Whitsuntide – and Walter, 3

Poor Walter!; he little dreamed of that which was to come when he sat down to supper with us all.  From a piece of cardboard had been cut a monstrous medal, centred with the glaring words:

To Darling Wally on the occasion of his wonderful pacing,
Pentre Foelas to Llangollen

May 23/26

and all edged.

Walter 1

After supper we brought everyone in the house into our room.  Walter was made to stand, then to a meeting of about 16, I read the following illuminated address which I had prepared:

Gentlemen, Fellow Cyclists

We have ridden together on many occasions, and under conditions that embrace all the types this British weather of ours can produce, and have, I trust, become firm companions and formed a friendship club that will grow even stronger as time rolls on. We have with us tonight a rather new-comer, and it is my pleasure to extend to him, on the behalf of all of us, a hearty welcome; and to tell you all of a feat which has already given him distinction as a rider of no mean ability. For a hundred and ten miles against the wind he rode steadily behind us, never deviating or advancing an inch; then when the wind was behind he broke away, and on this last 28 miles, he swept all before him.  As we felt it incumbent upon us not to let this remarkable feat go without distinction it was decided to make a suitable presentation which we hope our record breaker will accept, and give such prominence as it will remind him in times to come of his memorable action.  Therefore, gentlemen, I would ask Mr Berry if he would be kind enough to make this little presentation. Mr Berry?

Whereupon Billy followed with the medal, and with resounding laughter, hung it round Walter’s neck, to loud laughter and cheers. The way he took it, so simply – just like an embarrassed hero – and the way we pulled his leg over it set the house rocking in tantrums of laughter. It was late when we retired, but chuckles of amusement over this latest episode resounded far into the night.

Everyone was up and about when I awoke next morning, and I detected signs of ill-suppressed amusement amongst them. I soon found one of the causes. A toe had been securely tied to the bed rail with amusing results when I got up – to the others that is.  Walter isn’t the only victim of Fred’s depredations – neither am I, for this irresistible punster and joker spares none. One of these days he will go a step too far, when a sudden and terrible demise will overtake him.

After breakfast we took Walter into the backyard and coerced him into mounting his bike with the medal hanging round his neck and a silver teapot that someone had dug up, and which formed an admirable trophy, in one hand, and so arrayed Tom took his photograph.  In another photo we formed a guard of honour round him. As we feared for the future of the medal if left in the tender hands of Walter, Fred pinched it and packed it up, taking it home.

The high wind was yet blowing, dead behind, when we left Llangollen, and headed towards Ruabon, from where the area of pits and smouldering slag-heaps gave place to the rolling fields that tilt down to the Dee at Bangor Iscoed. Billy and I were together, and deep in conversation. Our minds were attuned at one with the natural beauty that lay around, our conversation was that produced by the uplifting things we saw. These ordinary Cheshire lanes from Bangor to Malpas were feasts of loveliness that sunny May morning, and though we knew their intricacies by heart, they were new to us. That lane from Bickerton to Beeston along the foot of the ‘Old Red Hills’ is always more than an ordinary lane, and this morning its beauty seemed to intoxicate us – and enhance our conversation.

We arrived at Beeston in penny numbers, the last number being our over-loaded friend on the tank (“Electricity”). At Beeston Smithy we dined in state and made a clean sweep of the table. A chance joke gave away the cause of their earlier bedroom merriment; my photo had been taken whilst I slept. Unhappily it has turned out a good photo, but a bad representation of me, and it has been all over the place including the photographic exhibition of the Bolton CTC under the guise of ‘Sweet Innocence’. Tom was fortunate to escape from that unscathed. From Beeston we pottered along to Eaton, and for the sake of quietness took the lanes to Whitegate, Billy and I still deep in conversation, so much so that the rest thought we were plotting some scheme to spring on them later. The Chester road was so motorised that we abandoned it at the earliest possible moment, taking the road that runs by the big salt works of Brunner, Mond and Co, and climbs to Comberbach. We decided to miss Comberbach and go through the grounds of Marbury Hall instead, a fine little tit-bit, a footpath that runs close to the beautiful Budworth or Marbury Mere.

‘Electricity’ had a terrific job to get his ponderous machine over the first gate, so when we reached the second, we all lifted it up (not the gate!), struggling for all we were worth to get it over, a hint that seemed to be entirely lost on him. Finding our favourite tea-place in Great Budworth motorised, we carried on to Aston, where a pot of tea and a few cakes were requisitioned to tide us over the last 20 odd miles. The hour was yet very early, so we took the dilapidated private road that runs through Arley Park to Arley, then the zig-zag lane that leads to the moated, half-timbered mansion Swineyard Hall. High Legh was soon reached then, and speeding down through Broom Edge we reached the parting of the ways. Ere we split up we took upon ourselves the task of showing ‘Electricity’ the error of his ways. We pointed out to him the uselessness of all that weight, his unsuitable gear, the difference between a lightweight and a roadster, and finally asked him to chuck that atrocity of his away, get a lightweight, and join us in our weekend roamings. He answered that he had had a glorious holiday since he joined Tom and Danny, and would like nothing better than to become one of us, but he had only just bought the bike, and though he could see his mistake, he couldn’t afford another yet, and he had another and greater drawback – he was married and had a family! So we could only sympathise, at the same time rejoicing in our own freedom.

So we broke into two parties, and Fred and Billy and Walter and I pursued our still boisterous way across Chat Moss to Butts Bridge, where, after another talk the Hindley trio headed for their (now silent) pits, and I my factory chimneys.