“The West Surrey Cyclist” - January - March 2001
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|PRESIDENT||Les Houlton||01483 763816|
|COMMITTEE||Chris Jeggo (Chairman)
|VICE-PRESIDENTS||George Alesbury, Roy Banks, Harold Coleman,
David Nightingale, Harry Statham
|Geoff Smith (phone/fax)
|HARDRIDERS||Clive Richardson||01428 724390|
|INTERMEDIATES||Chris Jeggo||01483 870218|
|GUILDFORD AND GODALMING
|Hilary Stephenson||01483 572687|
|WOKING WAYFARERS||David Nightingale||01483 725674|
|MIDWEEK WAYFARERS||Harry Statham
THE CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club) IS THE UK’S LARGEST NATIONAL CYCLING ORGANISATION, WITH 70,000 MEMBERS INCLUDING AFFILIATES. IT HAS A NETWORK OF MORE THAN 200 DISTRICT ASSOCIATIONS OF WHICH THE WEST SURREY DA IS ONE. THE CTC ENCOURAGES ALL CYCLISTS TO JOIN, SUPPORT ITS CAMPAIGNING WORK, AND TAKE PART IN REGULAR AND SPECIAL ACTIVITIES. MEMBERSHIP HAS MANY BENEFITS INCLUDING £5 MILLION-WORTH OF THIRD PARTY LIABILITY COVER, FREE TOURING ROUTES SERVICE, AND FREE LEGAL ADVICE.
DETAILS CAN BE OBTAINED FROM: CTC, COTTERELL HOUSE, 69 MEADROW, GODALMING, SURREY. GU7 3HS. TELEPHONE 01483 417217. www.ctc.org.uk
DA website: www.westsurreyctcda.org.uk
The opinions and comments contained in this magazine are those of the individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policy of the West Surrey DA.
CONTRIBUTIONS - articles, poems, letters, tips, product reviews, in fact anything which can be described as related to cycling - are more than welcome by the editor.
Please send them to Geoff Smith, 2 Julian Close, Woking, Surrey, GU21 3HD. Phone/fax 01483 769051.
Word-processed submissions should ideally be in A5 format ready for the printed page in 12 point Times type with headlines in caps in 14 point Times Bold. First word of the story should be in capital letters (or the first two words if the first word is A). Alternatively, if using A4 sized paper, please ensure type is large enough to be still readable when reduced to A5.
WELCOME indeed to all new officers and committee members who were elected at the highly enjoyable annual general meeting and lunch at the University of Surrey, Guildford. Of course we are all volunteers and the enthusiasm has to come from us in the first place. So I hope that all of you “ordinary” members out there (Is there such a thing as an “ordinary” member of the CTC, or are we all nutters?) will give us your support on the rides and social occasions, volunteer yourselves to lend a hand, and also give us the benefit of your ideas to boost cycling in West Surrey and to promote our love of riding.
The new committee is looking to the future with optimism but it is very easy for fragile initial enthusiasm to be knocked. Various ideas are being explored by us largely untried greenhorns and these will emerge in the magazine in due course.
Meanwhile, let us all not forget the simple fact that if we are interested at all in the future wellbeing of this country we must tackle the horrendous traffic and transportation issues. And getting people out of cars and on to bikes whenever possible is absolutely vital if our quality of life is to be preserved and enhanced. There is no argument against this and as committed cyclists we cannot shirk our communal duty to get this message across.
WHAT a shame that the CTC’s Birthday Rides holiday week is unlikely to occur in 2001. As mentioned in the previous issue I was a first-timer at the 2000 festivities, based in Canterbury, and enjoyed immensely the combination of great rides and various other recreational happenings with a good crowd of like-minded people.
Elsewhere in the mag is a report from West Surrey riders who attended. At first reading it might appear that this is a bit of a knocking piece but all criticisms contained within it are meant well. I know the compilers share my disappointment that the future of the Birthday Rides concept is in doubt. One year’s gap need not mean the end but maintaining continuity in these things is extremely important.
It is to be hoped that DAs operating in suitable areas will come forward rapidly to get the Rides back on the road. Hopefully also, local authorities and tourism bodies will recognise the great potential of hosting the Birthday Rides in terms of boosting tourism business.
