The We.R.7 Cycling Club – The History


As the doings of this aptly, though curiously named ‘Club’ figure pretty prominently in the following pages, it goes without saying that it shall have an introduction of some kind.  The name, to begin with, is wrong, for the occasions when the ‘We Are Seven’ are few and far between; the usual turn-out being four to six, although it has been one to nine.  Again, to speak in the legal sense, we are not a Club, but a party of cyclists who, through a similarity of ideas, and a happy blend of humour have been drawn together from the ranks of the greatest of all clubs, the CTC.  Our title which was happily and accidentally given on an occasion when we were seven, caught on, so to speak, and now it adorns the visitors book in many places as far apart as Devon and Scotland, Wales and Yorkshire, Northumberland and Warwick and the Lakes and Derbyshire.

The regular ‘Severners’ are five, the others being just ‘occasionals’, so I think it would be best if I introduced the five, bringing each one in as I met them.

It was during my first year with the CTC (1923), when two of us were touring at Easter in Wales, that I first met Tom.  Although I had been a bicycle rider for many years, this was only my second tour, and I was only just awakening to the real delights of cycling.  My bicycle was an old crock of a roadster, converted by means of dropped handlebars and fixed cog to something approaching the lightweight stage, my companions was, if that was possible, even more of a crock, and as tourists, both of us were in the chrysalis stage.  But we were full of enthusiasm, and that is a thing that will overcome many natural and mechanical barriers.  It had rained nearly all of the preceding two days, and the more it rained, the more enjoyable it became; which goes to prove that already we had found the cyclists’ spirit.  On the second night we got a particularly adventurous dose of mountain mist and rain on a road beneath Snowdon that none of us knew, a road that was all uphill and narrow with a wall at one side that seemed to overlook precipitous slopes, and a hillside on the other, chock full of boulders and looming cliffs, whilst now and then the road would bridge some rocky gully at the bottom of which some swollen torrent would roar.  But eventually we got down to Bettws-y-Coed, and stopped at a place that I know of.  And therein was Tom, a lone cyclist from Manchester, and a CTC ite.  The badge was our introduction; Tom joined us, taking our photographs and promising to send us some prints.  At Chester my companion left for home, and as Tom and I had an extra day, we pottered off to Whitchurch.  The next days run, home through the Cheshire lanes, sealed our friendship, we started to meet now and then, until it became every weekend.

It was the famous Meriden Memorial weekend, May, 1924, when on the customary rush home, Tom and I fell in with two merry, hard-riding Hindley cyclists, and rode with them for many a mile, forming an attachment that, found that day, was lost, picked up again, and continued until we became the We Are Seven CC.  Of which more anon.

For over two years Tom and I rode together, almost solely together, gradually widening our cycling activities, and varying them.  Every Sunday would see us exploring the labyrinth of Cheshire bylanes or the Derbyshire Dales, the north and east or making ambitious forays into Wales, every Sunday we became more and more enthusiastic; cycling gradually captured us entirely, making us worshippers of the Open Road and un-swerving devotees of cycling and the lightweight machine.

Then, in the winter of 1924/5 I met Joe at night school.  Joe was wild and untamed as a cyclist.  His first ride with me was an evening spin near home, and as far as speed was concerned, ‘he put it across me’.  The next was a Saturday afternoon ride in Cheshire.  Again he left me far behind.  Then he came on a Sunday run.


We had to meet Tom at Rowsley Bridge near Bakewell at 11am.  It was a scorching day in May – or was it June?, 1925; Joe started at his usual ‘evens’ but I, who was getting wise to him, let him go, and pottered at my own sweet pace.  Before we met Tom, Joe was feeling the ride, and before the afternoon was out, he was ‘conked’.  But he came out again and again, and gradually discovered the wisdom of steady riding – or at least he improved a lot, though even yet he is noted for blinding and then going to sleep by the wayside.

Quite accidentally I fell in with Fred at a Cheshire tea place, and invited him to join my club run on the following Sunday.  He did so, then, with his pal Billy, joined the CTC.  I saw Fred now and then on a Club run, but it was not until the club went through the Allied Press works at Manchester in February, 1926, when Billy, Tom and Joe and I met each other, that we arranged anything between us.  We five merged together as a company concern, joined by two others from Hindley, Walter, Fred’s brother, and Norman.  For some weeks we all seven rode together, until the latter two became interested in the other sex, with the usual result.  So we were the original five, and I think that we shall ever remain ‘We Are Five’.  I hope so.  That is the story of the foundation of the merriest, breeziest, most enthusiastic troupe of cyclists extant, the ‘We Are Seven’ Cycling Club.

