Contents

Editorial
President's Page
Kenneth Hoxley
Colin Wood
David Taylor MP
Letter to the Editor
Charnwood Chatter
General Knowledge
Easy Riders
Photographic Competition
Best Cycle Chat Articles 2009
CTC Council
Birthdays
Into the Future?
Whitwick Wheels to Wainwright's Walks
A Summer in France (part 10)

Editorial

I am writing this on a beautiful if cold sunny day. I'm sure you'll all be glad when all this snow and ice has disappeared, let's hope the weather improves for this years holidays. Thank you for all your articles, it's always a pleasure to receive them.

Dave Binks has won the “Best Article” this year, well done. A big thank you to Derrick Orton for judging this extremely hard competition. Congratulations to all our other prize winners. I hope to see many of you at the Wheatsheaf, Thurcaston on March. 27th. Tickets are limited so order yours as soon as possible.

There is a packed events diary including the National AGM and Prize Presentation being held this year (May 15th) in Loughborough. Meriden Cyclist's Memorial Service is on Sunday 16th May and not as previously advertised.

Belated 'Happy Birthday' to Mick Arnold and Ron Johnson who both celebrated their 80th recently, also Phil Allen who will be 80 in March. Phil has recently returned home after a lengthy stay in hospital. I apologise if I have missed anyone or anything out, I can blame only myself.

Finally, sincere condolences to the families and friends of Colin Wood, Ken Hoxley and David Taylor MP, they will all be sadly missed.

Ivy Allen
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President's Page

Ray Clay

At the AGM last November I was very pleased and honoured to be elected President of the Leicestershire and Rutland Cyclists' Touring Club for a two year term. I hope to support as many events as possible and live up to the good work previous President's have done.

It has been very sad that at least three of our supporters have died recently, Colin Wood, Ken Hoxley and David Taylor. Colin had a long association with the Loughborough Section and rode regularly with them until the onset of his illness. Ken was an outstanding cyclist, a fellow Ipswich Town supporter, a sports journalist and editor of our Cycle Chat magazine for a number of years. David Taylor, the MP for North West Leicestershire, was a member of the House of Commons Cycle Group and joined us on a number of rides. I went to the funeral of Colin and Ken and both were very well attended with the crematoriums packed out. Unfortunately, I couldn't get to the funeral of David Taylor at Heather. The snowy weather made the roads lethal and I was full of cold. We are hoping that a memorial service can be arranged so we can pay our respects there.

I enjoyed the carol service at Illston on the Hill arranged by Jim Gerrard. The location is a lovely rural setting and St Michael and All Saints church is well worth a second visit. There were very tasty refreshments on hand with the famous Leicester Easy Rider's soup a speciality.

I suspect that most of us haven't ridden our bikes as much as we would like recently. I went to support Gill Lord's New Year Ride. I didn't venture onto my bike. In fact, the roads were so treacherous with ice, only three dared to do Gill's ride. Penny and I enjoyed the lunch at Sibbertoft Village Hall along with a large number of other supporters.

I hope to see as many members as possible at the Prize Presentation to be held as usual at the Wheatsheaf, Thurcaston. This is a good opportunity to meet up with old friends and have a go in the skittle alley. There will be generous helpings of traditional pub grub and the skittle alley will have a bar. See the flyer in Cycle Chat for further details and booking form.

It's the turn of the East Midlands to host the National AGM and dinner this year. It will be held on Saturday 15th May at Burleigh Court, Loughborough University. On the Sunday, Loughborough CTC is arranging a number of led rides to suit all abilities.

Our new Councillor, John Catt, has started his duties and getting to grips with the challenges at National Office, notably whether or not the CTC should become a unified membership charity. Arguments for and against are laid down in the latest edition of Cycle. The AGM in May should be quite lively!

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Colin Wood

Colin Wood died aged 71 on 3rd December 2009 after a prolonged illness. A popular Loughborough CTC member, Colin had a great collection of bikes for all activities.

His main passion was touring and he introduced both of his sons to it. When illness sapped his strength, he bought a tricycle to keep cycling. His wife Marilyn appreciated the pleasure Colin took from being a club member.

Brian Hinners
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David Taylor MP

David died from a massive heart attack on Boxing Day whilst out walking with his family in the grounds of Calke Abbey.

He was a real champion of cycling and was a member of the All Party Friends of Cycling at Westminster. He is pictured in the February/March 2010 issue of the CTC magazine “Cycle” with other MP's on page seven, he is the third from the left in the group.

David became MP for North West Leicestershire in 1997 and was a guest of both Charnwood CTC and Leicestershire and Rutland Cyclists' Touring Club on several occasions. When Charnwood CTC met at Heather, he would often have a chat and sometimes even ride out with them for a few miles. Heather was his home village and he is buried in the churchyard there.

He was a great supporter of the work of the CTC and will be sadly missed by the community he represented so well in Parliament where he was “Backbencher of the Year”.

Our thoughts are with his family.

John Allen
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Obituary - Kenneth Hoxley 1937 - 2009

Ken Hoxley died in hospital on 8th December 2009. Diagnosed with prostate cancer some four years earlier, Ken continued to cycle regularly until the end of September when his health deteriorated.

Ken was born at Bury St. Edmunds and began his long cycling career with the West Suffolk Wheelers, of which he became a Life Member.

As a successful journalist, Ken worked for various local newspapers, moving to Leicestershire to work on the Leicester Mercury, covering many sports including cycling. Whilst with the East Anglian Daily Times he was the football writer, involved with his beloved Ipswich Town FC, where he built a strong working relationship with Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson.

He was a CTC member for over 30 years and edited the Leicestershire and Rutland DA magazine "Cycle Chat" for more than 10 years.

One of his proudest achievements was to join the exclusive 300,000 Club.

In June 2009 he and his wife Wendy celebrated their Golden Wedding with others on a traditional style club-run.

A modest man and a stalwart clubman, Ken will be sadly missed by his family and by cyclists in both Suffolk and the East Midlands.

