Sunday, December 28 – Holt and Broxton

I had to meet Tom at Walton, Warrington 9am this morning.  The weather has been very stormy recently, and when I started at 8am, it had just given over raining.  I was late, and consequently had to get a move on.  The shortest route, via Leigh, Lowton and Winwick, brought me down to Warrington inside the hour, and ten minutes later, I stood at the rendezvous, waiting.  At 9.15 Tom came up, and together we joined Chester road.  We were both late, and had maintained a fast pace, so much, that both of us were a little afraid of what the consequences would be before the day was out.  We eased up a little, but in a few miles, we were off at the old pace, ‘slogging’ away.  Sutton Weaver was set behind, we swooped down through Frodsham, and with a stiff breeze to our faces, made for Helsby.

The day was cloudless, for once in a way, and sunny, but as we approached Chester, a black storm cloud gathered from nowhere, seemingly, but as we entered the city, it broke.  A covered alley in Frodsham Street gave us shelter.  It lasted but a few moments, and before we left Chester, the sky was blue again.  On the far side of the Dee Bridge, we entered Eaton Park.  The park is very beautiful, and the holly, in many places, was packed full of berries.  “Berry many berries on the berry nice holly”, we chuckled, as we gathered a little to decorate our machines with.  After a short, quiet run, we came to Eaton Hall, where we stopped a few moments to view the grand mansion, the property of the Duke of Westminster.  Leaving Eaton Hall behind, we came to the neat little bridge over the river Dee, where again we stopped a minute.  The river was swollen to full flood, many trees being partly submerged, and the landing stage also.  The current too, was swift.  Then, remounting, we rode on to Aldford, where we left the grounds of Eaton Hall.

We were hungry but could not find a suitable place, so we had, perforce, to ride on.  The road, climbing slightly, gave us some fine views of the Welsh mountains and the flooded Dee, which here resembled a huge waterway.  Just before Churton, we stopped to examine a high monolith with a carved stone lion at each angle.  It is a memorial, and commands some fine views across the Dee.  Churton, an ancient village with some good timber work, was singularly short of lunch places, so we pushed on to Farndon, a half mile distant.  Here also, we were unsuccessful, therefore our next place of call was Holt.  Holt is divided from Farndon by the river Dee, which is crossed by a long, narrow, ancient bridge.  The bridge is very picturesque, I would have liked to linger here, watching the river swirling around its arches, but our tummies were crying out, so we pushed on up the hill.  We seemed to be in danger of leaving Holt behind, when, just on the outskirts, I saw a ‘Teas’ board outside a little shop.  We entered, and soon were enjoying a well needed repast, 48 miles away from home.  A motorcyclist entered, and when we left, we noted his machine, which, according to luggage labels had travelled all over Europe.  We got in conversation with him.  He made much of the fact that he had spent Christmas Day in the rain!

We left Holt by the same way, recrossing the Dee to Farndon, then joining the Broxton road, thus, for the first time, having the wind behind.  We made an excellent pace, coming to Broxton quickly, where the rising gradient caused a dismount.  From there, it was more in the nature of a lovely winding byway, by the grounds of Carden Hall.  The gatehouses on each side of the entrance to the dilapidated drive had a chimney pot in the shape of a vase stuck in the centre of the roof.  Soon we came to Broxton station, and the main Whitchurch road, where we held a pow-wow as to the route.  At last we decided to continue straight across, and thus by devious ways make our across Peckforton Gap.  Once more we were out of the saddle, climbing uphill, with a grand view of the plains beyond Holt and the Welsh mountains behind us.  At the second fork roads, we joined a bylane that ran in a kind of valley, towards Harthill.  The hillside, crowned with rocks like the Derbyshire ‘Edges’, was a riot of colour even at this time, and as we neared Harthill we wandered into a sunken lane.  Harthill was a pretty village, on a little eminence, but just beyond we got a grand, unlooked for view.  This ridge of the Peckforton hills stretched out for miles, a wealth of colour, broken here and there by brown or black rocks, whilst at the end of the range, just beyond the brown towers of Peckforton Castle, stood the isolated rock of Beeston, jagged and scarred, with the ruin of its castle perched on the edge.  Beyond were marked out a wide expanse of fields, terminating in the Kelsall ridge, and dotted with homesteads.  It was a wonderful picture in mid-winter sunshine.

We swooped downhill, then swung left into a byway, coming to Burwardsley, a scattered hillside parish.  Pushing our way uphill, we entered on known roads, and were soon on the summit of Peckforton Gap, with a view before us extending from the Mersey to the Welsh mountains around Chirk.  Before leaving here we loaded up with holly, then tumbled downhill to Peckforton.  Riding round the estate walls, we could view now the near Beeston Castle.  The sun was setting when we started the circuit of Beeston Hill, throwing Peckforton’s walls and turrets in bold profile, whilst the mountains before us slowly faded from sight.  Reaching the point where the rock is steepest and most beautiful, I peered over the wall and found my tyre (see October 19).  Deer were in the woods.  With many a backward glance, we made for Birch Heath, where we nearly smashed into a motorcar, then across to Cotebrook, and through glorious Delamere Forest to Norley, Crowley and Mrs Wade’s for tea.  With lamps lit, we started back via Comberbach and Gt. Budworth, separating at Broom Edge, I returning home via Chat Moss.  Thus, the last Sunday in the year proved one of the best and sunniest, whilst we had a perfect run in the heart of a perfect county.  It also yielded a century of miles.

110 miles