I went back to Canterbury in October with a largish group of pals for another cycling spree in East Kent. We stayed in the city centre for a weekend and, if I say so myself, spent a fair bit of money in the city. Particularly good for me was that I remembered a spectacular coast and countryside route I had tackled in August and managed to lead my group around it without getting lost.
WEARING another hat, as a Woking borough councillor I have inevitably been drawn into various cycling, traffic, highways, and transportation matters. I have succeeded recently in having the council’s economic programme board authorise a position statement - update - on Woking town centre cycling facilities. This, I hope, will help show what is needed as well as what is currently in place, and will help the council and bodies such as ourselves and Woking Cycle Users’ Group prioritise future needs.
In this context, I have had an early sight of Cycle Guildford 2000, a colour map and guide produced by Guildford Borough and Surrey County Council’s environment department. Well done to all concerned, including our own committee member and archivist Keith Chesterton, himself a Guildford councillor and our former CTC national councillor.
There is certainly a need for such a publication in Woking - but perhaps we had better get the long-awaited Woking-Guildford signed cycle link in place first. The Guildford leaflet refers to it as “under development”, which is true as far as it goes, which is not yet very far. Also in the same category is a recommended cycle link between Farnham and Guildford. Thanks to the expertise of our rides leaders, we know how easy and relatively comfortable it can be to cycle between our towns, but people generally do not. Both of these link-up projects, with routes properly signed, are desperately needed.
GOOD for the CTC nationally is that it is promoting a new Cyclists Welcome window sticker scheme. West Surrey DA was asked to supply details of catering establishments which welcome cyclists and who better to oblige than Marguerite Statham and Rico Signore, never ones for mincing words on the merits or otherwise of our cafes?
They set to work highlighting top establishments in our comprehensive list of cafes, which is currently on our website. The CTC responded by promptly mailing free window stickers to all nominees for whom it had or obtained reasonably complete postal addresses. A covering letter explained to proprietors that our local members had recommended their establishments.
Now the search is on for pubs which could be included. Following Rico’s “rip-off” complaints in the previous issue of this magazine, this might prove slightly difficult. But do let him have your recommendations for pubs and more cafes. His phone number is 01483 822240. Getting these stickers displayed in the right places all helps to raise the cycling profile as well as helping the places concerned. It is also a nice way of saying thank you for services rendered at reasonable prices.
HERE’S a gloomy thought from one of our members - who had better remain anonymous.
He reasons that Britain is regarded as the worst country in Europe in terms of facilities for cycling, and Surrey is the worst county in Britain in the same vein.
He also considers Woking to be the worst town in Surrey for cycling facilities, so it follows that WOKING MUST BE THE WORST TOWN IN EUROPE FOR CYCLING! Oh dear...
THE October 2000 issue of the newsletter of the Woking Cycle Users’ Group gives a good plug for upcoming West Surrey CTC rides, contact names, our website, and meetings.
It is good to have their Chairman Roy Benson on board on our new committee. His expertise on cycle facilities and provision, and what and what not the government and local authorities should be doing for cycling, should be of benefit to the committee.
The group has about 200 cyclists in individual and family group membership and is well regarded by Woking Borough Council and the county council.
Why not join them? Roy’s phone number is 01483 740256. The group’s website is www.surreyweb.org.uk/wokingcycle
Where this magazine is available it has a very encouraging response; Evans in Woking sold out of October’s edition within 2 weeks. Copies are also posted to subscribers and advertisers, and are displayed in the 22 County libraries. Ideally we are looking for one person to co-ordinate all aspects of distribution of the magazine, rather than a few folk to take on a few shops each. Please get in touch with the Editor, Geoff Smith, on 01483 769051 if you would like to know more about this worthwhile job.
MONEY: As of September 30, the West Surrey District Association had assets of £3,639.43, an increase of £301.63 over the previous year, retiring treasurer Chas Benzing reported at the annual general meeting, held at the University of Surrey on November 19.
The £870 outlay on the aborted Millennium Rally - cancelled before expenses became unacceptably high - had been refunded by the CTC. The Tour of the Hills had been the most profit-making activity with £210.80 profit being received.