Max Scott
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Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Recently I received a copy of Cycle Chat - Spring 2009 from old friends David and Gill Bull. The journal made interesting reading in both articles and catching up on people that I know. After logging onto the DA website and reading those posted on the website, the DA still seems to be going strong, as indeed there are a lot of names from when I cycled out with the DA still active.

I am saddened to see that so many people that I cycled with over the years have passed away. Graham Preston, Tony Mellor, Joyce Hames and a lot more that I recall as faint memories.

Brian Wheelband
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Leicester Easy Riders

with Rose Holman

We had lovely weather for the time of year for Mick's ride on the 15th November. Mick, Nancy, June, Pete and I had our 11's at Sevenoaks Nursery on Groby Lane. It was the first time we had been there, the food and plants were reasonably priced but the toilet was not so good (another tardis type). We then proceeded through Bradgate Park trying to weave in and out of the dogs and children, the children being the most hazardous, ie: no road sense!! It was then on to Rothley Station for lunch. I left the group there to return home via a visit to Loros. On the outward journey I had trouble with my chain while I was riding through Kirby Muxloe but everyone very kindly helped to put it right.

Twenty one of our members and friends enjoyed a lovely meal at the Stoney Cove diving centre (our Christmas Lunch). Everyone arrived by car because of the pouring rain earlier in the morning.

The Carol Service was enjoyed by all at Illston-on-the-Hill. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the members of our section for making the day such a success and for all their hard work on the day. Also a big thank you to all who attended before, during and after the service.

We collected £40 for Illston Church with the raffle raising another £50 for the Loros Hospice and the remainder paying for the village hall.

Nancy, Andy, Graham and I braved the snow and ice for Andy's ride to Broughton and Jones at Anstey where we had coffee after which Nancy and I returned home.

Nancy's ride to White Moors on the 10th January had to be cancelled due to the snow, ice and anything else that the weather threw at us.

Fifteen of our group plus John Blakemore from Bob Warner Cycles had our New Years Lunch on the 17th January back at Stoney Cove. Norman Castle won the trophy for the most Sunday rides during the year. Well done, Norman. The cup was presented to Norman at the lunch as I had realised that the 14th March is Mothering Sunday and most of our riders would probably be otherwise engaged.

If anyone would like to go cycling on 14th March, a ride has been arranged to Ashby Parva garden centre starting from the Great Central Underpass at 10.00. The leader depends on who turns up!

Finally, we would all like to wish Phil Allen a speedy recovery.

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GENERAL KNOWLEDGE

with Lyn Dolphin

Martin Bulmer and I had a conversation in the Western (Leicester) on the first Sunday after the snow had gone and agreed that as he felt he had been out on so few rides during the last quarter that I would do this report. However on looking at the runs list for inspiration, I too seem to have missed quite a few, so I apologise now if the content seems to be limited. Of course the last quarter has given us a mixture of weather to deal with, not least the snow that fell to see the year out and the ice that then accompanied it. This resulted in our runs being severely curtailed over this period.

But let us start back in October, when we had our last car assisted run of the year. This one was led by me and we explored the South Leicestershire/Northamptonshire lanes. We started by using the Welland Valley lanes, then followed the Brampton Valley way, where we had tea at Waterloo farm and met Pete who had driven out to join us for a shorter ride. After tea we tackled the tunnels and got disorientated in the longer one. Well I say we got disorientated, Martin Ayling showed impressive skills at managing to ride his bike all the way through, without lights good enough to see by, whilst the rest of us staggered through, weaving about the tunnel as if we had already had one too many! After a bit of a rain storm we ended up in a pub at Naseby which had a lovely fire, good ale (or so my advisors tell me) and let us eat our sandwiches in the warm. We finished off by coming back to our start point at Wistow via Percy Pilcher's memorial at Stanford on Avon.

Welcoming pubs are becoming ever more important to find, as more and more close, and those that remain open become more reliant on restaurant trade. So in November, after starting in the sunshine, followed by torrential rain after the elevenses stop, we visited The Coopers Tavern in Burton on Trent. This was a pub we had not been to before, but they let us eat our sandwiches, provided a good selection of different ales, and had on offer a very nice pork pie.

We started December with what everyone expected to be a short ride to Sileby and Markfield. However Roland had other ideas, and led us on a long hilly route to the now refurbished café at Sileby. We then went through Bradgate Park and climbed up to Markfield. Unfortunately this was the ride that Keith decided to bring his friend, Chris, out on. I think that the distance and the hills were a little too much for him, either that or he thought we were such bad gps navigators as we clearly didn't know that we could do Sileby in 15 miles from Belton rather than the 30 that we did! We would, of course though, love to see him out again.

The mince pie run was one of the events caught by the start of the snow. Pete and I did go along, but opted for the motor assisted option, however Pearl, Soo and Alex from the easy rider section had all braved the weather and ridden down. The event was less well attended than usual (not unsurprisingly) but it was still a very good event that gives you the opportunity to catch up with other cyclists that you only see once a year, even though this year it appeared that Coalville Wheelers had bribed the raffle presenters as they cleared up the prizes.

Just so you all know, because I am sure you are hanging onto your seats with this one, we now have one more convert to the delights of gps (and no it is not me) and that is John, who assures me that for audax events it will be ideal. Personally I found the route sheets that the organizers take hours preparing were excellent, but maybe they too will start to issue the routes as a downloadable route to gps in the not too distant future. We also have Richard who is talking about becoming a convert for his birthday. Once this happens I think it is only Martin Ayling and I that will be without these little gizmos, and we are now a group of 10 when we are all out. Perhaps I shall just remain as the last campaigner for the paper map within our group.

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Charnwood Chatter

with Betty Naylor

Many congratulations to Heather Jones who, it has now been confirmed, has won the Brooks Trophy for winning the Junior Section of the National Tourist Competition. We presume the presentation will take place at this year's CTC National AGM/Prize Presentation to held at Loughborough University on Saturday, 15th May 2010.

