Leicestershire and Rutland
Cyclists' Touring Club

(founded 1897)


President's Page
Secretary's View
David Sulley Challenge Rides 2009
Charnwood Chatter
Charnwood Generals
Easy Riders
Planning a Route
30 Mile and 30 Km Meander Rides and Freewheel
Graham Preston
Back to the Fuschia Rides
Dennis Heggs
Easy Riders Weekend
Another Cycling Centenary
South Leicestershire
Award Winners 2008
A Summer in France (part 7)


I have had some major problems with my computer and Internet recently. If I have missed anything out please accept my apologies. Special thanks to Ray Clay and John Catt for all of their help.

In a recent cycling magazine there was a recipe for a Weetabix fat free cake which Jean Lakin has made and I understand from the people who ate it that it was delicious. If you have a special recipe or even a joke that you would like to include, please send them in. It is your magazine. There are some photographs on the back cover and another original painting for the front cover by Penny, many thanks.

I really enjoyed the Prize Presentation and Skittles evening again, not many prize winners attended but good company and great food. My grandchildren are looking forward to the next one. Many thanks to Ray.

Charnwood section's prize presentation was also enjoyed by all, thanks to Jean and Keith.

Congratulations to Keith Lakin on being awarded the Volunteer of the Year at the national dinner, very well done.

It was extremely sad to learn of the sudden death of Graham Preston whilst on holiday and Leicester Forest CC's Jack Coe and Mick Breward, and Jean Deacon's Mum who died shortly after Jean returned home after taking the minutes of our meeting. Our condolences to all their families and friends.

I hope that you all have a brilliant summer, some sun would be nice, and enjoy your cycling. I look forward to receiving your articles from your holidays etc.

Ivy Allen Contents


Ray Clay

Our prize presentation was held in March again at the Wheatsheaf in Thurcaston. I had a bit of a panic a week before the event. I rang the pub a number of times to check that everything was OK. But each time, the phone rang out but there was no reply. It got me thinking - has the pub closed like so many others have done recently? So, in the end, I decided to drive over to see how the land lies. The problem turned out to be the BT phone line so panic over.

From the feedback I've had, the event seemed to have been enjoyed. The non cyclists had a chat with old friends and the skittles match was incidental. Most of us had a feast of faggot's and trimmings. Second helpings were available so there was no excuse to go hungry. Our guest of honour was Peter Hopkins who recently left the area to live in Stone after getting married. The only disappointment was the number of prize winners who didn't turn up to receive their awards.

At the time of writing, I'm getting the programme together for the camping weekend at Beaumanor Hall. Let's hope the weather is more kind to us this year. For the last two years, we've had our fair share of rain although last year it wasn't too bad. The facilities at Beaumanor Hall are excellent. The programme is very basic. No barn dances or barbecues. Just led rides, a film show Saturday night and a ramble to the pub Sunday night. I'm very grateful for the assistance of Keith and Jean Lakin who help with the booking in and other jobs.

Congratulations to Keith who has been awarded the title of Volunteer of the Year for the East Midlands. He collected his award at the CTC dinner held this year in Chester. Well deserved. Keith can always be relied upon to assist all types of events, supported by Jean, from marshalling, putting away chairs to providing refreshments. For the record, it looks like the East Midlands could be hosting the annual CTC AGM and dinner in 2010. A venue hasn't been decided yet but the Three Swans at Market Harborough has been suggested.

I'm looking forward to the Birthday Rides in Oundle this August. It's a CTC East Midlands event with my Northamptonshire counterpart, Max Scott taking the lead in the organising. We're hoping that the event will be well supported this year and, unfortunately, it looks like the Birthday Rides days could be numbered. There was talk of Suffolk taking it on in 2010 but the last thing I heard was that it is now in doubt.

I've booked a CTC cycle camping tour of Holland in June/July. I'm not a fast cyclist. I can cycle all day at my own pace. So I hope that I can keep up with the group. I'm quite a novice at this although I've done a modest tour in France. If things go to plan, I'm having a trial run to the Kingsbury Water Park campsite in May to coincide with the Meriden Cyclists' Memorial Service. I'll also be able to call in on my daughter and new grandson on the way.


A Letter from your President

WE appear to have sprung into spring, our four county events all recorded increased participation.

March 1st David Sulley Memorial Rides were an event record for attendance, riders came from Saffron Walden, Beford, Milton Keynes, plus various other places as well as local, the 30 mile Meander and Freewheel came next, followed by the Back to the Fuchia Rides, the pleasing aspect of the event was the large numbers of Juniors who took part. Well done to all our organisers who have done us proud, these events were enjoyed by all as the weather was warm and sunny.

Sadly during the last few weeks we have lost four valuable riders and supporters of our County Association.

Jean Deacon who is our Minutes Secretary sadly lost her mother shortly after arriving home after a committee meeting.

The loss of Graham Preston whilst on holiday came as a big shock to us all.

The Leicester Forest C.C. who are closely associated with the CTC have recently lost Mick Brewerd and Jack Coe.

On behalf of all our members I send our condolences to all their families and friends.

Keith Lakin

The David Sulley Challenge Rides 2009

Morgan Reynolds

Sunday the 1st March saw the 21st David Sulley Memorial D.A. Challenge Rides of the year based on Morrisons superstore at Lutterworth. And what a great start it was for the 100, 70 and 50 Kms routes with the best weather for many years bringing out a record 55 entries for the event.

All rides went in a generally South-East direction, with the longer 100 Km trip crossing the A47 to Tilton-on-the-Hill with a coffee stop/checkpoint at 'Sweethedges' Farm.

Eighteen stalwarts were successful, mostly from the South Leicester group. Easyriders Norman Castle and Jim Gerrard rose to the occasion and were successful on what is quite a gruelling ride. Sheila Woodcock from Coventry deserves a special mention - completing the 100 Km and riding to and from the event, a great effort!

Nineteen were successful in the 70 Km ride, five being our D.A. riders, Sally Etheridge and junior Robert Watson doing particularly well from Leicestershire, also five having ridden out and home from Coventry CTC.

In the 50 Km event eight enjoyed the ride, good to see the Jones family from Charnwood, Stuart, Teresa and daughter Heather, all enjoying the day. Well done!

For the second year we also promoted a 20 miles loop for the more selective among us, to include a tea stop at Ullesthorpe Garden Centre. Pauline and Dennis Mawby, Colin Field, and George Lawrence, all from Leicester and Bill Hayward from Nuneaton CTC, all rambled around the course in true veteran style.

Thanks for your support guys, and dolls. Thanks also to all helpers and marshals, President Keith and Jean Lakin, ever faithfuls from Charnwood, and David Grimshaw from Earl Shilton It was a great day out.

For 2010 we will need a new organiser as I am bowing out gracefully. It's a good event to organise, traditionally the 1st Sunday in March. It can retain its present format based on Morrisons or whatever. It would be great to have a volunteer by September for the 2010 date fixing. All details, route sheets etc available from Morgan Reynolds.


Planning a Route using Google Maps

By Peter Witting (with acknowledgement to Francis Cooke of A.U.K.)

This write-up tells you how you can

  1. Use a PC to plot a cycle-ride;
  2. Save the route for later access;
  3. Let others see your route using their own PC;
  4. Customise the route with your own additions;
  5. Produce hard copies to hand out for those without access to a PC;
  6. Upload the route to a handheld GPS device, for those going paperless!

If you have a PC with internet connection, then you will be able to access Google Maps software for free. The advantage of using Google Maps, apart from being free, is that the software is widely available and easy to use. There may be better final products, but they are unlikely to be as simple to produce. One drawback is that it only works on roads, so off-road sections need to be added later to the copies for printing.

