“The West Surrey Cyclist” - October - December 2000
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|Front||cover - yet another new design, which was used for a couple of years. The October - December 2001 cover photocopied particularly well.|
ALLOW me to blow my own trumpet more than usual. Since 1991 I have been organising an annual Spring cycling house party weekend based on quality hotels in spectacular cycling areas. The accent is on fun and good living rather than challenging riding. We fill up every hotel we go to and, if I say so myself, every one of these weekends has been a great success.
Anyway, to commemorate the tenth anniversary, a full scale group holiday in Switzerland is being set up for up to 49 of us, this time based on three hotels with three nights in each. Rico Signore, our chairman, has aleady sampled and selected the hotels and cycling routes and the coach has been booked. We shall be using the same firm and driver as took me on the Raid Pyreneen last year and the plan is to have a Woking pickup and dropoff for West Surrey DA members and friends who care to come along.
The first and last nights will be in France and the 12 day, 11 night, holiday will start on Wednesday June 20, ending back in Surrey on Sunday July 1. Bikes will be carried in a fully-enclosed horsebox-type trailer attached to the coach, which will stay with us throughout. There is no need to cycle all day or every day and there will be plenty of opportunity for walking or sightseeing from the luxury coach for those wanting a break from the bike.
The cost will be around £750 per person depending on the number of people in our party. This will include all transport including the ferry, half board at the Swiss hotels, and two bed and breakfast stopovers in France. Do let myself or Rico know now if you are interested so that we can gauge the state of enthusiasm for what should be a spectacular and memorable trip. We will be delighted to give you more details. Our phone numbers are 01483 769051 (Geoff) and 01483 822240 (Rico).
I WAS a first-timer at the CTC’s Birthday Rides jamboree, based in Canterbury, and enjoyed it immensely. I had visualised doing a few rides and just mooching about. I simply had not realised in advance that the whole point of the week was to have a damn good holiday with like-minded people.
Firstly, it was a pleasant surprise to be greeted at registration by a posse of West Surrey DA pals I had not expected to be there. And as the week progressed I came across many more old friends as well as making new ones. As for entertainment, I personally enjoyed the jazz on campus and at a pub a few of us discovered in Canterbury centre. And the day trip to Calais, with 30 miles cycling on the other side and a bit of swimming, was the icing on the cake. Thanks to everyone who befriended me.
I CANNOT leave the Birthday Rides without relating my saga of Monkton Methodist Women’s Bright Hour - yes, you read it right! As a junior reporter on a local newspaper in East Kent I had to visit the village of Monkton twice a week to pick up snippets of news. A regular call was on the chairman of the aforesaid Bright Hour. This has stayed in my mind ever since because she really was a ghastly woman and she used to leave me on the doorstep, generally freezing and sodden after enduring the exposed wastelands of the Isle of Thanet, while she dictated details of meetings of her august body, its distinguished speakers and lucky winners of beetle drives.
What, I wondered, was I playing at? Is this what the great world of journalism was all about? Still, I reasoned, my career could only go one way from this - up. And I am pleased to say it did.
You can imagine my feelings when the coffee stop on one of the Birthday Rides was at Monkton Village Hall I just had to ask the good ladies in attendance upon us whether the Bright Hour is still spreading its joy to the female populace, if not to junior reporters on the Isle of Thanet Gazette. And do you know, it is, 42 years on! Nowadays, though, it meets only every month or so and is a quiet affair mainly devoted to prayer and contemplation.
It just doesn’t seem to make the headlines any more.
THE CTC’S second five-year plan calls for all cyclists, including non-members, to have their say in policy-making for cycling. The CTC also wants other organisations to take part in a formal consultation process so that decisions made take account of all cyclists’ needs.
The CTC’s own new five-year plan contains 50 goals which the CTC is determined to achieve. The Editor would like to hear of any proposals emanating from readers or groups within the West Surrey area.
