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The Dukeries Pilgrimage Run

David Stevenson

15th October 1995

Three ideas inspired the Pilgrimage Run.  The first was to visit the two ancient ecclesiastical ruins in our neck of the woods: Mattersey Priory and Roche Abbey.  The second was to give hardened riders a final run out on a course that tested their determination and grit and the third was to allow Phil's and my natural sadistic bent a chance to really let rip.  The course suggested itself for all three purposes since the two relics are about 13 miles apart and it's a further 13 miles to Worksop (which also has a Priory) from where we started.  More than this though, both monuments are approached down 'interesting' roads: at Mattersey about a mile and a half of unmade road and at Roche down a cobbled steep hill followed by an unmade path.  Roche is also built in a natural defile with cliffs to its north and riders have to climb out of this valley up quite a steep bank.  Perfect for our visitors, Moriarty.

Nineteen NACC-eligible machines signed on at the Gateford for the 37 mile run: two autocycles, five cyclemotors and twelve mopeds.  There were two sidecars.  The weather treated us kindly and the autumn roads were either bathed in yellow sunlight or under dull but not threatening skies well suited to the end of a wonderful summer.  Leaves scurried across the road driven by a moderate, warm wind.  Robbie and I led the riders out to the edge of Worksop and left them with the broad fields and large skies of North Nottinghamshire.

It's become something of a custom amongst Yorkshire folk to ask a few of their less civilised neighbours from the huge damp plain that is South Lancashire and the Greater Manchester area to come over the Pennines and join small family gatherings and other forms of social intercourse in the hope that a little bit of the gentility and good-breeding evident over here will rub off.  I'm not from Yorkshire myself but I've happily gone along with Phil in this charity work despite the difficult nature of some of these tribal savages.  On this occasion one of our dedicated brethren, closer to God than the sinners he moves so graciously among, had spent all his Saturday night from 5:00pm to 9:45pm riding in the gathering gloom and fog to hang up the signs that were to guide the erring brothers on their course.  The next morning he arose from his comfortable cot to trek once again the length of the run checking that these arrows remained.  And what, I hear you enquire, was the response of those ruffianly renegades from the flatness that is Manchester and district?

I'll tell you. They complained.  The signs, which were green, looked like grass, they said.  I knew Manchester was polluted but the news that they have fluorescent grass over there was still a surprise.  These arrows were affixed to lampposts, street signs and the like so if you ever lose your memory and wake up to find yourself in a street with fluorescent green grass growing out of the tops and sides of the signposts, you're somewhere near Manchester.  Put your fist on your wallet.  You'd think as they wandered round the streets with their hands in their pockets and those flat caps pulled down over their eyes, kicking Bovril tins up and down the causeways till the pubs open, they'd find a couple of minutes to go and weed the fluorescent grass out of a streetlight.  You can't do anything for some people.

Anyway, hot tea was taken at Roche (I told you this was a class event) at which point all riders were still going well apart from Bernie Cook.  He had been rescued but with the addition of a fag paper gasket was sufficiently mobile to insist that he would make it back under his own power to the Gateford.  The rest of the hardy bunch invigorated by the tea provided by Phil and Linda headed off towards Roche.  (It's sad to have to record the failing powers of a once great colleague but I have to report that on this occasion Phil had actually forgotten the recipe for tea.  He set off from home without any matches to light the gas or any cups to put the presumably ice-cold beverage into.  If he ever invites you to lunch make sure Linda is going to be in.)

By the time the time they reached the 12th century Cistercian Monastery, intrepid cries of "Where's the bloody pub" and "I'll kill the organisers" were echoing amongst the merry throng.  After the cobbles and the green lane it was (stirring and dramatic music) - The Hill-Climb.  It was a real hill marked ¼, ½, ¾ and, for those from Greater Manchester, 'top'. Anyone who rode past the 'top' sign on their bicycle by whatever means received a bonus of ten points.  In addition there were three extra points if you got to the ¼ but not past the ½ without pedalling.  Six extra points if you got to the ½ but not past the ¾ mark and eight extra points if you got past the ¾ mark but not to the top without pedalling.  A clear run earned ten marks for not pedalling and the ten bonus points, a maximum of 20 marks.

For those on the less powerful mopeds and particularly those on the less powerful cyclemotors it was too much of a blood sport even for my taste and I'm not sure we'd do it again.  Derek Rayner manfully struggled the Berini up to within a yard of the 'top' sign and we gave him the bonus anyway.  One of the NSU Quicklys and several other riders mistook the instructions and ran without pedalling until the machine stopped.  We gave them the bonus too. Some riders on weak machines positively sailed up; both Derek Langdon on a Cyclaid and Frank Brzeski on a Mini-Motor managed to heave their cyclemotors over the top with impressive élan.  Eddie's NVT and one or two others actually managed a clear run and surprise of the day was Roger Worton's little Britax Cucciolo, which whirred up as if it was on a winch.  Poor old Neville and Russell Hart on the other hand had terrible trouble with the orange Batavus and sidecar.  Panting like a cart horse Neville succeeded in forcing his handsome outfit past the ¾ mark before gravity reasserted itself in a terrific wobble which collapsed the bike onto the sidecar.  Happily Russell wasn't hurt and a little re-jigging of son and bike at the top of the hill allowed Neville to continue.  We gave him the full 20 marks for effort.

Back at the pub buffet, the riders bit deep into the second of Phil's quizzes.  There had been four road safety questions at Mattersey already, a score for age of bike and rider at Worksop (they were all feeling considerably older by this point), a mark for completing the ride to Roche and (stirring and dramatic music) the hill-climb score.  Sheets were handed in to the Maths Adviser and, lo and behold, with the aid of a box of fifty matches and 45 minutes pencil sucking a result was obtained.  Whether it was the right result, who knows?  By this point, who cared?  We went back in convoy the ten miles or so to the Gateford.  Really good this bit, eighteen bikes buzzing and smoking across the country lanes in a long line, until Keith Walker decided to show Michael Slaney on a very nicely turned out Yamaha Fizzy just what a good old New Hudson autocycle could do and disappeared over the next rise as we all turned right ...  If Simon on the Bantam hadn't chased after them they'd have ended up in Cleethorpes.  Serve them right.

Then it was The Prize Giving: Bernie Cook got a really hideous bit of plastic with 'Hard Luck' on it just to spoil what had already been a pretty rough day.  Keith Walker took 'Best Autocycle' not only because he was 'Only Autocycle' but also because he came second in the overall points.  Roger Worton took a well deserved 'Best Cyclemotor' with a top score of 37½ marks.  One of the Lancashire types shouted out, "It's only because he's old and got a gearbox".  You see what we're up against?  Bad losers as well.  Finally Neville and Russell Hart took 'Best Moped' for a really gallant effort on the Citric Batavus (sponsored by Jaffa).

Is there anybody I haven't offended?  Yes, I haven't said anything rude about Nick, who drove the breakdown, Frank who sat with him or Linda, Sheila, Robbie, and Simon who with Phil and the Maths Adviser marshalled the run.  Still there's always next April isn't there?

First published, December 1995

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