Clarion Bank Holiday Picnic

26 August 2011

Date: Monday 29 August 2011 from 12 noon
Place: Brooklands Park, Worthing (meet by boating-lake kiosk)

[Map here]

Getting there: Option 1 Bike: meet Suzanne at the Palace Pier at 10.30 am for a leisurely ride
Option 2 Train: to East Worthing Station or Lancing Station and walk to park
Option 3 Car: plenty of car parking spaces at park
Meeting time: Noon
Bring: Food and drink to share
Something to sit on
Kids and friends

Attractions: Clarion fun and games (free)
Miniature railway
Rowing boats
Sea bathing 200 yards away (bit seaweedy but free)
Café and toilets
Children’s play area

Queries: Beforehand: Contact Suzanne 01273 321794
On the day: Roger’s mobile: 0789 985 1172


The Next Ride: Sunday 4 September 2011 – Three Bridges circular

24 August 2011

Please be clear that while all are welcome to join us, we each take part in rides at our own risk.

Three Bridges – East Grinstead – Lingfield – Crowhurst – Blindley Heath – Smallfield – Horley – Gatwick – Three Bridges

(Please contact me if you are thinking of coming:

The last time we did this ride, in September 2008, Leon reported that it was ‘without doubt the most enjoyable that I have been on’. Everyone else, me included, thought it was a disaster – ankle-deep mud, a herd of scary-looking bullocks, and the leader (that’s me) losing his way! However, that was just Blindley Heath; the rest of it was OK. So I’ve changed the route slightly so we don’t actually go across the heath but round it, and it also has a different ending incorporating the four miles of NCN21 between Gatwick and Three Bridges, which I don’t think we’ve done before, plugging the gap in my ‘Route 21 Trilogy’, of which it therefore becomes Part 2½.

I hope no one has grown tired of the WORTH WAY yet. I certainly haven’t – it’s so flat, quiet, and dapply when the sun is out. If you are, just shut your eyes for the first 8 miles!

LUNCH will once again be at the Star at Lingfield. The menu is slightly more restricted than last time, and pricier, but they do have soup and other ‘starters’ that are affordable, and they have a big garden, though sadly now bereft of small furry animals. I will probably book a table, so let me know if you are coming.

PICNICS. On a couple of rides recently some of us have sat in a pub garden hiding picnic food on our laps. I do not think we should be so coy about this. Owing to the English tradition of not sharing tables with strangers, non-paying customers do not actually take up space that could be occupied by paying customers; so the pub are not losing out as long as some of us buy food (and I definitely will, as I am hopeless at picnics). So bring food if you want to!

After lunch we may have another look at the fourteenth-century St Peter & Paul’s Church at Lingfield, though probably without a guided tour this time around; then there is Crowhurst (Surrey) and the BENTLEY MILE, a straight tree-lined avenue (actually only half a mile long) which originally led to Ardenrun, the country estate of ‘Babe’ Wolf Barnato, a famous and extremely rich 1920s socialite who was also a works Bentley driver and winner of many sportscar and Le Mans races. Ardenrun was razed to the ground overnight by fire, following a ‘magnificent party’.

The Red Barn is a possible alternative lunch venue, but probably even pricier (it’s probably where all the toffs go after they have raced their Bentleys), so I am inclined to stick to the Star.

After skirting round Blindley Heath we make for Smallfield, then pick up Route 21 near Horley and follow it, through the now-familiar RIVERSIDE GARDEN PARK, to Gatwick (with a possible tea stop in Horley en route). Then comes the new bit. OK it’s not all up to the standard of the garden park, but some of it is interesting – including the BEEHIVE, the airport’s original 1936 terminal building, now used as offices. It is in the centre of a new industrial/office complex known as CITY PLACE, which I found quite eerily quiet on the practice ride and will no doubt be more so on a Sunday.

Finally to Three Bridges via a maze of on-pavement and off-road cycle paths, and there will, I am afraid, be further ceremonial erections of Clarion NCN21 signs to replace the ones Sustrans didn’t quite get round to installing. (Thanks to which my journey from Gatwick to Three Bridges on the practice was 8 miles long instead of 4!) We can also amuse ourselves by counting the number of roads in that area that are named after famous scientists and engineers, of which there seem to be many.

