Leicestershire and Rutland
Cyclists' Touring Club

(founded 1897)


President's Page
The Secretary's View
Charnwood Chatter
Easy Riders
South Leicestershire Rides
Nuneaton CTC
Book Review "Tomorrow We Ride"
Technical Topics
Whitwick Wheels to Wainwright's Walks
A Summer in France (part 9)


Well doesn't time fly? Here I am producing the Christmas edition. Thank you to all subscribers. It has been very interesting reading your adventures. So much is happening over the next few weeks. By the time of printing, the AGM, slide show with Josie Dew and Photographic competition will all have been and gone. There will of course, be a report of all these events in the next edition.

Ray Clay has now taken up office as our President. It is the first time in the clubs history that the Secretary has been elected President. Ray has been secretary now for 12 years, congratulations, well deserved.

As I am sure you all know I have had problems with my phone line and Broadband Internet for some months now and still no light at the end of the tunnel despite numbers calls, letters and visits from Broadband and Open reach engineers. I am hoping that in the next few weeks to have this problem resolved once and for all.

A personal thank you to Jim Gerrard for his disc, Alan Staniforth for delivering his runs list to my door on a flash drive, Ray Clay for his offers of help using his computer and sending his flash drive and Peter Witting for not only copying a lot of information on to a flash drive but personally delivering it to my door. A big thank you. If I have missed anyone's article, please accept my apologies.

Here's wishing you all a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year (with Broadband on the top of my list from Santa!).

Ivy Allen Contents

A Letter from your President

Following on from the Birthday Rides in August, I and my wife Jean are still supporting all events. September saw us helping at Moira Village Hall with the East Midlands Region Audax rides. A superb event organised by Ian Hill.

The following week Lutterworth Town Hall was the starting place for my Presidents ride, 33 riders took part on a lovely sunny day cycling along the lanes in South Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. The route went by way of Shawell and Swinford. A great number of BMC Minis on their way to their 50th Anniversary day at Stanford Hall were passed queuing to get in.

We visited the Church at Stanford where the verger met us and we had a conducted tour plus refreshments. Soon we crossed over the river Avon and Grand Union canal to reach the Bridle Road over the Hemploe Hills to reach Welford Marina for lunch. Here we joined up with the riders who were cycling the 35 mile route. Suitably refreshed we rode over the canal again and passed by Stanford Reservoir to South Kilworth and Walcote, along a short path past Misterton Hall and to the finish at Lutterworth.

Next came a weeks holiday in Kent. We enjoyed visiting Dover and its Castle and a day visiting many churches on Romney Marsh.

Next came the Off Road Challenge organised by Ron Johnson. Out came my bike again to ride an interesting route, plenty of dry weather made the route easier.

Soon I shall be at our County AGM where I shall present the chain of office to our new President.

I have gained enormous pleasure during the past two years as your President and I thank you all for organising, riding and supporting many of our events and keeping our County well respected.

Keith Lakin

The Secretary's View

Ray Clay

First of all, let me give my grateful thanks to all those who supported me and Penny through the difficult time with our family bereavement. It hasn't been easy to cope with a funeral and house clearance 500 miles away in a remote area of the Scottish Western Highlands. Getting anything done up there presents problems. For instance, we had to clear a load of unwanted items and the trip to the tip meant a 100 mile round trip to Portree on the Isle of Skye! Thankfully, now we can see light at the end of the tunnel and are hoping the solicitors can now tie up the loose ends.

I did manage to book a CTC camping tour to Holland earlier in the year. As luck would have it, the weather was gloriously hot and sunny all week. This was very fortunate since it was a moving on tour and the tent had to be taken down every morning. There were five of us from Loughborough who travelled across to Harwich. During the week, luckily I had no punctures although poor Tony Fowkes had a spate of them. I took up my usual position at the rear of the group but managed to keep up reasonably well. I used my trusty old Falcon, passed on to me by Vera Kirk. All the other group members had more up market machines. I was the only one with 27 inch wheels, which didn't impress the leader, Mark Waters.

The Birthday Rides this year were organised by the CTC East Midlands Region. The leading role was taken by Max Scott from Northampton. The rally was based in Oundle, a very pretty village renowned for its public school. The campsite was based at the rugby club while the non campers were accommodated at the school. Max nominated me as campsite manager and, fortunately, I was ably assisted by the Nottinghamshire group. There were no major problems. There were a few minor accidents and we had to make some quick decisions when we found part of the campsite flooded. But, overall, the Birthday Rides went very well. The Birthday Tea was held in Deene Park and Jean Lakin's cake was very well received. If it hadn't been for Max, there probably wouldn't have been a Birthday Ride event this year. National Office are calling for volunteers to run future Birthday Rides. They haven't exactly been inundated with offers although Cornwall seems the likely venue in 2010.

We are very fortunate in securing Josie Dew to put on a slide show for us in November. There is a timely article in the latest edition of Cycle which shows her travelling with her young daughter, Molly. I'm looking forward to seeing her exploits. I'm sure she will recount some interesting experiences.

On 20th December, the CTC Loughborough Section will be holding its annual Mince Pie Run at Belton Village Hall near Shepshed. There will be the usual refreshments and the opportunity for a chat. Weather permitting, there are likely to be hundreds of cyclists from the East Midlands.

Congratulations are in order to John Catt, who is due to take over from John Cutler as the National Councillor for the East Midlands in January.


Leicester Easy Riders

with Rose Holman

During the past few months, our section has been splitting into two groups with the first completing the longer ride and the second a much shorter one.

The 2nd August Dave led the ride with Jim, Andy and Norman to Eye Kettleby. They were also joined by Mick and John. Nancy, Rhona and I had a shorter ride to Countesthorpe, Willoughby Waterleys, Peatling Parva and Magna. Here we visited two beautiful open gardens and later enjoyed tea and cakes in the village hall.