  1. Plot your route:
    Begin by accessing maps.google.co.uk/maps and select "Get Directions". Enter your locations "A" to "B". The resulting blue line will not normally be your best route for cycling. But the secret is to think of the line as a length of string: Pick it up using the cursor and drag it to the road you want to use. Each time it re-plans your route to your destination. You can work from either end. Keep repeating the process until it shows your intended route in full. If it gets confused, just use the Back button on your Browser before continuing. The Scale slider allows you to zoom to the lowest level of detail. You can then move the start or finish locations to more specific points. Note that a series of directions will have been generated alongside the map, if you want to use them. The distance shown is very useful, but ignore the calculated time for walking or driving (they don't yet offer "Cycling"!). You must ensure you save this route, or you'll have to do it all over again!
  2. Save your route:
    Click on the blue underlined "Link" towards the top right of the map. That generates your map's unique web address, ready highlighted. Copy this (Ctrl-C) and paste into your browser address bar (Ctrl-V), then hit the Return button. You now have your route and its address ready to Bookmark or add to Favourites with a suitable name. When you have done that you can recall the map when needed; but the long address will not be easily accessed by others, so you need to use "TinyURL" to reduce it from hundreds of characters to something more usable in emails.
  3. TinyURL.com
    If you have not used it before, just visit the website to see how it works. You can either add their address to your Favourites, then access each time you need it; or you can add their Icon to your Browser Toolbar, which I prefer. Just follow their instructions how it's done, and how to resolve any problems. Whenever you have saved a route as above, click the TinyURL! Icon on your Toolbar to be offered the shortened address. You can accept the offered address or suggest your own Custom Alias, which will be easier to identify in future. Just remember to Save this new shortened address as a Favourite, then you can use it yourself or email to others.
  4. Customising the Map
    It is possible to print the route, possibly in sections, direct from Google Maps, but it won't allow customisation: You might want to mark an alternative route, or off-road section, in a different colour, or name refreshment stops etc. For that, I use Microsoft's Paint software, pre-installed on my PC. You could use an alternative (Ed. such as GIMP). With your Google route Maximised on your screen, perform a screen dump ("Prt Scr" key). Then paste the screen image from the Clipboard into Paint. Use the Edit facility in Paint to Select All, Image, and Crop options to remove everything outside your route. You can add lines of various thickness and colours for other routes. You can use the Text facility with various Fonts, Sizes and Colours to write notes on the route map, such as the start point, cafés etc. There's an Eraser to remove any unwanted stuff from the map if desired, plus other tools on the menu. When you are satisfied, don't forget to Save the Paint File.
  5. Hard Copies and Emailing
    You can now print direct from the Paint file; but it might not be suitable for emailing to others to print off, especially if they don't have software compatible with yours. I find most folk can open Microsoft Word documents, as long as their versions are compatible with yours. Open a new Word document, select the best Orientation for your map and choose the narrowest margins; then Insert the file you saved in Paint. Don't forget to Save this final Word document. You can then email this map together with the TinyURL link so that others can follow the more detailed route at home, or at work. They can even follow the route using Google's Satellite or Terrain views if desired!
    (Ed. An alternative would be to use Google Docs which would then allow you to publish your results as a web page).
  6. Uploading to GPS Devices
    This is where I refer you to the original article by Francis Cooke, published in the A.U.K.'s Arrivée for Winter 2009, No.103, Page 14. Google Maps, unlike most other mapping websites, doesn't yet offer an "Export to GPX format" option, so there has to be a workaround. This is explained in some detail by Francis, together with options for those using Mac or Linux operating Systems. I'll leave it to those with Hand-held kit and non-MS software to follow up for themselves.

Leicester Easy Riders

with Rose Holman

27 of our members and friends had our New Years Lunch at the Old Thatch Inn at Stanton-under-Bardon which I am sure was enjoyed by all. I would like to thank everyone who donated raffle prizes at our social events.

On the 1st of February, nine of our group braved the snow on our ride to Mountsorrel. We had prior notice that our leader Dave Smith would not be able to lead the ride from the start as he was having some trouble with the drains at home. Norman Castle stepped into the breach and Dave managed to catch up with us at Stonehurst Farm, our morning coffee break.

After we left the farm, we had cycled as far as the railway bridge just past the farm when Dave Smith had a puncture so he decided to return home, leaving Norman as our leader again. Our lunch stop should have been Cossington, but it was realised that we would not be able to eat our packed lunches there so we carried on to the Bulls Head at Markfield where we were made very welcome.

The 22nd of February brought us to Hallaton for lunch. Unfortunately the Bewicke pub and tearooms were both closed but someone had left the gate open. We ate our sandwiches on the patio leaving Dave Smith to keep guard in case anyone came and locked us in. It was then on to the Fox Inn for drinks. There was a very strong wind facing us all the way home.

Jim Gerrard and Norman Castle completed the David Sulley Memorial 100K ride, well done both. The rest of our section arrived in Lutterworth at 1. 00pm after a leisurely ride from Leicester, though the 8. 00am start changed to 9.30am as we thought 8.00am was too early for some of our members.

On the 12th March sixteen of our group enjoyed our prize presentation at Stoney Cove with first class service as we were the only ones there! Jim Gerrard won the photographic cup with his photo of the Church Gates at Kettleburgh and Dave Holman again won the cup for the most rides throughout the year with our section.

As you will all be aware, our section will be organising the Carol Service this year at Illston-on-the-Hill Church on 13th December. Could I please ask for donations of raffle prizes and cakes for this event. Also if you have any poems or stories connected with cycling that we could include during the service.

I would like to welcome Petra to our group, I hope that she will enjoy our rides. The next runs meeting will be on the 5th July at Thornton Garden Centre at 11.00am. Please try to attend.


Charnwood Generals

with Martin Bulmer

Discussing the winter weather in the last issue, I suggested there could be worse to come. Shortly after I submitted my piece, the Big Snow came. Wasn't my fault, honest.

Our Generals' runs have continued as before, with usually around half-a-dozen riders. Normally we vary the starting place to extend our reach to all quarters, and each of us has our favourite (i.e. nearest) start. Easter saw the first of our new monthly car assisted rides, with some of our members driving out to meet those of us who were on the Easter tour based at Broadway, in the Cotswolds, for our Sunday run.

One member didn't realise that the Cotswolds were hilly. He was soon put right as we climbed (and climbed and continued to ascend) to Broadway Tower, where the ticket salesman persuaded us to to buy tickets by offering us a special discount. He charged us the children's price, as there were quite a few of us, and the view was not very clear. It turned out that this was an appropriate choice as, like children, we went up the "down" stairs, and down the "ups". If only we'd had some sticky lollies to wipe on the exhibits! We continued to elevenses at the Cotswold Farm Park, arriving just in time before a hoard of cyclists filled up the cafe. Real nuisances these cyclists. Lunch was at the most out-of-the-way pub in Cheltenham (official), then we took an easier, flatter route home. Thanks to Lyn for leading that one, and for all her hard work in organising the holiday, and liaising with the Easy Riders to organise the venue and the Saturday meal.

On the Saturday we had ridden to Stratford by way of The Greenway, a cycle trail on an old railway bed, and after a brief tour of Stratford's Easter Saturday traffic jams, we continued by way of canal path and lanes to Alcester for lunch, returning via Fladbury to our caravan site at Childswickham.

Easter Monday saw us tackling the same hill as on Sunday just after the start, this time striking out in a North Easterly direction past Hidcote Manor. Once again visibility was poor, so we only got a hint of the magnificent views which would be available on a clear day. We cycled via Ilmington and Shipston-on Stour to arrive at Moreton-in-Marsh for lunch, then up more hills, over more trails to complete a circular route.