Length: 27 miles (23 miles if returning from Gatwick).
Duration: about 6 hours including lunch and tea stops.
Terrain: Mostly country lanes; three off-road sections of which one (Worth Way) is Sustrans standard and the other two can be avoided if wet.

Meet at Three Bridges Station (by the bike racks) at 10:50 am. Suitable trains are: 10:00 or 10:15 from Brighton; 9:51 from Hove; 9:22 from Lewes; 10:02 from London Victoria; 10:14 from London Bridge.

Jim (mobile 07742 963239)

The Last Ride: Sunday 21 August – Chichester Harbour with Picnic

24 August 2011

[More photos on Flickr]

Ian was unfortunately unable to lead the ride after all, having suffered ‘bike problems’ at the last minute (see below). So Roger kindly took on the lead and managed to guide us round the delightful route that Ian had designed, only once consulting the map and being heard to say, ‘I think I know the way’!


On the train were Roger, Suzanne, Rob, Wilma and Joyce. Leon drove to join us with his recently acquired pale-blue Brompton folding bike, and Terry and Sue awaited the others at the café by the canal. So altogether we were eight.

The weather kept fine, alternating cloud and sun, and generally very warm. We cycled along the first section of the Chichester canal, along a main road and then on a track between the lakes and through North Mundham. We followed Sustrans Route 88 which I enjoyed very much as it involved extending an old familiar trail, making further paths available to cyclists. So exciting to explore new byways.

"I think I know the way"

We reached Pagham harbour in record time (by 12.30) and as no one was hungry enough to stop for lunch we decided to continue to West Itchenor. There was a bit of a moment when waiting for Roger to do a recce, getting so involved in discussion about the riots and the appropriateness (or otherwise) of punishments handed out, that only Terry noticed Roger return and signal us onwards. So there was a general dispersal, with Leon and Joyce reluctant to leave the spot until sure that they weren’t leaving Roger behind. All sorted by a phone call (modern technology definitely has its moments) and eventually reunited.

So we arrived at West Itchenor rather hungry and found benches and a small concrete platform to sit and have our picnic overlooking the harbour. Sailing boats and launches as well as canoes were busy moving up and down and across the narrow waterway as we followed the progress of the tiny ferry. Rob had been pumping up his tyre regularly all morning. Now while we all ate lunch, Rob mended his puncture having found shards of flint wedged into his tyre.

Leaving Itchenor over the water.

Getting on the ferry was a slow process as it was extremely busy. So we had to await its second return when the boatman managed to carry and store 7 bicycles and Leon’s folded Brompton on his tiny vessel. Roger’s bike had to be held on for the brief journey over to the ‘far shore’ (about 300 yards actually). Wilma had not been here before and appeared astonished at the lack of pontoon or jetty as the boat crunched up the pebbles to unload us via a ‘gang plank’. Very wobbly experience for most of us and almost disastrous for Leon who unbalanced as he stood on the plank and, unwilling to let go of folding bike in one hand, or bag in the other, jumped off into the water, saving these precious items but soaking his socks and shoes. Nothing daunted.

Sue and Terry on the Legionary Trail.

On the way along the road to Bosham, Leon and Terry sought a place to have a swim but found the beaches all mud and grass. No way of reaching clear water without returning covered in mud! So we all ended up in the café at Bosham for a very welcome cup of tea and snack.

Post 202 on Emperor Way, Chichester.

Roger managed to steer us up to the main road and off onto a safer cycle track which took us all safely back to Chichester. Thank you Ian and Roger for a very enjoyable day out.


‘Things Fall Apart’

It’s Saturday evening, between six and seven. I’ve been frantically busy for weeks and haven’t been on a Clarion ride for ages. But now I’m back (more or less) to normal and looking forward to leading the way on one of my favourite rides – the Chichester harbour one with the celebrated ferry.

On and off all day I’ve been making preparations. I’ve checked the bike, and pump, spare tube, tool kit (including steel tyre levers as John rightly recommends), puncture outfit, and made sure the tyres are properly inflated, reminded myself of the route details with the OS Explorer map, made my sandwiches and bought a box of mixed olives from our local Turkish shop on Lewes Road to hand round during the picnic.

