Boats, Bikes and Doggy Ice Cream

3000 Years of History in one Surrey Ride

 

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Back in September I set out to write about my ride, along the Wey Navigation, back to London from the Richmond Championship Dog Show near Guildford.  My first attempt developed into a piece about showing animals.  The second attempt barely saw us past Guildford.

For this third attempt I have put the pictures into the blog first so that I should stay on track.  Unless credited otherwise, the pictures were taken by me whilst riding along the towpath.

0A Stoke Mill

At the end of my blog ‘Going all the Wey on a Sunny September Evening’, we had just reached Stoke Mill – now home to the Surrey Advertiser. This is quite apt as from 1653 it was used to produce paper. At one time there were seven or eight papermills along the river.

Leaving Stoke Mill the navigation is on the left, separated from the towpath by a line of pollarded willow trees These have various styles of log built supports propping them up, but would be a nightmare to anyone trying to bring a horse drawn barge along this way.

1 Willow Tree

To the right is the Riverside Park. This is about 70 acre of wetland nature reserve crossed by booardwalks to facilitate access and birdwatching.  Sadly as it was late afternoon I didn’t have time to visit.

Although still within earshot of the A3, as you can see in this two minute video, once Bowers Lock is crossed there is a real sense of being in the country.

 

 

This leads onto the section where the towpath skirts the parkland that surrounds Sutton Place from which is  separated by a traditional metal rail fence.

 

 

Sutton place is a Tudor manor House originaly built about 1525, but with all the usual changes and additions these properties have been subject to over the centuries. These act as a record of the changes in architectural styles and design trends over time. Historically, it is simply one of the most important properties of its type in the country and Grade 1 listed.   The house was visited by both Henvy VIII and Queen Elizabeth.

Currently it is owned by a Russian businessman who is supposedly the richest person living in the UK.  Personally, provided he has, and is using, the bottomless money pit needed to maintain properties like this, then I’ve no problem with that.  What it does mean , however, is that I can’t just ride up to the front door and ask to take photographs.

3A Sutton Place

An illustration from circa 1700 show gardens  and a tree lined avenue The grounds were further landscaped at various times from the Eighteenth Century through to the second half of the Twentieth Century. The design of the formal gardens were influenced by Gertrude Jekyll. The park and gardens have their own Grade 2* listing.  The listing document gives a detailed description of the grounds and, should you be interested, can be found here.

3C Sutton Place3

3B Sutton Place2

The builder of Sutton place was Sir Richard Weston (d.1541) who was granted the Manor of Sutton by Henry VIII in 1521. It was his great grandson, another Sir Richard Weston (1591–1652), who was responsible for the creation of the River Wey Navigation

As a young man Sir Richard Weston had lived in Flanders. Travelling the Netherlands and Belgium, he had seen how sections of canal could join parts of rivers to form navigable waterways.  Most importantly he had seen locks working and realised, with locks to allow for changes in height and weirs to control water levels, he could create a navigable waterway from Guildford to the River Thames.

3D Dick WestonLooking at the parts of the river Wey not included in the navigation, it’s easy to see how useless it must have been for carrying goods prior to this.

In 1635 Sir Richard was appointed one of the Royal Commissioners to oversee the work. After exile on the Continent, made necessary by the English Civil War, in 1651 he gained the necessary act of parliament and construction started.

The new route was completed in only two years. Sir Richard, however, died in 1652 not seeing the opening in 1653.

3 Blue bend

Sir Richard had, during his enforced stay overseas, studied farming methods and on his return set about improving production particularly from grassland. The evidence suggests that he would have used the revised River Wey to promote grass growth through controlled flooding of the land.

2 Pastoral

Passing Sutton Place there is a mix of wooded areas and water meadows rich in wildlife. I was fortunate to see a couple of kingfishers.

4 Swan

5 Church

The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Send, could be seen through the trees creating a picture that has probably changed very little since the canal was built. The church was already more than 400 years old when that happened.

Approaching Worsfold Gates (below) a different kind of tower can be seen in the distance – a lift shaft for a tower block being built in Woking. It didn’t stop the cattle enjoying the evening sun though.

6 Cattle

7 Worsfold Gates

A couple of miles further on and there was plenty of water coming over the spillway at Papercourt Lock. For the next half a mile the towpath was just a track in a field until the road at Newark Bridge was reached.

8 Field Path

9 Newark Weir

Looking back towards Guildford from Newark road bridge reveals this set of sluices complete with an attractive tiled ‘roof’.  The fitting of electric motors and associated control gear has not detracted from the charm.  I appreciate the purpose of the string of plastic strips is to deter birds from roosting; but there was something about this micro scene that made me think Tibet and prayer flags.

Across the road was the site of Newark Mill.  Built in the early Nineteenth Century,  it was one of the most spectacular mills in the county, if not the country.  There are records of a mill on this site going back to 1677 and probably developed to exploit the twin benefits provided by the development of the navigation; a managed water supply and ease of access to the London markets.  It was destroyed by fire in December 1966.  A contemporary report records that it was burnt to the ground in just one hour.

10 Newark Mill

The fact that there were once 22 mills along the length of the Wey is further evidence not only of this trade, but also the flow rates of the water passing along it. This last mill at Newark exploited that to the full as it had three waterwheels which drove up to eight pairs of stones.  No wonder it was such a grand five storey building.

11 Newark Abbey

Looking in opposite direction, the remains of Newark Priory can be seen through gaps in the trees.  It was built for an order of Augustinian Canons in the second half of the Twelfth Century.  Like most of the monastic buildings of the time, it was destroyed in 1539 during the dissolution of the monasteries ordered by Henry VIII.

It was built on a slightly raised piece of land with water channels created around it to provide for the drinking, cooking and sanitary needs of the incumbents.  Near the weir there is an eel trap which had probably been constructed by the canons.  I don’t know if they were also partial to a drop of beer, or even if the order allowed it, but the hedges alongside the priory site were full of hops.

12 Hops

13 Boats in Trees

Moving along I came across the scene above with everything seeming so tranquil and still.

About a mile from Newark Mill are Walsham gates and weir.  This is one of seven sites along the Wey Navigation on which the Environment Agency is spending a total of £8 million.  This will upgrade the weirs to maintain navigability, and enhance the flood management capability to help protect towns like Guildford.  As part of the work they are also creating features to assist fish and eels in bypassing these obstructions and so maintain or enhance the biodiversity of the Wey.

14 Walsham Wier

The works at Walsham Gates meant that the tow path was closed. The diversionary route of about a mile crossed local meadows and a golf course before re-joining the towpath.

This diversion involved riding up the drive of the rather spectacular looking Ockham Mill which was built in the early 1860s.

The listing document describes it as: “…  built in a neo-Norman style. Red and brown brick with yellow brick dressings, glazed brick decorations to mill, brown brick to Millstream House. Slate roof under ridge cresting on mill, plain tiled roof over house. Mill:- 4 storeys with decorative bands over each floor, – dentilled billet band to first floor, floral plaques over second floor and corbelled, dentilled eaves. Gable end to lane: lozenge shaped panels to gable flanking gabled and weatherboarded hoist tower at gable apex extending down to second floor and resting on corbelled braces.

Couldn’t have put it better myself.

15 Ockham Mill

The discovery in 2013 of the Ockham Hoard, a collection of bronze-age items confirms that the area has been occupied for at least 3000 years.  A record from 1296 refers to two water mills at Ockham.

Those of a more philosophical bent will be familiar with Occam’s Razor first proposed by the Mediaeval philosopher William of Ockham.

