WVAM – THE FORMATIVE YEARS

John Bennett recounts the history of WVAM from the early years up until the late nineties.

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Original WVAM Logo

As our original WVAM booklet ‘Aims, History and Information’ described, the ‘first ever IAM motorcycle test took place in Guildford in 1974, and routine Observed Runs were then carried out by the Motorcycle Section of the Guildford and District Group of Advanced Motorists. As we approach our 30 year anniversary, there is a story to be told about the early years of the WVAM and a little about, as Spike Milligan put it, ‘my part in its downfall’. It is also a tribute to our founder Chairman, Peter Parvin (pictured below), who was a very dear friend, and to other early members who gave so generously of their time and ideas, including Ron McLaughlin (Chief Observer), Keith Millican (Secretary), Geoff Baldwin, Peter Walker, Tony Warner, Ken Yap, Richard Harris, Dave Mitchell and Andy Gray.

As our original WVAM booklet ‘Aims, History and Information’ described, the ‘first ever IAM motorcycle test took place in Guildford in 1974, and routine Observed Runs were then carried out by the Motorcycle Section of the Guildford and District Group of Advanced Motorists. As we approach our 30 year anniversary, there is a story to be told about the early years of the WVAM and a little about, as Spike Milligan put it, ‘my part in its downfall’. It is also a tribute to our founder Chairman, Peter Parvin (pictured below), who was a very dear friend, and to other early members who gave so generously of their time and ideas, including Ron McLaughlin (Chief Observer), Keith Millican (Secretary), Geoff Baldwin, Peter Walker, Tony Warner, Ken Yap, Richard Harris, Dave Mitchell and Andy Gray.

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Peter Parvin in the Telegraph – 14 May 1991

As a kid growing up in the 50’s and 60’s in a rural and very hilly north Devon, you walked or cycled a lot, which kept you lean and fit. In that era, most lads aged 16 bought a motorbike to get to work and to socialise at weekends. I applied for my licence when I was 15 and bought an ancient 197cc Francis Barnet 2-stroke which I spent the entire winter refurbishing, including re-boring the engine and re-spraying every last bit of the bodywork. You had to be pretty mechanically adept in those days! So within a few months of my 16th birthday I’d passed my test and used the bike to get around without having to ask my overworked dad for a lift. But pretty soon an opportunity came up to buy a 500cc Triumph Speed Twin which of course had a lot more power up the hills, and I could carry a girlfriend. Helmets were not compulsory then but nearly everyone wore one for warmth and wind protection at least. At weekends and school holidays, there were old single cylinder AJS’s & Matchless’s to play around on in the muddy Devon fields. Maybe that’s where my later interest in offroading came from.

Of course all good things come to an end and when I left school to get a job about 250 miles away in East Anglia where there were pretty cold winters, I opted to swap the Triumph for my dad’s Morris 1000. So ended a brief motorcycling career. Until that is, about 15 years later, in 1981, I found myself in Guildford town centre where Coombs (predecessor of Vines) had its motorcycle showroom. I gazed in and there was a huge green R100RT which was light years ahead of all the pre-war designed machinery of my youth, and being up on a platform, it left me in no doubt why the British industry had foundered. It even had a quartz clock, panniers and luggage rack, to say nothing of the fantastic weather protection from the vast, wind tunnel designed fairing. It was magnificent.

Before long the manager, Dave Hopgood, came along and I told him that whilst I had a full licence, I had not ridden in 15 years and that I was just admiring the design and superb paintwork. To my amazement he pretty soon offered to loan me his helmet, gloves, boots etc and did I want a test ride?
This was serious stuff, especially as it was a 1000cc full dressed tourer, but not wanting to turn a good opportunity down, we agreed on a future weekend for a test ride. I took out demonstrator versions of the R100RS, the RT, and also the unfaired 650 and 450’s. Pulling out from T junctions was pretty tricky at the time, having to operate both the clutch and throttle, plus turn the corner and lean over, so I remember doing this in a series of threepenny bit, straight line sections! Somehow I managed to keep it the right way up but I really was terrified of dropping it.