We have our own individual characteristics, of course, but the whole blend together in a way too rarely found in five different persons from three different towns.  To outline each would, of course, be a tedious and somewhat uninteresting thing to the reader, but I propose to survey the main peculiarities and leave the reader to find the rest out in the following pages.

Tom, like us all, is a philosopher so far as weather and trouble are concerned.  The motto ‘let it rain’ goes with the optimistic though oft discouraged ‘It ain’t goin’ to rain no more’, and many a time he has ‘gone through with it’ under weather conditions for hours on end, that would scare off any but the hardiest in a few minutes.  He calls himself a potterer, but you should hear what we sometimes call him !

Unconsciously enough, he once said that he goes fast downhill and doesn’t go slow up them !  Bylanes are his favourite roads, and his pet abhorations are caves and rocky mountains.  Tom is a super-tourist, and can claim about 4 tours and 20 weekend jaunts in 1926.

“Give it to Joe!”, was the catch-phrase made famous when Bolton Wanderers were in Cup winning mood in 1925; the phrase may be applied equally well to our Joe.  For garrulous, gastronomical reasons, Joe received the title ‘Blackberry Joe’ a long time ago, and the nickname has stuck to him ever since.  As for riding, a main road where he can blind and a grassy border where he can sleep constitute the idyllic.  His feeding is the wonder of us all – where does he put it ?  Once he was told by a feminine admirer that so far as looks are concerned, the rest of us haven’t a look in, and ever since he has not allowed us to forget it !  Though the lass who told him that had probably not seen me (?), there is no doubt that he exercises some influence on them, for his love affairs are many and abrupt, and his ‘googly’ eyes always receive an answer.  Joe shares Tom’s dislike of the rocks above and below the surface.

In ‘Billberry’ from Hindley near Wigan, you have a volume of character, most of it being beneath the surface.  The first impression one gains of him is that he is the cyclist all over, merry, healthy and strong.  He possess the infectious, irresistible laugh, he rarely gets ruffled, has the bluff Lancashire trait of being outspoken – and one cannot take exception to him, he is so frank.  Of course he is a great feeder, and a great rider too, though with Tom, he avows his attachment to a gentle potter (I’ve seen ‘em).  Bill is a leader.  Only him would have dared to climb the waterfall in Alum Pot first, under the impression that it had never been climbed before, and only he could have led the rest so well in the intricacies of the subterranean river course.  He tackles at once barriers that others would think twice before doing, and makes the way easy for those who follow.  He is a great thinker, too, is Billy; the appeals of Nature stir him to thoughts that are genius.

WeR7004      If you notice a quiet, inoffensive lad with us, that is Fred, and beware of him.  To him, the manoeuvring of words is a fine art brought about mostly at my expense.  At one moment he is suspiciously quiet, the next he seizes on a remark you may have made, and literally tears it to shreds, turning it into a joke at your expense.  His practical jokes are roaringly funny except for the victim.  Fred, in short provides two thirds of the humour on our runs, and if absent is perhaps the most missed of all of us.  I have never seen him in anything but a good temper, and he never tires, being probably the best rider among us.  Side pursuits of his are shooting, angling and nature study, whilst he likes rock climbing and cave-work.

For my part I am in a false position.  They call me Lord High Feeder or Glutton, but in reality I possess a lady-like appetite, and have ridden enormous distances on practically nothing.  Of course they have to have someone to pull to pieces, and I suppose I am most fitted for their ridicule.  If, for instance, I have a mild flirtation, they at once accuse me of being a heartless lady-killer, urge me to ‘do the right thing’ (whatever that may be !), and chip me unmercifully.  On the other hand, Joe, who is noted for it, gets off scot free.  My main aversion is the main road, and my best rides are always in the lanes or on rough tracks, whilst, except for cycling I can think of nothing better than underground exploration and mountain climbing.

So with that I will give over trying to explain what the ‘We Are Seven’ CC is, and, for fear of future trouble, I’ll not give any more characters, but leave it all to the tours and runs I hope to sketch in this book.

