Leicestershire and Rutland
Cyclists' Touring Club

(founded 1897)


President's Page
Secretary's View
Letters to the editor
Charnwood Chatter
General Knowledge
South Leicestershire Section
Easy Riders
A Leicestershire Half-Century
Three decades in the saddle
Visit to Scarth Gap Pass, Ennerdale
Devon Deliverance
Lands End to John O'Groats
A Summer in France (part 5)


Ivy Allen

I know that this year has been particularly wet but it certainly hasn't stopped you getting out on your bikes and not just on club runs. I would like to say a big thank you to all who sent in articles etc. If yours is not in this edition I apologise but it will be in next time. I had so much material that it has been difficult to know where to stop and so eventually I finished up with a bumper edition. I have really enjoyed reading about everyone's exploits.

I would like to welcome Aileen Andrews our new Cycle Chat Administrator to the fold, and also wish Eileen a happy 'retirement'.

Peter Hopkins recently retired from the committee and moved from the area. I am sure that you will join me in wishing Peter and Pauline all the very best in their new life together in Stoke following their recent marriage. Peter sent me a very interesting article about his half century in Leicestershire (starting on page 16) which brought back many happy memories for me and I am sure for all who know him and Colin.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year. Let's hope for better weather next year.



Ray Clay

An overview of events over the last 12 months

The club has enjoyed another good year with the usual variety of events.

The annual slide show and photo competition held at Leicester Forest East was well attended. Ian Hill from Derby CTC entertained us with slides of his travels around Norfolk and Suffolk and the photo entries were well up to standard.

The cyclists' carol service was held at Barrow upon Soar and, thanks to Jean Lakin and her team, there were welcome refreshments before and after the service.

Gill Lord organised the New Year Ride around Sibbertoft for the ninth consecutive year. The meal is very popular and usually oversubscribed. Catering profits go to the parish funds.

The David Sulley Memorial Ride was held in March. 29 riders from as far as London battled with the wind. David's wife Doreen was present at the start.

Also in March, the annual prize giving event was held at the Wheatsheaf, Thurcaston. As in the previous year, we incorporated the event with a skittles evening. The guest of honour was Joyce Hames who presented the prizes.

The number of entries for the 30 mile meander and freewheel in April was disappointing. Lunch was enjoyed at the Thornton Garden centre who made us very welcome.

John Allen's event, Back to the Fuchsia, was very successful with 39 seniors and 7 juniors riding. John was ably assisted by Keith Lakin.

Tony Davis arranged the 200k/100k/50k event in June which went very well and is hoping to put on a similar event next year.

Peter Witting organised the 100m/50m/25m challenge rides also in June. 1600 miles were pedalled by the 32 rides taking part travelling fro counties including Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire.

Unfortunately, only three riders turned up for Neil Dixon's off road challenge in September probably due to the wet weather prevailing at the time.

Keith Lakin's President's ride took place in September starting in Oakham in Rutland. Keith took us on a very pleasant leisurely 20 mile run while Rob Williams, of the newly formed section in Rutland, led a longer ride. Lunch was at Wymondham Windmill.

That concludes my summary of the events. However, on a personal note, I very much enjoyed my visit to Ulster for the CTC annual dinner and prize giving. I found the dinner being held in the Stormont building in Ulster particularly interesting. I even shook hands with a minister while accepting an award on behalf of the InTandem group based in Loughborough. Penny and I took the opportunity to travel around Ulster and Ireland for a lovely week's holiday and meet up with our son in Dublin. Belfast is a beautiful city and I can't wait to make a return visit.

I must thank the support I'm getting in my role as secretary. I hesitate to name individuals in case I miss someone out. However, I must mention the Lakin family. Keith is doing an excellent job as President, and we couldn't do without Jean arranging refreshment at our events, and, of course, Jean Deacon for taking the minutes is an immense help.


A Letter from your President

A Grand Day Out

My Presidents Ride was such a day, a warm and sunny morning certainly brought out the cyclists and visitors to Oakham and the surrounding villages.

Around forty members took part during the day. I enjoyed meeting Stuart and Teresa Jones and their two young daughters from Castle Donington with their two tandems and also Trevor and Lindsey Staples with their two sons from Burton-on-the-Wolds. Also joining us were former president John Hartshorne with his wife Anne, Joan Stanley from Leicester, and Richard and Sara Rose of Northants and North Bucks DA. It was also a pleasure to welcome our County Secretary Ray Clay.

My twenty mile journey took us to the pleasant village of Teigh and its unusual church, built in 1782 with a medieval tower, inward facing pews in college chapel fashion and pulpit and reading desks on the West wall.

Next came Edmondthorpe with a visit to see the eight foot high village pump and its spout in the shape of a dragons head which brought much delight to the children and also to those with cameras. (See back cover)

Refreshments came next at Wymondham Windmill, a double surprise for all was a vintage car rally here with a vintage motor cycle rally at the village inn.

After following the high road and over the main railway line we passed by the grounds of Stapleford Park and duly arrived at Whissendine Windmill for our next scheduled stop. After a conducted tour by the owner of this working mill with the children enjoyed getting covered in white flour it was all too soon time to return to Oakham. The finish of our ride was at the Grain Store adjacent to the railway station.

I must thank Rob Williams and my twin brother Alan for leading the longer rode of thirty five miles.

It was indeed a GRAND DAY OUT.

Thank you.
Keith Lakin

***Pictures taken on the day of the ride.***


Letter to the Editor

Hi Ivy,

Thank you Morgan for your excellent account of a typical Thursday ride with "Nuneaton CTC Cycling Club" (I hope that I have got the words the right way round!!).

Your "Two Pennoth" was very well explained, this is a beautiful area, can't be beaten anywhere (hope we don't get hoards of noisy cyclists around them now as the quiet and peace with nature is the best thing).

I took almost the same route on the "Historic Churches Ride" on September 13th. I didn't go down the lane to the Gibbit Post but went up the hill to Twycross. John Massey was the last man to be hanged for killing either his wife or mistress at the Mill in Billsdon. I had an uncle (my Grandma's cousin) who farmed at Barton-in-the-Beans and he wouldn't drive down that lane if the light was going. He only had a car when he retired in the 60's. He and his wife are well remembered by older folk in the villages who like me would be children or teenagers. I used to cycle to visit them. It was the most lovely farm house but it had a dirt toilet outside. I just couldn't understand this.

On the Church Ride I visited Shackestone and Congerstone where I met a couple off a canal boat looking for the 'shop and post office' that were mentioned in a book that they had. The book must have been twenty years old!! I visited fifteen churches. I like to make it a sociable day.

Janet Neal

South Leicestershire Section

with Tony Davis

I have only managed to get out on four Sunday runs this quarter. The distractions have included two very enjoyable weekends spent with Jayne's family celebrating her parents golden wedding. I also missed a week when I was riding from Lands End to John O'Groats and I've been out and about riding audax rides (as usual).

On 10 August Ivan, Jayne, Shane, Shaun and I rode from Broughton Astley to Thornton where we were joined by new member Andrew. We then took a circuitous route to the Beehive and went home by the most direct. It was a day of sunshine and showers, some quite heavy but none so long that we couldn't shelter and wait for them to pass over.

In the middle of September just after my end to end ride Gill and Bernard, Neil, Shane, Jayne and I rode by the usual route through Saddington, Kibworth and Tur Langton to Hallaton. Sadly following a change of management the service at the Berwick Arms tea room had slid rapidly downhill (we are told that subsequently someone has spoken to the owners and normal service has been resumed.) We then went on to the pub at Naseby to eat our packed lunch washed down with some very good beer.

On the following Sunday Neil, Neil, (that's not a mistake there are two Neils) Shane, Dave, Roy, Jayne and I rode through Ashby Magna, Peatling and Mowsley to the Sugar Loaf at Market Harborough for coffee. After coffee we went via Braybrooke and Old to Brampton Halt Beer festival. Neil took us down a bridleway which was fine on a touring bike but with the sun shining at last some riders were out on their best lightweights. The group split in two. The ones who opted for the road got to the lunch stop first but it did cause a bit of concern as Shane went looking for the laggards and struggled to find the lunch stop.