16 The Anchor

Once the towpath is regained it only a short distance to Pyrford Lock and The Anchor pub.  No surprises in there being a pub where canals and roads cross, especially if there is a lock or a wharf where barges may have stopped for a while. My only reason for mentioning this pub is the sign below which was besides the main entrance.  My thought, as soon as I saw it was: “I’d rather have raspberry ripple ice cream”.

17 Ice Cream

This is also a good point to leave the canal, if cycling, to visit the RHS Gardens at Wisley.

18 Potch

From here onwards the Navigation threads its way between West Byfleet and Byfleet, whilst the River Wey keeps to its original route around the East side of Byfleet.  There is one short last wildish section before the sound of the M25 begins to impact and more waterside properties appear.

19 Parvis Wharf

Parvis Wharf is currently used as a boat yard but has had various uses since being built probably in the mid Eighteenth Century to serve six local mills.  It is the last of the rural wharves to remain intact.  The fields and hayrick in the picture below evidence how rural the original location was; and are now covered by the M25.

The building in the picture above (the left-hand building in picture below) was originally built as a store about 200 years ago but is now known as the Grist Mill.  This comes from the inter war years when the upper storey was added and used by Surrey Grist Mills Ltd to produce animal feed. Before that it had been used as site to build ERA cars which were then raced at Brooklands which is only a couple of miles away.

19 Parvis Wharf 2

There are records of aeroplanes being shipped from the wharf which, during World War II, gained the reputation of being somewhere lonely troops could find ladies who would entertain them.

As I left Parvis Wharf I cycled past the heron below, no more than metre behind it.  When I dismounted and walked towards it to take this picture, it turned its head, managed a haughty slight lift of its supercilium, and returned to watching the water.

20 Heron

21 Bstoke Canal

Soon the Basingstoke Canal (above) branches off opposite the M25 overbridge. The pillars supporting the motorway have become canvases for urban art or, depending on your perspective, graffiti.

22 Overbridge

From here to New Haw lock there are moorings all along the far bank whilst the towpath is flanked by a road.

23 Moorings

Past New Haw the more rural feel returns for a short distance and the old flour mill at Coxes Lock is reached. Noted for its huge millpond, it dates from around 1776 and was built by the ironmaster Alexander Raby.  Initially it was operating as an iron mill producing hoops for use by coopers.

From 1829 it was milling corn and part was a silk mill, although the latter was soon abandoned. Corn milling continued until 1983.

24A Coxes Lock
This picture is from a postcard produced by the Avis Publishing Co. of Birmingham and dates from about 1905.

The mill was developed over time. In the 1890s a water turbine was installed that was capable of developing 40hp.  Later a steam engine was introduced and replaced water power. In more modern times steam was replaced by electric motors.

24 Coxes Lock
The Navigation was used to deliver grain until 1969 when the grain terminals at London Docks and Tilbury were closed.

The mill had long had its own railway sidings and, judging by their capacity, the bulk of the traffic for many year would have been by rail. The state of these grain hopper wagons suggest the loss of this traffic to lorries was imminent.

24B Coxes Rail

A few minutes pedalling took me to Town Lock and the bridge at Weybridge

25 Weybridge

  The navigation skirts the town but passes some exceedingly well manicured gardens

26 Garden

27 Garden 2

There are a number of weirs, sluices and water courses to be passed or crossed before arriving at the Thames Lock which is where the Wey Navigation joins the River Thames.

28 Bridge

29 Thames Lock

At the Thames lock there is a shed with a small display in it about the history of the River Wey Navigation.

Having stopped to take photographs along the way, and it being well into the evening, I made my way to the Thames path and rode it to Walton-on-Thames where I took to the roads for a faster journey back to Hampton Court station where I was able to take the train for the rest of my journey.

Somewhen I will go back and ride the last part of the navigation from the North Downs Way to Godalming – just to finish the job as it were.

If you have enjoyed this blog, please click the follow button at the top right of the page. Please also click on the like button. – Peter

Maps

End Piece

This Blog is Read Around the World

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O.K.  I’m new to the world of blogging and still have a lot to learn.  I’m learning as I go which has the drawback that mistakes and failures are made in public.

It’s nearly three months since I started blogging and time to review progress.  I’ve not yet aquired the number of followers I would like (or is that vanity speaking).  My target for the next three months has to be to improve that.  So if you know anybody who may enjoy my jottings, ask them to visit www.byfootandbike.com and click on the follow button on the right hand side of the page.

What I thought may interest you, is where viewers of this blog come from – and that is the purpose of this short post.  Below is a screengrab from the WordPress hosting site. It shows that so far the site has been visited by viewers in 21 different countries.

Stats

As it is thick damp mist outside – a picture fom a warm day in May 2011.  Other users of the South West Coastal Path – taken near Dodman Point in Cornwall.

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Riding on Water – the bike that thinks its a boat

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I came across Dhruv Boruah and his Shuttlebike Kit equipped bamboo bike, whilst I was walking along the Regents Canal last Saturday afternoon.  The Shuttlebike Kit is produced by SBK Engineering based in Italy, and I just had to stop and watch him assemble, launch and ride (sail?) it along the canal. He was gathering plastic waste which was brought back to the bank for proper disposal.

One of the reasons he does this is to raise awareness about the amount of plastic in the environment and the impact it is having. When you reach the end of this blog, and hopefully decided to ‘follow’ me (if you’re not doing so already), I would encourage you to click on the link to a short video of a presentation on the subject by Dhruv Boruah. There is also a link to his ‘The Thames Project’ website.

The Shuttlebike Kit for your bike can be carried to the launch point in a backpack.

Rocking up

A steel frame to mount the sponsons, or floats, is bolted to the frame of the bike.

Frame on

A wheel driven air pump is used to inflate the floats which are then attached to the frame.  Fishing nets are hung from the bike rack to hold the plastic items collected from the water.

SponsonsPumpMounted

The propulsion mechanism is a pneumatic drive unit fitted to the front wheel, and powered by the same wheel driven pump as is used to inflate the floats. Turning the front wheel of the bike turns the angle of the propeller creating the necessary thrust to steer the Shuttlebike on the water.

Prop

A final check of the equipment and a life jacket for the ‘rider’, and the aquabike is ready to launch.

Ready to goLaunch

As it entered the water, the Shuttlebike was immediately being blown away from the towpath by the breeze. Fortunately, the mooring rope had been kept hold of and it was quickly retrieved. Then it was litter picking time.

On the water 1On the water 2

Unfortunately, I couldn’t wait to see him return with his ‘catch’. My memory of taking a boat along this section of canal, is of having to go in the water to clear the prop.  These days it appears to have less junk in it, but still has waste and rubbish floating around and impacting the wildlife in particular.  Of even more concern should be the quantity of plastic particles which can’t be seen, but are polluting that ecosystem.

Rubbish

This video,” Why Plastic Pollution is More Than the Last Straw” is a presentation given by Dhruv Boruah earlier this year

Vidlink

The Thames Project Website

If you are tempted to purchase a Shuttlebike Kit, do think about the safety aspects as well and take advice as necessary. The Canal and River Trust have a Water Safety page on their website.  If you look at some of the places Dhruv Boruah has taken his Shuttlebike, remember that he has been an ocean going yachtsman and, for example, when he was on the Hudson River had marine VHF radio. For most people, taking a Shuttlebike onto open water should not even be a consideration.