There is more good news as Phil Allen has returned home after a long stay in hospital, and it is also good to see Brenda Ottey back riding again after cracking two ribs in a little accident at home - especially as this has swelled the attendance on Sunday runs, when husband Dave comes too!

In fact, Sunday 24th January saw a record turnout of eight members for Soo's ride to Ticknall and Melbourne. The weather promised too be very pleasant as we set off from Ashby along Smisby Road, although Soo's gears needed some attention on our first steep hill (must be lack of use). Alan Witty did the honours and we soon carried on to the B5006 down Piston Hill, turning second left to join the A514, then uphill again to the Scaddows Farm for coffee, here we were joined by Mary and Alex. This farm has become a popular elevenses stop for the shorter rides, because it is also a farm shop selling fresh vegetables, bread and preserves, besides a variety of frozen foods. Soo left us after coffee as she had other commitments, as did Mary and Alex.

After enjoying our break, Pearl led us back to the B5006 down through Ticknall, turning sharp right on the Melbourne Road, then right again down a little lane to join the bridle path besides Staunton Harold Reservoir towards the Visitor Centre. This appeared to be a very popular spot with lots of people walking their dogs in the sunshine. There were many yachts out on the water and with their multi coloured sails it made for a very picturesque scene. Some of our riders made it to the top of the sharp incline, whilst the “not so fit” used Shank's Pony!

Then it was a it was a speedy freewheel downhill into Melbourne where we were made very welcome at the Swan Inn - another hostelry where one can eat their own food. It was raining slightly when we left so we turned left opposite the church taking the fairly steep hill up to Wilson before dropping down into Breedon. Here the hardy Ibstock riders left us to continue onto Tongue over the A42 to Top Brand, Griffydam, Peggs Green, left at the island, over Coleorton Moor towards the A511 then down through Ravenstone to Ibstock. Quite a ride! The rest of us cycled back through Breedon along the main road to Ashby to collect our vehicles. It was most exhilarating to be on our bikes again after three weeks of walking in the snow!

However, we can now look forward to the Spring and Summer, when we have monthly camping weekends planned, commencing with Easter. Brenda has now successfully booked a site at Bishops Monkton near Ripon for our more energetic riders, whilst Mary, Alex, Howard and myself are using a site at Fiskerton, near Lincoln, which lies adjacent to a cycle route and public transport - should the weather turn nasty.

Soo and Pearl are planning a month long trip for July using planes, bikes and boats along the North Sea route from Aberdeen to John O' Groats and then onto the Shetlands and Orkneys. Brenda and Dave intend re-visiting the Dumfries area, whilst Howard and I may introduce our grandson to cycling around the pretty lanes of north Norfolk. All we need is the weather!

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Photographic Competition

Results - 2009

Prints:

Placing
1
2
3
Smith Trophy - Pictorial: John Allen John Allen Gill Lord
Alan Haywood Rosebowl - Clublife: John Allen Gill Lord John Allen
Sue Green Shield - Humorous: John Allen Norman Delves Ron Johnson
Junior Trophy: Heather Jones Heather Jones Heather Jones
George Clowes Tray - Transport: John Allen Aileen Andrews Ivy Allen
Stoneygate '84 cup - Novice: Heather Jones Heather Jones Aileen Andrews

Slides:

Placing
1
2
3
Birthday Rides '84 cup - Pictorial: Ron Johnson Tom Bailey Phil Allen
Clublife cup: Ron Johnson Ron Johnson Ron Johnson
Scraptoft '84 cup - Transport: Tom Bailey Ron Johnson Ron Johnson

To all who entered please accept my thanks.This year the number of photographs far exceeded my expectations with over 200 entries. The judge was Mr Keith Pare of Whitwick who was very impressed with the quality and the amount of entries. I am looking forward to organising this years event on Saturday 20th November.

Keith Lakin
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Best Cycle Chat Articles 2009

Derrick Orton

1st

It has to be Dave Binks 'A Summer In France'. I thought his diary during 2008 was quite interesting but this year he has come along in leaps and bounds. Better written and less like a diary version of a story. Like Tony Davis's article last year I found that I couldn't put it down until I had read it all. It was never boring and I know from personal experience that it is very difficult to fill in all the details correctly after an exhausting day of exercise. Never mind endless days back to back. It was never written in a clipped version that you might simply write in a personal diary (as I do). It was written very well to be published. Congratulations.

2nd

I have John Allen's articles of 'Whitwick Wheels to Wainwright's Walks'. Very unusual stories from the past with wonderful detail. How on earth could you do some of these climbs? I know some of them very well as a walker which are hard enough with a backpack!!!

3rd

'Charnwood Chatter' by Betty Naylor. Unfortunately, Betty has had to go up against the above two during 2009 which is a shame as her article stands out from the crowd in its own right. I can just imagine the article with lovely little line sketches throughout.

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CTC Council Developments

by John Catt

The main matter for discussion at the January Council Meeting was the looking at the formalities involved in reuniting the CTC “Club” and the CTC “Charitable Trust”. This is to be achieved by the “Club” becoming a charity and then re-absorbing the assets of the Trust, so that we once again become a single body governed by the Council, as elected by members.

This involved Councillors scrutinising proposed changes to the Memorandum and Articles of Association which have to be updated to comply with the latest Company's Act as well as the requirements of the Charity Commissioners.

I should make it clear that my study of the subject has lead me to conclude that, beyond reasonable doubt, this is the correct course for the CTC going forward.

All but two of the Council agree with this and Council is urging members to support the necessary resolutions at the AGM. This is to be held in Loughborough, so many of you should be able to attend and cast your vote.

There is a group of members who oppose the merger, wishing to see the “Club” remain independent. They have a website where they set out their arguments at www.savethectc.org.uk . I have no doubt that these members are honourable, but I believe their concerns to be mistaken. The CTC has, I think, answered all the points raised in a special area of its website devoted to this matter which can be found at http://tr.im/LrZM .

My conclusion is that there is nothing that we do at the moment, or that I can foresee the CTC and its members wanting to do, that it will not be able to take forward as a unified charity.