November 4, 1926


In Festive Mood Part Three

John went further than that.  We went shopping that morning for whist prizes.  For the ladies, a lovely pair of silken garters, for the gents, a good tie – with a secret condition attached that must only be known after the event – that the winning gent must put the garters in their right place on the winning lady.  Chocolates, cigarettes and an ample supply of port wine completed our list.  As an extra attraction, J.T, our recruit must, according to the flexible rules of the ‘We.R.7’ undergo his initiation at the party, and it was the job of Tom and I, as ‘president’ and ‘secretary’ to make a speech for the occasion.  This we prepared.  These proceedings were kept a close secret from the unsuspecting ‘recruit’.

The snow of last night had changed to sleet, and a thaw had set in, so a second visit to Aira Force revealed a great change.  King Frost had lost his grip entirely, and the glittering, glassy beauty of yesterday had become a wild rush of water, through the far-flung spray of which little rainbows formed and broke in the weakling sun.

In Festive Mood012

After lunch we set off to pay a visit to Kepple Cove, a mountain tarn under the bulwarks of Helvellyn.  About two months before, on the same night as the disastrous Fleetwood flood, a cloudburst had descended on Helvellyn, and Kepple Cove Tarn, which had acted as a reservoir for the copper works a mile below, burst its dam with calamitous results to the little village.  Mine host had caught a goodly share of the stream which flooded the house to the ceiling of the first floor, and had left a sorry case for them to repair.  John insisted that the piano had been a heavy sufferer.  We followed the track of the deluge, noting the tremendous masses of rock that had been carried by the water.  The copper mines and works had not suffered, being too high, but we subjected them to a thorough investigation.  Kepple Cove tarn was but a tiny pool with stream issuing from a great rent in the dam; ahead the snow-covered mountain, rose up to Striding Edge, clear in a pale sky, and down the valley we could see Ullswater, and Place Fell in fine proportions, behind.

I was minded to try another way back along the far side of the valley, and receiving no support, ventured alone.  Difficulties cropped up; the snow was deep and hid pitfalls and boulders, whilst sometimes I could hear mountain becks running underneath the snow.  The sunset displayed colours of amazing beauty, and ere, saturated to the knees, we reached Glenridding, the sky had assumed a tender green, the like of which we had not seen before.

In Festive Mood004Back ‘home’ the stage was set, and already people were coming in.  Changing into more comfortable, drier, things, we were introduced to everyone in turn, and could not help but commend our hostesses on their choice.  The youthful flower of Patterdale, both sexes, was gathered, with a careful equilibrium between youth and maid…..

The whist drive was got under way.  Only once before had I taken part in a whist drive, a professional affair, and that time I gathered the personal opinions of many people, who seemed to regard me as the one who had spoiled their chances, and said so.  They had obviously come for the prize, not for the game, and as I was merely a novice, I clung to a single table with pathetic loneliness, my score card mounting laboriously upward in one’s and two’s, and I became sadder at each move. I had a roomful of enemies ere that whist drive ended, but I had one enemy supreme.  She was an oldish lady who had seen many a stern struggle in the world of whist, many an encounter with luckless partners, and she came to my table flushed with a brilliant first half.  As my partner she met her Waterloo.  As usual I made a false slip and received a terrible glare of wrath, but at the second slip (which lost us the game) she denounced me in withering tones, whereupon I retorted a biting sarcasm to the best of my ability.  The next game she played on the same table, and that game I enjoyed, because I won, and left her there, a living bundle of fury.

But this drive was a pleasant jaunt of twelve games played by twenty-four novices, and the first prize ladies was won by a winsome young woman (married).  The gents was taken by mine host, a man of forty years or so, but, as later proved, he was a ‘sport’, relinquishing his ‘condition’ to J.T.

