, (what is a disgrace?), so as we toddled through Cheadle on the Edgeley-Stockport road, we hatched a plot ‘gainst Joseph’s shoes, and made our most urgent business the downfall of that ultra-reflective gloss.  I thought he’d learned sense by now!

The sky had been a glorious colour-scheme of red shades; now was an unfathomable blue with a cold watery sun blinking at us.  “We shall have rain”, chanted Tom.  At those words we ought to have made all possible haste to get home.  We did hurry, but it was in the wrong direction, for we were not in the least getting nervy over it.  In Wigan, I hear, they let it.  I suppose we would too.  The Stockport-Hazel Grove road gave us a shaking up on the setts, but at the latter place we were delighted to see that a beautiful tarmac surface was being laid.  Buxton road is tarmac on one side, so the drag up to Disley was smooth at least.

After that came some pretty woodlands, then a ‘shelf’ ride, with a grand outlook across New Mills to the wild region of High Peak.  At Whaley Bridge we turned towards Chapel-en-le-Frith, and were fanned along by the cold breeze, uphill to that celebrated village (or town), but on the road beyond, fanning was of little use to get us up to the top, ‘shanks’ was easier.  We had a choice of two roads here, the Sparrowpit-Winnats road to Castleton or the main road over Rushup Edge.  As we had never been on the main road, and as the Sparrowpit road has often been used, we chose the main road.  It was too early yet for the traffic, so we had the road to ourselves.

It was ride a bit, walk a lot through Slackhall, but the scenery was excellent and magnificent views were opening out.  Near the summit we stopped awhile to take in the scenes behind us, which included the pastoral park and finely laid-out buildings of Ford Hall, the enclosing mountains beneath which runs the railway through Cowburn Tunnel, huge green-brown clods of earth rising towards barren Kinder Scout to a height of over 2,000 ft, the valley in which runs the Chapel-en-le-Frith-Hayfield road, with Chapel at the near end and Chinley situated in a recess about the centre between Eccles Pike and Chinley Churn.  Right across the valley at the summit of a spur of Kinder was the line of Andrew Rocks, with brown, steep roads climbing to their base.  The visibility was excellent this morning.

The road flung us ultimately on to wild moors, 1,405 ft high, and ran on a slight down-grade beneath the ridge of Rushup Edge.  On the other hand we got good views of Sparrowpit road and the heights beyond.  It was a freewheel mostly, down to the Edale turn, up which road we tried to rush, but it was too much and our rush up Rushup Edge (pun!) petered out into another walk.  Then we found ourselves level between two ridges, and all at once the ground seemed to drop away beneath us.  We looked down into the Vale of Edale.

Edale is a magnificent, fertile valley, a cul de sac, surrounded by great huge moors, wild and forbidding on a stormy winter day, a vast mass of colour under a sunny autumn sky.  To us it was a picture of sunshine and shadow, for now the transparent blue sky had changed, and the high wind sent dark clouds hurrying across.  Sunshine and clouds chased each other across these swelling ridges, and they appeared first in gold shades, then dark, almost black.  Below us the white road leapt downwards with hurrying gradient and reckless bends to the tiny roofs that are known as Barber Booth; the same white road continuing along the valley, skirting Edale village.  The valley was green, the fields and trees and wooded patches being laid out just as is, as Tom said, a Welsh valley.  I could picture the Glyn Valley here – or was it the Rheidol Valley, or the Vale of Clwyd?  Then down we plunged, bounding towards the rapidly growing buildings.

A corner, a quick pull-up, the one calliper brake (front) straining, the front wheel’s sliding ‘crunch’, the bank, over which is a steep, heathery slope, suddenly jumping alarmingly close to the skidding wheel, a sharp intake of breath as I simultaneously balance carefully to the left and turn the wheel almost imperceptibly, my left foot ready to avert the skid by a dig at the flying road beneath.  Ah! the road suddenly straightens out before me and with a sigh of relief (the calliper taking a stronger grip), I proceed more cautiously round the next bend and decide to descend no more hills like this one on a freewheel.  What would have happened if the strain had proved too much for the brake cable?  Only a fortnight ago I broke two brakes in this way.

