March 1951 825 miles

Sun Mar 4th 90 miles The Annual Hard Ride to Winslow

Seventeen lads out today! Ride started gently, gradually getting faster, developing into a ‘bash’. I felt quite fit, but retired with mechanical trouble (loose chain jumping) coming down Aston Clinton hill. I think I could have stood the pace if that had not happened. Brian was first in! When I was dropped I picked up Tony Standing who had so much of the ‘bonk’ that he went into a café and immediately ordered egg and chips and six cakes.

After dinner at the Nevada Café in Winslow we poodled back to Aylesbury and then turned left through Princes Risboro’ and West Wycombe. Here we climbed the hill to the parish church, but it was just closing so we could not climb into the bell tower. Had egg and chips for tea in High Wycombe and Tony Standing had two! So he had three eggs and chipsies in one day! After tea we came home down the A 40. Stan Boyes turned up on his trike; he had done a ‘25’ on it in the morning. Had a cider in Winslow. Today has been the first real day of spring – bright and sunny all day.

Wed Mar 7th 5 miles 16th committee meeting at Tom Simpson’s house. Discussed the plaque for the annual inter-club ‘25’ with the South Ruislip C.C. Roy Meredith is going to get some Northwood Wheelers ‘introduction cards’ printed which can be given to blokes on the road that you meet and appear to be ‘single’. Got my booking cards (250) for Touring Sec – they will make my life a lot easier as I will only have to fill in numbers and delete certain words. They will also cost less since they will go at 1d rate (printed papers). Next committee meeting will be held on March 21st at my place.

Sat Mar 10th 10 miles Warmer today but still raining. Went up to Prangley’s [Cycle shop] in the morning to buy a chain (for Easter tour), a bolt for the rear mudguard and a grease nipple for the rear hub. When I got home I found that the grease nipple wouldn’t fit so I had to go all the way back to Prangley’s in the pouring rain. I met Tony Standing and Tony Tucker. Tony S. will not be coming out tomorrow because he left his bike in Prangley’s: I don’t know what for. The weather brightened up quite a bit today, but I expect that it will still rain all the same tomorrow! Brian is going to ‘phone me up at 7.15 a.m. to see if we are going – I hope so!.

Sun Mar 11th 83 miles Woke up at about 6.45 a.m. and met Brian and Tony Tucker at Eastcote station at 8.00. We did not go to Worthing as it was so damp, raw and cold. Poodled about for a bit and then left at about 8.45 through Rickmansworth to Fred’s café in Amersham for elevenses. We then went up through the Missendens and Wendover to Aylesbury for dinner. After dinner we came back through Tring, Hemel Hempstead, Leverstock Green to St. Albans, and then to the ‘Rookery’ for tea. After tea we came home via Radlett and Aldenham. Quite a nice day but would have been better if the club blokes had been with us and it had been a bit warmer. They want me to try for Worthing next Sunday but I would rather go with the club to Nettlebed.

Thurs Mar 15th 35 miles Left at about 6.15 p.m. with Jerry up through Watford, Aldenham, Radlett and then to Shenley. Here we turned left and left again at the A 405 just past London Colney. Then we turned right up to St. Stephens church, St. Albans and then straight across through Potters Crouch, Bedmond, Abbot’s Langley, Watford and home. Had some chips in Watford. It was the first time I had started for an evening ride in the light – and wore shorts! Very warm to begin with but cold later when going down hill into the dales. Very pleasant ride this and we went through many lanes that we have never been through before. Did intend to go out yesterday but it was raining, so we picked the right night by going out tonight.

Sun Mar 18th 91 miles Up at about 4.45 a.m. – blowing hard! Made breakfast and then went out to Northwood Hills to meet Brian, Tony Standing and Roy Turner. Pushed our way out into a head wind through Rickmansworth and Chenies to Amersham and then to the ‘25’ turn just past Great Missenden. Saw the blokes through and then went back to Fred’s café in Amersham for our breakfast. It was beautifully sunny by now and we spent almost ¾ hour fixing Tony Tucker’s gear. We then went up the hill and down to Beaconsfield and down through Egypt to the Southdown café in Taplow for elevenses.