PRESIDENT: Les Houlton was elected as President to great acclaim. Modest gent Les, a CTC member for 52 years, quoted Shakespeare at the post-meeting annual lunch by saying some had greatness thrust upon them. He wished the club every success.
TRIBUTES were paid to retiring Intermediates Group leader Bill Mann, runs secretary Roger Philo, and to retiring President Harold Coleman. All have put in tremendous work involving an immense number of hours for the DA over many years. The membership at large is very much in their debt and their expertise and personal contributions to the organisational side of cycling will be very much missed. All current officers and committee members hope they will be on hand to advise for many years to come.
In a light-hearted moment, a seedy looking bunch of bananas was presented to Roger Philo by Marguerite Statham in recognition of his work over 15 years. But she also presented him with a splendid and specially commissioned bowl for him to put them in.
THE ANNUAL REPORT to members stated that the DA continued to provide four separate rides on most Sundays and two on Wednesdays. The total average participation remained stubbornly low at about 50 from a DA population of 1,000. Around 20 people on average attended the Wednesday rides, which meant that an average of only 30 per week came out for all of the Sunday rides combined.
The early-season 50 miles reliability ride attracted only 17 entrants and two other events, the South Downs 200km run on the doomed Millennium Rally weekend and the Tricyclathon, fared no better.
But the Stonehenge 200km event (coupled with the Danebury 150km and Clover Leaf rides) and the Tour of the Hills and rough stuff rides, continued to attract widespread interest outside the DA with entrants numbering 150, 100, and 60 respectively.
The away rides continued to be supported by the small but stalwart group of members who consistently hoist the flag of the West Surrey DA to the top, or near the top, of the Audax and DA Touring Competition tables.
The age profile of active members is skewed heavily to 60-plus, with the majority of the committee for the year also being in that age bracket. Within the committee the consensus emerged that way should be given to a younger cadre to see if the fortunes of the DA could be altered. All the officers of the 1999-2000 committee stood aside and the signs were good that a younger committee would be in elected in their place.
The new officers and committee are listed on page two. (i.e. here)
CTC COUNCIL REPORT: Despite what he called the “disappointing” response from the West Surrey committee, CTC councillor Keith Chesterton said 200 replies were received to the Vision 2000 initiative and it had received much support. The difference between “cyclists” and “cycle users” was significant and he believed there was a great need to get cycle commuters more involved and recruited into the CTC.
Benstead Cup, Clive Richardson; Benstead runner-up, Tom Hargreaves; Ladies Benstead Shield, Marguerite Statham; Bernard Howell Trophy for highest-placed veteran, Don Jones; Bill Inder Trophy for Sunday attendance competition, Clive Richardson; Junior Benstead Cup, Matthew Juden; George Alesbury Tankard for Midweek Wayfarers attendance, Rico Signore; Bert Bartholomew 100 miles Trophy, Bill Thompson; Keith Parfitt Pot, Matthew Juden.
DA Medals: Gold - Clive Richardson, Trevor Strudwick; Silver - Phil Hampton, Tom Hargreaves, Robert Simpson, Harry Statham; Bronze - Chris Boggon, Peter Callaghan, Harold Coleman, Don Jones, Bill Mann, John Pugh, Rico Signore.
FROM the germ of an idea to ride the End-to-End solo and unsupported, Bryon Alden’s venture quickly blossomed into a supported ride in aid of the Woking Hospice. Not one to spurn company, he readily accepted my offer to join him; and we set about a three-month programme aimed at increasing our fitness, to a level which would allow us to cycle 73 miles each day for the agreed two weeks we could allow for the journey (of a lifetime?).
Unable to cycle together on our training rides, we regularly compared notes on routes used and our general progress towards fitness. In essence, we both chose to use a mixture of distance and severe terrain (but not always on the same ride!), aiming wherever possible to achieve an average riding speed of 13 mph.
Although we had the narrative route, from the CTC, we decided that maps were essential, but did not relish the thought of spending over £200 on the OS Landranger Series. We each obtained an “AA Large Scale Atlas of Great Britain” (2.4 miles to the inch and only £3.99 at the cut-price book shop), and, having highlighted the route, removed the 24 pages covering our journey. The narrative route was also marked up to show the listed B&Bs, and our expected destinations for each evening. We were surprised, and concerned, to note the lack of coincidence, but need not have worried, as our backup driver found us excellent accommodation, with local hostelries, each night.