Suddenly. And terrifyingly as well as perplexingly there’s an explosive bang – sounds for all the world like a gunshot. Sue almost jumps out of her skin – I think I’ve already left mine behind. What can it be? Turns out it’s my back tyre. Never known anything like that happen before. Unbelievable. Tyre was blown up hard, of course, but no more than usual.

Well, initial shock over, I start to think, ‘If it was going to happen, good job it happened now rather than on the ride. I’d have been stranded,’ Sue says, ‘Might have been even worse if it had exploded while you were driving to Chichester with the bike in the back – could have caused an accident.’ Too true.

OK. Not the end of the world. Back wheel punctures always a bit more of a bind than front wheel ones where the wheel can be got out and back in a second or two – but straightforward. So I set about it.

I’ve seen inner tubes with tiny holes and larger punctures but never one where about five or six inches of the tube has just been ripped apart. Wow! No wonder it made such a noise. Some defect in the inner tube. I put in a new tube – then calamity. Something wrong with the wheel itself – can’t get it back in – struggle with it, with Sue’s help after a bit, for nearly an hour but no go. No bike shops open at 7 pm on Saturday evening. Obviously can’t do the ride tomorrow. But what to do?

Will send out an emergency circular saying what has happened and drive to Chichester in the morning so that I can explain to anyone who does turn up there and if they want to continue give a quick tutorial on the route. That’s plan B.

Plan A is to find someone else to lead it now. Know Jim’s otherwise engaged from the email he’s sent me. Roger to the rescue! What a relief! Eternal gratitude.


Tolpuddle Festival 2011

24 August 2011

I volunteered to help again this year. This works out to quite a good deal if you consider for 3 hours work a day you get food vouchers worth £7 a day, plus free camping/ parking and a good quality ‘Crew’ t-shirt to show off to your friends!

There was a record crowd and the camping field was full to capacity. The weather was generally fine, and the rain did not dampen spirits. There is always a great atmosphere of comradeship which recharges your batteries. This is certainly very welcome given the current fight back against the cuts!

The Clarion contingency from Bolton did not turn up this year Ian, so I was unable to pass on your greetings to Charles Jepson.

I got allocated car park duty, and managed to miss the Banner parade, but went to quite a few events: Peter Hain talking about his new book on Nelson Mandela and the speeches by union representatives on Sunday.

Tony Benn got a standing ovation when he took to the stage. He said, ‘We don’t want to be controlled by a handful of people who have all the wealth. This year will be recorded as a year when people realised they need each other if they are going to make a difference.’

All in all a good and inspiring weekend that I would recommend to all Clarion members.


Bike fixing – a report

24 August 2011

John's Bicycle maintenance session #2

The turnout for the second bike fixing session was as disappointing as the first – only John, Tessa and myself, plus a brief cameo appearance from Joyce and Leon (who had attended the first session) who popped by on their way to a ride.

This was a pity because John had prepared very thoroughly, giving us handouts on how to identify wheel and tyre sizes, and bringing along a collection of inner tubes with holes in them, for us to practise puncture repairs. He showed us how to release and re-connect brakes, and how to adjust them, how to remove wheels and get tyres off, and finally how to repair a puncture. He was very methodical and patient, insisting that we (that is, mainly Tessa, as I was OK with puncture repairs and had come along mainly for advice on my gears) try out each stage of the process until we could do it.

I think this kind of ‘skill-sharing’ is a wonderful idea, particularly at times when the state of the economy may rule out going to the repair shop, and is to be encouraged. I even wondered whether it could be extended to such things as electrics and plumbing, where I could offer some guidance myself. I hope John can be persuaded to run another session, but understandably he would need to be sure that a sufficient number of people would turn up.


[More photos on Flickr]

News and Bank Holiday Picnic

24 August 2011

Dear fellow members and friends 

I shall be away for the next few weeks and Jim will be putting out the next couple of newsletters. So if you have anything you’d like included please send it to him at

There have been some changes in the ride schedule (see below) and we still have no volunteer(s) to lead a ride on 2 October. I’ve indicated for a long time that I’m not available then and Jim will be away, and Roger can’t do it either so unless someone else can take it on there will be no ride at all.

Less urgently, more volunteers are needed for November/December rides.

This ‘bumper’ edition includes Jim on Bike Fixing and Allen on the Tolpuddle Festival.

