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Rough Stuffing in the 1940s

Picture Post witnessed the Spirit of Cycling returning to CTC Chester & North Wales after WW2

The Picture Post was a pioneer of photojournalism in the UK. It appeared between 1938 and 1957, and within two months of its first copy achieved a circulation approaching 2 million copies a week. Its pages witnessed the horrors of the war years and the country's slow return to peacetime was reflected in the pictures and stories savoured by its readership.

At a family reception following the funeral in January 2012 of Jim Skelding, a past president of the Chester & North Wales District Association of the Cyclists Touring Club, Trevor Hargreave, a long standing CTC member, produced a copy of the Picture Post featuring the DA in 1949. Both Jim and his late brother Bill were pivotal members of the DA when it was formed as war broke out in 1939. After war service, both returned to civilian life to help the DA rediscover its roots and flourish. But let the story speak for itself...


Rough Riding

Some of it’s worse than the rest, but it’s all pretty bad. Your saddle jolts as if though were on a wild horse and your brakes aren’t always sure to hold you on the loosely surfaced roads. But there’s good exercise and better fun in it all.

Given a number, they started off, at half minute intervals, on the first section of the trial, and wheeled along the roads at whatever pace they judged to be eleven miles an hour. Many of them had come from Chester to the other side of Mold, in Flintshire, this slowly brightening Sunday morning, others from Liverpool; three had come from Manchester. It was the first cycling reliability trial to be held by the Chester and North Wales District Association of the Cyclists Touring Club since before the war. The thirty-three entrants moved along the lanes not knowing when they would be pulled up by a checker to have their time recorded, not knowing that it was seven miles from the start to that checker. So they went on, some cycling alone and solidly plodding at their pedals, others gathering together in groups and easy in their saddles.


Where everyone must dismount

She has ridden across grass tracks hardly distinguishable on the maps. Clear of them at last, she has to clamber to the road again.

The part of the route where it is quicker to walk

The rain has not dried up from the loose earth lane, so they take it easy and hope for better going ahead, though speed is not everything on the trial.

The checkers had synchronised their watches to the second so that when they reached Ysceifiog each one of the thirty-three had his number taken and his time set boldly and unmistakeably down.

Then one by one again they folded up their maps, and set their fingers firmly round the brake-levers for the rough-riding test. They skidded and swerved, their noses six inches below their belts, down the cork-screw lane overhung with hazel branches and sky-seeking brambles. The track was deep in mud where it wasn’t boulder strewn: and just as they came to the bottom, thinking they were leaving the green, leafy light of the lane for the sun again with fluttering if not easy flying colours they hit the hard part: or rather the softest of the parts. A bridge crossed a stream and on it, at ten o’clock that morning, there had been a thickness of dried mud, dry as a grammar lesson, with a surface like concrete. But one of the checkers thought this was too easy as an obstacle; indeed he had thought as much all last week. So he had brought with him an old, chipped enamel jug and had poured a hundred or more jugsful of stream water over it all. And now the whole was covered with pools of muck that would have discouraged John Bunyan.

They went on, riding over greasy, cross-country tracks, always consulting their maps, whipping round corners where brake-test traps were laid; having their general cycling knowledge and country-lore interest tested; doing nearly thirty miles in all, with points for style and hill climbing ability, men and women out chasing the sun and savouring the good air. And the winner could choose for his prize a dynamo lighting set, a touring bag or saddle, with a silver medal besides.


The point where it is wiser to dismount

It was either the mud track or the ford. He chose the ford. Now he regrets it, and the beginning and end of his shortcut was a splash.


They fall foul of a surprise brake test

And from the skid marks of the road they aren’t the first to do so, either. Coming out of rough country, they try to make up time and lose points as they fail to pull up sharply enough at the control.


At the end a good memory earns points

“How observant are you?” asks the card. And they have to try and name the places on the route pictured on the photographs.


The Day’s ride puts an edge on appetites

A hot meal has been ordered, but some prefer to make a complete field day of the trial and bring their own sandwiches and flasks of tea.