Each ride was just over 50 miles, and apart from a brief shower on Saturday the weather was dry. In fact I was just thinking; Jeannette, my wife, bought me some water-proof overshoes for Christmas, and despite riding most Sundays & Wednesdays, I haven't needed to use them yet, so we must have had quite a run of dry weather since then.

Oh no, I've done it again, haven't I? I write this on April 28th. I guess the Big Floods started on the 29th, then? (Wrong, The Leicester Mercury 29/4/09 reports flash floods in the area later on the 28th!)


Charnwood Chatter

with Betty Naylor

Despite the cold, winter months, the Easyriders have enjoyed a few good rides in March, beginning with Alan's ride around the Ratby trails, incorporating the Ivanhoe Trail and the Glenfield Railway which was most interesting - especially seeing the plaque commemorating George Stephenson's steam engine driven by him in July 1832, along the line. Pearl's ride to Dove Bridges on the last Sunday of the month was also enjoyable when we actually saw the sun!

What a glorious Easter weekend we had to compensate - there was still a cold wind but lots of sunshine, though none of us were brave enough to wear shorts! The campsite at Wormington just west of Broadway in the Cotswolds turned out to be very good. The immediate locality was quite flat which enabled Alex and Mary to ride around 20 miles each day and to visit some interesting places.

There were eight easy riders on site with Brenda and Dave joining the Generals down in the village of Childswickham about four miles away. It was at the pub there that we all met up for an excellent evening meal on the Saturday night.

Soo was in good form and led all the rides, with a little help from her friend Chris, her CTC friend from South Bucks DA, and Pearl. The Saturday morning dawned clear and bright and we set out to ride around Bredon Hill. First through Wormington, then through the picturesque village of Dumbleton with its old Manor House, which is now an hotel, and lovely flower filled cottage gardens. Then on to Beckford where we spent a pleasant hour at the Silk Centre, having refreshments in the café and admiring the beautiful silk fabrics on display. It was then up to Bredon where we toured the large 14th century Threshing Barn, beautifully constructed of Cotswold stone and noted for it dramatic aisled interior and unusual stone chimney cowling. Then we enjoyed a picnic lunch at the local hostelry. Once replete, we continued on up to the Mill End viewpoint overlooking the River Avon, then round Bredon Hill, passing through the Combertons and the site of Elmley Castle down to Hinton Green where we crossed the busy AS435, rode a little way down the cycle path before turning left to Sedgeberrow and back to the campsite. Here we enjoyed afternoon tea at chez-Soo to air her new bubble shaped awning. Then to round off the day, an evening meal out with the rest of the section.

Easter Sunday it was decided we follow the Blossom Trail, so after meeting Brenda and Dave at Childswickham, we returned to Hinton Green then on through Evesham to cross the River Avon, where at the top of the hill on theA44 we turned right to Cropthorne and Fladbury where coffee was partaken at the local pub. The blossoms were certainly magnificent as the ride continued through the Lenches to Radford for another alfresco lunch at the "Wheelbarrow and Castle". It was on up the hill through Dunnington and Broom and down to Bidford-on-Avon to cross the river once more, down Buckle Street to Cleeve Prior through the Littletons, Badsey and Wickhamford to a little café on the outskirts of Broadway for a real cream tea. A really good Easter Sunday ride!

Monday's ride was the Snowshill circular. After meeting Dave and Brenda in Broadway, we took the long drawn out climb up to Snowshill Manor which we intended visiting. When we saw the long queues we continued to the Cotswold Country Farm Park, where, despite the crowds we were soon enjoying our refreshments outside in brilliant sunshine, before carrying on along the ridge towards the Slaughters, turning right at the B4068 up to Naunton. However, the local inn was full so we continued on uphill then down a steep little lane to the Ancient Dovecote alongside the River Windrush. Here we found some plastic chairs, so we enjoyed our lunch alfresco, once again actually seated in chairs, listening to the water as it rushed over a small weir and "waited for the kingfishers" which never materialised but the waiting was very pleasant! We spent an hour there before continuing uphill to Guiting Power, a very quaint little village, but best of all was the Post Office were they served pots of tea and freshly baked scones which we ate on the village green. We then retraced our route for about half a mile before turning left at Barton Turn, up to Stump's Cross then taking the long downhill to Stanway to look at the old Woollen Mill, before continuing through Stanton (where Brenda observed there were no street lights), passing the old Hall on our way back to the A46, and Wormington. What a lovely weekend, all sunshine, wild flowers and blossom. After the long bleak winter it was such an unexpected surprise!

The following Sunday, four of our riders enjoyed the 30 in 3, while four others could only make the 30k. However, a good day was had by all!

We would like to congratulate Heather Jones aged 9.1/2 who now rides her own full size cycle, and we trust that we shall see the family out with us regularly this summer.

Lastly, we would like to wish Jean Lamb of Burton, who usually comes on our camping trips, a speedy recovery after her recent operation.


30 Mile and 30 Km Meander Rides and Freewheel

by Jim Gerrard

So far so good! Following the fine weather and good numbers on The David Sulley Ride organised by Morgan in March a similar day co-incided with this years Meander rides and freewheel.

A total of 27 riders enjoyed the spring sunshine and fine morning on the 19th April. !7 riders completed the 30 mile route and 10 the km ride which included 2 visitors from the Bristol DA. Bernie Hammond originating from Colorado USA. Both travelled up from Cheltenham and were camping in Nottinghamshire with friends.

We also had two family tandems with three juniors, the Jones family completing the 30 mile and the Staples family the km ride.

This years 30 mile ride had a bit of most things on route, quiet lanes and villages, a gated road, a cattle grid (with bypass option) and a ford (with out bridge option) on the final leg over the Ratby Boroughs road. We also passed a castle although you had to know it was there to see it!

We were all made welcome on completion either at the Thornton Garden Centre café or the Tipsy Fisherman Inn. Some of us managed to visit both. After rest and refreshment the Freewheel followed, well organised as usual by Keith and Jean Lakin in the near by Stanton Lane.

With the tandems joining in, a total of 19 riders took part with the Charnwood section again taking the first 4 placings in the singles category. I think they all have loose bearings! Martin Bulmer narrowly beat last year's winner Roland Smith to claim the honours.

Stuart and Heather Jones secured best placing over The Staples family combinations for the tandem class.


Graham Preston

by Eileen Johnson

We are sad to have to report the sudden death of Graham Preston while on a cycling holiday in Majorca. He and Janet visited the island together with many friends from all over the British Isles at least twice a year and had been doing so for the last 20 odd years.

Graham, as many of you know, was a quiet man with many interests, cycling was foremost, as demonstrated by his love of racing - he was a founder member of Loughborough R.C. as well as helping to found the Zenith C.C. He was also a keen supporter of touring, working with Ken Pepper to organise the International Cycling Rally at Loughborough University in the early 1970s. Janet and Graham werre keen supporters of the Leics and Rutland Birthday Rides held in 1984 and 1997 and assisted the organisers of these events in many ways. They have attended all the recent Birthday Rides and were also keen participants in the Mildenhall Rally which is held each year at August Bank Holiday.

Graham rode regularly with members from Loughborough Section on their Sunday runs and was a very fit and active 64 year old who for the previous fortnight had been riding and enjoying the mountains of Majorca. He was attending a cycling function and evening meal with over 80 other members of the cycling group when he very quietly passed away. Despite the best efforts of doctors and a midwife who werer present they were unable to resuscitate Graham.

