South West London DA: Sou' Wester Archive
Profile of Midweek Wayfarers

Profile: Midweek Wayfarers - (May/Jun 2000)

Last month on Wednesday 8th March, members of the Midweek Wayfarers Section gathered at the Pavilion Cafe, Roehampton Gate in Richmond Park to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their section.

In the Jan/Feb issue of the Sou'Wester, Ron Beams described how the Section started after Arthur one day told members of the informal 'Monday' group, "I want to start a CTC Section for retired folk within the South West London DA". It was on Wednesday 5th March 1980 that Arthur and a few fellow members met to start the new Midweek Wayfarers - a Section now meeting every week with approaching 100 members. 30 regularly ride on Wednesdays and it has a remarkable 14 members aged over 80. An influx of recent retirees maintains what is now the largest section in the DA.

Over elevenses, a large audience listened to a speech by Bill Stead:

"The 6 or 7 that gathered here in Richmond Park in March 1980, to discuss the possibility of starting a Mid-Week Group, could never have dreamt that 20 years later, such a large group would assemble again in Richmond Park to celebrate our 20th Birthday. We should all be very grateful to those who have been our Secretaries over the years - Arthur Butcher - Geoff Avis - Steve Bott. Without the work put in by these three gentlemen there would be no Wayfarers. The success of the Section has been seen in its growth. We started with the one section, then went to two, and then three, and in the near future there may be a need for a fourth section, for more easy going rides."

Bill then read Ernie Barnard's poem 'Our Bill' and ended his speech by wishing the Section continued success.

Arthur Butcher became the first secretary and if you visit him in his new home in Acre Road, Kingston you are reminded by a number of items of memorabilia. A plaque reads Arthur Butcher Founder member of the S.W. London Midweek Wayfarers Section 1980 to 1989. The poem 'With thanks...' in Bill Hammond's calligraphy, framed and presented to Arthur by Section members, stands on his sideboard. Geoff Avis took over from Arthur. He recalls his first club run with the Wayfarers in 1983: "I had just retired and joined the CTC. Arthur escorted me to elevenses on his well researched back routes - all new to me - looking after me with care and not knowing that I had 60 years of cycling behind me. It was a great day."

Geoff recalls again, "Three years later I had an enjoyable CTC Triennial Veterans 100 mile ride with Arthur. He was now over 70 years, and with most of the Midweek's entrants still at comparatively young ages under 70 years we finished as a super fast 'club run' team behind Tom Fish's wheel. It ended a memorable day's tour of Surrey."

Steve Bott has acted as Secretary since 1994. He first started riding with the Wayfarers ten years ago. Most of the riders at that time are still riding and the numbers have increased considerably. It is a large but happy group; there are no cliques, everyone mixes and new members quickly settle in. So Steve's message as secretary is, "spread the word, and bring along your friends and neighbours (and wives so that we can raise the chaps to ladies membership ratio!)".

 

Memories of early days

Arthur Butcher has a clear memory of the section's first ride, even though it took place twenty years ago, for it nearly ended in disaster. "There were eight of us riding from North Cheam to the Organ Inn junction when a car came from behind with a great decelerating roar, attempted to overtake and was forced to cut in as a lorry approached. The car pushed riders off their machines and the bikes of two riders were seriously damaged with a 'sprung' wheel and a broken gear mechanism. If that lorry had been closer our first section ride could have been a lot more serious."

Clem Armstrong, another of Arthur's great friends over the years, writes of his first introduction. "I was entering the Nelson Hospital in Merton (I was a NHS employee and just about to retire) when I met this man dressed in a cycling track suit. When I asked if he knew of any cycling groups in my area I was given the name of Arthur Butcher. This led to my introduction to the Wayfarers and many years of cycling with some of the greatest blokes I've ever met - chaps like Don Corke and my great friend Tom Fish. Then there was Marcelle Garner, then a nurse at Wimbledon Hospital and now living in Australia. All close friends whom I met thanks to my times with the Wayfarers."

Pete Mitchell tells the following story of early days in 1982 on an autumn tour to Bradenham Youth Hostel: Some well remembered names on this tour were John Knox, George Younger, Norman Tope, Joe Picton, Bill Stead, Harold Wares, Mike Saunders, John Baptiste, Tex Texeira. "The section hired the hostel for two nights in October. The cooking, the route planning and the rides were organised by Norman Tope. In consideration of the advanced age of the riders and the fact that the outside toilet was inconveniently located 50 yards down the garden, it seemed a sensible idea to have a large tin pail for night relief. Unfortunately for me this was situated near my lower bunk at head level! I therefore spent an uncomfortable night being disturbed at regular intervals by what sounded like heavy rain and thunderstorms. Needless to say, the bucket was moved elsewhere for the second night!"

Tom Fish who signs his letter, 'Young' Tom Fish has told us that when he heard of the suggestion to discuss a new Midweek Section in Richmond Park he was very interested as he was about to retire from work. "So I took early leave from my work at Hawkers 11:30 to 12 o'clock only to see in the distance the group leaving for Thames Ditton, so I reversed and returned to work". Despite the frustration Tom was soon able to join the Midweek Wednesday rides as he was to retire in two weeks time.

Tom's diary records rides led by other regular leaders not mentioned elsewhere in this account such as Bill Price, Geoff Gilbert, Len Steel, Syd Richardson. Jack Dowson was coming up to retirement over 30 years after he had "given up serious cycling". Mark Roy said "You will have to come out with us". Geoff Avis came into the office one day and said "There's a place for you with the Wobbly Wheelers when you retire". It wasn't until I came out on my first ride with the Wayfarers that I realised they were talking about the same group. I intended to go out to coffee and come home but it was a beautiful day so I thought "I've suffered before so I can suffer again". So I went to Edenbridge and back and was pleased to find I could still stand when I got off the bike at home.

The good friendship to be found in the Midweek Wayfarers has been related above by Steve Bott. The basis for this principle for friendship was established by Arthur in the early days. He told me: "I've always acted on the principle that you can't cycle and not be good friends". He only had to rein in one member, the notorious 'Big John' who kept on riding off by himself into the sunset and when he rode three abreast to show off, I had to grab hold of his bike and say, "You have to think of others".

Arthur ended with usual modesty "They will be tired of reading about me", but added a final comment, "If you ride with the Wayfarers, you're committed, you go out together and have a little fun".