Tuesday, 11 March 2008

#023 Track Success and touring in Devon

After the funeral that was held at St Johns Baptist Church in Clumber Street, life gradually returned to normal. Dad was eventually able to take our track team to a mid-week event held at Heckington in Lincolnshire, the day was a real carnival, with a horse gymkhana and “Chase Water Charlie” from Chase in Staffs performed all sorts of tricks on a very small motor cycle. As the car was full i.e. Ernie, “Blos Catchpole, Dave Holmes and my wife Jean and all the bikes and wheels, Norman Casswell and I borrowed a 25Occ S.V motor bike from our stock, it was a pre-war model with girder forks so we had a very bumpy ride. We arrived well in time to try out the track, it was very small - five laps to a mile - with banking on the corners and for grass it was fast. All the Yorkshire good grass men had entered, it looked as though we were in for a tough time.

Norman Casswell advised us the gear to ride, he suggested 82” this is high for grass, but the weather had been good and the track was hard. We all won our heats in the ½ mile handicap, and subsequently all eliminated in the semi-finals. In the mile scratch I won my heat and semi-final and with great excitement was in the final. We had tea in the tent before the final, this was supplied to all competitors and friends, also having tea was Arthur Maxfield, Bill Brodsworth, Jack Atkinson and Brian Thorpe all good Yorkshire trackmen. I overheard them discussing how they were going to beat me. Came the final, using the same tactics as Norman had instilled on me at Burton previosly, I managed to beat Jack Atkinson by half a wheel. We had a fine old time in the “Beer tent” and with a few pints inside us we departed hilariously on the B.S.A. Dad followed behind in the pre-war Morris 8 series “E”, this car took us all over England.

Later that year, the last week in July to be exact Jean and I borrowed a “Sun” tandem from Reenie and Arthur Wild quite a heavy model with rear pedal footbrake (designed pr-war by my Dad) front brake was British Hub Co., hub brake gears were Cyclo 3speed.

We had been invited by one of my Dads army mates to stay with them one night at Highbridge that is on the A38 just this side of Bridgewater. We set off about 7am going via Ashby, Measham, Coleshill, Kenilworth, Warwick, Stratford, Evesham then Cirencester and on to Bristol. By this time Jean had “had it” there was a Leatheries saddle fitted to the rear seat and this had gone like “wash leather” I swapped the B17 from the front and she was then O.K .We had tea at Bristol near the Airport at the top a hill near a reservoir. Jean was in a bad state so we stayed there for bed & breakfast we were only 15 mile from our destination, we could not let our friends know as phones were non-existant. We arrived at about 11 a.m. and dads friends seemed very upset at our non-arrival the previous night. We had lunch then cycled over to Burnham-on-Sea returning to have dinner with the less than amicable friends.

We left next morning, travelling via Taunton,Axminster and then down to Sidmouth where we stayed at a B & B place. We had a look round Sidmouth admiring its sandy beach and scenic sanstone and chalk cliffs. We had a swim before returning to breakfast on freshly caught mackeral. Leaving Sidmouth, climbing the steep hill out of town, we travelled along the coast road to our lunch stop at Beer Head, ever onwards to our next B & B at Lymme Regis, We found a brilliant palce to eat – a ‘British Restaurant’ set up during the war as cheap eating places for the workers, and this one was still operating. A 3 course meal could be had for 3s 6p (17½ p) we were happy to stay here for 2 days before making our way home. We had some excitement though., coming down a steep hill between Evesham and Stratford, a lorry was heading straight for us on the wrong side of the road – with our brakes we had no chance! On the side of the road and standing in a line, there was 3 Stanton concrete pipes – about 6ft in dianeter. I aimed through these, heart in mouth, and came out the other side. That was a close call.

We eventually arrived home on Friday night, the next day being ‘August Bank Holidayy’ Saturday. Long Eaton Urban District were holding a cycle & athletic meeting on West Park, I had entered but didn’t fancy my chances after the tandem episode. However, in front of a massive crowd I managed to clear the board by winning all 3 races, and was my dad proud! Later that same year he was to see me win the hillclimb – a perfect way to end the season.

The annual Club Dinner that year was held jointly with Derby Mercury at the Pavillion Hotel on Station Road (now closed) and proved to be one of the most successful and boisterous dinners I had been to. In 1946 there were no ‘drink & drive’ rules so it would be an understatement to say everyone was happy. Alan Salt masterminded the raffle which was a financial success – he was selling the counrtfoil as well! We had several inter club ‘do’s’ at that time with Derby Mercury, a very successful dance being held at the Blue Ball, Risley in early 1947.

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