Clarion Bank Holiday Picnic – message from Suzanne

Suzanne’s original had an arrow which pointed to the location of Brooklands Park. For some reason I haven’t been able to copy it. So, just to be clear, the place to head for is marked with a little shield just below Western Road and just above the first A259 sign from the left.

[Map here]

Date: Monday 29 August 2011 from 12 noon
Place: Brooklands Park, Worthing (meet by boating-lake kiosk)
Getting there: Option 1 Bike: meet Suzanne at the Palace Pier at 10.30 am for a leisurely ride
Option 2 Train: to East Worthing Station or Lancing Station and walk to park
Option 3 Car: plenty of car parking spaces at park
Meeting time: Noon
Bring: Food and drink to share
Something to sit on
Kids and friends

Attractions: Clarion fun and games (free)
Miniature railway
Rowing boats
Sea bathing 200 yards away (bit seaweedy but free)
Café and toilets
Children’s play area

Queries: Beforehand: Contact Suzanne 01273 321794
On the day: Roger’s mobile: 0789 985 1172

Future rides until the end of 2011

24 August 2011

Still looking for an offer to lead the 2 October ride.

It is not possible to check train availability more than 12 weeks in advance so later rides will be provisional for this reason.

4 September* Three Bridges circular (Jim)
18 September* Hassocks to Shoreham, with a picnic by the river (Roger)
4 October*
16 October  Hayling Island (Roger)
6 November
20 November
4 December
18 December Berwick circular (Ian)

*Ian definitely not available

The Origins of the Clarion Cycling Club and cycling in the 1890s: 90. Swiftsure’s epic 330 mile ride from Manchester to Folkestone and back to London – on his wife’s bike!

24 August 2011

This is from ‘Cycling Notes’ Clarion, 10 August 1895:

It isn’t often I introduce an account of my own doings into these ‘Notes’ and I shouldn’t do so now only I think it just possible that the particulars of a journey I undertook last week from Manchester to Folkestone (260 miles) and back again to London (70 miles) may have in it some items of interest and instruction to some readers. The journey is not a great one and probably every other cyclist could do as well if he were similarly mounted. My time being extremely limited I had to pick out the shortest route possible. By the aid of the guidebook and map I copied out my route onto a slip of paper which I carried in my waistcoat pocket, and consulted whenever necessary, without dismounting.

The rain had been heavy for several days previous to last Saturday week, and it was 11 o’clock of the forenoon before I could start, thus making it an impossibility to reach my contemplated journey’s end (Northampton) that day. My own machine being without efficient mudguards, I decided to ride my wife’s machine. And my judgement was not mistaken, for it ran beautifully and carried me the whole distance without the least mishap or trouble of any kind. The low gearing and six inch cranks tried my knees the first day but afterwards I was quite at home and liked it as well as my own.

More next time

The Clarion Movement – a potted history

22 August 2011

The Clarion newspaper was the most influential Socialist newspaper ever published in Britain, creating thousands of Socialists and inspiring a whole social movement. The movement was divided by the First World War and never recovered.

The first issue of The Clarion was published on 12 December 1891. The offices were in City Buildings, Corporation Street, Manchester, although the paper moved to Fleet Street in 1895. (The building still stands unoccupied and derelict opposite the Co-operative Bank.) The Clarion was founded by Robert Blatchford.

Blatchford was born in Maidstone in 1851. He came from a theatrical family, his father John being a comedian and his mother Georgina an actress. He had little schooling and was largely self-educated, spending his time reading during regular bouts of childhood illness. The family eventually settled in Halifax where Robert was apprenticed as a brushmaker. He did not go into the trade, leaving the town in 1871 and joining the army where he rose to the rank of Sergeant Major.

After leaving the army he got a job as a storeman with the Weaver Navigation Company in Northwich and began writing short stories in his spare time. This led to him writing a column for a newspaper in Leeds and then into full-time journalism, first in London and then in Manchester where he worked for Edward Hulton, writing for the Sunday Chronicle under the pen-name Nunquam (Nunquam Dormio – I do not sleep.) His salary was now an astonishing £1,000 a year.