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John Bennett with his new toy

You can probably see where this is going. Soon after these tentative test rides Hoppy said he was going on holiday and did I want the RT for a week? Well he never got it back and I still have it today, having ridden it for a further 140,000 miles and subsequently refurbished back to near concourse condition in 2005.

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Ron McLaughlin cuddling a pint – Christmas 1985

But that is jumping ahead because I realised straight away that I needed some instruction on this renewed motorcycling malarkey and certainly before I could take my wife pillion, especially as we had no car at the time. Enquiries were made and I ended up doing a one evening a week course run by the police at their traffic centre in Burpham, and subsequently pointed in the direction of the Guildford IAM (car) Group that had a motorcycle section with Ron McLaughlin as Chief Observer.
And I expect you can see where this is heading as well ; the key things I recall from my first Observed Run were that I did not exactly keep to the 30 speed limit, and nor did I, unsurprisingly, have a clue about positioning, although I did manage to avoid the usual road hazards like potholes, overbanding and drain covers. We met on that occasion at a carpark on Guildford Park Avenue, at an Open Day event, while all other Runs were based at the Council lorry depot at Bellfields, just off the Woking Road – not the most salubrious environment! My second run was with a certain Peter Parvin, when I realised that motorcycling had moved on a bit since I was a boy, and bikes were ridden not just by local farm lads (Peter managed the legal department of ICE in London). And all this advice was available for the princely sum of about a fiver’s membership. What a bargain.

So by early 82 I had taken the Test with an ex-policeman who had also just bought a new R100RT. As we parted I cast an envious eye at the confidence with which he rode away, so effortlessly and swiftly, and wondered if I would ever come close to his skill level. It was a mildly depressing thought so I contented myself with just trying to be as observant of road hazards as I could, still very conscious of being a novice.

Not only that but at the car Group’s AGM at the Clavadel hotel in Epsom road, Guildford (from where the IAM’s first advanced motorcycle test had taken place) there was a vacancy on the committee and I found myself co-opted. The reluctance of the existing (car) members to volunteer was because there seemed to be grave disquiet about the way the way the Group was run – which of course presented us with a clear opportunity to do something different!

1983
The membership increased from about 18 members to around 30 and there were, as a consequence, as many bikers on the Group committee as car members, which prompted the car Group Chairman to quip that “the tail was wagging the dog”. So during 1983 we formed ourselves into a semi-independent motorcycle section of the Guildford Car Group and we met often at Peter’s house in Burpham to plan strategy, after which our putative Secretary, Keith Millican, would take the lion’s share of the administrative tasks and liaise with IAM HQ, which he did with enormous enthusiasm.

In the summer that year, six members took part in the Stella Alpina Rally which involved riding to northern Italy and then together with thousands of motorcyclists from other parts of Europe, riding up a track to over 3,000m, for which medals were awarded.

Friends sponsored our intrepid riders which resulted in a Club fund to assist younger members to take the IAM test.

1984
On 11th January six of us (Peter Parvin, Keith Millican, Ron McLaughlin, Geoff Baldwin, Tony Warner and myself) met at Peter’s house in Merrow to discuss the possibility of forming an independent group.

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Geoff or Keith? - Christmas 1985

At our second meeting, on 13th February at Tony’s house in Witley, we agreed to call the call the group the Wey Valley Advanced Motorcyclists and Peter subsequently drew up the club rules. At the third meeting on 12th March at Keith’s house in Clandon, we learnt that Peter Walker, who worked as an Editor of Hansard at the House of Commons, had persuaded Lord David Strathcarron (of the All Party Parliamentary Motorcycling Group) to be our President!
The WVAM was formally inaugurated on 12th April 1984 at the Westfield Cricket Club after considerable organisational work by Keith who had secured endorsement from the Mayors of Guildford and Woking, the Assistant Chief Constable of Surrey, Surrey County Council and the IAM. It perhaps not surprising therefore, that the meeting was packed, and included Terry Friday from the Kent Advanced Motorcyclists, in startling green one-piece leathers. Kent IAM Group, I should explain, was the first independent IAM motorcycling group and acted as a model of its kind.