The 6th September brought us to Desford Bird Sanctuary which was June's ride. We were accompanied by Nancy, Pete and Andy. Jim joined us for morning coffee and then returned home. It was then on to Stoney Cove for the rest of the party for lunch, after which the group split up for the return journey.

Eight of our members attended our AGM on the 4th October. We met at Sainbury's in Oadby for coffee and then on to Oadby, Great Glen and Illston where we enjoyed lunch in the hall with liquid refreshments (and free roast potatoes) taken later in the pub. June and Pete left the group after the meeting and Mick also returned home. The remainder carried on via Gaulby over the aerodrome to Oadby where we again split up and went our separate ways.

Kings Lock are open for Christmas lunches the first two weeks in December, unfortunately there is no bar available. You also have to book in advance as there is only room for eighteen people.

Pete was not able to lead his ride to Rothley Station so Dave kindly volunteered to take over. Nancy, Andy, Ian and I met at the Great Central Underpass from where we travelled together to Kingsway North where a car was being driven on the wrong side of the road. The driver was talking on his mobile phone and almost hit me! After a few words with the driver we continued to Newtown Linford for coffee via nearly every road in New Parks passing Glenfield Hospital and Anstey. After refreshments I left the group to visit a friend while the remaining three carried on through Bradgate Park to the station at Rothley for lunch.

Cakes and raffle prizes are still needed for the Carol Service plus raffle prizes for the Christmas and New Year lunches. Many thanks.

Have a Happy Christmas and New Year.


Charnwood Chatter

with Betty Naylor

Here's hoping everyone of our members enjoyed their summer holidays! All the Easy Riders did their own thing in small groups in which cycling was involved - at least in some small way. Pearl and Soo achieved a 500 mile tour of Galway in Ireland, Brenda and Dave used their new camper van for a family holiday near Cromer, before continuing down to Suffolk for a cycling/bird watching week around Minsmere.

Howard, Paul and I enjoyed our stay in a cottage near Bellingham, Northumberland, visiting various forts along Hadrian's Wall. Paul especially enjoyed his visit to Chester's Fort where an educational programme for children was being run. He got to dress up in a Centurian's uniform and also took part in a mock battle. He was so carried away with his 'snapping' that he took 70 pictures and wore out the batteries in his camera! The whole idea of the holiday was to give Paul the opportunity to ride his own bike, which he really seemed to enjoy, as we rode daily up and down the mile long lane into Bellingham and round the Keilder Water cycle trail on several occasions.

Alex and Mary used her van to visit Northern Scotland especially to watch the dolphins at play in the Moray Firth, then paid a weeks visit to Colchester to see the churches, also to Hereford for a few days with Pearl and Soo.

This year, we combined a cycling/camping weekend at Wolvey for the Churches Ride on the Saturday and Keith's Presidents Ride on the Sunday, all around the Lutterworth area. Five of us took part and we had a most interesting and enjoyable weekend.

Lastly, five of us again used the campsite at Beccles boatyard for weeks holiday in October when the weather was really excellent - quite the opposite of the last time. On the second day, we rode out along the local cycle Route 30 to visit the church at Worlingham which had just celebrated the Harvest Festival, but unfortunately we lost the route so continued through Hulver to Mutford where, surprisingly, with the help of the postman, we found the Early Dawn Nurseries, right out in the middle of nowhere, for a welcome refreshment stop. Leaving Alex and Mary to find their own way back, Pearl, Howard and I continued to Kessingland on the coast. Here we ate our lunch near to the beach where it was rather chilly, so we soon made our return journey, picking up Route 30 near to Carlton Colville and successfully following it through to Beccles. It was no wonder we went astray in the morning as it led us along lots of small paths through a large housing estate, past the schools and eventually emerging near the church at the town centre. On alternative days we took to the buses with our free passes and again visited Lowestoft and Southwold.

The best ride of the week was when three of us followed the National Route 1 southwards, out through lovely country lanes towards Halesworth. The trees were a picture in their autumn colours and we even saw a couple of stouts playing on the road near Cox's Common. We managed to stay on route, emerging near the Transport Museum, which unfortunately was only opened at 2pm, so after taking a few pictures of the memorials to the US airmen who lost their lives during the war, we rode into Halesworth for coffee. Then staying on route, we continued through Walpole to the pretty village of Bromfield where lunch was eaten in the thatched bus shelter before having a drink at the local pub. We continued along Route 42 towards Thorington and Blackheath, eventually rejoining Route 1 at Iketshall St. Laurence and thus back to Beccles. A really lovely ride.

On the last day we retraced our first days ride north eastwards along Route 1 to Loddon Bridge where Howard celebrated his birthday by treating us all to lunch at Rosie Lee's café. On the return journey it was decided to explore the interesting looking fen lane opposite the Wherry Inn, Ellingham which led us down a very rough track to the Lock Inn on the River Waveney. Unfortunately, their generator was down, but Mary smiled nicely at a couple of fellows who had a barge moored nearby and they kindly provided us with cups of tea. After a brief chat we returned via Geldeston back to camp.

Our younger members ie the Jones family have again done us proud by riding two more 100k Audax rides during the Birthday Rides week at Oundle. Stuart and Heather also rode the Rough Stuff, whilst the rest of us were away. In fact, Heather, now aged 10, is leading the junior section of the National Tourist Competition. She has also been recognised as a 'Child of Talent' for her photography and some of pictures were shown on the East Midlands News recently. She also earned herself a day with the Red Arrows and was interviewed at school by the BBC Derby Radio team.