We shall all miss Graham in our various ways, none more so than Janet and families to whom goes our deepest sympathy.


Back to the Fuchsia Rides - May 10th

By John Allen

A good entry of over forty riders went "Back to the Fuchsias" in glorious weather with 25 mile "legs" radiating from Thornton Nurseries - The Fuchsia Centre. On their return to Thornton the riders enjoyed the hospitality of proprietor John Smith and his family - and of course refreshments - before deciding which route to tackle next.

It was great to see not only families out awheel but veterans as well with ages ranging from 5 to 79! Nine year old Heather Jones of Charnwood CTC recorded 105 miles during the day 'stoking' behind Dad Stuart on one of the family tandems - her previous highest mileage was only 75! They rode to and from the event from their Castle Donington home. Mum Teresa, meanwhile, was on the other tandem with five year old Sadie to record 25 miles, no mean achievement either.

Fourteen year old Robert Watson of Leicester rode solo alongside Dad Karl recording 63 miles (2 x 25 legs plus the 13 mile route). After his ride the county CTC President Keith Lakin presented him with one of the Joe Upton memorial cups as youngest junior rider in last years 50 mile ride in June.

Most CTC groups in the county were represented and once again Leicestershire Road Club incorporated the event in their club ride as did others.

Surprisingly this time the most popular 25 mile route was 'route 1' - the northern leg over the Charnwood Forest and return.

Due to the event clashing with the half marathon radiating from Bosworth Water Park most riders heeded the advice to follow routes 2 or 4 (or both) in the afternoon which passed there by which time most of the runners had finished.

By way of a change I will mention the oldest cycle ridden on the day (I think). Back in 1953 Dave Smith purchased his Freddie Grubb cycle from George Evans cycle shop in Humberstone Gate for £8. CTC stalwart Dave rode it on the rides this time, apparently he has never had to have the wheels trued and he still has the original saddle!

Thanks to all at Thornton Nurseries, Jean and Keith Lakin and to all who came along - you made our day

P.S. Many who rode extracted the routes from our website before the day, www.ctclr.org.uk Thanks to our webmaster John Catt.


Dennis Heggs

A number of people have been asking recently how Dennis Heggs is getting along. I spoke to Morgan Reynolds the other day and he said that Dennis has just come out of hospital again and is back at his daughters' home. It is a slow process but he is getting the excellent care of his family and medical professionals.

Morgan himself is waiting for the results of some hospital tests but is still getting out on his bike.

I know that you will all join me in wishing them both all the very best.


Easy Riders weekend - Newent, Gloucestershire

by Jim Gerrard

Four of the Leicester Easy Riders group enjoyed a week end based at Newent, Gloucestershire at the end of April.

Setting off early on Friday Morning we arrived at our bed and breakfast without any traffic hold ups and were on our bikes by mid day for a good half days ride to Hereford. Taking to the lanes we passed neat vineyards (English Wineries) and orchards just coming into blossom. After taking our sandwiches in a field gate way on route we appreciated all the more refreshments in the All Saints Church café in the town square which were enjoyed alfresco in the sunshine. Following a leisurely ride back again via local lanes we arrived back in good time for a wash and brush up before enjoying a good evening meal at a local pub.

After an early night followed by a early breakfast we set off on Saturday morning for Worcester via Little Malvern although it didn't seem all that little after walking the last up hill to the British Camp monument car park where we stopped for rest and refreshment whilst enjoying the view. From here we had a good down hill taking the B road to the west of the Malvern Hills which turned out to be a lovely quiet road with blue bells on the hill side and stunning views towards Hereford, yesterday's destination. After negotiating the Great Malvern town environs we had a fast entry on a busy road into Worcester. After making enquiries we found and enjoyed lunch at The Royal Worcester Porcelain factory café. Leaving the city, initially by the side of the River Severn, we were again on busy roads for a couple of miles before rejoining quieter roads to Upton upon Severn where we joined up with the river again and had refreshment in the company of hard riders out for a days ride out of Kenilworth. Leaving Upton we were soon on our preferred country lanes again and arrived back in Newent with time to spare before returning to the pub for an evening meal.

Sunday followed much the same pattern although we had a later breakfast and cleared our rooms before setting off on our bikes for the Forest of Dean area. Arriving on the outskirts of Cinderford via Mitcheldean we had good views of the Severn valley and with care could just make out Gloucester Cathedral in the distance. It was difficult to imagine that during the recent years flooding no doubt much of the valley would have been under water. We retraced our route back through Littledean and enjoyed our final pub stop for lunch at Huntley and an easy return to Newent.

Another excellent week end with good weather ie no rain, no punctures, plenty of fresh villages including places like Much Marcle, Sollars Hope, Redmarley D'Abitot amongst others with new scenery and views.


Another Cycling Centenary

with John Allen

Congratulations to the Leicestershire Road Club on achieving their centenary this year. The Road Club has long associations with the CTC which continues to the present day. A W Wilkinson who held several cycling records succeeded the first DA secretary George Berry in 1907 and his successor, our third, and until this year, our longest serving secretary Bernard M'Quillin wrote in the CTC Gazette of 1915 (first World War), "Mr A W Wilkinson, well known locally as the founder of the Leicester Road Club - a club 'par excellence' of the speed brigade - has joined a cyclists battalion. He is a member of our committee and we wish him a safe return".

Moving on to September 1957 now and the Diamond Jubilee ride of Leicestershire and Rutland DA. Bernard M'Quillin is amongst the party. 1957 CelebrationOn the front row is Miss K Sullivan, Mr F C W. Stevenson, Ted Clark (D A Sec), Len Brigstock, Bill Seager (D A President), Bernard M'Quillin, Derek Blasdale (organiser) and Bill Oakley CTC Councillor who became CTC President for centenary year 1978

Today long serving CTC members of the Road Club include Janet Preston, Dave Binks and Graham Green to name but a few.

Janet and Dave played a tremendous part in our own centenary celebrations in 1997 - including the Birthday Rides we hosted. Dave was on the organising committee from the outset. Our "DA" remains the only one to have ever hosted the CTC Birthday Rides as part of its own centenary celebrations - a very proud record which will possibly never be equalled.

The now traditionally large contingent of Road Club riders took part in our recent annual "Back to the Fuchsia" rides incorporated into their club ride and we certainly enjoyed their company as always. One Road Club absentee this year was Graham Green of Thringstone, he is recovering from an accident whilst on holiday. We wish him well for a speedy recovery.


South Leicestershire Section

with Tony Davis

The first part of the article that follows was intended for the last edition of Cycle Chat

Part 1

I finished off last time with the comment that "By the time I write again the worst of winter will be behind us.." How wrong can you be! As I type this there is about 6 inches on snow on the ground and a few flakes gently drifting down in the air.

I was getting well into to the swing of long distance rides by October, a bit late in the season but the fitness gained riding LeJog was starting to tell. I took part in a permanent 600km ride round East Anglia from Milton Keynes early in the month. This was organised by Steve Abraham with a mix of experienced riders and new riders to help the newcomers through their first 600. It was beautiful autumn weather cool morning and evening but warm during the day.

The first weekend in November was the next time Jayne and I could make it for a Sunday ride. We cut our timings close as usual and met Neil Dixon as he rode out of Broughton Astley towards Frolesworth. Jayne and I stopped to ring the church bells for service at Monks Kirby before joining Neil for coffee at Stretton under Fosse. Shane joined us a few minutes later having come direct from Pailton.