We put on our capes as it had started to rain and pushed off through Maidenhead to Henley, and then up the long drag to Nettlebed via Assendon and Bix. Super dinner (two puddings!). After dinner it was pouring with rain and we turned right down a lane through Turville and Fingest, West Wycombe to High Wycombe for tea. We took a wrong turning in the lanes, down a long wet hill and did not realise that we had gone wrong until we reached the bottom, and so we had to trudge back the way we had come! Met several of the racing boys at tea. Alan Stratman had done a 1.9, Stan Boyes an ‘8’ and Tom Simpson an ‘8’.

The sun came out after tea and we came home with a tail wind through Beaconsfield and Gerrards Cross. A very nice day apart from the wet and tiresome wind going out, especially before breakfast.

Thurs Mar 22nd 53 miles Went to West Harrow, Pinner and Northwood Hills in the morning and bought several things including a 2" extension, handlebar tape and cotter pins. Tony Tucker came round and we went to Brian’s and Jerry’s to tell them about this afternoon’s ride out to the ‘25’ turn with Tom Simpson. Brian’s riding a 77" fixed now (for Monday’s 25) – I think it is silly because you should not train on the gear you intend to race with.

We left at about 1.45 p.m. with Tom, Tony Tucker, Jerry and Brian from Nell’s café up through Batchworth Heath and Harefield, through the lanes to Chalfont St Peter. Here we turned left into a head wind up through Chalfont St Giles, Amersham and the Missendens to the new ‘25’ turn. Tom had brought a can of blue paint with him, and he painted a blue ‘T’ (T for turn, and T for Tom?) on a signpost and on the road! Hope the police won’t mind. We then turned round and came back at a nice ‘even’ speed [20 mph] to Amersham where we stopped at Fred’s to have a cuppa. Then we came home via Rickmansworth. Very nice day; hope it is like this all next week (some hopes!). My Criterium bars, new extension and non-creaky cranks are superb and they make me feel fast! We are going to Herne Hill tomorrow in Mr Huggins’ car. Spent rather a lot today and will have to find money for tomorrow – and for my shoes which are being mended.

Good Friday Mar 23rd Off after lunch in Mr Huggins’ car to Herne Hill. Saw all the heats and finals of the ‘White Hope’ sprint, some international heats and an Italian pursuit – and then it started to rain. The announcer said that if the track was rideable in ½ hour they would continue, but the rain did not stop and we went home. What a wash-out, and a waste of 2/6d !

Sun Mar 25th 62 miles Went up to Prangley’s to meet the club but nobody turned up! Since my parents had gone to Hailsham I went round to Brian’s. Had dinner there and mucked around at Alan Stratman’s house. He has bought a ‘double clanger’. Went for a short ride in the morning up Drake’s hill and down Duck’s hill. In the afternoon we went out to Marlow for tea. Down through Fulmer and through the lanes, down a lovely hill to Bourne End, then left to Marlow. The river Thames is about 3 to 4 feet above normal. Had egg, chips and peas for tea. Met the blokes from Doncaster with Tom Simpson. Tom’s friend Yorkie had a mouth organ which he played (and he could play it!) coming home down the Oxford road. We climbed Glory Hill in double file, honking [although I think Yorkie stopped playing his mouth organ!]. I expect it was nothing to the Yorkshire hills [Brian and I were soon to find out on our summer tour!]. A very nice day. Stripped my bike down when I got in for tomorrow morning (my first ‘25’!).

Mon Mar 26th 45 miles Up at about 5.15 a.m. this morning. I was off 9th and did a 1.15.56!! Very hard morning, cold and raw. Stan Boyes and Alan Grive punctured and no-body turned up at the turn so several riders went right into Wendover. Tom Simpson stopped and took over the marshall’s job in his racing kit. Tony Tucker won the event with a 1.10.27 as all the faster blokes had either punctured or ridden into Wendover. Got bike ready for tomorrow [start of our Easter tour to Cheddar Gorge]. We are going straight down the Bath road through Reading, Newbury and Marlborough to Batheaston youth hostel. Then on Wednesday we are going over the Mendips to Biddisham and the next day to Winchester. Four days in all.

