Journal

Around the World with Rutland CC pt.2

Can you tell us about that morning that you woke up with the Indian guys with shovels stood around your tent?
The photo of the guys with the shovels was, in fact, Pakistan – this was our first night in Pakistan on the road north. We flew in from Athens and landed in Karachi. The flight was one to remember, it was packed full of Pakistani’s – Coucho got sat next to a Pakistani guy on the flight and tried to make conversation, in very slow English he asked the guy “what’s it like in Pakistan” – the guy answered in a very strong Yorkshire accent, “Don’t know mate, I’ve never been there before – I’m from Bradford, I’m going there on holiday!”
The flight attendants had a mission trying to get everyone seated ready for take-off, people were getting up and moving around the cabin talking to each other. With everyone finally seated we got underway – no sooner had the plane took off people were up out of their seats scrambling around trying to get up the aisle at 30 degrees to talk to others in seats further up, much to the dismay of the air hostesses!! Once at cruising altitude one guy started getting out a small Primus stove in the aisle to make a cup of tea before a hostess saw him and grabbed it off him!!
When we finally landed, as soon as the wheels touched the tarmac, everyone was up grabbing bags out of the overhead lockers as though there was no tomorrow!! We went through customs and cleared our pannier bags and bikes then put the bikes together ready to leave the airport – we had no maps but new that we were heading for Hyderabad.
I will never forget the sight that confronted us once out in the open air – the pollution was so intense, we could look straight into that huge big yellow blob that was the sun – no sun glasses needed. We set off riding but only got a short distance as Brian had a problem with his bike, one of the teeth had got bent on his big chain ring so we had to stop and do a repair. The instant that we stopped we were immediately mobbed by a huge crowd of people who completely surrounded us looking at the bikes and us trying to ask questions in pigeon English. We got the chain ring sorted and managed to get riding and found a cheap hostel for the night. We went out to a restaurant for a curry and the food was ok considering the place was pretty dirty.
Next morning we left Karachi on the main highway north, it wasn’t very long before we got into hot, dry desert conditions. Many cars and trucks passed us cheering out the windows, some trucks and cars with people on the roofs, hanging on the sides, back and literally anywhere they could get a hold on. One car pulled up and waved us down, the three young guys were doctors and spoke perfect English – they gave us a cardboard box with small cakes that looked really nice. We thanked them and carried on. As mentioned before, we didn’t have a map so no idea how far it was to the next town, we stopped at a roadside eating place and had a glass of tea each but didn’t fancy the food plus we were mobbed again so just wanted to get out of there.
We made a decision that night to put the tent up in the desert a few metres off the road – at least we had the box of cakes and some very dry bread rolls so couldn’t wait to get tucked in. These cakes were horrendous!! We were running very low on fuel for the Primus stove and only managed a couple of drinks of tea before it ran out. We just thought best thing is to sleep and not think about being hungry. Next morning we heard voices outside which did concern us, we opened the tent flap to see a group of what looked like road workers. We all got out the tent and the guys just stood there looking at us – none spoke English so we got them to stand in a line with their shovels for a good photo shoot!
Did have come into any conflict with your fellow riders during the ride? You must have spent so much time together and let's face it, cyclists can be a finicky!
To be honest, even though we spent lots of time together we got on pretty well. We did have an agreement that when we left Sheffield we all had exactly the same amount of money – from memory I think this was 1,400 pounds each, however Minty didn’t have as much as the rest of us and to this day I think this may have been one of the reasons why he returned back to Sheffield from Athens when we carried on to Pakistan. We carried travellers cheques and each one of us took turns to change a hundred pound at a time and pay for everything till it ran out then it was someone else’s turn. This included buying all food, accommodation etc. This obviously meant that we all ate the same food, drank the same beer etc. We were quite late leaving Sheffield, we originally planned to leave end of summer but our departure was delayed till October because Brian and Les had bought a rental property which needed lots of work doing before they could leave. Due to the time of departing, we hit some pretty bad weather especially in Germany and Yugoslavia. We bought a 4 man and a 2 man tent, probably the cheapest you could get at the time plus the cheapest sleeping bags. We absolutely froze many nights in sub zero temperatures – looking back we were pretty stupid not gearing up with some top notch gear but at the end of the day we were on a really tight budget.
Whilst travelling through Germany and Austria, Brian developed a knee problem which was getting worse by the day and limiting the amount of miles we could do per day. Brian decided to get on a train to take the load of his knee which he hoped would heal whatever was wrong. Whilst on the train Brian met a girl from Villach who said he could stay at her parents home till we got there. We made it to Villach a few days later and the family took us in for the night and gave us a big feed. They had a mountain chalet up in the ski fields and said we could all stay there for a few days for a bit of a break. Next morning we went to the supermarket and stocked up on food and drink and the family drove us up to their chalet and left us there for a few days. We had a great time walking in the mountains, chilling out and repaid their hospitality by building some stone steps up to the chalet. One night after a few beers we got onto discussing the next leg of our trip and Les came up with the idea of splitting up and riding in smaller groups – his reason was that we could get more hospitality in smaller groups rather than 5 of us together. We all decided against this because this was one of the reasons why we left together so we could stay together and have a good laugh as a group.
Anyway, Les had made his mind up and when we got back to the families home in Villach he decided to set off on his own and give it a go so we said our goodbyes and said that we would see him again in Athens at one of the Youth Hostels. We carried on as a group without Les and after leaving Austria and crossing into Yugoslavia the weather really deteriorated. We finally got through the bad weather and hit Greece where the temperatures increased to make riding a lot more pleasurable. We arrived in Athens and made our way to the Youth Hostel and hoped to catch up with Les only to find that he had left a note telling us that he had gone to a Greek Island for a few days to have a look around. We decided to get out of the hostel as this was costing us un-necessary money hanging around waiting so we managed to find a quiet spot on the coast hidden away where we pitched the tents – camping in Greece was illegal unless you stayed on an official campsite.
We lived pretty rough for those few days but had a good laugh chilling out swimming in the sea and trying to catch some fish. We found that the harder the conditions, the closer we got and supported each other through the bad times. Believe me, riding like we did is not all good. Obviously we saw some great scenery and had some great times but we also had days when you just want to pack it all in and call it a day!
   
