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The First Seventy Years: 96 - The Christmas Ride

...One memorable event occurred on that tour. Stopping at a pub in Hope on Christmas Day two of our party got absolutely paralytic. Norman Steemson and Ted Smart, both only a little older than myself, had been drinking Barley Wine for some time. By the time we left the pub both were incapable of standing never mind riding their bikes. As it was still several miles a relay party had to be organised to carry them to the youth hostel in Edale...

Eric Biddulph tells of a Christmas cycling tour.

Eric’s book The First Seventy Years can be obtained for £10 by contacting http://mary@bike2.wanadoo.co.uk or telephoning 01484-658175.

All the cash raised by the book goes to a water aid project in Malawi.

The Christmas tour of 1952 saw this many riders booked in to the four youth hostels; Shining Cliff on Christmas Eve; Edale; Holmfirth and Overton Hall. Self cooking was the order of the day with the exception of Christmas Day dinner at Edale. The carrying of bulky tinned food caused some grief on our single-fixed gear bikes transversing the Peak District hills, particularly Holme Moss en-route to and returning from Holmfirth.

One memorable event occurred on that tour. Stopping at a pub in Hope on Christmas Day two of our party got absolutely paralytic. Norman Steemson and Ted Smart, both only a little older than myself, had been drinking Barley Wine for some time. By the time we left the pub both were incapable of standing never mind riding their bikes. As it was still several miles a relay party had to be organised to carry them to the youth hostel in Edale.

They were smuggled in by two masquerading members. It was fortuitous that the warden never took it upon himself to visit the dormitory we were occupying. Had he done so he would have heard loud snoring long before he entered the dormitory.

Many of the cafes which were regularly visited by cyclists during the 1950s permitted their customers to eat their own food. Most club cyclists of that period would only buy a part share of a communal pot of tea with perhaps a few cakes or a toasted teacake. Many ordinary home owners in the more rural locations turned over their lounges to cater for Sunday cyclists. There were plenty of traditional cafes catering for the two-wheeled brigade; The Singing Kettle in Matlock; Pear Tree Farm in Kinoulton; The Caravan on the Heanor by-pass. All were part of a much larger network of stopping places for East Midlands cyclists during those memorable years. Most of them, alas, are now part of history. All will be remembered with fond affection. There was always a sprint up the Heanor by-pass to be first to The Caravan; a cup of tea before continuing on the remaining fifteen kilometres ride to Nottingham after a day riding in the Peak District.

Between 1952 and 1955 I was out every Sunday. Northwards to the rolling Dukeries; eastwards to the flat Vale of Belvoir and Lincolnshire; southwards to the deceptively tough riding in Charnwood Forest, Bradgate Park and the Leicestershire Wolds; westward into the lumpy Peak District.

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