Easter tour to Cheddar Gorge, total mileage 287

Tues Mar 27th 95 miles Left at about 9.00 a.m. with Brian and Jerry down the Bath Road through Maidenhead to just before Twyford near Reading for elevenses. Cold, raw and wet. Continued on through Theale, Aldermaston, Thatcham to Newbury for dinner. After dinner we struck off through Hungerford to Marlborough where we met Mr and Mrs Huggins who had come down in their car. We had tea at the White Horse café near Calne. Saw the White Horse on the downs. After tea we went to Batheaston youth hostel via Calne, Chippenham, Pickwick and down Box hill. The hostel is super, set in amongst the hills. We even had hot water and an internal W.C.! Played table tennis and went to bed about 10.00 p.m.

Wed Mar 28th 40 miles Woke up at about 6.00 a.m. after not a particularly good night (not that you can ever sleep properly in hostel beds!) and, after breakfast, pushed off up the hill into Bath. Paid 6d to go into the roman baths, very interesting. Saw where the hot spring gushes out at 120ºF! Drank some of this water – not particularly nice as it was warm and contained magnesium, sodium, iron, phosphorus and almost every element under the sun except gold! After this we went up some terrific hills and through some super country to Radstock, a mining town, for elevenses. We then climbed over the Mendips (the tail or eastern end) to Wells for dinner. Brian broke a spoke in his back wheel coming down the hill so we had to take it in to a cycle shop [why was Brian always breaking his spokes?]. Went into Wells cathedral and saw the famous clock chime 1.45 inside and 2.00 outside. Very interesting; it shows phases of the moon and everything!

After dinner we left up through a lane to Wookey Hole (2/- entry). There are three chambers each more spectacular than the last, the third being an unsupported dome of 14 feet and diameter of 130 feet. The second chamber is 78 feet high. The underground river Axe flows through these caves.

Then we turned right up a tiny lane to Priddy. What a hill – it must have been 1 in 4 in places, with an average gradient of 1 in 8. We cycled right along the top of the Mendip hills to the head of Cheddar Gorge. This is magnificent although somewhat spoilt by the ‘money mine’ at the bottom. Had tea in a little cottage here. After tea we left through Cheddar village, Axebridge to Biddisham youth hostel. This is an old school house, a proper shambles! Tony Tucker turned up – he made it after all! After a feed we went down to a little country pub for a cider and played skittles. A very nice day indeed.

Thurs Mar 29th 85 miles Had a better night than the one before and woke at about 7.00 a.m. We left at about 9.30 through Axebridge, Cheddar and Wells to Shepton Mallet for elevenses. There was about ½ inch of snow on the top of the Mendips! We then turned right down through Bruton to Mere for dinner; very hilly, especially Creech hill. Paid 4/- for dinner in a ‘posh’ café – terrible!

From here we caped up and struggled right across Salisbury plain – into a strong east wind, rain and sleet – through Wilton, Salisbury and Stockbridge to Winchester. Had two snacks, one at Wilton and one at Stockbridge. This, I think, is the hardest ride in my life, up and down those hills. Consequently we got to Winchester hostel late but still managed to get a supper. Soaking wet, but we couldn’t dry our clothes because the youth hostel is a National Trust property and they did not allow it or something equally daft! Slept very well in spite of the intense cold in the dormitory. Had a nice supper and played a game of ‘shuttlecock’ with table tennis bats, chairs for a net and table tennis rules. It was really hard this afternoon and we all felt like rolling up in a ditch and dying!

Fri Mar 30th 67 miles Woke up at about 7.15 a.m. and after mending one of Brian’s spokes in his front wheel which had broken [not again!] we pushed off into the head wind to Basingstoke. Just before Basingstoke we had a cup of coffee and an egg sandwich for 8d. After elevenses we continued through Hook and various other villages to Hartley Wintney for dinner. Had a super dinner (for 2/-!) and a cider in a pub. After dinner we turned left down a lane through Eversley, Aborfield to Twyford for tea in the same café as elevenses on Tuesday. We then went home through Maidenhead and Slough. Nice cheap day. Vow that I shall never go on tour again without a variable gear after pushing that 69" fixed wheel up and down the Salisbury “plain”.

We have been through seven counties including Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. Total mileage 287; daily average 72 miles. Spent £1/7/2d, 14/3d on hostels.

Sat 31st Mar 10 miles Poodled about in the morning and afternoon. Cleaned bike. Went round to Brian’s and he was putting his gear on (new block and chain). I went round again in the evening and found him, Tony Standing and Mr Huggins still fiddling with it! Soon had Alan Stratman involved and we did not leave until nearly 11.00 p.m.! I think I must plunge into my bank account and buy a gear!