Tuesday, 18 September 2007

18 Sept: Senior Cyclists' ride (car-assisted) to Harling Drove

Peter Rowell writes: I first organised this run for the Cambridge D.A. in 1958 when I lived close to this route. It was then approx. eight miles off road. In fifty years it has changed, trees that were fairly small then are now very large. the route was regularly used then by farmers and forestry workers but is now overgrown in places but still passable. One three mile stretch has now been made a hard road linking Mundford Road with East Wretham, it is very quiet and pleasant. Whilst the east end of the drove has improved, the Peddars Way has deteriorated and become overgrown.

I decided in 2007 that I would organise this run again for the Tuesday pensioners group, in the event there were only two of us. I put the bikes in my estate car and drove to Santon Downham Forestry Office where we parked and then cycled north to the Harling Drove (Norfolk Route 30). Turning East we started on the Drove Road which runs in an easterly direction for about eight miles. George was riding his Mercian with 28mm tyres and drop-bars, totally unsuitable for loose sand and after a short distance he decided to turn back and go to the lunch stop (The Nags Head, East Harling) by road. I gave him instructions for the road route and he arrived five minutes before me.

I continued on to the Mundford Road junction, I was riding my Abbey Mixte with downhill bars and 32mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres. The Shimano Megarange Superlow gears were a great asset.

Crossing the Mundford Road

The end of the difficult part

Start of three miles of hard surfaced road
I started on this stretch which was very pleasant with little traffic.

Looking back at Croxton New Buildings

Start of the off-road section to Langmere (Croxton/ East Wretham Road)
This doesn't look promising, but it gets better.

Looking back along the drove at Langmere

Your first view of Langmere
When flocks of sheep were driven along the drove to East Harling market, this would have been one of the few watering places.

Wildfowl on Langmere

Wildfowl on Langmere

The way forward to the Kilverstone/East Wretham road

Ringmere, to the south of the route
(Kilverstone/East Wretham road)

There is a phenomenon with this lake, it can be full in a dry summer and empty in a wet summer. It is believed that it has a fault to the substrata.

Looking back along the Drove
It is a good hard stoney road at this point. It crosses the line of the old Thetford to Swaffham Railway here.

This is the road to the former Roudham Junction, now a dead end

The way forward to Peddars Way

Going on to Peddars Way and Shadwell Crossing (formerly known as Roudham Crossing), I was surprised to see how overgrown it had become. Whilst the road through Roudham Forest is a good hard gravel road, Peddars Way would hardly qualify as a cart track (it would be difficult to get a horse and cart through it).

Peddars Way (Cyclists are OK)

Peddars Way

I carried on to Bridgham and East Harling, where George had arrived five minutes before me. We had lunch at The Nags Head and then both did the return journey to Santon Downham along the drove with the exception of the loose sandy bit where we did a detour around it (we turned right on the Mundford road then first left to Santon Downham).

We had a very pleasant day, thanks to the Forestry Commission, and a very good lunch at The Nags Head.

The only snag was that when on the way home on the A14 we ran into a tailback of traffic at Newmarket, which moved very slowly (I think George would have got home
quicker by cycling the A14 and walking back up the Nine Mile Hill slip road and into Cambridge that way). We carried on to the A11/A14 split and found the A14 was closed. All traffic had to use the A11 so we went to the Great Wilbraham junction and turned off. We found that the road into Cambridge was also jammed with traffic. We heard on the radio that there had been an explosion at the Girton interchange, A lorry carrying industrial gases had turned over, caught fire and cyclinders started exploding. I took George to the Park & Ride so he could cycle home on the Jubilee cycleway, whilst I went back to Quy and spent a couple of hours at my cousins house waiting for the situation to cool down. I eventually got home after 8.00pm (should have been home by 5.00pm). Peter Rowell

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Windmill Country: A 1930's Whitsun Weekend

by Donnex Claydon

On Friday evening, Frank Bland and I set out on the tandem. With me on the front, Frank on the rear and behind him, strapped to the carrier, was a small ridge tent with sleeping bags and provisions for supper and breakfast. We also had a small Primus stove, billy can and of course our cameras. We made our way along the quiet Huntingdon Road, now the dreadful A14. After Huntingdon we joined the Old North Road and the Great North Road, now the A1 and A1(M).

