75 Years On - 

A Short History of the West Surrey DA

Rosalind Banks

THE CLUB has a continuous history in one form or another going back to 1921.  Its foundations were laid in that year when a small band of young cycling enthusiasts, among them Bill Inder, Gar Gribble, Les Norman and Norman Pearce, became members of the Cyclists’ Touring Club. Not being of sufficient numerical strength to form a separate section, they became the Woking and Guildford Sub-section of the Windsor, Eton and Slough Section of the Metropolitan District Association.  From this small beginning the Sub-section became fully fledged, in 1928, as the West Surrey District Association when local activities of the CTC in London and the Home Counties were re-organised.  The inter-war years saw a steady growth in club membership, with a number of the great names first making their mark:  George Alesbury and Basil Vowler in 1935 and Don Field in 1936.  Further expansion led, in 1937, to the West Surrey DA extending its area to include members in the Kingston district, and to split up into two sections, Woking and Kingston.  Thus the local club in the Woking area reverted to Section status.  Also in 1937, the Benstead Challenge Cup Competition was inaugurated as a result of the generosity of the then Vice-President, Archie Benstead, who donated the trophy.  The competition, which is designed to give all riders as fair a chance as possible of emerging as the best all-round cyclist in the DA, has continued from then on except for a break from 1940 to 1946 when members were serving in the armed forces.

During the war years those members who were not called to service with the Armed Forces managed to keep a regular, if not very strongly attended, series of Sunday runs, thus allowing members on leave to enjoy a run from time to time.

After the war the Section gathered strength and the number of members by then warranted three riding groups:  the General section (later to be known as the Hardriders), Social (subsequently called the “Wayfarers”) and Family rides.  The General group in particular blossomed, with some members, including George Porter (joined 1946), averaging 100 miles or more every Sunday throughout the summer.  To mark the DA’s 21st birthday in 1949, a ride was started from Cobham on 24th April, which took in the lanes of the North Downs.  The lunch at Shalford was attended by no less than 80 members!

The early 1950’s saw the arrival of several now longstanding members including Les Houlton in 1952 and Eric Parr a year later. In this year also were started the regular Wednesday evening rides (later held on Thursday evenings).  Woking Section also joined with the Charlotteville CC in establishing its first club room, this being at Jacobs Well and it was also at this time that both clubs started the idea of joint runs which, in Spring and Autumn, continued unbroken until 1980.

1953 also saw the beginnings of cyclists’ interests being represented in the political sphere, with the election of DA representatives to serve on both the Kingston and Surbiton as well as the Walton and Weybridge Road Safety Committees.  This involvement resulted in these DA reps providing much cycle training in schools over a long period.  Don Field and George Alesbury were cycle trainers for the Walton and Weybridge Road Safety Committee for many years.  It is interesting to note that when Woking’s request for representation on its local road safety committee was declined and the matter was referred to CTC HQ, the latter indicated that they were unwilling to interfere in local government matters regarding road safety!

Bill Inder was elected DA president in 1956, having served as DA Secretary for the previous 27 years, and also as Treasurer during that time.  In 1957 Woking’s Social Section was renamed the “Wayfarers” with “Cab” Stanley, another veteran of the 30’s, as chief organiser.

The 1960’s saw the “changing of the guard”, with a number of the original club members passing away  (Norman Pearce, “Cab” Stanley, Les Norman, Tom Keeble and Gladys Inder) and new faces appearing who were to be mainstays of the club for many years (Paddy Shea, Hamish Smith, Ken Bolingbroke, Harold Coleman, Keith Parfitt and Russ Mantle).  Following his wife’s death in 1961, Bill Inder came back to regular riding and started to furnish the local press with his weekly reports on DA affairs - a feature that continued until his death in 1992.

In 1963, the Kingston Section of the DA was absorbed into the South West London DA and so Woking Section was wound up and became the West Surrey DA.  A year later the Treasure Hunt, Rough Stuff, Speed Judging and Map-reading all became part of the Benstead Cup program  (as well as the “100” and the “50”) and were held as part of the Sunday runs.

During the 1970s club events and activities followed a by-now familiar pattern.  In 1973 the Bernard Howell Trophy was instituted to commemorate the aforesaid member who was knocked down and killed by a drunken driver whilst on a Thursday evening ride.  Initially the tankard was allocated to honour different achievements every year, but was later on awarded to the highest placed veteran taking part in the Benstead Cup competition.  During the early part of the decade Keith Parfitt came to prominence, as did Ray Craig and Chris Jeggo.  Keith in particular was responsible for setting up the Intermediates group in 1977, which produced a strong group of new riders.  He was also one of the main promoters of the Guildford Boathouse clubroom which opened to DA members in 1980.  The DA Newsletter was inaugurated in 1978 and edited for a year by Chris Jeggo before being taken over by Harold Coleman.