Discussing our tools and spares requirements for the trip we quickly realised that there were few items which were common to both our bicycles, so we decided to be self-sufficient for our daily needs; choosing to share the large items, such as a work stand, which could be kept in the car. Remembering that we were staying in Britain, we resisted the temptation to take every conceivable spare part; but were later unable to locate a lower-geared cassette for Bryon, and had to search for brake blocks as my spare ones were unsuitable for his callipers!
Our intention to split each day into 4 x 1½ hour cycling sessions, separated by 2 x 30 minute tea stops and an hour for lunch, fell apart on day one.......where are the tea shops when you want one? Seriously, we were both reluctant to break a good rhythm unless we really needed to, and rapidly established a pattern of cycling 40-50 miles before taking a proper (lunch) break - but we did punctuate each day with fairly regular “gate-stops”, for clothing changes, map refolding, energy bar snacking, water bottle exchange or refilling, and “general comfort”.
Clement weather allowed us to have picnic lunches, making good use of suitably located benches; although on a couple of days we used supermarket coffee shops (clean, warm, quick service, inexpensive, toilets available - highly recommended).
Generally speaking, our route finding was quite good, but we had some interesting moments whilst seeking assistance from locals - who didn’t appear to know where they were, especially when presented with a map. Thereafter we relied on our intuition, very careful map-reading and proper use of the signposts! Only once did we find it necessary to retrace our path in order to regain the correct route.
Altogether the ride was a wonderful experience, which (apart from a bout of food poisoning) I would readily repeat - and will need to, if I am to amend the error of not making a proper photographic record. We raised £11,000 for the Hospice, and thank our many friends and our families for their generosity and support. My thanks go to Bryon, for allowing me to join his trip.
The following “tales” describe the experiences and views of four of the West Surrey riders - Roz, Roy, Richard and Peter - on the CTC Millennium rides.
We arrived late afternoon at the University of Kent campus, and spent the first hour looking for our rooms. Anyone remember the Rubik’s Cube puzzle? The accommodation blocks are laid out in boxed wings with interconnecting passages, labelled ENWS - except they didn’t mean anything. Experienced CTC tour leaders seen gnashing teeth looking for their rooms in vain. Even porters had a problem!
Eventually find rooms and settle in. Meet up at main accommodation block for evening meal - joining long queues. Food indifferent and so our group decides to keep away from university campus if possible … now labelled Alcatraz, Cell Block H, and Colditz.
Unusually, the CTC were not the only occupants of the University campus - there were Pilgrims (multi-national teachers on improvement course) and some rather strange religious gatherings - which we had some innocent fun during the week labelling the “God squad” and the “Huggies” - after seeing an extremely large American lady embracing very small and unfortunate children entering a classroom on a lovely summer’s day, while we were off enjoying ourselves.
It all added to the congestion in the campus and in the restaurants - and added to our somewhat jaundiced views of the place, for which the accommodation fees were quite expensive.
Sunday (54 miles)
Out with the “C” run labelled Minnis, Mills and Mines - corn mills and old coal mine area, but can’t understand route card down into Canterbury and out the other side, so spend first hour hunting for “way-out” - in common with many others! Eventually find route out through truly pretty villages - this is more like it ……
Avoid CTC lunchtime stop at “Sunshine Café” in converted school in rundown ex-coal mine area, and head for the pubs further on. Briefly stop at olde worlde pub car-park to admire rally of 1930-50’s classic cars, but reckon pricey food there, so move on another mile to find friendly and deserted pub for excellent break.
Turning for home, our small group stops off at Fordwich to visit the country’s smallest town hall in a 16th century brick and timber building by the River Stour. Included small jail on ground floor - where local poachers given 14 days in 1855. Upstairs local court held - complete with a “pleading bar” for the prisoner and long bench seats flanking the judge - and a ducking stool.
