"The West Surrey Cyclist" - Issue 16 - Autumn 1989
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Without the steadfast support of our few regular contributors the West Surrey Cyclist would have suffered a demise some time ago, so I am very grateful to these habitual writers for their support. Just as important is the cajoling, coercing and persuading which a stedfast few bring to bear on other members to extract articles; I suppose it was ever thus. Equally welcome are the occasional pieces which have arrived unexpectedly and sometimes from far away. All go to make up what I hope has been a varied selection of reading matter.
Ian Parker has gallantly volunteered to take over and I'm sure that he, helped by his computer, will do a splendid job of the mag. Of course, even Ian can't write it all himself so let's make sure he has the material to work with.
Here are our contributions:
|UK:||Chris||-||Corrieyairack Pass (roughstuff)||765m||25.8.1975|
|Helen||-||Cairnwell Road (A93)||670m||13.6.1981|
|OS:||Chris and Helen|
|Highest||-||Puerto de Veleta, Granada, Spain||3200m||19.9.1984|
|Second||-||Stelvio Pass, Italy||2757m||31.8.1985|
Any other offers ?
Chris and Ann Greening and I had driven from Guildford and stopped at a roadside Little Chef when our leader realised that we were ahead of schedule; the Robinsons and George joined us five minutes later having seen the tandem on the roof of the car parked outside. After coffee and teacakes (and in one case a full English breakfast) we continued to Alderminster where we were to stay the night, and met Kitty and Phil Stickley.
There we unloaded the bikes and began cycling. Our route took us across The Fosseway and through numerous little villages whose names all seemed to end in -ington or -cote. Except for Oxhill which was where we stopped for lunch at the Peacock, and where Chris had arranged to meet Roger. He was later than we had expected and turned up just as we were finishing lunch explaining that he had cycled the 84 miles from home. He did not look particularly the worse for wear, but did finish up all the spare chips we had left.
In the afternoon the party continued past the Edgehill battlefield (1642) and on through the beautiful rolling countryside. The views from the tops of the hills were spectacular as the clouds allowed the sun to illuminate individual fields and hills in the patchwork.
After a quick 'cat-lick' back at our B&B we drove to Stratford - shrine to that chap who wrote those awfully good plays - for a drink and a look at the sights, then back to Alderminster for dinner at eight.
The excellent food, fresh air, and exercise left most of the party ready for an early night. Our landlady did suggest an early morning jog around the surrounding fields but I believe George was the only one to take advantage of the facility.
After Breakfast Gillian and Hamish joined us from Alveston and all 11 of us headed for Chipping Camden. Sunday's ride proved to have a few more of what Roger described as "gentle undulations" than Saturday's and I for one found occasion to use my bottom gear. However, delightful views and a cool breeze stopped anyone from complaining.
Coffee was taken at the Badger in Chipping Camden, a classic Cotswold town with lovely golden stone buildings lining the main streets, and, fewer tourists than Stratford. We then moved on to look at the Fleece Inn owned by the National Trust but leased and run as a normal pub. They had a family gala on with morris dancers in the yard.
We moved a little further down the road for our Sunday lunch, to the Bridge Inn situated at what was sign posted as a ferry point; although it looked as though the only way across the river (Avon) was by swimming. After lunch we saw two more reminders of the long agricultural history of this area: A May pole, and a magnificent timber framed tythe barn. This had been restored but was empty apart from a little hay and two Massey Fergusson tractors.
For the rest of the afternoon we just enjoyed the rolling countryside and quiet lanes. When you consider how many people visit Stratford, and even Warwick, it seems amazing that the surrounding area should be so peaceful.
At last we reached Alderminster again, all of us ready for the tea-of-all-teas that Chris and Ann had been promising all weekend. It was, like everything else at those digs, generous, delicious and beautifully presented. A perfect end to a perfect weekend.
Thank you Chris and Ann for all your organisation and planning - it was well worth it.
There are two reasons why this arrangement is being tried. One is that the Intermediate group has not been well supported lately (usually has between 1 and 4 riders). The other is that the Woking Wayfarers have some riders whose preferred riding speed would be better suited to the Intermediates but who find the Woking start convenient. On the Sundays the new arrangement operates these riders will be able to start at Woking and ride with the Intermediates for some of the day. So instead of waiting at the top for Marguerite to walk up hills these riders will be waiting for Roger to cycle up very slowly. Hopefully this arrangement will also be useful to those living in the Guildford area who would like to ride with the Woking Wayfarers but who might prefer a group meeting in Guildford to start and finish rides with (Joy, this means you).
The next morning we left at about 9 am and at first thought the weather was reasonable until we had to ride into a strong headwind and it started to rain. After such a hard morning we were very happy to arrive at Llanthony Priory where we had lunch, looked at the old Priory and visited the interesting church nearby.