The last weekend in September was a lazy damp Sunday ride to Thornton with Neil, Shane and Jayne. We were joined at coffee by Gill and Bernard just back from a good week in the New Forest. We spent two hours over coffee at the garden centre waiting for the rain to blow over. Shane, Neil and I called in at the Heathcote Arms at Croft on the way home, no sandwiches so we had a liquid lunch.

The season of Dinners and shorter Sunday rides is approaching. The Hinckley CRC dinner clashes with the Audax UK AGM and dinner at the end of November. I have chosen the Audax AGM and Neil Dixon the Hinckley dinner. It's hard work but someone has to keep our local CTC represented at these events!

The South Leicestershire CTC have their Xmas Dinner booked for 7.30pm on 12 December at the Pig in Muck, Claybrooke Magna

Happy Social Season but keep the pedals turning. By the time I write again the worst of winter will be behind us and we should be looking forward to spring sunshine.


Visit to Scarth Gap Pass, Ennerdale

by Phil Allen

This was part of a cycling holiday in the late 1950's or early 1960's. This particular route was through Ennerdale, short stop for a cooked lunch, only problem with the primus stove was the valve packed up. We managed to make a temporary one out of wood and cloth, and the sand in the bacon helped to clean your teeth afterwards! The primus could be dismantled and fitted to the cycle with a bracket. Lunch over, onward by Gillerthwaite Youth Hostel to reach Black Sail Youth Hostel formerly a shepherds hut (three miles to the nearest public house!). After tea, evening entertainment was community singing.

Next day was a shave in the waters of the local burn. After a good breakfast, cycles ready and the start of the climb up to Scarth Gap Pass. Excellent views of Lake Buttermere at the top and on descent down to Lake Buttermere. Some large boulders to carry the cycle over which may have been at 'Low Wax Knott' (shown on the descent sketch) to reach Lake Buttermere for a short visit and to complete an excellent day and overnight stay at Buttermere Youth Hostel.


Easy Riders

with Rose Holman

Dave Smith's ride had to be cut short on the 10th August due to heavy showers. June and Pete rode on in advance, with Dave Holman and I following on a few minutes later. Arriving in Burton Overy we caught up with June and Pete where Pete had unfortunately been stung by a wasp or hornet. After administrating first aid the four of us carried on to Church Langton where we were due to meet the rest of our group. They arrived as we were sheltering under a tree. Due to the heavy showers Richard and Mick decided to return home.

The group then cycled to Little Bowden Post Office for coffee. Ian and Dave Smith returned home from here due to other commitments. Having left Little Bowden we continued to Market Harborough then along the canal tow path, stopping to eat our packed lunches on a bridge over the canal. We then carried on to Foxton Locks for lunch. The return journey brought us to Saddington Church for afternoon tea, this is where Andy joined us. It was on to Fleckney. The remaining members split up to return home, so we didn't make it to Maisewell!!

On the 24th Alan organised a treasure hunt which was enjoyed by all. The winner was Norman Castle with 29 points., Dave Holman came 2nd with 22 points, joint 3rd were Nancy and Dave Smith with 20 points. With Graham 4th with 16 points. A book was presented to Norman by Alan at our AGM for being the winner.

Nancy, Norman and Dave Smith were again awheel with Jim for a weekend touring Norfolk during 3rd to 5th October. Twelve of our group plus Vic attended our AGM on the 12th October, after which most of us refreshed ourselves at the pub in Illston where they brought free roast potatoes and black pudding to everyone.


General Knowledge

with Martin Bulmer

Now We Are Six (or more).

Looking back over the summer runs list, I see a number of runs which were cut short due to the weather. It hasn't been a brilliant one, has it? Nevertheless, Charnwood Generals are still splashing on, and we welcome John as a new rider, and welcome back Martin after a couple of years' absence. In fact, for our Horsley Woodhouse run we had 7 starters, and we could have more if we all turn out. This is very encouraging as only a couple of years ago there were but three of us.

As our numbers increase, we take up more road-space, and when the cries of "Car back!" cause us to ride in single file we then become a long thin obstacle rather than a short thick one. I have noticed that some motorists seem to think we shouldn't be there. On the President's Ride in Rutland a passing motorist suggested that we should ride on the path. As this wasn't a cycle path, we could not legally oblige him so he remains disgruntled, probably to this day. How my heart bleeds.

I was chatting to an acquaintance in a pub about cycling, and he expressed the view that he doesn't mind slowing down for horses or tractors, but hates to slow down for cyclists. As a motorist myself, I can understand the frustration, but can't see why horses and tractors are exempt from his wrath. All we can do is to be aware of the problem, and ride with as much consideration for other road users as our meager speed allows.

Ah, but wasn't that President's Ride a good weather day? As was our trip to Stanton in Peak; I vividly remember climbing that steep hill to the village in sweltering heat, so hot I had to turn the air-con up. Ahem, ok, so I drove there.


Charnwood Chatter

with Betty Naylor

Seven Charnwood Easy Riders attended this year's CTC Birthday Rides based at the Fire Station College at Morton-in-the-Marsh in the Cotswolds. Rides were enjoyed to the typical villages of Chipping Camden with its lovely old church, Chipping Norton, Upper and Lower Swell, Stow-on-the-Wolds (which still has a Youth Hostel) and the ancient Rollright Stones.

Unfortunately, the day of the Birthday Tea was extremely wet, but everyone enjoyed looking around the grounds of Sezincote House. This was redesigned in 1805 in Indian Style, by Samuel Pepys Cockerell, whose brother made a fortune in the East India Company. The exotic architecture contrasted weirdly with acres of very English parkland. Beautiful gardens surrounded a stream which curved away from the house, with its many domes, down to a pool, surrounded by lush plants. At the head of the stream were two Brahmin Bulls on an Indian style bridge.

The children present enjoyed a Punch and Judy Show, with a difference, for besides the traditional puppets, the puppeteer was dressed as a clown and told Indian stories, illustrated by drawings on an easel. In keeping with the cycling theme, his theatre was mounted on a tricycle.

The customary cake and tea was served in the large Orangery. There were three Birthday Cakes - a fire engine as centrepiece, and on either side were two smaller cakes depicting the old and new logos of the CTC. On the whole, there appeared to be a very good attendance, despite the awful weather.

During the rest of August, runs were well attended, there being an average attendance of six riders. Towards the middle of the month Pearl led a very pleasant ride out to Lichfield from Ashby through Acresford and Grangewood to the Beehive for coffee. We continued from Rosliston through Coton-in-the-Elms, Edingale, Harlaston, Fisherwick and Whittington where a picnic lunch was eaten in the Memorial Park. The return journey was via the cycle route to Fradley, Croxall, Edingale, Harlaston and Haunton for afternoon tea at The Green Man, Clifton Campville, then along the usual route to Ashby.

On the last Sunday of the month, nine of us set off from Heather including the Jones family on their two tandems with Heather (9) and Sadie (5) led by Dave. The route was through Odstone, Barton-in-the-Beans, Carlton, Bosworth and Cadeby to Greenacres Garden Centre at Stapleton for coffee. We then continued through Kirkby Mallory, Earl Shilton, down across the ford towards Croft, turning right to Potters Marsden, Stoney Stanton onto a narrow lane to Elmsthorpe and Burbage for lunch. The return journey in the rain was via Kirkby Mallory, (where we met some of our Generals), Newbold Verdon, Barlestone and down across the ford to Ibstock. A very pleasant ride apart from the rain!

The first ride in September led by Howard, should have been to Watermead Park, but had to be cut short because of floods. We still enjoyed the ride from Belton over the forest to Newtown Linford for coffee, and then up to Markfield for lunch. There were eight out despite the weather.

