“Llanberis or Nant Peris. Friday Night”. So ran a much-anticipated telegram that I received on the Thursday night in Whit week. Everything was ready. At 11pm on this Friday night I had arranged to meet the Hindley Boys on Chester Road Bridge, Warrington. Tom and a Manchester friend were on a weeks tour in Wales – a week pottering about the old delectable scenes we know so well, and Whitsuntide decreed that we others should be free from the Thursday night to Monday morning. As a matter of fact the Hindley boys were taking part in the coal lock-out, and were altogether without ties. So an all-night ride had been arranged to whatever point Tom’s telegram stated. And it was “Llanberis or Nant Peris”. Thereon hangs the tale.
What is there about Wales especially, that we must keep going, tour after tour, weekend after weekend? Why won’t Lakeland or Yorkshire or the Midlands or anywhere else do? Do we never get weary of the same old Wales? These are the questions I am often called upon to answer by other cyclists and by people at home. I usually say that I like Wales and leave it at that, but the real answer is not easy to explain. Of course I am speaking personally. There is ‘something’ which seems to lure me to this land of mountains and of song. Perhaps it is the valleys, which are as beautiful and sublime – more so – than any I have seen, perhaps it is the mountains, though higher and more imposing mountains are within easy reach in Scotland or the Lakes, – I do not claim the most beautiful scenery for Wales by any means. Perhaps it is the language and the place-names, a very interesting point which, in the more remote parts, makes one feel as though he is on foreign soil, and perhaps its accessibility has something to do with it. I think that it is all these things – and ‘something’ else which attracts me to Wales; a little of each type of scenery, a large rambling ground over which are roads of every classification (and beyond all classification), and the fact that almost any point of North and mid-Wales can be reached in a day. And this ‘something’ else? When I get amid those mountains, in those valleys, on those moors, I find myself thinking about Something which lies behind it all, Something that is impossible to deny. That recent Easter Sunday night when Tom and Billy and I sat by Idwal gazing at the stars in the velvet sky, with the mountains around cloaked in shadow, and the little splashing wavelets of Llyn Idwal making the only sound, we three knew then that Something, that Presence. It quieted our laughter, it sobered us, made us think, and for a while not a word was spoken –
Of words to tell of things unreached of words?
– until Tom broke forth: “and some people say there is no God!” We not only felt God then, but we knew him. And are far from being religious in the conventional sense of the word, for do we not cycle on Sundays? We rarely, if ever, go to church, and we roam about in clothing that puts the folks at home to shame for us. We get a bad name; people think all sorts of things about us, that is the type of people who go to church “to the blare of bugles”, place large sums in the collection boxes and – end at that, smugly believing that they are safe so far as their exit from this Vale of Tears is concerned. I believe that we, who are, in their eyes blasted for ever, know more of the real God than any church service could teach us. We see him in every tree, every blade of grass, every rock, and by worshipping these things, we believe we worship God. To try and learn from nature, from the beautiful things we see, from flower or tree, from animal life, from rocks or mountains, or from the best in human beings, is, I think, the right way to worship. So it seems that when I am in Wales I find that frame of mind which induces, in long and profitable reveries, that train of thought.
As usual, I am wandering off the map! On the Friday night in question I pottered away at 9.15pm, taking the Warrington New Road from Butts Bridge. Near Warrington a loud explosion disturbed my peace of mind, followed by what is known as a “flat-tyre-feeling”. The inner tube had found a hole in the cover, and leaned out to have a look around. It leaned too far. After repairing it, and ensuring no future trouble from that source, I made my way through murky Warrington to the canal bridge, which was closed against me. Then when I got across to my friends (Billy, Fred and his brother Walter) a chap on a roadster ran me down, adding another hole to my stockings (the rest do not matter as they are hidden by my shoes). We stood talking just where a crumpled seat marked the spot where three old men were sat on Sunday night when a motor-car ran into them, killing one and so seriously injuring the other two that one was not expected to recover. We were told that a nightingale had been singing for the past few nights in Barton Woods, Northwich, and that hosts of people had gone to hear it. It is the first that has come so far north for 15 years.
We faced Rude Boreas all along the Chester road – that is to say all except comrade Walter who, behind our broad backs found a welcome calm and an easy journey, the while the sky seemed on the verge of tears. Once the almost full moon broke out, showing us, by his glorious fleeting light, what the night might have been, but soon the massed clouds closed over it, and all was as before. We troubled not, come wind or rain or both, we were prepared for anything, and prepared to make the best of it. For my part I felt rickety; I had a boil where boils usually appear, on the most awkward part of the neck, and insignificant though boils are, they knock half the vitality out of you. We had our first meal in Chester, sat in the Rows talking to a policeman at 1.30am. Just then, in the half-light, Chester was a city of the old, quaint, glamorous, and but a slight stretch of the imagination was needed to repopulate it in 17th century fashion, and see it as it has been.