Dinner was a gorgeous affair, worthy of a first-rate banquet, then, with headgear (paper) and spirits of approved party humour, we settled down to sing-songs, on the sing or forfeit system.  Some sang, some tried to sing, some paid a forfeit.  Of those who tried to sing it can be said that their attempts were honest and genuine, and unwittingly they provided to the general amusement.  Next came the time-honoured games which are far better played and not explained, though it seemed strange to me to see Tom, for instance, the quiet, hard-riding cyclist, disappear into the parlour with a village belle, and stay rather a long time…..  Tom, to whom girls were taboo, who would rather do a mid-winter century, or would drop dead with fright if forced to run the gauntlet of a party of girls.  There was a game that concluded with each man a girl on his knee, and by the worst stroke of fate, I was compelled to provide seating accommodation for the hostess’s maiden aunt, a straight-laced, Victorian lady of seventy summers at least.  My interest in that game ebbed away; during a period “in the dark”, she turned and murmured in a stage-whisper “I’m not married yet” !  Happily she went to bed early.  The young married woman was the liveliest present, and her husband entered into the spirit of the thing. In a game of forfeits, every man had a step on the stairs – winding stairs with excellent corners on the landings, and the girls were passed along from one to the other.  There was a stoppage in the shufflings, and a voice floated down in the dark: “Has my wife not got off that top step yet”?  A little later, the same voice: “Who is this”?..  (answer) “Your wife”.  To which:- “is that all – pass her on”!

These games are definitely ‘soft stuff’, the kind we usually spurn, but given the atmosphere of a party of young folks in the festive season, then they help in the night’s diversity, for they are innocent enough.

During the disposal of cakes and port-wine, the whist presents were handed out, and J.T, our recruit, was given the honour of fulfilling the whist conditions, which was done amid applause.  The speech was made regarding JT’s  initiation, he was made a ‘member’ of the ‘We.R.7’ and awarded the trophy – two bones, remnant of a past dining, which were then placed round his neck with due ceremony.  Ports were drunk, and to the tune of ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’, Jack made his bow.

The night wore into morning, yet the fun grew apace.  Port wine was liberal, though its worst effect was no more than a sleepiness in the small hours.  Finally, the village boys, headed by a burly farm lad, gave us ‘Bill Barman and his Ullswater Hounds’, the local reply to ‘D’ye ken John Peel’, and with an Auld Lang Syne the party broke up at 6am.

We went to bed, which was really worse than useless, for we were up again in under three hours for our last breakfast.  As we prepared to take our leave some of last night’s party arrived, and photographs were taken outside, setting a permanent seal to the party that Patterdale will talk of for many years to come.

In Festive Mood010

The morning was gloomy; we were decidedly off colour for cycling, and a night frost had made Kirkstone Pass one long sheet of ice.  At Kendal we had lunch with the Braithwaites, where the Bolton District Association [of the CTC] had held its New Year festivities, and there we learned of the untimely death of our old clubmate ‘Albert’ Mather.  Poor old Albert – a record holder on the Liverpool-Edinburgh road – only a week ago he had been with us to a Christmas party at Bilberry’s in Hindley.  I had been on some good rides with him, and found him the real sort….  the news put a mournful conclusion to the best New Year we had upheld.

Fog was encountered from Milnthorpe, and as we drew into Lancashire, it went worse, so that we were glad of the rest tea time afforded us at Barton.  At Walton-le-Dale our party split up, and two hours later the nightmare journey ended, to go down in memory to be spoken of in the uncertain future by Lancastrians and the inhabitants of a lovely Lakeland valley.

Editors note:  I attach a picture of Albert Mather taken from Charlie’s photograph album, a picture taken shortly after be broke the Liverpool – Edinburgh record in September 1926.  On New Year’s Day, 1927, Albert died after a collision with a car near Preston. In Festive Mood005

In Festive Mood Part Two

In Festive Mood002

Post:  I cannot let this moment pass without an explanation for the illustration of the summit of Kirkstone Pass shown above.  In those days, the ‘Cycling’ weekly paper used to run a monthly competition for the best story of the month to be published by ‘Cycling’.  I am pleased to tell you that at some time in the following year Charlie won one of those monthly prizes, which was a Patterson print of Kirkstone Pass printed on board, and which I possess and reproduce below.  Charlie has cleverly altered the drawing so that the figures have passed round the corner and only the footsteps and wheeltracks remain.  When Charlie’s article won its prize, he must have decided to write it up in his journal for 1928, copy Patterson’s picture but changing it slightly, add two other illustrations of his own and put the whole thing to bed.  I have always said that Charlie was very gifted.  And I am right.