The Long Lane ride was one of our best, led by Pearl and Stuart, when everyone enjoyed the Open Day for the Cats' Protection Trust at their cattery near Radbourne. Six of us rode out from Measham, meeting up with the Jones family at Repton at the Brookside Cafe. It was Stuart's suggestion that we call at the cattery as both of his daughters dote on cats. It was a lovely day and the entertainment ie stalls, an Umpah band, line dancing and refreshments were enjoyed by all, even Alex who was rather dubious!! It was a long ride home for some of us (over forty miles) but even the return journey down the little lanes seemed to fly by.

There was a record attendance of eleven easy riders and one general for Keith's President's Ride from Oakham. It was a super day and everyone thoroughly enjoyed riding in different surroundings.

The least said about the first ride of the month, the better! Although three of our ladies enjoyed their morning spent drinking coffee at the new Youth Hostel at Conkers - they were most impressed by the luxury there, but not by the weather - it poured down all morning!

A new ride for us was to the Buddhist Centre near Etwall. This again was led by Pearl starting from Belton, there being a change of venue so most of us could camp in Norfolk during the next week. It was a lovely day once again, and the Jones children especially were very impressed by the play area at the Visitor's Centre on the Melbourne side of Staunton Reservoir where we met for coffee. The ride was via Ticknall, Repton, Willington, taking a left turn just before the level crossing on the A5132 onto the cycle track and turning right, to meet the track to Etwall (about one mile) before taking to the lane towards Sutton. The Buddhist Centre is about a quarter of a mile up this lane, on the right and is approached through a long avenue of fir trees. The caf" is in the large house itself. Everyone enjoyed their refreshments here before returning to Enwall - some to the pub and the rest to the park to eat their packed lunches, before returning along the little lane to the A5132, and home by more or less the same route as for the morning, before parting company at Milton, where each went their separate ways. Another good day!

The next week (school holiday) six easy riders went camping at Tattersett near Fakenham in Norfolk. A very pleasant week was had by all. Mary and Alex visiting the local churches, and Soo leading the rest us, using the recommended cycle routes, along the many lovely little lanes, made especially inviting by the Autumn tints. Sandringham, Holkham Hall, The Lavender Gardens and Hunstanton were among the places visited.


Devon Deliverance

by Peter Witting

The signs did not look good: The runs-list on the North Devon website ended several months back, and the picture showed the Secretary being attacked by a large buzzard as he rode south on the A388. When I tried his phone number, I got no reply. Had the raptor finally won the battle with the few remaining cyclists of North Devon?

I was planning to join the local CTC section for a ride during my holiday at Croyde; I needed to know where and when to meet the riders, but information was patchy. By chance I met the Secretary, Paul Dixon, at the York Show several weeks before my visit. In fact the bold red "North Devon" on the back of his yellow Gamex in the front row of the congregation at the Minster service made it easy to spot him! That also explained why he wasn't at home answering his phone. We agreed to meet at Bideford two weeks hence.

I set off from Croyde under threatening skies to meet up with the Devonians, 20 miles away, for the start of their Sunday ride. Being a Devonian by birth, I wasn't expecting banjos! But I was expecting a tough ride through the hills, while avoiding the flatter routes which would be filled with holiday traffic - and malevolent birds of prey.

As it was early on Sunday, with little traffic, I chose the coastal road Eastwards to Barnstaple. The new bridge over the River Taw had a cycle path that avoided the busy roundabouts. I then chose the old Bideford Road Westwards, which in places ran within earshot of the modern A39. I waited at the town end of the old bridge at Bideford, as instructed on the web site, waiting for the others to arrive at 10am. I greeted various cyclists who passed, but none stopped; then one turned around and asked if I was waiting for the club-run. "Follow me" said Chris, "We meet at the Glasshouse at 10.15 now, to avoid the traffic".

Somewhat surprised, I followed as we picked up the old rail line alongside the River Torridge. We regained the road, stopping outside a house at a junction at Pillmouth. "This is the Glasshouse" said Chris. He explained that it used to sell glassware, but was now just a normal house. No wonder I'd failed to get a match on Google for "Bideford Glasshouse"!

We were joined by Paul Dixon, and another Paul, who by virtue of his PHD we referred to as "Dr.Paul"! Within half an hour, rain forced us to stop for waterproofs; and of course by the time we'd all caped-up, it had stopped! We continued along the valley, stopping again to remove the plastic before the first climb of the day.

We reassembled at the top of the hill at Parkham, then followed the ridge-road towards Cranford. The original plan to reach the coast at Duckpool had been abandoned in view of the weather, and we stopped for coffee at the Merry Harriers Restaurant & Garden Centre just a few miles from Clovelly. While we were enjoying the comfortable chairs inside, the bikes were getting a drenching outside. The restaurant was filling up with Sunday lunchers before we decided to remount, way past midday.

I was looking forward to my packed lunch, as we set off along the glorious Devon lanes in the direction of Stibb Cross. But we were halted by an aggressive-looking dog loose in the road outside a remote house. I volunteered to distract it while the others made off down the road, thinking I had the best chance of out-running it when they'd gone. It failed to respond to its owner's calls so, after a long period of barking and eyeballing respectively, I set off giving it a departing squirt in the face from my water bottle to keep it away from my ankles. Did I hear the sound of banjos coming from the house?

At Stibb Cross I found we were following the B3227 towards Torrington. Some 12 months before, I had used the same stretch of road on my End to End ride, the route being marked on my map 'though I didn't recognise it. A swift descent brought us to Watergate Bridge, where Dr. Paul assured us there were some picnic tables hidden behind a hedge. He was correct, and we were lucky to enjoy some rare sunshine as we tucked into our packed lunches.

Just along the road we passed through a gate, onto the old rail line once again. Ahead was 20 miles of flat traffic-free Tarka Trail, with a tarmac surface. This was the deliverance! In no time at all we reached the old station at Torrington. We took advantage of the "Puffing Billy" caf", ordering pots of tea and, in my case, a pint of Tribute Cornish ale from the St. Austell Brewery. The parrot seemed to enjoy our company, to judge from the whistles, calls and screeches from its aviary.

I lost count of the number of times the trail crossed and re-crossed the River Torridge. We passed Bideford, and under the modern A39 bridge, then viewed Appledore across the estuary. By the time we reached the caf" at Fremington Quay, the last of my companions departed. I thanked Paul Dixon for an excellent day out - and for introducing me to the Tarka Trail.

The trail continued, joining the cycle path I had used in the morning over the new bridge at Barnstaple. I then followed the tarmac trail back along the other side of the estuary, avoiding the main road. I passed the renamed Tarka Inn, and alongside RAF Chivenor under their CCTV cameras, to pass their yellow rescue helicopter. At Braunton the flat trail ended for me, and I was forced to use my gears again to return to Croyde after a ride of nearly 70 miles.

July 2008

PS: If you didn't get the reference to banjos, you need to see the film "Deliverance"!


A Leicestershire Half-Century

Peter Hopkins

Yes, it really is 50 years - and I can't believe it! I always used to count my acquaintance with Loughborough as dating from 1960, when I came to take up my first teaching post at Loughborough Grammar School at the age of 25.

Recently, however, it occurred to me that I could claim more than 48 years' acquaintance with the town, for on Saturday 10th May 1958 I was booked into cyclists' cheap digs somewhere in Loughborough's Derby Road area. It was my first-ever visit to Leicestershire, and I was there as part of the recently formed Oxford University 4-man road team. We were taking part in the UAU (Universities' Athletic Union) Road Race Championship - promoted in 1958 by what was then still Loughborough Colleges CC. Our team was drastically inexperienced at what in those days was usually called "Massed Start" racing. For all four of us it was our first such event - and, predictably, we came nowhere!