On most of the UK waterways, vessels have to be licenced.  A good starting point for advice on this is The Canal and River Trust Customer Support Team.

If you wish to explore the canal network, one of these maps may help you to decide where to go next.
Maps

To find out more about the Shuttlebike Kit

shuttlebike 2

If you have found this blog post interesting, please click on the ‘Follow’ button and follow me. If you don’t wish to do that, perhaps you would be good enough to click on ‘Like’.

Many thanks,  Peter.

Day and Night

 

 

Autumn – The Time to Prepare for a Wonderful Winter.

countryside

The clocks have gone back, All Hallowstide is past, the Dorset Horn sheep are having their autumn-born lambs and Remembrance Sunday is almost upon us.  I no longer work on the land, but that sense of the need to prepare for Winter remains.

I can happily spend an hour preparing walking boots for winter. These are mine – with broken lace fixing and split stitching the middle pair are really past it – but old friends I turn to for the comfort of the familiar.

Boots

Boots don’t really need too much care and routinely I tend to use what is to hand. This might be ordinary brown shoe polish, or rubbing some of the saddle treatment, that I use on a leather bicycle saddle, into the stitch lines of the boot. In the Autumn I tend to use Nikwax Fabric & Leather Proofer as it does its job without softening the leather too much, which would lead to the boot losing its form. It can be sponged on and worked into the stitching. I also concentrate on the lace fixings as these can oxidise and become brittle.

Being a creature of habit, I tend to wear the same style of outer shell coat all the time when I’m walking. The newer ones are fine, but some of the older patched ones, which I wear if I think a coat is likely to become scuffed up, have become far less water repellent.  These I wash, and then use ‘Tech Wash’ to add water repellant quallities. This is also a good time to make sure any patches are still sound.

waxwash

Aging joints mean that I, and some of those around me, use walking poles especially if our route involves significant climbs and descents. Somehow we seem to have collected more poles than we have hands to hold them. This time of year I disassemble them to check they’re clean and dry and working properly.  They then get moved indoors so that no condensation forms within them as this would lead to the insides of the tubes oxidising.  As the adjusters in most walking pole us friction to maintain a height setting, don’t be tempted to lubricate them as this will lose the friction.

Poles

In summer we tend to have rubber feet to slide over the tips of the poles when walking on a hard surface. This is to prevent excessive wear or, if being honest, to avoid the annoying tap tap tap sound.  One or two will probably have been lost over the summer so it is a good time to obtain replacements.  Leki have a maintenance guide here: Leki_Care_and_Maintenance.pdf

My bicycles have also had a once over to.  The chains have all been cleaned, checked for wear, and re-lubed with a wet lube – don’t forget to remove the excess. I tend to use dry lube in summer and wet in winter.  I have a good stock of the latter, but as it is used-up I’m purchasing ‘green’ alternatives.

Lubes

I check all the bearings on each bike. Bearings do wear or become loose. If nothing is done then dust and grit can get in and bring about their early demise.  Knowing how long it has been since they were fitted, or last received attention, is vital in deciding what action to take. If I find a bearing that is loose and I’ve no reason to suspect excessive wear, then I just pinch it up to remove the slack.

On the other hand, my off- road  bike recently had a bit of play in the hub of a wheel that was built well over four years ago, and had been used to travel several thousand miles.  In that case I popped the wheel into Blue Door Bicycles at Crystal Palace for a quick hub service.  In fact the existing bearings were retained but I have the peace of mind of knowing that the hub is back pretty much to as-new condition.

A check over of all the cables on the bikes identified a front mech cable that was beginning to break and fray at the point it was secured to the mechanism itself.  It may have served another few months but I replaced it anyway.  The rest of the cables and the operating levers were all checked. The modern cables don’t really require lubricating but I treat them with a lube containg either silicon or teflon.  This is about protecting the cable from moisture as much as anything else..

brakeshoes

One bike needed new brake pads front and rear.  As it is running wheels with carbide impregnated rims, I ordered some pads from my local bike shop to replace the ones I was taking from my stash.  As they seem to have a shine on them, I replace the back pads and use them for a few days until they work well, before changing the fronts. I learnt years ago that some of the large chain cycles shops will still try and sell standard pads to use on a carbide rim. Local independent cycle shops who want to keep you as a customer are invaluable when you want proper help.

The off road tyres had a few cuts and nicks and were getting worn so I decided to replace them with some Shwalbe Rocket Rons. Not necessarily my first choice but available at a very good discount if bought as a pair.

Tyres

The off-road bike has some basic suspension forks fitted.  The rubber gaitors started coming off the fitting after about 4 years. I found that a spray with silicon spring and autumn stopped that. It doesn’t appear to have had any detrimental effect.  I suggest that you first check for safety and service advice on the manufacturer’s website for the forks you use,  before considering the same.

The touring bike has a Brooks leather saddle. This has saddle cream rubbed into it, including the underneath which can get all sorts of crud splashed-up on to it.  A tin of Brooks own brand saddle cream came with the saddle and that is what I use.

Saddle

I can get a bit fixated on lights. This time of year I stock up on batteries and check that rechargeable lights or batteries are indeed holding a charge.  When using rechargeable lights or battery packs, I will also have a small traditional battery light to use should the journey last longer than the charge in the battery.  The light are all inter changeable between bikes.

I recently fabricated (for fabricated read bodged) a new rear lighting setup for my touring bike. It now sports a large reflector and two Cateye LD610 lights (1 old style, 1 new)

Blights 1

Below are some of the front lights I use.  The Cateye on top illuminates the way ahead whilst the two underneath are focused on the kerb, gutter, ditch; one immediately in front of the bike and one further ahead. Most of the time I just use the light on top but put the others on if cycling in unlit country lanes; or if riding through the night in which case I use the lights in sequence to avoid changing battery packs.

F Lights

The picture below was taken whilst riding the C2C about 1992 and shows that my desire for plenty of rear lighting is nothing new. Those Ever Readys had been adapted so that the output from a dynamo could be plugged into them. They had voltage regulators and halogen bulbs fitted. Later in the trip we rode out of York early one morning in thick mist with HGVs rushing by.  I was stuck at the back hoping the lights would be seen, and that no vehicles strayed into the bike lane. Everyone was pleased to stay in single file close to the kerb that morning. This was a newish bike at the time; one of the most comfortable to ride I have ever had – eventually it was stolen despite being secured with two D-locks.  I see I had forgotten to swap out the road mudguards before setting off.

B Light 2

The helmet I wear has an integrated rear light and a Lezyne white light on the top.

I quite often make linear rides that use a train to return from the end point. I hate seeing cyclists putting muddy bikes on trains and then sitting on seats still wearing mud splattered clothing.  I carry a Superlite Windshell from Polaris Bikewear with me. It weighs next to nothing, requires almost zero space, and can go over whatever filthy kit I’m wearing.  I also usually have something warm and slightly baggy I can slip over my bottom half.  The small extra effort to carry these around is worth it for the warmth and ease of getting home.

My summer and winter gloves are from the Polaris ‘Really Bright Stuff’ range.  From the same range I have some fluorescent arm warmers, which I tend to wear riding around town at night, to be seen when I’m indicating my intention to turn right, more than for warmth. With gloves I’m not really bothered about padding, but more interested in the protection they give to the palms of the hand if I come off the bike.  If you break a shoulder blade or wrist it is often still possible to ride after a fashion. Flay the skin of the palms of your hands and you can’t hold or touch anything, Oh yeah, you had better hope that there is someone at home to help with your personal care as well!

