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!