Ride Report – The Cyclists’ War Memorial – Sunday 18th May

David planned this train-assisted ride and writes:

Every year the CTC Heart of England Rally and St Laurence Church, Meriden, commemorate the cyclists who gave their lives while serving their country in the two world wars at the National Cyclists’ Memorial in the centre of England.

This year the service was blessed by the Bishop of Warwick and a new plaque was officially unveiled in honour of those cyclists who have perished in conflicts since 1945.

The Bishop of Warwick unveils the new plaque

The Bishop of Warwick unveils the new plaque

The inscription on the new plaque

The inscription on the new plaque

Bill and I went by train from Northampton to Berkswell, where we met up with Iain on his large-framed fixie. The Service started at 11.00 a.m. which gave us just enough time to stop at a farm café on the edge of Meriden village. The place was full of cyclists including John D, George, Bob and Sue.

A good attendance

A good attendance

John D at the Memorial

John D at the Memorial

After a short chat we set off together to the village green, arriving just as the memorial service commenced with a sermon by the Bishop.  The service included the Bulkington Silver Band playing hymns, a talk, and the laying of wreaths at the memorial obelisk at the end.  It was blessed with glorious sunshine.

The Bulkington Silver Band

The Band

After the service we rushed down to the village hall to beat the queue of cyclists for tea and cake. Inside the hall a brief history of Meriden Memorial was on display.

The Order of Proceedings from the original unveiling in 1921

The Order of Proceedings from the original unveiling in 1921


Part of the display

Part of the display

Max and Richard were there but had missed the service due to an accident on the motorway.

After refreshments Iain made his way back to Coventry, leaving Bill and I to catch the train to Rugby and cycle to Northampton.

CTC Northampton in the 1940s

I know it should be “Northampton CTC DA” (I think!) but I am grateful to David Upton for finding this article by Alan Burman, first published in 1997.

Day trip to Derbyshire on two wheels!

It was a sparkling summer morning in the late forties, the air rushing on our faces was full of the scent of hedgerow flowers and the verges were waist-high with keck.

The only sounds were the thrill of songbirds…and the swish of 60 narrow tyres!

1940s Image1

I was out with the Northampton branch of the Cyclists Touring Club in the post war heyday of the bicycle boom.

The Northampton group, officially known as the District Association, had existed on and off since the turn of the century and had been at its most thriving back in the 1920’s during the enthusiasm for the great outdoors that spawned numerous hiking and biking clubs.

After the Second World War, with petrol in short supply and new cars only obtainable under priority purchase schemes, the bicycle again came into its own and the pastime blossomed once again.  The CTC nationally had over 53,000 members at this time.

The Northampton section commonly met about 6.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning outside the cycle shop opposite the Town Hall. Riding two abreast in a long column we would set out heading for, perhaps, the Thames Valley, Bath or the Derbyshire Dales, distances on a day’s ride that now fill me with awe.

Many other clubs would be awheel before the countryside was awake and it was common to meet and greet other clubs, some from large towns like Coventry and Birmingham, in groups of 100 or more swishing past in the opposite direction.  We might see half a dozen such clubs before an early stop for breakfast.

1940s Image2

Cyclists, at that time, had many well-known and favourite cafés or teashops that catered especially for them.  Indeed, the CTC was the first organisation to run an approval scheme for eating houses, well before the RAC ,the AA or Egon Ronay!

Now and again a “tramps outing” would be run.  These events had a long history in the bicycling fraternity dating back to the old penny-farthing days. Dressed in old garb, we would cook up sausages and bacon over our little folding Primus stoves in the corner of some farmer’s field.

Once a year,we together with thousands of other cyclists, would converge on the Warwickshire village of Meriden, where a cyclists war memorial had been erected in 1921. Here, an open air service would be conducted by the Bishop of Coventry.

Well before the days when ancient bicycles were valued, an old gentleman from Coventry, a Mr Golby as I recall, had assembled a collection of historic machines and unselfishly loaned them out to be ridden to the service. The village was crammed with cycles, prewar tandems and sidecar machines, you name it and it was there.

Our local group included riders of some odd machines. One family rode out on a tandem with their son on a trailing attachment rather like a fork-less bicycle attached to a pivot under the saddle. A younger child rode in a miniature sidecar alongside.  Tricycles had had great popularity in the pioneer days of cycling, but by the fifties were uncommon.

Nevertheless, the Tremaine family, father and two sons, were great exponents on  three wheels. The sight of the boys on a tandem trike descending the hill into Aldbury  at speed, leaning below the level of the wheels to keep balance, the tyres screaming, and with the wheels flexing under the strain as the machine rounded the hairpin bend is indelibly imprinted on my memory.

The local CTC was one of the first groups to run a cycling proficiency scheme anywhere.  The idea had first been mooted in 1947, a joint conception by the club and RoSPA, and shortly afterwards the Northampton section joined the Brixworth Rural District Council in initiating a training programme for young riders.

The Northampton group still survives and must be approaching its centenary.  I wonder if today’s riders have as much fun as we did. I hope so!

[Editor’s note: CTC Northampton still cycles down the hill into Aldbury, most recently on the Nearly Golden Beeches Weekend last October.]