Donnex Claydon was D.A. President until his death in 2006 at the age of 96. He joined the C.T.C. in 1931 and met his wife, Doris, on a clubrun.
He worked as a bricklayer for S. J. Starr & Co, eventually taking over the firm when Mr Starr retired.

During World War II Donnex served in the Royal Corps of Signals. He landed in Normandy in June 1944 with 2nd Army Head Quarters and stayed with them all the way to Berlin. He returned to his previous life (after de-mobilisation), as a bricklayer and touring cyclist.

He returned to the continent many times, touring with Doris. They were both regular riders on clubruns until Doris was incapacitated and eventually died.

Donnex continued to attend Sunday club teas until about two years before his death.

Peter Rowell, 2007. Photo of Donnex in 2006 by Mike Stapleton

It was a pleasant evening with only an occasional car to be seen. Near Norman Cross we turned into a narrow lane and set up camp in a small meadow.We would normally seek permission to do so but it was very late and there was not a house in sight. In the morning we washed in dew,scooped up by the handful from the grass. The water in our bottles was needed for making tea. We packed up and headed for the Lincolnshire Fens. Frank entertained the locals in one small village when he cleaned his teeth in their water-splash We carried on along a dead straight road, high on the bank alongside one of the fenland drains, twiddling the top gear of 104" like mad.

It was about lunch time. Frank went into the village shop in search of food and then stuck his head around the door, saying "Can you eat a haystack?".

"I feel so hungry I could eat anything" I replied. He emerged with the "Haystack" the size and shape of a large loaf. It was a local speciality, a concoction of minced meat and herbs, baked in a bread tin. Very substantial and just what we needed.

I forget exactly where we went, but I think it was near Woodhall Spa where we came across an isolated farm and obtained permission to camp there a couple of nights. On the Sunday morning we discovered that the rear brake had been rubbing on the tyre which looked as it would burst any moment, so we made our way to Louth with its famous crocketed church spire and found a cycle shop. Of course it was closed.

We were told that the owner lived a mile or so away and were given directions to his house. He was a very pleasant chap and was only too pleased to cycle with us to his shop and provide us with a new tyre.

One reason for our visit to this part of the country was to photograph windmills which abound in this area. During the weekend we photographed mills with two, four, five, six and eight sails. Many of them were working. While we were taking a photograph of one of the five sail mills, the miller came over and offered to stop the mill for us. We thanked him and told him it wasn't necessary.

Sunday lunch time. All shops were closed. Frank knocked on the back door of the village bakery and returned empty handed, saying "I knew I was unlucky when the parson opened the door". Eventually we came to a pub. And asked for shandies and packets of biscuits. (Biscuits at two pence a packet before the advent of Smiths potato crisps). The landlady must have thought we looked hungry and said

Heckington Mill (2004)

"We will be closing in a few minutes, you can join us for lunch if you wish". It was an offer we could not refuse. We sat down with the family and enjoyed a meal of roast lamb, Yorkshire pudding and an assortment of vegetables followed by a fruit pie. It cost us two shillings each.

Whit-Monday morning. It was time to pack-up and head for home. We asked the farmer how much we owed him. "Its alright, just give the boys a tanner each". There were three youngsters playing in the yard. As we handed out the pieces of silver he said "No not him, he's not mine". Needless to say they were all treated alike.

It was about 5pm when we reached Heckington and as we photographed the massive eight sailed mill, the miller approached and invited us to have a look over the mill. He spent the next hour showing us around, explaining how everything worked. (Some time after this the mill was severely damaged by lightning but was restored to its former glory). In fact I think it happened again and was restored once more. (When I saw it a few years ago it looked in perfect condition. Peter R).