In Festive Mood003

At breakfast the next morning we decided to go skating.  Three had purchased skates on the outward run, anticipating the ice, and Jack and I were offered a pair each by mine host.  So fitted, a general move was made up the mountainside to a little tarn about a thousand feet above, which was frozen quite hard.  This was wonderfully placed in a clearing in pine forest, sheltered and rocky.  We donned our skates.  None of us had ever worn skates before, so after the first five minutes we got together to make resolutions and to feel our separate ‘bumps’.  A thin bar of steel like the back of a knife is no support, especially when cycling shoes gave play to ankles that ought to have been strapped up in heavy boots.  We resolved that skates ought to be like smoothing irons for comfort.  It was also universally agreed that ice was too slippery, for as soon as we touched the surface our legs always shot from under us.  We went back to our mishaps with that hard gleam in each of our eyes that speaks determination.

We persevered.  Soon it became evident that we were born figure-skaters.  Weird and wonderful figures we made quite involuntarily, assuming many positions.  I watched Tom cross that ice in poses I never dreamed he could have twisted himself into; Fred W. displayed a genius for going backwards, though he always concluded on his neck.  He said that was an essential part of the performance.  Jack had an attractive style of his own which consisted of throwing up one leg then the other in wild abandon like a Red Indian dance of war, but sometimes he would forget himself in his enthusiasm and throw both his legs up at the same time, then he would come down with such a thwack as to send tremors through the ice.  H.F. was what I like to call a lazy skater.  Whenever I took notice of him he was sat down, travelling at a fast rate.  At first I wondered how he could get that speed from a sitting position, but I watched him and found that he started on his feet, then sank down all at once as though he had suddenly tired of the whole business.  My suggestion that he strap his skates to the double seat of his knickers and so make the most of them caused a general collapse.  For my part I tried every conceivable position including a glide on my nose, and the only kind of skating I could not master was on my feet.  I worked on the thesis that if I must fall I would fall as comfortably as possible, spending much time in pursuance of this desirable end and achieving some little success.

Two other things besides skates, just as necessary.  I shall bring next time, a bottle of good embrocation and a large roll of sticking plaster.  Our enthusiasm over-come at  length by the call of hunger, we gave up skating, seeking a way home down the white-fringed Grizedale Beck.

A real New Year dinner awaited us.  Turkey, plum pudding – a veritable array of good things under which the table groaned.  They were certainly doing us well !  During the lazy interlude following it was suggested that we go up to Aira Force, the prettiest waterfall in Lakeland, so we got out our machines, and, groaning under the influence of the dinner, slowly wended along to the Matterdale branch road, half-way up Ullswater, where the path for the waterfall starts.  Crossing snowy fields and glittering woodlands to Aira Force.  What a picture – a silent, motionless waterfall !  All silver bars and ropes of glittering diamonds, great, rounded slabs of pure glass, with, deep in this sparkling palace, just a thin trickle of water.  Words fail to paint the picture as we saw it, Aira Force in the grip of ice!  The same frosted beauty held the woods – the fields – the mountains – everywhere except in the choppy waters of the Lake.  Of all the lakes, Ullswater never freezes.

While the bright beauty of the heart of winter was in such evidence, the tragic side was near us too.  For quite a long time we stood watching a robin which kept hopping closer to us.  A cold winter is a hard time for the birds.  We watched until it seemed to be appealing for a morsel to save it from starvation.  A very pretty bird, but forlorn, it seemed, and from pity I turned to sorrow – none of us had the tiniest crumb of food with us.  All the way back to Glenridding I felt kind of miserable because we had to leave that bird hopping about in the snow, vainly searching for the morsel that might mean the difference between life and death.  There is a human parallel, even here, “In England, now, …….”

When we got back, the two defaulters had arrived, having been held up at Kendal the previous night.  Our party was now made into ‘We.R.7”  John Leigh is the lad for making a party go, a pianist of the first order either on popular dance stuff or classical, and an organiser to boot.  Jack (J.T.), the other, is a sport – our ‘nominee’ for ‘membership’ of which more anon.

We all went down to Patterdale and across the end of the lake, walking a mile or so along the opposite side, where we found a sheltered bluff.  There we sat, singing songs while the dusk slowly gathered over the waters of Ullswater, pale-ing the glimmering snow, and then the mountains grew fantastic and hazy.  However can I describe the glories of Lakeland in winter !