Polaris

I’ve also dug out my overshoes for winter use.  These are for warmth on really chilly days as much as for keeping the feet dry. With them I found a skull cap, again from Polaris, which not only stops the the headaches from a frozen skull, but comes well down over the ears as well. I find it fits well under a helmet – but if you don’t wear a helmet it has fluorescent stitching to help your head stand out over the top of any cars that may be obstructing the view of other road users.  It is my must have piece of winter kit.

First aid

We have various first-aid kits which, depending what we are doing, get taken out with us. Whilst doing the winter prep I also check whether these require restocking, and that nothing in them is too out of date.

My membership of Cycling UK gets renewed about now so part of the Autumn routine is to make sure that happens. I have never needed the third-party insurance or legal advice service that comes with membership – but I wouldn’t want to be without it.

cycling

trees

Remembrance

ploughed
As a teenager I loved Autumn. Harvest was over, autumn sown crops were in the ground, and it was time to tidy up for winter.  Most years this involved spending three or four weeks laying hedges, checking fences and digging out ditches to ensure they were all clear for the winter run off.

This year as we approach the 100th anniversary of the ending of ‘The Great War’, I was reminded of this.  Each year ‘Old Bert’, as he was known to all, would come back to the farm for a few weeks to help with these tasks.  He was a veteran of that conflict.  Together he and I would set out in the morning to clear and cut and peg and hammer and dig.
Hedge

He never spoke much of that war; well, not about the actual fighting.  The scars that it had left him with couldn’t be hidden.  Over breaks for a cup of tea or lunch, he would speak bitterly of the politicians of the time; angrily about the generals that sent boys to war and into skirmishes or battles they were not prepared for; and sadly of all who died.  The way he spoke, at times you could imagine that for him the ordinary soldiers of both sides were a joint army that lost a war, to an army comprising all the generals and politicians of both sides.

Having been bombed out of his home in the Second World War, Bert lived a quiet life with his wife in a prefab home built immediately after that war to address the housing need. His friends, he told me, had all joined up on the same day as he had. They had joined the same company in the county regiment, trained together, and gone to war together. He lived a quiet life because he had had no friends left, nor sought any more, since April 1918.

When he talked of the war, he would tell me, “it was hell”. He would turn away to try and mask the pain on his face. The few times he mentioned his friends he never did that, nor did he wipe the tears away – perhaps that would have been to deny them.

On Sunday we will attend the service of remembrance at the local memorial as we do each year. I never knew Bert’s friends, any more than I knew my great uncles who came back from Australia to fight – but we will remember them; and him.

Poppys

Bikes, Trikes; and going Full Fat for Frozen Fitness.

Cycle Show

During a visit to the recent Cycle Show at the NEC, at one stand I was taken back to the days of the eighties and nineties when bicycle design and evolution was being driven by world class innovators and designers.  Bicycles from the past were examined again by designers who were looking back at other eras, for solutions that could be adapted to provide an answer to contemporary design hurdles. At the same time, riders were keen to explore new machines and styles of riding.

Waller

This loft-find Arthur Waller ‘Kingsland’ bike, currently awaiting conservation work at Blue Door Bicycles, has twin tapering tubes. replacing the seat tube. to facilitate a shorter wheelbase design for hill climbing. Designed at the end of the 1940’s, it typifies the kind of details that were providing inspiration.

This new wave of interest developed a subsidiary culture, epitomised by the launch of the Jim McGurn edited Bike Culture Quarterly and, later in the nineties, Recumbent UK.

Perhaps the best-known bikes from that era are Graham Obree’s ‘Old Faithful’, famously incorporating washing machine parts, with which he won the 1 hour record; and the Mike Burrows designed Lotus superbikes with which Chris Boardman won an Olympic gold medal and later also took the hour record.  When the hour record bikes from Merckx in 1972 to Boardman in 1996 are looked at, this evolution in design, materials and riding position can clearly be seen. I’ve omitted the bikes used by Miguel Indurain and Tony Rominger.

MerckxMoserObreeLotus

The story of Graham Obree and his bikes can be found in the film, ‘The Flying Scotsman’, based on the book with which it shares a title.  It really is the story of a slightly eccentric inventor working in his shed. Boardman’s contrasting story, as a rider and director of British Cycling, can be found in his autobiography. He continues to be an innovator with the newly opened Boardman Performance Centre at the cutting edge of developing rider performance.

Books

In 1994 the sport’s ruling body, the UCI, outlawed the ski-tuck position used by Obree and praying mantis position used by Moser. This led to riders using the superman position with the arms out in front – illustrated on the cover of Obree’s book above.  In 1997 they changed the rules so that bikes once again had to be similar to that used by Merckx.  This brought an end to developments like the monoblade front “fork”, examples of which had been produced by Burrows for both the Obree and Boardman bikes as well as his own ‘Ratcatcher’ recumbent. Innovation was now firmly back in the realms of smaller independent companies or designers, and keen amateurs.

In the UK, Cresswell Engineering were producing the Rapide, a long wheelbase recumbent bike with underseat steering taken over by Pashley, the Kingsburys sold about 500 Kingcycles, whilst others were supplying a range of short and long wheelbase recumbents with above and below the seat steering.

Grid

These bikes were taken to extremes of design and performance under the auspices of the British Human Power Club, who produced a booklet on how to build a recumbent for very few pounds. A similar book can still be purchased today from their website.

HPV Book

This was a challenge taken on by many amateurs, some adapting proprietary bikes such as this Moulton based machine photographed around 1993.

Moulton recumbent

Artisan frame builders were re-engineering designs from the past – like the Suttons building new Pedersen based on original designs, in their midlands engineering works.  When Dr Alex Moulton brought out the space frame design, which to my eyes had at least an echo of the Pedersen; oh, did I want a Moulton Speed S with its polished metal frame.

Moulton

My favourite recumbent bike to ride from that the era was the Kingcycle. As someone who never came to terms with under-seat steering, my brain could cope with the handlebars in a semi traditional position. Although I never owned one of my own, I did get to ride one from time to time. As somebody with a large frontal area, I loved the aerodynamic efficiency that came from riding in a recumbent position.  When the front fairing and rear box were fitted, the air resistance was reduced even further.  It may have been purely psychological, but riding a Kingcycle fully fitted out like this gave a sense of having more presence on the road.

Kingcycle

Unfortunately, I have lost my photo albums and negatives from this period, so some of these pictures are from the scrap pile which did survive.  The following picture is of four Kingcycles, with contrasting levels of fairing. From about 1992, they show what good use could be made of a carpark when supermarkets were closed all day on a Sunday.

racing kcycle

I spent one memorable evening during that period sitting, with about 40 other people, in a room listening to, first, Alex Moulton, and then Mike Burrows, talk about bike design. It was a convivial evening that went well beyond the allotted time. The question time at the end really was a case of two great engineers and bicycle designers, of different generations, openly sharing with, and inspiring, potential designers, riders and politicians of the next.

Various cargo and multi-use bike platforms were available particularly from European manufacturers. It is in recent years, however, that these have become more popular in the UK. Delivery services using cargo bikes are available in major cities now, and can be booked by app rather like an uber cab.  I regularly see a Tern ebike, similar to the one in this picture but with child seats bolted to the deck, being used to take two young children to nursery.

Tern

The use this Surly was being put to, as seen at this year’s Cycle Show, appealed a little more.

Surley

Back to the last century. With new materials and equipment becoming available, a whole new range of design concept became realisable. Some designers were exploring recumbents with a tricycle concept.

