Central London CTC – the first ten years



Jo Wright


Jo Wright at the start of Pat & Mike's "mince pie" ride in December 1983.



Long Mynd


"Climbing the Long Mynd from all directions" – Peter Cave and Mark Thornton on the 1983 Christmas Tour.



Graham Watson


Graham Watson on "the hostel weekend at Saffron Walden that enjoyed the hottest weekend of the year" in 1984.



Catriona Mitchell


Catriona Mitchell led an August Bank holiday tour of Dorset in 1985.

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Part 2: 1982 – 1985

1982 started with one of the section's most controversial rides, a walk. The dispute filled the columns of the Pedaller for months and two members actually took along cycles in protest. BR strikes and bad weather disrupted the scheduled runs during the winter, but alternatives were organised on the day, and later runs lists show a number of "second attempts". The Easter tour to Devon was preceded by an informal ride out to the start over several days. Occasional breakaway groups enjoyed good rough stuff in the Quantocks, and fine weather on a circuitous route around Dartmoor and Exmoor; rounded off by an excellent lunch provided by Liz Rutters parents.

Sophie Welcomme organised a camping tour in southern France for ten who enjoyed the hospitality of her relatives. The highlight of the trip was an evening ride along the edge of the Ardeche gorge, and the low point sinking twice in my canoe whilst descending the rapids the next day, much to the mirth of the other section members. A weekend at Alfriston on the South coast included a barbecue and ride with East Sussex DA, and one Sunday ride even included pear picking in Southend as an attraction. After a rough stuff crossing of Watership Down and Inkpen Hill, the mud splattered group seen emerging from the hedge was described as the "farmers section" by an incredulous group of racing cyclists.

The DA committee that year showed strong section representation: Malcolm Green as secretary, Dave Everitt events, Mark Thornton social, Derek Ground press, Pat Strauss planning, Graham Watson editor. The much delayed DA road jerseys arrived in time for the heat of summer and were adopted by the section as an unofficial uniform. Pat introduced the DA to Route Hunts, a concept that still confuses entrants. Dave Everitt gained a gold badge, and the section retained the Chapman trophy. However the most significant DA event that year was the start of a new section based in Finchley by two of our members, Malcolm Green and Robert Jacobs.

As compensation for the disruption caused by strikes earlier in the year, BR ran an Autumn offer for cheap group travel: after the first ticket the next four cost only £1. The section took full advantage of this generous discount and scheduled one ride as far as Bournemouth. The offer proved to be even more generous when it was discovered that the first full price ticket could be bought at a student discount, and as a result calculators were needed to work out the cost between the group. BR have not surprisingly never repeated the offer!

December saw the marriage of John Franklin and Sophie Welcomme, with the section turning out in force to accompany their bicycle rickshaw through Leicester Square to the reception; no doubt the Christmas crowds thought it was just another tourist attraction. John was a founder member of the section, and introduced it to Youth Hostel trips, particularly the Easter tour. His planning work was much valued, and when they left London it was to continue the battle against the Redways of Milton Keynes. Alice Christine joined the family in 1986.

By 1983 major changes had occurred in the structure of the section. Pat Strauss, who had served magnificently as secretary since the section's formation, moved on to become DA secretary, and was replaced by Dave Everitt. Dave, our runs secretary for three years, was replaced by Paul Lohr who pursued a policy of scheduling easy and hard rides on the same day to cater for a wider range of riders, and ease the problems of numbers on trains. On one occasion the hard riders led by Mark abandoned their attempt to reach Oxford and joined the easy riders for a stately home visit; some even took the train home.

Helen Boutwood's cultural visits resulted on one occasion with a bemused runs secretary having to explain to an elderly American lady who phoned that our visit to Jane Austen's house would not be a leisurely coach trip but a 60 mile bike ride in winter. The Easter tour was to Wales rather than North Yorkshire due to problems with high speed trains. The pre extension was cold and wet, and notable for damp blankets in unheated simple youth hostels. One wet morning, Les Graham sought to lighten the mood of the party, after a particularly miserable night at Devils Bridge, with a fine solo rendering of "Oh what a beautiful morning", but was cut short by a loud bang as his front tyre exploded in protest. A first section tandem ride brought out five - Strauss, Lohrs, Moodys, Turners, and one from the Finchley section as well as plenty of solos. Pat and Mike led a summer tour to Bavaria and Austria with three other section members.

The section's fifth (wooden) birthday was celebrated with lunch at Cookham where rides met from several starting points, and spent a sunny afternoon on a treasure hunt; but a night ride to see sunrise over the sea found only a cloudy south coast. Strawberry picking appeared as the main attraction on two successive summer Sundays. A trip to the Peak District enjoyed rough stuff on the recently closed A625 at Mam Tor, with a lap of Ladybower reservoirs. Our communal curry caused considerable distress amongst the other hostellers at Ravenstor. Roger Cline set a new record on the hilly by taking two tea stops with relatives around the route and still completing the course on time. Dave Everitt and Richard Philpott gained gold DA badges, but the new Finchley section won the Chapman trophy after disputing the 140 mile event that turned out to be nearer to 155. Although the DA lost one section (Hanwell & Southall), another based on Chiswick was started by section members with assistance from the former H&S secretary.

A Christmas buffet was held in a church hall in Paddington, just around the corner from the club's old headquarters, at which Martin Fisher was presented with the Velocipede award for failing to reset his watch to British summertime - missing his own ride by an hour. The Christmas tour based at Glascwm set a record for punctures, Richard Philpott contributing the most, climbed Long Mynd from all directions, and celebrated New Year at Ludlow hostel by playing the "leaky pipe game" with the Finchley section.