Peter was appointed Chairman, Keith as Secretary, Ron as Chief Observer, myself as Treasurer and Tony Warner as the Newsletter Editor. The membership totalled 30, the membership fee was £6, with a joining fee of £2, while the cost of the IAM test was £30, including the subsequent year’s IAM membership of £10. The first AGM also took place at the same venue a little over 6 months later, on Monday 29th October.

1985
The Club newsletter was produced very cheaply by a retired chap who Keith knew in the Burnt Common Cottages, Ripley. By Sept 85 I had moved on to the publicity portfolio because others were much more interested in financial matters than me and also because Peter, as Chairman, had outlined that the key challenge for the Group was to increase our membership from around 55 (in July 84) to 150, which we felt would provide a viable framework.

As we discussed the issue, I suggested to him that there were three ways of doing this: to create a publicity stand for Open Days and bike shops, and to get articles in the local press by taking local journalists on Observed Runs using an intercom to describe Observed Runs in real time. I realised immediately afterwards, of course, that this meant only one thing, someone had to make a display stand. Little did I know at the time that it would take a week to design and build it!

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The homemade WVAM stand at Lions Easter show 1993

According to my archives we had 55 local press articles in the first 10 years – see Appendix. But it was time well spent because we gradually became known to the motorcycling fraternity and increased the membership numbers year by year. The other main PR activity was an Open Day on a Saturday in May in the carpark between Woodbridge and Commercial roads in Guildford.

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Open day in Guildford – May 1986

A particular advantage to this site at the time was that a motorcycle clothing shop called Motosport, (owned by Graham Koster who also founded of the excellent cycle shop at Smithbrook Kilns), was next door. Our membership increased by 40% at the Open Day, so it was a worthwhile activity.

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Strathcarron parrot

We continued to hold Observed Runs at Bellfields on the first Sunday at 10am, and both evening and day runs also started there as well. The AGM on 17th June took place at the Ship inn at Ripley, when Peter likened the youthful Club to a ‘reasonable good machine, but it needs fuel, oil and a good maintenance team’.  Our Club social evenings were also held initially at the Ship in Ripley on the 3rd Monday of the month but moved to the village hall by autumn 85. Our first Christmas dinner was also held in Ripley, at the White Hart, when David and Eve Strathcarron attended along with their parrot who sat in his cage on the bar. This apparent aristocratic absurdity actually had a practical purpose – they lived in London but were en route to their country home in Beaulieu and if they had left the parrot in the car on a sub-zero December night, it would have frozen to death!

1986
One of our first evening events, in April, was a slide show about the Stella Alpina Rally. International travel by bike seemed terribly ambitious to me at the time, but many years later (June 2006) I rode up this exhilarating Alpine track with my son Greg; he was on a 650GS and scooted along easily, whereas I had to go much slower on my totally unsuitable R100RS with its limited suspension travel, narrow handlebars and low belly pan. A powerful demonstration of GS capability over standard road machines! 

Also in April our dedicated Secretary, Keith Millican, became involved in founding a second IAM motorcycle Group in Basingstoke – he was obviously good at twisting people’s arms – so he stood down at the AGM in June and Kevin Walker took over.

We held our second Open Day on 24 May at the same place in Guildford, closely followed by the Club’s first French weekend over 13-15 June, led by his Lordship and wife Eve on his K100 and trailer!

