Well there’s a day I won’t forget. Everyone loves a twist in the tale don’t they? Just as you think things are reaching a happy ending there’s dramatic cliffhanger to send the story in a whole different direction. Downton Abbey has nothing on this!
This comes to you all a day late, since I disappeared into the wilderness where electricity was a luxury, never mind phone signal or wifi!
Charlesworth near Glossop was the intended destination, at the top of a hill and just off the trail. However, I get to the address given on the web page and there is no farmhouse b&b to be seen. To make matters worse, my bike had just given up after a day of being caked in mud, and the chain had become lodged in the rear wheel making it unridable. I have most things covered for trail side repairs but this was not within my capabilities.
Guardian angel enter stage right: Out of nowhere, a car pulls up into this back lane of back lanes, a man gets out and so I ask for directions. He says it’s over the hill, onto the hill pass road, round a few bends, should take about half an hour. I explain my bike situation, and it turns out not only is he a whizz with maps and directions, he also is a mountain biker himself and happens to have the tools for the job in his house that we were standing outside. We flip the bike, get the back wheel out and release the rear cartridge enough to free the chain.
This is beyond lucky. A total fluke, or maybe there’s someone looking out for me up there. If so he’ll have also been laughing at me in the rain in Southport yesterday no doubt! Hopefully there’ll be no more set backs, but if there are then it seems like I’m meant to finish this. That thought gives me encouragement regardless.
Unfortunately that left me with a mammoth sized climb in the dark and heading away from the trail. The b&b was in Back Raworth. 6 miles over the hill and it was getting dark. Amazing views over Manchester and looking down on Glossop were not appreciated at this stage!
The day started brightly at Latchford locks. I’d been as far as this on my adventures from Stockport so from here the next day of riding would be in familiar territory. It was muddy though from the rain yesterday and pleasant though the Cheshire countryside was, I was going to arriving at Faireys spattered with smelly Mersey valley mud.
The trail is very pleasant through South Manchester; through Chorlton water park and some pretty areas of Northenden particularly, then arriving at Didsbury where I left the trail for Heaton Chapel.
The Williams Fairey Engineering factory is still to this day where The Fairey Band rehearses. I have many memories of coming here, some as a child when my dad was in the band but mostly from my time. The familiar smell of biscuit baking was wafting over from the neighbouring McVities factory. Hobnobs today I reckon. It was great to be back anyway.
Musically, this place is unique. Many legendary names in the brass playing world have launched their careers from this place, and as many have come here to join them. The band I think has a distinct sound; vibrant yet classy, especially in the cornets. There is a natural knack for phrasing – I don’t remember anyone ever having to teach this here, it just seems to spread from the continuity of having many long serving members keeping a close ear on things. The most important thing here is that reputation does not count for an audition. The band rarely brings star names in from outside, but instead they recognise potential and are prepared to give players a chance. I observed this again today. Many of the soloists who were shining through in this piece had been promoted from within.
I am grateful to Garry Cutt for letting me say a few words to the band about this ride, and my reasons for it. It is partly a fundraiser, but also a celebration of a few men who have achieved a great deal. I gave the band a signed t-shirt, (about the only thing I could carry) which read “To Faireys, also remembering Jim Cant, and Maurice Murphy”.
Jim Cant was a good friend of my dads, and a long serving bass trombonist through the 80s/90s. He became my Godfather, and was a neighbour during our time living in Glossop. He was also the MD at Glossop Old band during its most successful period. I remember him taking this band to the British Open, having brought them up from the lower sections. His achievements are held in high regard around these parts, if not further.
Maurice Murphy is a name trumpet players around the world all know, mostly for the John Williams soundtracks he recorded with the LSO. Not so many know he began top level brass playing at Faireys, as 2nd man down to Norman Ashcroft. It was apparently Norman who recommended young Maurice for an audition for the top seat at Black Dyke. The rest is history. Since I’ll be making that journey myself over the next day, I dedicate this part of the route to him.
Maurice Murphy, rear right
So I reluctantly left Stockport, having to tear myself away from hearing that band in such good form. This part of the trail is quite magical though. Through Reddish Vale, Haughton Dale and Hulmes Wood are some wonderful areas of hidden suburban countryside. I got my first view of the Pennines too. It’s a while since I’ve seen a hill, they looked quite daunting from this side with the knowledge of what was to come.
Whilst I did expect the climb to Charlesworth, I didn’t expect the drama that followed. My victory shot from the top was premature! Day 3 just got tougher, and it was always going to be the toughest yet anyway.