Evening Ride

Pete Roberts and ThunderdogPete Roberts built this special in 1993 and named it Thunderdog. Underneath the radical styling is a Honda Gold Wing. Those solid looking wheels are the original ones with covers made out of a camper van roof. The silencers came from a Ford Capri, the headlamps from a Citreon 2CV, and the engine temperature gauge is an old Geiger counter, graduated in Mr/h; milliroentgens per hour!

The thousand year old village of Ludgershall near Quainton holds a bike night every year; it’s a charity event, collecting money for the village. I’m a biker, so naturally I went along.

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Turning the Corner

Lower Weald corner  Bucks

The Monday Photo

It’s not uncommon to find a sharp bend on a country road with a farm gate on it, like this one. It’s almost as if the road once carried straight on.

That’s because very often, it did. It’s not too obvious here, because concrete block has been placed in front of the gate, but you can just see the top of the gate above the block.

Why does this happen? When roads were first metalled or hard surfaced, not every lane was treated. There might have been a t-junction of lanes, and one branch would not be metalled, leaving a right angle bend.

You’ll often see a farm on these bends, because lanes from three directions converged there. Sometimes to go straight on now means going into the farmyard. But although there’s a farm on the bend on the photo now, there wasn’t one when the lane received its hard surface.

A traveller from Calverton coming from our left could either go through the gate, or turn right towards the camera and down towards Whaddon.

On 125 year old maps a footpath is shown, leading across the fields to Whitehouse Farm. I think it’s now partly or wholly built over.

In this case, the footpath goes through the gate, then turns sharp right to run along the far side of a hedge that’s in line with the hedge in front of the farmhouse. But on more recent maps there’s an additional footpath which goes directly away from the camera, making this spot a sort of crossroads.

Some bends like this are on parish boundaries. The lane follows the edge of the parish, then turns sharply away from the boundary. The actual boundary may lie along the centre of the lane or along one hedge.

I’ve heard stories of motorcyclists heading down country lanes at night (back when bike headlights were truly dreadful) and almost ending up in a field or farmyard because the road seemed to go straight on when it didn’t. Perhaps the gate had been left open.

Back on the Road
That leads me sort of smoothly on to the subject of my bike. There it is in the picture, all back together and running well.

This was on Sunday afternoon, on my way home from the annual Stony Classic vehicle show. I had already missed one event the previous Sunday, and meant not to miss this show.

I was so determined not to miss it that I pulled an “all-nighter”; I worked on the bike all night long, seeing the sun come up on Saturday morning before going to bed for a few hours.

I started the bike for the first time at about 8 pm on Saturday evening and rode off, heading to Stony Stratford the long way round and seeing the sun go down as I approached the town.

I had a pint in the Old George and watched their Saturday night band before riding home. I returned next morning for the show.

I still haven’t caught up with my sleep, and I’m way behind with everything, including this blog. But having a bike on the road is good for my peace of mind, to put it mildly.

Next I’ll finish that lost footpaths post which should have been two weeks ago. Please be patient; I’m doing all I can.

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Blog note

DSC06111The bike in question.

There was no Thursday post last week, so my apologies if you came here looking for the second lost footpath post.

It doesn’t seem very blog related, but I’ve been without a working motorcycle and the past couple of weeks has been taken up in trying to remedy that.

I rely on a motorcycle for being able to explore the countryside for the North Bucks Wanderer, especially those narrow dead-end lanes which have nowhere for a car to turn round, or those spots where there’s a great photo to be had but nowhere to park a car.

There’s nearly always a corner or a narrow verge I can park the bike on, and it’s a simple matter to turn round when I’ve spotted something to show you. So creating varied and interesting posts is much easier.

Also, it “drives” me crazy not being able to ride. Okay, I’ve made it into a joke, but when I get this bike back on the road I’ll be a much happier man; the bike is part of my support system.

The second lost footpath post will be published on Thursday.

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Coronation Year

Coronation year motorcycle and church

The Monday Photo

1953 connects this classic motorcycle, the church behind it, and our late Queen.

