Saturday, 24 February 2018

Birthday Blog Bulletin

Happy 6th birthday Malmesbury Cycling Club! Such a momentous occasion couldn't pass without a special birthday blog bulletin. 

And of course the blog wouldn't be the blog without a piece of music to get us on our way.

I recently heard an interesting bit of trivia linking Cricklade and Elvis Presley. The connection is made through George Poulton, who was born in Cricklade in 1828. At the age of seven his parents emigrated to Lansingburgh, New York.

George Poulton grew up to become a celebrated musician and in 1861, he composed Aura Lee, one of the most popular tunes of the 19th Century, which became a very famous Civil War song.

It must have had a lasting legacy because in 1956, Elvis changed the lyrics and Love Me Tender was born.

I thought we'd stay with rock and roll, but instead of Elvis, I'd play something by Eddie Cochran who tragically died in 1960 when the speeding taxi he was travelling in left the road at the bottom of Rowden Hill in Chippenham.

Eddie's belongings were removed to Chippenham Police Station for safe-keeping, which is where Police Cadet David Harman taught himself to play guitar using Cochran's Gretsch. He later went on to become known as Dave Dee, as in Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mitch and Titch. 

With or without your blue suede shoes, you can listen to Eddie Cochran's C'mon Everybody here.

                                   Photograph courtesy of Steve M

Most will be up to speed with this topic through various emails, but for those that aren't, it's definitely worth another mention.

The hugely popular and extremely successful Christmas Eve ride and visit to Steve and Helen's home for refreshments, raised a fantastic £160 for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

The committee felt that words alone were not enough to express our gratitude. Tim H subsequently presented the flowers to Helen, which as you can see, not only looked very elegant, they also came in MCC colours.

                                   Photograph courtesy of Howard

On 16th January 2018, Howard and Steve M proudly handed the cheque over to Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

Well done to all concerned!

Photograph courtesy of Caroline

Further afield, there was a good showing of members at this year's Winter Windrush Warm-Up 100km Audax on Sunday 28th January 2018.

Pictured at Ride HQ; the Bradstone Sports Pavilion at Ashton Keynes, are Bryan, Caroline, Howard, John and Steve M. Also taking part were Mike G and Tommy.

                            What else would you eat on the Flapjack?

The MCC flag was also flown at the annual Chippenham Flapjack 100km Audax on Sunday 11th February 2018, with John, Peter C, Phil and Tommy all riding.

Long winter excursions are always challenging, so a great effort by everyone.

                                    The counter at the Pitstop Café

Our Ride Secretary, Peter C has put together another cracking set of rides for March, with a couple of new cafes thrown in for good measure. Without wishing to steal his thunder, and of course not forgetting Howard's Leisure Group, here's where the Social and Sporting Groups will be stopping:

3rd March   - Pitstop Café, Stanton.
10th March - AV8, Cotswold Airport, Kemble.
17th March - Folly Row Café, Kington St Michael.
24th March - Wickwar Coffee Shop.
31st March - Warmley Waiting Room.

The outing to the Warmley Waiting Room will be the monthly joint Social and Sporting Group ride, and so starts at 9.30am.

Breaking records can sometimes be a tough business. Whilst 2017's record-breaking 28 members couldn't be beaten on Saturday for our 6th birthday ride and party, 24 members was still an impressive turnout, particularly given the near-freezing temperature.

Numbers did look to be well-down judging by those who mustered in a chilly Cross Hayes, but arriving at The Angel, Sherston we were pleased to discover that a fair few had come by four wheels and not two.

It was good to see Alice following her recent recovery from pneumonia and Maureen after her back surgery. Absent, but I'm sure very much with us in spirit, was Tim H, another victim of pneumonia. We wish him a speedy recovery.

                                      Photograph courtesy of Sian

With the club picking up the tab for our special birthday cake and everyone's hot drinks, wallets and purses stayed firmly in our pockets.

Our thanks go to Howard for making all of the arrangements with The Angel. 