Then Barber Booth resolved itself into a village street, and we followed a winding lane beneath the shadows of Mam Tor and Lose Hill, with the River Noe and the railway in close companionship for many beautiful miles, until passing by some prettily set stone cottages, we come to Hope and the main Castleton road.  After a pow-wow, we faced a high wind, crawling along the Hope Valley to Castleton.  We had changed our plans and decided, if we could, to visit one of the three big Lions or more, Peak Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, or the Blue John Mine.  Behind the main road, near the church, we discovered a good lunch place, and repaired thither to line the inner man, before carrying out our voyage of exploration which was to be done on foot.

When we started, the weather was doing its best to rain, and Joe, with commendable forethought, brought his cape along with him.  We made our way through the side streets to a footpath running by a river in a ravine, the while the crags on each side became higher and more sheer.  The river came out of the ground, quite suddenly boiling up about 50 yards from the entrance to the Peak Cavern which we were approaching.  Turning a bend, we came quite suddenly on a huge, bulging mass of rock which assumes the appearance of a huge, depressed arch which forms the mouth of Peak Cavern.  Overhead, on the left, on the verge of a precipitous crag which overhangs the ravine, was the ivy-clad, ruined keep of Peveril Castle.

A vast canopy of rock, which forms the entrance to the first cavern, is 42 feet high, 120 ft wide and more than 300 ft deep.  Here, in the cavern were several poles with arms on them, situate on giant ‘steps’, and reaching into the darkness.  We were much puzzled over them, and I later discovered that they were the remains of a pack-thread or twine works, which has had its home in this sheltered cavern for hundreds of years.  Then our eye caught a notice board which plainly read ‘Closed on Sundays’.  Peveril Castle, we discovered, is also closed on Sundays, so after seeing what we could from the wrong side of the railings, we returned down the ravine and took a footpath which brought us out on the moors, heading towards that impressive gorge, the Winnats.

A heavy rainstorm came on, so we all got under Joe’s cape, and continued thus until we reached the road at the foot of the Winnats, just near the little building and shop which is the entrance to Speedwell Cavern.  Luckily, our arrival made up a party of ten, including four girls (or young women) and three old ladies, so we paid our ‘bob’s’ and passed through the turnstile into the hut which stands over this, the one and only way in.  We were full of anticipation, for many times have we heard of the wonders of these limestone caves.

The guide lit a brilliant acetylene torch and distributed candles amongst us, then we descended a very long flight of rough steps which led into the bowels of the earth.  There are 106 steps, and it was impatiently slow work waiting for the old ladies coming.  At length we reached a platform over a dark waterway where a long narrow boat was moored; into this we stepped, finding some amusement watching the trembling old ladies hesitatingly enter.  At length all were seated, we three being behind, and with a push, the boat was started, and the guide got the boat under way, sending it along by pushing the roof with his hands, and at intervals placing lighted candles on the wall by means of clay.  We noticed that he always placed one just near or where another had been.  He must know the place inside out.  The passage is 9 feet high and never over 7 feet wide, so that there was just room for the boat to pass; the water in the passage is about three feet deep, and so low was the roof that we had to keep our heads down if we wished to avoid a nasty crack.  All the while the guide was chanting sonorously such as guides do, in ‘book fashion’.  This canal is 750 yards long to the bottomless pit, so that including the return, we had nearly a mile of boating.  Drill marks on the roof and sides became more numerous as we got deeper, for the rock was harder and therefore needed more drilling prior to blasting.