The race, billed as 100kms, started outside the Schofield building in the college grounds. The course unusually (and unnervingly!) followed a right-hand circuit, and included a climb to Copt Oak on each of the five laps, followed by a hairy and helmetless descent from Castle Rock past the monastery. Each lap we re-entered the college grounds through what the programme called The Bastard Gates - an unbelievable but apparently genuine name which as young men we greatly enjoyed! It summarised our feelings by the fourth lap.

Little did I know, as we cycled back to Oxford on the Sunday, that in a couple of years' time I would return to Loughborough and spend most of my life there until I was 73, and that I would be climbing to Copt Oak many, many times during the next half-century!

I've picked out some years which stand out in my memory as part of my time as a Leicestershire cyclist.

1960: Arrived in Loughborough & started Loughborough Grammar School CC (weekly runs on Wednesday afternoons). Some of its first members are now retired themselves!

1961: 1st YH weekends for boys (King's Cliffe & Southwell, for those who remember them).

1962 Joined CTC Yes, I confess I came to it late! My 1st club was West Wirral Wheelers (1950-54). Then during National Service I was in the NCU (National Cyclists' Union) & later the BLRC (British League of Racing Cyclists) - forerunners of the BCF.

1963: 1st full week's school YH tour (Cotswolds & Wye Valley). Tours now became annual.

1965-66: School tours memorable because my co-leader was PC Dennis Heggs! 3-week personal YH tour touching Saltburn in north & Marlborough in south.

1966-69: moved to Bradford GS (Yorks.). Met & married Margaret. (Led Bradford school tours in Dales & to Hadrian's Wall) Became 1st General Secretary of newly founded English Schools Cycling Association.

1970: Having returned to Loughborough, resumed LGS tours, with 1st co-leader Ken Platts (ex-pupil). World Championships held in Leics. (Saffron Lane for the track; A46 for the TTT & Newbold Verdon for the Road Races) Chris Wreghitt won English Schools' U12 Cyclo-Cross on bike borrowed from Margaret!

1971: Unusual school tour this year: Land's End - Loughborough (train to Penzance!) Robert Small won English Schools' U13 National Circuit Race.

1972: Margaret co-leader on all school tours from now until 1989!
Ken Pepper's ambitious & highly successful AIT Rally based on Loughborough - a wonderful week, with cyclists from all over the world.
Margaret & I cycled to John o'Groats. Loughborough GS won the English Schools' Best All-Rounders trophy for racing performances across all disciplines & age-groups.
Ken Platts, riding for Cambridge, won the Varsity 25 against Oxford in record time. (I experienced torn loyalties over this, having organised the first-ever match at Oxford in 1958!)

1973: Margaret & I attended the annual "Cider Meet" in Normandy at Easter & joined Ken Pepper's party to the AIT Rally held this year at Chiny (Belgium)
We took up cycle camping for first time (following accommodation problems on our JoG tour the previous year.)

1974: Our 1st Birthday Rides (Ipswich): wonderfully friendly atmosphere at what was then still quite a small-scale event (they started in 1970).
Margaret & I cycle-camped to Dorking to support Chris Wreghitt in the BCTC Final. (He had qualified as a Junior in the Leics. heat).
Last school YH tour for 9 years (Margaret now pregnant!) & last involvement with schools racing.

1975: Colin born in LRI (enrolled as CTC Member the same day! 1st trip in baby trailer at 3 weeks). With other DA members helped in organising BCTC Final (in Leics this year).

1976: Camped at Alnwick for Birthday Rides.
Chris Wreghitt won BCCA Schoolboys' National Open Cyclo-Cross (now much too big for Margaret's bike!) Ken Platts placed on selected 'long list' for Montreal Olympics. Had Sun Wasp tandem frame converted to triplet.

1977: Organised BCTC Leics. DA Heat. Camped at Salisbury for Birthday Rides. Organised Cyclists' Carol Service at Rothley. Built triplet (no crossover drive & only 3 gears: lowish medium, granny & great-granny! 4 brakes: twin-cable rim; front cable hub & heel-operated rod to rear hub).

1978: CTC Centenary Year. L'boro Section fortunes really started to flourish, thanks especially to the energy of John Williams. Birthday Rides at Harrogate (very wet!) Organised well-supported family cycle camp at Copt Oak village hall. Started using triplet (Colin on 3rd seat using 'wrap-round' handlebar lent by the Allen family)
Chris Wreghitt won National Open Cyclo-Cross while still School Captain, beating all the professionals including John Atkins. He went on to win it for the next 4 years before turning pro himself (riding for Bianchi) after graduation from Birmingham University.

1st Mince Pie Run to Jessie Hay's house

1979: Joined CTC family tour in Brittany, with John, Phyllis & Gareth Williams. Camped at Ludlow for Birthday Rides (triplet). Very large L'boro attendance. Organised family cycle camp at Cadeby (included visit to Teddy Boston's garden railway!)
Howard Naylor donated Beacon Trophies & presented them at 2nd Mince Pie Run at Long Whatton Junior School.
Loughborough Section was now enjoying very large turnouts all year round - sometimes over 30. Periodic Section newsletter introduced to keep members informed.

1980: Camped at Melrose for Birthday Rides (large DA attendance)
3rd Mince Pie Run: switched to Belton Village Hall, where it remains up to the present!

1982: Organised BCTC Leics DA Heat (32 rode)

1983: Resumed school YH tours (Colin on junior back tandem) Camped at Norwich for Birthday Rides

1984: Camped at Scraptoft for Birthday Rides organised by Leics DA.
Cycle camping in Brittany and Normandy with Colin. Started running 2 school tours each year (May & July) for next 5 years.

1985: Camped at Tunbridge Well for Birthday Rides (Horrible weather).

1986: Organised Cyclists' Carol Service at Gaddesby

1987: Fortnight cycle-camping with M & Colin in Scotland

1989: Our last school YH tour (after nearly 30 years) & end of school weekly cycling.
Wonderful 3-week cycle-camping tour in France with Margaret & Colin, taking velo-couchette train to Bordeaux & cycling back. Margaret always described it as the best holiday of her life.

1990s: From now on, our touring was generally less ambitious, as Margaret's health had started to decline. I still managed a little hostelling by myself every year, but our main activity was to rent cottages & "centre-tour" from them on the tandem. We had some very enjoyable weeks in North Wales, the Cotswolds, Northumberland, Yorkshire, Shropshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Somerset, etc., often returning several times to cottages we liked, right up to 2002.

1997: RETIREMENT! I had resumed cycle camping in 1996, & celebrated retirement with a fortnight's camping in France (using the European Bike Express to Bordeaux).
My further attempt to celebrate by riding the End-to-end in September was frustrated when I was knocked off near Doncaster. At least the CTC got me £3000 for my 3 broken ribs & partially collapsed lung!

1998: 8 days of cycle camping with Ray Clay in Normandy - mostly very hot for May.
Cycle-camped up to Beverley for Birthday Rides.
Became involved with the DA again for the first time since I resigned as Loughborough Section Secretary in the mid-1980s!

1999: Acquired new tandem (Burley, with "Softbeam" suspension for stoker. Margaret found it so comfortable that our longer mileages returned to 100+ for the first time since 1990.)
CTC tour of the Outer Hebrides (North Uist, Harris etc). CTC tour of the "C2C" & Reivers routes.
Went with Margaret for Birthday Rides but stayed in a cottage this time (Margaret's first Birthday Rides since 1985 - and her last as it turned out).
Became DA President at AGM, feeling rather fraudulent because of my non-involvement in local CTC activities for so long!

2000: Tandem week with Margaret at a Normandy gite (so I became an OAP while in France).

2003: Margaret's unexpected & untimely death She had been on the tandem only 10 days earlier. Wonderful support from cyclists at her funeral, dressed in their cycling kit.
5 weeks later, having booked it several months earlier, I decided to go ahead with the Sustrans inaugural ride to 'open' the Pennine Cycleway - 70 participants riding from Derby to Berwick upon Tweed. It involved a week's camping, with some very demanding hills. Frank Mackey also took part.

