What follows needs a home, it’s a snapshot of a day, moreover a night in the life of my grandmother. Not in the role of grandmother, the memoir is a record of an earlier, a far earlier time in her life–as an adventurer. I knew nothing of her by the way, she passed on when I was seven years old having seen very little of me, not by design more by the fact I was brought up (a military kid) abroad and in distant garrison towns. So discovering this has been quite an insight for me. And an education too, traits conveyed in her writing amongst a few others that until now I didn’t realise were inherited.
Strange But True.
It was during August 1935 my friend and I decided to go on a touring holiday in North Wales. On cycles we decided on travelling in the late hour of 11:30pm. At this hour I was living in Urmston, my friend Lucy lived in Gorton, we both worked in an engineering factory and during the lunch we talked of what we would be taking with us and of the distance which was about 70 miles from Urmston. Well it was Friday evening, the time to start our trip, a knock at the front door and my friend arrived, we had tea and cream-crackers before starting off on our ride. Well like the teenagers of today we had our fads in the way of gear as we called it. Our sports outfits consisted of suedette windjammer tweed plus fours, brogues, wool three quarter socks and berets. Sometimes we wore shorts but on a night ride we decided on wearing the real gear.
We started off round the corner and on to Urmston Bridge, making our way on to the main Chester Road, I was thinking to myself and a little apprehensive but then I decided as I’d done something like this before, there was no need to worry.
Well conversation started, Lucy said, “I had a nice tea, my mum cooked my favourite liver and onions, sausage and mash”. Replying I said of my my tasty tea stew which was one meal I liked in those days. Lucy said “I will miss my best program of the day tonight, I always listen in to radio Luxembourg”. I remember they had the the top tunes of the day on at midnight then. Well, we did not keep early hours, even in those days! I did not listen to radio as much then as I and most of my friends were specifically out every nighttime, meaning dancing, cycling, bit of rink skating, which we were novices at, and rollerskating, our main interest was getting around. Well I could go on but as we neared Altrincham we had only traffic lights to pass from there to our destination, I think they were the first installed. Then on we pedalled past the old cenotaph where we used to always stop and have a chat if on an evening ride.
This time we did not stop and we went on and made our way towards Bucklow Hill. After this we were on Chester Road, in the moonlight, the dark background of the trees around Rostherne being a shadowy distance away beheld by the moonlight then, lost by the wayside the hedgerows with the countryside railing, the Hawthorne bedded near them. Tall trees here and there, a real English road with the grasslands reaping at the back. This is just a little appreciation of the countryside.
Having reached the little pub The Windmill we decided to stop. Lucy and I sat down on an old wall facing the pub which was in total darkness. By this time the night was closing in and the moon was not as bright but one little flower near the hedge was visible.
I took a small bottle of cocktail out of my saddlebag, Lucy and I had half each of this, it was a tonic to keep us going, then afterwards we sat chatting over the chores of the day, of work and the bonus we had had, a little extra for spends. The main topic of conversation with Lucy included films and radio. I did have an evening sometimes the pictures, musicals I just remember like a Nightingale Sang in Berkely Square, Gracie Fields in Sing as you Go. I try to remember the greatest films I saw in my teenage days the ‘Ten Commandments’. Also another was ‘The Vagabond King’, this picture was produced in colour if I remember rightly. Well these were some other things we talked about on our travel.
We left The Windmill and started to make our way through to Northwich. I remember passing through the signal gates of the railway then through this old town which possesses a little of history’s foundations. I recall one time when I and another friend of mine went on a tour of this area, we were startled by the fact that some houses on the rear outskirts of the town had sunk through the salt land and only the top parts were visible, we made a quick getaway and did not venture into this part again. So directly we cycled on on long country roads, it seemed a long time reaching the Delamere Forest passing the wooded area right along the lane just one or two conveyancing vehicles were the only night travellers I remember with the exception of a few cars.
