Sunday, November 18 – The ‘Backbone’ of Cheshire

The wind was blowing half a gale this morning when I started alone, bound for ‘somewhere’ but ‘nowhere in particular’.  I had a terrific struggle through Leigh and Lowton, and near Winwick a rainstorm drove me into the cape.  Running through Warrington, I gained the Chester high road, where torrents of rain, coupled with the wind and encumbrance of the cape, made it uncomfortable in the extreme, and I was glad to walk the smallest hills.  It was 12.15 when I reached Sutton Weaver, where I partook of lunch at a farm.  Restarting I packed the cape away, and soon was on the Northwich road from Frodsham.  At Overton, I wheeled right, into a bylane, which led me steeply into the Overton Hills.  I climbed for over a mile, until I reached the summit.  The whole aspect of Cheshire was now changed.

An undulating, wooded, hilly country was before me.  On the west stretched the sandy reaches of the River Mersey, with the southwest portion of Lancashire trailing away into the mist.  All of the scenery was in its autumn glory, bare, gaunt, leafless trees here, rich brown and golden woods there, with the low peaks clothed in dead bracken, and over there were patches of green – evergreens.  From Frodsham Lordship to The Royalty, and on to rural Manley, downhill, then Mouldsworth, with its little duckpond, densely inhabited, straight along, with the glorious woods of Delamere Forest on one hand, and the park-like acres of Ashton Heyes estate on the other, all a reminder of the words “Oh to be in England, now that Autumn’s here”.

Reaching the Northwich-Chester road at Kelsall, I crossed it, and took that pretty lane at the foot of the Kelsborrow hills to Willington, a straggling village on the Tarporley byway.  On the left rose the sandstone rocks, prettily blended with gorse and bracken, and as I mounted a ridge the turreted towers and embattled walls of Willington Hall appeared.  With the wind behind, and now a warm sun shining, it all appeared a glorious, peaceful dream.  I stood at the entrance, drinking in the wondrous scenery, and gazing at times at the great doorway and beautiful, well-kept lawn.  Turning up a lane that climbed the hill, I passed a small hamlet, and after some walking reached the summit of Castle Hill, on which are the remains of Kelsborrow Castle.  All that now stands are a ring of broken stones crowning the summit.

Here I got an amazing view of Beeston, Peckforton and the hills beyond, black, where the dark clouds southward cast a forbidding, but not objectionable darkness, which gave Beeston Castle, on its rocky eminence, a peculiar, romantic charm, and at the same time a brooding memory of dark days past when it was king of the district.  On each side stretched the level, wooded lowlands, bounded by the hills of Wales to the west, and the hills of Alderley and Derbyshire to the east.  So extensive a view is not an everyday occurrence with me, so you can guess how I drank in everything.

A swift rush downhill followed, where I joined the main Warrington to Tarporley road.  But not for long, for I almost immediately reached Cotebrook, and now knowing the road, I turned left for Little Budworth.  Reaching the village, I – oh, before Budworth is a glorious half mile run through the primitive Oulton Park woods – I took the Northwich road, which leads through some moderate – or had I been spoiled? – scenery to the typical Cheshire village of Whitegate, at the entrance to the beautiful and ancient Vale Royal estate.  The road crosses a section of Vale Royal, and mentally I made a future run to this fine old wood.  After a while I came onto the Northwich-Chester road at Sandiway, and after two miles, via Hartford, I reached Northwich.

The narrow swing bridge over the River Weaver is closed for repairs etc, and I had to make a detour.  Beyond Lostock Gralam I lit up (for it was now 5pm).  Suddenly a gale appeared behind me, a hailstorm and torrents of rain sent me inside the cape.  The wind threatened to tear my cape from my back, blew my lamp out, and set me a rare pace.  I didn’t trouble to light it again.  Tabley passed, I soon came to Mere, then Millington at 5.30 and the rain ceasing.

Here a warm fire and a cosy room was waiting.  An hour later I started home with the moon lighting the way.  Altrincham, Stretford and Barton, then from Worsley to Boothstown etc.  A few yards from home a clog-iron played havoc with my rear tyre.                                                                  102 miles, 12 hours