Arrows Abroad

BenchmarkThe broad arrow, the horizontal line above.

I’m starting to see arrows wherever I go; broad arrows carved into ancient brick or stone work, or bronze plates with the arrow cast into the surface, built into walls.

It’s all a result of the post I wrote last year, about the Ordnance Survey’s network of benchmarks.

I found a couple recently when I was taking photos and doing research for The Railway That Nearly Was post; I can now spot them carved into walls from about 40 feet away.

These two were in the road bridges over the old railway at New Bradwell and Great Linford. It doesn’t take a moment to take a close up photo. I hold a flash off camera to side light the benchmark and show it up clearly.

Great Linford railway bridgeFor the Benchmark Database record, I need to take a location shot, too. Like the shot above, this is the bridge at Great Linford.

Above the broad arrow (for govt. property) is a horizontal line. This is the benchmark, the reference point for map making.

I didn’t think to check the church at Old Wolverton when I went there for a forthcoming post yesterday, because the wind was icy cold and striking right through my clothes; it’s pretty exposed up there on the hill overlooking the Great Ouse.

I waited until the sun came out for a second, took my photos, and hurried back to the car.

When I got home I checked on the National Library of Scotland’s map images, and sure enough, the map showed a benchmark on the South side of the church.

I knew I had taken a photo of that side, so found the photo on the camera and zoomed right in. There it was, clear as day, but far too small to show up on the blog. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

If you keep an eye out, you’ll find lots of churches have these bench marks. They are quite often found on pubs, too.

I’ll go back on a nicer day. Actually, I have a plan. When the weather gets warmer and the days a bit longer, I will go out on the motorcycle to look for benchmarks.

BSA M33 rigidI will be on a bike quite like this one, a 500cc BSA, an M33. My one is a little later than this one, so there are a few differences. But the basic experience is the same; relaxed cruising down the back roads.

A bike is ideal. It’s easy to park, can be turned round in small places, and it’s fun. The point is, I’ve been riding since 1978, and while I used to enjoy just riding around, it’s find it’s much nicer to have a destination in mind.

Going to see if Benchmarks are still there in a certain village or area will give me that destination. I’ll check on the National Library of Scotland’s map pages, screenshot the map for the village I’m going to, and off I’ll ride (the link takes you to a map of Winslow, in the centre of North Bucks). I’ll take a modern map too.

Back home, I can put a report in to the Benchmark database whether it’s one on the list already (yes, it’s still there/no, it’s gone) or it’s a mark they didn’t know about.

I might find a few things for the blog too; motorcycles are great for exploring the countryside, and towns too. Bikes and photography go together like eggs and bacon.

BSA Days

_IMG5575BSA M33.

I’ve been riding motorcycles since the mid 70s, but in all those years I’ve never owned a British bike. It’s time I did.

After looking at the alternatives, and there are plenty, I’m going for a BSA M33 or B33, a 500cc bike with a single cylinder engine. These were both made from 1947 to 1957 (M33) or 1960 (B33).

The bikes are fairly similar, but the main difference between the two is that the M33 was designed to have a sidecar attached. There are attachment points, or lugs, built in for the sidecar, and the frame is stronger.

I’m not after one with a sidecar. I quite like the idea but I have nowhere to keep one. Plus, every time I’ve tried riding a bike and sidecar I couldn’t keep the sidecar wheel off the pavement.

So far, I’ve joined the BSA Owners Club, and I’ve had lots of advice about these bikes from the members. Being in the club means we go out on bike rides.

We meet at the Super Sausage cafe at Potterspury on the A5 one Sunday each month, then take a twisty and convoluted route down the back roads to somewhere that sells tea and cake. Some of these bikes, fifty or sixty years old, are not too quick compared to modern bikes, but it doesn’t matter; they are in their element on the back roads.

My Yamaha, a mere 37 years old, is quick enough for modern roads, but I’ve often been finding myself riding more slowly, since I started my  relaxed trips out with the BSA Owners Club.

_IMG5501Turweston Airfield.

The last ride out took us all over the top edge of North Bucks beyond Buckingham. It was a route so twisty I can’t retrace it on the map, and a lot of the time it was on what we might have called cart tracks if only they were a bit wider.

We ended up at Turweston airfield, right on the border of Bucks, not far from Brackley. RAF Turweston, as it was, like many airfields in this part of the world, was an Operational Training Unit or OTU. They trained bomber crews. It opened in November 1942 and over the course of the war men were trained on various twin engined aircraft.

We arrived on a variety of motorcycles, most of them BSAs. We were going to the first floor Flight Deck Cafe, where we could drink tea and have a good view of aircraft taking off. The cafe is open from 9am to 4:30pm every day. There’s a lift up to the first floor.

_IMG5502BSA Owners Club, Beds, Bucks & Northants branch.

The man in the top photo is Chris. He has been a BSA man for many years. The bike is his BSA M33.

I bumped into him at the annual Ludgershall Bike Night. (I covered it here last year) He had ridden there on his M33. I had last seen him a few weeks before, when I told him I was after a B33 or an M33 for myself.

Then, he immediately offered me a chance to try his one out, so I could see what they were all about. Ludgershall was the first time I had seen him since.

I straddled the Beeza, and followed his instructions. I must confess, I couldn’t start it. Off I got, and to show me how it was done he started it with ease, twice.