Opponents of the change have suggested that Council members have a vested interest in changing to charitable status. Two of the advantages of charitable status that I have been able to identify should give you complete reassurance about my position:

  1. the trustees of a charity (which is what the Councillors will become) are not entitled to any remuneration apart from out of pocket expenses;
  2. the standards expected in law of charity trustees is higher than that required of company directors.

The suggestion has also been made that the accounts of the CTC hide a subsidy from the Club to the Charity to cover losses on contracts with government bodies, such as the “Cycle Champions” initiative. The income and expenditure accounts relating to these contracts has been vetted by our auditors, the bodies funding the contracts and some Council Members (including a member co-opted for his financial expertise) and all concluded that the contracts they examined had covered their costs and provided an income towards the finances of the CTC as a whole.

The accounts show that the “Club” made a donation to the “Trust” of £453K for the year ending 30/9/09. Whilst some describe this as a subsidy, it has to be appreciated that the Trust funded most of our campaigns, right to ride work, volunteer development and club promotion (including the internet site), the total cost of which was £994K. The difference was covered from the resources available because of the financial opportunities and advantages open to the Trust as a charity.

Other points about various problems the CTC has had, such as with the membership system, have also been raised. I have yet to find an organisation that did not have its problems. Both council and staff are working hard to improve all aspects of the organisation and, whilst it will never be perfect, it will be easier to move forward without the administrative burden of maintaining and reporting on two separate organisations.

I believe it is vital that we become one again. If the “Club” were to be managed separately, as some seem to wish, then there could easily be a conflict of interest between Council members and the trustees of the Trust. Such problems would eventually, I believe, result in the organisations “divorcing”.

In my view we are much stronger united than divided and I urge you to vote, either at the AGM or by proxy vote, for the proposed changes. The opponents of change have an advantage in that we need at least 3 votes for change for every one against.

Other Matters

New members can now sign up directly using the website. Existing members can log in to pay their subs and amend their details if appropriate. This means you can ensure that your details are correctly recorded and save postage cost is you are not already paying by direct debit. Currently about 50% of new members and over 40% or renewals are via the website.

The decision has been made to commission a new website that should be delivered this year. Final negotiations are under way. It is intended that free webspace will be made available to groups using a standard template and authoring tools. The idea being that maintenance can be shared between members and a standard interface will mean that members moving between groups will still be able to use any skills in website maintenance that they have gained previously.

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Birthdays

Congratulations to….

Mick Arnold and Ron Johnson who both celebrated their 80th birthday recently.

Happy birthday to Phil Allen who will be 80 in March. Following a lengthy stay in hospital we are pleased to say that Phil has now returned home. He and his family would like to thank everyone for their cards, visits, telephone enquiries, good wishes, help and support during this time.

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Into the Future?

By Technicus

For those interested in the history of the past, the bicycle is an ever ready means of transport to the site of ancient monuments, the where-with-all to conjure up dreams of the past but it is rapidly becoming a time machine for transporting us into the future.

At present, it is only the “elect,” that select band of “flier” like Bob Mightland and B Fastist, who are riding so fast - they will soon be riding faster than time - before you can say 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, - go! They have finished, and they will reach the future before it comes.

Let us go with one of them and see what things are like in the future from a cyclist's point of view.

Having progressed along present day lines, weight reduction will have reached perfection. As every schoolboy knows, weight is the force with which the force of gravity attracts a given mass. By using lighter alloys, then still lighter ones, weight will have been reduced to zero - and since there is no weight there must be no mass - in other words there is no bike as we know it at present.

However that does not offer any problem to rider or manufacturer, for the triumph of mind over matter is complete, so all the “crack” does to get a new “iron” is to think about it very hard; which particular angles; which fittings, etc., he would like, then transfer his thoughts to the manufacturer, who gets all his draughtsmen thinking about it and in no time the new machine is telepathised to the rider, who exclaims as he receives it. “Gosh! What an idea!” Then when the bill arrives, “Heck, that's money for nowt!”

Of course speeds are phenomenal and it is no use racing to the turn and back as the time for this infinitesimal, so distances are increased - they race to infinity and back to makes times rational. All the riders effort is used over-coming the inertia due to his own weight and air resistance; friction having been eliminated with the material bike. On the level all is well, the riders weight keeps him on the ground. On reaching a hill his weight is a disadvantage, so taking a sip of his bottle of “anti-gravity” emprote, he rises to the occasion as he reduces his own weight. At the top of the hill is a supply of heavy lead weights, suitably placed there by his club mates, in case he hasn't sweated all the “A-G” dope out.

The rider picks up a weight, hanging it on his ethereal handlebars by Youth, and this pulls him downhill. There was one very nasty accident once when Bill Zipperman, one of the club's crack, rose to the top of the hill in the Inter-Planetary Championship Infinity Miles T.T. after an extra large dose of “A-G” dope, to discover that his club mates had forgotten the weight! When last seen he was zipping upwards somewhere between the Moon and Saturn, and he was the fastest rider in the world there is no hope of catching him.

Timing is done in light years since infinity is such a long way away, and the marshalling is carried out by radar. The club still has its bore, Joe Chinwag, who is always complaining of loosing half a light year at the turn due to a shower of meteorites - instead of the present herd of cows . Bells are not carried, what is the use of travelling faster than sound? - the sound of your bell would arrive after the accident. Dress is no longer “dark and inconspicuous”, since travelling at such speeds, it's necessary to keep cool by wearing asbestos paint to insulate you from the frictional heat.

The lads still go for a bash or training ride during the week - they usually go up to Mars place for a rabbit pie supper. The road problem has gone up in the air, and cyclists spend a lot of there time complaining of air-bags, vehicles which travelling faster hit you, then you see them - amongst the stars that is!

The cycling journals still talk about “the Master”, but they have progressed to the extent of referring to him as “that ripple in the ether” or “that electro-magnetic energy wave in transient time”.

There is no doubt that things have become very astrocomical!