HAVE you noticed that pub food prices have soared by leaps and bounds? While we are told that the “underlying rate of inflation” is now the lowest since the early 1970s, brewers, publicans and licensed victuallers blatantly ignore the “underlying” trends and impose swingeing price increases. Over the past few months some food items have risen by between £1 and £1.50 for main courses and sweets - between 17 per cent to a staggering 58 per cent.
Roughly two years ago we were stunned when charged £4 for a very ordinary sandwich in a West Surrey village pub and vowed never to darken its doorstep again. But now a price of £3.95 appears to have become the norm for a sandwich in many pubs with, if you are lucky, a few limp salad leaves or crisps thrown in.
It is difficult to see how we cyclists can put pressure on the culprits since we revisit premises infrequently and usually in small numbers. Moreover, we cannot claim to be big spenders as the home leg is always looming.
But we wonder what other pub visitors think. Visiting one Surrey-Sussex border pub the other week, where sandwiches cost £3.75 plus, it was noticeable that it was extremely quiet at lunchtime. In the past there used to be quite a number of patrons having lunch. This time we counted five cars, three of which probably belonged to staff.
We are told that country pubs are closing in droves - we wonder why. Is it a deliberate ploy by the big brewers as the Monopolies Commission forces them to shed a number of premises, to price themselves out of the market rather than sell out to competitors?
Another customer grouse concerns the computerised cash machines. It takes staff longer to work out which button to press than to pour your drink. You stand there and hope no-one makes a mistake or you will have the entire staff gathering around trying to correct the false entry. Meanwhile another five thirsty customers patiently wait to be served.
We feel the only way we can have any influence over all of this is by compiling a list of pubs offering reasonably priced food and a welcome. However, given the frequency with which managers and licensees change and pubs are sold between breweries and leisure companies, it is doubtful whether such a list would be valid for very long.
Anyone finding a workable solution to this problem definitely deserves a large gold medal.
I WAS saddened to read in the July - September 2000 magazine that the Committee intend to stand down at the next AGM; not least because it appears that the decision is a direct result of the “failure” of the Southern Counties Millennium Rally. Having completed the planning and spent reasonable amounts of money on deposits and advertising, the decision to cancel this event because of lack of support was wholly reasonable, and made at the latest possible moment (ensuring minimum financial loss). I believe the Committee are to be thanked for all the work that they put into the event preparation, and for their brave decision to cancel.
Discussions over coffee, lunch, etc, indicate that the real reasons for the stand-down are the general lack of support from DA members and the fact that the Committee members have all served extended terms in office and are in need of a break!! The latter is quite understandable: the former will need to be carefully addressed by the new Committee - possibly by spending some of the reserve funds on a survey to find out what members expect of the DA, and the type of events they will support, not only with their attendance but also with their assistance (which appears to have been minimal in recent years).
If the consensus is “that the active members of the DA (wish only to join) regular weekly rides” then we can exist on a minimalist Committee, supported by a number of people willing to commit to planning and leading those rides. However, if the West Surrey DA is to continue to be an events organiser we will need a full complement of Committee members, backed by a fully supportive membership.
A new Committee will have little or no background on which to draw, and one cannot expect them to organise a full calendar of events immediately: neither can one expect those events to run as smoothly as in the past. That in itself may be enough to cause the DA to “fold”, and it is a shame that all the Committee members have decided to resign at the same time, so denuding the DA of its corporate memory. Be that as it may, it behoves all of us to attend the next AGM and ensure that the DA moves in a direction which satisfies our personal requirements.
(I have recently learned that of the circa 1000 members of the DA, only about 70 have participated in events in the last year, and that a committee attempt to find out what the other 930 members expected of the DA resulted in only a handful of responses.)
Wally Happy and his wife Pat are planning to sell their holiday homes in Calvados, Normandy, France. Before they do, they are inviting the DA to visit. Up to 16 can be accommodated in the self-catering chalets, set in a remote rural region with many forests and apple orchards, 47 miles from Caen which has a ferry link to Portsmouth.
Wally says the ideal routine is to ride out for a delicious midday meal and return on quiet roads for an evening barbecue. Tempted? Give Wally a call on 01252 621164.