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Stella Alpina track above Bardoneccia – Jun 2004
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The first French trip – June 1986
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Strathcarron’s trailer – The first French trip June 1986

There were 8 of us who set out from Keith’s house in Clandon on a sunny Friday morning, taking the ferry of course and proceeding east from Calais to Cassel for the first night, then St Valery-sur-Somme for the second. It was my modest introduction to international biking and I was hooked. We had no route notes of course, and marking junctions had apparently not been invented yet, so we all had to keep the trailer in sight at all times. Someone had to be tail-end Charlie and on the way to Cassel, as the least experienced rider, inevitably it was me, and I recall coming into a 100k limit on many occasions doing nearly 100mph after getting separated by traffic at roundabouts and lights. On the way home we discovered the real benefit of a trailer – the ability to carry a case of wine and two suitcases, although we did have to help his Lordship reverse out of carparks a few times.

At the end of August bank holiday in 86 Peter introduced us to the Ken Hall Motocross event near Petersfield. If you have never been, it really is a lovely family friendly event on the side of the Downs. This event was followed in September, by the second annual navigation trail and supper. There were three of these events in total (84-86), all with a supper afterwards and they were good fun. Maybe we should resurrect them?

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Ken Hall motocross

1987
This was quite an eventful year: in March we held an ‘Any Questions’ style of debate at the House of Commons, arranged of course by Peter Walker who worked there. The panellists were Peter Bottomley MP and Under Secretary of State for Transport, Ted Clements the IAM’s Chief Examiner, and our very own President, Lord Strathcarron. It was held in one of the committee rooms and attended by over 60 people who contributed questions on noise, particularly from small 2-strokes, the new Highway Code, conspicuity, and finally their reaction if their own son or daughter expressed a wish to ride a motorcycle. Peter Bottomley’s answer, said with a smile, was that they should wait until they were 40! Shortly afterwards, Bottomley referred to the WVAM in glowing terms (see Hansard 24th April 1987) during a debate on the Motorcycle Noise Bill.

It was also the year that regular quarterly Observer meetings began (at the Crown and Anchor pub in Old Woking).

Another innovation that year was to support a charity, in this case Guide Dogs for the Blind; a total of 23 riders from the WVAM and Basingstoke Groups, Witley motorcycle Club and the London branch of the BMW Club visited all the Guide Dogs centres in England. It took them 17hrs over the weekend of 12-13 September. They raised over £5,000, over half of which came from the 10 WVAM riders which included our then Secretary, Kevin Walker who wrote an article for the newsletter. Peter reported in the newsletter that thanks were once again due to Keith Millican for his efficient organisation and powers of persuasion, which had, incidentally, been honed as a school teacher in Scotland. It was certainly difficult to say no to Keith!

In May 87 we held the third Open Day at the Woodbridge Road carpark then in July Peter (who else?) organised the first ‘Family Day’ aboard the Mid-Hants Railway – the Watercress Line – from Alton to Ropley, Alresford and Medstead, with a picnic lunch in Chawton Park Woods.

In late October, a number of us went up to the Bike Show at the NEC to man the IAM stand for a day. And of course the year’s events were rounded off by a Christmas supper at the White Hart in Ripley – at a mere £8.50 a head. It was a busy year but for that reason, it was perhaps the most significant year in defining the Group’s character.

1988
The April newsletter contained an article outlining the system of marking junctions during convoy riding in groups; so if anyone is interested I guess we can regard that as the approximate date when the system was used for social runs. It also contained an article by Peter Tarrant on his own experience riding the John O’Groats to Land’s End route (JOGLE). As many of you will know, the JOGLE became a regular WVAM charity event, championed by our current President, Rex Hawkes.

The AGM that year marked the retirement from the committee of Tony Warner as Assistant Chief Observer, to be replaced by Ian Johnson, later to become our second Chairman. Kevin Walker also finished his term as Secretary and I passed the publicity portfolio to Tony Madgwick – my excuse being that I had started an exhausting new job in London with a score of committees to look after, so travelling to another one in the evenings was not going to benefit anyone!