The rest of us have ridden out most Sundays during the summer, but attendances have been rather sparce due to staggered holidays - not bad though with regular riders having an average age of 70!

Looking to 2010, the Easter break is to be based on Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, and the hard riders have already booked their accommodation. Brenda Ottey is now trying to find a site for the campervans and would be pleased to hear from people who might be interested.


The South Leicestershire Rides

with Peter Witting

The London-Edinburgh-London Audax ride kept some of us busy at the end of July: Tony Davis survived the appalling weather to complete the ride, before rushing over to France for the Semaine Federale. Peter Witting and Neil Dixon manned controls along the route, which tested their endurance almost as much as the riders. Thanks to other members of the CTC in Leicestershire who turned up to help.

Following close on the heels of LEL were the Birthday Rides at Oundle. Max Scott managed to pull off a successful week of rides. A number of Leicestershire folk helped with the rides, with Peter leading a group into the Fens on the Tuesday, and on his own ride on the Friday into lumpy Leicestershire.

On a wet Sunday at the end of August, the rain set in during lunch at the Church End Brewery. Suitably prepared for the return, Tony & Jayne led the South Leicesters to the tea stop at their local, The Pig in Muck at Claybrooke, where there was a beer festival and Morris Dancing. Yes, a good day out despite the rain!

We welcomed the President's Ride who this year met on our home territory at Lutterworth. We were also pleased to lunch at The Wharf at Welford, a popular watering hole for our riders.

We were well represented on the county Offroad Rides at the beginning of October. Ron Johnson seems to have sorted out a route that maximised the risk of punctures. My group started to suffer as soon as we reached the towpath. When it was my turn, the rest of the South Leicesters passed - Tony, Neil, Jayne, Shane plus Alan Hartshorne. Not even Kevlar strips or Slime worked. My 2nd thorn was picked up on a National Forest track. Quick action with the pump just got me to the finish.

There was a good turnout to coffee at Hallaton on 11th October, including some new faces becoming regulars. The lunch plan was abandoned with all turning for home, and those staying out choosing to lunch at Bridge 61 at Foxton Locks - a good choice.

We had a joint run the following week, meeting the Coventry group for coffee at Catthorpe. Roy Dayman led them on a longer ride, including Honey Hill, while I took the stragglers on an easier route to lunch at Welton. The White Horse was another small friendly rural pub.

Waterloo Farm at Great Oxendon was inundated with cyclists on 25th October when our group arrived to supplement other riders from over the border. Luckily it was not too far to lunch (our own) at the Royal Oak at Naseby.

The dire weather forecast the following Sunday ensured that only a madman would turn out for a ride - yes, that was me. It was a full heavy-duty 40-year-old cape and sou'wester to the start, and the same for the solitary ride home again. The next week it was Ivan Waddington's turn to ask where everyone had got to, as he waited in vain at the Sheepy Magna coffee stop. I'm sure things will return to normal once we get used to the chilly, dark, damp wintry conditions!


Nuneaton Cyclist Touring Club
crowned 'Volunteer Group of the Year West Midlands'.

The group raised money through the local Community Plan Fund and launched 'Cycle Nuneaton' to publicise the enjoyment of cycling aimed at a younger and wider audience as well as their own club.

Kevin Mayne, chairman of the national CTC which has more than 60,000 members said “Anne, Rose and their committee colleagues have shown great leadership and entrepreneurship and embody the ambition of CTC to appeal to wider groups of cyclists and potential cyclists. They have worked with young people who may never have thought about developing their cycling and also produced their own Five Miles to Fabulous run to encourage more women to cycle and added the annual Heritage Ride in September this year. Shorter, family friendly weekend rides have also been added to the regular diet of club runs.”

The club offers a variety of regular weekly sociable rides on Thursday, Saturday mornings and Sundays.


Book Review - Jean Bobet: Tomorrow We Ride, Mousehold Press, Norwich, 2008, pp.179.

with Ivan Waddington

Jean Bobet is the younger brother of Louison Bobet, the legendary French rider of the 1950s and the first rider to win three consecutive Tours de France. Jean was himself a good rider and, although always riding in support of his more illustrious brother, nevertheless managed to win the Paris-Nice stage race and also rode all three major Tours, including a creditable 14th place finish in the Tour de France.

But Jean was different from most other riders. He wore spectacles, he was university educated and was regarded by other riders as the 'intellectual' in the peloton. He is also an Anglophile. He took a degree in English at Nantes University, winning the World Student Games road race title while there. After graduating he went to Aberdeen to work on a thesis on Hemingway but, while there, Louison wrote asking him to return to France to ride with him as a professional. That was the end of Jean's academic studies. But his fascination for language, and his precise and elegant use of language, shine through this beautifully written book. It is this which makes this book distinctively different from almost every other sports book. Bobet is not like many of the semi-literate sports stars of today who have little of value to tell and whose meaningless autobiographies are churned out with the help of ghost writers. There is no ghost writing needed here, for it would be difficult to find a ghost writer who writes as well as Bobet himself. The book was written (in French) in 2004 and the English language translation (which preserves the beauty of the original French) came out in 2008.

And Bobet does have a story to tell. As he himself notes, the fifties was, perhaps more than any other decade, the golden age of professional cycling. Bobet puts this down to two things. Firstly it was the 'luminous period that followed the dark years of war' in which sport in general and cycling in particular played a part in celebrating the victory and reconstruction. The second coincidence was, suggests Bobet, the simultaneous emergence of not one, but ten champions of international stature; it was a period when 'Coppi beat Bobet who beat Van Steenbergen who beat Koblet who beat Bartali who beat Ockers who beat Robic …'. And as Bobet notes, it worked because the heroes were not a only household names but also accessible to their fans and, in this respect, he compares the great riders of those days with the leading riders of today, who complete a race and immediately take refuge behind the blacked out windows of the team bus.