You mentioned in one of your previous answers the winter rough-stuff rides, since a few of us are still trying to keep that tradition going in Derbyshire and the Peak District, could you describe the kind of riding you were doing back then? Can you remember any of the routes? Or do you have any good stories from riding in the Peak?
Back in the mid / late 70’s – 80’s the winter rough stuff rides were such a big part of the Rutland CC. Myself, Lee White and Malcolm, Charlie, Chattle started the mid-week Thursday night winter rides. We used to go out up Rivelin, Loxley Valley, Redmires on the tracks then finish up in the Rivelin Hotel for a few bears.
Around Guy Fawkes night we used to take some fireworks with us and chuck bangers near to the courting couples cars parked up. Then Malc Cross (RIP) started coming out with us on the rides and when the weather improved we used to collect mushrooms to take home. Malc Cross was an expert on all types of mushrooms. It didn’t take too long before these Thursday night rides took off with a good gang of us going out but each Thursday night ride finished up in the Rivelin Hotel. The landlord and landlady took us in and made us really welcome, the pub took on another name “Lou’s Palace” affectionately named by us after the landlord.
There used to be a guy that played the piano so we had some great sing song nights. During winter we did rough stuff rides on the Thursday nights but during the race season these became training rides, but they still always finished up in the Rivelin Hotel!
Never forget the night that Malc Elliot’s dad brought Malc to the meet at Malin Bridge and asked if we would look after him. Malc was only a young “whipper snapper” on a 26 inch wheel bike so we took him under our wing and looked after him on our training ride over Moscar to Castleton and back. We couldn’t believe how strong this young guy was especially on steel rims and heavy sports bike.
The rest was history as Malc went from strength to strength – we set him up with a proper road bike and from then on he won just about everything he rode. We introduced Malc to the winter Thursday night rough stuff nights – one of the rules was on a clear moonlit night we all turned off our lights but Malc couldn’t cope with this and whinged and complained and insisted on having his front light on much to the disgust of the rest of us! One of us pulled his front light off and chucked it away – Malc commented, “it’s like taking away me eyes” – this name soon stuck as his nick name ~ “Me Eyes!!” This just about summed up the winter Thursday night rides which went on for years. The Sunday Club runs during winter were also pretty epic. We had a pretty intense racing season during summer and at the end of this a handful of us used to go away on holiday to Benidorm, Majorca, Corfu etc. After this we were into the winter club runs.
We used to meet and do our best to get off the roads and onto the tracks, Moors etc. as much as possible. The format of the winter runs was to do rough stuff in the morning and always – without doubt – finish up in a pub somewhere for beers, darts, dominoes and a pub meal. John Barnsley (RIP) used to bring out a football so when we came out the pub we had a game of football on the local green. These games went on for ages and at times got pretty intense. We would then ride home with a stop off at a café. Sundays in winter were pretty intense, if we were lucky the pub would allow some “after bird” drinking which meant that in some cases we were riding home very late afternoon and even early evening somedays and then home, shower and on the bus into town to finish the day off with a pub crawl around Sheffield City Centre.
When I look back on some of the rides we did they were pretty hard going. Epic rides, after the pub, were Cut Gate Moor to Ladybower then ride home – Snake Inn then across the road and over the moors to Edale. We’ve done these rides in pouring rain, snow, pitch darkness. Some of the best times were after a big snow fall – only the hardcore of us turned up but boy did we have some fun rides! We would take a big sheet of plastic each and sledge down the hills in the deep snow – usually after a few beers in a pub somewhere. These times I will never forget and often wish that I could turn back the clock and do them all again – real character building rides!
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Miles Munchers #1 ~ Felix Ormerod

