Remembrance Day Ride 2013

10th November 2013

Once again it was my privilege to lead the Chapter remembrance Ride. Once again, the Peter ‘Scotty’ Scott effect meant that it didn’t rain on the ride. And, although there were some detail changes from previous years, the broad outline remained the same - escape from London before the road closures; stop for coffee and a two minutes silence at a lovely out-of-the-way country pub; stand around in the sunshine for some happy banter whilst the Cranleigh road closure was lifted; then proceed at a steady plod to Elstead to lay a wreath on behalf of the Chapter.

When Les and I did the recce it was clear that we needed to have left 611 Kings Road by as close to 09:30 as possible to avoid getting caught up in road closures. Anyone remember the 2 minutes silence on the hard shoulder of the A3 a few years ago? Hence the early meet, and thanks to Martin Szlagowski for opening up the shop, providing muffins and coffee and making the all-important phone call to the coffee-stop pub so that they could have the right number of coffee pots perking away.

It was obvious from the gathering that there would be plenty of Road Captain support, with David O’Flaherty ‘DOF’, Oliver Achkar, Andrew Papas, Mick Newstead and Nick Deal as well as Les Channing and myself. The weather was fabulous, cloudless blue sky and the promise of stunning autumn colour in the lanes.

As it transpired I left at 09:36 followed by around 65 gleaming Harleys as Oliver Achkar performed his first official role as the Chapter’s new Road Captain by marking the first turn - left into the Kings Road. From such tiny acorns grow mighty oaks. Regrettably, the gleaming Harleys would not stay so for long, not with the route Les and I had planned...

We will pass quickly over the section down the A3 to the M25 turn-off, because then it became much more interesting, with back lanes all the way to Forest Green (except for a couple of miles of A25). In some places the tarmac was clearly discernible under the leaf mould, mud, gravel and cyclists; in other places it was an act of faith where the road went between the puddles. Fortunately everyone had heeded the stern warnings about road conditions at the briefing, and we all arrived at the Parrot almost without incident. Ollie Achkar had stopped twice with worrying warning lights, and Ken Poczekaj decided he didn’t really want his detachable back-rest any more and ejected it into the path of the ever lucky Kai Newstead, who, on this occasion, failed to turn a drama into a crisis. Due to the good progress everybody made, we actually arrived a few minutes early, so the coffee stop was in two halves with the well-observed two minutes silence at a punctual 11 o’clock.

At this point the ride split into two, with Mick Newstead and John Castleman shepherding away those who wanted to take part in the “Ring of Red” around the M25. The rest of us remounted and headed for Elstead via another mix of lesser-used roads. It all went really well until we got into Milford, where I had a senior moment at a junction and left the drop-off out of sight of the turn. Doh! By the time I had sorted that out about 10 riders had gone the wrong way. Fortunately Andrew Eborn realised that all was not well, and rounded up the stragglers and led them back to Elstead. However this was not before they had been through the new Hindhead tunnel in each direction making a fine old racket.

Up until a few years ago, the Chapter had laid a wreath on behalf of the Old Contemptibles Association; none of those august gentlemen are with us any longer, so now we just pay our own respects. The wreath was laid smartly by Gavin Caddick, and I read a short poem.

Then it was off to lunch at the Mill at Elstead, and mighty fine it was too. We had been warned that the service wouldn’t be speedy as we weren’t able to book but had to take pot luck, but no-one seemed to mind and soaked up some more unseasonal sunshine.

Thanks are due to Les and Nick for helping with the ride (as well as the other road captains for their support); the staff of the Parrot at Forest Green and the Mill at Elstead for their welcome and catering, and a special mention for Andrew Eborn for additional navigation services. Oh, and welcome home to Marcus Wuest after his sojourn in the relentless warmth of Singapore.

The last event of this season is the ‘unofficial’ breakfast at Smiths of Smithfield, which I believe is on Sunday 8th December from about 9.30am. There is no ride to or from this event.

Next year’s premier Chapter event will be St Tropez in May; the first Sunday ride of the year is on April 13th and there will be a ride every month until November as well as various foreign trips to whet your appetites. All details will be on the C&F web-page in due course.

Thanks for your support and helping to make 2013 a tremendous success for Chelsea & Fulham H.O.G.

Michael Howers - C&F Road Captain


Back to top