The following weekend I joined Steve Abraham to attempt another 600.This time the weather was not so kind. We were both riding fixed and I tweaked a groin muscle climbing the hill from Eyebrook reservoir up to Uppingham. We had a howling tail wind riding north through Lincoln but when we turned south it turned in to a relentless slog. The weather deteriorated with driving rain and sleet as we crossed the high ground near Wymondham. We arrived in Uppingham for a second time after riding about 340 km at which point I decided that I ride for fun and this ride had ceased to be any fun at all. I found a hotel room and Steve rode on into the night. Apparently while I was warm in my bed the temperature dropped below freezing. When he arrived back in Milton Keynes it took Steve some time to get warm enough to set out for the last 180km.

On the third weekend we had our popular quarterly trip to the Church End brewery. Jayne and I were late again and rode via Croft, Thurlaston and Peckleton to the coffee stop at Greenacres. Gill Lord and Ivan Waddington rolled into the car park just behind us. Dave Gair, Roy Dayman and Neil were already inside the café. Shane Blower arrived just as we were getting ready to leave having punctured twice on the way there. Ivan and Dave peeled off after Sutton Cheney while the rest of us carried on through Witherley and Mancetter and up the climb to Church End. Peter Witting met us for lunch at the brewery. We returned through Hartshill and Bedworth where Peter and Shane stopped for further refreshments.

At the end of November I attended the Audax UK AGM in Guildford, riding a 300km audax to get there. I enjoyed a ride out to a café for lunch with Nev Chanin and Ann Benton before the AGM on the Saturday. There was a mass exodus after the AGM to the University Sports Centre next door to the hotel which was hosting a beer festival.

I had planned a more direct route of about 200km to get home. As I ate breakfast the snow started to fall. At that moment I decided to ride to Reading and catch the train to Coventry, then ride home from there. The ride to Reading was one of the most miserable of my life. It was cold, wet and the traffic made no allowances at all. I punctured a few hundred yards from Reading station. While I was waiting for the train the rain stopped and the sun came out. I had a pleasant journey to Coventry and disembarked, still in sunshine. Before I had cycled two hundred yards the cloud closed in and shortly afterwards the rain set in the rest of the ride home.

On the day of the Carol Service we set off with good intentions but were derailed by an unusual incident on route. At the junction of the lane past Foston church and the main road there was a car on its roof in the ditch. Assumptions were made that it happened the previous night and quips made about how sober they had been. Just as we were about to move the horn sounded and we realised that there was someone still in the car. As we got closer there was a very strong smell of petrol and the sounds of someone scrambling out of the car.

Emergency services were called and we keep the young woman company until the fire service arrived. She had just filled up with fuel on her way to work when she skidded on ice. She seemed fine at first but as her lucky escape sank in she began to shiver with the effects of shock as much as from the cold. We eventually rode on to Wistow Garden Centre for coffee. Roy went on to the Carol Service the rest of us turned into the biting wind and headed for home.

The section had their Xmas Dinner on 12 December and most of regular Sunday riders were able to come. Ivan was away with work and Maggie Dayman unwell but they were present in our thoughts. We were joined by Ken and Wendy Hoxley. I enjoyed the night and hope everyone else did too.

On the Sunday the same weekend we had a short ride to Catthorpe followed by lunch at the Black Horse at Walcote. We usually have a lunch stop here just before Christmas and it was fortunate that we chose that weekend as the pub has since closed for business.

Over Christmas Jayne and I went away for a weeks skiing in France and returned to the traditional start to the New Year with the cyclists lunch at Sibbertoft. Once again the hall was full of riders from Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. Well done Gill Lord and the ladies of Sibbertoft. We raised about £400 for Sibbertoft church fund. Without this annual fundraiser the village would struggle to fund their parish share.

There was some confusion about where we should be riding the next two weeks as the entries in Cycle Chat, in the Leicester Mercury and on the online calendar did not agree. So the group went to Grandborough on consecutive weekends, once via Blooms on the Blue Boar straight just off the A45 and the second time via Stretton Under Fosse.

Part 2

In early January I had a trip down to Bristol to take part in the Jack and Grace Cotton Memorial ride with my friend Jerry from Alveston, the next village up the road from the start. It was an unseasonably warm day though a bit windy. Jerry and I had an enjoyable amble round the route. A routesheet wasn't needed as Jerry had planned the original route and ridden it many times. We picked up a rider who had never ridden an audax before and welcomed the chance to follow a wheel. We had a pleasant lunch break in a pub in Stonehouse, where this newcomer was shocked to see seasoned athletes slaking their thirst with the demon alcohol.

The end of January saw the beginning of the reliability ride season. In previous years we have ridden to the start of the Welland Valley ride at Foxton then participated followed with a ride home. This year Neil Bernard Jayne and I rode over to the HQ and helped out by eating the cakes and drinking tea and coffee and chatting to George Barnett. We followed this up with lunch at Lock 61 with Peter Witting.

Early February was the occasion of my first ever visit to Waterloo Farm café. Six of us rode through Gilmorton, Kilworth and Sibbertoft. Snow was still lying in the fields and on the higher ground between Sibbertoft and Great Oxenden we were riding in the tyre tracks made by the motor traffic.

Since March we have been joined by another couple of regular riders Claire and Alan from Pailton who use cycling as cross training for their main sport of Dragon Boat racing.

The first week of April Jayne and I had our annual early season cycling holiday. This year we went to Mallorca with our friends Jerry, Lyn and Richard. We happened to be there at the same time as Gill and Bernard, and had a couple of days out riding with them. The weather was warmer than home but we did have 3 cooler, showery days. The highlights of the week were rides to Formentor lighthouse, Petra and Lluc monastery. Formentor boasts possibly the most expensive cake on earth, but they do have a captive audience. Once you've done a hilly 18 mile ride with the same in reverse to follow and no other refreshment stops on route a piece of cake is needed whatever the price. Petra town square is a magnet for cyclists from all over the island. The ride to Lluc is a steady 20k climb followed by a steeper descent to Caimari. Unfortunately the road surface on the descent was abysmal so you couldn't take full advantage of the gradient.

The audax season is building up now so I will not be around so much in the next few weeks but I will be here to run the Heart of the Shire events from Walton village hall on 6th June. I look forward to seeing lots of you there.


Award Winners 2008 Photographic Competition

"Pictorial" - Smith Trophy - John Allen, 2. Keith Lakin, 3. John Allen
"Clublife" - Alan Haywood Rosebowl - John Allen, 2. Gill Lord, 3. Dave Binks
"Humorous" - Sue Greaves Shield - John Allen 1, 2, 3
"Theme" - Wildlife - George Clowes Tray - Gill Lord 2, Ron Johnson, 3, Gill Lord
"Digitally Enhanced" - Bill Seager Cup - Ron Johnson 1, 2, 3

"Pictorial" - Birthday Rides '84 Cup - Ron Johnson 1, 2, 3
"Clublife" - Clublife Cup - Ron Johnson 1, 2, 3
"Humorous" - Winged Wheel Trophy - Ron Johnson 1, 2, 3
"Themes" Wildlife - Scraptoft Cup '84 - Ron Johnson 1, 2, 3
"Digitally Enhanced" - Stoneygate Cup '84 - Ron Johnson 1, 2, 3

Freewheel winner - The Charnwood Salver - Roland Smith
Oldest Lady in 200K - Pickering Vase - Lucy Finch
Oldest Gent in 100 miles - Moulds Trophy - Bernard Bailey
Oldest Lady in 100 miles - Moulds Cup - Gill Lord
Youngest Junior in 50 miles - Joe Upton Cup - Robert Watson
Family - The Bull Family Trophy - The Staples
Highest placed County rider in National DATC - CTC Trophy - Tony Davis

Events Medals
Gold - none
Silver - Neil Dixon, Peter Witting
Bronze - Tony Davis, Alan Hartshorne, Shane Blower
"Best All Rounder" - The Open Road Trophy - David Holman *
"Ladies Best All Rounder" - Ladies Cup - Nancy Henson *
(Judged on 49 Sundays during 2008 - local group rides and county CTC events)

Best "Cycle Chat" article - The Domant Trophy - Tony Davis
"Hames Award" - awarded to a lady for services to the county CTC - Eileen Johnson
"Clubperson of 2008" - The Seager Trophy - Neil Dixon



- By Dave Binks Continuing the story.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4>
Part 5
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 a local mechanic and representative to ensure that holidaymakers have a good time as they cycle between top class hotels in the are.