I’ve always had a fascination with cycling images from the past. In the early rise of the internet, I collected photos on a hard-drive and posted them on a Tumblr account. This lead to online conversations with many people from all over the cycling world. I still like scouring the web for images of cycling past. I am fascinated by the history of club rides and personal stories and how the bike plays a roll in the lives of so many people. Some of the best tales and rides are done by those who wouldn’t even declare themselves athletes!
I introduced myself to Felix on Flickr, after finding some of his photos from his tours around Ireland in the mid-1980s. I sent him a message, introducing myself and asked if I could do a Q&A to publish on this Journal. The result of our conversations is below.
Many thanks to Felix for being so generous with his time and for allowing me to publish his great photos here. 
Click on photos to enlarge 
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What is your most memorable moment on the bike or involved with cycling?
That's a tricky one when one hasn't really achieved any great cycling heights and no ride or tour really stands out. Perhaps it was plucking up courage after a phone call [to inquire whether his entry in Richard's Bicycle Book was still valid] to go and visit Major Nichols to discuss ordering a hand-made bike. Most of my CTC group were riding Ephgrave, Condor or Hobbs cycles and I needed something a little exotic.
I can still see myself cycling up Raglan Road in Cape Hill on my mass-produced Claud Butler and spending what seemed like hours in his shop listening to the master talk about components and racing cyclists I'd never heard off, nodding vigorously, hoping he'd make me a bike. He was 68 at that time. He did and I'm still riding that one. He built me a couple more frames after that as he seemed to like me [not universal].
He died 14 years ago at an advanced age but his frames still live on.
   
I noticed you spent 7 years cycling returning to Ireland to ride. Can you tell us a bit more about that. What was it that drew you to Ireland?
I'd already done a few tours in Mid and South Wales - the former was a really wild expanse and I can't remember what interested me about Ireland - living at the time near Heathrow Airport, it was really easy in those days to ride to the departure hall, put your prepared bike in a big plastic bag, bring all your tools into the cabin as hand luggage and be out on the bike within a couple of hours. Easier than going to Scotland in fact, yet one was using a different currency. I've never been interested in France and have only spent two days there in my life. The West of Ireland was really wild and rugged but you were never far from a village with a shop or hostel. If something went wrong, you were never far from help ... like when my bottom bracket spindle broke at Gougane Barra right at the end of a tour and I had to bribe a bus driver to get me back to Cork from Macroom, the cycle shop there having chosen not to open that day.
Northern Ireland was also intriguing in the late 80s. No English people were touring there so it was an odd but rewarding experience. Photography was not easy, e.g. once taking a photo of an old building in full cycling kit, I was surrounded by humorless RUC officers with peaked caps pulled down over their eyes asking what I was doing. That was rather scary. All the people in the North were very welcoming, you just had to read the situation in the Guest Houses and act accordingly. They'd tell you where to go and tell the pub, or whatever, who had sent you.
I forgot to mention that my mother had ancestors from Mayo [Ballintubber] who came over to England like many others at the time into Lancashire. So I was also curious to visit - in fact, Mayo became my favorite part of Ireland for cycling. I have no desire to return to the country now.
        