2004: Never having achieved five figures for a year's cycling before, I set out to get the miles in and managed almost 11,000. By the end of the year, I was lean and weather-beaten, with a low pulse-rate and weight down to 8" stone, but it did mean too many lonely days on the bike! Cycle camping to and at the Bakewell Birthday Rides with Ray Clay in August proved a welcome variation.

2005: Was pleased to cover 110 miles on my 70th birthday, finishing the first 100 in 6h 26m.

2006: My last Mince Pie Run (the 28th)! Until now, I had not missed a year as one of the skivvies (nor had Margaret up to her death in 2003).

And after that ? Well, I met Pauline at New Year 2006 - on a WALKING holiday! She had no bike of her own, but enjoyed trying out the tandem. Since then we've done lots of walking, including the Dalesway, Three Peaks and IoW coast path - but she has also managed up to 52 miles as tandem stoker. I move to Stone (Staffs.) after our marriage in October and we hope to mix the walking and cycling a lot in the future. Watch this space . . . !

Looking back, Margaret and I had some really great times in Leicestershire in both Section and DA activities over many years. Nowadays, of course, "Section" and "DA" are obsolete terms, so I offer CTC Loughborough and CTC Leicestershire & Rutland my very best wishes for a continued successful future. I also look forward to occasional return visits to see old friends and ride along lanes with which I became so familiar over 50 years of cycling.


Cyclists celebrate three decades in the saddle

It was thirty years ago that Nuneaton CTC was re-constituted. So the present committee decided earlier this year, to initiate a celebratory run. It was decided that the run should be about thirty miles long, appropriate and also quite manageable as a distance and that it should be followed by a celebratory meal.

As dawn broke on Sunday morning it became obvious that the heavens had already done so - somewhere in between a heavy drizzle and a light downpour - not the kind of weather for a light-hearted jaunt through the Warwickshire countryside!

However an exceptional number of club stalwarts and other enthusiasts had gathered at the Ambleside club, mostly clad in a selection of weatherproof togs, designed to keep the rain and cold out. There were a couple of guys with shorts on - hardy indeed.

Some time later and somewhat reluctantly the braver souls ventured out, mounted up and the rest followed them. It was obvious that the rain wasn't going to let up so it was a case of heads down and get on with it.

The intended destination was Kingsbury Water Park (as if there wasn't enough water already) and the route John Allen had chosen took us through the back streets of the town then through the green paths of Camp Hill, part Hartshill and Hartshill Hayes and along to Ridge Lane.

At the top of the road there is a path through Bentley Park Wood that leads through to the Furnace End - Atherstone Road. Some rode through while others walked their machines. After a while the riders regrouped and John led on with a quick right, left, and left again that led to Hurley. The effects of the downpour were all too obvious. A local farmer was busy dredging the overflowing ditches at the side of the road to ease the floods that were covering it. We were warned to take it easy through the water covering the road as it was already quite deep.

Some of the roads round there are more like farm tracks - almost permanent mud and farm debris - so we didn't have to be warned twice! There was pretty much the same terrain to Kingsbury so the pack arrived there eager to get warm, sheltered, rested and fed in the cafe there.

After a while watches were checked - after all a meal was waiting back in Nuneaton - and the riders drifted back to their bikes. There had been a slight easing of the rain while we were inside but true-to-form it began to get heavier as soon as we started out.

On the return the floods had got deeper and some changes of route was called for. It's impossible to see what the road surface is like when it's covered with muddy water so the safer option was taken.

It was appreciated that the occasional motorists we encountered were well aware of the conditions and drove accordingly. We made our way back without incident after we'd negotiated the floodplain although one rider slipped sideways to the verge and ended up with a mudpack covering his foot - he managed to stay upright though.

On our return we were greeted enthusiastically by the stop-ins and after the obligatory photo opportunity tucked into warm food and rich cake. After that it was time for a speech and Eric Neal gave a short history lesson on the club with interjections from Alan Reynolds and Arthur Mobley - all original members - although Alan informed us that the club had actually formed in 1951 but, by the time he returned from National Service, it had folded.

We wish the club another thirty years and more and hope the enthusiasm and work that has been provided by a number of individuals through the club's existence will continue and that the club will continue to attract enthusiastic and committed members for the foreseeable future.

Thanks and congratulations to all those who've participated - past and present.

The above article was produced in the Heartland Evening News on Friday October 17th 2008 and re-produced here with kind permission of Mr Tony Parratt the Editor. Many thanks to Eric Neal for sending this in to Cycle Chat.


Lands End to John O'Groats 5 to 10 September 2008

with Tony Davis

I had tentatively thought that I might do a Lands End to John O'Groats 1400 permanent audax as an alternative to the London Edinburgh London 1400 audax in 2009. The reason for this was that the organisers had decided to opt for a single start at Lea Valley, London for LEL in 2009. However the temporary absence of the Kidderminster Killer this September left a hole in my annual plan of rides for 2008. So with a spare weekend and my 50th birthday in September it seemed a good idea to ride lejog as a solo permanent audax to mark the occasion.

Now for the planning. I'd read a comment (I think it was from Francis Cooke) that no-one would want to ride lejog as a single 1400 nowadays as it would require too much main road bashing. I knew that for a quick passage through Cornwall and Devon he was probably right. So I planned a PBP style evening start hoping that I could get the A30 out of the way in the dark when there would be less traffic and I would be more conspicuous with lights and reflectives. Riding lejog as an audax also meant that I would have to submit my route for approval and get proof of passage at regular control points throughout the ride. The route was programmed into a Garmin Etrex GPS, with turn by turn instruction on paper in the saddlebag as back up.

Accommodation - I'm fairly hardy but wasn't really up for sleeping in bus shelters and didn't want the weight disadvantage of carrying a tent. So where possible I booked a room in Travelodge hotels which have the advantage of being able to arrive and leave whenever you like within reasonable limits. My overnight stops where planned for Hereford, Kendal, Dunoon and Inverness. The aim was to arrive between 8 and 9 each evening and be back in the saddle at 3am each morning. There was no Travelodge in Dunoon but I found a hotel on the seafront called the Dhailling Lodge. This hotel deserves a special mention because James and Mandy put themselves out to help, advising the best ferry to catch, preparing a meal for me on my arrival at 8.30pm, not batting an eyelid at the fact that I was going to leave at 3am and leaving a breakfast out for me. The riding plan was a steady 400k ish in the first 24hours then a stop to sleep at Hereford. The next three days would be just under 300k then about 240k on the last day.

I caught the train to Penzance on Friday and then immediately stopped for a pub meal. In my mind I had planned a start between 9 and 10pm but the food service at the pub was so quick that even riding at a snails pace I was at Lands End just after 8pm enjoying the evening sunshine. I wandered round to the main reception of the Lands End Hotel where the starting stamp is held and I could see a weather front out to sea but moving in my direction. I decided that rather than hang around killing time at the start and setting off in the rain, I would get started straight away. I set off at exactly 8. 30pm as the light faded. I managed to stay ahead of the weather until about 10pm when it started to rain fairly steadily. The following 20 hours were a mixture of rain, showers and drizzle with the occasional dry interval.

My route followed the A30 to the first control at Bodmin. I arrived in the town centre not long after midnight. I spotted a bank and stopped to get a mini statement as proof of passage. As I turned back to my bike I could hear the tell tale hiss of a puncture from the front tyre. While I fixed it I was approached by a couple of friendly lads a bit the worse for wear who were curious about what I was doing on a wet September night in Bodmin. More disconcerting were the group who didn't come over to talk but jeered from the other side of the road.