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Whitwick Wheels to Wainwright's Walks - Part Three

by John Allen

In parts one and two John Allen recalled memories, inspired by his brother Phil's article in the December 2008 edition of “Cycle Chat”, of a Charnwood CTC holiday tour back in the 1950's - and Wainwright's Walks.

Two members of that tour of over fifty years ago, Barry Whitworth and Alex Thomson have assured me that the tour took place in August 1957 - not 1956 as I stated, but everything else has been verified by them and of course, brother Phil. This puts me at the ripe old age of 17 and Alex has even sent me a photograph which is on the back cover - thanks Alex.

Having mis-led you dear reader by one year I will try to redeem myself somewhat by a few facts on “Wainwright's Walks” before getting back on my Phillips “Vox Populi” cycle to continue the tour with the rest of the party.

Picking up my copy of book one of “A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells” by A Wainwright, I see that this was originally published by the “Westmorland Gazette” in 1955 - so when our tour was taking place “Wainwright's Walks” would presumably still be in their infancy.

During the recent television series of the same title, presenter Julia Bradbury mentioned that Wainwright did not drive a car but travelled to the start of his walks by public transport which would have been mainly on the buses of the Ribble company, Cumberland Motor Services or one of the many small bus operators across the Lake District (another of my interests).

Anyway, where was I at the end of part two? Oh yes, we had just completed the first of our “Wainwright's Walks” up Blacksail Pass, via Blacksail Youth Hostel and the descent of Scarth Gap Pass down into the Buttermere valley.

Having brushed ourselves down, dressed any wounds and reinstated luggage - not to mention minor repairs to the bikes, we had a long rest and an even longer lunch due to the “temporary” pressure valve on the primus stove! During the afternoon Phil took us on a very pleasant ride of the Buttermere area before arriving eventually at the luxurious King George V memorial hostel - a far cry indeed from our previous nights stay high up at the spartan Blacksail hut! After a wash and a hostel evening meal it wasn't long before we turned in - sleeping like logs in the large opulent hostel.

We awoke this Thursday morning to typical Lake District weather - incessant drizzle (that's why the area is so green!) and the light was very poor. Anyway, Phil had booked us in that evening at Honister Hause youth hostel, so after breakfast and fully loaded we set off.

I had with me my Kodak Brownie 127 camera (the elliptical shaped plastic one) that I had for Christmas a few years before. From experience I knew that I wouldn't get reasonable photos in this gloomy weather but as I was riding with the late Derek Lowe, a superb photographer who's pictures had appeared on the cover of the “CTC Gazette” he explained that although I had no light settings on my humble camera I could change to a faster film such as Ilford HP3 or HP4 - what good advice that was. Derek always carried two top class cameras such as a Rolleiflex and a Leika plus light meters in their leather cases with their straps across his back (mine was wrapped up in a hostel sheet sleeping bag!).

On the map (as the crow flies) the days riding distance was not too great but after visiting places such as Hassness, a stretch of “rough stuff” (off road) and the long climb/walk up Honister Pass in the rain it was just about enough. As we reached Honister Hause youth hostel I noticed the roof was stabilised by steel hausers across and into the ground - pegged out like a tent to counter the severe winter gales up here.

On setting out the next morning in the low cloud and capes it was freewheel time down the other side of the pass descending 700 feet down to Seatoller in just over a mile - before leaving the hostel we noticed a Cumberland Motor Services Sentinel/Beadle bodied bus had climbed up from Seatoller and the radiator was boiling over!

Now, the co-efficient of friction betwixt a wet steel cycle wheel rim and those hard black brake blocks might be ok for Whitwick but fully laden in this weather and terrain was a different matter and those sheep wandering into the middle of the road didn't help either!

Barry I believe broke a brake cable on this descent but he found an escape route in some heather backed up by a dry stone wall on one of the hairpin bends. As we reached the bottom Phil was there recording on 8mm movie film our steaming tyres and rims. He had posh alluminium rims and cantilever brakes! Kendal mint cake was carried as a food supplement between meals and a few mouthfuls settled the nerves that morning I can tell you.

The many mountain passes we climbed up was a different matter. I had only a block of three sprockets on my Resilion Derailleur gear and near the top it was prudent to have a walk rather that risk stripping the threads - the walk was good anyway and there was always something to chat about. Others in the party had much lower gears than I had. My gear mechanism had red nylon jockey wheels “Nylon is lubricated by water” said the leaflet that came with the bike, and they were, they were!

The weather improved and it stopped raining for a while and our wet capes were stowed at last before Phil led us on a magical ride through Borrowdale and along the shores of Derwentwater to Keswick where we enjoyed the luxury of a hot lunch in a café before a look around.

In contrast to our northerly route in the morning we left Keswick in an easterly direction for a mile then headed south by Thirlmere to arrive in Grasmere to savour the atmosphere of Wordsworth's cottage, but the host of golden daffodils had long since finished. We had also passed through Beatrix Potter territory on the tour.

The final leg of the days route followed narrow lanes to the west of Grasmere Lake and over Red Bank to arrive at Elterwater Langdale youth hostel where we were to spend three nights as a base, so for two days we could travel fairly light, leaving much of our gear at the hostel and our bunks made up. The primus stove, however, came with us!

We were joined here on Saturday night by Alex Thomson and Stan Kent who had travelled by train up the west coast main line to Carnforth and then cycled from there. Carnforth station, by the way, was the location for the wartime film “Brief Encounter” starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson (just thought you would like to know).

On Sunday we explored the Wrynose and Hardknott passes and without so much weight to carry the brakes were much more effective.

On Monday of the second week, Stan had planned our second “Wainwright's Walk” (although they were still not known universally as such). This entailed cycling a few miles before we left the bikes leaning on a wall to scale the Langdale Pikes, I can't remember fully but I don't think we even locked our bikes, such is progress and yes, it was raining! We climbed up a circuitous route to a tarn (small lake) - it may have been Stickle Tarn - for an alfresco lunch.

Next episode - We eventually bid farewell to the Lake District and say hello to Mortenson and Morecambe and Wise.