With the party games over and the goody bags handed out, it was time to go home, but not before some of us enjoyed a ride out to Littleton Drew and back via Stanton St Quintin and Seagry. 

Attendees: Alice, Bryan, Caroline, Chris P, Clive, Dave, Des D, Howard, James M, Ken, Lyndon, Malc, Maureen, Motor-Mike, Pete B, Peter C, Phil, Sian, Simon A, Steve M, Sue Akers, Sue Alexander, me Tim W and Tommy.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Blog Bulletin

With so many exciting events having taken place over the Christmas period, I thought it would be an idea to produce a one-off, bumper blog bulletin to keep everyone up to speed.

Bow Wow Wow, still going strong

Of course the blog wouldn't be the blog without some of the usual features, and so to get the wheels rolling, let me introduce the selected piece of popular music. It's 'Go Wild in the Country' by Bow Wow Wow. 
Bow Wow Lane, South Cerney

The reasons for the choice are that on a recent ride through South Cerney, Tommy and me spotted the interestingly named Bow Wow lane, which runs alongside the River Churn. As to whether there are any snakes in the grass that are absolutely free, I couldn't possible say. Also, with another year of cycling about to begin, we can look forward once again to going wild in the country, in our own inimitable style.

You can listen to the UK top 10 hit performed by the band created by Malcolm McLaren here.

                                   (Photographs courtesy of Sian)

The festive curtain raiser, the Malmesbury Clarion Cycling Club Christmas Curry Convention or MCCCCCC for short, took place at the Spice Merchant on Wednesday 13th December 2017. (MCCCCCC joke borrowed from Tim H. First cracked circa 2014).

Arranged over two tables, more than twenty members enjoyed the succulent South Indian dishes and amiable chatter of folk whose friendship extends well beyond a shared interest in cycling.

Diners were pleased to be joined by James H and Karine, whom we don't get to see as often, as we once did.

Peter C is to be congratulated for organising such a successful evening out.

In keeping with the Christmas theme, the Knight Riders visited Chippenham on Wednesday 20th December 2017. With the temperature almost reaching double figures and barely a breeze to bother us, it really was a perfect evening for cycling.

A tour of Chippenham's High Street allowed us to take in the sights and lights, but for my money, the most impressive decorations were the ones photographed above, seen in the front garden of a house at Kington St Michael.

If you've yet to experience the thrill of riding in the dark during the evening, then why not give it a go. Rides leave every Wednesday from the Cross Hayes at 6.30pm. Please sign-up on Strava or email Peter C to let him know you're coming.

Reserved @11:00 Cyclists

On Saturday 23rd December 2017, the Social and Sporting Groups both visited the Wickwar Coffee Shop.

There isn't much I can tell you about Wickwar that I haven't mentioned before. I could inform you that the width of the High Street varies considerably. At its widest point in the centre, it measures 10 yards and at the northern end, just 4 yards. Even by my standards, some might think this nugget is incredibly dull.

Instead, I thought I'd say a few words about the Somerset Monument or to be more precise, the Lord Edward Somerset Monument. Erected in 1846, it commemorates the 3rd son of the 5th Duke of Beaufort, who fought with distinction at Waterloo. During the first charge, Lord Edward lost his hat. Improperly dressed, he went to find it. Whilst searching, a cannonball ripped off the collar of his coat and killed his horse. After his military career was over, Lord Edward later became the MP for Cirencester.

                             Sporting Group members ready to leave

Back to the cycling. The Sporting Group arrived at the café to find their reserved table waiting for them. We all took the savoury route. The bacon baguettes won universal approval. Just as most of us were savouring the last mouthfuls, the Social Group made their entrance. Having exchanged warm greetings, the Sporting Group vacated their table and headed for home.

In no particular order, Sporting Group riders complete the climb up to the Somerset Monument. I would have needed a 5 minute head start to get to the top before Mark, which is why he isn't pictured.