How about the Hungary trip? How did that one come about?
It was only the fourth time I left England and Wales. I'd organized a YHA trip to South Central Finland with some friends the previous year and wanted to go somewhere a bit more exotic. Perhaps I was thinking of the tenuous relationship between the Finnish and Hungarian languages. I think I wanted to go where few others went.
At an Essex CTC dinner the previous year I was talking to an elderly rider called Charlie Merritt who amazed me with tales of cycling in Czechoslovakia in previous decades. In those days we had to inform our managers at work if we traveled to Eastern Europe "because of the dangers...". The Essex club members were treated to an annual slide show given by the likes of Neville Chanin, but they never went behind the Iron Curtain, which was shortly to fall 18 months after our visit to Hungary. It also had a nice mixture of flatlands and mountain nothing much over 1000m.
I planned a trip to communist Czechoslovakia the next year, again before the "change" but nearly died during an attack of viral pneumonia shortly beforehand and the others went without me.
       
You mentioned in our first exchange that you had a love for older, more traditional framed bicycles. Why is this?
Frames hadn't changed much between 1950 and the mid-1980s, so that was what everyone was riding, brake cables, toe-clips and straps. Just like Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault in fact. And don't they still look great on them in those pictures? I never moved into the present, not wanting to learn additional maintenance skills. I used to tour abroad on steel cranks and cotter pins, since one could always borrow a hammer [as I once had to in East Germany to remove a broken fixed bottom bracket cup] if need be.
What is your favorite piece of cycling kit (from the past or present)?
I picked up a pair of pink wool mixture cycling jerseys in Denmark of which I still have one That was fairly outrageous in pre-pre-Rapha times. I lent a good friend one and we rode as the pink composite team in a 2-up time trial. I was useless as usual.
The only components I can't do without are TA cranks and rings and Mafac polycarbonate-hooded levers which are paired on most of my bikes. Major liked the latter. Unfortunately, the growth of Eroica style events has pushed up the second-hand prices. Cycling shops tend not to stock much for me - tires and inner tubes, perhaps, but even they are giving way to tubeless. Nothing much from the present really interests me, although I do fit modern lights. Just think, we used to ride through the night with cardboard EverReady 800s twin-packs front and back.
Oh, and a Brooks leather saddle [mainly but not exclusively Professional] is indispensable.
  
I want to ask you a question about your interest in locomotives as your photography tells me you're a bit of a spotter?
It was pretty normal to have such interests back in the 60s. As schoolboys, some of us would go up to London and ride around the North London line to Willesden Junction in empty carriages through stations covered in weeds - it has all changed now.
In 1991 I did some touring in East Germany with a friend who was also interested in trains so we could divert to stations or railway lines when other cyclists would have been bored or not interested. That was a great tour. I'd also become fascinated by trams and trolleybuses through my latter jaunts into Eastern Europe, having missed them in the UK. The Czech Republic is probably the best country for a cycle tour based around those modes of urban transport, not that I ever cycled there - public transport was so cheap back then.
      
All images by Felix Ormerod
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The Upper Derwent Valley

We started our walk at the Cutthroat Bridge car park on the A57. I have walked and cycled around the woodland-fringed parts of the Derwent and Ladybower reservoirs many times so I decided a different approach was necessary. 

I have never been up to the Millstone grit escarpment that lies on Derwent Edge and when you get up to the junction and the moors that lie above, it feels altogether different in contrast to the valley, much of which is clothed in woodland and braken.

