Friday 26 August 1983Tour: Scotland Day 9 Loch Lomond to HomeDry
10 present: Andrew Billington, Matthew Burrows, Simon Haly, Michael Jones, Glenn Powling, Kevin Presland, Richard Read, Duncan Scott, Matthew Tewson, Andrew Winstanley
Kevin Presland, Andrew Billington and Richard Read at Loch Lomond YH
The group outside Loch Lomond YH
Matthew Tewson, Jackie Lofty and Glen Powling at Loch Lomond YH
Duncan Scott, Simon Haly, Matthew Burrows and Andrew Winstanley at Loch Lomond YH
Kevin Presland, Andrew Billington, Richard Read, Matthew Tewson and Jackie Lofty
The group (with Michael) outside Loch Lomond YH
Matthew Tewson, Jackie Lofty, Glen Powling, Duncan Scott and Simon Haly
Duncan Scott, Simon Haly, Andrew Winstanley, Matthew Burrows and Michael Jones
We arose early on Friday morning, and after posing in the front courtyard of the hostel for interminable group photos, took to the road for the last time. We were heading for Balloch Central station: we were going home. In a way it was sad, for none of us wanted the tour to end, but we'd had a good run for our money and we were as cheerful as ever as we cycled along the back roads towards the station. Little did we realise that today was to be the day of an historical struggle: British Rail and Transclyde vs the CTC in The Battle to Get Home.

Our plan was to catch the 1045 from Glasgow Central which would take us right through to Newton Abbot without the need to change trains once. This was the only such train departing that day, so to be sure of being on it we reserved seats and set off in good time to catch the 9.08 from Balloch, which would arrive in Glasgow at 9.53. This would leave us an hour to cycle through the city centre to Glasgow Central, find the train, argue with the guards and generally perform all the essential preliminaries to catch a train. And just in case the 9.08 failed to turn up, or couldn't carry us all, there was the 9.38 to fall back on which would still get us there on time.

All in all we felt that this was a fool proof arrangement that left nothing to chance. And so it was, but we failed to realise that we were not contending with chance but the combined forces of two hostile rail companies. Arriving at Balloch at 8.45 we were told that due to an "electrical failure" the 9.08 had been cancelled and the 9.38 was running late. A young station official also informed us, with obvious relish, that the guard would never allow us to take ten bikes on it. We considered several possible courses of action, including sending the faster cyclists on to Glasgow by bike and, very appealing this one, staying over an extra night at Loch Lomond. However phone calls down the line ascertained that the train was carrying a large guard's van so we decided to chance it.

When it eventually turned up the train was almost half an hour late, and we learned that it was only going as far as Dumbarton, which meant more delay while we changed trains. Nevertheless we loaded our bikes on at top speed and were soon underway at a speed that felt frighteningly close to twenty miles an hour.

Arriving at Dumbarton we unloaded our bikes as quickly as possible and then loaded them on a train that would take us to Glasgow. This distant ancestor of the HST clattered down the line at its own pace, stopping at everything resembling a station, and it soon became clear that we were cutting our timing very fine indeed. Mike wrote messages saying that we'd only be a few minutes late and could they please hold the train up, and passed them out of the window to officials at every station we stopped at with the request that they be telephoned on to Glasgow. However his efforts were in vain: we arrived at Queen Street station at 10.40 and Kevin immediately dashed off at top speed to try and hold the train, but when he arrived ten minutes later it had already departed. Our only hope of getting home on time had left without us!

Deciding to make the best of it and at least make a start in the right direction we hopped onto a Holiday Special which got us to Crewe by 2.40. There was a departure for Birmingham at 2.44, but alas it was on the other platform, and the station was so crowded that by the time we discovered its existence we were unable to reach it on time and had to watch it pull away. Instead we took a train to Stafford, which is in between Crewe and Birmingham, and arrived there at 3.17. At 3.30 there was a train going to Birmingham, so we carried our bikes up some stairs, across the tracks on a bridge and down the stairs on the other side in order to reach it, only to find that the guard was not at all anxious to have ten bicycles in his van. In fact he flatly refused to allow us to try and load them in. He did however generously offer to take two. We treated this offer with the contempt it deserved and took our bikes across the bridge to the other platform where we waited an hour for the next train to Birmingham, which fortunately had a more amenable guard.

Arriving at Birmingham at 5.05 Mike saw the Area Manager and asked if, considering the circumstances, we might be allowed to take an HST. The Area Manager, with the helpfulness and consideration that British Rail is famous for, said no. We could only take the HST if we left our bikes behind to be sent on tomorrow. Having seen the brutal way with which packages marked "Handle with care" were treated, we had no hesitation in rejecting this possibility out of hand.

Having two hours to wait before the next train that we could travel on, we left the station in search of food. We couldn't find any so we had burgers at a MacDonald’s. We also took advantage of this time to make phone calls home to inform our parents of our expected time of arrival.

A 7.35 train took us to Bristol Temple Meads by 9.21 and at 9.40, as we prepared to board a train to Exeter we thought our troubles were at an end ... but no, there was still the guard to contend with. The guard's van was about the biggest we'd seen all day and was almost empty, but nonetheless the idea of letting us load all our bikes in just like that was obviously more than he could stand. When we'd loaded about half of them on and there was still plenty of room left, he suddenly announced for no apparent reason that that was it and he couldn't take any more. "Why?" we asked dumbfounded. "Well, someone might want to get on further down the line with suitcases," was the reply.

This diamond-sharp piece of logic nearly defeated us, but fortunately Kevin came up with the brilliant suggestion that we remove our panniers in order to pack the bikes together more tightly. This compromise proved acceptable to the guard, and the five extra flesh and blood cyclists were allowed on in preference to the theoretical suitcase-wielding travellers. And so it was that the last obstacle was overcome, and nothing short of derailment could stop us from returning home. Two hours later we were at Exeter and there were various parents waiting to whisk various cyclists off to various beds. Seven different trains had taken us between nine different stations that day and nothing had gone according to plan, but here we were. The tour was over and life could begin again as normal as from next morning.

Still, there's always next year .. .!

(Andrew Billington)

Sunday 28 August 1983
Day ride: Shobrooke Park
2 present: Frank Boyes, Kevin Presland
Eight of us turned up at Chudleigh Bridge for the ride to Shobrooke Park, with the slightly belated but very welcome return of Frank Boyes, out on his first ride for nearly a year.

We followed the Teign Valley road and had gone nearly halfway before Frank decided to turn back. We proceeded on to Cheriton Bishop, Crediton and the Park and enjoyed lunch by the lake.

After failing to identify a large bird, we headed home via Exeter and the Old Haldon Hill, going our separate ways from Chudleigh Knighton.

Meanwhile, the Junior Tour was a great success again this year – a full report will be written.

(Kevin Presland)

[The attendance list for this event is currently incomplete]

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