In the afternoon we had to cycle up the Gospel Pass which I found very tiresome. In some places the wind was so strong that I had to push my bicycle. When we reached the top of the Pass we had to lie our bikes down on the ground so that they wouldn't get blown over; it was very difficult to stand up to enjoy the view. Going down the Pass wasn't much better because the wind was blowing us into the road, but after we had walked some of the downhill and reached the shelter of trees and hedges, we had an easier ride to Hay on Wye where we had some tea.
After this exciting afternoon we cycled from Hay on Wye to Glascwm, a village in the middle of the Welsh Mountains, where we stayed at a very simple Youth Hostel.
The next morning we left early, and were soon riding through the beautiful Elan Valley. We had lunch at the Information Centre at the dam near Elan village, from where we cycled through beautiful scenery up to the Claerwen Reservoir. Here we left the road and cycled around the reservoir on a very pleasant track. The track was alright until it left the reservoir, when it got waterlogged and we had to carry our bikes across a small stream. Finally we had to paddle for ten metres through ankle deep water to reach the road. We got a reward for all our trouble, a long downhill ride on a nice road, which took us to a CTC listed tea place in Pontrhydfendigaid. We felt much better for something to eat and drink, and were ready to tackle a fairly long ride into the Welsh Mountains. We didn't reach the welcome of Dolgoch Youth Hostel until it was dark. This was the hardest day of the tour, but also the most interesting.
We left Dolgoch the next day in brilliant sunshine and soon reached the Devil's Staircase - the most exciting downhill I have ever experienced. From there we cycled down a beautiful valley to Llanwrtyd Wells, where we had elevenses. Next we rode through a Danger Area; all we intended to do was ride up a hill and then down to Sennybridge for lunch, but through the Danger Area we had to use a different road, which must have been one of the straightest roads I have ever seen, there was a strong headwind with no tree or hedge for shelter and the nine miles on that road seemed more like 90 to me! After about l½ hours we reached the valley and had lunch near Llywel.
In the afternoon we cycled for a while along the A40, but soon turned off and were back on pretty lanes. We still had to climb up very steeply to 448m, but from there we enjoyed a downhill ride all the way to Ystradfellte, where we arrived at the hostel early and had time to sit around and enjoy the sunshine.
On our last day we left Ystradfellte in glorious sunshine and cycled through lovely woods, passing the very scenic Pontsticill and Talybont reservoirs. From pretty Talybont village we had a fast ride along the B4558 to Crickhowell, where we had such a good pub lunch that we could hardly ride our bikes afterwards. On the last afternoon we cycled round the Sugar Loaf, and said our farewell to the Welsh Mountains. Then we headed back for Monmouth. By the end of the tour I wished I could have gone on for miles into the sunset.
Negotiation of the station exit, over the bridge of course, and a taxing 400 yard ride saw Marguerite pleading with the proprietor of the Thatched Cottage to open early and supply coffee etc to 'travel weary' cyclists. Excellent pastries and coffee were consumed amidst doubts as to whether the club ever did any riding and many members trying their hands at the games supplied for the entertainment of fractious children !
We tore ourselves away at 11 o'clock and managed 7½ miles of road and track before 'happening' on the Royal Oak which was our lunch stop. We sat on the green opposite the pub enjoying our picnics, the sunshine, and the antics of cars finding parking spaces. Surely this enjoyment will have to cease !
After lunch we managed a mile and a half before stopping at the Reptillary where we spent some time trying to locate examples of the local wildlife. Three miles more brought us to the tea stop where we were informed that 'cake is compulsory' - is there no limit to the calorie intake of CTC members ? Now surely we would get down to some hard riding, if only to burn off the carbohydrates. We really did try, honest, but only managed 4 miles before Chris, Helen and Matthew ground to a halt with a rear wheel puncture. Another one a mile further on confounded the prediction that we would catch an early train home, but we completed the ride and a further two mile circuit of the village without incident and in brilliant sunshine.
Surprisingly in the whole ride we saw only two other cyclists, but we did see walkers, one of whom was shamed into riding Trevor's bike a short distance after criticising his technique, two horse-drawn sight seeing 'buses', some deer, a number of ponies and traps and, of course, alot of trees. The whole day was enjoyed by all, who, I'm sure, will look forward to their next excursion designed for the ATB. Our thanks go to Marguerite for the organisation.
For the technically minded - in 12 hours away from Woking we managed 3 hours 35 minutes of riding and covered about 26 miles at an average speed of 6.9 mph. (The man with the computer reached 29 mph on a loose, downhill surface - terrified to brake ?)
4 oz sultanasPut fruit, sugar, margarine and water into a large pan and boil for ten minutes. Add the other ingredients and mix well. Put in prepared cake tin and cook for l½ hours at 325°F (160°C).