In the same year, the DA organised a successful Home Counties Rally as part of the CTC’s Centenary Celebrations, and led out the first riders on the CTC’s Round Britain Relay Ride, also held to mark the club centenary.  1978 also marked the 50th anniversary of the DA and to celebrate it a special Birthday Tea was held at Elstead Church Hall with nearly 70 members attending;  later on nearly 100 diners attended a celebratory dinner at the Cotteridge Hotel (now the Litten Tree).  Sadly this year saw the death of Don Field, a Vice-President and one of the DA’s most ardent supporters over 40 years.  (Don was also the author of the official club history entitled “Sixty Years On”, a project which Bill Inder completed after Don’s untimely death).

In 1980 the DA badge incorporating the Surrey oak leaf was introduced, and in 1983 the present DA colours of green, white and gold were adopted.  Previously these had been black, silver and royal blue.

The DA continued to flourish throughout the 1980s;  regular social events were held in addition to the monthly club night as well as the annual photographic competition.  Good teas continued to be enjoyed at the end of Sunday runs, often provided by members’ families.  During this decade a number of people who became longstanding members came to prominence:  David and Claudia Whittle, David and Helen Pinkess, Chris and Helen Juden, Marguerite Statham and Roy Banks.

On the riding side, the DA started to run Audax events, notably the Stonehenge 200km ride in 1978, whilst the first Tour of the Hills took place in 1982 and was organised by Harold Coleman and Chris Jeggo.  The Wednesday group - later known as the “Midweek Wayfarers” - started up in 1984 and was led by George Alesbury.  During this decade, the General section (renamed the “Hardriders” in 1988) continued to be led by Russ Mantle, whilst the Intermediates were led by a number of members, notably Keith Parfitt.

1984 was also the year in which the Benstead Shield was awarded for the first time to the winner of the Ladies Competition, the accolade going to Helen Juden.

1985 saw the death of Archibald Benstead, the donor of the Cup, at the age of 97, whilst another veteran of the 1930s, Basil Vowler, passed away in 1987.  Continuing on from its longstanding representation on local planning committees, the DA developed its campaigning role further when a Planning and Rights Sub-Committee was formed in 1985, comprising Helen Juden, Chris Jeggo and Keith Parfitt.  The DA Newsletter became the DA quarterly Magazine from mid-1985, and a new-style quarterly runs list was introduced from 1986 in order to fit in with it.  In 1986 George Alesbury retired as DA Treasurer, having served the DA in that capacity for 26 years without a break.

Bill Inder had been in charge of the Wayfarers since 1960, but having reach his 85th year, handed the job over to Marguerite Statham in 1988.  Marguerite was responsible for introducing monthly morning-only Wayfarer rides from Woking which were additional to the three all day rides.  Similarly a Guildford-based family group was also started up on a monthly basis by Dave Whittle and soon became known as the Guildford Wayfarers.  The aim of both groups was to attract new members.  However in 1991 the Woking-based morning only rides were abandoned whilst the Guildford Wayfarers group had become dormant, and so the Wayfarers reverted exclusively to all day rides from a variety of start points.  After 21 years in the job, Russ Mantle stepped down as Runs Secretary at the end of 1990, as well as handing over leadership of the Hardriders to Roger Philo at the same time.

1991 saw members of the DA win top honours for the first time in the District Association Tourist Competition (DATC) with the Surrey Team coming first and Chris Avery achieving second in the individual placings.  Indeed West Surrey was to go on to win the DATC competition no less than six times during the decade, with an unbroken run from 1991 to 1995, and then winning it again in 1997.

The early 1990s saw the formation within the DA area of several Cyclists’ Rights Networks, which became affiliated to the CTC.  The first of these was the Farnham CRN, with the Guildford and Godalming Groups starting up soon after.

1992 was overshadowed by the death of Bill Inder at the age of 87.  To commemorate his life it was later agreed to re-dedicate the cup for the Sunday Attendance Competition, the latter being known from 1993 onwards as the Bill Inder Trophy.  (Prior to this it had been known as the Edwards Cup).  To commemorate the life of Bill, George Alesbury (Bill’s successor as DA President) organised a “Gastronomic Valediction” in his memory at the Old Cartlodge, Dunley Hill Farm on 9th May 1993.