The steep-sided valley edge gives way to miles of bare and largely featureless moorland apart from the occasionally weirdly shaped rocky outcrops that the locals have given names to. At regular intervals you are faced with extravagantly shaped gritstone that has been weathered over many years to produce extraordinary formations. 

Their names reflect what some would say resemble their shape and outline - The Wheel Stones, Salt Cellar, Hurkling Stones and Cakes of Bread. Some have less prosaic names (but are no less striking) including Dovestone Tor and Back Tor (the name of the first Mamnick shirt!). 

The views from the top are certainly worth the effort of scrambling up there, taking in Kinder Scout, Bleaklow and Win Hill to the west as well as down to the reservoirs. It's a fantastic view this time of year. 

We headed east down the valley side, the path turns into a track that leads to Foulstone Farm and onto The Strines. We stopped for a half of pale-ale and a pork-pie in the Strines Inn before taking the footpath off Mortimer Road, cutting through another farm. By this time the sun was setting, silhouetting Win Hill and the wooden pylons. A nice walk that takes 3/4 hours depending on how long you stay in the pub! 

 

All words and photos by Thom Barnett.

 

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The Mam Nick Hill Climb 2018

It appears the weather is consistently bleak for the Mam Nick climb, this year was no different. 40mph winds and drizzle made for a epic spectacle with the first rider off at 10.01am.

A swirling gale looked to occasionally help the riders on the lower slopes, before becoming a hazardous crosswind half-way up and a brick-wall headwind over the top. 

61 riders had signed up to tackle the climb including the current record-holder Paddy Clark and a debut for European Champs silver-medalist and cross-country running star Hatti Archer.  

On the day it was Andy Nichols (Team B38/Underpin) who took the win with a time of 06.46.4 for the Men Seniors and Hatti Archer taking the Women's overall with an impressive 08.10.7.

A special thank-you and congratulations to Nick Lattimer and The Rutland CC for organising such a great event. Surely the Nationals will one-day have to be held at this magnificent place?! 

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Alport Castles - The UK's Biggest Landslide

We started our walk at 10am in the Derwert Valley beneath the stone ramparts of the Derwent dam with a cup of tea. Fairholmes car-park apparently has a history of its own, I found this out afterwards after noticing the crumbling foundation of the farm and doing some research when I got home. During the construction of the reservoirs the car-park was a masons’ yard it would have likely reverberated the sounds of workers' cutting and shaping stone for the the dams. 

 

Leaving the valley our route climbs up through Lockerbrook Coppice. Leaving the trees, the route follows the top edge of the vast Hagg Side spruce plantation, before climbing further to Bellhag Tor. We saw a numbers of British finch and Kestrels' all the way across the top, before getting the first glance of the slips in the area. Having crossed the over the stile onto Rowlee Pastures, here you get the first glimpse of the largest landslip in England and our destination for today’s dinner - cheese and pickle on a white bap, plus a pork pie (Thanks Lulu!).

It is called Alport Castles and you can see why when you are stood on The Tower. You look across at a chaotic jumble of tumbled gritstone boulders and grassy covered mounds; It’s a real spectacle. We ate our sandwiches on The Ridge before climbing down to the path that leads to Alport Castles farm. By this time it has started to rain. 

We followed the track down past the farm and followed the valley, seeing and hearing a number of large Jays’. Although they are classed as vermin, I think they are quite a beautiful bird. By this time the rain was torrential and we were both getting quite wet, but still smiling!

We crossed the A57 Snake Road, followed the track and took the bridge over the ford. We continued on the path past Upper Ashop Farm and followed the grassy road called Blackley Hey. Entering the Pinewoods, it smelt great due to the damp and the light was really atmospheric. This path took us all the way down to Yorkshire Bridge and back to the Lady Bower reservoir - back around our car and home for a cup of tea and a well-deserved bath!

I'd recommend this route for anyone looking for a full-day Yomp, it was 14.5 miles round trip with some really scenic views from the very beginning. There are a number of get-out routes on the A57 if you get into any difficulty.

I'd recommend finishing the walk with a pint in the Lady Bower Inn! 

 

All words and photos by Thom Barnett

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