4 oz raisins
4 oz currants
7 oz granulated sugar
6 oz margarine
1 cup water
8 oz self raising flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp mixed spice
Marguerite makes a triple quantity which is sufficient for a 9" cake and an 8" cake.
I caught the 10.50 am train from Woking on the Tuesday and was in Ryde about two hours later. I had been looking forward to a cup of coffee on the open air deck during the 45 minute journey on the ferry but alas that was not to be on the new Sealink catamaran which has no such facilities as it only takes 15 minutes, providing an excellent service.
On arrival at Ryde I nervously negotiated the planks along the pier and headed straight for an open air cafe to relax in the sunshine while I studied the map.
After about three miles I met another cyclist (male!) who asked me the way to the Steam Railway Centre. I pointed him in the right direction which did my ego a world of good. However, about a mile later, I was instantly brought to earth when what I think was an IOW bumble bee, dive-bombed and stung me, so being ill-equipped I then had to head for Newport and a chemist's. I can now highly recommend Solarcaine for insect stings, minor burns and severe sunburn.
En route I had picked up a couple of booklets about places to visit on the IOW and was amazed at the number. So on Tuesday evening I ploughed through the whole lot and selected three or four for each day.
After some essential shopping on Wednesday morning, i.e. Trackers and Ribenas, I set off at about 10.30 am and almost immediately got lost in a farm-yard. I spent the rest of the morning meandering down country lanes and tracks, retracing my 'steps' at one point to watch some roly-poly piglets trying to run. I eventually reached Calbourne Mill by lunch time and found the £1.40 excellent value - well worth a leisurely visit.
The Yarmouth to Freshwater disused railway track makes excellent riding but don't bother visiting the Golden Hill Fort at Freshwater. The Chessel Porcelain might be very delicate and ornate but at a price, and to cap it all you are expected to pay 20p to go in and buy some ! Mottistone Manor Gardens were a delight to the eye, and as for the strawberries and cream at Brighstone....!
On Thursday morning I once again ended up in a farm-yard and was told by an amused farmer's wife to go through a gate, across the fields, over a stile and eventually I would come to the road I wanted. What she didn't tell me was that there were three stiles but it was well worth the effort as I was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by open spaces, doing exactly what I wanted - it's a wonderful feeling.
Eventually I arrived at Arreton and was highly impressed with the Country Craft Village. Although I was a bit taken aback at having to pay £1.35 to go round, I was pleased that I had and my ticket was valid for a week.
The cafe near Bembridge Lifeboat Station is right alongside the beach and the ferry across the harbour is well worth 30p. Then came one of the highlights of the tour - the Flamingo Park at Seaview - just £2. The Steam Railway at Havenstreet does take bikes but groups must book in advance and a single ticket costs £1.90, which also gives you access to view the engines etc and the tea shop.
On Friday I laughed as I cycled along the top of Mersley Down, I couldn't see a thing because it was so misty and all the cars had their lights on. There I was, climbing all the hills to see nothing ! Anyway, having had an excellent trip doing exactly as I wished in glorious sunshine, I had decided to go home as I could no longer enjoy the views or stand the smoke in the guest house dining room.
I shall certainly return to the Island several more times - probably with Harry the new Wayfarer next time - and hope to do a Ladies Weekend there next June.
There is a mass of minor roads, bridleways and footpaths waiting to be explored, and loads of places to visit with hundreds of places for coffee, lunch, threeses and tea - more than any cyclist could wish for.
No, I don't work for the Isle of Wight Tourist Board !
Leave Woking (or Guildford) early on Saturday morning to arrive at Ryde about 11 am (£13.40 return). Visit the Flamingo Park (£2) and stay overnight in Shanklin at a hotel with swimming pool, en-suite bedrooms with colour TV and tea-making facilities (£15 B&B). Sunday visit the Arreton Country Craft Centre (£1.35) and possible afternoon visit to the Shire Horse Centre (£1.75). Arrive back at Guildford (or Woking) about 9 pm.
Take a picnic lunch for Saturday - or there is a restaurant at the Flamingo Park if you wish to buy lunch. You will need additional money for the Saturday evening meal, Sunday lunch, and extras - £50 should see you through if you are careful !
Expensive, but luxurious. Very easy pace - max 10 mph, except downhill ! Maximum number will be 10. Let me know now if you are provisionally interested.
Another issue of your splendid magazine (Summer 1989) has filtered through to me. (How does it happen? - ed.)
It was interesting to read Robert Shiels' comments about the country lanes near Greenbank Farm Guest House being bereft of cars; and Marguerite Statham's implication that 'six cars and eight pigeions' represented peace and solitude on a Sunday morning near Woking.