With a number of section members riding with the new Finchley and Chiswick sections, there was a reduction in numbers on rides in 1984, but the new blue Camden T shirts made our separate identity clear on joint rides. Graham took over the secretary's job. Graham's ride to the "coloured animal" at Woburn in February was not to see a new exhibit at the game park, but due to an inability to remember the name of the pub (Black Horse).

For the second year in succession, the first day of summertime produced an outstanding winner of the Velocipede award. Jo Wright's creative map reading around Newbury in miserable weather resulted in a mass revolt, with some of the group last seen time trialling back down the A4 back towards Reading. The Easter tour to North Yorkshire enjoyed good weather but few rough stuff opportunities; however the informal nature and option of different routes was considered a successful innovation. May Bank Holiday on Dartmoor was equally relaxed, but the Home Counties Rally was a resounding failure due to poor weather and location (Woking) - only one section member taking part.

With the CTC AGM in London the section helped by organising several events and rides, but poor attendance at the meeting itself led to disappointing support. Good weather ensured a mass turnout for our sixth anniversary ride, and all enjoyed a relaxed lunch "hour" at Penn Street, with barely enough miles to Holmer Green to justify the tea afterwards. The section organised a stand at the Capital Radio Venture day to publicise the Club, but although there was plenty of interest on the day there were few who followed up. On the same day the section took an independent approach to the London to Brighton ride by avoiding the official route and starting at Hyde Park instead of Clapham to avoid the crowds; then after a swim in the sea riding home again.

Fifteen who joined the hostel weekend at Saffron Walden enjoyed the hottest weekend of the year; the same cannot be said of ten who suffered the same heat on the DA 140 mile ride that Sunday, but all completed the course successfully. As a result Pat and Mike collected the first tandem bronze badge awarded by the DA, and Roger Cline a solo gold.

Martin Fisher led a successful autumn trip to the cycle tracks and windmills of Holland, but the hostel catering at Cranborne on a bonfire night party was neither up to the standard nor quantity required by hungry cyclists. Over the year visits to such diverse events as the human powered vehicle trials, Kew Bridge steam museum, and a traction engine rally supplemented the actual riding.

At the end of the year Pat took over from Malcolm as CTC Councillor. However celebrations at the Christmas buffet were dampened by news of her accident on the way there; fortunately only a few broken toes and the dog escaped unhurt. The Christmas tour took over Lockton hostel in the North York Moors, and was well supported despite character building weather in the snow and ice, particularly severe over the New Year in the Pennines.

1985 was a poor year in purely statistical terms with a total attendance almost half that of our best year (1980)-The annual report comments on dismal summer weather with the words "after getting soaked two weekends in a row there is a certain reluctance to come back for a third". Joint membership with Finchley and Chiswick is also mentioned. However new riders were mainly recruited through the CTC and therefore more likely to stay with the section, and the figures belie a highly successful year with a wide range of social activities supported by the regular riders. Hostel weekends were particularly successful with both formal and informal support for the Tanners Hatch folk evenings during the year. A trip to see the Severn Bore resulted in some experiencing it at first hand when it refused to stay put and leapt out onto the bank I The Easter tour to Derbyshire organised by Peter Cave tried the innovation of a fixed centre at Bakewell hostel over the weekend. Poor weather restricted the enthusiasm for cycling, but we did finally meet up with the Chiswick section who were staying at Castleton. An organised DA hostel weekend brought members from other sections together for an excellent barbecue organised by Ian and Fiona Steel.

The section attended the CTC AGM in force for a lively debate on helmets and gave good support to the West London DA organised Home Counties Rally at Weston Turville by leading several of the rides. By contrast the 7th anniversary ride had a poor turnout with only one committee member present, and it was later decided that it would be better to postpone future birthdays to celebrate the 10th anniversary in 1988 in style. Another failure was the night ride which was rained off.

Pat and Mike led a section tour to the Loire Valley which managed to collect a few foreigners into its ranks. August Bank holiday in Dorset led by Catriona Mitchel resulted in a photograph of the section crossing a ploughed field appearing in Cycletouring: it should be noted that the photographer (Pat) had exercised her dislike of rough stuff and nipped round on the road to take it.

Central London clubroom celebrated its 10th anniversary in the basement of Holy Trinity church Holborn. That year at the section AGM a motion was passed unopposed to change its name to Central London and resolve the split identity. The original choice of Camden was as a result of CTC politics and a desire to keep the clubroom separate. Since the section had no real connection with any one particular London borough it was hoped that by broadening the image it would attract a wider membership.

A spectacularly successful barn dance in October was organised by Jo and made a welcome profit on the night. Bonfire night at Blackboys was much more successful than that held the previous year and during the weekend proved that four people could stand on one trig point. One ride in November was notable for winning two bottles of Beaujolais Nouveau in the pub raffle at lunch time, much to the chagrin of the regulars. Non riding events that year were a sequence of visits to museums on Saturdays for "Londoners who don't know London".

Helen Boutwood organised a Christmas meal which took over the basement of the "Hat Shop" in Shepherds Bush, and set a tradition which continues. The Christmas tour took an unusual decision to be fixed (like the Easter tour) and rented two cottages at Kenardington near the Romney Marshes. Those who spent the whole two weeks over Christmas and New Year were entertained by a regular supply of visitors dropping in for a few days each. Catering was well organised as usual, but complicated by the existence of two separate groups, veggies and carnivores, although by all accounts the joint Christmas meal was a resounding success. New Year was celebrated, after a few beers at the local pub, with rockets launched from the back garden.

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