Today’s diary entry is a delightful snippet describing a straightforward day out, a ride of 85 miles lasting 14 hours. I feel that I can hear the satisfaction in Charlie’s voice at the end of a long day filled with simple pleasures, even the technical malfunctions and the turn in the weather seemed to enhance his experience. Charlie clearly enjoyed the countryside, villages and towns he journeyed through, as well as the exertion of riding, the companionship of his fellow cyclists and the challenges presented by his bike, the varying terrain and the climate.
I did a quick search and I see that already there are a few references to Wigan on the site. The most notable one is to Nant Rhyd Wilym which notes the contribution of Bob Harrison and Gerry Swift in setting the Wayfarer Stone.
And for those that have been following the tale of Whitsun 1926 in which Charlie talks about how his friends from Hindley – the Hindley boys – were, or rather weren’t, involved in the General Strike. Fred in particular is one of Charlie’s particular friends and we will be hearing a great deal more of him over the coming months.
What really made this day out different for Charlie was that it didn’t involve much cycling!
The main part of the day was a visit to the Renold factory to see how bicycle chains were made. In this year of 1923 Renold commenced high speed testing of ‘out of alignment’ chains, and Charlie records seeing this test rig in operation, plus other testing rigs which were not normally shown to visitors.
The 35 members of Bolton CTC who visited the Renold plant on this Saturday were part of over 300 cyclists from cycling clubs around the northwest, and the visit included a free meal, an almost unheard of luxury for those days.
The day also had some extra spice those Boltonians on the visit, as this was the day of the FA Cup Final – the very first to be held at the newly completed Wembley Stadium (later to become famous as the ‘White Horse Final’). As the meal was being served at the conclusion of their visit, news filtered through that Bolton Wanderers football team had won the FA Cup by two goals to nil over West Ham. No doubt a very sweet conclusion to their repast for many.
The first hill climb that Charlie attended – and from which he withdrew his name from the start sheet because he did not feel ‘on form’ – was held by his club, the Lancashire Road Club (an off shoot of the Bolton CTC) near Chipping. Although not identified the hill was in all probability Jeffrey Hill on the slopes of Longridge Fell, and a very stiff climb it is too as can be seen from the gradient in this picture.
In those days, handicapping the competing riders was very popular (not the case nowadays), and basically the idea was that to issue handicaps to all made for a level playing field for the competitors. It works like this.
The rider who is so fit he is expected to win with the quickest time is the ‘scratch’ rider, and the only one without a handicap. His eventual time sets the benchmark for everyone else. The slower riders are all given differing handicaps which gives them a sporting chance (when their actual time is reduced by their handicap) of getting close to the winning or ‘scratch’ time.
Handicapping has fallen out of favour in recent times due to the time consumed in allotting handicaps – which means investigating each riders performance over the preceding three years – and arguing about the actual handicap when it appears on the start sheet ! To keep up the tension at the event, the scratch man was always the last man to start up the hill, and from his time all the other results followed. Of course, in the end one’s actual time – not the handicap time – was the final arbiter of whether you were considered fit or not!
This Saturday afternoon run, still not getting back home until 10.30pm, was typical,
part mad blind, part football, all the joys of being out and about on a bike and
making your own enjoyment. A 20 strong turnout on a run like that would be a joy
Today we complete the final part of Charlie’s Whitsuntide adventures, a 236 mile dash which started on the Friday evening with an all night ride across North Wales from their meeting place in Warrington, to Llanberis, and which ended on the Sunday night back in Bolton.
Charlie brings the journey to life with his companions and the characters he meets along the way. We discover some of the practical jokes that his friend Fred was so very fond of and as for Walter? He seems to have been without shame at his poor contribution to the pace-making. But whilst his pals let him know his failings they still accepted his companionship.
A typical club run. Cyclists criss-crossing the countryside and no one with a proper map or directions. But somehow we always got to the correct destination, not necessarily together, but the exercise was always very enjoyable.