You probably know that her late Majesty’s coronation was on 2nd June 1953, and just before Christmas that year this 500cc BSA was despatched from the factory to a dealer in Edinburgh.

I expect the bike was put together early in December, built from parts made by the factory in the first few months of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. I now own this machine, and there’s a huge difference between this bike and the motorcycles you can buy now, in performance and technology.

I often get people looking nostalgically at my obviously ancient bike, but in 1953 it was state of the art. It was easy to maintain, cheap to run basic transport; just what was needed in Britain, still coming out of wartime austerity.

Considered slow now, (I never cruise at more than 55mph) when first on the road it was faster than many cars. This model, an M33, was built to take a sidecar, an unusual sight now but very common in the years after World War 2. BSA even made their own sidecars, and in 1953 there was a choice of a family sidecar or a single seat de luxe tourer.

Behind the bike is the church of St Thomas the Apostle, in Simpson, Milton Keynes. Unusually, the central 13th Century tower is the oldest part of the church.

In the nave and above the tower arch is painted the royal arms of George II. This mural was carefully restored in coronation year, and on it GR2 for George Rex II was changed to ER2, of course for Elizabeth Regina II. There’d be uproar if this was done today!

And here we are in another coronation year. The death of Queen Elizabeth II was a shock, but not, I suppose, a surprise.

Long live the King.

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Live Levis Lives

Pre-war Levis and BSA
The Monday Photo

In May last year I showed you a picture of the nearest bike in this photo, a 1932 Levis.

It was an old shot from 2010, with the bike sat on a grassy lane at Clifton Reynes; just the place for an off road machine.

But this photo was taken yesterday, at the Stony Classic vehicle show in Stony Stratford. The show takes place on the first Sunday of StonyLive, Stony Stratford’s annual live music festival. The festival and show all usually happen in June, but you all know why it’s late this year.

I hadn’t seen the Levis since 2010, so when I spotted it at the show I went straight over for a good look. Five minutes later the owner Graham appeared, ready to head off along with his mate, whose BSA isn’t much younger than the Levis. You can see the BSA in the photo.

Before he rode away Graham told me the Levis has recently had some new bits fitted; front brake, exhaust and carburettor. I think it’s been off the road while the work was done.

There’s more about the Levis at the first link on this post, above. By the way, it’s pronounced Le-viss, not Lee-vize.

For travelling round the back roads of North Bucks, you can’t beat a motorcycle. Photography and motorcycling go hand in hand, so a bike is ideal when I’m out looking for subjects for the North Bucks Wanderer.

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Where Am I?

Finger post  Hillesden

The Monday Photo

I parked up the bike on the junction's grass triangle, so I could take a picture. I had just visited the lovely Hillesden church,  and I didn’t realise I was still in the parish, though I had ridden well over two miles from the church.

It was a Sunday afternoon in March. The day was sunny, but even today, two years later, I remember how cold it was. I would head home after this stop.

I like these old cast iron finger posts. There are quite a few left in North Bucks; there’s one at Swanbourne just across the road from the church, and another one at Mursley.

This type of sign began to be installed in the 1920s, and this example has a mistake. In the Polo mint-like circle at the top, it says “Cowley Road” (this bit might be correct), and underneath it says “Preston Bissett”. It should say “Hillesden”, because that’s the parish the sign is in.

The parish border is very close, though; about thirty feet from the finger post, out of shot on the left. A mile further on is the county border with Oxfordshire.

The other two finger posts are different. The circle on the Swanbourne finger post says “Swanbourne Bucks”, and the one at Mursley says “Bucks County”. Perhaps they were made in different years.

If you know of other finger posts in North Bucks, please let me know in the comments.

I’m looking forward to being able to go out on bike rides again, and it looks like that’ll be allowed fairly soon, as the lockdown rules change. The riding season doesn’t really start until April anyway, so until I can get out on rides I’ll be spending time in the shed, getting the bikes ready.

That’s quite satisfying, too; all part of the biking experience.

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