Wednesday June 6

Today I had to give my first bike demo to a group, which can always be a bit of a problem in trying to keep their attention as it can often end up as a bit of a "free for all" with numerous conversations all going on at once, so I decided I was going to take charge and not allow them to stop and sidetrack me very often. All were in their 60's. The married couple was fine, with the man being an ex-dentist as he later told me, and a man of the world, and his wife equally as down to earth and pleasant. The other two ladies were rather different. Both were obviously wealthy, probably widows and from the wealthier parts of Surrey, and speaking with a posh accent. One I shall call Minnie, as in "Moaning Minnie". The dentist understood what was going on and saw no real problem in changing a tube and later putting a patch on, but the two ladies, Minnie in particular, had already decided it would all be too much for them. I eventually got them all through it, deciding I would simply show them, rather than let them do it themselves as it was pretty unlikely they would need to carry out the procedure because punctures are on average one per area per season. It would also simply drag on or hours if they tried to do it. I advised all to get up and away early due to the heat later in the day, at which Minnie turned up her nose. But that didn't stop her complaining it was too hot (already). I had to suggest a detailed route for the ladies, who then spent an hour or more fiddling around before going out. Mr Dentist just asked for an idea of somewhere to head for and off they went.

I then had a light lunch and rode off to meet the local club again for their Wednesday afternoon ride - this time going to the correct meeting point. There were about 15 or so men there, the youngest of whom was probably in his late 30's or early 40's, then a big jump to the mid 50's. As before, the route was already decided, and the leader called the directions. There was one man who looked a bit of a novice judging from his bike and attire, so I wondered how he would get on later. The day was by now fairly warm, and we set off at a fairly easy pace, as seemed to be the style, then slowly picking up the pace. I stayed away from the front, and noticed the novice was already working harder than anyone else just to stay with us and riding a gear that was too big. I feared for him later, but I was simply a guest on their run, so kept quiet.

Our route took us north west quite a long way almost to the town of Cognac before returning via a different set of very quiet lanes, none of which were very hilly or, it has to be said, very interesting, but that seems the norm hereabouts. The same guy who had punctured on Sunday punctured again today, but the front tyre this time. I had already noticed he had bought a new rear tyre, so he was not having a good week. Not much later we all stopped outside a cemetery, but I didn't know why. It seems most cemeteries have a tap inside the gate and this was a convenient point to refill the water bottles. I made a mental note to remember this on other rides as I had never realised this before. These two stops were the only ones we made on the whole ride. The youngest chap spent quite a while at the, or should I say just off the front, seemingly keen to increase the pace, although I thought it was already high enough.

It wasn't just me that thought it, as we were losing people off the back at times and having to slow for them to get on again. I overheard more than one or two references to "les Anglais" (the Englishman), so I realised some of this pace was to impress or hurt me. As time wore on, the novice was slipping off the back more and more and obviously starting to suffer. I still felt OK, despite not normally riding for such a long time without a break, so decided I would do my bit at the front and moved up to join the younger man, who immediately started to "half wheel" me. This is a very anti-social tactic used in road racing to try to unsettle your opponent and consists of riding with your front wheel about half a wheel diameter in front of your opponent, who then has to accelerate slightly to line them up again. You repeat the process, with the speed creeping up and up until one of you cracks. I knew exactly what he was doing and decided I would match him, knowing the speed increase would probably cause problems for the riders behind.

Soon there were shouts and one man came up to us saying the novice was "mort" (dead) and we must slow down. I immediately sat up and pointed to the young man and said it was "all his fault", at which he laughed, so it was as I suspected - deliberate. I came off the front and slipped back into the group a bit, but the speed didn't really slow as much as I felt it should to help the novice, but again, I was simply a guest, so kept quiet again. By now we had done well over 50 miles and the slower riders had been abandoned to their fate as the runs leader went to the front and led the charge down a hill to a point not far from where I was staying. I thought they would continue towards my hotel, which involved a climb, and got ready for the attacks that would surely go up the hill.

However, at the foot of the climb they all turned left and eased off again, so I simply followed them. The final run in back to our starting point at La Couronne was fairly flat, but with one small rise, which I simply got out of the saddle and rode up, still in the same gear, making no particular effort above that needed to get up it. Much to my surprise, they couldn't, or wouldn't, stay with me and I had to slow for them. Soon after, they turned left back to La Couronne and I turned right for my base at Roullet and there were pleasantries (at least I think they were pleasantries) shouted as we split. As I made my way south, I saw the novice, who looked in a bad way, had wisely decided to take a shorter route home.

I stopped at the bakers in Roullet for bread and between there and the hotel was caught by one of the other riders, but coming the other way with another guy who had presumably stayed with him but where he had come from I don't know. By the time I wheeled into the gates I had almost 70miles on the bike computer. Little wonder I felt tired, but my day hadn't ended yet.

Waiting to pounce on me was Minnie. She and her friend had followed the little route I had given them, which was in great detail and in writing and complained that a lot of it had been on tracks, not on the road. I had to politely point out that the description at the top said exactly that! However she had a more justified complaint that the chain had come off and jammed between the rear forks and the cogs and she had been unable to get the wheel back in again after freeing it. Fortunately this had happened within walking distance of the hotel and at the end of their ride but she wasn't happy. I quickly realised the stop on the rear gear had not been set correctly, and although the chain stayed on when tested in the workshop, it was only by virtue of the cable, not the stop, so I had to admit it was my fault for not spotting that. After a shower and a meal she calmed down a bit. Her friend, who was made of sterner stuff, just thought it a great adventure and laughed it off.
69 miles

Thursday June 7

Two of my guests, the dentist and his wife, were setting off today on their trip and apart from a slight rubbing mudguard probably caused by the bikes being leant against each other in the workshop overnight, were away with no fuss after I had suggested a route for them. Minnie and her friend had already set off for a day ride, so once I had tidied away, I changed and got on my bike to set off for the same hotel as the dentist, but with the intention of having my lunch there.

I had suggested a short stop at Sireuil, where the river Charente is crossed by an attractive bridge with hire boats and a little refreshment hut and that is where I saw them as I went over the same bridge. I checked all was OK, which it was, and carried on. The suggested route follows the river valley, but only rarely can you actually see the river, but the lanes are quiet and the villages not unattractive. The distance between the base hotel and my destination was only 12 miles and I was there in 50 minutes riding time.

The instructions given to each holiday maker in the booklet provided by the company makes a big thing about how to cross the main road just before the hotel, and suggests a slight detour to avoid the worst junction. I felt I should look at both so that I could speak knowledgeably when asked and made a point of visiting both crossings and riding and walking across both. I have to say I thought there was little to choose between them. The "preferred" crossing is a traffic lane in each direction, plus a left turning "refuge" in the centre. The latter was only painted lines so offered no real protection and simply made the road very wide to cross. You got a good view of the traffic, which at 12.45hrs wasn't particularly heavy. The "non-preferred" crossing was closer to a bend on the main road, so giving less notice of approaching traffic, but I felt was still ample, but the thing I thought was in its favour was there were only the two traffic lanes to cross, so you were at risk for less time. So my advice to clients would be, "Go the suggested way, but if you misread the map and end up at the wrong one, it's not such a big thing."