John Bradshaw (one of the founders of Cyclefest) and his Team Martin even appeared on the BBC flagship science programme, ‘Tomorrows World’. Their trike, the Avant, had a single front wheel with hub centred steering. Uniquely (Flevobike fans might disagree) it had a pivot mid-way along it so that the front part, carrying the rider, could bank side to side separately to the load carrying area behind.  This allowed the rider to aid the steering by leaning into corners like a traditional bike.

My pictures of this recumbent trike are gone, but I do at least have the memory of one evening, whilst staying with John, riding the Avant around in the road outside his house. At the risk of being indiscrete, his garage was like my idea of a mancave, before mancaves were known as that.  A Morgan car – Canadian spec, vintage Arial motorcycles, a 19th Century ordinary (penny farthing), a Kingcycle and a Pedersen; are just some of the items I recall. A rather special mancave me thinks.

montage

Some other recumbent trike builders experimented with a traditional trike layout but with rear-wheel steering; perhaps the most advanced being the Sidewinder with its differential and twin disk brakes. This layout never really worked and the ‘tadpole’ shape with two front and one rear wheel became the norm.

In the more traditional trike world some designers were also experimenting with this format for touring trikes. From memory Derek Shackles was producing a model with an Ackermann type steering geometry.

trice

Whilst other designs such as the AnthroTech or Rubicon were available, the main designs I saw around the UK at that time were the Greenspeed imported from Australia, the Mike Burrows  ‘Windcheetah’, and the Peter Ross/Crystal Engineering ‘Trice’.  The picture below is a Windcheetah being piloted by someone who follows this blog.

Pascal

The Windcheetah and the Rubicon had the rear wheel fixed on one side only and joystick style steering and controls. Predominantly these were built for speed with fully enclosed versions of the Windcheetah being seen on the racetrack.  Another had a small jet engine attached to it!

The Greenspeed and Trice were designed to be more utilitarian and designed to be fitted with rear racks. The Trice could even be supplied with a rear box as an accessory item. To be fair Greenspeed went on to produce the faster ‘Aerospeed’. Over the last couple of decades, in some cases driven by the growth in paracycling competition, design and performance of the recumbent trike has developed rapidly.

So, what was it at the Cycle Show that brought these memories back? It was the ICE or Inspired Cycle Engineering stand.  A brilliant range of recumbent trikes but with some tiny part of the DNA of Peter Ross’ Trice still visible.

Ross

Besides building the Trice in the UK, deals were negotiated for it to produced under licence in the USA and China. Ross was also working on designs for a multi person pedal propelled vehicle.

Cartoon

With Peter wanting to retire, in 1998 Inspired Cycle Engineering, or ICE, was established By Neil Selwood and Chris Parker and bought the rights to the Peter Ross designs which they then produced.

Leap forward 20 years and WOW.  Forget Britain being the centre of excellence for Formula 1 or the country that gave the Landrover to the world.  The human powered equivalent of both of these can be found in Cornwall and the trikes produced by ICE.  If you watched any of the cycling from the recent Invictus Games in Australia, you will have seen not only inspiring racing and sportsmanship, but ICE trikes being raced “full gas”.

Many machines designed for performance are ugly, whilst other become objects of pure beauty. Quite definitely in this latter category is the ICE VTX Black.  And don’t be thinking that it’s all fur coat no performance.  It was the winner of the Multi-Track class at the World HPV Championships which, this year, were held in Kent. That makes it the fastest trike in the world this year.

ICE VTX

ICE also make trikes for touring or general poodling about. For that you may want to look at their Adventure range. The bike in their range I was drawn to (and subsequently been on their website to spec and cost), was the Full Fat.

When I sat on the Full Fat it was so comfortable, forget riding it – I want one to replace my favourite chair. It also brought a smile to my face; it made me grin.  Oh yeah, it also holds an amazing record.  Five years ago, Maria Leijerstam rode an early Full Fat from the edge of the Antarctic continent to the South Pole in 10 days, becoming the first person ever to make that journey entirely by pedal power. That makes it the first, only, and fastest bike to be used in achieving that feat – a sort of triple record in one.

Pole Book Full Fat

If you hadn’t already guessed it, the Full Fat is high up on my bicycling bucket list.  Perhaps a trip to Cornwall and a test ride is on the cards.  How would I get one home do I hear you ask? ICE trikes fold up niftier than your average golf trolley.

ICES

Before you go, it would be appreciated if you ‘liked’ this page. It would be brilliant if you shared it on your social media. You could become a shining star in my digital firmament by choosing to ‘Follow’ me. Many thanks, Peter.

Bikes and Beer – or how to have a night out for a fiver.

Last Wednesday evening I attended a lecturette on Adventure Cycling by Barry Godin. It was hosted by Cadence Performance Centre at Crystal Palace. All it cost was £5.00 and there was a free beer and sweets thrown in as well.

cadence

Barry Godin is not only a keen bikepacking adventurer, but an enthusiastic advocate for the sport. He spends a lot of his spare time cycling many of the remoter parts of the UK, as well as trips to foreign parts.  We were treated to an entertaining evening that explained what bike packing is, and what sort of kit you need to bikepack,  Adventure cycling is what we used to call cycle camping, but using modern bikes that are better equipped and adapted for more rugged terrains.

Screen

At the end of this blog I’ll put some links to Barry’s social media and video sites.  The latter are well worth a visit for, as we discovered during the evening, he is a keen film maker. Perhaps you would be good enough to follow this blog though before leaving.

It was as much the nature of the evening and what it wasn’t, as much as the content and delivery style, that made it enjoyable.

It was presented by an athlete; a former extreme mountain biker. He was not however, some imperious athlete whose maleness was so alpha that even the most dominant of silverbacks would quail in his presence. It was not a celebration of exotica – it included video of trips to Morocco and the Alps; but rides across Devon, Wiltshire and Scotland were talked of with the same enthusiasm.

During the evening we were shown the kit that Barry takes on his trips and a demonstration of how it all fits on his bike. This included how he can pack enough food to be self-supporting for two or three weeks. It wasn’t an exhibition of possessions – whilst for some items he may have suggested purchasing the best you could afford; for others he talked about things that people had made for themselves, or purchased from ebay. At least when it came to his underwear bag he coyly refrained from displaying the contents.  He had prepared and distributed booklets which not only gave his kit list, but the reason for including each item.

Barry Bike

The subject of wild camping was discussed and especially the limitations on where you can legally camp in England and Wales.  The impression I gained from Barry was that he’d not had a problem in this regard, but that he did choose where he camped with a degree of sensitivity.

If you want some help with this try visiting the wild camping page of campsites.co.uk. There are other websites that are aimed at the novice wild camper that giver further advice.  My first trip was with an experienced wild camper who, before we set off, reduced my kit by a drastic amount. Lesson 1 learnt. (I still tend to walk or ride with too much, so perhaps it wasn’t lesson learnt).

I don’t think the words passed his lips, but what he demonstrated was that adventure cycling is accessible to all whatever the budget or level of cycling ability. What I liked was some of the philosophy behind the trips that he makes.

He introduced the concept of mini adventures. For him, the inspiration for these can perhaps be seeing a feature on a map, or an interesting picture of a place.

These are rides that can be made whenever one has two or three days available. This was illustrated with details of a trip made on the Kennet and Avon canal in Southern England. In this case he had camped actually on the side of the canal itself. Like myself, Barry is enthusiastic about the cycling possibilities offered by the UKs canal network.

