by David Birchall, archivist of the Anfield Bicycle Club
This is an extract from an article ‘The House at the End of the Road’, by Wayfarer, published in Cycling, 31st January 1930. He describes how cycling from his home in Birkenhead to Shotwick and Puddington, about 30 years earlier, sparked an enthusiasm for the pastime that endured for the rest of his life:
…………In some cases the house at the end of the road was literally, as well as figuratively, in that position. Take the case of Shotwick for example. You crossed the Wirral Peninsula and went along what is known as the Queen’s Ferry Road. You dropped into a hollow containing at its base, minor cross-roads.
There you turned to the right, climbed out of the hole, and drifted into Shotwick. The road ends at the church;just short of which is a double-fronted house standing a little back from the road. You put your bicycle in the farmyard, you knock at the side door, a white-haired lady welcomes you in, and you take your place in one of the front sitting-rooms, dropping into a deep armchair, luxuriously waiting there until your tea – and such a tea! – is ready.
As But Yesterday
In the summer you have your meal in the garden; in the winter you spend two or three hours indoors, enjoying the profound silence which pervades this back-water of life. At nine o’clock, probably, you begin to make a move, pausing in the kitchen to pay your score and to have a ‘crack’ with the white-haired lady and her gamekeeper husband. And then you emerge and rescue your bicycle, lighting your lamp, stumbling out of the yard (your eyes not yet accustomed to the darkness), and riding away under a sable sky which displays a vast army of ‘night’s sparkling hosts’.
Thus homeward you wend your way, contented and at peace with all the world. (I ought, of course, to write in the past tense, because I speak of events that happened 30 years ago. The white-haired lady is a memory … and things may be different with those who come after her. The countryside changes before our eyes and the house at Shotwick may no longer be literally, as well as figuratively, at the end of the road.)
In the adjoining village of Puddington, reached, at times, by a path through three or four fields – the house at the end of the road is also in a double sense in that position. Normally you come to the village by a road going off from the Old Chester Road, and, when you get amongst the houses, you avoid swinging off to the right. You keep straight on and arrive at the cottage which is at the literal end of the road – a cottage which jostles with the woodland behind it. There I came one summer afternoon long years ago, and lo! the fare provided turned out to be just what I wanted. I was so entranced with the house at the end of the road that I promptly took a room in it for a long week. The terms were ridiculously low; how I wish they could be paralleled to-day! I cycled to business every morning, and back from business every evening, and that experience opened my eyes wide to the infinite joys of the countryside. In the evenings I wandered through the lanes and fields – a pleasant change, this, for a boy who had lived all his life in a town – and this simple (paltry, if you like) experiment proved to be a turning point. Henceforth I never looked back. I must have plenty of fresh air, plenty of exercise – plenty of cycling.
Footnote:- The Frank Patterson sketch above relates to a corner of Pembridge, Herefordshire. It was probably a convenient filler for articles lacking an illustration.