Click here to continue.
Contents

A SUMMER IN FRANCE

- By Dave Binks Continuing the story.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

The story so far:
Dave has taken a job in France, working as an assistant for a UK based holiday company (Susi Madron's “Cycling for Softies”) in Angouleme, near Cognac. His duties are to act as local mechanic and representative to ensure the holidaymakers have a good time as they cycle between the top class hotels in the area. He has installed himself into his accommodation and is getting involved with both his job and the local cycling scene.

His story continues….

Tuesday July 3

It rained most of the day again, so no bike ride for me. I was due to receive six holidaymakers over the next few days, so got their bikes ready - pannier bags on, tyres pumped, and a final check revealed a loose headset on one of the bikes, which was easily sorted out.

I had been shooting some video film of the area over the last month or two and though today was a good day to start editing it into something presentable.

Taking video film is easy, editing it is not. It's not the actual work, it's the decisions you need to make as you go along; do I really need this bit? What would happen if I cut it out, or ran it longer, or shorter, or moved it before or after another clip etc, etc. The amount of time it takes is out of all proportion to the time taken to shoot it, particularly if you retake footage as you're not happy with the first shots. Cutting and inserting, deleting, merging, adding sound and then editing that takes forever and I was to come back to this task many times over the next few weeks.

Two of my guests arrived, a couple, then a short time later, their friend who had arrived from a different airport, got there to make up their number. I waited until my other party arrived before I sat down and chatted to them all about what the area offered and where they should go. This second party, a mum and her two “early teens” sons, were very relieved to have arrived as they had been caught up in the security delays due to a recent attempted bombing of Glasgow Airport. This was the incident when a car was driven into the airport entrance and fortunately only caught fire, rather than exploded.

0 miles

Wednesday July 4

I think I experienced racism today and it wasn't nice, and in fact turned out to be an isolated incident.

I had held my welcome meeting with my two holidaymaking parties, both coincidentally from Edinburgh, and had set them up with their bikes and made some suggestions as to a suitable destinations and then gone out with the local cycling club as usual for an afternoon ride.

There were many faces I knew from the previous weeks' rides, but also a few new ones, and all seemed normal as we set off. We hadn't gone far when one of the new faces came up beside me obviously making a joke at my expense, referring to the “Anglais” (a slightly disparagingly term used to describe an Englishman) and something about drinking “rosé” which I took to be some reference to what I may have had in the bottle on my bike. I didn't fully understand what he meant, but decided to treat it as a joke and said I actually had Cognac in my bottle, which seemed to draw a laugh - great, no problem.

However, that was only the start, and although it was a very windy day and he spent most of it at the rear in the slipstream, whereas I was always at or very near the front, I could hear many references to “L'Anglais” (me) coming from his distinctive voice. I ignored them, because I couldn't really understand them and also that he just seemed to be making a lot of noise anyway. As usual, there was no stop other than for a bottle refill and the usual short “comfort” break.

With the wind being so strong, we had ridden straight into it on the way out in order to ensure we got blown home rather than have to struggle back with tired legs. Also as usual, I was one of the stronger riders and after having ridden up a hill, a gap had opened behind me and so I sat up, slowed down and waited for them to catch me up. The next thing I knew, I was being squirted with water by the same man who had done all the mouthing. I did not appreciate that, I didn't know him, he didn't know me, and there was absolutely no need for it. He carried on ahead for a short while whilst Richard, the group leader, who had been my first contact and had only ever shown me respect and friendliness, rode up beside me and looked at me. He could see I was very unimpressed and just shrugged his shoulders as if to say the man was a fool. At least it wasn't just me who thought that. A little later a similar thing happened, this time without water but as he rode by, his hand only just missed my head whilst he made some sort of swishing noise. I looked at Richard and asked if the man was sick in the head and he smiled and nodded.

Not too long after that I was riding in the main body of riders and the man started mouthing off again about “L'Anglais” knowing full well I could not help but hear him. I simply said in French, in a strong voice that my name was Dave, not “Anglais”, and I wanted to be called Dave, not “Anglais”. This seemed to do the trick as some frantic apologising and other conciliatory noises came from him. It may be that he hadn't realised I could speak French, and thus thought he was safe to make comment, I don't know. Within a very short time, one of the guys who I had ridden with before, came alongside and said something fairly privately in my ear to the effect that I was quite right to have had a go at him, so I was pleased at the support, but it had upset me. From then on, there were no other comments, at least within my earshot, and the ride carried on, albeit a bit quieter than before!

When I got back to the hotel, one of my guests sheepishly came up to me said he was having difficulty getting his leg over the crossbar of the bike he had been given. I had already suggested the size of bike he had requested was too big for him, but he had rejected the offer first time, so I repeated it and offered to swap the bike for a smaller one, or even change it to a “mixte” type open frame without a cross bar, basically a ladies bike. After being reassured that this in no way reflected on his virility, and would help with his lack of flexibility - he had very lumpy and stiff knees, he agreed and I changed it over for him. Even with a smaller frame, and the open design afforded by the lack of top tube, he still struggled but had to admit it was his problem and he would have to get used to it. Of course, I said nothing, but the extra 5 or 6 stones he was carrying around his waist didn't help!

68 miles

Thursday July 5

I helped my clients get underway with the last group not leaving until nearly 10.30, which, bearing in mind they had 30 miles to do, was leaving it a bit late. I was then invited to eat in the kitchen with the hotel staff at 11.15am. Although (for me) this is a bit early for lunch, it's a free meal that I don't have to prepare and it leaves me a long afternoon, so I readily accepted.

Afterwards I went back into the workshop for an hour or so to let my lunch digest before setting out for a short ride. Many clients are worried about crossing the N141, the Route Nationale between the City of Angouleme and the large town of Cognac and other points west, and Susi Madron makes this worse by making a bit of a fuss about it in her general guide to the area. I had discovered an alternative that uses a small local road, not marked on the maps used by clients, that actually goes under the road through a small tunnel. It also happens to coincide with what I think is a more interesting but very slightly longer route and wanted to write some instructions to help them find it. My legs were a bit stiff from yesterday's club ride, so it was good to be out and just potter around.