This is a finely observed book, not just about the great riders of the fifties but also about the culture of the peloton. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly given his fascination for language, he notes that the vocabulary of the peloton is resolutely masculine, homophobic and phallocentric. Women, he suggests were divided into three categories: 'chicks, the only ones who are spared, and whores and bitches who are scorned'. This vocabulary, he says was meant to be amusing but, being perhaps more sensitive than most of his fellow riders, he says that their vocabulary could be offensive and violent. And sex enjoyed a prominent position in their vocabulary; thus when something annoyed you, it was not your nerves it got on! Members of the club, he observes, share a language full of members!

Let me finish by describing two truly enchanting sections of this book, both of which reflect Bobet's love of cycling - not specifically of racing, but of cycling more generally. Bobet calls this 'la volupté', which may loosely be translated as the voluptuous pleasure of cycling. He says: 'the voluptuous pleasure that cycling can give you is delicate, intimate and ephemeral. It arrives, it takes hold of you, sweeps you up and then leaves you again. It is for you alone. It is a combination of speed and ease, force and grace. It is pure happiness'. As an example, he describes a ride he took on his own on the Côte d'Azur one February. When he arrived home his brother asked him how the ride had gone to which Jean replied that he was 'flying today'. And his fascination with words comes out once more when he adds, 'When I think about it, there is flight (vol) in volupté'.

The other delightful section is the penultimate chapter, which takes the same title as the book: Tomorrow we ride. This refers not to racing, or even to serious training rides, but to the Sunday morning rides which the brothers Bobet took together after their retirement. Bobet writes: 'Riding on a Sunday morning we had plenty of ideas: some bright ones, some not so good, and even some that were completely mad'. These included some nostalgic rides over the great Alpine cols over which they had previously raced, all described quite beautifully.

This is an outstanding book. Read it! It is available from Amazon for £9.95.



In the souvenir edition of September 1987 there is an article entitled “Roadmen's Dinners”. Apparently in the early years many of these were held but why they were started no one seems to know.

Throughout the county the Leics DA laid on these meals for road maintenance workers, sweepers, menders etc. There was a Roadman's Dinner Fund to which people subscribed and it was very successful, The workers were sometimes given gifts as well as dinner!



by Peter Witting

Yes, we can!

Can we fit lower gearing to our bikes to help us get up hills easier? And can we mix road groupsets with components from offroad groupsets to get those lower gears? The answer to both questions is “Yes, we can!”. I had been led to believe that mix and match was not recommended. I had been using a 9-speed Shimano Ultegra setup with STI road levers. The rear mechanism was limited to a 28 tooth largest sprocket, and a total capacity of 39 teeth.

To get lower gears would need a sprocket larger than 28, or a chainring smaller than the 30 teeth on the triple chainring. A larger sprocket would need a mountain bike rear changer; but they are designed to work with straight bars and Rapidfire levers. So the combination of STI levers and mountain bike gearing shouldn't work - but it does!

Thanks to Richard Burt from the “Thursday Club” for showing the way. I chose the long-arm Deore XT rear changer with Shimano's “shadow” mechanism (RDM-772-SGS). The 771 does the same job without the “shadow” design which offers more protection from damage and can actually handle 36T sprockets. The SGS denotes the long arm necessary for the biggest sprockets and massive 45 teeth capacity! I coupled this with an 11-34 tooth 9-cassette to correspond with my old Ultegra 9-speed levers - an important match.

The combination was easy to set up and works perfectly. The cost of the new changer and M770 cassette was a little over £105, plus a new chain and cable. Well worth thinking about when your chain and cassette are both worn out and need replacing; then the additional cost of the rear changer might be worthwhile for the advantage of lower gearing.

If you are tempted to do something similar, then please first check Chris Juden's continually updated data on the CTC's national website: Select “Bikes & Bits” on the left of home page, then follow links “Bicycle Bits”, Derailleur Gears”, “Rear Shifting”, and “Standard Shimano” or as appropriate for your kit. This is the Holy Grail for Techies, and really tells you what you can mix with what!

In Praise Of.....

Nylon Nuts & Bolts. Mudguard manufacturers continue to use alloy rivets to secure the metal bridges to their plastic guards. Yet these rivets invariably corrode and fail. I recently discovered all 4 rivets on my SKS rear mudguard had popped. Luckily I still had some nylon nuts and bolts bought some years ago at Maplins. These were inserted in place of the alloy rivets, and the ends cut off with a craft knife. Nothing could be easier. Now I have to find a fresh supply of nylon nuts and bolts. That's proving much more tricky. Do we have to buy everything over the internet now?

I understand that the mudguard makers are aware that their alloy rivets rot in contact with the stainless steel bridges, but choose to ignore the fault. That's because folk like me fix it permanently themselves, others buy new replacements, and very very few insist on their legal right to a free replacement or money back for a product unfit for purpose. If more folk chose the latter option, then the design would change to use stainless steel rivets!

Racking my Brain

I foolishly allowed myself to be tempted to try out the new 220 Gms Titanium carrier rack made by Tubus. It had not yet reached my LBS, so I tried the internet. My purchase turned out to be a “grey import” and lacked documentation and assembly instructions. To make matters worse, Tubus had not yet updated their website with the new model. I checked with the supplier and they had no instructions. It took me over a week of pondering to finally solve the puzzle for my bike and to fit it correctly.