Social Group: Bryan, Chris, Steve M and Tim H.

Sporting Group: James M, Mark, Pete B, Peter C, Phil, Steve Clark and me, Tim W.

Also out riding a shorter course were Caroline and Howard.

Members mustering at the start

If the curry night is the curtain raiser, then what has become the annual Christmas Eve ride to Steve M's, must be the absolute showstopper.

So many riders assembled in the Cross Hayes made for an impressive spectacle, and must have caused onlookers to wonder what was going on.

Once the flock was safely gathered together, there was just time for a photograph before we set off.

We threaded our way out of the town. Two groups soon took shape. Although the weather was a little colder than of late, the conversation flowed freely and the miles passed easily.

Members arriving at Steve M's

In anticipation of another fabulous spread, I'd limited myself to a single Weetabix for breakfast. Helen had obviously been very busy in the kitchen.This was clearly the result of her own endeavours and not the work of Mr Kipling.

I resisted the temptation to sample everything on offer and restricted myself to three items. Her cheese scones were a triumph. Lightly baked with just the right amount of firmness, I returned to the plate more times than I care to remember. As for the miniature mince pies, they were like tiny bombs that exploded in your mouth with fruity sweetness. My third selection was a slice of what I initially thought was a mascarpone iced red velvet sponge cake, but my first bite soon told me how wrong I was. The raspberries in the mixture made for a lovely moist cake, which proved to be the perfect accompaniment to my mulled wine.

                                   (Photograph courtesy of Helen)

Our very grateful thanks go to Helen and Steve M for being the perfect hosts.

The 21 attendees were: Alice, Alyson, Bryan, Caroline, Clive, Dave, Gary, John, Howard, James M, Lyndon, Malc, Mark, Peter C, Phil, Sian, Steve Cox, Steve M, Sue, Tim H and me, Tim W.

Mark, Pete B, Phil and me, Peter C, made it out for the annual Knight Riders' by day Christmas trip to Chepstow.

After some pre-ride surveillance, myself and Phil were happy with the riding conditions and so we met at 9.00am for the big off. Phil got his excuses in at the start, as he did not feel 100%, so no change there then!

As we passed Sherston, we noticed that the snow coverage had increased. Crossing Badminton Park, the pace became slower. We finally came to a halt at Hawkesbury Upton where the snow was several inches deep and the village appeared to be grid locked with vehicles. A decision was made to do a U turn and move away from the deep snow.

We agreed that a good breakfast would cheer us all up, so we headed to Folly Row, which was closed, then to Allington, which was closed, then to the Pizza shop at Corsham, which was also closed! Finally, we found the Grounded Church Café open. It was busy, but they served 4 wonderful breakfasts and coffee.

After our defrosting session, we decided to do the reverse loop to Lacock, which included an ascent of Bowden Hill.

With full bellies we all flew up Bowden Hill and made our way back to Malmesbury after dropping off Phil, Pete B and Mark en route.

So what started as a disappointing journey, proved to be a challenging, but enjoyable adventure.

Just a post note we did ride up to the cafe at Cherhill on the A4, which too was closed, but I understand that it has now moved to Calne, with no suitable bike parking.

Peter C

Editor: Our New Year's Day ride to the Divine Café at Cherhill in 2015, which you can read about here, was a rather unfortunate affair. Hopefully some new owners can be found.

                                        Warm and cosy in the yurt
                                      (Photograph courtesy of Sian)

And so we come to not only the final ride of 2017, but also our last as a Clarion section. 

The combined Sporting and Social Group ride with a 9.30am start, was a first, and resulted in 10 riders making the full trip. They were joined at the Jolly Nice Cafe by Alyson, Chris P, John and me, Tim W, who variously made our own way there.

The eagle-eyed will have just noticed that Chris P is now identified by the first letter of his surname. The reason for this, is that also on the trip was another Chris, who was on his third outing with us. We look forward to sharing many more miles with Chris G.

Next stop Malmesbury!