It was quite a stiff climb out of Bodmin but just as the well earned descent started I was overtaken by a quarry lorry which was dropping bits of stone the size of golf balls and - bang - a pinch puncture in the rear tyre. As I fixed this one by the light of my head torch the rain started to pour down. I had to try hard to think positive. The rear tube was beyond patching so I just replaced it and stuffed the remains of the old one in my saddlebag. It was a continued slog on the roller coaster that is the A30 until Launceston where I branched off the modern dual carriageway onto the old A30 which I was able to follow most of the way to Exeter.

The later part of the night dried up and I rode into Exeter on a pleasant Saturday morning before 7am. I stopped a dog walker a short distance from the city to ask if there was a cafe that would be open early for breakfast. He gave me inch perfect instructions to the Street Cafe where I had an excellent breakfast and chatted with the owners about what I was doing.

After Exeter I followed a quiet B road which ran almost parallel with the M5 and skirted just around the Blackdown Hills. I decided that my damaged inner tube from the previous night could be replaced at St John Street Cycles when I passed through Bridgewater.

This was the shop where we had bought Jayne's Look bike some years ago. I discovered that St John Street Cycles isn't a conventional bicycle shop any longer but more an on line business and the shop itself doesn't open on Saturdays. After getting a control check in Highbridge a few kilometres further up the road I called at Skidmarx Cycles who were open, helpful and looking forward to the Tour of Britain passing through their town.

Around Bristol the land became more rolling with a particularly stiff climb up to the Clifton Downs. The weather had been bright sunshine and showers for most of the morning but as I crested the rise onto the Downs the skies opened.

There was a Fair on the Downs and the crowds all dived for the nearest cover with some resorting to sheltering their heads with supermarket carrier bags.

I crossed the River Severn on the old Severn Bridge and was then into familiar territory following the Wye valley past Tintern, Monmouth and on to Hereford following the final stage of the Brian Chapman Memorial 600 in reverse.

As I began to the climb just after Chepstow racecourse on the road to Monmouth I could see a small group of cyclists in the distance. I passed this group at Tintern. They were also riding the End to End but they had taken 3 days to ride what I had covered in 20 hours. Their pace was only slightly slower than me but they were spending less time in the saddle each day. In the centre of Monmouth the road to Hereford had road closed signs which I gave the usual cursory nod and rode on. I've only been caught out once before when Neil Dixon and I came across works where a canal bridge had been taken down and no pedestrian alternative provided.

On the steady climb up the narrow valley to Welsh Newton it became obvious why the road was closed. The heavy rains had swept the sandy soil off the fields into the road. In some places the mud was up to 30cm deep. Some trees had toppled over the road because the soil had been washed from around the tree roots. Worse was to come as I climbed up the valley. The garden, driveway, double garage, cars and garden shed of one cottage had been washed 50cm down the valley leaving a cottage hanging over a sheer drop of three metres with water gushing out below the front door.

I almost felt guilty enjoying myself on my bike passing people whose life had been devastated.

The roller coaster road from Welsh Newton to Hereford is much easier riding north than south. As the sun went down I entered Hereford and headed to the Travelodge for a well earned rest. I had a quick shower then visited the supermarket where I bought enough food for a small family. It was all polished off in a short while and I put my gear ready for the morning, set the alarm for 3am and went straight to sleep.

(Day 1 402km 23hrs 1min)

I made the mistake of leaving my alarm within reach of the bed. When it went off I reached over, switched it off - and promptly went back to sleep. I woke with a start nearly two hours later. I was on the road just before first light.

My route on Sunday was mixture of quiet A and B roads. The A4110 was quieter than usual because it had been closed due to flooding just south of Leintwardine. The flooding extended for about 1km with the clear flowing water up to bottom bracket level. I was not the only vehicle ignoring the signs as I rode carefully through a lorry came the other way slowing to walking pace before passing me. A few moments later a second lorry approached and it was clear he had no intention of slowing. I got as close to the hedge as I could but was completely swamped by the bow wave. I was not best pleased but I'd spent most of the previous day wet so I was getting used to it by now. The route was gently rolling past Church Stretton to Shrewsbury crossing the routes of memorable rides like the Kidderminster Killer and Shropshire Challenge.

The GPS was invaluable in making sure that I threaded my way through the sprawl conurbation that started with Warrington and didn't really finish until I was north of Preston. The section had two memorable parts. The first was riding through some of the heaviest rain I've seen in my life as I passed through Chorley. Bemused car passengers stared at me at traffic lights not believing anyone could be cycling in that weather. If only they knew how far I had ridden! The second part was the Charnock Richard Scarecrow festival. This lifted my spirits as the sun came out again and there were some really imaginative scarecrows. I particularly liked one tableau where there was one clothed in a reflective waistcoat and hard hat down a drain and a colleague supervising on the pavement.

I stopped for a Chinese takeaway meal in Carnforth and called Jayne on my mobile phone to give her an update on progress. With a full stomach I gently rode the few kilometres to the Travelodge at Kendal. This time I didn't make the same mistake as I had the previous night and put the alarm well out of reach.

(Day 2 284km 16hrs 41mins)

Just after 3am on Monday I was back on the road following the old A6 north. This started with the climb over Shap Fell. There was no traffic on the road and no light pollution. It was a moonless night but the hills stood out as a dense black while the sky was grey because there were so many stars. I could see to ride with no lights despite the lack of moonlight. I love riding at night and this was one of the occasions which reinforced that feeling. I stopped for breakfast at Carlisle. The Costa coffee shop was short staffed due to staff sickness and had put out a sign saying they were opening late. They took pity on me and then unsuccessfully tried to turn other customers away. The manageress was grumpy but very efficient and all the customers left with what they wanted. Just outside Carlisle there was another closure. But this time it was the cycle path parallel with the A74 closed due to road widening work. I followed the diversion up the A7 to Longtown and across Solway Moss to Gretna. The diversion was much more pleasant riding than my planned route would have been.

At Gretna I passed a large group of cyclists having their picture taken by the Welcome to Scotland sign. This sign heralded a significant change in the weather. From Gretna it was wall to wall sunshine and Irish lorries on the A75 to Dumfries. Here I knew I must be in Scotland as there was someone salmon fishing in the middle of the town.

I followed the A76 north from Dumfries to Thornhill. I had picked up the Tour of Britain route again and the Buccleuch estate had cleared parking areas at the side of the road to facilitate watching the race.

I had lunch at a delightful bakers sat at a table on the street. I watched a group of cyclists touring supported by two vans. Later I discovered they were riding end to end as well. Again I was travelling marginally faster and gradually picked off the group as we got closer to Kilmarnock. The ride from Dumfries to Kilmarnock was pleasant enough for main road riding but it was onto the minor roads from there to Gourock. The hills on this section were challenging, being near the end of the day and wet from a recent shower, though while not huge they were relentlessly up and down.

There was a precipitous descent into Gourock which required careful riding with the damp roads. I headed straight to one of the two ferry terminals just in time to see the ferry pull out. I rang the Dhailling Lodge hotel in Dunoon and the owners advised me to get to the other terminal 3 miles down the road as fast as possible. I rode as if it was an evening 10 time trial and a few minutes later I was sat on a ferry across the Clyde. I have already mentioned the excellent service for this establishment. James was waiting at the door to take my bike and told me that dinner would be served in twenty minutes (time for a quick shower). A lovely three course home cooked meal was provided followed by early to bed ready for the usual 3am start.

(Day 3 296km 17hrs and 17 mins)

On Tuesday morning at 3am I had the cereals and fruit juice laid out for me then headed out under clear skies up the A815 to Inverary. I saw 4 vehicles in the first 3 hours. I had a second breakfast at a convenience store in Inverary. There was a stiff climb out of the town on the road to Dalmally. At Dalmally I took the B road following Glen Orchy and saw no traffic at all for 22 kilometres. The scenery was stunning up the valley following the River Orchy with occasional salmon fishermen wading in the river and the bracken turning a golden brown. I joined the A82 at Bridge for Orchy for the gentle climb up onto Rannoch Moor. After this climb came the long fast descent of Glencoe where I lost my Hinckley CRC cap due to the draught caused by lorry going the other way.

