Rain! Whatever could the weather clerk be thinking about? Was he not aware that it was the second Sunday in May, the day sacred to Lancashire and Yorkshire cyclists as that upon which the great rally is held at Bolton-by-Bowland; or was it that he was indifferent to the comfort of the hundreds of cyclists who flock every year to Bolton-by-Bowland to greet old friends, to renew old acquaintances and make new ones, and to hear the speeches of well-known cycling personalities. I muttered imprecations as I bustled about getting ready for the road, but they made no difference to the gloomy outlook; the grey heavens continued to weep copiously upon the roofs and streets of my native town.
I donned my oilskins and mounted my bicycle, and soon the depressing paved streets were left behind, and my tyres were singing merrily over the tar macadam roads of the country. Here everything was different; the prospect was no longer depressing, it was uplifting. The air was filled with the fragrance of spring; the hawthorn hedges were vividly green: the trees were in bud; the birds poured out their melody, undismayed by the rain; in short, all nature was awakening, was assuming its summer garb. I no longer reviled the weather clerk for the quiet, steady rain added further freshness to the scene, and as I speed up Greenhead Lane I was filled with joy — the joy of spring.
I arrived at Fence twenty minutes late, and found the village deserted; obviously, then, my fellow members had either departed or they were still in bed. Previous experience had taught me, however, that no matter how bad the weather, some fat heads were sure to turn out; so I surmised that they were now on their way to Whalley, and this supposition proved correct. I over-took my comrades before they reached Read, and, of course, honoured them with my company.
We had a short halt in Whalley, then on through Mitton to Bashall Eaves, where we removed our capes, they being no longer necessary. We scampered gaily down the road to Whitewell, enjoying the while the view we had of the cloud-topped hills, Longridge Fell and Parlick Pike, and the wooded Vale of Chipping. The fresh green foliage of the fir trees contrasted beautifully with the older growth, and the loveliness of the banks of the River Hodder was enhanced by a carpet of bluebells. We paused awhile in Whitewell to enjoy the beauty of the scene, and then, skirting the Bowland Hills, we continued our journey to Newton, where we had lunch.
After lunch we mounted our bicycles once more, and soon we were riding through the winding streets of Slaidburn. We passed. over the river bridge and climbed out the valley to the summit of Stephen Moor to the accompaniment of the call of cuckoo, which echoed across the valley. The descent into Ribblesdale was rather rapid. Holden and Copy Nook were reached and passed, and soon we slid to a halt in Bolton-by-Bowland.
To go to Bolton-by-Bowland via Whalley, Whitewell and Slaidburn is, of course, a somewhat round-about proceeding, but cyclists are addicted to this kind of thing - they like it.
Bolton-by-Bowland was full of cyclists and bicycles. The village abounded with them, and more were continually arriving. There were cyclists from Liverpcol, Preston, Barrow, Leeds, Halifax, Manchester, Bolton, in fact there were cyclists from nearly all the towns and cities of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Some enthusiasts had even ridden all through the pouring wet night so that they could attend this great gathering of the cycling clans. C.T.C. badges were to be seen everywhere. Occasionally one saw a familiar face from distant parts, and friendly greetings were exchanged. We soon encountered our camping enthusiasts, but we did not ask them if they had slept well or if they were having a good time. Why should we encourage them to tell lies? They proudly informed us that no fewer than 94 tents were erected upon the camp site, whilst the occupants thereof numbered 140 persons. Just think of it, 140 people trying to sleep on the cold, hard earth when they might have been in a warm and comfortable bed! However, they are a hardy lot, and they really seem to like it.
At 2-20, Mr. J. Atkinson, who was chairman for the occasion, mounted the steps of the ancient stone cross that stands on the village green and addressed the assembly, which now numbered some four or five hundred cyclists. For two hours we listened to the words of well known people of the cycling world, Harold Moore, & regular contributor to "Cycling"; Tom Hughes, a veteran wheeler who has a passion for miles; Percy Brazendale, a powerful figure in the Cyclists’ Touring Club; our own G. A. Hudson, and several others related humorous incidents and experiences and imparted good advice and words of wisdom. We drank all in and showed our appreciation in the usual way.
The proceedings came to an end at about 4.30, and those who lived in far-off places began their homeward journey. We who lived near by ambled on to the camp site and sought the tents of our friends. When they saw us coming, the campers hid their hot water bottles, feather pillows, bed socks and other creature comforts, for they are very jealous of their reputation for hardiness. After we had metaphorically pulled their equipment to bits and fallen over their guy lines to our hearts’ content, we bade them farewell, gathered our iron steeds, and proceeded to Gisburn for tea.
Tea over, "Georgjud" and “Bookoss" gave us an exhibition of broadsiding, but after they had forcibly kissed Mother Earth, they tired of this sport - it was rather too dangerous. We began our homeward journey, and as we sauntered up Coldweather Hill we viewed the sun and cloud effects upon the distant hills, until the top being reached, we dropped swiftly down to Higherford and so to our respective homes.