Sat Nov 3rd – Sun Nov 4th. The Annual Hard Ride to Cleeve Hill, weekend mileage 198 miles

This weekend turned out to be quite an adventure, as you will see. It should also act as a warning to all who ride a fixed wheel and neglect routine maintenance!

We left Northwood Hills at about 9.30 a.m. on the Saturday morning (after I had to go back home for my hostel card!), down through Ickenham, on to the Oxford road and then straight up through Gerrards Cross and Beaconsfield to High Wycombe where we had elevenses at Smith’s café. We then climbed up Dashwood hill, down the other side (where the tandem’s chain came off) to Wheatley and Oxford to Eynsham where we had a very nice dinner at a new café (the San Remo). We then continued through Witney, Burford and Northleach (tea in an old bus!) to Cheltenham and reached the hostel at Cleeve Hill at about 6.15 p.m. After supper we went up on the hill to let our fireworks off. Very windy but a nice day.

What happened next is related in two articles appearing in the Northwood Wheelers club magazine - The Wantage Story.

Mon Nov 5th 10 miles After such an adventurous weekend I got back to normal with a club night. Took bookings for Sunday and we had a film show – two on hill climbs (saw Stan Boyes in one!) and one on Herne Hill. Also one on making a bike, and one on road safety. My chain broke on the way home from the club [hardly surprising after the treatment it got at the weekend]. I am going to buy a new chain on Saturday, as I think that it was strained somewhat lately!

Sat Nov 10th 11 miles Went to Prangley’s [cycle shop] to take my wheel in and to buy a new chain. Went for a short ride through Pinner afterwards.

Sun Nov 11th Did not go out today because my bike was not in a fit state after last week!

Mon Nov 12th 10 miles Club night. Took bookings for club run.

Sun Nov 18th Rained all day

Mon Nov 19th 10 miles Up to the club rooms; took dinner and tea bookings for Sunday’s run to Nettlebed.

Wed Nov 21st 5 miles No rain today! Went to the club committee meeting at Alan’s house. Discussed medals. We have sold about 70 tickets so far for our club dinner. I received a letter from Cowper Cottage saying that we didn’t turn up last weekend. They asked me to send the cash – I did that!

Sun Nov 25th 81 miles Met the club at Northwood Hills and left at about 9.15 down through Ruislip and hence to the Southdown café at Taplow for elevenses. Here Alan and Tony left us. The rest of us pushed on through Maidenhead to Henley and thence to Bix and to Clarke’s café at Nettlebed. After dinner – and after they had locked me behind some large gates [what fun we had on club runs!] – we continued through Christmas Common, North End and Fingest to West Wycombe.

The church at West Wycombe with its golden ball Photo: B.P. Huggins

The church at West Wycombe was always one of the chief attractions on club runs. In those days one could climb up into the golden ball on the church tower, scene of meetings of the eighteenth century “Hellfire Club” organised by Sir Francis Dashwood. None of us really knew what went on at these meetings, but to our febrile teen-age minds it was always to do with sex and black magic! We had heard that the caves below the hill somehow led up into the base of the church and we were determined to explore them, even if it meant gaining illegal entry.

We stopped at West Wycombe and found the caves open! So we took some lights and went down them for about 150 yards. It was very wet and drippy and it went down continuously, although we thought that it led up to the church on the hill. Brian swore that he heard someone coming. After we had come out again, some men came out and locked the door behind them. Lucky we had come out first!

After this adventure we went on to High Wycombe for tea, where we met Alan, Tony, Fred and Ken Dopson. We then carried on home down the A 40. A very nice day – with no rain!

Mon Nov 26th 10 miles Club night. Played darts and table tennis. Took bookings for Sunday’s run and paid another 2/- towards the club dinner.