Riders: Andy Poolman, Bryan, Chris G, James, Pete B, Peter C, Phil, Sian, Steve M, and Tim H.
Amanda's, Oxford Street

Mostly because I don't think it has the legs to run for much longer, this will be the concluding instalment in the occasional series of 'Surly It Can't Be Coincidence Alone That So Many Businesses In Malmesbury Are Decorated In Clarion Colours.'

Having previously featured Fielder & Jones, Henry George and The Whole Hog, we end with Amanda's. This was never a competition, but had it been, then Amanda's would have won by a country mile. Its use of green paint is unsurpassed by any other commercial property in the town.

The proprietor of Amanda's is a former licensee of the Peterborough Arms at Dauntsey. The public house has since been purchased by the Wilts and Berks Canal Trust, and is currently being renovated. It's one of only two remaining inns on the entire waterway, but I digress.

To wrap up the series, here's the rest:

                                             Wheeler's Retreat

                                           Malmesbury Tandoori

Lloyds Pharmacy

                                                               Lloyds Bank

Even the letting agents CBRE are
helping to paint the town green

Maybe Art Studio

                                   The Co-operative Supermarket

Symonds Budgens

Monday, 28 August 2017

Blog Bulletin

In the immortal words of the Two Ronnies, 'It's goodnight from me.' 

It has been an absolute pleasure and an honour to hopefully have been of some service to the club and its members. 

My first blogging effort was posted on 20th November 2013. After 220 weekly blog updates and bulletins, and if the provider's statistics are to be believed, an incredible 27,000 views, this will be my last blog post.

Blogging is a very time consuming business. Hours spent at the laptop can sometimes equate to just a few miserable lines going into print. I've decided to convert the hours spent writing into riding some extra miles. 

Thank you to those who sent me articles and photographs, and who by doing so, helped make the blog so successful. I couldn't have done it without you. Also, to the readers for viewing the blog in such numbers.

After last week's rather moody piece of music from Tanita Tikaram, I thought we would have a complete contrast with something uplifting. What better then, than Van Morrison's 'Bright Side Of The Road.' Recorded in California and released in 1979, it rather surprisingly only ever reached number 63 in the UK Singles Chart.

'Bright Side Of The Road' was however performed by Shakira at a ball for Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration ceremony celebrations. Maybe, like wine, some songs improve with age.

I've gone with Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison's own version, which you can sing along with here.

Saturday 9th September 2017, sees the club heading to Bourton-on-the-Water to watch the Tour of Britain. Departure will be at 9.00am. There's a stop planned at Northleach along the way for coffee. Then it's on to find a good vantage point and to soak up the atmosphere. The riders will be coming through at about 1.40pm. The out and back course is 67 miles. There are already members signed-up on Strava for what promises to be a great day out.

Unfortunately, the 20 cycling teams taking part doesn't include Caja Rural. As Howard quite rightly brought to my attention, this professional team clearly take their kit inspiration from the amateur Malmesbury Clarion CC.

Some of you might not be aware that the club has its own Twitter account. To date, @MalmesburyCCC has made 302 tweets. We're following 503 other Twitter users and are being followed by 273. We've had 104 likes.

There's the odd retweet, but otherwise the tweets are all our own work. Most relate to the club rides. Advance notice is given weekly of the destination and times we're setting off. Cafes are included in the tweet as a backup to Peter C's emails and Facebook contact. A followup tweet after our visit, with a photograph of members at the establishment, is always well received by the cafe. This is all part of the good relations we're trying to build with the owners.

If you're a Twitter user and not already following us, please give us a follow.

Leighton Buzzard Railway Station - the start of our undoing

Tommy and me left Malmesbury at 6.50am on Thursday morning. Our challenge was to complete the 600km (372 miles) Exe-Buzzard Permanent Audax in under 42 hours. The course conveniently passes through Malmesbury on its way to Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire. It then heads South to Chandler's Ford in Hampshire, before turning West to Exeter and back up via Taunton and Bath.