I got back on, and failed again. But I’m sure it’s just a matter of technique; I’ve never owned a British bike, and it’s been a long time since I had a bike with a kickstart. I’ll be going round his house in a few days, then we can try again in a calmer atmosphere.

Riding an old British bike will be rather different from riding modern machinery. These machines were designed just after World War Two, and there have been many changes in Britain since then.

I’m looking forward to getting one.

Happy Birthday to the Wanderer!

Last week the North Bucks Wanderer had its first birthday, so in celebration of this milestone, I’ve selected some of the highlights from the last twelve months. There’s a link to each post in the heading. The photos here are from the posts, but might not be the first one you'll see. Enjoy!

Ludgershall Bike Night


On the first Monday in July last year, just about every sort of bike you can imagine was parked up alongside the High Street, in the ancient village of Ludgershall. There was over a quarter mile of motorcycles, plus a huge variety of bikes parked on The Green.

There were also a few, er, non motorcycle vehicles, but they were still quite interesting. Lots of photos at the link.

This year’s bike night hasn’t been widely advertised, but as far as I can see, it will be on Monday 1st July, from 5pm to 10pm. It’s a charity event, and proceeds will be to the local Air Ambulance. Ludgershall is near Brill, not far of the A41. Just turn up.

Life on Mars in Aylesbury

Detail  Earthly Messenger statue 01

Why is there a sculpture of David Bowie in Aylesbury, under the archway of the old Corn Exchange at the bottom corner of the Market Square? you’ll want to go and see it after you’ve read this post.

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Stony Goes Live

Here’s some of the highlights from last week’s 21st Stony Live festival. It was eight days of live events; music, drama, comedy, art, and more. I saw quite a few bands, lots of people and quite a few vehicles, and these are some of the photos I took. This year I tried to take photos of the audience, having photographed those bands before and got some good results. It’s been a fine week.

IMG_0269Not really part of Stony Live, but the closing moments of a football match in The Fox and Hounds on the first Saturday of the festival.

IMG_0271Bad Hombre in The Old George, on the first Saturday. I’d not intended to take photos that night, but, “Always carry a camera”

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Tea and Motorcycles on New Years Day.

Red classic car

On New Year’s Day  I woke up mid morning, and hurriedly ate breakfast, and got washed and dressed. It was a fair day for this time of year, and I wanted to get out on the bike.

My first stop was at Stony Stratford for the 10th Vintage Car and Motorcycle Show; free to enter, but donations welcome to Willen Hospice. Last year the show raised £4,850 for the Hospice. I’m mostly there for the bikes, though I found one or two other vehicles I liked.

Hand change Royal Enfield

When I left, I followed up the High Street what was possibly the oldest vehicle there, an 1896 Leon Bollée tricar. This two wheels at the front and one at the back tricycle was piloted by Jacqueline Bickerstaff, who I’ve recognised before at the Stony Stratford shows from my British Motorcyclist Federation days. The tricar is not a quick vehicle, but that's no surprise as it was first on the road when Queen Victoria was on the throne. I soon overtook her and left the town.

Stoke Goldington allotment

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In the Mode at Hanslope

Barrel Bikers GPO rally 2018 06

It’s hard for me to believe that this is the 38th GPO Rally, when the first rally I ever did was the second one, in 1982. For my first rally I bought a cheap sleeping bag and a tiny ridge tent from Woolworths. the rally is held by the Barrel Bikers (Buckingham) Motorcycle Club.

On that second GPO Rally I was camped right by the road. The M1 was shut and lorries were being diverted past the rally site, at The White Horse at Husborne Crawley. It sounded like the lorry was coming straight through the tent when it woke me in the small hours.

This year’s rally was near Hanslope. I just popped up for Saturday evening this time, but I camped last year.

Why is it called the GPO Rally? The rally used to be held around the 22nd of April. Back in the days of feeble bike headlights and non waterproof clothing, most riders were young and poor and had to ride all year round because they couldn't afford a car. By the time April arrived they were Generally, er, Cheesed Off and needed cheering up by spending the weekend at a rally.

Hence the GPO Rally. Nothing to do with the Post Office. Years ago, the Barrel Bikers couldn't find a site for the rally in time, so it was delayed until the following October, and it's been held in the autumn ever since.

Many of you will not know what a motorcycle rally is, so I shall try to explain. There’s a field, with a marquee. The marquee has a stage at one end, and a bar at the other. There’s somewhere to get food and tea, and some toilets, just about everyone camps; your physical needs are taken care of.

The organisers, usually a motorcycle club, lay on entertainment; some bands on Friday and Saturday night, and some rally games on Saturday afternoon. That’s about it. The rest is up to you.

There’s a fine atmosphere at a rally. It’s common to be involved in both intense and daft conversations with people you’ve never met before, and silly escapades which because they don’t adversely affect anyone else, are fine and to be expected.

Many of the people at the rally are in clubs that hold their own rallies, or go to several rallies a year; there’s a common purpose which unites the rallyists and this is the thing that allows rallies to work so well.

Understand this: at the end of the weekend when the organising club is clearing up, most of the people that paid to come to the rally have tidied up after themselves. A rally is a communal effort.

You may know somebody who goes to rallies. For the best part of Monday and Tuesday, they will still be happily in rally mode. A good rally is good for the soul.

Anyhow, on with the pictures.