Increasingly he wrote about slum conditions in Manchester and was taken around some of the worst cellars in Hulme and Ancoats by a local Socialist, Joe Waddington. Blatchford finally became a Socialist after reading What is Socialism, written by Henry Hyndman and William Morris. Blatchford was not a theoretician but came to Socialism because he saw it as a practical solution to the poverty and misery he had personally witnessed. He later wrote:

“I have never read a page of Marx. I got the idea of collective ownership from H.M. Hyndman; the rest of my Socialism I thought out myself. English Socialism is not German: it is English. English Socialism is not Marxian; It is humanitarian. It does not depend upon any theory of “economic justice” but upon humanity and common sense.”

Hulton would not let him write about Socialism in the Morning Chronicle so Blatchford walked out of his job and set up The Clarion, along with his brother Montague, Alex Thompson, Edward Fay and Robert Suthers. It was a huge gamble but fortunately for them many of Blatchford’s readers followed him to the new venture and The Clarion soon became a welcome weekly visitor to thousands of households and attracted a fierce loyalty from its readers. The Clarion was never a dry-as-dust theoretical journal, but a jovial mix of news, comment, short stories, songs and poetry.

Blatchford and The Clarion made Socialists. As George R Taylor put it in his book Leaders Of Socialism, Past and Present, published in 1910,

“…Robert Blatchford…can manufacture Socialist more quickly then anyone else. Tipton Limited sells more tea than any other firm, Lever sells more soap; one factory makes more boots; another most chairs. Mr Blatchford and The Clarion make more Socialists than any rival establishment.”

Blatchford’s pamphlet Merrie England: a Series of Letters on the Labour Problem, based on articles originally published in The Clarion, appeared in 1893, priced at a shilling. The first run of 25,000 sold out and it was then reprinted, the price lowered at penny and sold by the hundreds of thousands. It was addressed to “John Smith of Oldham, a hard-headed workman fond of facts” and set out practical reasons why Socialism was necessary, ending by presenting readers with a stark choice:

“This question of Socialism is the most important and imperative question of the age. It will divide, is now dividing, society into two camps. In which camp will you elect to stand? On the one side there are individualism and competition – leading to a “great trade” and great miseries. On the other side is justice, without which can come no good, from which can come no evil. On the one hand are ranged all the sages, all the saints, all the martyrs, all the noble manhood and pure womanhood of the world; on the other hand are the tyrant, the robber, the manslayer, the libertine, the usurer, the slave-driver, the drunkard, and the sweater. Choose your party, then, my friend, and let us get to the fighting.”

The Clarion supported the three-year strike in the slate mines at Bethesda in Wales by raising money for the strikers. Its readers now set up a social network of societies, including the Clarion Cycling Club (which is still going), Vocal Unions, Clarion Fellowship, Clarion Handicraft Clubs, Clarion Scouts, Rambling Clubs and Cinderella Clubs (which arranged events for children). In 1908 the Clarion Café was opened at 50a Market Street; this lasted until the 1930s.

The Clarion Cycling Club began one evening in February 1894 when Tom Groom and five others men held a meeting in the Labour Church in Birmingham and decided to set up a Socialist Cycling Club. Their first tour was at the Easter weekend and was later written up for The Clarion, in which Tom Groom described how they left Wolverhampton on a damp morning and cycled around Worcestershire, enjoying the pleasure of the countryside – and its pubs!

“Suddenly the first man rang his bell, and discounted, the others following suit. The first man spake not, but pointed with trembling delight to where they sold the Clarion… We all marched in, in order, purchased our Clarions and then, as solemnly walked out, mounted our machines, and then proceeded on our way as men who had had glimpses of higher things.”

Tom concluded his report,

“We had spent as grand a holiday as possible. Ah-h! It was glorious! Say no man lives until he has been on tour with the Clarion CC. Till then he but exists.”

His report inspired others to set up their own Clarion Cycling Clubs and in 1895 over one hundred cyclists met up at Easter in Ashbourne for the first annual meet, a tradition that still continues. There were rides out, songs and drinking in the George & Dragon. As the cycling clubs grew Clarion clubhouses were set up to allow the cyclists to get away for a cheap weekend in the country. The first was a caravan set up over the summer of 1895 at Tabley Brook, near Knutsford, by two Manchester CCC members Charlie Reekie and J S Sutcliffe. A permanent Clubhouse in an old house was opened in June 1897 at Bucklow Hill, leased from a farmer for 5 years. This was followed an old farmhouse in Handforth which ran from 1903 to 1936. Collin Coates later wrote:

“To be able to wheel out on a Saturday or Sunday after the week’s toil and moil in the dingy office, the stuffy warehouse, the reeking slum, the enervating mill, workshop or mine – to one’s own house… which was the rendezvous of kindred soul bubbling over with the spirit of the newly–found fellowship, was indeed taste of the joys to be had in the ‘days-a-coming’.”