At stake was the covetted Super Randonneur award given to Audax UK members who ride a 200, 300, 400 and 600km event in the same AUK calendar year.

Tommy outside of Brackley's Traditional Family Bakery

A light tailwind and warm weather meant that we were able to make good progress over the first 90 miles to Leighton Buzzard. Our only proper stop was at Brackley in Northamptonshire. A savoury offering and a cup of tea at a bakery in the High Street there, certainly hit the spot. We left promising ourselves a more substantial meal once we reached Leighton Buzzard.

Leighton Buzzard though is where things started to unravel. We had to control at the town's railway station. Whilst virtually every junction had a brown information sign pointing the way to the narrow gauge light railway, the whereabouts of the one managed by London Midland remained a close-kept secret. We eventually discovered it hiding at the end of a cul-de-sac in a residential area.

Keen to make up lost time we abandoned all thoughts of a substantial meal and headed for Pangbourne in Oxfordshire. Running on a less than full tank, we found ourselves on an unbearably busy A class road, full of lorries travelling far too close to us. We also had the additional burden of a headwind. The only respite came when my back tyre punctured opposite a garage, which at least allowed us to buy some snacks.

At Aylesbury a new housing estate thrown up overnight had transformed the road layout and left us floundering. After riding around in circles, we eventually found the road we were looking for to Chinnor.

Disappointingly, the 60 miles to Pangbourne took all afternoon. Pangbourne wasn't exactly awash with eateries. We had fish and chips and had to sit on the pavement to eat them. Yet more precious minutes were lost, as they were cooked to order.

Tommy waiting for the train to pass

Determined to claw back some time, it was a case of heads down and high gears, as we thundered out of Pangbourne. I must have spent too long looking at the road surface, as I overshot a left turn by 10 yards. Although I quickly corrected the error, it was too late to avoid being held at the railway crossing.

The evening ride down to Winchester involved some big climbs, which saw our average speed drop to around 13mph. 

Standing on a garage forecourt at Chandler's Ford at 9.50pm, with the kiosk's shutters making their slow, rumbling descent, we had some hard decisions to make. Our overnight farmhouse accommodation was over 60 miles away in Sherborne. We were expected there between midnight and 2.00am. As things stood, we were unlikely to reach there until after 3.00am. 

With the temperature having dropped, the prospect of a night ride along the A30 didn't appeal to either of us. The availability of a double room at the nearby Eastleigh Travel Lodge, was just too tempting.

We crept out of the Travel Lodge at 5.30am and with the fuel tank needle on red, rode the 36 miles to Salisbury. Over breakfast there, with too much time lost, we decided to abandon the ride and return home. Disappointed, but not too downhearted, we crossed the Salisbury Plain, passing through Shrewton and Tilshead.

We stopped briefly at Devizes for a cup of Greggs' finest tea and returned to Malmesbury with our Garmins registering 400km.

Gary at Wheelers' Retreat recently gave me the opportunity to try out a small pot of Bikemonger's Happy Bottom Butter Cream. 

I've since used the product on some long rides and have been impressed by how much it reduces friction when riding. It also aids recovery afterwards. It hasn't eliminated soreness altogether, if that's even possible, but it definitely makes life a lot more comfortable in the saddle after the first 200km.

For a longer and much more in-depth analysis of its natural, chemical free, vegan friendly ingredients, this is the very favourable review carried out by

The small pots cost £3.50 and the larger ones, if I remember rightly, about £18. Don't be put off by the cost though. It spreads very thinly and so provides plenty of applications. I think you'll find this is money well spent. 

Caroline has asked me to let everyone know that Gary currently has a stock of handy cafe combination cycle locks, on sale for £11.

Bikes, as we know, can be stolen in the blink of an eye. I'm as guilty as the next person of not locking my cycle up on club runs. We haven't lost a bike yet, but why take the risk. Don't be the first to have theirs stolen.