At Onich the road turned NE into a headwind coming down the Great Glen. I stopped for lunch at a great wholefood cafe in Fort William. While I was eating it started to rain again. The next couple of hours was a slog into the rain driven by a strong headwind. One of my knees started to hurt and I was at a mental low ebb. Just when I needed a pick up I saw a touring cyclist pulling up at the front door of a hostel at the roadside. The figure looked familiar and as I came level, Kevin, a friend from Coventry, called out a greeting. I stopped to chat for a few minutes until Kevin reminded me "Time is miles". By the time I stopped to get my card stamped at Fort Augustus the rain had stopped and didn't return for the rest of the trip. I had intended to get off the A82 at Fort Augustus and follow the B862 to Inverness but the main road was so quiet that it didn't seem worthwhile. I descended into Inverness just as the light faded, checked in at the Travelodge and went out for a pub meal.

(Day 4 281km 16 hrs 37mins)

Wednesday was the last early start and I followed a deserted A9 to Alness where I headed over the hills of Easter Ross to Bonar Bridge. I got my proof of passage from a convenience store which had a constant stream of customers despite the early hour. At Invershin I had a puncture, the first since Bodmin. It was in the front so didn't take long to sort, but in the few minutes a black haze had gathered round me and I was being eaten alive by midges. A bad time to realise the midge repellent was still in the bathroom cabinet at home. At Lairg I stopped to buy some. The shop owner wasn't sure whether he had any as he didn't go out at this time of year! Luckily he had some and it worked a treat as I was to find a short while later. The A road from Lairg was single track with passing places and climbed steadily to Crask Inn. This is Flow Country. The valleys are wide and covered in peat bog and scattered forestry plantations. The hills are big and the sky felt huge From here it descended to the famous fishing hotel at Altnaharra. Here I turned right onto the B road down Strath Naver to the sea at Bettyhill.

All the trees are cleared back from the river to give the salmon fishers a clear area to cast theirs lines. The few cars I saw all had fishing rods on the roof. Half way to Bettyhill I had another puncture, this time in the rear. As I stopped to repair it I was joined by two guys who were wild camping near the road. When I removed the tyre I realised I was through to the canvas. The spare came off the saddlebag and my audience offered to dispose of the old one. I ate lunch at a cafe in Bettyhill which was closing down at the end of that week due to the retirement of the owners.

From Bettyhill it was only about 80km to John O'Groats. The first 30 or so were relentlessly up and down, really hard going. Near Castletown I caught up with a group from Cirencester and found that I shared many common acquaintances with one of them. As we chatted the last few kilometres flew by and before I knew it my objective was achieved. I got my card stamped at the shop then went over to the cafe where they had family sized pizzas on special offer.

As I ate I chatted to a bloke on the next table who was support crew to an RAF team who were due to finish the same afternoon after taking 11 days end to end. He asked where my support crew was? He was surprised (perhaps even impressed) when he realised that I had none and I had covered the distance in half the time taken by his team. When I finished the pizza I was still hungry so popped up the road to the pub for a thai green curry followed by steamed pudding washed down with some Orkney brewery beer. Then it was time to catch up on some sleep at the John O'Groats YH.

(Day 5 234 km 16hrs and 3mins - total distance 1497km plus about 70 between railway stations and the start and finish, time 4 days and 20 hours)

When I surfaced the following morning I found that the hotel was full of lots of different types of end to enders. Walkers, cyclists, motorcyclists ... and none had done it as quickly as me even the motorcyclists.

I pottered down to the end again for breakfast and an official photo before riding off to Georgemas Junction to start the rail journey back to Nuneaton.

I had enjoyed my few days away on my bike but the highlight was the part from Alness to Bettyhill. The grandeur of the landscape was awesome, the roads were quiet and perfect for cycling (and the sun was shining).



- By Dave Binks Continuing the story.
Part 1

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 6

The story so far.

Dave has taken a job in France, working as an assistant for a UK based holiday company (Susi Madron's "Cycling for Softies") in Angouleme, near Cognac. His duties are to act as local mechanic and representative to ensure the holidaymakers have a good time as they cycle between the top class hotels in the area.

Saturday May 26

As predicted, the storm raged all night and it was still pouring in the morning. In fact it rained so hard that some parts of the Pyrenees saw quite a lot of damage caused by the subsequent flooding. My intention had been to get the 9.25 bus into Angouleme and spend a few hours there buying some shorts and a tee shirt as I only had one of each with me. However, I realised the one mile walk into the village and wandering around in the wet clad only in a cycling waterproof would not be such a good idea. so went into the workshop instead.

I had never been sure how many bikes of what size and type I had, so had counted and sized them over the last few days. Today I decided to renumber them all, with a code that would tell me at a glance the size, type (crossbar, open or special) and bike frame number in that series. I also wanted to move the position the labels were fixed as it was very difficult to read them when they were hanging up or even had a pump in place. Previously all they had was a number, but on close inspection, some had the same number, and some had none, but when I had finished the number (say) 23B6 told me it was a 23" size frame, type B meaning with a crossbar, and was number 6 of all those of the same size and type. The colour was supposed to be a means of telling, but some had been repainted in different colours and in any case, was of no interest to me.

Simple though it sounds, this took about 4 hours to do by the time I had made the labels, degreased the frame to ensure the tape would stick, and then worked my way along all 71 frames and bikes.

After lunch the rain had virtually stopped and I had done enough for the day, so went shopping to the local (5 miles away) shopping mall for my tee shirt, shorts and other shopping. The hotel was in full swing with another wedding reception when I returned, and a coach also arrived bringing a group of some sort, so the place must have been heaving. I stayed well away. The weather was not looking good for tomorrow's ride with the local cycling club, but come hell or high water, I intended to go. I needed to meet people with time to talk.
10 miles

Sunday May 27

I awoke by the alarm, then fell asleep again, but re-awoke still with time to get ready and go out with the local cycling club.

The day was not promising, it was cold and dull and I set off wearing leggings, arm-warmers, a thin but windproof top and carried a waterproof jacket in my little seat pack. I was one of the first to arrive as I wasn't too sure how long it would take me to get there, and I also didn't know if "meet at 8" meant meet at 8 but set off later, or set off at 8. It was the latter, so no time was wasted. There were about 30-40 people assembled, but only three ladies, one of who immediately headed off in a different direction with her husband! It was a very steady start, with the pace gradually lifting as we did the first few kms until at about 20kms a group of faster lads headed off up the road. I had already been told this was the norm - all set off together, then the faster group goes ahead. As I didn't know what "faster" meant, nor was I sure where we were going, or even where we were, I decided I would play safe and stay with the main group.

What had surprised me was the age of the riders, many were older than me, and the youngest would have been a female I placed in her mid 30's. It seems even in the country renowned for cycling, there is a shortage of youngsters coming into the sport. It's no wonder the French don't do very well in their own major tour (the Tour de France) if they don't have much of a choice of riders to pick from. One or two commented on my lack of crash hat and some even implied the law required them to be worn, but I was sure they were wrong and intended to check it out later just to be certain (it's not the law in France).

The route was basically towards Cognac on some of the roads I had ridden over the last week or two, so I had an idea where I was, but there was nothing very demanding in terms of speed or gradient, but some still struggled up the few short climbs there were. The weather was getting quite dull and the cold wind didn't help. I had been fooled by the emergence of the sun at the start and had removed my leg warmers, something I now regretted, but at least I wasn't the only one with bare legs. At about 40kms it started spitting and they all stopped to put rain jackets on and hide under trees. It was the sort of spitting that we would just ignore in the UK and probably wouldn't even cape up for, but it was a big thing for them.

After about 5-10 minutes we re-mounted and headed straight back! The rain really wasn't much, and the spray off the roads (no-one including me, had mudguards) was negligible, but it was quite chilly, so I accepted the situation.