Enfield island

In the past I have had various flirtations with the world of inland waterways.  Knowing that the water beneath the hull probably won’t come above your waist, and that dry land is only a few centimetres away, means that any excitement scores very low on the frisson scale of thrillingness.  Cycling the canals can be like that too. Yesterday I cycled 20 miles of the Lee navigation and, according to my satnav, gained less than 30 metres in height.

This does not mean that the canal network is without interest or not worth riding. You won’t get climbs (especially if you hitch a lift through any tunnels that a canal passes through), cliff-edge rides or technical descents. What you will get are well maintained traffic-free tracks across the length and breadth of the UK.

Broxbourne

When the first railways were built they often followed the route of a canal so that they could compete for its trade.  As a result, many of the canals are easily accessed by rail at various points along their route, making linear rides far more practicable.  They give great access to the countryside although, on a sunny Sunday some canal paths become pretty congested with walkers, runners, people fishing, dogs, and parts of canal boat removed to facilitate repairs.

Cafe

If there is a canalside café with a lot of bikes locked up outside, it usually means that the cake is worth stopping for.

Barry shared with us how he prepares for his mini adventures. This includes studying maps to find routes and places of interest, and then downloading the routes to his phone and bicycle satnav. The various aps that he uses can be found from his social media pages.  Attention to detail like this maximises the time riding and enjoying the environment through which he is passing. Listening to him, it is clear that maximising the time for film making is also important.  Just a warning – if you start watching his videos, an evening can quickly disappear.

I am so grateful that I went to a school where the geography master was a former RAF navigator with an obsessive interest in maps. He was a champion of Ordnance Survey and expected us to not only be able to identify the features on a map, but to understand the implications of those features. Lesson one was being given a map and told to identify which footpath you would probably want to wear wellington boots whilst walking it.  He was also a keen amateur meteorologist, but his predictions were best treated with scepticism.  50 years on, I still look at a map and try and visualise what the terrain may look like.  Google earth and satnavs are no substitute – in extremis in the middle of nowhere, a map doesn’t have a battery to go flat.

If you want to get to grips with maps, last week Ordnance survey published this book which may help you to hone your skills.

Map Book

For many of us, our working life includes accruing CPD points to show that we are keeping our knowledge and expertise up to date.  A few years ago I decided I should apply the same to some other aspects of life. This may have been influenced by being employed as a health and safety advisor, but included the purchase and study of a couple of Cicerone guides – Map and Compass; and, Mountain Weather.

Guides

Even just writing about this gives me a yearning for the intellectual challenge – when the weather gets really wintery then I think a couple of days in the hills with map and compass are called for.

As promised, some social media links for Barry Godin:

Facebook
Vimeo 
Twitter
YouTube

Velodrome

Yesterday I left the River Lee at Stratford as the setting sun was lighting-up the Lee Valley Velopark.

Going all the Wey on a Sunny September Evening

Dapdune

I love riding and walking by canals and rivers, Not only is there the whole water thing going on, but life somehow seems calmer. The natural environment and ecosystems around these watery routes have so much to offer. It was perfectly natural therefore, that when I visited the Richmond Championship Dog Show at the beginning of September, I should choose to cycle home along the River Wey Navigation and River Thames.

Just in case you are wondering, a navigation is a river or other natural water feature that has been developed so that it can be navigable by boat or barge. They differs from canals, which are man made rather than the adaption of a natural water course.

Opened in 1653, the Wey is the second oldest navigation in the UK.  This was a full century before the commencement of what is sometimes called the canal age, and three years before the Great Fire of London. Following that conflagration the Wey Navigation played a major role in the rebuilding of the city. It became the main supply route for building timber from the forests of Surrey and Hampshire, and also for chalk and Guildford stone.

Since 1964 it has been owned and managed by the National Trust.  This has meant that much of the character has remained.

Leaving Losely Hall, site of the show, I headed for Guildford and was able join the Wey Navigation at the point, about a mile short of the town centre, where it is crossed by the North Downs way. Accessing it by means of Ferry Lane gives an indication of the past, although there is now a foot bridge for the pilgrims and others on the trail to Canterbury.

grottoI have never taken the time to try and understood the Victorian fixation with faux grottos – but there is one where a freshwater spring comes out of the ground at the end of Ferry Lane; where this view of the Wey is also found.

Ferry Lane

A few yards on, and the outskirts of Guildford centre can be seen on the hillside across the water meadows.   There are sluices in the side of the navigation that can be opened to release water onto these meadows.  Originally, they were developed with channels and drains so that as they flooded the water and nutrient rich silt would flood evenly across them.

After a dry winter, water meadows would be deliberately flooded to help the ground warm in the spring and promote plant growth. Traditionally they would be used to produce hay and not grazed until after Lammas. This also promoted the growth of wild flowers and other plants that made up the water meadow ecosystems. Sadly, the drive for productivity in the second half of the 20th Century resulted in a large numbers of these meadows being drained and ‘improved’.

Lammas

Watermeadows

As a teenager I loved cutting grass for hay on nearby water meadows. They had not been ploughed in living memory, if ever, and the sward was full of wildflowers, herbs and vetches. The smell of that hay was always fantastic and in the middle of winter would still smell of summer. If you are interested in conserving or restoring water meadows, visit the Floodplain Meadow Partnership website

Shalford House

These meadows by the Wey were part of the estate of Shalford House. This was demolished in 1968, thereby sharing the fate that befell so many country houses in the 1950s and 60s.  When these houses were built the land around them would be landscaped and often planted with exotic or unusual, for that location, species of tree.  Half a century or more after the buildings disapeared, it is those trees, or those seeded from them, that survive as a testament of what has happened within that landscape.

feather boa trea

All this, and we are still at the bottom of Ferry Lane.   The ride into Guildford along the South Wey Path took just a few minutes on a good surface and I was soon at Millmead Lock set in a sort of riverside park complete with attractive footbridges over weirs and spillways.

Malmead lock

At Millmead lock the attractive features of the navigation are overshadowed by more modern structures that seem to have been erected with little consideration of the environment in which they sit.  A few yards further along there is a repeat of this with Town Mill which is dominated by a modernist building that houses a department store, beyond which lies Town Bridge.

Triptych

Beyond the Town Bridge, across the river from the path I was riding on, was the town wharf.  A wooden goods shed, gibbet crane and sculpture of a bargee or a wharfinger may have been a representation of times past, but did nothing to hide the mass of concrete.

Diptych

Unfortunately I was not able to tarry and explore Guildford properly – that will have to wait for another visit. Moving along the riverside path there was little of note with the buildings being mostly commercial and either modern, or restored older properties but with little of the original left to commend them.  To be fair though this did appear to be the commercial and industrial part of town.  An exception to this was the old electricity works which has been converted into a music and events venue.

Electric Theatre

A few minutes riding and the path passes opposite Dapdune Wharf which can be accessed by means of an overbridge.  When I was walking this section of the Wey on another occasion I discovered that the café and toilets can be used without having to pay to enter the wharf itself, which is the National Trust’s visitor centre for the Navigation.  It has at times been a boat, or barge, building yard as well as a commercial wharf.

Dapdune 2

Past the footbridge are a few sculptures, presumably to soften the impact of the adjacent industrial estate and steel fencing. This particular work represents a grain of pollen. Others were stainless steel outlines of fish atop of rusting poles, and chairs cut from tree trunks and set amongst some new tree planting.  Guildford Public Art webpage gives more details.

pollen

This was where I also gained my only glimpse of Guildford Cathedral, part framed by that 8ft high fencing.