The tunnel was driven 150 to 200 years ago, and took 6 to 7 years to excavate.  The expense incurred was very great – £14,000 I think.  This of course is not comparable to present day monetary value, but when it is known that nearer the deeper end, drilling became so expensive that the cost was around about a guinea an inch for drilling alone, it will be realised that a large outfit would be required to make the mine pay.  It was worked entirely for lead, for though fluorspar was found in rich veins, there was not sufficient quantity to make it a paying proposition.  The mine proved a dead failure, for only £3,000 worth of lead was ever found.  Progress, proving very slow, the owners of the mine sent down to Cornwall for experienced tin-miners, but they were used to softer rock and were an utter failure; the Derbyshire men could work faster.

Here and there, small recesses marked the places where the miners huddled to escape the flying splinters of rock during blasting, and at intervals were the scooped-out ‘pockets’, where pure lead had been mined.  In one place we passed a narrow, tortuous cave, where a vein of lead had been followed out.  It illustrates the awkward, dangerous positions in which those early miners had to work.  Across the roof could be seen thin veins of lead, and great white and blue tinged masses of the beautiful topazine fluor, or fluorspar.  As all the lead and fluorspar veins run from east to west, the mine was driven due south, so that the veins would be crossed.

About 200 yards on, we passed below a corrugated iron sheet, and the walls were dripping wet.  This is the only place apart from the entrance where there is an air passage to the outer world, and the corrugated iron has been placed there to protect the visitors from the natural shower-bath which starts up in wet weather.  Half way along, another canal goes off to the right, but is partly choked by debris.  This is known as the ‘Half Way House’.  Behind us, the chain of lighted candles with the rippling reflection in the black water gave us a wonderful sight.  Then we became conscious of a hollow, murmuring sound which gradually increased into a roar which became deafening in its intensity.  Then we stopped and stepped on to a concrete platform, finding ourselves in a circular cavern.

This is known as the Bottomless Pit.  The guide took us to the railings, and with his powerful light shaded behind, shone it down to where a waterfall, coming from directly beneath us, shot down into an abyss.  We could dimly see the boiling flood foam on to a shelf of smooth limestone, and then shoot over into blackness.  At a depth of 90 feet below us, the water entered a stygian pool, the depth of which has never been ascertained.  Colouring was once dropped into the pool, and it emerged 22 hours later at the stream which issues from the ground near Peak Cavern.  This points to the existence of a vast subterranean lake.  During the aforesaid excavation of the mine, the miners threw some 40,000 tons of rubble into the pool without any apparent diminution of either its extent or depth.

Above us the huge dome towered into eternal darkness.  Rockets have been fired to a height of 450 ft, but have not yet reached the roof, neither have skilled climbing members of the Kyndwr Club who have made scientific explorations of these caverns, had any measure of success in that direction, though they have discovered natural galleries high up in the rock.  This platform we stood on is 860 ft below the surface of the mountain above.  Stakes driven into the rock form rude steps up which the explorers climb to the higher levels.  Straight opposite the point where we entered the cavern, another canal runs for 50 yards, and from which is drawn the water for the fall.  The miners, during their excavations of the first tunnel suddenly broke through the rock into this mighty cavern, the first time eyes had ever been set on it.  They built the arched platform on which we stood, to enable them to cross the black abyss, and continue their work on the other side.

After tunnelling for 50 yards, they came upon a natural waterfall, which flooded the passage, and so took to using boats instead of working in the water.  When the level was opened for visitors, it was made higher and broader for convenience.  The whole half mile of passage is dead straight, so that from the platform we could see half a mile of glimmering candles.  And a fine sight it was, too!  An arrangement enabled the guide to shut off the water, so that we could hear him speaking.  The infernal roar of the waterfall in this place would, I am sure, drive a man mad in a few hours – the whole thing produced a feeling of awe in us.  After a last look at this great hole with its limitless depth, roaring waterfall and great splashes of white and blue fluorspar, we stepped back into the boat, and after what seemed an age, reached the entrance.  As we got out of the boat, the guide sat with his cap, and chanted “It is the custom here for the guide to place his cap on his knee”.  We saw the hint.  Then up the 106 steps to the outer air, which seemed warm after the cold atmosphere below.  The air temperature down there averages 52 degrees F all the year round, with little change, and is always pure, for where there is running water there is always fresh air.  Although it was dull and raining out here, the light seemed dazzling.