Report – Origami Ride – Saturday 8th December

Tony Care went on this month’s Origami ride – organised by The Folding Society – and writes:

I arrived at Meriden in bright sunshine after a trouble free drive and was
thoroughly looking forward to the ride, the conditions were perfect, a cold
crisp sunny winter morning. The only draw back was I had only just recovered a
few days earlier from a nasty virus, which had left me with the residue of a
chest infection, but I had established beforehand I could cut the ride short, at
any point should I need to, so all eventualities covered.

The ride started from the Meriden Tea Rooms, well known to most cyclists, being
only a few yards from the famous Cyclist’s Memorial on the green.

settingOffSetting off from Meriden Tea Rooms

I should point out that at the Christmas “Origami Ride” it is regarded
obligatory to decorate your bike as well as yourself on a festive theme and I
was attracting quite some interest from passers by as well as the riders –
resplendently dressed as “Santa” with my red Brompton ablaze with red tinsel and
flashing lights. I am glad to say there were plenty of other Christmas hats,
coats, ear muffs, bells and flashing bikes in evidence too, but, judging by the
enthusiastic comments, I was the bookies favorite for the best adorned bike and
rider prize.

santaTony as Santa

The ride was to the north of Meriden in picturesque lanes near
Packington Deer Park in the countryside between Shustoke and Fillongley and
there were variations of approximately five, ten or fifteen miles dependent on
which short cut on the map you took (“Heath Robinson” folders are sometimes
specially created just for the Christmas ride, hence the “Get-out-of-jail free”
routes back to The Bull at Meriden. None were in evidence this year though!)
Although the ride is an important part of the day, a big focus is the social
“Christmas” lunch that follows and everyone was looking forward to both.
If anyone tells you Warwickshire is gentle rolling hills, they are wrong! There
are some stiff climbs and with my residual chest problem I was soon feeling them
and it, wheezing my way up the steeper inclines. Despite being a clear bright
day the lanes were running with water and at one point, at the bottom of a
descent, we were confronted by a completely flooded road from one side to the
other, so it just goes to show how wet it is everywhere at the moment (a very
considerate driver waited patiently as we all made our way through, I thanked
him for waiting and he said it had been like it for weeks, he had slowed as he
knew it would be there).

peletonThe Origami Peleton in the Warwickshire lanes

Shorty after the next hill I started to feel a bit tight across the chest and
advised the “Sweeper-up” that I was taking one of the short-cuts back to
Meriden, as it turned out, a very challenging short-cut, as I shortly came
across a three way divide and as the lanes were single track and well out in the
“Sticks”, the signs were not just sparse, but non existent. so I asked a local
farmer who was in his yard washing his four wheel drive, which way to go, he
sent me the quickest route, rather than the cyclists route, which unfortunately
for me took me over the highest point in Warwickshire (the forest of aerials on
top should have told me something), apparently the local cyclists call it the
“Ansty Alps” (I was informed later). Anyway, a three speed Brompton was not the
bike to be climbing it on, I can tell you, I was puffing and wheezing like a
train when I reached the top! The short ride into Meriden was not surprisingly
all downhill and on a main road, so I got plenty of hoots and waves dressed as I
was, of course, as “Santa” I did my duty and returned all the waves, (it would
have been unforgivable to disappoint any children in the cars), I had an aching
arm and was feeling very festive by the time I reached The Bull. The main group
arrived not too long after and we had a splendid pint of Timothy Taylor’s, a
good lunch and good company and yes I did win the best decorated bike and rider
prize, which was presented at the lunch along with plenty of good-natured
banter. Chest problem aside, a most pleasurable and enjoyable day out.
An invitation was/is extended to anyone from Northampton CTC who wishes to join
us on any of the “Origami Rides” to come along as a guest. (you don’t have to be
riding a folder to join the rides as a guest) I have attached the the 2013 list
below, you will note the nearest one to us is Milton Keynes in May, but you will
be made most welcome at any other venue, we are a friendly bunch and the bikes
are interesting too!

I will provide start information before each ride, when it is e-mailed to me,
for those interested.

A Very Merry Christmas to everyone, have a splendid festive season,

These are the Origami rides we have planned for next year :

January 12th       Cosford, West Midlands
February 9th       Coventry
March 9th            West London
April 13th             Long Eaton
May 11th              Milton Keynes
June 8th              Shrewsbury
July 13th              Leominster/Shobdon
August 10th         Didcot
September 21st  Swindon
October 12th       Duffield
November 9th     Melton Mowbray
December 14th   West Midlands

The Meriden Annual Gathering

Bill Simpson attended this event and writes:

Last Sunday’s annual gathering at Meriden took place as usual. Only this year it did not rain, despite the greyness of the day.  Though in recent years the numbers in attendance seems to be dwindling, it appeared this year that the gathering was up numerically as seen through the eyes of Max Scott and myself.
Other local riders to attend were George Stevens and John Dunkley, as well as Bob and Sue Hastings.  Any others that I may have missed from our area, apologies for the omission.

Both Max and I used the train to re-trace to Rugby, then rode the miles to the excellent Catthorpe Farm for afternoon tea.

For the benefit of any who may never have experienced Meriden, my journey from
Northampton with some train assistance was an easy 50 miles. Hopefully, if you thought that attending at Meriden is beyond your mileage capability, the above may help you to re-appraise.

Perhaps then the numbers who attend could continue to increase, and that the unique experience of Meriden (the centre of England) could be shared and enjoyed by so many more from our area.

This leaflet from last year’s event gives a flavour of the ninety year’s history behind Meriden Rally.