Completed our day’s ride along a 3-mile cycle track to Canterbury and climb up to University at top of hill. Quick shower and change, then cycle down again to CTC Service at the Cathedral - magnificent architecture (see later). Eat out in town…
Monday (58 miles)
Successfully navigated Canterbury, ignoring the route card, and battled over busy main roads, to catch up “C” ride crowd who started earlier. (We never did find the assembly points for the ride starts - still a mystery!)
Climbing up into the Downs, and we joined the large group at the coffee break stop - the W.I. ladies expected around 80 and had 200+ thirsty and hungry cyclists. Long queues again for small cake and weak tea (?.50) - poor value - so our group decide to avoid them in future. Pretty route up to Faversham, and find medieval pub to lunch, but no time to stop in town, as pressing on to CTC Birthday tea.
We wend our way through uninspiring seaside resorts of Seasalter, Whitstable, Herne Bay to birthday tea venue in large hall along seafront. Join massed multi-coloured cyclists in queues to get sandwich, crisps, finger of cake, and weak tea - disappointing again. CTC President gives words of welcome - but mostly drowned out by noise and poor acoustics - hear that next year it may be Wessex (Dorset?). Official photos taken of president with octogenarian member and latest “addition” - 7 weeks old.
All make our own way back to Canterbury. Follow the crowd on another cycleway to the university, avoiding main roads and some hills. Eat out again at great pub spotted in Fordwich yesterday.
Tuesday (46 miles)
Group decision to do our own rides from now on using invaluable Ordnance Survey maps from library/work - though covering similar areas/destinations. Down Stour valley towards Sandwich visiting lovely Norman church in Patrixbourne on detour - seeing other CTC cyclists go by, unaware of the place.
Found (another) pub, which served coffee mid-morning in quaint village of Wingham, then cycled on to outskirts of Sandwich, where we walked round the old town walls, finally mooring our bikes at the quayside. Had a great BLT sandwich (at Sandwich!) in old pub - and discovered back room was originally the Corn Exchange, now being decorated and its oval ceiling painted with frieze of local historic figures and activities by artist.
The good weather we had enjoyed to date now deserted us - to be replaced by heavy rain which persisted for most of the afternoon. “Little Eric” who joined us today decided to go back, but the rest of the group, undeterred, made for Manston near Ramsgate, to see the Spitfire museum. Fortunately we picked up a cycleway along the busy main road, thus avoiding the spray from motorists and heavy lorries. Here we passed replica of old Viking ship now marooned on foreshore as a seaside exhibit - even Nordic invaders would be deterred by this bad weather.
The museum visit was worthwhile and so was the tea-stop in the cafeteria, but we still had to head back to Canterbury in the heavy rain. Looping back through the Stour Valley villages, the rain cleared before we were back on the Fordwich - Canterbury cycleway and back up to the campus.
Scoured local villages by car to find another good pub for our evening meal, and luckily met an American near a pub on foot who recommended and directed us to another one in Chartham Hatch! Good food and drink again - though publican was not exactly myne host.
Wednesday (45 miles)
Another D.I.Y. cycle run, based on a recommendation from a fellow cyclist, led our group to head north again to pick up the Kent coast east of Herne Bay and ride along the sea wall. After some stiff but short climbs, we came to an old Roman road taking us straight to the coast at Reculver - site of an old Roman fortress and twin towers of a Norman church restored last century as a navigational aid to shipping up the Thames.
After a short tea-break at a café catering for holiday-makers, we cycle along an almost deserted seawall for 7.5 miles in hot sunshine, with reclaimed marshy land inland and rocky foreshore and small cliffs down to the water. Stopped only by an ambulance dealing with a small boy who had fallen off his bike and injured his leg (fortunately OK) - and passing stretches of beach promenade with families on holiday.
Arriving at fringes of bustling Margate and end of the seawall, we stop off for lunch at brewery chain “designer” pub, before hastily diving back south onto country lanes again. Visit Minster Abbey and given a guided tour of this part Saxon and part Norman building with remains of anti-clockwise staircase leading to tower and burial ground of St. Mildred c 8th century.
Spiritually refreshed, we pick up much needed drinks in village, then have fast run back to Canterbury, following route taken yesterday.