To me, six cars at that time of day would be a traffic jam. Sometimes, before work, I go for a half-hour spin, and on a busy day I will meet 2 milkfloats, 3 squirrels, 5 rabbits and maybe a hedgehog! Then it's home for breakfast (certainly not including jam doughnuts) followed by a 35 minute journey (walk to station plus 20 minutes on a train) to Liverpool. The peace and joy of living where I do is further explained if I point out that my nearest neighbour in a due westerly direction is in Dublin (and the sunsets over the sea are magnificent). Thus, living in the North West does have its compensations.
Merseyside/Chester & N.Wales DAs
(alias 'your Northern correspondent')
PS Long-suffering readers will be interested to know that Marguerite and I have perfected a technique for walking backwards up hills in broad daylight - especially when there's a good view to look at.
In June 1992 I shall be 50 years and 2 months old. Old enough to qualify for the next CTC Triennial Veterans 100 mile ride. Yippee ! I'll start training on Sunday !
Marguerite A. Statham
Of course you didn't know that because you hadn't been able to get hold of the leaflet which might or might not have made the position clear - so you and your bike are left on the platform once again.
And even if you had mastered the subtle differences between Sprinters and Expresses - and knew how both differed from DMUs - your troubles aren't over even then. How do you distinguish between a 125 and an ordinary Inter-City, and does it matter? Is a loco-hauled express different from an Express (with a capital E)?
For me, all of these problems are things of the past. No, it's not because I've given up train assisted rides: I've tried my hardest to master the intricacies of the BR rules and regulations on the subject. Over the years I've:
had to bully a Guard at Birmingham into accepting my bike onto his 125 for St. Austell even though his van was full - simply because I had in my hand a valid bike ticket for that train,
learned that you can take your bike on a train in the London area even in the rush hour if you have a ticket to a station outside the area,
learned also to live with the fact that Scarborough is totally off limits,
persuaded a Guard that charging £3 for a bike on the loco-hauled trains from Newcastle to Liverpool is (despite what he had been told) not official BR policy,
and (my biggest success) received a refund from BR of a large fee they levied to provide extra guards vans on each of three trains one weekend to transport 12 bikes from Liverpool to Brighton and back: I claimed the refund because although the extra vans had in fact been added to all the trains, the three regular vans were virtually empty!So don't despair! The rules and regulations have to exist because some trains nowadays just do not have big guards vans any more. It's a matter of understanding these rules and regulations, doing your homework thoroughly before you set out, and of being patient on platforms.
Obviously a lot of spontaneity has gone from "train assisted" outings, but many possibilities still remain for the persistent cyclist - provided he or she has a degree in reading timetables and rule books!
Our Northern Correspondent
There were already two other ladies and a gentleman in the six-seater compartment and we were soon joined by two more men.
Eventually the guard arrived. Two men made a hasty retreat, one lady paid an extra £6, the other already had a first-class ticket, the man paid £5 and I had to find an extra £10.60. The £5 man then lit up a cigarette and the lady with the first-class ticket complained as she had reserved a first-class seat in a no-smoking compartment. There were no stickers on the window but the man didn't smoke again !
At Leamington Spa two students joined us and went to sleep. After a while the guard returned, woke them up and threw them out. I got the giggles as I felt sure that the students had been playing 'cat and mouse' with the guard and this wasn't the first time he had ejected them from a first-class compartment.
At Coventry it was 'all change' in the compartment apart from me, and three young men from Scotland came in. They clearly had guilty consciences as one stayed in the corridor to smoke while the others complained about the price of tickets and the overcrowding, partly due to there being only six carriages instead of the usual eight and on a bank holiday Friday as well. They left their seats before the next station.
At Birmingham New Street I was joined by two men who obviously had first-class tickets (or so I assumed - maybe they were well practiced at sitting in 'illegal' seats) and two ladies with a young girl and a drunk Dad. Thomas told the ladies to sit opposite and fell into the seat next to me saying "what makes you people any different from us?". A good question I thought, apart from the fact that he was drunk and I was sober, the only difference was money. Thomas then staggered off to the buffet car to buy some more alcohol and, on his return, was made to sit outside on the corridor floor - full credit to his wife.
There had been a change of guard at Birmingham and eventually our tickets were inspected. Thomas and his family were not charged any extra ! Thomas, of course, was jubilant and said "so you see, you aren't any better than us ! ". I, of course, was fuming but I have now learnt how to get a 'free' ride in a first-class seat - get drunk first. No guard is going to risk antagonising an abusive drunkard. Perhaps if I write to British Rail they will give me a refund............
If BR did away with the first-class carriages the people with money would soon start shouting for better services and facilities. They wouldn't tolerate the overcrowding on long journeys. I paid £29 to stand on a train for 3 hours and 40 minutes. I paid another £10.60 to sit down. Why should extra money be able to buy a seat - don't we all pay enough to sit?
Must remember to get drunk...........
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