This was also the year when the Woking Wayfarers was formed as a separate group from the original Wayfarers Group.  Led by Dave Nightingale, this riding group differentiated itself from the latter in that it started its runs every week from Woking Market, whereas the Wayfarers continued to meet at different locations within the DA.  Though the WW group did from time to time rendezvous with the other groups as part of an all-day ride, the riders usually returned after coffee, thus making these runs an ideal short ride for beginners as well as for those with limited time.  Dave continued as the stalwart leader of this Group until 2001.

Later on in the year, the original Wayfarers group was renamed the “Southern Wayfarers”.  This group continued to offer all day rides, but would concentrate its start points in the southern half of the D.A., in and around places such as Guildford, Cranleigh, CTC HQ and Farnham.  In 1994 the Southern Wayfarers were renamed the “Guildford & Godalming Wayfarers” and the “Cranleigh Wayfarers”.  These groups were run by the Whittles, the Judens as well as Keith and Kath Parfitt.

Whilst the Sunday rides were still the main activity, there had been a slow but steady increase in the numbers attending the Midweek Wayfarers’ runs, led as ever by George Alesbury.  In 1992 the average number of participants on these rides was 10, with the highest turnout being 18.

Two other significant developments regarding the riding groups were the start of a regular monthly run by the CTC Rights Network at Farnham (second Sunday in the month), plus the setting up by Keith Parfitt of the West Surrey Junior Cyclists (WSJC, but a.k.a. WeeSeeJuicy by the children who took part!)

In 1993, it was the turn of the West Surrey DA to host the Home Counties Rally which was based at Broadwater School, Godalming during the first May Bank Holiday weekend, and was a great success with 180 people attending.

This year unfortunately saw the closing down of the Clubroom in September owing to the cost of running it and a drop-off in support.  Instead smaller-scale social events became the norm, and an annual Ladies’ Weekend was a popular fixture throughout the ‘90s.

1994 saw a definite increase in the numbers of riders out with the DA;  after a decline in average attendance on Sundays to 21 in 1989-90 (of which only 7 were out all day), this trend was reversed with the average Sunday attendance back up to 32 riders (with the average number out all day at 12.3) - figures which had not been matched since 1985-86.  The Woking, G&G and Cranleigh Wayfarer groups were particularly successful during the mid-90s, attracting and retaining a good number of new riders.  Attendances on the other rides also remained strong, though during the summer months the number of Hardriders tended to diminish as many of them were out flying the flag for the DA on the DATC competition rides.  The Midweek Wayfarers continued to increase their average attendance;  by 1996 the number had increased to 17, with the total number of different people out during that year being 59.  In recognition of the growing importance of the MW group, the George Alesbury Tankard was awarded for the first time in 1994 for best overall midweek attendance.

During 1994 George Alesbury stepped down as leader of the Midweek Wayfarers, having served continuously in that role since the group’s inception in 1984.

In 1996, after a three-year term in office as DA President, George Alesbury retired in favour of Harold Coleman.  Another veteran of the DA, “Bionic Bert” Bartholomew, sadly died whilst out on a ride.  A year later the DA lost a number of valued and respected members:  John Clark, Dennis Gray, Roy Richardson, Ron Sadler and Keith Parfitt.  Keith in particular supported so many activities in the DA and served the Committee for over 20 years as well as being the local CTC councillor.  Nevertheless at this time, a number of well-known members became more active in various roles:  notably Clive Richardson who did a long stint as leader of the Hardriders.

In recent years the DA has continued to run a full program of events with membership numbers remaining stable.  However the lack of junior members has meant that the Junior Benstead Cup was last awarded in 2000 to Matthew Juden, as was the Keith Parfitt Pot for Junior attendance.

2000 also saw the death of two more DA stalwarts and much loved characters, George Porter and Ken Bolingbroke.  Les Houlton took over as DA President from Harold Coleman in 2001, with Roy Banks taking over the mantle a year later.

Sadly, 2002 also saw the passing of two more highly regarded members.  Jim Cheatham collapsed whilst leading a Midweek Wayfarers run and Phil Hampton, one of the strongest riders in the DA and a great character, was tragically killed whilst riding his bike home from an event.

Recent developments have included the setting up of the DA website by Tom Hargreaves in 1999, the representation of the DA on the new local cycle forums at district council level, plus the HQ-sponsored programme of Right to Ride representatives to cover West Surrey.  The Hardriders were renamed the Sunday Riders in an attempt to allay their “hard man” image.  The Midweek Wayfarers continued to grow in popularity, with an average weekly attendance of 20 throughout 2002.  On the events side, the “Tour of the Greensand Hills” - a shorter, less hilly version (but still hilly enough!) of the original Tour of the Hills, was run for the first time and was deemed a success.  Finally, Surrey remained competitive in the DATC rankings, achieving 4th place in 2002.

Last revised:  2 October 2004.  W. Surrey DA History & Archives home page.