Early evening we joined a CTC-organised guided tour of Canterbury itself, picking up many fascinating insights into its history, e.g. all the stone used in building the cathedral was shipped over from Caen in Normandy: many half-timbered buildings in centre of Canterbury are brick-faced with original wattle and daub underneath: the many three-storey cantilevered medieval buildings were pilgrim inns, and their design was due to tax of ground floor area - not as commonly thought - slopping out refuse etc on the poor unfortunate passers-by below!
We rounded off another splendid day at a great Vietnamese restaurant which we passed earlier in the evening.
Thursday (24 miles)
Our “Saga” ride or day off. Our aim was to catch the guided tour of the Shepherd Neame brewery in Faversham, so we had a short sharp ride to arrive in time for the tour - to be shown how the various beers are made and then (of course ) sample them!!
Whilst there are reputedly over 200 listed old buildings in Faversham, our walking tour of the town was somewhat disappointing, due to the encroachment of tacky shops in the town centre and lack of information. After a late lunch, we followed most of the same route back to Canterbury - but returned on this route later by car, for another excellent supper at a 14th century pub, the Red Lion at Hernhill - on the village green overlooking the church and more old buildings.
Return mid-evening at “Alcatraz” (main campus block), to hear the CTC-organised jazz concert featuring Pete Allen’s trad band. Good music unfortunately marred by dreadful acoustics of the 60s-built hall - the architect should be incarcerated here!
Friday (36 miles)
Our final “self-assembly” ride out on a lovely summer’s day. Pity that Ros was ill - we are down to a threesome group today, setting our sights on Chilham, a small village 10 miles south-west of Canterbury. This was voted the best Kentish village of the week. Unspoilt medieval/Georgian houses clustered round the village square, with a few charming shops, post office, pub, and old Saxon/Norman church were the main features. We did a Millennium heritage walk round the village ending up in a corner of the old church for tea served by ladies doing a charity coffee morning.
Reluctantly got back on our saddles, to find our luncheon stop. Now followed part of the Pilgrim’s way, and eventually stumbled into another delightful pub in Stowting. This pub was a marker on the “D” ride of the day though not their luncheon stop - but Surprise! surprise! met up with Alan Holbrook and friend and persuaded them to join us for a while!
Making our own way back involved a gentle northerly ride past golden cornfields and woody copses along minor roads, with a short run along the main Roman road between Canterbury and Dover. When the traffic got too much we simply detoured into the surrounding countryside. This was a fitting end of our enjoyable CTC tour - as we sped down the final hill seeing the cathedral come into view…
We hope that the CTC Birthday rides continue… Dorset next year? Don’t forget to take maps and a good pub guide!
Early in August this year Lynette and I spent a weekend in Llanwrtyd Wells, staying at a small hotel run by an old college friend and his wife. It was our first contact with him for nearly thirty years, but that’s another story. We both took walking boots, but I also took my bike and spent one day awheel. The first ten miles going up the Irfon valley were delightful. Then came the Devil’s Staircase, a hairpinned 1-in-5 ascent which had recently been resurfaced with tar and chippings. Acting purely out of consideration for my steaming mount, I walked up.
After the pleasant crossing of the ridge through forest, the 1-in-4 descent to the Towy was scary. The road appeared not to have been swept since its surface dressing. In general the motor traffic on this single track road had cleared two strips and left the loose material at the edges and in the centre of the road. However, the surface on this steep descent was uneven, and there were hollows in places where the car tyres had not removed the grit from the two ‘ruts’. It was a question of keeping the brakes on hard and going down at no more than walking speed, momentarily releasing first the front and then the rear brake to avoid skidding when crossing these loose patches. (It’s more easily done than it may sound!)
The final descent to the River Towy is quite gentle, and the Strata Florida track branches off before the bridge. A remarkably well surfaced track forks off to the right through a gate. Paradoxically, you are left in no doubt that this is the right way by a wordless sign. A post bears an empty, arrow-shaped, rusty frame that, I presume, once carried a lettered wooden board, now rotted away.
It is after a hundred yards or so that doubt does arise. The easily ridable track just keeps on going up the valley side, round the shoulder of a hill, and apparently out of the valley altogether, while a pebbly, puddly, rutted track forks left and stays in the valley. I consulted my 1967 One-Inch map. (Lynette had the modern 1:50000 map for her walk.) It only showed one track, but that definitely stayed right in the valley. Puddles it was. I rode through the safe-looking ones and walked round the others, making passable progress. The sun was shining, I had left behind what little traffic there was, and I love this sort of country - rocky mountain streams and rivers, forests, valleys and hills.