By the time we reached the Six Bells at Bourne, a Club tea place, it was 7pm. We managed to have a late tea (or was it supper?). Afterwards, we wasted no time and arrived back in Cambridge at 10.30pm having covered 57 miles since tea. Donnex Claydon

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The Vic Skelton Birthday Rides in Dorset

Mike Stapleton writes: The Cambridge DA decided to run their own Birthday Rides to fill the gap left by there being no CTC Birthday Rides this year. We decided to honour one of our oldest riders and called the holiday the Vic Skelton Birthday Rides. Vic had just celebrated his 80th Birthday and is a credit to all of us. Vic never has a bad word to say about anyone and is always happy.

The popularity of the Holiday was even greater than when we went to the CTC Birthday Rides in Galloway and Dumfries last year. We had a total of 19 people who joined us for the various rides and meals. We try very hard to make the rides suitable for all and often there were two or three groups doing their own thing. We rode our bikes, visited Museums and Gardens, we met for evening meals at local hostelries. In fact we had a problem when we tried to book for “How many Sir?” and got the reply that there wasn't enough room. Fortunately the Greyhound in Beaminster (pronounced Bemster) was able able to fit us in even on the Sunday night when they said they were full. We came in in penny numbers and found space to eat in the back room.

The Greyhound.

As there were a great number of us Adrian who did the bookings had to split us up between three houses and Mike & Mrs Cousins brought their own Camper Van. The big house was Cambrian House half way up Skeet Hill. This was quite steep up to the house and then went on at 20% beyond. The house was built on a fantastic location cut into the hillside. It had a patio in front where you could sit and see the whole town of Beaminster in the dip in the hills.

Patio, Cambrian House

Cambrian House View

There was a house in the village for which I don't have a picture and the third house was on a farm beyond Broadwindsor. It was nearly four miles away from Beaminster and about 500 ft up so we got quite fit It had an equally impressive outlook over the vale towards Crewkerne. Being on a farm we had animals all around and Averil was greeted by Shawn on the first morning when she opened her curtains. The sheep were very curious. The farm had a large herd of Frisian Cows which paraded into the farm night and morning.


Sunday Most of the group met up in the square in Beaminster to decide their route.

Studying the maps

We decided to do a trip to the seaside at West Bay. We went via the lanes and had our first introduction to relatively easy Dorset Hills. Delightful lanes and villages. We of course found a café at West Bay Harbour and in fact never reached the sea. Here is a picture of Vic enjoying his elevenses.

Vic at West Bay

We left West Bay and went looking for a lunch place. We went back through Bridport and then had our first hill on the road to Broadwindsor. At the top of the hill we had the discussion where some headed west and some went home to view the Tour. The West group split up at the first Pub where some thought it too expensive and went on to Marshwood the next village. It was only two miles but there was a 500ft hill.

We stopped at the the Bottle Inn which was crowded with Tourists and Dorset CTC Cyclists. We considered it must be good so we stopped for lunch.

The Bottle Inn

Suitably refreshed we headed over the hills to Lyme Regis. Lyme Regis is at the bottom of a three mile hill. Its well worth the effort as its a lovely seaside town that never seems to change.

Lime Regis

After refreshments we headed back up the hill and then down the other side to Axminster. Again we found a pub serving tea and sat in the sunshine opposite the parish church.


The way out of Axminster is up a long steady hill and then the way up to the top of the ridge is a second climb via Cook's lane. Once on the top it is relatively flat with views over the hills to the sea.

View from the top

The way home then led via Pilsdon Pen which is the highest point in Dorset. Pilsdon Pen was a major ancient British fort which the Romans eventually took. It is a huge place and has nearly a mile of earthworks around the flat top which is still about 15 feet deep.

There are 360 degree views from the top. Which I rate as some of the best I have ever seen.

