Tom and I were soon about, and on the road for Cheadle at 8.30am. We were dismayed to find a heavy mist cloaking all except the nearest objects, and foresaw a run devoid of views, the finest asset to today’s route. Frank was waiting at Kingsway End, and so, without delay, we passed to Cheadle, and a tramcar lined route to Stockport. Murderous setts followed to Hazel Grove, more setts uphill to High Lane, then Disley, on the uphill, hard, Buxton road. The mist was worse here, the opposite hills being entirely covered. At Whaley Bridge, we turned for Hayfield. At Chinley End, rain came on, and capes were required. Hayfield hove in view, and in a few moments we stood at the commencement of our objective, the Hayfield – Snake Inn footpath. Tom and I have done it before, and now look upon it as an annual. Last year, it was the Snake – Hayfield, this time it is the reverse. Our opinion was that this is the hardest direction, as it involves carrying the bikes up Williams Clough, and a terribly steep scramble to the summit. The whole is six and three quarter miles long, and a tougher six and three quarter mile would indeed to be hard to find within a days ride – tougher from the Snake Pass – and last year, the crossing took four and a half hours, and involved two miles of carrying. It must be remembered, however, that we scaled the summit of Kinder Scout (2,031 ft) at the same time.
Right away the scramble started. A hard ten minutes along a wet, slippery track brought us to a farm, where we had a lunch, to prepare the inner man for the next six miles. A short period of what seemed an interminable number of stiles and walls, over which the machines had to be lifted, brought us to the division of three tracks. Capes had long been packed away for the rain had ceased, and in its place, the damp, chilly mist, wet us through. All round us were heathery moorlands, but we could only see a few yards in front. There was no sign whatever of the many cloughs and creeks and the higher points. We found it rideable – only just, and spent some hectic minutes dodging boulders and bogs. We all came off many times. Below us now, we could just make out the nearer banks of the Kinder reservoirs. Would that it were clear! for beyond would be seen a rolling, rough stretch of moorland, broken by precipitous defiles, and a long ridge of rocks, over which tumbles Kinder Downfall, and before us, the tortuous, chasm-like Williams Clough, running down the bleak slopes like a knife scar. A partly rideable rush downhill brought us to the foot of the clough, and across a stream – then the work started in earnest. Misty, muddy, slippery, stony, we scrambled along, carrying mostly, and very soon it was chilly no more. We were decidedly warm!
Our path crossed and re-crossed the stream many times, never by a bridge, then it would climb a flight of awkward, natural steps, drop down a squelchy bank, or twist around a confusion of boulders. Often we stepped (unwillingly) into the stream, often we slipped down some muddy slope, often we barked our shins on some boulder, but we were consumed with the spirit, the adventure of it all. Tom contrived to take some photographs of us in an awkward pose, but I do not know how they will turn out. I think Frank, who is not used to these stunts, got a bit fed-up. At length we reached the head of Williams Clough, and started to scramble up the last steep pitch to the summit, and, incidentally, the half way point. When we advanced one step we slipped back two! This would not do – we should soon be back in Hayfield again! A grassy portion was then resorted to, and we were more successful in reaching the notice depicted below, at an elevation of 1.761 ft. The white blanket covered all, even that ridge of Kinder Scout which we climbed last year, it being out of sight. We stood there for a few moments to take a breather, and Tom to try another photograph, then, getting chilly, we made a move. Another couple were on the route, and were straying in the mist. Happily we put them right, for it is no joke to get lost in this district.
A bog now had to be crossed, and it proved no easy matter. Our bikes, which we used as stepping stones, got mixed up in it to the hubs! To make it harder, deep dykes ran across in all directions, and we had no choice other than sliding down to the murky water, and crawling up on the other side. But we got across, and commenced the three mile stretch down Ashop Clough. Though boggy, stony, and always rough and dangerous, it was in some degree rideable, and we made immense progress, the path kept halfway up the left bank, and as we got further along, the clough below got deeper and more rugged. The mist would clear for a moment in the defile, then we could see it coming along in a thick white bank, and this gave it a fine effect to look on. The last mile embarked on, I went ahead to order pots of tea for three, and soon clambered over the wall, to the Snake Inn, which was crowded with walkers and motorists. Fifteen minutes later, Tom and Frank came, and soon we were enjoying a well earned repast, at 12.30pm. Although, whilst on the rough parts, this has been the hardest, for actual continual ‘backwork’, last years crossing was worse. We did the six and three quarter miles in two and a half hours, a gain of two hours. I think we did jolly well. For views, it was hopeless, but it was something new, and something of an adventure, the only assets of Ashop Head in a fog.
When we restarted towards Ashopton, the mist had mostly gone. The going was downhill, and fast, but the views of rocky ridges and blunt summits made us stop above once. Half an hour later we reached Ashopton, and after some debate, joined the Bamford road. Then the narrowest squeak I have ever seen happened. Tom and Frank were riding along together, side by side. I was behind. The road was narrow, and on a shelf, a rocky bank on the left, and the deep valley on the right, and just there, turned a corner. A motor came from behind, and just as it drew level, a lorry, without any warning and at a dangerous speed, flew round the corner facing us. In a fraction of a second, Tom jumped forward quickly, Frank stopped, swerving to the bank, the motor swerved between them, and the lorry passed. He just grazed the wall on one hand, and the car on the other. So near did he pass, and so well did he judge it, that a pin point would not have gone between both hubs, or the hub and the wall. It was a miraculous escape, and due to all four concerned, although, in the first place, the lorry was to blame. If an inexperienced cyclist or driver had been there, there would have been a bad accident to all four. It was, in fact, an admirable instance of keeping their heads. I was in the best position to view the whole happening and was, myself, well out of danger.
A beautiful run brought us to Bamford, then we faced a harassing wind through the Hope valley to Hope and Castleton, where we stopped to get some picture postcards, guide books, and ornaments of fluorspar and Blue John ore, which is very beautiful – but very dear! Passing Speedwell Caverns, we entered the wondrous gorge of the Winnats (wind-gales) up which is a path of sorts. We spent some time here, the joined the old Chapel road via Perryfoot to Mrs Vernon’s at Sparrowpit, where we were assured of a good tea. It was dark when we joined the road again, and very cold. We were thankful we were on fixed for the shivering run down Barmoor Clough to Chapel-en-le-Frith. A short easy run by Coombs reservoir brought us to Whaley Bridge, then via Disley, down to Hazel Grove, and the setts to Stockport, where Tom left us. At Cheadle capes came into use, but they were soon packed away, and we arrived home in good time. A glorious day. 82 miles
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