WITHIN one week, both DA activist Marguerite Statham and a cycling friend of the Editor have separately recommended the British Cycling Museum in Cornwall. So it must be good.
Billed as “the nation’s foremost museum of cycling history”, it has more than 400 “examples of cycles”, more than 1,000 cycling medals, fobs and badges from 1881, a large library of books, and a gallery of framed cycling pictures. It is at the Old Station, Camelford. Phone: 01840 212811.
The following letter was sent to Peter Latarche, Chair, CTC Council, in reply to his request for consultation on the CTC’s Vision 2000 policy document....
To: Peter Latarche, Chair CTC Council.
From: West Surrey DA.
Vision 2000 Consultation - West Surrey DA reply
The Committee of the West Surrey DA has asked me to reply to you as follows.
This Committee has contact with only about 50 of its 1000 DA members, that 50 being those members who take part in our weekly rides programme, and who can be construed as regular touring cyclists with their own particular interests. The other 950 souls are personally unknown to us, as are their views on anything pertaining to the CTC.
We applaud your effort to seek the views of the membership on this important matter, but as far as our DA is concerned, to make the survey meaningful you would have to reproduce the rather voluminous documentation, and then send it to their homes. An alternative would be for you to despatch the papers with the next edition of the magazine: in fact it’s a pity the opportunity to do that was missed in May, the papers arriving through my letterbox only a couple of weeks after the magazine.
As regards our committee and the small number of people we feel we can fairly represent, the expansion and development programme which the CTC is in the throes of, and which is a central part of Vision 2000, does not enthuse. The age profile of our active members is skewed into the 50’s and above. These people have long memories and no shortage of nostalgia. They are concerned, and with good reason, about the speed with which the CTC’s money is being spent, and they do not believe that this money is being wisely spent. They experience an absence of club spirit now as commercial considerations begin to prevail, similar to the sentiments felt as the RAC and AA moved to being mass commercial organizations remote from their grass-root members, and with a different raison d’etre from that originally intended.
These are harsh words to pass to people who are working hard to modernize the organization, and one would hope for the sake of the CTC that these views are not held by the majority of members. But as far as this DA is concerned, there would be only one way to find out, and that would be for you to send those other 950 people the consultation papers: we certainly are not able to undertake such a mammoth exercise for you.
W. Surrey DA of the CTC
22 June 2000
MIX together the following - a fine day, sleepy country lanes, and a good old fashioned pub. For these are the ingredients that go into the making of a great day out with the Wayfarers.
Once you get away from those dreaded main roads it is as though time itself has reverted back over many past years. Along we go with, hopefully, not a care in the world. For is it not right to leave those worries behind us? For in some ways are we not entering a different world, our own world of cycling?
This is a world wherein man and machine must be in harmony with one another. “Car up” I hear called as a car approaches us from the rear on a particularly narrow stretch of road. Onward we ride, with many a thought as to what may lay ahead.
Group cycling is something new to me and as such I welcome its challenge. I enjoy the company and the safety in riding in numbers. For those of you who may already be cycling enthusiasts but either have not the time or have been “put off” in some way or other, do reconsider your situation.
Remember the countryside is there for us all to enjoy. Cycling can avail you of beautiful scenery and a view of life that is seldom experienced when using any other means of wheeled transport.
May I pay tribute to those of you who have helped to establish the West Surrey DA routes of today - also to those tireless ride leaders. I also appeal to any novice who may read this to “take up the pedals” and join us. You do not have to be an expert. Come and join the CTC for there is bound to be something of interest for you. And the stronger we become the greater the influence we can have on the authorities.
May I conclude by offering a personal thank you to Marguerite Statham for introducing me to the CTC West Surrey DA in the first place.