After tea snow began to fall heavily, at which hopes ran high that we might be ‘marooned’ ere Tuesday.  In that was the excuse for a prolongation of our short holiday.

John got away on the piano, and soon established himself with the two maidens, who, by this time, had fully emerged form their shell.  We tried a bit of dancing too, but dancing on a carpet is the direct antithesis to skating, so we decided to play games.  You know the kind of games.  As there were only two girls to seven of us, the games were very one-sided, and as they were nearly all organised by John they were mostly ‘one-man’ as well.  At any rate, John came in fairly prominently.  This lasted until the enterprising John bade fair to become the sole male player, when we gently withdrew him, and a sing-song replaced the farce.  At 2am we settled down in complete darkness to a period of ‘table-rapping’ by ‘spirit’ signs, also organised by the sprightly John.  Mistletoe-in-the-dark was the logical outcome of this, and here John had no more than his due portion of the game.  At half-past three we broke up and dispersed – to bed.


          Part  2                         THE  GREAT  PARTY


“This is a notable couple and have met

But for some secret knavery”.                             The Tanner of Tyburn

“Why sleep they not when others are at rest?”            -With apologies to Byrom

We lingered under the warm enclosure of the bedclothes.  A cold grey morning after a late night makes one appreciate the seductive qualities of a good bed, and the beds of mine hostess are beyond reproach.  Chuckling from the direction of John’s bed was followed by the rapid flight of six pillows, for peace is the keynote of morning restfulness, but John had germinated an idea.  When it came to us, he had it worked out, complete to a detail, watertight, certain of success.  He out-lined his brainstorm over breakfast.  We would have a party.  Call every young inhabitant for miles around, open out with a whist drive, then a first class dinner and sing-songs, games and what-not.  We asked the girls to gather the village up and bring its best attractions in at, say, 7.30pm.  We were only just in time, as they were going to organise a village dance in the schoolroom in our honour, but John’s idea was better, they agreed.

In Festive Mood January 1928

In Festive Mood001 It was a happy idea that decided the ‘We.R.7’ rendezvous for their New Year holiday.  A cycle-tour at New Year has many apparent disadvantages, but the ‘We.R.7’ had found the advantages far in excess.  They always do.  Two New Years had been spent at Ffestiniog, which place, though owing its quiet beauty to its wild position, can become outlandish beyond possibility in a day’s ride.  Rain and wind had twice combined their mighty forces, without success, to keep Ffestiniog beyond our reach, though our condition of arrival had both times been precarious.  A freak day, or snow would leave Ffestiniog absolutely inaccessible, for except from the coast the roads all cross the mountains, and are often blocked for weeks at once in winter.  Ispytty Ifan sent a heavy, third class lane to 1590 ft, hard after a day against the wind; Cwm Penmachno reaches the same height, but was harder still, and from Bala the seventeen miles road over Arenig was a ‘teaser’.  Mists, gradient, and a shocking surface tells a tale at the end of a hundred winter miles.  That surface since then has been changed to smooth tarmac, and nobody who remembers the nightmare at night in mist, will grudge the change.

We wanted a change, so Patterdale or Ullswater was suggested, and we agreed that Patterdale would fill the bill.  Kirkstone Pass was the only way, except for a detour of thirty miles or more by way of Penrith, but Kirkstone’s 1476 ft was little to worry about – a spice would be added by the crossing.  Besides, at least one pass is the qualification for the outward run.  The CTC handbook gave us Mrs Blacklock’s at Glenridding, a mile beyond Patterdale: we wrote for board for seven – three nights, and the reply assured us of ‘the good time coming’.  We were split up into three parties, three to make a full-day run, two to get off at noon, and Jack and I on the tandem expected ‘fetching’ our destination in a fast afternoon ride.  We two were just then in the heyday of our tandem activities.

That very few envied Jack and I when we steered away at 2.30pm that bleak last day of the Old Year was plain to see.  News was in the papers of great snowstorms that isolated the southern half of Britain that week, and dismal jimmies fluently prophesied ten-feet drifts in Lakeland.  These things troubled us not at all – we meant to cross Kirkstone if it was the remotest possibility.  On Belmont moors icy roads made us gang warily; a snowstorm raging on the summits was left behind as we descended to Abbey Village, and then, with clear roads, we raced coming darkness to Scotforth for tea.