After we have done about another 10 miles from the forest we were surprised to see which we presumed to be a hotel,it was well lighted. I said to my friend “I think we will stop here Lucy and have a snack”. We alighted from our bikes, parked them by the the railings and walked towards the end of the hotel. We were again surprised to find out we would not be served with a snack as it was not a commercial hotel. But the commissioner at the door informed us that if we went round to the side door we could obtain some eats. Entering the side door a chef told us to sit down and he kindly brought some sandwiches, also a cup of tea and a couple of jaffas. He did not attempt to converse in any way but on leaving we offered to pay for lunch which he would not accept and we found our way out across the front area of the hotel and started off to complete our ride. Our next stop was in the Mountain area and we took a last look at the large building. Afterwards we found out it was called Abbey Arms, a few more miles onwards we approached Chester, I noticed the old clock and the archway, it did not seem quite as dark in the town at this time.
We passed Chester and were well out in the country again, I said to Lucy “We must be near the coast road”. Well it was no use I knew quite well I was lost in any sort of way and to further matters it was not exactly to our advantage.
A car started to trail us, I said to my friend “I think we are being followed”, I decided there and then to keep to a left-hand direction, we were going miles and more miles. The car was at the back of us, the lights afforded us to see one or two one signposts, I remember one said so many miles to Mold, then another too, which I think was Holywell. Well I was still determined to keep the left-hand way of the country road turns.
We found ourselves in a higher area I don’t know now and I unless I have a chance of seeing my friend again I don’t know what she thought of the stupidness either of going on knowing we were near mountains. Because at that time we came back off our holiday we were so glad to to get home that we never then gave thought to the arduous climb. All she said was that was it was great when we got to the summit. We freewheeled downhill for about 6 miles and straight into Kimmel Bay Golden Sands holiday camp.
Well I shall tell you more of the slow climb up the hills. A signpost said Mold, I thought we shall have to turn back now. Well we turned to the usual left, mind you there was only a little bit of path, so we took the same old left turning, we rode on till another signpost came into view. It said Holywell. Now I had not been to Holywell before but a friend of mine has mentioned it as she was undecided once when going to Ireland whether to travel from there or from Liverpool. I thought we’re on the wrong track again, I don’t know, we eventually came across another signpost by the aid of the motorist see the names clearly, it pointed to Rhudlan, we were on the border of Wales. All could think of was how to get to the Coast road, this was not to be, we just seemed to ride higher and higher and the car was still behind us. Well, we were out of our depth now, we were up a mountain, it was darker and the car was following slowly, he kept behind us, we were walking as the path was narrow. Suddenly we seemed to be on a ledge, I looked back and the car had stopped there were no lights on now. If the driver had got out of the car he had made himself unobtrusive. We crossed the ledges of these high hills wheeling our bikes.
We walked quite away over the narrow ways, then the path became a little wider, we started riding again, we were really in the mountains, somebody must have been there before though, probably troops of the old Norman days as I know for fact that the ordinary hiker could not have made these. We were I should estimate about 2000 feet up or more and the gravel on top of these hills was rough and it must have took an army to kick the stone on the top these hills. It must be about 3 o’clock in the morning, it had been a long hard climb but we we’re now on some lower slopes, we eventually rode into a cornfield where we tired and stopped to have a rest. We sat down and talk to little and I don’t know if I slept or had kept an eye open but when I really opened my eyes the sun was shining and we decided to start again on the long trek. Well I said to my friend we are in the St Asaph’s area, this I knew by instinct as I saw large looming hills on the other side of the cornfield. We had to trek again up part of the hillside but were able to cycle around some of the lower slopes. Walking and riding we approached the top part of the first hill and once on top that was it.
We could see for miles and miles around us, hills galore with the sun shining, it was a great place because it was light. We looked across the hills and onto the third range, a little white church was a cheery view, we were not as isolated as we thought. There must somewhere to get out of these hills and we did. After the highest climb of all we started to freewheel down to the end of the mountain range. To this day I remember a Welsh White House with geraniums blooming in a square white box and a tree with fine boughs. Then from there we saw the shore and arrived about 12 the midday hour right in the Golden Sands Holiday Camp.