So who would find this rack useful? If you plan to fit panniers, then why spend £125 to save ½Kg when the contents of the bags could be up to 30Kgs? So not for touring. Can you fit a rack-top bag? I tried three models without success. The problem is that the Airy rack top is only 6.5 Cms wide, while the Jim Blackburn rack is nearly twice as wide at 12.5 cms. The Blackburn offers stability to rack-top bags, but the Airy does not. If you want something to stop a saddlebag from fouling the brakes or mudguard, the Airy rack would work, but a Carradice SQR System does that job for 1/5th the cost. Those who might find the Airy useful are overnight Audax riders who need a reliable fitting for their rear lights, in addition to a saddlebag support, and where weight saving is worthwhile.

Lighting Combo

The Cateye EL530 front lamp and LD1100 rear remain my favourite combinationation for touring and club rides. Combined sets cost something over £60. They use disposable batteries, so no problem on tour having to lug around a charger. Maybe not suitable for extended Audax night rides or daily commutes, but then you would have to pay a lot more for the higher power lights, relying on hub generators or mains chargers. Maybe an idea for Christmas?


Whitwick Wheels to Wainwright's Walks - Part Two

by John Allen

In part one John Allen recalled memories, inspired by his brother Phil's article in the December 2008 edition of “Cycle Chat” , of a Charnwood CTC holiday tour back in August 1956 - and Wainwright's Walks.

We had arrived at Coniston Far End Youth Hostel for two nights (Sunday and Monday), cycling by way of Grange-over-Sands, Cartmel and the Furness Fells, with a view of Windermere and Coniston Water either side before passing through Hawkshead to arrive at the northern end of Coniston Water and the Youth Hostel.

Monday was deemed an “easy day” with Phil leading us to visit such fantastic picture post card places as Tarn Hows and we spent some time exploring Coniston. This was a glorious day. After our evening meal we hired some rowing boats for an evening on the glass calm waters of Coniston Water. As the sun went down behind “The Old Man of Coniston” (2,631 feet) it was just magical.

Before moving on the Tuesday I will reveal more of Phil's organising abilities. Before the holiday we were given lists of vital equipment we would be responsible for in case of breakdowns, emergencies etc. We all stayed as a group on tour (as we did on club runs) and woe betide anyone who “bashed off” and probably took a wrong turn (who says risk assessments are something new?). Phil himself carried the trusty primus stove fitted with a special clip to carry on the down tube - plus a supply of meths and paraffin - wot COSHH regulations? (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) - anyway more of our primus later.

Phil was also into 8 mm movies and carried his (Eumig?) movie camera in addition to all his other gear. On several occasions on some downhill sections of passes Phil went ahead to film the rest of the party descending near the bottom and on the first few attempts as we reached him he was not quite ready!! “Can you go up again please lads?” This brought forth a few expletives I can tell you as we were always fully loaded carrying all our gear with us, but in truth we did not have to ride all the way back up the pass from whence we came, just the bottom “bit”.

The movie camera/cycling group synchronisation got much better as the holiday progressed and the results were fantastic, recording the happenings of the time including steam train movements in stations, now long gone and us, all in our much younger days. A film night at the club room was looked forward to with great anticipation. Sadly I expect those 8 mm films of cycling holidays over many years have broken down due to the material then used - they really should have been copied on to video and thus ultimately on to DVD - but who knows, maybe it isn't too late!

Anyway, I digress (or do I?) Tuesday morning was again fine and clear as we packed our gear and cycled from Coniston Far End Youth Hostel into a day (and the following day) that Phil described some features of in his December '08 article.

This was to be no “easy” day as we rode and sometimes walked over the Dunnersdale Fells by Stickle Pike, Birker Fell, Eskdale Green and Santon Bridge to turn our wheels towards Wastwater. Before doing so however, from our elevated position we could see Calder Hall, the world's first nuclear power station, opened by the Queen not long before - now “Calder Hall” is more commonly called Windscale and Sellafield.

We were getting very hungry and it was decided to have our “alfresco” meal on the shores of Wastwater - shores deep in fine grit. Phil soon had the primus set up and roaring like a jet engine - the meths vapourising the main fuel - paraffin, and the bacon was in the pan. No smell on this earth is quite like that combination as the bacon sizzled.

As I recall it was at this point that Barry Whitworth stepped back and knocked the whole set up over - more and meaningful expletives! “Oh dear” said Phil (not really) as we got our knives, forks and spoons out to remove the fine grit from our bacon - it was however delicious - the bacon not the grit. We couldn't remove all the grit but it all went down fortified with minerals.

So it was after a cuppa and much bread that we broke camp, cleared up and were on our way again following the northern shore of Wastwater and on by Wasdale Head and Blacksail Pass to arrive at Blacksail Hut Youth Hostel.

The next morning we descended to Buttermere, remember we were fully laden encountering scree and other obstacles (mountain bikes? wot mountain bikes?)

My lovely brown and black cycling shoes with long flap over the laces, especially ordered for me by Mr Preston who ran a shoe shop in Silver Street, Whitwick, were beginning to look very scuffed and weary so I changed into my hostel regulation plimsolls for the rest of the descent! We all made it down Scarth Gap Pass with Haystacks to the east and High Crag to the west to eventually emerge on flat ground on the shores of Buttermere.

On the descent the pressure valve on the primus stove worked loose and was lost forever but ever resourceful Phil adapted a matchstick with rag as a seal to enable the stove to provide us with many more welcome hot meals before a replacement valve could be obtained. Everyone maintained a safe distance from the stove thereafter! Except Phil who, bless him, did most of the outdoor cooking. We had completed our first -Wainwright Walk with bikes.

In the next episode we are reinforced by more Charnwood CTC members and the late Derek Lowe shows me how to get the best out of my Kodak Box Brownie camera in typical Lake District weather - yes and Phil is still capturing our adventures on 8 mm movie film!

Click here to continue.