It was nice to have a day without rain again, but it did get a bit threatening at times. I rang some friends in the UK during the morning and they assured me I was still having better weather than them as they were still wearing fleece jackets - in July!

27 miles

Friday July 6

As I was having breakfast I got a call on my mobile from one of the clients who had yesterday gone to the town of Cognac, explaining he had a bike problem. It seems some people manage to unship chains and jam them between frame and freewheel when there is no way can I make it do it in the workshop or on the little test ride I carry out. Fortunately he had had the sense to remove the wheel and replace it thus freeing the jam, but was now no longer able to get two of the gears. As he was in Cognac itself and planned to spend the day on foot exploring the distilleries and Old town, I asked him to take it into the local cycle shop as it would only be a minor repair. He rang me later to say they had carried out a minor adjustment and charged him 10€ - a bargain compared to me possibly having to go out in a taxi with a toolkit or spare bike. I assured him I would reimburse him the 10€, provided he kept the receipt, which he did.

My plan for today had been to go to the small town of Montbron, where I would have a look at the hotel Susi's clients stopped at and have my lunch. However, the weather put paid to that, being cloudy and dull with a threat of rain which soon became more than a threat, so I abandoned that plan.

With almost any day available, why get wet? I really needed to finish off my little video and spent a few hours editing that. As I have already said, the editing simply takes ages and rather takes the shine off taking movies, but done properly, it can make a satisfying piece of work.

After lunch in my accommodation I went shopping to the local supermarket and to the bank. Later that evening I finally finished the video - hooray!

7 miles

Saturday July 7

After yesterday's abortive attempt to go out, the weather today was in my favour and I got up in time to get going early. I had changed my mind about my destination, as it was forecast to be a good day, which proved to be correct, and set off for Nontron, a town with a similar name to yesterday's planned destination of Montron but about 12 miles further south east and in the Perigord National Park.

I had noticed from my diary that I had been through Nontron once before in 2001 when I did my long tour and was curious to see if I recognised it. I didn't, not at all, which is rather surprising as I have quite a good memory for places, but it was just a picnic stop six year's ago, so perhaps it's not surprising.

It was a lovely ride out and my route took me through Villebois-Lavallette with its massive castle on the hilltop and ancient market hall and on to Mareuil, a town I had not been to before. The main road, the D939, bypasses the old town, but my habit is to go through the town unless in a hurry (but even then, on a bike it's often quicker) and I did so this time and was glad I did as there is a ruined castle at the edge of town. I stopped briefly to look, thinking I would perhaps come back this way later when I had more time - I had to get to Nontron in time for the restaurant at the hotel or I would not get a meal.

I took a few photos and moved on, leaving the easy and not too busy main road to join the much easier D708. This road climbs all the way to Nontron, not in a very serious way but enough to make you wish it didn't. The scenery was now very different to what I had got used to, being lush vegetation, lots of trees and forests, twists and turns and an almost alpine air.

By the time I reached Nontron I had covered over 60kms (40 miles) and was hot and getting hungry. It was Market day in the town, which sits on top of a substantial hill, and I had to dismount and walk through the market to get to the hotel, which is slap bang in the town centre right next to the Mairie (Town Hall). It had actually only just gone noon, so I bought a drink in one of the pavement cafes (another difference to the Cognac & Charente area where tables and chairs outdoors are rare). Having cooled down sufficiently, I wandered along to the Grand Hotel, half anticipating some objection to my wishing to eat in the restaurant wearing cycling shorts and a racing top with “Great Britain” in very large writing across it. I needn't have worried; they were more than accommodating and showed me to one of the tables laid for lunch. This was with all the other diners, in the shade on the terrace overlooking the pool.

I chose from the 26€ menu and this got me a 4 course meal with plenty of choice for each course. It was a good meal in a delightful setting and I was glad I had come. The waiter had seen me taking photos of the way the meal had been so well presented, and offered to take my photo at the table. After initially refusing I relented and accepted realising I didn't actually have many pictures of myself. I took my time over the meal and afterwards took a leisurely stroll around the town centre. The market, which like most in France is only open during the morning, had now closed, but the Mairie was hosting a wedding. This one was obviously involving some “bikers” as there were gleaming Harley Davidson motorbikes parked in a row outside and these were deliberately being included in some of the photos of bride and groom!

Nontron is famous for making very high quality knives and the gift shops sell them as mementos. I initially doubted they were still made there, and supposed that, like Sheffield, it had lost most of its manufacturing to elsewhere, but no, there is still a modern factory on the edge of town making them. I thought about buying one, until I saw the prices. High quality - probably; high prices - definitely!

The ancient Chateau is now used as an exhibition centre and the tourist information office is also based there. You can wander through to the rear where the terraced gardens give a good view of the steep valley below, but in the full sun it was too hot to linger and I hit the road home.

The road descended gently (I wasn't complaining now!) but I had spotted something off to the north that it I wanted to check out, so left it at the halfway point back to Mareuil. On one of the local club rides we had passed beneath a chateau perched atop a vertical rock face, but had not stopped to look and I wasn't sure exactly where it was. I reckoned I had found its location and wanted to see if I was correct and if so, take some photos.

After taking a wrong turning and climbing unnecessarily for a couple of miles, I eventually found it. The Chateau, which is at Aucors, is well worth a ride past if you are ever that way. But don't do what I did and walk into the field for a better view because the field contains boggy patches and I got a wet foot. A sign at the beginning of the access road states the chateau is being renovated for the private owners, so there was no point climbing up to it. The scaffolding extended down the rock face, but was not enough to affect the overall view. Unfortunately this detour meant I missed Mareuil with its castle, but that could be done another day. By the time I reached Villebois-Lavallette I fancied a short break and stopped at the market hall for a quick drink.

Sitting at one of the other tables were some Brits who were obviously living locally by the chatter and waves to all the passing locals. On my way out I passed the tourist information office and stopped for some brochures for my hotel stock. Even the lady behind the counter was British!