AS of mid-August no-one had volunteered to take over the Intermediates from Bill Mann, so I did. I expect to go nding all day most Sundays, but I find the Wayfarers too slow and the Hardriders too fast. There is clearly a need for an intermediate level of rides, but not necessarily exactly as they have been lately. When I ride on my own these days I find that my average speed is usually between 12 and 13 mph. How far you go in a day then depends on how much time you allot. Four easy sessions of about an hour each, punctuated by refreshment stops, add up to 50 miles. Make the sessions an hour and a quarter and you do 60. If you let the refreshment commas and colons stretch out into full stops then you run out of time and the mileage drops. Longer distances are not difficult so long as you are not pressurised into going a bit faster than you find comfortable.
I hope to recruit new riders into the Intermediate group, but at the moment it is quite unclear what sort of rides they might want. For this reason, for the next runs list, I am fixing as little as possible in advance, so that we can be flexible on the day, adjusting the ride to suit those who turn up and the weather. On weekdays I do fixed things at fixed hours; Sundays don’t have to be like that. If we come across a really attractive pub a bit earlier than our usual lunch time, we can vote on whether to stop there.
I live in Woking, so for the next runs list at least, we will meet at Woking Post Office at 9:15, moving off at 9:25 sharp, and we will take coffee at the same place as the Woking Wayfarers, but get there a bit faster, quite possibly by a more direct route, so as to leave plenty of time to explore the beautiful countryside which lies outside their normal orbit.
Please note: I shall be on holiday during the first half of October, so my runs will start on 22nd October.
The rides will be mainly on road, going off road occasionally to avoid stretches of busy roads, or circuitous or unattractive connections between particularly attractive back roads or places, or to visit places of interest not on roads. There is a wonderful variety of countryside within a 25 or 30 mile radius, and our objective will be to enjoy it to the full together.
Members of long standing know me and what I can do. More recent recruits probably don’t because I have not been so active within the DA in recent years. I have a good memory for roads and places, and know how to use maps. I have lived in the area for more than 25 years and have learnt many nooks and crannies of Surrey and surrounding counties from such masters as Bill Inder and Russ Mantle. I am keen to turn the sort of rides I like into the sort of rides you Intermediates like, so I welcome comments and suggestions. My address is 27 York Road, Woking, GU22 7XH, my phone number is 870218 and my e-mail address is email@example.com; use them.
Next year, say from Easter onwards, I hope to venture further afield occasionally by offering a few weekend tours. How about Dorset, Wiltshire, the Cotswolds, the Forest of Dean, the Welsh Mountains, or the Peak District? What takes your fancy? Let me know. Also, occasional train- or car-assisted runs are a possibility.
Here is the last of six chapters describing my first cycling experiences in a foreign country. It all took place now 2 years ago, in the Sierra Nevada area in Southern Spain, taking in many mountain villages plus the historic city of Granada. The personal consequences of this trip have been far-reaching - as I have subsequently been on a number of cycling tours, here (Western coast of Scotland) and abroad (Corfu: Morocco: and most recently Sri Lanka). Maybe I’ll write reports on these tours - if I have time before or between the next planned trips!
The final day’s cycling certainly had a sting in the tail, within the 55 km ride. We were faced with some tough climbing including a long unrelenting 12km climb up 1000m over the top of Sierra Nevada at Puerto de la Paguna.
The morning ride consisted of gentle climbs and descents winding around the sides of the Alpujarras valley, passing through more picturesque white-washed Andalusian villages, stopping off for welcome drinks and pastries at a local taverna - knowing that the hard part was yet to come.
Following the traverse along the Alpujarras valley, we suddenly turned north up a steep sided valley - the start of the main climb of the day. Whilst the gradient of the road was moderate, there were seemingly never ending stretches of road going up and up, punctuated with short and long hairpin bends to provide a little variety. Fortunately my erstwhile cycling companion was in no hurry to complete the journey, and due to the unsuitable gearing on his bike, took the opportunity to do some sight-seeing - i.e. walking on occasion - so that I was able to catch my breath while waiting for him. The other “plus” was the sudden change in the weather from hot sunshine to mist as we climbed through cloud to reach the summit.
We were euphoric when we reached the top and had celebratory drinks at a taverna, before starting an exhilarating ride descending over 1000m in the next 12km, where I touched a riveting 42mph, before reaching our final destination of the tour at Calahorra - the start-point some 6 days ago.