After about two miles I came to the first ford. Carrying shoes, socks and cycle I waded through. The next hazard was a long puddle surrounded by a bog. It was impossible to gauge the depth of the muddy water, so I tried to bypass it, hopping from tussock to tussock. At the wettest point one gave way. I managed to stay upright and keep hold of the bike, but I emerged wearing two mud socks, one above, and one just below, the knee. What style! Still, at least fords became much easier. At the next one I rinsed mud off legs, shoes and socks, which latter I strapped on top of the saddlebag to dry in the sun. The shoes now stayed on, squirting water out of the lace holes every time I re-emerged on to dry land. It’s all part of the fun.
Two fords later I picked up the bike to wade through, and realised the pump was missing. So far I had come two and a half miles off road in about an hour. Could I afford the time to go back to look for it? No. But, wait! Suppose I get a puncture; how much time might I lose; can I afford not to have it? Think, Chris, think! Where might it have fallen off? Of course, the bog! That was only ten minutes’ walk back. I parked the bike and set off. To my great relief, the guess proved correct.
A mile later I met the only person I saw while off road, a mountain biker coming the other way. We chatted for ten minutes, I suppose, and he gave me useful directions which later enabled me to recoup some time by using forestry roads for the final descent to Strata Florida. The “grand valley” mentioned by Fasham in the article above appears very dramatically when approaching the col (between Pen-y-Bwlch and Esgair Llyn-du) from this side, emerging from the forest up a gentle slope to a gate, beyond which is spread a magnificent and far-reaching panorama.
The forestry roads were much smoother than the old track and I made rapid progress downhill to the abbey, where I would have stopped had there been a café. My needs were pressing; I had made a strenuous crossing under a hot sun on one bottle of water. Pontrhydfendigaid provided an enormous pot of tea and some cakes.
Fortified, I tackled the easy road to Tregaron and then the switchback one to Abergwesyn. Yes, it was every bit as beautiful as I had remembered from eighteen years before. I was weary and took my time. The treacherous grit was evenly spread all over the road surface on the hairpins of the Devil’s Staircase. Acting purely out of consideration ... I walked down them, and still regained the hotel in good time for dinner.
That leaves a lot of the Towy valley still to be explored, but on-road rather then off-road, I think, and there’s the Cothi valley too. Also, it turned out that my college friend, who was always fond of his food and drink as a student, describes his hotel as a “restaurant with rooms”, and what we got was a “gourmet weekend break”. We are going again. Would any of you be interested in joining us? He charges £50 per person per night for bed, a good breakfast, and a 4-course dinner you are unlikely to forget, unless you avail yourself too freely of the wine list.
Considering the poor summer weather this year, we were again lucky to have a dry but mainly overcast day for the Rough Stuff rides. As in the previous year, the start and finish were at Newlands Corner main car park.
This, my last year of organising the rides, was quite successful and on a par with previous years, having 13 entrants for the 50Km route and 18 for the 60Km ride. In all there were 4 West Surrey riders on the 50Km and 5 on the 60Km; the rest were mainly AUK members. Not a very good turn out again for our own DA members!
1st person back on the 50 was a lady, Lucia Rutter and first West Surrey riders back were Peter Callaghan and Harold Coleman, both in 5th place. Meanwhile on the 60k ride, 1st rider back was West Surrey rider Geoff Smith (the Godalming one) closely followed by Phil Hampton.
Thanks to the marshals, Harry Statham, Clive Richardson and Bill Mann and anyone else who helped.
All in all, another good day for West Surrey, with all who took part enjoying the day. I do hope someone will take over and run the rides next year, not only for the DA but, I would like to ride it!
A CHILLY late summer’s morning saw five members of the Hardriders Section on the train to Portsmouth, looking forward to their annual outing to the Isle of Wight. A short catamaran journey to Ryde brought us on to the island, with bright sunshine and blue skies.
