|Brighton & Hove Clarion Cycling Club|
Dear fellow members and friends
4 February 2008
Best wishes to our Social Secretary, who is recovering from his operation. Hope to see you out and about without crutches before too long, Ed,
Here are the remaining dates 2, (Jim), 16, 30 March; 13, 27 April; 11, 25 May ; 8, 22 June; 6, 20 July, 3, 17, 31 Aug; 14, 28 Sept, 12 Oct, 2, 16, 30 Nov, 14 Dec.
There are now several people besides me who are actively planning rides from time to time (Hurrah!). So we need to be a bit systematic about things. This is how I propose we operate.
If anyone has a better idea – or can see any snags in what I'm proposing, please let me know. As you see, Jim has 'spoken' for 2 March – but we have still nothing definite for 30 March – and I'll be in Vienna so it can't be me!
BNP and Upper Beeding
Readers of the Observer – and more recently of the Argus – will have seen Simon (and in the case of the Argus, Bob too) quoted in connection with their efforts to prevent the BNP getting a foothold on the local parish council. [Apparently there was something even more recently in the Mail but I can't open the attachment Simon has sent me.] I'm sure I speak for everyone in saying that we support them wholeheartedly. I've asked Simon to write us a piece for this Circular once the crucial election is over.
Badges or books anyone?
I've still got a few moulded silver trumpet Clarion badges at £6 available to members and some copies of Denis Pye's history of the Clarion CC – Fellowship is Life - at £4.95 (available to anyone). I'll be revealing the origins of the badge in the next Circular, by the way. I intend to return the ones that we don't need fairly soon. So if you'd like either a badge or a copy of the little book please let me know. As with subs don't worry about sending the money straightaway – although I would like it eventually, of course, but just tell me and I'll reserve it for you.
The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club – the very beginning
The story is of course told in the Denis Pye book, and he quotes quite a few bits of what follows. But I thought you might like to read the whole of the letter that first announced the existence of the Clarion CC. It's quite long, so I've put it at the back after the details of the next ride and the report of the last one. I'd be grateful for some feedback on this. It takes some time and effort digging such things out. I'm quite happy to see if I can continue the story with the some of the next reports to appear – but it's only worth doing that if people are interested. Let me know if you are, please!
The Next Ride
As Jim and Leon will bear me out, it's a particularly frustrating time to be trying to plan Sunday cycle rides at the moment. Every idea one has seems knocked on the head when you check the railways and find the dreaded words 'replacement bus'. The line westwards seems to be the only one readily available for our next ride. Roger has recently organised one based on the Worthing/Littlehampton area so that seemed to leave Chichester. Of regular rides from there the full Chichester Harbour one we've done every year is out for now– no Itchenor ferry at this time of year. I considered the whole of the Centurion Way with lunch at The Fox Goes Free - quite short, but then remembering the big hill over the Downs for the return I decided that might be better left till later when we've all got a bit fitter. Dell Quay was a contender, but then I remembered the Salterns Way and the bank of the Chichester Canal – not likely to be water up over our handlebars like poor Jim on the Downs Link but still might be a bit dodgy so early in the year.
Then I recalled one we did – just me and Fred as it turned out – nearly two years ago to the Hampshire border in search of an area marked on the map as New Brighton (not to be confused with the 'real' New Brighton opposite Liverpool). The only problem we had was near-starvation. We could only find pubs that either didn't do food on Sundays at all (amazingly you might think) or where either pre-booking or a two or three hour wait (or both) were the order of the day. It was awful – Fred was visibly wasting away. When I was riding behind him it was as though his bike was travelling along without a rider so dreadfully was he suffering from the lack of nourishment. Well, we don't want that again!
I have a hang-up about talking to people I don't know on the 'phone so I got Sue to do the enquiring for me. (Thanks again.) She drew a blank at first – no food on Sunday at the (inaptly named from our point of view) Good Intent but both the White Horse and the Stag's Head in Westbourne should be OK. Or so they say. We can decide which when we get there. Both are very close to each other
Sunday 17 February 2008
Fellow oldsters may recall Nairn's passionate and fascinating TV programmes long ago on townscape, town planning and architecture. I think I'm right in saying that West Sussex was his only contribution to the series; he found the Pevneresque detail required more than a bit irksome after a while. His intro – in 1965 remember ended by saying – rather unexpectedly –
And the point is? That all the following quotes are from Nairn.
West Stoke, he tells us is 'Surprisingly remote, at the exact point where the Downs meets the plain.
In the 'two hamlets' of East and West Ashling, we will see some 'pretty timber framed cottages' There are two good ones in West Ashling – Hills Cottage 'probably C17' and Old Quinnings 'perhaps a little earlier'.
Then at Funtingdon there are 'Unaffected flint and brick cottages' and 'Modern buidling has just been kept decent.' [I love that 'just'.]