Overall impressions and memories......
My “journal” notes were made en route and were essential to writing up the magazine reports - but some impressions become quickly blurred - though photos do help to trigger failing memories!
The cycling in Southern Spain was excellent - well graded roads, but still a lot of stiff but rewarding mountain climbs through the lovely villages. Despite my lack of experience, I did manage to cycle all the hills - excepting one small stretch on the first day - in the heat often 80 degrees plus - with the help of the essential “granny gear” and copious drinks of cooling mountain water.
I am also indebted to the good cycling companions during the week, and enjoyed the company of the whole group in our post perambulations at the various tavernas, restaurants, and hotels en route.
Us cyclists came from all walks of life - doctors, vet, research chemist, police inspector, retired colonial college lecturer, barrister, computer technician, medical secretary, post office, and engineers - to name but a few occupations! So there was always plenty to talk about - apart from bikes.
We all survived the week’s tour without any traumas, illnesses, injuries - and bikes also came through virtually unscathed, apart from minor mechanical problems due to flight handling, and the inevitable but small number of punctures.
The CTC tour leader Alan Baker was well-organised, providing lots of helpful advice/instructions before the tour, and a detailed day to day itinerary of where we were going, the route, recommended food and drink stops, and prior warnings of the harder climbs. He was also fit! - as he started off after all the riders had departed in the morning, and then passed everyone during the day to arrive at the hotel/pension beforehand to organise rooms etc.
I would certainly recommend such a CTC tour to others - but firstly making sure that one was capable of following the tour description - “easy paced moving-on tour...30 - 40 mpd in mountainous terrain”. However I know that I’m preaching to the converted as most of you have already done it all!
I AM the editor of Quo Vadis?, the magazine of the Land’s End to John O’Groats Association. Your editor has invited me to tell you something about our set-up as he knows there are many proud or aspiring end-to-enders among West Surrey cyclists who might like to join us.
The association, founded in 1983, is open to anybody who has made a continuous journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats or vice versa by whatever means - even public transport.
Although cyclists predominate, there are many walkers, car drivers, and motorcyclists among members. There are also quite a few who have done the Journey (note the capital J, something we always insist on!) by more exotic means - by pony and trap, on stilts, in a quad farm vehicle, or a motorised supermarket trolley.
This gives the association a good balance, with nobody claiming that one form of transport is easier or better than others. Most members have raised money for charity, although the association is not a charitable organisation. Last year a new member raised no less than £25,200 for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund. Another, aged 74, collected £2,250 for a primary school after walking 1,108 miles in 992 hours.
Current membership is about 300. They receive three issues of the magazine yearly and there are two annual meetings, apart from the AGM. One is in a hotel in Torquay in January where we meet old friends and make new ones and trophies are awarded to those whose efforts are considered to be particularly noteworthy or meritorious. Certificates are presented to all new members who have completed the Journey.
The other is held at either Land’s End or John O’Groats in the summer, when a novel and interesting programme is devised by the social secretary. For further information, contact your editor Geoff Smith and he will pass your request on to me.
SOUTHERN Spain to northern Norway; the European End-to-End had a pleasingly alliterative ring to it. It would be my first post-retirement trip, my first cycling expedition, previous tours having been limited to the traditional two weeks holiday.
The starting point would be Tarifa, overlooking the Straits of Gibraltar and the most southerly point on mainland Europe. The objective would be the North Cape of Norway, way inside the Arctic Circle and last stop before Spitzbergen and the North Pole. At four thousand miles, I reckoned on it taking a couple of months and well in excess of one million pedal revolutions. The trip would embrace the rich diversity of cultures, people and landscapes of Europe, from the sun-scorched plains of Moorish Andalucia to the endless tracts of forest and tundra of northern Scandinavia, with its reindeer herders and midnight sun. Extending from the 36th parallel of latitude to just short of the 72nd the itinerary also had an appealing mathematical elegance. I would have to do it.