The hotel where the dentist was headed, and my lunch stop, was nice but the restaurant only had three people in for lunch and that included me! It was quite expensive at 30euro (approx. £20) but it was to be my free meal of the week, so I wasn't bothered as I am allowed one free meal at one of the hotels in my area.

The chair was comfortable, which was just as well as I was there for over an hour and a half - they don't rush in French hotels. My starter was a mushroom salad with something else that kept repeating on me all afternoon, but the trout was delicious, as was the sweet. As I was wandering around afterwards taking photos - the hotel straddled a little stream, I noticed the dentist locking their bikes in the hotel garage. I spoke briefly to him and he revealed they had both undertaken a lengthy cycle tour around Europe when they were younger, so that explained to me why they were more relaxed about life's little troubles than the two ladies.

By now it was getting very warm as I headed northwards to find the remains of a Roman Amphitheatre near St. Cybardeaux. I found it easily and it was certainly big, based on a natural semi-circular fold in the north facing hillside with a fine view over the surrounding area. Unfortunately, it was also effectively closed for safety works in preparation for a music festival to be held there in a few weeks time, but you could still stand at the top and look down onto the stage. I fancied a coffee or a Coke, but had to go on to Rouillac before I could find any café, open or closed, and then only one. As was the way in these parts, a café with tables outside is rare indeed, and this place was no exception, so I had to go inside. I had been out long enough by now and headed straight back through the lanes. I was obviously starting to get to know my way around a bit as map stops were getting less and less.
50 miles

Friday June 8

Moaning Minnie and her more reasonable friend left today but not before complaining that someone had entered her room the evening before. She said he had claimed he had made a mistake and simply gone in the wrong door.

Presumably it had not been locked at the time as they were both inside it. He apologised and left immediately, but that wasn't good enough for her. She wanted me to make a fuss with the hotel, but I didn't react as it sounded entirely genuine. They had enjoyed a bottle of wine with their evening meal the first night and despite their obvious wealth, wanted the cork put back so that they could finish it the next night. The waiter, who did not speak English, could not understand what was wanted for a while as they didn't speak French, and this set them both off again.

Just before she had arrived I had a parcel of brand new pannier bags delivered and I had given her one of the new ones even before I knew what she was like. Of all the bags delivered one had a major fault - the straps had been sewn on in the wrong place. Guess which was the one I had given her? So she had to repack into another pannier. Then she complained the water bottle leaked. Each holidaymaker gets a new water bottle to fit into the special carrier to encourage them to drink enough fluids - essential in hot climes. She didn't want to put hers in the carrier on the down tube of the bike, that was where she wanted to jam the oversize bottle of water she had bought (one can't drink the tap water can one?) and was trying to lay the other smaller bottle in her pannier. I had to explain the bottle wasn't designed to sit anywhere but in the special carrier where it was always upright, and didn't matter if it did leak a bit. She had already complained about the heat and I had advised them to get up and away early to avoid having to ride in the heat of the day yet it was nearly 11am before they actually got going - hardly "early".

By now it was getting pretty warm and the combination of those two and the previous days' cycling made me have a rest day. I caught up with some clothes washing (dry the same day again!) and other bits and pieces and exchanged comments about my guests with Christine, the hotel owner, who had formed the same opinion of them as I had.

The dentist had tried the swimming pool and declared it OK, so I thought I would have a go, which I did. I was soon joined by a family who rent a house in the hotel grounds and we all had a good swim for a while. I had my dinner with the hotel staff in the kitchen and then thought I would walk into the village for some bread and exercise.

I could hear a loudspeaker in the village and assumed it was from the football pitch, but no - it was a cycle race through the main street of the village! The road had been closed to traffic at one end so that it was just one way to avoid any head on collisions, and the course was basically along the main street, out onto the old bypass (now itself bypassed by an even bigger road) and back the other way to rejoin the village road again. No hills, but one rather dodgy corner with a bit of gravel although no-one came off. I watched the first race, for veteran riders, and then went back to the hotel for my movie camera to capture the senior race. There was a reasonable crowd out - mostly locals from the village taking the opportunity to enjoy some free entertainment, and the riders' families, so it made for a friendly atmosphere. It was a lovely warm evening, with the race finishing about 10pm, just as the light was going, and made a nice way to finish the day.
3 miles

Saturday June 9

I wanted to revisit the town of Cognac because the only time I had been before it had not been a nice day and at that time was not enjoying my stay, so had a jaundiced view of the place. I needed to get some cash from the bank first so was delayed getting away until gone 10am, by which time it was already getting very warm. As before, I took the quiet lanes route and stopped a few times for photos, always much better in the sunshine.

One of the features of the River Charente is its old-time use as a navigable waterway right down to the sea, and a particular type of flat bottomed boat, called a Gabarre, was used to transport materials between the major towns. There are only one or two originals left now, but modern copies are used to provide passenger cruises, and at Bassac one was undergoing its annual spring clean and coat of preservative, so I stopped and watched for a few minutes.

The last time I went to Cognac I ended up on the old main road which was very unpleasant, so was determined this time to try to follow the little "Green Man on a Bike" signs supplied by the local tourist board to encourage cyclists to use the very quiet roads. It was these I had been following most of the day. I got a bit confused and still ended up on the old main road, but this time it took me nearly into the centre first. The street market, a feature of any town or larger village, was well underway and I wandered through it, on the lookout for some food for a picnic lunch.

However, leather wallets and pairs of jeans were not edible, and the cheeses were only sold in great slabs, so I popped into a small supermarket which supplied my needs. After finding a shady spot in a quiet square to eat it, I set off to find the hotel the clients would be using as I needed to know where it was. I had been grilled by moaning Minnie as to EXACTLY where it was, and my answer that I didn't know as I had never been "just wasn't good enough." Having found it easily by the simple expedient of reading the instructions, I returned to the town centre to investigate the Park and the old town; two items on the tourist's "must see" list.

The Old Town was OK, but being light coloured stone, didn't particularly impress me, but the park was very good. This year the Tour de France was due to visit Cognac, and in honour, a floral display in the shape of a racing cyclist had been laid out in front of the Town Hall, itself a magnificent building in the park. A wedding was in full swing, complete with horse and cart waiting in the shade, and the scene was very colourful. When I returned to the town centre, a fashion show had been set up in the main street with some very attractive models "strutting their stuff" on the catwalk. It was too hot to stand there for long and I needed to get going anyway so set off for home, arriving back hot, tired and hungry.
72 miles

Sunday June 10

My first holidaymaker was due back some time today, and I was supposed to be there to welcome him, but not having any idea when that would be, and not wishing to miss a ride with the local club went out anyway, reckoning I would be back before he arrived anyway (which I was).

The day was very warm and humid even at 8am when we met, but the forecast did warn of possible storms later, so I packed a waterproof top which turned out to be a waste of time. Last week the ride split into two and I inadvertently ended up in the slower group when I had fancied having a go in the quicker one, but today was feeling the effect of my earlier efforts in the week, so really only wanted an easier ride anyway. We all set off together, once again in a westerly direction, following many of the roads I had been on yesterday. The pace slowly crept up and up, driven by some new younger guys in tops advertising that they were members of racing clubs, rather than a "Cyclo-Touriste" one which was supposed to be the club I was with.