By the time I got home I was tired but happy, having had a great day out in some warm sunny weather and a good lunch. I knew I would feel tired the next day, but didn't care. I just got back in time to see the last half of the field start in the opening stage of the Tour de France on the TV. This was a historic day as it was the first time the Tour had ever started in London, and I was pleased to see the Londoner's had turned out in high numbers to support it. Despite all my shouting, Britain's Bradley Wiggins wasn't able to get on the winner's podium, but 4th place in that company is nothing to be ashamed off.

82 miles

Sunday July 8

Clubrun day with the locals, and even though the sky was heavy and my legs were tired from yesterday, I always enjoy the company and the routes, so went anyway. I made my mind up not to go with the faster lads, and when the groups split, took some ribbing for staying with the slower ones, but just shrugged my shoulders and stayed with them. The weather was warm and humid and showers were frequent. Some didn't bother with waterproofs, but I pulled mine on and off anyway as we went along.

Our ride was south, passing across some of yesterday's roads, and was hilly, but at the slower pace, was OK. When I got back I switched on the TV and watched nearly all the second stage of the Tour de France from London to Canterbury. The French TV announcers were truly amazed at the numbers of spectators lining the route - estimates later put it at 2 million, and the sun even came out! A long attack, probably just for the publicity it has to be said, by David Millar gave him enough bonus points to lift him to 6th place overall and leader of the King of the Mountains. Australia's Robbie McEwen, a strong sprinter, was involved in a crash with only 12 miles to go, but in true grit Aussie fashion, got on again and managed to not just catch up, but even to outsprint the rest of the field with an awesome display of speed at the end of the 125 miles stage.

68 miles

Monday July 9

I think I have given this story the wrong title. Instead of “A Summer in France” it should be “A Very Cool and Wet Summer in France”. I can honestly say the weather in late April and early May when I rode down to meet Susi was better than any period I have seen since. After yesterday's rain in the form of warm showers, today we suffered very heavy and cold ones. In fact the forecast is for fresh snow to fall in the Alps! The temperature is about 7C colder than it should be, and the rain is far worse than it ought to be. The forecast for tomorrow is more rain, and temperatures hardly into double figures.

I had already decided I would have a rest day today anyway, so was not bothered when I woke to see the wet tarmac on the tennis court from my bedroom window, but was still annoyed for my clients. This is, after all, their main summer holiday! I needed to do some household chores and prepare my weekly report, so it was well gone 10 am before I rode into the Post Office in Roullet.

I set off in sunshine, but after only 20 minutes rushed back up the road with a huge black cloud chasing me. Seconds after I got back, the heavens opened, and it was just as if someone had turned a hosepipe on. I was expecting two new clients in the afternoon and had to do the final preparation on their bikes, so that was my priority for the rest of the morning.

Having now had two clients unshipping and jamming their chains, I spent more time than normal on gear adjustment trying to replicate the problem until I finally twigged what was going on. The type of gears used on modern bikes de-rail the chain from one sprocket to the other, but to do that, the chain has to be moving and in the correct direction. No problem if you are pedalling forwards at the time, but if you are pedalling backwards, the chain comes off and jams - problem identified. I suppose I must have learnt that 50 years or so ago, but it had become such second nature now that I never even thought anyone would do it, so never mentioned it in my introduction chat. Note for the future here!

I was relieved that it wasn't my mechanical set up causing the problem. Whilst looking I spotted my predecessor had used a brake inner cable instead of a gear inner cable on the gear of one bike, and I had to change it. The difference is that a brake cable is thicker and less flexible, which means it will not run correctly inside a gear cable outer casing, or inside the gear change lever, causing problems when looking for a clean gear change. I had seen this same thing only last week, so wasn't particularly surprised now.

Having got everything ready for my clients, I moved on to my bike, which after yesterday's ride in the rain over gritty roads badly needed a wash. I was glad I did, as the front tyre had developed a split and would soon fail. After lunch my clients, mum and young adult daughter, arrived in another downpour - not that the taxi roof leaked, but it was not a good start. They mentioned they had set off from East Midlands Airport, and as that is my local airport I asked exactly where they were from. “I don't suppose you've ever heard of it, but a small place in Leicestershire called Melton Mowbray.” Of course I had, I only live about 12 miles away from there - it's a small world. Whilst we were chatting over a cup of tea the heavens opened again and in walked (swam) the family of three at the end of their holiday, all soaked to the skin. They had got to within a couple of hundred yards or so of the hotel when it started and thought they wouldn't need a waterproof for just that little distance but they were wrong - this was the French Summer of 2007!

2 miles

Tuesday July 10

I got up early and saw the family of three off on their way home to Edinburgh and was pleased to hear that, despite the weather and the soaking when they arrived back last night, all had thoroughly enjoyed their holiday. The youngest son (12yrs) had made particular comment about the chocolate factory/shop they had visited during their stay, and when I read that he was the “School Chocolate Seller”, I understood why - he was obviously a connoisseur! The forecast was more rain, but not until later, so both I and my two new arrivals set off early for our rides. They went to the chocolate factory, whereas I set off in the opposite direction to map out and describe another route sheet.

Not far away is a museum to a famous French poet, Monsieur Alfred de Vigny, who was also a wine and cognac producer. I wanted to plan a very quiet route to it, but making it into a circular ride rather than just out and home. It was cool enough to need an extra layer on at first, but after a couple of hills it came off and was put away. I had not been on some of the roads before and was pleasantly surprised at how nice they were in the sunshine. They were not flat and so gave views, not a very common thing here.

At the Museum I stopped to make notes and the young man running the shop came out and started chatting about what there was to see etc and gave me a quick tour. I did indeed find it interesting and decided I would “bull it up a bit” in my write up.

The sun gave up on the way back and I had to cape up for the last mile or so. However, it came out again, and, needing a new tyre, I set off to the Decathlon sports shop in sunshine. A stop at the hypermarket on the way back coincided with another downpour, so I stayed inside and bought a snack lunch. I managed to get home afterwards with only some splashing from the road to wet me (no mudguards!).

32 miles

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