Cathedral

Continuing-on brought an encounter with the A3 and I was soon at Stoke Mill which is where Guildford is left behind and the proper country section of the ride begins.

Duo

The rest of the Journey will have to wait for another day.  If you are interested in exploring the Wey Navigation, then some walking information is available on the National Trust website.  You may like to buy this book by one of this country’s more accomplished walkers –  John Merrill.  It is available from the author’s website and some book retailers.

Book

 

 

The Omnium of Oddities

Mark Beaumont, who has cycled 18000 miles around the world not once, but twice, is to blame for this particular blog.   Most recently, this serial circumnavigator completed the journey in less than 80 days, knocking more than 100 days off the previous record which he himself had set.

When you’ve done all of that, I guess new challenges have a lot to live up to; so attempting to beat one of the longest standing records in world cycling must seem a natural thing to do. It is the world 1 hour record…  for the penny farthing.  It was set in 1886 by a Mr A Rowe who achieved a distance of 22miles and 150 yards.

Rowe

So how did Beaumont do? He managed to ride 21 miles and 1,619 yards In 1 hour which was a new British record, Unfortunately this was just under one mile short of the record of 1886.

This 15 minute Global Cycling Network video gives a background to the record attempt and a quick tutorial on how to ride a penny farthing.

Vid

Following the record attempt, Mark Beaumont proposed the idea of a TV programme following a group of like-minded riders attempting to break various old records.

Shortly after that the ITV cycling commentator @nedboulting tweated this picture  of Paris cargo-bike riders prepaing to race.

Cargo trikes

Pderson Book

 

Coincidentally, at that time I had been searching for my copy of ‘The Ingenious Mr. Pederson’ by David Evans, which contains this picture of a 4 person Pedersen bike – one of the riders being Mr. Pederson himself.

Ped quad
That started me thinking. The idea for an Omnium of Oddities was the result

The Omnium is a cycling competition, rather like a heptathlon in athletics, made up of a number of different events from which the competitors gain points. At the end of the competition the overall winner is determined by the points accumulated across all the events.

The standards track racing omnium has been slashed and is a shadow of what it was. So, I thought to myself, why not an omnium built around older designs of bike that test other riding skills as well. The penny farthing one hour race could be included as a sort of blue riband event.  For the other events new records would be set, and stand to be challenged in the future.

Comprising several events, the omnium format also lends itself well to television.  Each race has its own winner and then there is an overall winner.  If the events are spread over several programmes, then each has its high point and natural conclusion with the crowning of individual  race winners, whilst maintaining interest and building to the ultimate series ending through following the progress of the overall leaders.

Traditionally the omnium tested the full ability of a track rider. There were sprints, endurance races, and the need for great awareness and an astute racing brain.  In some races individual riders can gain additional points, so mathematical ability is necessary for them to be able to follow where they are in terms of scoring and position against their competitors.  These days the big screens erected for the spectators’ benefit also help the riders in this regard.

So what form would the Omnium of Oddities take?

Let’s start with the the delivery or Cargo Bikes.   In many inner cities around the world cargo bikes make a significant contribution to the total goods delivered reducing the number of motor vehicles and resulting congestion and resulting pollution. The kind of tasks bikes and riders have to perform in this kind of work lends itself to some kind of skills test based around an obstacle course.

obstacles

I envisaged something that combined to all the best parts of a dog agility course, a downhill skiing slalom course, and a pony show jumping course.   Each obstacle or ‘jump’ would reflect some aspect of the challenges that were being encountered by the Parisian delivery rider of the early 20th Century as well as by the riders of today.

Scoring could be similar to that of show jumping.  Besides the time taken, riders would be awarded four fault points for each obstacle that they failed to negotiate cleanly.  If a rider was preparing for an obstacle, but before starting it decided to circle and try for a better approach, then this could be classed as a ‘refusal’ and three fault points awarded.  In the omnium results of each race are turned into points, so the show jumping scoring system would integrate very easily into it.

The obstacles may include:

  • Having to first load packages on to the delivery trike;
  • Weaving in and out of ‘gates’ slalom style to reflect going down a  cluttered narrow alley;
  • A pathway with cones either side to ride between that includes a right angle or u-turn – each cone hit would incur a fault point for the rider;
  • A ‘jump’ where the bar has to be cycled under rather than jumped over, and the rider fails if they hit it rather than ducking their head sufficiently;
  • The Seesaw, a fixture in dog agility courses worldwide. The rider would have to ride on to the seesaw, find the tipping point, and ride off;
  • As delivery riders encounter gulleys, gutters and potholes full of water; a water jump would provide a bit of variety and spectacle;
  • The loading bay – the rider having to approach and stop with the front of the bike 25mm from it. Hitting would count as a fault and a built-in laser measuring device would rank each rider and how well they judged the distance. Assuming that the bikes had fixed gearing, the rider could then reverse out to continue the course.

These obstacles, put in the right order with some perhaps attempted in each direction, would create a test of the rider’s handling skills.  Going against the clock adds tension and promotes crowd involvement right from the get go. Interestingly, the aforementioned Mr. Beaumont has both skied and show jumped, so one might think he would be a natural at this.

Sometimes a parcel is urgent so the above round could be followed by a simple sprint where all that matters is crossing the line first

tricycle

Tricycle racing is not new and, indeed, the Tricycle Association are very active in promoting a number of events.

My first experience riding a racing tricycle, many years ago now, ended in a close encounter with a wet ditch and then a blackthorn hedge.  Steering and cornering were dark arts I never really mastered, and I quickly decided that trikes were not for me – until I discovered recumbents trikes that is.   What era of trike technology used in the Omnium of Oddities would have to be decided on. For example, it could be a single fixed rear axle; split axles with drive to one wheel only, or a hi-tech arrangement with some kind of differential arrangement.  As I would not wish to suggest modern tricycles are in any way an oddity, I would propose replicating a pre-war design, which may not look so different from the machines of today but would embrace older technology and riding challenges.

As the riders cornering skills contribute so much to tricycling success, a criterium type course may suit this event. Rather than a flat out track race.

Pederson Tandem

As more people have discovered a pleasures of riding a Pedersen bicycle with its hammock mount saddle, over the last 40 years a number of independent frame makers have reproduced the design.  This tandem Pedersen was being ridden in a group ride I participated in. From memory it was about 1990.  I’m not aware of any ridable quad Pedersons like the one in the picture below.  There are however, frame builders who could manufacture some for a competition of this type.

Peder 2

If the number of participants in the Omnium of Oddities was a multiple of four, then the riders could be split up into teams decided by the drawing of lots.  Each team to be given, say, 10 minutes to set up the seating, decide what order they are going to be on the four seater Pederson bike, and 10 minutes to practice riding together.  This process would add a degree of randomness to the event, make it more interesting and the outcome unpredictable.  The riders would share the points awarded to each bike at the end of the event.  There would be scope for this to be some kind of pursuit type event, a flying lap, or a kilo ride.

It would introduce another bike type and be a test of strength and teamwork as opposed to the bike handling skills required by the previously outlined events.  Perhaps adaptability of riding style may prove to be more beneficial here than pure power.

If standard single Pederson cycles were also used then there is scope to introduce a Kieran or, by drawing lots to pair riders up,  a mini Madison with all the madness of a standard Madison.