- By Dave Binks Continuing the story.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

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. He has installed himself into his accommodation and is getting involved with both his job and the local cycling scene. His story continues…. 

Monday June 25

I awoke to the sound of heavy rain on the windows, and wind in the trees. It seems the whole of Western Europe is suffering under a weather depression, and my part of France is no exception. In the weather forecast in the local paper it said the temperature here is some 6 degrees C below the norm for this time of year and I believed them. I wandered over to chat to my two guests to see what their plans were for the day as I couldn't see them going cycling in this weather - just like me! I felt quite sorry for them as the first two days had been not practical for cycling due to the injury the husband had suffered when he tripped over a kerbstone on his way to Roullet, and since then, apart from yesterday, the weather had not been kind.

We chatted about the route they had taken when I saw them the day before, just outside Chateauneuf and they confirmed they had spotted me in the group. I was rather amused when the lady said she had seen us coming and stopped to watch, describing us as like a swarm of mosquitoes! My advice for today was possibly for them to hang on a while and see what the weather was going to do, or get in their car and drive to Cognac and have a wander around there. I wished them a good day and left them to it. I had some paperwork to do, then make a visit to the Post Office in the village, so by the time I had finished it was time for a somewhat leisurely lunch. 

Some more fiddling around and a weather check showed it had settled a bit into bright sun with occasional dark clouds, but the wind was still strong. I had brought my para-foil stunt kite with me from home for just such an occasion and dug it out of the cupboard. I have a couple of kites that I enjoy flying, one that is really good, but has rigid spars, and this one that has no rigid frame and thus lends itself to carrying on holiday. The shape of the kite is the same as that used by modern day skydivers - a rectangle that forms a curve when the air is drawn into the tubes of the material and assumes an aerofoil section. In strong winds it takes quite a good pull to control it, but by virtue of the two lines, it performs great stunts. The addition of a long flexible plastic tail accentuates the shapes made in the air. I can now manage to get both kites into the air without assistance, so it's quite a nice way to make use of an otherwise too windy day. The next hour was spent in the local football field swooping and twisting and performing stunts until my arms ached.

2 miles 

Tuesday June 26

Once again I awoke to a wet world, so decided to have a go at some more bike building and checking/maintenance of the inherited stock, promising myself if it brightened later I would go out for a ride on my own bike. In fact it soon stopped raining and when I wandered over to the workshop, I stuck my head in on my guests to see what they were going to do on this, their last full at Roullet. I was pleased to see they were nearly ready to go out, with one of my detailed route sheets to see the Chocolate Factory at Trois Palis as their guide. I got out of their way and left them to it and made my way to the workshop where I spent all morning building one of the 25” frames into a complete bike. This was the last bike I could build without having to take at least a rear wheel from other, completed, bikes (ignoring the kids' size bikes) due to the previous incumbent's habit of throwing away the rims off the wheels before he had a rim with which to replace it! There is a great big pile of hubs, front and rear, and also screw on freewheels, but no rims or spokes…….

After lunch the weather had turned into sunshine and showers and I was just finishing when I rang the head office in Manchester with a minor query, only to be told that a late booking had come in and I would now have six people arriving next Tuesday instead of the expected three. That would not give me a problem as one of the reasons I had built up a stock of bikes was to give myself a buffer for just such a situation, but unfortunately one of the late bookings required a very small bike I had not done yet. As I wanted to leave myself a few days in which I could go away for a night or two to another hotel in my area.

They were a delightful couple and I didn't begrudge them the time whilst we sat in the sun. I cheekily asked their ages and was very surprised when he told me he was nearly 80 as I had him down for early to mid 70s. His wife was younger and my guess of mid to late 60s was correct. I thought it was great that at their ages they were still active enough to come on this type of holiday, despite neither being regular cyclists other than a little potter around their local area. By the time I left them it just wasn't worth going out, particularly as the forecast for tomorrow was better anyway, so I simply made my dinner and sat in a comfy chair trying to understand the script of a French film on the TV.

0 miles 

Wednesday June 27

My two guests were due to leave today and then I would have no-one to worry about for six days when the next lot arrived, so I was keen to see them away and enjoy again the sense that I had only myself to worry about for a while. They were a lovely couple and I was actually sorry to see them go as they had been very easy to chat to. Their journey home was to drive up to near St Malo on the Normandy Coast, where they were due to spend more time before returning home. I wished them better weather than they had experienced with me and waved them away.

The workshop was in need of a reshuffle of the bikes hanging up and I made that my job for the day. Picking up and hanging 70 bikes to put them into number order gets quite tiring and I was glad when I had finished. At least now I could go straight to where a bike was rather than have to hunt for it amongst dozens of others. Wednesday is the day for my ride with the local cycling club and I ensured I was sufficiently refuelled before I rode over to meet them.

The day was dry and some sunshine, but comparatively cool and so I wore an extra layer under my jersey. We headed south east, where we did a big loop in much hillier and therefore more interesting countryside. I had a rough idea where I was most of the time, occasionally coming across somewhere I recognised, but most of the time it was on new roads for me. We actually passed one of the hotels in the group used by my guests and I made note that it had only taken us 2 hours to get there, so it would be quite feasible to ride out to it for my free lunch one day.

On the return loop we passed under a high rock face with a chateau perched right on the very top, looking as if it only a puff of wind to blow it over the edge. I had no idea where it was but wanted to be able to find it again, so thought I must ask the ride leader at a convenient time to tell me, but it had to be with the aid of a map or I wouldn't understand his reply. As time went on, one of the other guys started to lag further and further behind on the climbs and we had to wait at the top quite often. It struck me as rather strange that knowing he was starting to struggle, as soon as he caught up again, the pace would go straight back up to what it was before! In fact, we had to push him up any gradients over the last few miles, so he really was on his last legs. I was fairly tired at the end, but put it down to my morning's weight lifting session on the bikes in the workshop.