In a way this run was classic Charlie Chadwick, going down tracks and ending up at ‘Private Road’ signs, all in the process of going down a lane just to see ‘what’s over the hill’. Meat and drink to Charlie.
The process of working out what to publish next is starting to crystalise now and there is not doubt that having a plan does make things a great deal easier.
Having spent a couple of days visiting with David we did take the time out to do some planning and what we agreed on is that the next major pieces to publish would focus on Charlie’s “Bolton Wakes Week” holidays for 1923 and 1924. Bolton Wakes Week was at the end of June / early July and so we thought it would be good to publish these so that they cover broadly the same period, i.e. late June / early July. Arbitrarily I have decided to interleave these years with the entries for 1923 appearing on Sundays and the 1924 entries appearing on Thursdays.
This will leave a slight gap from the end of existing April Publishing schedule but we have found that Charlie’s Easter tour of 1923 seems to fit quite neatly into this gap.
So, the final schedule looks like this
- May 2 – Easter 1923, Bolton to Bala
- May 4 – Easter 1923, Bala to Bettws-y-coed
- May 6 – Easter 1923, Bettws-y-coed to Whitchurch
- May 8 – Easter 1923, Whitchurch to Bolton
- May 12 – Bolton Wakes Week 1923, Chester
- May 16 – Bolton Wakes Week 1924, Scarborough
- May 19 – Bolton Wakes Week 1923, Conway and the Sychnant Pass
- May 23 – Bolton Wakes Week 1924, Hayburn Wyke, Hackness and the Forge Valley
- May 26 – Bolton Wakes Week 1923, Nant Ffrancon and Glyder Fawr
- May 30 – Bolton Wakes Week 1924, Scarborough Head and the Yorkshire Wolds
- June 2 – Bolton Wakes Week 1923, Pont Aberglaslyn to Barmouth
- June 6 – Bolton Wakes Week 1924, Goathland Moors, Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay
- June 9 – Bolton Wakes Week 1923, Arthog and Penmaenpool
- June 13 – Bolton Wakes Week 1924, Castle Howard and Rievaulx Abbey
- June 16 – Bolton Wakes Week 1923, Aberdovey to Aberystwyth
- June 20 – Bolton Wakes Week 1924, York, Tadcaster, Leeds and Blackstone Edge
- June 23 – Bolton Wakes Week 1923, Tal-y-Llyn Pass
- June 30 – Bolton Wakes Week 1923, Vale of Edeyrnion and Llangollen
- July 7 – Bolton Wakes Week 1923, Langollen – Chester – Bolton
I can’t promise that it will all run smoothly – but at least we do have something for me to work to.
Having started out at 9pm last night and ridden through the night, the story resumes with their push into the mountains of North Wales. As is often the case I think the hour before dawn was probably the most challenging but their energy returned with the daylight – encouraging them to review the Swallow Falls.
Although there has been mention of Walter it is fair to say that he hasn’t really featured in this story … until now. But now his unwillingness to take his share of the wind, i.e. to stay at the rear – really brings him to the fore! Walter distinguishes himself through his dogged refusal to ride in any position other than at the rear. All cyclists are irritated by those amongst them who decline – continuously – to take a turn in front and ‘push the wind’, especially when one is riding into a stiff headwind, and this
becomes one such story.
Charlie also describes an extended session rowing on a Welsh lake – without the permission of the boat owner – and quite a lot of sight-seeing in Wales, for the once favoured by good weather.
This piece just shows that the inability of teenagers to get out of bed in a morning is not simply a modern phenomenon! It also shows how proud Charlie was to be a member of
the CTC (having joined at the beginning of this year). Wherever he went, he would
engage anyone with the ‘winged badge’ in conversation as a fellow member – as
indeed I did at that age – cementing the relationship between cyclists the world
over. However, I must say that the number of punctures they had in those days
would have tried my patience sorely in my days awheel after the war.