The more I thought about it, the keener I became to get started. Impatience finally got the better of me. Retirement was still a few years away and I could not wait that long. Instead I would divide the trip into four stages, each of two weeks and a thousand or so miles. It would not be the expedition I had planned but would have the advantage of spreading the enjoyment and effort over four years, allowing time between stages for the impressions to sink in and the appetite to be whetted for the next leg.
So, the decision was taken and an April Saturday in 1997 found me standing in the spring sunshine at Malaga airport with bicycle, a pocketful of pesetas and a ticket from Bilbao back to London two weeks later. I was embarked on the European End-to-End.
But first I had to get to Tarifa, some ninety miles further south. A few minutes of animated negotiation with a taxi driver secured a discount off his published fare for the journey. Feeling pleased with myself for having done a deal, I removed the wheels from the bike and the driver loaded it all on to the unprotected back seat of his taxi, showing no concern for the exposed greasy bits. I wonder to this day who got into that back seat afterwards.
We set out from the airport down the main coastal road (not recommended for cycling!) and called in at a petrol station where Pepe, the driver, bought two cans of beer. We quaffed them en route to a bar near Estepona, allegedly run by his cousin, where we partook of tapas and another beer for which Pepe insisted on paying (and I thought I’d done a good deal on the fare - I must have paid him too much!). Thus fortified, we set off on the final leg to Tarifa.
As we snaked our way through the hills approaching Tarifa, the mountains of Morocco came into view, shimmering in the early summer haze just ten miles away across the Straits of Gibraltar. “I can smell Africa on the wind every time I come along this road”, said Pepe, recalling his military service in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave just across the narrow seaway that separates Europe from the African continent. He had also been a taxi driver in Frankfurt for eight years, before coming back to Malaga, marrying and fathering four children.
He insisted on getting me settled into a hotel in Tarifa and bought me a late lunch at the bar, before he set off for the return trip to Malaga.
I spent the evening wandering through the tangled streets within the Moorish walls of old Tarifa. It takes its name from Tarif ben Maluk, who led the Moorish invasion, which captured the town in the early eighth century. They stayed for seven centuries before the Christians regained control in the fourteenth century. The town may in turn have given its name to the word “tariff”, from the pirates who infested the area and exacted a toll from vessels wishing to pass through the narrow channel from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.
Tarifa has the dubious distinction of being notorious for its high suicide rate, caused, it is said, by the unrelenting winds. This grisly reputation does nothing to deter the hordes of wind surfers who invade the town each summer to take advantage of the very winds that cause some of the local inhabitants such distress. It is, indeed, an ill wind that blows nobody any good! As a result of this annual influx, there is a good selection of cheap hotels in and around the town but early booking is advised in the high season.
Early on Sunday morning I cycled across the narrow causeway between the mirror-like surface of the Mediterranean to the left and rolling surf of the Atlantic to the right. I intended to start the journey by setting foot on the most southerly point, only to discover that the rocky promontory is a military garrison with no entry to unauthorised persons. I had come as far south as I could. The young soldier on sentry duty graciously allowed me to stand on his side of the barrier with the bicycle, while he used my camera to record the moment for posterity.
Then I turned my back on Africa, got on the bike and started pedaling towards the North Cape.
MANY years ago I bought for a modest sum a huge pile of back numbers of “The CTC Gazette”, a collection to which I was able to add when a DA member, Reg Best, cleared out his loft. In the thirties, and to a lesser extent in the fifties, there were quite a few articles covering rough-stuff crossings of various mountainous areas, many in Scotland and Wales.
When my parents in law were alive, I frequently took my bicycle along when we stayed with them in Cheshire. I well remember crossing the Berwyns via the “Wayfarer” (or Nant Rhydwilym) pass from Llanarmon Dyffryn Ceiriog near the head of the delightful Ceiriog valley to Cynwyd in the Dee valley near Corwen.