Having a few days ahead of me with no-one to look after and seeing how the weather was due to improve for a few days (although I had seen on the international news that the UK was experiencing far worse!) I had thought I might spend a night away. I had thought possibly stay at one of the other hotels in my area, and had cleared this with my boss, but on checking the prices with a view to booking a bed, the prices were more than I wanted to pay, so I put the idea “on the back burner” for a while.

71 miles.  

Thursday June 28

Although the weather was not forecast to be brilliant again today, it did promise to stay dry, so I set off on a longish ride south to see a village I had heard was well worth a visit, Aubeterre-sur-Dronne. My route took me along some of the roads I had ridden before, some alone, and some with the cycling club only last Sunday. I went straight through Blanzac and Montmoreaux, arriving non stop at Aubeterre in time for either a restaurant lunch or in time to buy food from a shop for a picnic if the restaurants looked too pricey. I had a quick look and decided I would have a meal cooked for me for a change, so there was no rush to the shop before it closed for the traditional 2 hours lunch break.

What really makes Aubeterre famous is its massive underground church (now no longer in use for worship). By massive I mean as large as many cathedrals, but remember this one is carved into the hillside out of the solid rock! It dates from the 12th Century and is now a National Monument, and there is a small fee of 4€ (£3 approx.) to go in, but I thought it was well worth it. The village also claims to be one of the prettiest in France, but that's a claim many make. It's pleasant, but not stunning. My lunch was in a small restaurant overlooking the square, but I thought it too cool to sit outside and anyway, I wanted to look at the very pretty waitress!

Instead of heading straight back I wandered down to the River, the Dronne and watched the English holidaymakers enjoying themselves in the canoes and paddling in the river. I also wanted to see the town of Chalais, which is only about 7 miles or so west of Aubeterre and so headed west. Chalais was pleasant and boasts an enormous Chateau that is open to the paying public. I didn't have time to go inside, but wandered into the courtyard and admired the still used drawbridge and strange contraption over the well used to draw the water.

Time was getting on now and I had to get back, but couldn't go past Blanzac without stopping at the café in the square that is run by the Englishman I met a week or two ago. He wasn't there, but the French chef was, and also a British customer, who asked me where I was going etc. He was obviously living in the area, and I commented that it seemed to me there must be an enclave of British in the area. He agreed, and then stunned me by saying that there must be 500-600 British people living within a 10km (6 miles) radius. I had expected him to say 50-60! He said when he came over from Cambridgeshire in 1994 he was regarded as a very exotic animal, but not now. This certainly rang true as from my experiences in the large stores, there are a lot of British people wandering around, and they don't look like holidaymakers to me. This encouraged me to look in the estate agents' windows and then realised why. Property in the area was only about 75% of the UK price for a house in the Leicestershire area. For a Londoner they would be even cheaper and all had more ground surrounding them.

66 miles

 Friday June 29

I had a frustrating wait for some faxes to arrive from Manchester with details of some late bookings, but eventually I rang and got the details over the phone. This enabled me to then ride to Bassac for my “free” lunch (one I could claim on expenses) in time for the mid day session.

The meal was good, but for a hungry cyclist, not really adequate and I had to fill up on the bread rolls that just kept appearing. Compared to my base hotel and only other one I had been to, this one sat in the middle in terms of food, but the location, under an awning beside a well stocked fish pool was delightful. There were about 20 other diners, all men and most in fairly casual clothes, including jeans and tee shirts, so in my cycling clothing I didn't feel out of place, and in any case, they took no notice of me.

I then took an easy ride along the River Charente to Jarnac, passing a commemorative plaque, written in both French and English, in memory of the two “Cockleshell Heroes” of “Operation Frankton” who had passed that way in WW11. These were two very brave men who had badly damaged five German ships at anchor in Bordeaux harbour by paddling their canoes 100 miles up the River Gironde and laying magnetic mines on the boats' hulls. They then had to escape across occupied France to get back to England, which they did.

There were photos of the two men and a sketch map of their land route which took them past the very spot where the plaque was. Only two of the ten on the raid who set off from the submarine that took them to France made it all the way home again. Six were captured and shot by the Nazis and two just disappeared, presumed drowned. A film was later made of their exploits and is called “The Cockleshell Heroes”. I remember seeing it a child, and jolly good it was too.

When I got to the small town of Jarnac I thought I really should see what all the fuss about the drink called Cognac was, and so paid my 4€ to go on a guided tour of one of the distilleries. Whilst many of the famous names are based in Cognac itself, there are a few who are in Jarnac, Courvoisier (who sell under the Napoleon Brandy name) being one of them. It's not actually a tour of the factory, more an understanding of how its produced and the history behind it with some marketing thrown in, but I learnt something from it, if only that the growers are not allowed to water the vines, so their roots grow down as much as 12-15m. Oh - and I can't afford their top priced bottle at 4,500€.

Saturday June 30

At last; sunny and warm day all day without even a hint or threat of rain. I felt a bit tired from my previous exertions and also needed some food shopping, so rode into the Auchan hypermarket in La Couronne on one of Susi's bikes, but with my own, larger panniers fitted. Despite these larger panniers I still only just managed to get it all home, and had to strap the loaf on top of the carrier to get it back.

I had wondered for a while about buying a small “MP3” music player and so, when I saw one for £20 that would also double up as a voice recorder - useful when describing routes, I bought it.

The hotel was very busy again, with six wedding receptions going on throughout the day, so I stayed well away - there's nothing more frightening than a harassed French Lady Hotelier!