At first my legs ached, but soon I felt better and had no problems following. At Segonzac, a place I had not been to before, we pulled into a yard at the rear of the post office and stopped. I took the opportunity for a comfort stop, as did others whilst we all milled around. Eventually I found out that there was to be a "Randonnee"; a type of cycle ride over a pre-determined route (an Audax to us Brits), but that we had missed it. I had to admit I was glad as by that time we had already done 25 or so miles and the thought of another possibly 50 miles then the return home again was not to my liking.

We headed back for home, via a slightly circuitous route, still all on very quiet roads, but the ride then developed into a brawl, an unofficial race, and the speed shot up, with those unable to keep up (and there were many) left behind in the dust. Much to my surprise I found I could not only keep up, but managed to get to the front a few times. The speed stayed high until the outskirts of La Couronne, and then it eased as we took another round about way back to the start point.

I got back very hot and sweaty as it was very warm by this time. Mike, my returning holidaymaker, had not arrived so a shower and a light lunch were in order. By the time I returned to the hotel his bike had appeared at the workshop and on a quick inspection of his bike before I locked it away I saw his mudguard bridge had snapped, which must have led to an annoying rattle on the not very smooth local roads.

During the evening we had a good chat over a beer and he told me about what a good time he had had, some of the things he had discovered and places he had been to in his time away. I just hoped more of my holidaymakers would be as good as him.
57 miles

Monday June 11

I had no work commitments today other than to fix the broken mudguard bridge on Mike's bike, and that took all of 10 minutes, so I made use of the time by building yet another bike up from the bits and pieces in the workshop. Mike had already said he didn't intend to use his bike again as he wanted a day just sitting in and around the hotel, so when I saw him sitting in the hotel lobby reading, I left him alone and went for my lunch.

I had written some information sheets for the holidaymakers on my laptop and had printed them out on the printer in the hotel. Unfortunately the ink in the printer was not water resistant and therefore not really suitable for stuffing in a pannier where it could get wet, so I needed to get them photocopied - a process which was water resistant but didn't know where to go, so stuck the originals in my panniers when I set off to the hypermarket for some food shopping. Not having seen a British newspaper since leaving home over 6 weeks ago, so bought a Sunday Times as it was the largest paper and therefore would have more to read than the other papers on sale. Whilst paying the exorbitant price, I saw the shop offered photocopying facilities, so handed over my masters and some Euros and got my copies back within a few minutes. This pleased me as I expected to have to go hunting for somewhere in Angouleme and it was just too hot to do that today.

I joined Mike for a chat before he went in to dinner and he told me more about his days as a lecturer in German at Bristol University.
7 miles

Tuesday June 12

Mike from Bristol, my first holidaymaker, was due to leave today at the end of his stay, and it was part of my duties to see him off. He was in fact going on to somewhere else to continue his holiday and his taxi was due at 11.30am, so I had time to do a bit of work in the workshop before chatting to him as he waited.

As soon as he was away, I went and changed into biking kit with the intention of going elsewhere for my "free" lunch. There was a hotel about 18 miles away in a more hilly area and I wanted to try that. I had actually passed it on a previous ride without knowing it was one of "mine". It was now getting quite warm, but without the high humidity of the last few days and I enjoyed the ride. Eastwards it gets much hillier, greener and more interesting, but of course, harder, so it was with quite a sweat I pulled up outside to be faced with an establishment that looked closed. A barking dog in the locked front garden told me there was probably someone around and I found a side entrance to the Restaurant, but that was also locked. By this time the dog was nearly hoarse, but eventually a lady came to the door.

Quickly realising she was English made conversation much easier. I explained who I was and why I had come and she said the hotel was closed and had only recently come into her ownership. I told her about our operation and she said she had seen the name in the records, but knew nothing about it. I knew for a fact none of my immediate holidaymakers was due to visit, so no panic, but told her I would let the boss know and put her in touch. She suggested a small restaurant in Rougnac about 7kms (4-5mls) away and I set off for that. I found the restaurant, which was in a small village, the 4 course meal of the day was good value at 11euro (approx. £8) and I was quite full afterwards.

I came out to a flat front tyre, but could see no flint or anything in the tyre, so pumped it up again and it stayed up, so continued heading away from the base until I stopped to look at a church dating from Roman times.

Re-emerging, the tyre had softened again, so I set about changing the tube. I still could find nothing in the tyre, but there was a tiny hole in the tube, so changed it for one of my two spares, only to discover that also had a puncture. This was the puncture I had suffered back in England caused by an impact and I had obviously only half done the job. Fortunately I had another tube which was OK and that got me home. I came back via Villebois-Lavallette with its ancient market hall and massive Chateau, so stopped for a soft drink before the last leg. After the blow out at lunch, a light tea was sufficient and I sat watching the ducks and fish whilst eating it.
53 miles

Wednesday June 13

It had gradually dawned on me as time has gone by how few ordinary cyclists there are in France these days, in this area at least. By that I mean utility cyclists - people cycling to the shops, to school, to work etc. I realise I am effectively living in a country area, but even when I go into La Couronne, a substantial suburb, or even Angouleme itself, it's rare to see any "non sporting" cyclist. When I do see one, it will either be a child using it like a toy, or more likely, a senior citizen who has grown up with the convenience and economy of the bike as a means of transport.

However, one form of two wheel transport of which I am glad to see so little is the small moped so beloved of the French youth. These little machines almost invariably have no effective silencer fitted and make an ear shattering sound when they go by, and for a long time afterwards. This is particularly exaggerated in towns where the narrow streets mean the noise just reverberates between the buildings. Even the French, who normally just accept these things, have taken steps in some locations and erected signs banning them from certain areas, or restricting the access times.

I had also noticed I was starting to get bitten more now, with three decent size bumps on the back of my neck and a few smaller ones on my hands, so the insect population is alive and well, and obviously living both near, and off, me.

Talking of alive, the small lake/pond in the hotel has a good stock of amongst others, totally wild Mallard ducks living and breeding on it and the small island in the middle. Not long after I moved in I noticed a broken egg laying at the foot of the hedge the other side of the wire fence outside my door. Since then, a female Mallard has made a nest and over the period of a week or so has laid 10 chicken sized white eggs in it. As it's no more than 4 feet from my door, and directly in line with it, I cannot avoid being very close, and at first, she would run away as soon as I emerged or returned, but now seems to be getting used to my presence, although I take care not to dwell, or stare at her. I have serious doubts as to whether or not any chicks will be hatched as they are simply sitting on the bare earth and she only seems to sit on them when the fancy takes her. Time will tell, but I have reached across and felt them when she has not been present and they are all cold. She makes a rudimentary effort to cover them with some twigs etc, but basically the nest is just left open when she's not there.

Two of my holidaymakers "Mr & Mrs Dentist" were due back today from Cognac, a ride of about 30 miles, and I did not expect them back very early as neither were very fit and the weather was not good, so I did some more work in the workshop until I got fed up and stopped for lunch.

After a leisurely break I wanted a little exercise and some shopping so headed into La Couronne for a few hours. I had modified the carrier on the company bike to accept my panniers as the ones supplied for customer use were not big enough for my shopping, and I managed to fill them.

As I neared the hotel I saw a slow cyclist ahead and guessed that was one of the dentist couple heading back. I was right and he was just getting his breath back when I pulled up behind him. They had both got soaked in the heavy rain I had hidden from in the morning, but were in good spirits, having had a good time over the previous week or so. After dinner I asked them to give me a rundown on how they had got on. This was company policy as it gives the impression we are interested, which I was anyway because I liked this couple. During the chat it transpired he had had a heart operation a few years ago, and his surgeon had encouraged him to take up a bit of cycling again. This adventure was just another step on his road to recovery.
8 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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