Joe’s cape came in handy once more as we tramped down the road to Castleton, and retrieved our bikes, retracing our steps to the junction with the main road, which we joined, and commenced the big climb up Mam Tor.  When we reached the Odin lead mine, we stopped and had a scout round, entering one or two deep, tortuous ravines and scouting for caves, one of which produced abundantly the stickiest, slipperiest clay that it was ever my privilege to sink over the ankles in.  Happily, Joe’s shoes were by now in a parlous dirty condition.  That’ll larn him!  When mooching round the place where the ore was washed, we discovered numerous pieces of fluorspar, many of which we brought home with us.  Some of it is like smoked glass with several different tints of blue and green across it.  Others are brownish, with beautiful colours like glass in it.  More are of a regular parallelogram, in shape, milk-white in colour, and when held up to the reflection of a strong artificial light, I discovered a perfect pattern in green and red and gold.  Wonderful stuff, this fluorspar!  I think it is a kind of Calcite.

Odin lead mine was worked very successfully by the Saxons, 2,000 years ago, and its stock of ore is still not finished.  It also yields about 3 oz of silver to the ton of lead mined, and many beautiful crystallisations are found in it, including blende, barites, fluorspar, sulphate of iron etc.  A curious mineral called silkensides, whose properties of explosion when struck by a pickaxe, is well known and feared by miners, is also found here.  Another inflammable substance found in this mine is elastic bitumen.  It is dark brown in colour, and on being touched by a candle, burns slowly, giving off a disagreeable sulphurous odour.  In earlier times North Derbyshire was a penal settlement, and convicts worked in Odin mine.  We could have got into the mine proper by ignoring a notice board, but there were too many people about to make it worthwhile (not that we had any qualms!), so we regained our machines and carried on past the huge shaley precipice that gives Mam Tor the appellation of ‘Shivering Mountain’.  The mountain is geologically placed just above the limestone, and is composed of shale and micaceous grit in alternate stratifications which speedily decompose by atmospheric agency and fall down the face of the cliff in large quantities.  Mam Tor is the old British name signifying ‘Mother Hill’.  On a steep pitch on the road we had the pleasure of seeing a motor-cycle ‘conk out’, and for pity’s sake gave him a push up.

At the summit we took the old Sparrowpit road via Perryfoot to Mrs Vernon’s at Sparrowpit for tea, with a grand total of five miles for the afternoon.  I was very sorry to learn that the motherly old soul, Mrs Vernon, has ‘passed on’ and the Toll House is now run by her daughters.  We started at 5.45pm on free-wheels, swooping down Barmoor Clough to Chapel-en-le-Frith and making great headway past Combs Moss to Whaley Bridge.  The earlier rain had damped down the wind, and now the night was one of those still, peaceful autumn evenings.  At Whaley Bridge, we decided on a fresh route home, and crossed the Buxton road, climbing uphill for a long time until we stood above a long, narrow reservoir, with the finest view of the Peak I have yet witnessed.  The sun was on the great clods of green-brown earth and on the valleys; we could see Hayfield beneath the mountains, Sparrowpit stood out on a ridge at what seemed an incalculable distance away, and all around us were massive steep moors and rounded peaks.  A swoop down to Kettleshulme and the Saltersford Valley, another long climb on shanks up the side of the hill into a land-locked valley, while the direction of the road had us guessing.  It turned back and formed a huge horseshoe, on which we got many grand views.  At the summit we deserted this highway for a bypass that started to ‘fall-off’ the hills down a fine little pass to a wooded glen, then through a brickyard and so into the beautiful little village of Pot Shrigley.