Westbourne 'On the Hampshire border' – where I am proposing we stop for lunch- has 'an air of a small town not a village' and used to have a market until the C18.' The church, says Nairn, 'has had a really unpleasant restoration' This was carried out – he tells us in a footnote 'c 1865 to the designs of the vicar… and Ecclesiologist* who later joined Rome' I think we might give the church a miss.
Both the pubs I have in mind are in The Square 'the prettiest street in Westbourne is NE of this off Foxbury Lane' And 'Westbourne is a satisfying place to walk through, because of the intricacies and angles of the various islands of buildings…'
[= Ecclesiology was the 'science' of church layout – associated with the Anglo-Catholic wing of the CofE IB]
So there you have it!
The Last Ride - Suzanne's Report
Sunday 3 February 2008
When Alice met Fred met Joyce met Sue met Suzanne they all got on a train and were joined by Jim at Lewes and Ian at Polegate. The passing press-ganged photographer had very impressive shoes. She might have done better to take a photo of them rather than the motley Clarions. The wind was merely boisterous rather than howling as we set off north from Polegate, over the A27 (in 100 years time, who will be campaigning to keep these bridges functioning?) and on toward the Pevensey Levels.
Sue, Alice, Suzanne, Joyce, Fred, Jim and Ian at Polegate station
The Cuckoo Trail
Swans in cabbage field
The first indication we had that we were approaching Waterworld was the flock (bevy, herd, lamentation or wedge) of about 50 swans we spotted in what can only be described as a large cabbage patch. Looking about for the nearest water we soon spotted a large stretch next to Priesthawes Farm. We were now on lovely flat terrain (let's forget about the wind for a moment) with water in the roadside ruts, water in the leek-ways, water in the Ditches (Martin's, for example) and water in the Guts - I kid you not, for there was one either side of us (Drockmill Hill Gut to the west and Hankham Gut to the east) as we turned left at The Horns and followed the Cycle Route 2 south-westward toward the Star Inn. There we partook of excellent soup, moussaka and BLTs which were accompanied by the usual variety of Clarion discussions: whether there is such a thing as human nature; whether non-cycling Clarion members should be asked to pay a supplement of £100 per year; who was going to eat Ian's chips.
A heated discussion at the Star
The human controlled crossing at Norman's Bay
A Martello tower
It seemed to have got colder and blowier as we left the warm, welcoming pub, but our communal loins were girded and we set off into what seemed like a gale, down to Norman's Bay, past the historic Martello Tower (there are some days when you just have to give History a miss and stay on your bike to keep warm) and along the imaginatively named 'Coast Road' with its eclectic mix of what might loosely be called 'architecture'. The wind had us stringing out along the road with Ian as the tête de course, the peleton doing its best… and we won't say who the lanterne rouge was.
Pevensey Castle (the Roman bit)
Tea and cakes at the Old Loom tearooms ('No Dogs allowed due to past indiscretion')
We then trod the ancient Roman ruins of Pevensey castle – feeling a little like Roman ruins ourselves, but then off for a few more sheltered few miles through pleasant suburbs and around the new housing development at Westham. Back under the A27 and past the Horns brought us to the second loop of our figure of eight which eventually returned us to the Cuckoo Trail and a well earned cup of tea at the Loom, where chocolate cake and toasted tea-cake formed the basis of a novel bartering system. Under Ian's expert guidance we make a well-timed arrival back at Polegate station with a comfortable 6 minutes to wait.
Many thanks to Ian for leading an excellent ride that certainly blew the cobwebs away.
[More and bigger photos on Flickr]
The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club – the very beginning
The weekly Clarion newspaper had been going since December 1891. On 28 April 1894 the letter below appeared. I should explain that most of the regular Clarion journalists and contributors had strange nicknames. This had started before the Clarion was launched with Blatchford when he worked on Bell's Life and then the Sunday Chronicle in the 1880s writing under the pen-name Nunquam Dormio (I never sleep) soon shortened to Nunquam. The Bounder, who features much in the report, was the tall, 18 stone, Irish, humorous writer, Edward Fay. There's a splendid picture of him, on his bike, on the 1895 Birmingham Clarion CC greeting card featured in Denis Pye's book. The Clarion co-editor A M Thompson rejoiced (?) in the name Dangle, and Blatchford's brother Montague was Mont Blong. But enough of this erudition – on with the show!
'We shall arrive!' And in order that our coming may be speedy, we have started the Clarion Cycling Club, and at Easter we want to tour. We were seven; And we started from Birmingham to Wolverhampton by train on a dirty, dark, damp, dismal, dreary morning at 7.15.
We were only half awake and we were cold and hungry and the journey between Birmingham and Wolverhampton is one of the most mournful in England.
