The Swinging Sixties

I joined the group in June 1960, having been brought there by a neighbour of mine, Geoff Tidy, to whom I shall always be grateful. You see without Geoff bringing me down to the group I shall have missed the chance of changing one group member's name from Christine Clare to Christine Ford! I should also have missed all those leg aching rides and 40 mile rambles on the Ridgeway from Streatly to Marlborough.

My first weekend away was to Malden hostel - a cycling weekend led by Dave and Audrey Sheriff - then followed weekends to High Roding and Houghton Mill, by which time I was a fully fledged Wemrowite. There is no doubt that the way to get to know people best is to get away on a group weekend.

Looking back at the sixties, the time seemed to flash by. The 25th Anniversary Dinner held at the Railway Hotel, Wealdstone, came and went with great success. The group had a very good active membership, most years exceeding 100. Thursday evenings at Perrin Road School were varied; there were talks, slide evening, the usual bookings for future weekends and that most popular of games, especially at the beginning of each year, called 'Avoid the Treasurer'.

For a good deal of the time the Treasurer was Trevor Key who did a very good job at building up the group's finances, mainly by not wanting to spend any money, and by charging people their weekly subs even when they arrived only just in time to put the chairs away! Never mind, Thursday nights always finished the same way with a trip across the road to the Mitre.

I was mainly a cyclist (some may argue about that) and enjoyed many weekends in the company of the following cyclists, Reg Dean and Gerry Burman, these two keeping the cyclists going during the bleak winter of 1962-63 when they battled through snow drifts to keep hostels like Saffron Walden open, much to the annoyance of the warden, who did not like snow trodden into their hostel!

One weekend in particular sticks in my memory, that was Gerry Burman's weekend to Cheddar. There were four of us - Gerry, Reg, John Jepson and myself. Gerry, being the leader that he was, led us home via Andover, where John and myself had a touch of the "rubber legs" and finished the journey by train, a thing I always regretted. It was the only time John and I travelled by train, but they never let us forget it. The interesting thing is that I understand there is now a group member (in the mid seventies) who travels everywhere on a train with his bike, only using it to get from the station to the hostel. Rumour has it that one set of tyres lasts him 10 years.

I do not want to give the impression that it was all cycling during the sixties. The walkers too were away most weekends, led by people like my mad brother-in-law, George (Gunky) Newman, or Simon (Play-the-white-man) Spanier. The walkers of the group did particularly well in events like Tanners and Ridgeway Marathan Walks. Being allowed to use motor vehicles to get to an area enabled the walkers to venture further afield than before. Many weekends ending with a sing-song in the back of Bob Traylen's old blue J2 van.

Naturally the walkers and cyclists got together on many weekends - Easter coach trips to Hartington and Boggle Hole, West London Groups Rallies at Ivinghoe, bonfire night parties at Tanners Hatch, and Christmas parties at Jordans Hostel. All in all the sixties was a great time to be a group member.

Account by Robert Ford (Chair 1963 to 1965)