Many winding lanes, all with a downward tendency led us to the main road at Poynton, where we plunged into the lanes again in another (about our fifth attempt) to solve the ‘crossword’ puzzle – a maze of lanes with a way through to Cheadle.  We managed it this time, and emerged triumphantly at Belmont just on lighting-up time.

Leaving Tom at Kingsway End, we came back home at a rapid pace by the usual route, arriving home at 9.45pm.  Today has been a treat, and we have not by a long way done with the Castleton Caverns.                  96 miles


Saturday, 19 September 1925 Clayton Green

Post:            So this is one of those pouring with rain days one could never enjoy, but one is still driven to get those pedals round and make something of the day !   In Charlie’s earliest days awheel, he couldn’t even afford a cape, so at least those days are behind him.

Saturday, September 19                         Clayton Green    CTC run

 Ben came over in time for the club run this afternoon.  It was one of those consistently wet days, a day that seemed to hold out no hope of clearing up – what some folks would call a dreary day, but a day that was to us the same as any other, if a trifle wet.  We reached the Lawson’s Arms at 2.30pm, and by 3.00, when we started, there were eight of us present.  Belmont Road was taken, over the soaking moors – by the way Belmont claims the doubtful honour of being the wettest place in Lancashire – to Abbey Village, turning into the lanes just on the bend near Hoghton, and proceeding, still in the drenching downpour via Brindle to Clayton Green, and the Lord Nelson, an old coaching Inn for tea.

The Landlord, when he saw us, said: “Well, I always thought cyclists were a bit potty, but I know now!”  Our shoes and jackets were put to dry before a fire in the billiards room, whilst Billy, the club humorist, ran about  on the linoleum making ‘footprints’, and generally amusing us with his antics.  After tea, the piano was brought into action, and we amused ourselves by singing songs for an hour or more, and telling tales, some of which had to be taken with the proverbial grain of salt.

The rain had gone when we started again, in a strange light, caused by the sun amid rain clouds.  The main road took us swiftly to Chorley, then the lane route via Cowling, Limbrick and Heath Charnock, where I punctured.  Ben stayed with me to repair it, then both of us proceeded home via Chorley New Road.                                            35 miles

Sunday, 13 September 1925 Goredale Scar

Post:          This was a solo ride today, Tom Idle has a bad knee and is resting it, and our hero feels the need for some solace awheel, so solo it is.  Charlie mentions the couple of arches over the road at Sawley, alas they are no more, taken down by careless motorists in the past.  Goredale Scar is one of my favourite places to visit.

Sunday, September 13                          Gordale Scar and Threshfield

Tom has been troubled by a knee complaint not uncommon amongst cyclists, so he informed me that he would lay off the bike for a week and try a remedy for it.  I took the chance for a run north for a change.  As it happened, it was one of those days when one feels that one would like to be alone, to be left to one’s own thoughts for a space, and I found it very acceptable, though it did get a trifle lonely as I got on familiar roads after tea.  Though I would not care to ride alone every time, there are occasions when a quiet jaunt away from the rest of the world, brings me into closer touch with nature – and then on the next ride a companion is a boon – a companion such as Tom, I mean.  Below is an account of a lonesome run that proved to be a wonder-run in that part of the English Wonderland known as Yorkshire.

I made a rather late start – 8am – and with the intention of getting our right away, headed for that black smudge on the map known as Blackburn.  Between Bolton and Darwen, however, as one rises to an altitude of 900 ft, some fine moorland scenery can be enjoyed, but beyond that, the best one can hope for is a speedy journey, and even that is made painful by the setts.  In Blackburn I somehow missed my way, rediscovering myself some time later on Whalley New Road.  However, at the junction with Whalley Range, I turned right and after a hilly run came upon the Blackburn-Whalley road.  Then Whalley, and through the ancient village.  Halfway to Clitheroe I joined a lane route which cuts the latter town out and takes me by the foot of Pendle, through really delightful scenery to the picturesque village of Worston.  I see that where bylanes lead away from the main road about here, notices have been placed bearing the legend that:  ‘Motorists are warned that this road is narrow and tortuous’ – Great!  That will help keep them off the best roads.  The narrower and more tortuous the better!