But – aha – we got to Wolverhampton, and had a little refreshment, and we got on our jiggers, and we woke up, and the sun came out, and the 'little squeakers' began to warble fit to crack their little throats, and we got hopeful, and cheerful, and oh! we were gay!
Then came we unto Bridgenorth and did there Bounderise. Bounderise – verb irregular (very) meaning to imbibe liquors of various degrees of strength – to assimilate resuscitating comestibles – to walk on one's heels – and to generally spread oneself out. Afterwards we sampled Bridgenorth on the banks of the silvery Severn, and departing thence came to Arley and Bewdley both on the banks of the aforesaid silvery Severn.
On our way hitherwards we were led by 'The Fiend' into a veritable slough of despond, from which we emerged covered with much variety of landed estate causing a delay of many golden moments whilst we scraped ourselves.
Bewdley is a fine place, but – they haven't been used to catering for cyclists there. We assisted in their education, however, and the next time they hear of our coming they will prepare themselves. For we shall arrive.
Next day we pushed on to Evesham, via Stourport, Ombersley, Worcester and Pershore. At Worcester we indulged in periphery swelling, consuming spring chickens (year doubtful), sampled the cathedral, and then in single file proceeded through the town. Suddenly the first man rang his bell and dismounted, the others following suit. The first man spoke not but pointed with trembling delight to where they sold the Clarion. There is hope for Worcester – they sell the Clarion there. We marched in, in order, and purchased our Clarions, and then as solemnly walked out, once more mounted our machines and proceeded on our way, as men who had glimpses of higher things.
In this mood we came to Evesham, as quaint and pretty a little town as existeth, and there once more we Bounderised. Good Lord! How we did eat! Before we commenced operations, our fair hostess besought us to stay for dinner the next day, telling us of the gracious things provided for the meal. She plied us with legends of cyclists who had fared at her hands, and had afterwards wandered to other taverns, but had come back to her hostelry once more as a haven of rest and home of plenty. Then provender appeared. For half an hour we raised not our eyes and spoke not a word, but steadily thought on the Bounder. The landlady became silent, the moody, then morbid, flinched, trembled, quivered, quavered, quock, broke line and finally succumbed. It was a glorious victory. 'Are you,' she asked with quivering lips, 'are you gentlemen going to stay dinner tomorrow?' We said we were not and once more she breathed freely.
We went to bed late that night – very late – but we arose early next morn, for the Army of Salvation paraded the town at 6 a m with a band, the big drum being in charge of the local blacksmith. May he be eternally spiflicated.
We were due at the Labour Church that night, so we started Brumwards, having spent as good a holiday as possible. Ah-h-h-h!!!! It was glorious!! Say no man lives till he has been on tour with the Clarion CC. Till then he but exists. After - !!!
We are going on another tour at Whitsun of which more anon.
By the way, we want a President. Bounder, what sayest thou? Wilt thou preside o're us? The duties are light. Thy might name to grace our fixture list, and a visit of yourself to Brum to preside over a periphery–swelling function. Wilst thou come? Look you, Bounder, we are no mean admirers of yours. See here, what you have moved one of us to: -
When the bounding Bounder boundeth
Fig for Nunquam and for Dangle
There are 98 more verses to this, which, if the Bounder will become our President we solemnly promise to destroy, If not - !!!
THE O'GROOMIE O
[We print the above with some misgiving. After recent allegations we are not wholly untroubled with a horrific suspicion that it may be an invention of this unconventional person. Our fears in him stick deep – especially since he has gone, or has not gone – on Tour. If our suspicions should prove correct – but enough - Ed. Clarion]
I'm convinced that the editorial comment was just one of Blatchford's jokes – but perhaps not everyone was at the time. Or perhaps they saw in it the opportunity for another 'go' because the following week , 5 May 1894, there appeared in the Clarion as one of the contributions to 'Local Notes' a report on Birmingham, signed 'Arturo' which, after reporting the recent foundation of the Birmingham Democratic Club went on:-
Well, any member who has been puzzled by references in Boots and Spurs to the Tom Groom Trophy may be getting an inkling of what that's all about. What strikes me is how similar some of the events and sentiments are to those on some of our rides – though I wouldn't dare to risk a nomination for a contemporary version of 'The Fiend'. At this stage, they're all blokes, of course, but Denis Pye tells us this was quickly rectified just a few weeks later in July 1894 when they recruited their first woman member.
At the time Tom Groom was Secretary of the Bond Street Labour Church in Birmingham. This was a recently-formed organisation – another part of the 'socialist revival' of the 1890s that helped float the Clarion. Its founder was an ex Unitarian (as in New Road, Brighton) minister – John Trevor. Not to be confused with the various brands of Christian Socialism. Basically the difference was that whereas Christian Socialists believed that Christianity was essentially socialist, the Labour Church started as it were from the other end seeing the Labour Movement itself as essentially religious.