Thursday 31 January 2013

A Question of Counties - Part Two

I thought I'd get on with the task of identifying the Counties of England I have ridden to or through in my biking career, here's a few more, mostly from last year's Grail Quest:


My Triumph Tiger 1050 in Bury St Edmunds, I have to admit I struggled a bit to recall when I first rode a bike to Suffolk, the earliest occasion I could remember was a day trip to Lowestoft in the mid Eighties, I can't remember why but I rode a friend's Yamaha XZ550, a strange looking slab sided bike with a horrible flat spot in the carburation, which is why I suppose it stuck in the memory. But then I realised it was most probably a trip to Snetterton in Norfolk to watch my mate Steve race there. Yes I know that's in Norfolk but I would have had to ride through Suffok to get there!


So I suppose I can tick Norfolk off the list too, here's a more recent shot taken whilst Green laning in Thetford Forest.


The Tiger again, this time in Cantebury (although the first time I visited the County by bike was a trip to Brands Hatch to watch bike racing in 1981).

My CCM 604E outside St Pauls Cathedral, again my first visit to London was much earlier in 1979 on my first ever bike, a Honda CB 250 G5. If I recall it was a ride with some mates to Leytonstone High Road, a bit of a bike mecca then, with Rivetts, Read Brothers, Hagon's and a few other bike dealers all located within a half mile of each other.


My first visit to Middlesex was again back in 1979 when I collected my first bike in Edgware. This picture was not taken as part of the Grail Quest but taken on the same day I visited St Pauls and Westminster Abbey, taken at the Adventure and Overland Day at the Ace Cafe. It's the CCM again but you do have to look closely!


Salisbury on the Grail Quest Again. First time in the County was during my student days approximately 1981 on one of my numerous exploration of the countryside north of Portsmouth.


A late night out in Oxford on the Grail Quest, again a County I first visited many years ago, it was to watch some student friends racing on the old RAF Little Rissington circuit in 1982.

Progress so far....

Saturday 26 January 2013

A Question of Counties - Part One

Hanging around on various internet forums, I'm often intrigued by what people put in their "signatures" that appear at the base of their posts.

Some times it's just a name (usually a "user name"), sometimes a favourite quote, often on motorbike forums which bikes they own and one that caught my eye was "places I have ridden". In particular because it started with "all the Counties of England", which got me thinking....

Have I ever ridden a bike to every County in England, or for that matter Great Britain or even the United Kingdom?

For those not familiar with the exact geography of the UK, England is obviously England, Great Britain is England, Wales and Scotland i.e. "the mainland" and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to give our Country it's full name is obviously England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Other bits like the Isle of Man are not part of the UK at all, instead being a self governing Crown Protectorate... but I digress!

And after a bit of thought, it occurred to me what does anyone mean by the Counties of England anymore anyway, having been mucked around by successive governments over the years. these days we have oddities like Rutland; the smallest County in England, except that since 1974 it hasn't been a County at all first being subsumed into Leicestershire and then later on becoming a Unitary District Council, that geographically is still in Leicestershire but administratively separate.

Confused? I'm not surprised! And what about those Counties that have appeared and then disapeared almost as quickly, like Avon or Humberside.

Now as a Geographer I have pretty clear ideas on what are the traditional Counties of England (Largely based on those that existed for almost a thousand years from Saxon times) and this was pretty much the state of affairs until 1974 when the Local Government Act 1972 came into force and buggered everything up!

So I have discounted a lot of the modern "stand alone" Unitary Council's including them in their original Counties (e.g. North Lincolnshire has been included in Lincolnshire and the four Unitaries that form the defunct County of Avon have been assigned back to either Somerset or Gloucestershire where they once belonged), also most Metropolitan Boroughs have been included into their "parent County".

A few exceptions are the four "Yorkshires" South, West, North and the East Riding as i'm including all of them although originally Yorkshire was a single County with three "ridings" and places like Manchester and Merseyside which I feel are big enough to stand on their own (both originally being part of Lancashire).

So having decided which Counties were going to count, I then decided that I really did need some proof that I had ridden a bike there, so the search for photos began. Now some I have visited in the last twelve months as part of the ABR Grail Quest and others I rode into or through over thirty years ago in my early days of biking. So I decided to try and find the earliest proof I could for any particular County.

So you would expect my first to be Hertfordshire but as I bought my first bike in what was once Middlesex maybe not, but then I recalled my first ever experience of riding a powered two wheeler was at the age of 15 on my mate Andy's Honda C50 on derelict land near Cheshunt so it definitely was Hertfordshire.

Actually a funny aside about that day was that on the way there, I fell off my push bike on the gravel lane leading to the land and cut my hand quite badly. But I carried on and went and met Andy and a few mates and had a great time. Of course when I got home my mum wouldn't believe I hadn't fallen off a motorbike and I'm fairly certain she still doesn't believe me to this day.

Obviously I don't have any record of those times, but heres one from my early biking days 


My second bike, A Honda CB250RS parked opposite my Parent's house in 1980

Now being a student in Portsmouth at this time, I regularly used my bike to traverse the various Counties between Hertfordshire and Hampshire but I have no photos from that period, so more modern ones will have to do when I dig them out but I do at least have two from Hampshire and West Sussex in that period:


The 250RS again on the one-way system in Portsmouth 1982, photo by the late Alastair Maclean

 As Students we would often go out for rides in the surrounding countryside, such as:


Again me on the trusty 250RS somewhere near South Harting in the South Downs, again photo by Alastair.

The only other photo I can currently find from that period was from 1984, when I visited my friend Jane Leigh in Sheffield with Paul Cooper and Alastair. Now as noted above, once upon a time Yorkshire was a single County but as most folk are more familiar with it's more modern incarnations, I'll do them one by one:


From left to right, Me and Kawasaki GPz750, Paul and Suzuki GT650 and Alastair and Kawasaki GPz900R

So that's four done, I'm now off to sort through my old photos!

Friday 25 January 2013

A Quick Update

Yes I know it's been a long time dear reader but after being struck down with Shingles before Christmas and then Christmas itself, we were into the Dakar Rally!

It finished last weekend with a great results for fellow BBRC Rally competitors Lyndon Poskitt and Craig Bounds as well as Stan Watt and Tim Forman, as well as "Adopted" Brit, Aussie Si Pavey (yes the bloke wot Raced with Charley Boorman in 2006).

So I could do a write up on the Rally but haven't really got the energy to try and put 14 days of the greatest off road race in the world into type!

You will recall last year I took part in the Adventure Bike Rider Forum, "Grail Quest" being the first rider to bag all 31 locations across Britain and Ireland and one of only six to complete the whole challenge. Well the 2013 Challenge has started and it's a bit different, we have to play "Travel Scrabble" with our bikes.

The Challenge is to get pictures of your bike in front of town and village signs and then use the initial letter of the name to spell words and score in Scrabble fashion. Only you can't use any old word, it has to be "Bike Related".

Luckily this doesn't require long cross country trips like the Grail Quest as quite frankly with the job situation still not resolved I can't afford any trips like that at present. But at least the Travel Scrabble challenge can be done locally. I won't bore you with lots of pictures of my bike in front of road signs (you can do that on Adventure Bike Rider if you really want to) but I was rather chuffed with this one for a maximum 10 points,(it's Quendon in Essex in case you can't see, it was a bit dark when I got there).