I regained the main road again at Chatburn, then the road takes a winding course near the River Ribble to Sawley, where are a couple of arches over the road, [not any more – Ed] all that remains of the Abbey.  Sawley Brow negotiated, the scenery became good again and the road full of steep little ups and downs to Gisburn, a decent little place even if motorised, and one that calls to memory ‘Guy of Gisborne’ of the Robin Hood Ballads.  This was part of the bold outlaw’s happy hunting ground.  I turned near the Church and followed the now shallow valley of the River Ribble through Newsholme to Nappa.  On this road too, I got some wonderful views of the limestone heights that ‘grow’ east of Settle, to an altitude of over 2,000 ft.  With fine glimpses of the Ribble through sylvan woods, I reached Hellifield, the railway junction, from where I joined that lane which is full of stiff little hills to Airton, where I again turned on just as hilly a road, but more beautiful, through to Kirkby Malham, with a view of Malham Cove, looking like the face of a great white quarry, growing ever nearer.  Reaching the rather picturesque Craven village of Malham, I discovered a topping lunch place.

I started again beneath a glaring sun on a little uphill lane, climbing spasmodically, then dropping down again in a sheer descent to Gordale Beck, here but a large stream issuing from a deep, barren dale to the left.  I put my bike in a shed without asking, then set out on foot for the said dale.  As one approaches, nothing striking is seen about it except, perhaps, the broken, rocky slopes and crags of limestone on each side, but farther in it seems to get more sheer and enclosed, until turning a corner, I found myself suddenly in a terrific gorge.

It was narrow, with great overhanging precipices on each side, bulging outwards towards each other.  The height of the rocks, the bulge and the roar of water made this an awe-inspiring sight, and when I turned the next bend, I found a waterfall pouring over a precipice which seemed to enclose the chasm, then yet another waterfall higher up which shot through an arch and jumped over a cliff, falling then like a mill race, down a steep smooth slab, to the next cascade.  I was amazed – I expected nothing like this, and stood staring at the wonderful sight before me.  With a bit of trouble, I managed to climb up past the lower fall, and by negotiating the leaping water, got to a position below the upper fall, where I could observe the arch of rock, the river-made leap over it, and the enclosing masses of rock – one of the effects of that great geological fault which we know as Gordale Scar.

I stayed a while, wandering about, and taking it all in, then leaving the falls, I walked slowly down the dale.  I was surprised to find that I had to cross a rapidly flowing river when I knew that I was clear of the Aire, so I turned about and walked up a few yards, where I found that the water was boiling up out of the ground.  Somewhere on the moors above, the water is ‘swallowed’ and passes beneath the ground, coming to daylight here in Gordale Scar.  The force of the descending water forces it up out of the earth.  It is a strange sight to see a stream, rather deep and two feet wide, suddenly bubble up out of the ground, but it is very common on these limestone moors, both in Yorkshire and Derbyshire.  The action of these subterranean rivers has formed the wonderful caverns such as the Blue John Mine, Speedwell Cavern and Peak Cavern in Derbyshire, and the much grander Alum Pot Hole, Ingleborough Cave and Hartle Pot etc, in Yorkshire.  On my return to my machine I came across two more large streams issuing from the earth, and I tasted the water, but beyond the delicious coldness, could find nothing different with the water from any clear stream.  So, delighted with this little detour, I reached my machine again, and walked slowly uphill on that wide track, Hawthorns Lane, which at the top connects with Mastiles Lane, which leads across the moors to Kilnsey, in Upper Wharfedale.