Velocipede

Depending on the budget to build new replica machines, or there being sufficient available to race, then a range of other events could be added. Personally I would love to see a velocipede race.

cfest

If the Omnium of Oddities was to incorporate a penny farthing hour race when any record attempts could be made, then perhaps that should be the first event whilst riders are fresh.  The penny farthing could bookend the whole competition if the last event was a penny farthing devil, or elimination race.  Always an enjoyable and entertaining race, especially if a devil, with trident to tap the riders with, is on the track.

Whilst they may easily be classed as oddities, I have not including any recumbents as they merit there own place in a separate human powered vehicle story. At least two recumbent designs feature in my bicycle bucket list though.  More details from the  British Human Power Club.

So a race schedule which could, with explanations of the bikes being used and other nuggets of cycling history, easily make a four-part TV series.

Race 1 – Pennyfarthing one-hour race.
Race 2 – Cargo-bike handling competition.
Race 3 – Cargo-bike sprint
Race 4 – Tricycle criterium or points race
Race 5 – Pederson (quad) pursuit race
Race 6 – Pederson (standard) Madison race
Race 7 – Pennyfarthing Devil take the hindmost race.

There you have it, an Omnium of Oddities that could be fitted in to a three day cycling festival or be a TV programme and competition.

 

 

The Comforting Hug of the Familiar

or a Day at a Dog Show in Surrey

I recently visited the Richmond Championship Dog Show, confusingly not held at Richmond, but at Loseley Park near Guildford.  The show had a comforting familiarity to it, no doubt due to the many agricultural shows that I used to visit.  With all these outdoor shows,  the weather makes such a difference.  Like Glastonbury, one year you can be wallowing in mud and, on another such as this year, enjoying a mellow late summer’s day.

Richmond

When I started out in my working life, I was required to visit agricultural shows across the south of England. These ranged from the Royal Cornwall Show to the Suffolk Show near Ipswich.  However, it was the smaller events such as the Melplash Show near Bridport in Dorset; or, towards the end of the season, the Moreton in the Marsh Show in Gloucestershire, that really appealed.  These were small one day shows still very much rooted in the local community.  Having a champion ram or bull at one of these events, meant that for the next year the breeder could walk around the local livestock market with a bit of swagger.  I spent a lot of time at these shows, mostly with the farmers who had entered livestock and were competing for the various titles.

These memories were brought back by attending the annual Richmond Championship Dog Show which has been running since 1895. This makes it one of the longest established and best known dog shows in the UK. There was a large field with Marquees containing show rings, benching areas and facilities for judges and Stewards.  There were also the obligatory avenues of trade stands from where everything you may possibly need for your dog could be obtained.  There was even one stand producing rosettes so that, as far as I could see, if one of your dogs had failed to win anything, it could return to its kennel mates head held high with the rosette of its own!

Richmond 2

It is the people participating in the shows that make them the wonderful experiences that they are.  How individual breeders deal with the capricious nature of this “sport” is an entertainment in itself.  The way they show the elation of winning, or explain defeat, never changes.  “He has received some lovely comments today”, is easily interpreted as my animal hasn’t done very well but I still think this is a wonderful example of the breed.  A complicated explanation of how the person showing the animal has previously fallen out with the judge, can be an honest explanation for why an animal has not performed as well as it should.  Alternatively, it can be as about as honest an explanation as that given by a football manager for why the referee should have awarded a penalty to his player who had clearly dived.

Show folk, whatever kind of animal involved, wherever they are in the world, all want to show their animal to its best advantage. Then it can be compared to those of their friends and neighbours who, for this one day, are their fiercest rivals.  It is not just the show animal that has to look good – the handlers will wear the required “uniform”.  These sheep were being shown two weeks ago in Garmisch, Bavaria.

Garmisch

In the UK we don’t have a national dress as such. Travelling around the shows I soon discovered that, underneath the regulation smart clean white coat worn in the show ring, there were regional styles that the well dressed show person would wear.  This was propagated and adopted at a young age. Most of the small shows would have a ‘Young Handlers’ class, or one for children to show an animal they had supposedly cared for and prepared themselves. If these children were not wearing a small white coat, then you may see them in check shirt and, perhaps, a tweedy style waistcoat and tie. If the norm for that area was a flat cap, or a trilby, then some would be wearing the appropriate hat as well. Judging by the pictures from Garmisch, the thing there is to wear the traditional Tyrolean hat.

Its interesting to compare the differing approaches that judges take to these children’s classes. For some it’s purely about the animal, whilst others will take in to account the knowledge and skills that the child has displayed, and how they handle the creature they are showing. Its definitely a case of the best animal may not always be placed first.

Garmisch2

My reason for being at the Richmond show was to meet up with friends and acquaintances.  Much of the social aspect of any show takes place at the ringside as people gather, not only to see how the animals they have an interest in do, but also to see how good the opposition are.  Others will be identifying future breeding stock  and bloodlines that they may like to buy into.  Some individuals and groups will stake claim to a piece of the ringside and set up camp with chairs, bags, umbrellas or parasols, and assorted sundry paraphernalia.  A most important aspect of this is the breaking of bread and sharing of food. As basic a social activity as you could find.

Richmond 3

An English friend visiting from Hungry, provided a bacon butty.  A real Hungarian, who was showing on the day, provided some of Loseley Hall’s own ice cream from a nearby stand.  Also there was the associate editor / specialist vetinary advisor for some of the dog books I’ve been associated with over the last couple of decades.  Being Austrian, the torte that he had made and brought was absolutely glorious.  At the end of the afternoon I didn’t have to take an extra slice away with me, but with a 28 mile bicycle ride home I certainly chose to.   I was even able to exchange a few words with a breeder I had last spoken to a dozen or so years ago on the day when one of his dogs became the Crufts Supreme Champion.

As I wandered around the showground there was the opportunity to see examples of the various breeds of dog being shown on the day.  On this first day of the show it was breeds from the toy and the hound groups.  My favourite dog of the day was a lovely Otter Hound which, annoyingly, I failed to photograph.

Obviously, no one wants to go back to the days of hunting otters with dogs, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t admire a beautiful animal.  For show people it is the breed points and the Kennel Club standard for the dog that is important.  However, when you’re walking across a show field sometimes an animal just has something about it, perhaps the way it walks or shows its character, that attracts your attention.   That was what happened with this otter hound.

Ch Dowagerr

A few months ago I was stood in a field loking at some white rhinos. This otter hound was actually far rarer. With only a few hundred worldwide, the otter hound is twice as rare as the giant panda. As this year’s Overground Festival reintroduced a dog show of sorts, to Crystal Palace, it provides an excuse to show this champion otter hound from 1907.

Those of you who have come across my writings elsewhere, will know that I’m a big fan of the woodcuts and illustrations of  C F Tunnicliffe. One of my earliest encounters with his work was his illustrations for Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson.  As a 10 year old the book was quite a dark experience and cemented within me a view on the hunting of animals with dogs, that has never changed.  Unfortunately I haven’t been able to gain permission to reproduce any of these images.

Recently I was given a copy of: ‘Charles Tunnicliffe: Prints : a Catalogue Raisonné’.

Tunnicliffe

This is a fantastic publication produced by the Royal Academy of Arts. The quality of the paper, the printing, and the binding are all superb. The amount of illustration per pound, whether by weight or by cost, makes this book outstanding value as well.

Charles Tunnicliffe: Prints : a Catalogue Raisonné.  By Robert Meyrick & Harry Heuser, Hardcover, 336 pages, published by Royal Society of Arts, ISBN 1910350648.

This blog was meant to detail my ride home from the Richmond Show along the River Wey Navigation. That will now be a seperate blog.