Other Clubhouses were set up in Wharfedale, Halewood, the Ribble Valley, the Midlands and Essex. One Clarion House survives near Nelson-on-Colne, opened in 1912 by Nelson ILP. It welcomes visitors, walkers and cyclists still.

The Clarion had a women’s column almost from the start, written firstly by Eleanor Keeling and then from October 1895 by Julia Dawson. In February 1896 Julia told her readers that she wanted to organise a Clarion Van tour over the summer. A horse-drawn van had already been offered and would be sent out on the road with two or three women on board, stopping in towns and villages to hold meetings and distribute Socialist literature. She appealed for women to come forward as speakers and for donations to fund the venture. These appeals were successful and in June the Van set off from Liverpool. The speakers on the first tour included Caroline Martyn, Ada Nield and Sarah Reddish. The Van toured Cheshire and Staffordshire and then went north, finishing up on Tyneside after fifteen weeks’ hard campaigning. On the way the women had addressed thousands of people. It was judged a great success and repeated in following years. By 1907 the number of Vans had risen to six.

The Clarion movement was fractured in 1914 when Robert Blatchford supported the war. He had already incensed many of readers in 1899 when he supported the Boer war. He had also supported calls for a stronger navy and army and had written articles in the Daily Mail about the “German Menace.” Now with war a reality he turned on his former comrades, some of whom were imprisoned for their conscientious objection to the slaughter.

Collin Coates later reflected that:

“We could not equate Socialism, as we had understood it, with the organised killing of others of our own class. This attitude aroused Blatchford to a pitch of patriotic fervour which caused him to abuse and vilify such of us as had failed to drop our Socialism for a narrow nationalism.”

The paper struggled on after the war but it was never the same. The Labour Party was now a growing force electorally, prepared to enter government on a pragmatic basis, whilst on its left the newly formed Communist party was attracting young idealists. The paper became monthly in 1927 and finally disappeared in 1934, its heyday long past. Blatchford himself died in 1943 and now slept.

Article by Michael Herbert.

Working Class Movement Library, Salford:

The Next Ride: Sunday 21 August 2011 – Chichester harbour (picnic!) c. 22 miles

9 August 2011

Please be clear that while all are welcome to join us we each take part in rides at our own risk.

Not quite an annual event – we missed out in 2009 – but almost.

Can I emphasise that it’s going to be a picnic ride, so as to minimise the chances of anyone turning up without their sandwiches!

Of course it’s not possible to predict the weather – especially not so far in advance – and while riding in the rain can be tolerable, eating your lunch with water trickling down your neck is not so nice. But in such an unfortunate eventuality we can – as we have done before – make for a pub such as The Bell Inn at Birdham instead (and eat our sandwiches, or whatever, for lunch on Monday!) We can of course decide where to stop for the picnic on the day – but I have in mind the usual stopping place at Sidlesham quay by Pagham harbour (just on from the Crab and Lobster gastro-pub).

We’ll take the usual route – along by the canal, then a partial doubling back to take us across the lakes (Ivy, Copse, East Trout) through North Mundham and along mostly quiet roads and well-surfaced tracks, emerging briefly onto the busy Selsey road then soon off it on the much nicer road down to Pagham harbour. Then we make our way on more quiet roads to West Itchenor and take the little ferry across the Chichester Channel and on to Bosham, where there will be time towards the end of the ride for the usual cuppa (and cakes for the addicts). As far as I can discover the cost of the ferry including the bike is still £2.50.

Catch the 9.48 or 10.12 from Brighton station or meet at Chichester station at 11.00. (If you have to get a later train, ring me and we’ll wait for you.) There are a variety of trains for returning – e.g. 16.23, 16.28, 16.48, or (with a change at Hove) 17.14.

Ian’s mobile number is 07770 743287 (and he will switch it on when he gets to Chichester station!)