Pilsden Pen

Fortunately my house was just a mile down the hill so I was home in a few minutes. Which was just as well as I was very tired of Dorset hills.

The next day Monday I decided to take it easy with Vic, Steve and the dog Bailey.

Steve, Adrian and the dog, Bailey

It all started quite easily with a walk up the road but then we found a path so we followed it. It was a bit muddy but little did we know what was to come. Then up to the top of Pilsdon Pen to see the views again. Down the other side it got steadily muddier but still we kept above the mud. We reached the village of Drimpton to find the Pub was shut due to lack of trade. Fortunately the Publican saw us and sold us drinks in the garden.

After lunch we headed back home firstly up the road but then found a bridleway leading in the right direction. After a while it narrowed and became muddy then muddier and finally the mud came over my boots. The picture shows me wringing my socks out.

Mike, wringing out his socks

Cleaning up took quite a time. Adrian found another path just before we got home which flooded my boots again. I was getting used to it by then.

Tuesday I was back to cycling. The gang met in the Square at Beaminster ready for a visit to Abbotsbury. Abbotsbury is about 20 miles SE near the famous Chesil Beach. This is a shingle spit stretching all the way to Portland Bill.

Chesil Beach

Several riders including John and Greta went to the Botanical Gardens which were very good. The other visited the village and had lunch in the café.


After lunch we all climbed the narrow road towards Hardy's Monument. Its very steep and we all walked part of it. In fact a car stopped when he met me walking and said don't worry all the rest are walking too. I walked nearly all of it! You can see for miles when you are on the tops of the hills. Then on and up to the highest point before the main group turned north to return to Beaminster. I hear the route was very hilly.


I took a short cut home dropping down off the hills via a dramatic single track road with grass in the middle and pot holes into the valley at Powerstock. I hoped to find a pub open but no luck. I returned to my base at Broadwindsor via the easy road from Bridport.

Wednesday Alan and I had the day off. We went to the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton. This proved to be a really good show in four huge hangars. There were displays of World War one aircraft.

Sopwith Triplane

The piece de resistance was a series of displays showing the role performed by aircraft carriers. There was a whole hangar dedicated to a display of aircraft laid out on a carrier deck with simulated launchings and landings. There was a simulated Control Island with a series of internal semi active displays which you were guided through one by one.

H.M.S. Ark Royal

A view of the simulated flight deck

The final hall had one of the last Concorde to fly on the Atlantic route. I have always had a soft spot for Concorde. I actually was present when the Duxford one landed for the last time in 1977.


Thursday was the only day when it rained during the morning. I had decided to go and see the trams at Colyton figuring that even if it rained I could always get a ride inside the trams and keep dry. The trams were specially built to run on the old Seaton to Colyton Railway. They run on a 2' 9” gauge and are rather narrow. They run beside the Axe into Seaton and have great views of the Bird reserves on the way. I was joined by Joseph, Averil and Geoff who had come via some very steep hills. They waved me off at the station and then adjourned to the café.

The tram at Colyton

Friday was our last day and several riders decided to visit the gardens at Minterne but were put off when they couldn't get lunch there. They adjourned to Cerne Abbas where they found a good cafe. This also gave them a chance to see the famous chalk Giant carved into the hill.

The Giant at Cerne Abbas

In the evening we all had dinner in the Greyhound. I think there was nineteen in all. It was a great social get together.

They were a great team who all contributed to one of the best weeks we have ever had. It seems to me that Club weeks away are a sure fire way of having a great holiday. The company ensures that there is always someone to talk to even if the weather is bad. Of course it helps to have a week like we had with almost perfect weather. We kept hearing of scorching temperatures and fires in the Med. which sounded just too hot to ride a bike. England with good weather is unbeatable.

Finally a special vote of thanks to Adrian and Steve, not forgetting Bailey the dog, for organising the week. Without their efforts it would not have been possible. Mike Stapleton