A dark highway, a fast-moving tandem, and a good light – what is more thrilling?  With a strong wind behind and the pedals circling without apparent energy (we rode the tandem ‘fixed’) we took in belt upon belt of approaching roads, and reached Kendal in four cycling hours from home, at 7.30.  We had twenty mountainous miles, and high hopes of being in for supper.  For six miles to the Troutbeck lane beyond Staveley the road is pimply but along the little lane the ‘collar work’ really commences.  We ‘shanked’ a great deal up to the snowline.  As this lane was not by any means new to me I thought I knew it, but we took a wrong turn, swept down a long snow-strewn incline, walked up another, and entered a fairyland of snowy pines.  We eventually reached a fine hall surrounded by subsidiary buildings, and were put right by a chef who came out resplendent in white with a French accent and a strong aroma of whisky.  So back we sped through the pines and down and up to our turning.  At length came the true descent with bulky white ghosts of mountains growing round until we reached the pretty little church and bridge at Troutbeck, where starts the ascent of Kirkstone Pass.

The moon came out.  If ever I enjoyed a cold frosty night it was surely this magnificent New Year’s Eve over Kirkstone Pass.  The road was fairly clear of the snow that lay in drifts along each side and shone in the moonlight on the mountains.  Pictures of alpine grandeur rolled away in the blue – the deep, lovely blue of perfect night in mid-winter.  The silence of the world impressed us……..  we became aware that the end of another year was there, in the cold gleam of that night’s moon.  We had struggled through a year of passionate outbursts…… winter had shown us its wildest…… spring had roared – slashed her way through the tender shoots of Nature ……summer was a fitful dream of little spells of sunshine and long weeks of cloud, rain, gales and floods….. autumn had died at the birth of her, winter had entered at the death of summer.  But with scarcely two hours to live, 1927 wore the calm robes of queenly beauty.  We had weathered a wild year gladly – with a smile, but that brilliant Old Year moon brought a tear somehow.  The happiest retrospection holds a little pang that can hurt.

We were scarcely conscious of the summit until the snowy gorge of Stockgill opened out at our feet.  Yes there was Kirkstone Inn, unlighted, the hour must be late.  Jack had a watch.  The time was 10.15.  Patterdale lay six miles away down the Pass; our destination seven miles, the summit was clear of snow.  Just then the lamp went out – a refill was necessary, but I waived it.  There was a moon and not a policeman or indeed, a human being about.  Seven miles was less than half an hour! With our customary recklessness we plunged down the moonlit gap.  Ere the first bend Jack tried a rear brake from his handlebar, and stopped the back wheel immediately.  I felt the back of the tandem convulse, slide sideways, then jerking the front wheel to correct the skid, ran along the snow-choked gutter.  Ice !  The bend was rushing up to meet us when I steered into the snow again, for there was our only hope of checking.  The rear brake was tried again and sighed with combined relief when the machine slowed a little.  On the bend a drift had piled itself across the road. We cut through that drift like a launch in water, encountered a dreadful spell of ice again, and then the road became dry, shining in front like a grey ribbon; we sped down there with whirlwind velocity, reached Brothers Water, reedy in the silvery light, and in the wandering lane to Patterdale almost ran amok in a crowd of people on the road.  At that Jack refused to break the law another minute, and we charged the lamp again.

So magnetised by the beauty of the night were we that we failed to recognise Glenridding, riding along blissfully unaware till Aira Force, three miles beyond, was reached.  We did not regret that point: to ride back was a delight.  The moon tracked a silver way across the lake…. Ullswater….. the mountains sharp-prowed above, softer in distance, met that infinite blue.  We concluded our ride as 1927 had one unforgettable hour to live.

Three had arrived, Tom and the Wigan lads, which left two not accounted for.  We wondered if they had yet crossed Kirkstone…. they did not arrive that night.  The time-honoured custom of letting New Year in was performed according to local rites by the two dark members, Tom and Hindley Fred (hereafter H.F.), an enjoyable procedure to judge from the noise under the front door, where mistletoe was hanging.  There were two girls at home, the right type for such an occasion, and, as they later proved, game for anything.  There were toasts, we settled down and the girls gave us a sing-song.

At 3 am we went to bed.

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