Later on I set off for a short ride south to describe a short (19 miles) route for my holidaymakers and gave the recorder its first workout. Obviously, on a short ride, the choice of route is restricted, particularly when you can only go in a semicircle due to the proximity of a big city, so some of the roads had already been covered, albeit wherever possible in a different direction, on other descriptions. Nevertheless to a non-cyclist it would still be a good ride. In order to save time next morning when I was to meet the local club for their Sunday run, I left the bike in my accommodation rather than in the workshop adjacent to the hotel.

29 miles 

Sunday July 1

It was dull and grey when I awoke, but I still got up and dressed ready for the club run, but at the time I needed to leave, the heavens opened and it bucketed down, so the bike stayed put and I went back to bed. I wasn't that desperate for a ride that I would risk catching a cold.

The day turned out to be very cool and I had to put a jumper on and even, for a while, the heating in my accommodation, which is always cool to say the least, but at least it stopped raining. This on the first of July! I had a very lazy day, just playing on my computer and doing some of Susi's paperwork, not even going over to the hotel until mid afternoon and then just to check my emails. Being Sunday, I have a standing invitation to join the hotel staff in the kitchen for the evening meal, and that caused my second outing of the day.

Chatting to a British couple in the bar afterwards, I found out they had been to this hotel before and knew all about Susi Madron and my predecessor. The man, who must have been in his mid 70s, had his lightweight bike with him and said he was in training for time trialling when he got home to West London. He planned to do 60 miles the next day, but I warned him the forecast was not good in the morning, better to go out after lunch, but he said he never believed the forecasts. This was the first day of the “No Smoking in Public Places” law in England, and had to smile to myself when I saw his wife light up in the bar after her meal.

0 miles 

Monday July 2

I needed to advise two of the hotels in my area that a guest had a gluten allergy, and as I don't like using the phone to speak French, I thought I would ride over and give them the notice in writing. The forecast was correct, wet in the morning, brighter later, so I didn't rush to get up, instead spending some time in the workshop, hoping it would dry up later.

As I made my way back for lunch, I passed by the British couple's room, and there was his bike sitting outside, soaked and splattered with bits of mud. However, by the time I set off, although still with heavy clouds, the rain had stopped and the roads had dried in the quite strong westerly wind. So I was correct to believe the forecast!

The first hotel was at Cognac, and as I had always gone there via the north of the River Charente, decided to go via the south, but avoiding the busy N141 from Angouleme. Just on the southern edge of Chateauneuf is the strangely named “Font Qui Pisse” and I was curious to see it, but took a wrong turning somewhere and never found it. However, what I did pass was a well tended small memorial at the roadside to Flight Sgt David Hoddinot, RAF, killed in April 1944. Obviously his plane had crashed nearby, and the locals had erected the little memorial in his honour. A nice touch I thought.

My route then headed virtually due west, straight into the wind, and it was hard work as I cycled through the vineyards, but when I reached Bouteville I was drawn to the huge but ruined Chateau sitting on top of a small hill overlooking the surrounding area. Builders' security fencing and a notice made it obvious this was slowly being restored and I thought it would be a great place to return to in a few years time.

The easy, but boring ride through the vineyards on the D95 got me to Segonzac, a town by the local standards, but no more than a village by UK measures. Of course, being Monday, everything except the bar was closed, but I had no need to stop anyway. It occurred to me about then how many place names hereabouts ended in “……ac” and could straight away think of : - Cognac, Fleurac, Foussignac, Gensac, Hiersac, Jarnac, Montignac, Nersac, Rouillac, Segonzac. There are many others and I made a note to try to find out why - perhaps it's a Roman connection as the Romans were here for a long time.

From Segonzac into Cognac was quite a pull, not due to the terrain, which by now was almost pancake flat, but due to the strong headwind. The small planes taking off into the wind from the little airfield south of Cognac hardly had to roll along the runway before they were airborne. Entering Cognac I passed two cyclists standing outside a shop and noticed the panniers strapped to the bikes. As no Frenchman would be seen dead with luggage on his bike, these had to be foreigners, and my bet was they were British. I stopped and yes, they were Brits, on their way south towards the Pyrenees, and doing 100-120 miles per day. I wondered how much of their journey they were actually “seeing” as opposed to “glancing at” on the way, but kept my thoughts to myself wished them well and carried on to the hotel where I was to hand over the note.

The hotelier, a pleasant lady who spoke English with a strange accent, was very accommodating and even gave me a coffee for my troubles. I asked if she was French because her accent sounded almost Dutch to me, but she assured me she was a “Charentoise” (a local).

My return was much faster than my outwards journey as I now had the wind behind me and I bowled along at 20mph for long periods across the flat lands, this time north of the River, along some of the roads the Tour de France riders would be using in a few weeks time. The route to the hotel in Cognac is rather confusing when approaching from the north, so I once again used my little voice recorder to make notes for later transcription to hand on to my holidaymakers.

Through Nersillac (another “…ac”) and Sigogne and onto Plaizac (“...ac” again) where I turned right and through very quiet lanes to my next hotel just south of Asnieres. I had eaten here a couple of times, so knew exactly where it was, but had not met the man behind the Reception desk before. He also spoke with the strange accent of the lady at Cognac, so perhaps it's just the way they speak here. My French is not really good enough to differentiate between the local accents. He asked how far I had cycled today, and when I mentioned Cognac, he misunderstood me, or perhaps was just being generous and immediately offered me a drink of Cognac! I politely declined, with more cycling to do and Cognac (at 40% proof) not being my favourite drink, it was an easy decision. From there I was back at Roullet in under an hour.

Later I strolled to the hotel and exchanged pleasantries with the British cyclist, who confirmed he had got soaked on his morning ride as I thought he would.

70 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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