Our route home was not exactly the same, but nearly, except that they came back via Roullet, my village, so I peeled off at that point and went straight back rather than to the starting point. A shower and a light snack kept me going until the evening where I joined the other members of staff for a dinner in the kitchen. I had noticed a coach arrive and a group of young women wandering around all wearing identical tracksuits.

It was the French Female National Football Team in training for their match against Slovenia later in the week and this was their base, but the actual training was taking place a few miles away on a football ground. I half wondered if there would be any fans turning up, but never saw any.
44 miles

Monday May 28

A Bank Holiday in both France and the UK, so of course, the weather was miserable - cold and wet. I had seen the forecast on the TV the night before so was not at all surprised and had already decided I would have a real go at establishing a stock of bikes ready for the holidaymakers when they arrived. The first was due on Friday of this week, but his bike had been ready for quite a while, as were those for the four following early next week, but I still needed to get a good lead, so spent virtually all day in the workshop, stopping only for lunch. By the time I came in at 8pm I was pretty tired, so just cooked my dinner and sat and read a book.
0 miles

Tuesday May 29

After yesterday's bad weather today was an improvement, but it was still cool, albeit dry with a very weak sun. I needed some shopping so jumped on one of the company bikes, as it had mudguards and a pannier rack, and pedalled off to the shops in La Couronne, an 11 miles round trip. But first I needed to get some money from the company's account to pay my expenses. I had set this up two weeks ago, not without difficulty though, and wondered how difficult it would be this time as I still had no paperwork or account book or anything.

Fortunately, the same young woman who had seen me the last time was there and it was much easier, although the actual withdrawal was strange. After a lot of keyboard work, she eventually gave me a credit card that I then took to the "hole in the wall" automated telling machine and pushed it in. Without me having to enter any code, it immediately spewed out my money in cash and kept the card! I still had to ask for a written statement, so back to the keyboard for more tapping and then she issued the piece of paper.

I had been told to get a mobile phone so that clients could contact me in an emergency, so called into a local electrical retailer. After a long wait for someone to serve me I managed to explain what I wanted - a very simple phone that I hoped would never ring, didn't need me to enter into any contract and that didn't take photos, play tunes, make tea or any of the other increasingly complicated things these marvels are now capable of doing. Yes, she had one at "50 ("35) which was the sort of figure I expected based on UK prices, but the catch was that the prepayment expired after a certain fixed period of time even if you had never used it. The more you paid the longer the expiry date, but the longest was 3 months and cost almost as much as the phone at "35. This was not the same as my own rarely used mobile at home, so I stopped at that point. She said all the phones in France were like that, but I needed to check as it wasn't my money and I didn't want a telling off. I then did some more shopping and got back with the whole morning gone. I later called one of my colleagues in France and he said she was right, and to buy the version that offered the best value for money and the company would simply have to accept the expiry as part of the running costs. I couldn't be bothered to go back again today so went back into the workshop for the rest of the day.
11 miles

Wednesday May 30

Today was the day the local cycling club had their mid-week run, so my day was planned around joining them at 1.30 for an afternoon ride. However, the forecast was not good and in fact the afternoon was due to be worse than the morning.

It wasn't raining as I carried on fiddling with the bikes in the morning, but by the time I stopped for an early lunch it was not looking good and by the time to leave it had actually started raining. I suspected that there wouldn't be anyone there, because on the previous Sunday they had done an "about turn" at the first sign of rain, but I went anyway as I wanted a ride. I am not water-soluble and therefore don't dissolve in water, and in any case, what else did I have to do anyway? It wasn't that bad as I rode the 6kms to the meeting place, but as I had suspected, I was the only one there. I waited for 5 minutes and then left. I was determined to go out and made up a route from memory based on earlier rides (I had not taken a map) with a bit of exploring thrown in for excitement. The rain actually stopped for a while and I took my waterproof jacket off - it wasn't cold. However, it started again and this time with a vengeance! At one time I was riding along with my hand up against the side of my face protecting it from the driving rain battering the side of my face whilst watching it bounce back up off the road. That was the only time I actually got a bit cold as the rain was cooling me quicker than I could warm up with my exertions.

I decided at that point that by the time I got back I would have done enough and turned for home, risking going down an unknown road, reckoning on my sense of direction to see me right, which it did, but not without a little worry as I crossed a major road without any signposts. Of course, it soon eased off back to just normal rain, and by the time I rode up to the hotel I had warmed up again, so carried on around the block for a few more miles just to bring the mileage up to the round figure.

A shower and change of clothes and a cup of tea made all the difference and I felt great. I needed to send some emails and so made my way to the hotel, by which time the sun was out in force and steam was rising everywhere. The French National Ladies Football Team were mounting the bus on the way to their evening kick off against the team from Slovenia and we waved them away, calling "Bon Chance" (Good Luck) as they were driven away, complete with two police motorcycle outriders!

I took my evening meal in the hotel restaurant, and waited for news of how they had done. They and their trainers had done their jobs well, as news of a 6-0 victory filtered back to the hotel. It was gone 11pm when they returned, still with their police escort, but this time with big smiles - quite a difference to the serious and worried faces they had left with some hours earlier. The Champagne had been put on ice and was about to be opened, but I decided they didn't need, or want, an old Brit there, so quietly left them to it.
40 miles

Thursday May 31

A bit of a nothing day really. I needed to go to the shops but when I got ready it came over very black and within minutes was pouring down, so I simply went into the workshop again and, apart from a leisurely lunch, spent nearly all day day in there again. By the time I had left I counted up and realised my efforts had built up a stock of 26 complete bikes (out of the 70 bikes/frames there) of varying formats that were in a fully complete and checked state that only needed a pump, toolkit, bottle and bags to be able to be ridden away. This meant that, based on the bookings received by head office at the beginning of the week, I would have no problem in meeting the demands for bikes.

However, there were still a few wheels not fitted into bikes, so I intended to carry on until I could go no further all the time the weather was not good. I wanted to be in the position where I could set up and clean bikes at my leisure - I didn't want to be in the position where I had to turn bikes around within hours of them being returned by clients. The day was broken up by a call from my old boss, who is more of a friend than colleague, and we had a good chat whilst he was driving back from a meeting.
0 miles

Friday June 1

My first client turned up today - eventually.

He was due at 3 pm "ish", but as he was making his own way, timings were obviously going to be a bit hit and miss. I assumed he was probably driving down, but for no real reason other than what's what I thought. That gave me plenty of time to go out and buy the mobile phone the boss had said she wanted us all to have. She had always fought shy of them until the previous year when sadly a customer had been killed in a tragic accident and she realised how helpful they can be, if controlled. I hadn't bothered to take my own with me as mobiles are a very expensive way of ringing home from overseas - emails and land lines are much cheaper.

So off I went to the shop again (I had gone the other day but needed to check with a colleague about the running costs even if you never use it) and said what I wanted. "No problem, we just have to do the paperwork" which must have taken 20 minutes! Then at the checkout there was another computer glitch, but eventually I had my nice new shiny Sagem 201X with colour screen and 4 months validity on the connection. A bit more grocery shopping, back for lunch, and then to await my client's arrival. The boss had said to be there at the door or thereabouts 30 mins early, so I was there at 2.30 with a book to read and some papers to give him. At 4.30 I gave up and told the receptionist to call me on my new mobile when he arrived. I spent a little time in the workshop and at 7.15 put my dinner on. Of course, 10 minutes later he arrived! Mike had in fact travelled by train from elsewhere in France and had to wait 2 hours between connections.

He said he had phoned the Hotel to tell them he would be much later than predicted, but I never got the message. Anyway - we had a nice chat and an aperitif (included in his package) and then he went for a wash before his evening dinner. We agreed to go through his bike etc. in the morning and we parted the best of friends.
11 miles

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Views expressed in letters, articles or editorial are not necessarily those of the CTC or the Leicestershire & Rutland DA.


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