A short ride along quiet lanes brought us to Godshill for morning coffee, where Clive amused everyone by refusing to put his camera away. After a lot of posing for photos we headed off south-west to Chale Green, and the exceptionally quiet lanes around Yafford and Brighstone. At one point we saw a buzzard being mobbed by a flock of crows.
We then emerged onto the Military Road, and shortly afterwards had lunch at Atherfield Holiday Camp, its café being open to the public. Actually, we were the only ones there, the residents all being out for the day. Having filled ourselves with tea and beans on toast, we continued towards Saint Catherine’s, the sun shining on the sea to our right, dazzling and uplifting. It was good to be on our bikes.
A little further on we stopped on the brow of the hill, and looking backwards could see for miles, the white cliffs of the island, the Needles, Bournemouth, the Isle of Purbeck, and in the misty distance, Portland.
A 25% descent brought us on to Ventnor beach, where most of us decided to have a bathe. The sea was really quite warm, being early September. While others bathed, Clive gathered bags of pebbles from the beach for his houseplants. He insisted that Jewson’s didn’t do pebbles small enough. This all seemed fine until it emerged that he couldn’t carry them all and didn’t want to leave any behind. Anyway, being a helpful chap I volunteered to carry a huge bag of pebbles in my saddlebag, a decision I almost regretted on the long climb up to Wroxall. The Isle of Wight is a surprisingly hilly island!
The route back to Ryde had to go through Haven Street, so that Mark could pick up a clue for his Explorer’s Award. It was good to have Mark with us - a proper tourist working at CTC HQ is an increasingly rare find! After that the group managed to get split up briefly, mainly my fault, so we ended up sprinting for the ferry amid a tinkling of escaping pebbles.
A successful day seemed to have been had by all - perfect weather, spectacular scenery and quiet roads. Clive has said that we can come back next year, but did mumble something about more pebbles!
OUR member and CTC HQ officer Mark Waters is playing the Grand Duke in the Godalming Operatic Society’s presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta of that name at Godalming Borough Hall from January 31 to February 3 and at Guildford Civic Hall on February 9 and 10. Phone 01252 703376 for tickets, priced £6.50 to £13.
I have had the honour and pleasure of being President of the West Surrey D.A. for the past five years, which is, I think, long enough for the D.A to put up with anyone, especially me. Also, other deserving members should not be denied the opportunity of holding that office because someone else goes on holding it for a long period - hence my proposal at the A.G.M. that the Presidency be limited to a maximum of five consecutive years.
We now have a new and popular President, Les Houlton. Les has been a member of the C.T.C. since 1948. He is truly a ‘Gent on wheels’ and has supported our West Surrey runs for so many years. I wish you well, Les, and may your term as President be an enjoyable one.
I would like to thank the members of last year's D.A. Committee for their hard work. Besides the effort put into the normal D.A. affairs, the time and expertise that was expended on organising the Millennium Rally was very impressive. The arrangements on site, the entertainment, the rides both on- and off-road, the catering, the programmes etc, etc; the list went on and on. Unfortunately, the rally had to be cancelled due to so few bookings, but the D.A. had done what it was asked to by the C.T.C.:- to organise a really special event to celebrate the Millennium. I think that we all had heard so much about the Millennium during the preceding year that the moment the last of the fireworks had fizzled out at about 1a.m. on 1st January 2000, everyone had had enough. Well that’s my theory. I must also thank those outside the Committee for their contributions, such as Marguerite Statham’s brilliant off-road routes - I hope that they can still be used (the fact that I broke my leg on one of them is of no consequence).
The D.A. now has a new Committee with some new and younger blood. They will need help and support for the activities which they organise, and positive feedback from the members - that’s you!
Thanks are also due to those who assisted so nobly with the ‘Tour of the Hills’. The success of the event was due to their efforts - I was thanked not only for the route and the excellent refreshments, but for the cheerful marshals at the checkpoints.
One last thank-you to Bill Mann for his work in co-ordinating the ‘Intermediate’ runs and persuading people to lead them; not an easy job. Chris Jeggo has taken over the task, though unfortunately he has suffered a recurrence of trouble with his achilles tendon which is preventing him from leading at the moment.
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Web page by Chris Jeggo. Last revised: 3 November 2009.