“Wayfarer” was the pen name of W M Robinson, a minimalist cyclist (“as little luggage as possible” - he sawed half the handle off his toothbrush) who was very much a part of the cycling scene in the thirties. My father read his articles, attended his slide shows (then called “lantern lectures”) and followed in his wheel marks over most of north Wales when he was a regular rider with Shropshire DA in the early thirties. There is a memorial to “Wayfarer” at the top of the pass, and cyclists are invited to sign a visitors’ book kept in a biscuit tin in the shelter of some rocks.
However, my main subject for this article is in the southern half of Wales. I no longer have the thirties and forties “Gazettes” (my loft needed clearing too) but here is a short extract from an article by E J Fasham in the January 1951 “CTC Gazette”. The Drovers’ Track to which he refers is the road from Tregaron to Abergwesyn which now has a tarmac surface.
“The Towy I have traversed on many occasions in both directions. Many cyclists make the grand round trip from Llandovery up to the Drovers’ Track and back via Abergwesyn and the Irfon - but the better part of the Towy has been missed.
“The best starting point is the village of Pontrhydfendigaid (“the bridge over the blessed brook”) from where a lane leads up to Strata Florida Abbey. The abbey is preserved under the care of the Office of Works and will repay any time spent in exploring the ruins. An old water wheel still working is also of interest. It dates from 1845, but probably replaced one much older. It is fed from the hill top behind the farm and drives the farm machinery.
“The track out of the farm is quite good, but it is a heavy climb and involves much walking until the elbow of Pen-y-Bwlch is reached at 1,585 feet - with a vast expanse of wilderness in front and a grand valley behind. Here the good road ends and one tumbles down into a rock- and bog-strewn area that lasts for five miles, during which time the stream must be crossed and recrossed, at varying depths, four times.
“Those who are swimmers will find a delightful man-made rock-bound pool in which they can take a refresher. I once washed the mud off myself in it on a November day.
“Crossing the river again - no bridge - one joins the Tregaron-to-Abergwesyn track which gives really good riding to Nant-yr-Hwch farm, where one drops down a steep bank to go through the farmyard and follow the rutted track, keeping the river on the right.”
I recently traversed this route in the opposite direction, but before I recount the story I wish to recall an earlier visit to the area. In 1982 four of us from the DA spent a weekend at Staunton-on-Wye Youth Hostel; the others were Hamish Smith, Ray Craig and Graham Barnes. One day was spent on a gentle potter to the edge of Radnor Forest and included a visit to the waterfall “Water-Break-Its-Neck”. The other day was a much more serious affair, a 200 km Audax ride entitled “Crossing the Desert of Mid-Wales”. From Staunton, main roads were followed to Rhayader. Then came the first dose of the Cambrian Mountains, the old coach road which crosses a ridge to the upper Elan valley, and then over the main watershed to Cwmystwyth and Ysbyty Ystwyth. After an undulating B road via Pontrhydfendigaid to Tregaron, the mountains had to be re-crossed, via the aforementioned drovers’ road. The scenery is truly memorable.
So too was an unexpected encounter with another West Surrey DA group; neither knew the other was in the area. There were three of them: Barry Annis, Dave Bolingbroke (brother of the late, lamented Ken) and Ruth, then the wife of John Woodburn of the Charlotteville CC, now the partner of Stuart Jackson, a one-time regular West Surrey rider now living in Wharfedale. It’s a small world.
From Abergwesyn, the Audax ride followed easy roads to Builth Wells and along the Wye Valley back to Staunton. However, it is the mountain roads that one remembers; they were figuratively as well as literally the high spot of the weekend and I have always intended to return.
There is an amusing aside to this story. Hamish was not into Audax and went for a ride on his own. He was relaxing back at the hostel when the first Audax rider, the hard-riding, mile-eating Neville Chanin came in. He gave Hamish a stern look which managed to combine hostility with disbelief. When Hamish volunteered that he had not ridden the event, Neville’s relief was manifest. Audax events are not races. Of course not! Not for the three of us, anyway. We realised we had time to stop for a good meal in Hay-on-Wye and still finish just inside the time limit, so we did.
(To be concluded)
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