It was a climb too, winding upwards with increasingly beautiful views behind, until at an altitude of 1,191 ft, I was in a wild region of swelling moorland ridges, broken with little white crags of limestone outcrop; in the distance – all around me the hazy, sweeping heights stretched.  My intention was to cross to Kilnsey, the ride down the east side of the River Wharfe from Conistone to Grassington, crossing the river again to Threshfield, but I must have gone wrong, and in ignorance crossed Malham Moor, descending furiously  towards broad Wharfedale, which hazily stretched before me.  A gentleman and his wife and youngster stopped me, asking the way to Clapham.  They were going to walk it all that day, but when I showed them the distance on my map, they changed their minds.  (It would have been about 20 miles for them over the hills).  They were very nice people, with whom a talk about the district and exchange of opinion was a pleasure.  As I left them I made the alarming discovery that I had lost the clip on my Renold chain.  It was lucky that I saw it then, for the link was just coming off – and I should have been absolutely stranded.  I tied some string on as a temporary measure, and when I reached Wharfedale – finding myself at Threshfield – I changed over to freewheel as an added precaution.  From there I followed many winding and hilly lanes, by Cracoe, Hetton and Flasby, through delightful hills and woodland scenery to Gargrave, where I procured a new clip for my chain, then soon reached the main Skipton road at Broughton.

Bk 7 -31033

This is a beautiful, if hilly road but badly motorised, and it therefore seemed a long way back to Gisburn, where I was able to shake myself free of the petrol, turning on the Nelson road, but leaving it again in favour of a little bylane which dropped downhill to Rimington, then undulated beneath the shadow of Pendle Hill, bringing me to the pretty village of Downham.  All the tea places were full up with motorists, so I carried on to Chatburn, then Clitheroe, with tea at the Craven Heifer.

As I started again I got a puncture, but it was soon right again, and I made great progress home via Whalley and Tockholes for 9pm.  I must get Tom into this district soon!                                                   122 miles

Saturday, 12 September 1925 A Druidical Circle

Post:      Although this is a short Saturday run today, I feel that Charlie is loosening up, and is much more free with his style of writing and what he says.  One of the reasons could be that he has made, or is in the process of making, a decision on the future format of his journals.  His decision, I can reveal, is that he is going to change his format, and make all his journal entries stories from this week on, more or less, and is a precursor to next years book, 1926, in which there are no diary entries at all.

Saturday, September 12                                  A Druidical Circle

 Joe and Ben came up this afternoon, but by reason of a couple of punctures which I had discovered, it got 3.30pm before we started.  The brothers Eastwood were seen, and the brothers Pearson and Bill Siddle were later spotted, and more time was wasted in reciting Odes and Stanzas to ‘Blackberry Joe’ of Nant-y-Ffrith fame.  All of us then started together via Deane and the new road to Chorley, where Joe left us.  (He does a bit of courting sometimes!).  At Horwich Ben and I left the rest who were bound as usual for Walton le Dale, and after a hard scramble reached the Bungalow on Rivington Pike.  The views therefrom were very extensive including lots of coastline that looked like a streak of silver from Mersey to Ribble.  Near the join with the Rivington road, we struck a damp, grassy track, which led us a merry dance and eventually brought us to Mytton’s Farm, where we had tea.

Then the slimy track to Belmont road, the cart-track by the reservoir and a fine moorland byway to Blackburn road, along which we rode for a few yards, deserting it in favour of a poorer but better road.  Again we joined a track that led us over the open moors, the while the setting sun lend a wealth of colour to the western sky.  Leaving all paths, we pushed our way over the turfy moors in search of a druidical circle marked by Bartholomew.  We found it, just a few old worn boulders, hardly discernible, forming a rough ring on a high ridge.  More rough walking, then we joined a path that led us down to Turton, which place was in the throes of a fair.

The road to Bolton, then via a wall and gates, into a private wood, where we got caught and were threatened with dire penalties.  We pleaded innocence and bluffed our way out, afterwards cutting for it.  Then Tonge Moor road and home.                   32 miles