Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Bicycicular Jaunts in the Fylde.
Another tale that I can tell goes back to my early childhood and centres around my use of my bicycle, rather two bicycles.
A fixed-wheel jobbie for short trips to the beach and around the small town of my residence, Cleveleys, to do the shopping for my Nan & Pop, and my drop-handle-barred and ten geared-racer for longer trips to the Pennines, Pilling-Sands, Glasson Dock and the Lake District.
The latter area was visited when I scaled the highest mountain in England, Scarfell Pike. However, the trip was not done on bicycles but by car.
A Ford Zodiac, more of that later.
It was in the early sixties and I was about seventeen at the time. Scarfell Pike is located in the Lake District National Park, in Cumbria and has an elevation of 978 metres (3,209 ft) above sea level.
This is how it looked from the bottom, with Wastwater Lake in the foreground.
Please excuse the photographs taken on this venture. They were recorded on my then newly acquired as a birthday present camera, a Brownie 127 I think it was called.
Today Scarfell Pike and its neighbour Scarfell are climbed regularly by hikers and tourists. I am told that part of the trek is now paved and even wheelchairs can negotiate some of the climb.
Back in the sixties it was an adventure with a capital “A”, the climbing and conquering of Scarfell Pike was then a quest, a mission. A major exploit for four young, athletic and enterprising young lads, particularly as its peak was covered in approximately three-foot of snow!
This is us at the summit.
And a spectacular view of its neighbour Scarfell just 3162ft, 47ft lower!
We opted for the easiest ascent from Wastdale-Head village green, as there was a secure area where we could park the car and the drive to the nearest establishment that served alcohol was only five miles away.
I should perhaps make it clear that when I say “Easy” I mean it’s easy relative to the other routes; it’s an unrelenting climb and the crossing of Lingmell Gill can be dangerous, particularly after rain, but with the freezing temperature and snow on the ground, for us it was a doddle.
You will only have to look up the number of call-outs the Wasdale mountain rescue service had in the sixties to realise that navigation errors can lead to serious mishaps. However, to us the rugged beauty, breath-taking grandeur made our ascent a memorable experience that I still remember sixty-five odd years later.
We, Frank Holford, Nigel Fisher, and myself were in our school’s cadet force so we had experience with camping and had been involved in many orienteering expeditions when we went on the cadet-force’s summer training camps, unfortunately Mick Dyson, the fourth member of our team, did not have this experience or training. His major asset was; he owned the car that transported us from the Fylde to Wastwater Green.
It was the very spacious 1962 Ford Zodiac.
The Zodiac was the luxury variant of The Zephyr and were made by British Ford from 1950 till the early seventies, they were the largest passenger car on the market and they guzzled petrol. Mick was very fortunate in that his dad owned a Ford dealership in Blackpool, so a car and fuel were no problem.
I befriended him in my second to last year at school. As my school did not teach Geology as an O-level subject, my headmaster arranged that I attend lessons at the nearby Blackpool Grammar School, a fifteen-minute cycle ride from my school, Arnold Boys on Lytham Road near the Pleasure Beach.
I cycled there three times a week and struck up a friendship with Mick who was also studying Geology and loved the locally produced bitter called Boddingtons.
After the final geology lesson of the week on a Friday, Mick would drive down to Yates Wine Lodge on the North Shore of Blackpool and order two pints of “Boddies” so that my pint would be waiting on bar when I arrived fifteen minutes later, on my bicycle.
Throughout those final two years our friendship blossomed. Mick loved showing off his Zodiac and was always keen to take new passengers, he was also not shy of sipping several Boddies, so he was soon introduced to Frank and Nigel, fellow imbibers of the smooth bitter.
I’m sorry, I digress. I started inferring that I would write about my memories of my youth involving a bicycle, but I have taken you up the highest mountain in England.
Then, bicycles were usually the only means of transportation I had in my late teens, so without either hitching, which I did annually down to London to be involved in NYT productions, or scrounging a lift off Mick, I pedalled my way to many obscure places within a twenty-five radius of my home.
Friday nights were nearly always a pub-crawl or pub-pedal. My mate, Grid, his nickname for Chris Gradwell. Grad-Grid, you get it? Well, almost. He had the misfortune to get his head stuck in some iron railings while under the influence of some Boddies-bitter, so the name Grid stuck.
Grid and I always chose public houses that were well outside our small town, this involved a pedal on our bicycles. We chose establishments that involved crossing the Wyre river and took us to the villages of the Fylde like Poulton, Preesall, and Pilling, this was about an hour’s cycle, and we passed through Thornton, Stannah, Little Thornton, Hambleton, and Staimine and started our consumption of either Boddies-bitter or a bottled stout like Guinness called Jubilee.
The pub in Preesall is now called the Black Bull, its name then escapes me, perhaps The Preesall Arms, but nowadays all the pubs as we knew them are gone. They all had men’s-only bars, called public bars, they also had a small area for women only called “snugs” and lounge bars were the sexes could intermingle. The public bars were always equipped with a dart board, each pub having a resident dart’s team. A few of them had pool tables and there were always several packs of playing cards available for use in a game of snap, cribbage or even bridge.
Today all these pubs, the communal meeting place, have been converted to up-market eating establishments catering for the middle class and vehicularly mobile generation.
I remember on one occasion we avidly listened to the great Brain London, a local Blackpudlian-boxer, getting pummelled by the invincible then Casius Clay. It was scheduled for fifteen rounds, but London was knocked out in the third round.
That night we bid a hasty retreat to the Shard Inn which was close to the Wyre bridge for our third pint. There was a toll fee to cross the bridge over the Wyre of two pence or threepence. Once over the Wyre we stopped at the Lodge in Thornton, a quick pint and then onto my favourite pub the Bay Horse at Thornton’s rail station.
This place had a snug, a public bar and a lounge. Stools and benches in the public bar, benches and a table in the small snug and Chippendale furniture in the lounge.
The ideal pub!
Fish and chips were then the ideal ending to the evening jaunt and these were acquired back in the Cleveleys town centre.
Here the bicycles came into play as they were used to mount the pavement and ride directly up to the counter, where the order was placed. Cod, chips and “Crosserlies”! “Crosserlies” were all the discarded bits of chips and broken batter that accumulated in the fryer, and Biff gave them away free.
Biff was the owner of the Chippie called in those days, Abbots, because Biff’s surname was used; he never once complained of us riding our bicycles into his chippie.
And always welcomed our arrival with a cordial “‘allo there! Usual eh lads?”
Today apart from us being arrested as juvenile delinquents, we would no longer find the chippie.
It was demolished in the eighties and now a Thai restaurant is across the main Victoria Road.
Progress I suppose.
But that won’t get in the way of many other bicycle adventures to Fleetwood, Royal Lytham St Annes golf course, Garstang, and Glasson dock, some of which can be found by reading earlier blogs. Enjoy, thanks.