In May there was a second trip to France, this time to the Loire valley, but the 6 bikes had their fair share of trauma: a rainstorm on arrival at Caen on the Friday and periodic showers thereafter, rain again on the Saturday run to Nantes in which they had a miserable tour of the industrial estates and one way systems, a puncture on a K100, a near terminal cam chain noise on a GPZ900, a re-offending puncture on the K, and finally, after stopping outside a small tabac to shelter from more rain, a CX500 was blown over by a passing lorry and which took out the BM as well!

Doubtless as a result of conversations on the IAM stand at the NEC in 87, the Group took responsibility for organising the following year’s IAM motorcycle conference at the Motorcycle Museum. This was the fourth such meeting and it seemed to me quite an astonishing ambition for such a new IAM Group to do. Nevertheless Peter Parvin, as ever, took the initiative, getting a team of us together and chairing the day with professionalism and humour.

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George Read-Ward – Christmas 1988

At the AGM in May it was reported that the membership was 130, there had been a 100% pass rate in the Test, the Social Evening became known as the Club Night (which was held monthly at the Rowbarge in Guildford on the third Monday), and from August onwards the Observed Runs took place at Ripley Village Hall. So by 2013 we had been there for 25 years. There were 4 new members of the committee at that AGM so the new blood must have stimulated ideas. It was also announced that after 4 years (84-7) the next Christmas dinner would move away from Ripley to the Cornstore Barn in Cranleigh.
By October, the numbers attending both Observed Runs and Club nights had increased significantly so the changes appeared to have had a beneficial effect.
Another innovation, beginning in October that year, was to publish a profile of each committee member, how they got into motorcycling and WVAM etc, which I found still made interesting reading all these years later. Why don’t we do that as a matter of course nowadays?

One of the highlights of the year was undoubtedly the second motorcycle debate at the House of Commons. This time the IAM had publicised the event to all the Home County Groups, so there were over 70 riders attending. As Peter Walker (pictured right) put it: “The closed circuit TV screens said that the House was debating terrorism and broadcasting, but the steady stream of motorcyclists through the ornate Central Lobby had other matters in mind”.
This time David Strathcarron chaired the event and the panellists were Bob McMillan (Honda UK motorcycle manager),
Tony Denniss (TRRL and ex Norton), Danny McNulty (Traffic Superintendent, Surrey Police), and making their second appearance were Peter Bottomley MP and Ted Clements (IAM Chief Examiner). Questions on training received most attention, while to stimulate matters our very own Ian Johnson, ever one to challenge the status quo, put forward some critical remarks on the standard of police driving. He was nonetheless, as Peter Walker remarked dryly, “seen to leave the building upright”!

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Peter Walker – Christmas 1985

1989
In January 89 the newsletter changed its title from ‘Ride On’ to ‘News and Views’, and in the regular ‘Chairman’s Chat’ Peter was happy to report that Sally Williams had taken on the Secretary’s duties. Little did she expect to be continuing in that role for a further 10 years, which added up to a massive number of voluntary hours for what had by then become a very active Group. (PS: her profile can be read in the Jan 89 newsletter if you can obtain a copy!) Thanks Sally. Keep riding and touring.

At the AGM our founder Chairman retired after 6 years (not counting all the pre-WVAM preparatory work of course) and Ian Johnson took over the reins.

Scanning through the events list of this era, obviously Evening Runs were a common item, as were Breakfast Runs (i.e. whole day runs starting at 0730), many of which I can remember either Peter or myself planning and leading. But in particular, I recall another older wizard, Arthur Palmer, and his wife Tricia who were regular members on the longer ones, including multi County runs to places like Kentwell Hall in Suffolk. (Arthur if you remember any of these how about an article?)

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Jessie in 1928

In August Tony Madgwick led the way to Brands Hatch for the Festival of 1000 bikes, organised by the Vintage motorcycle Club, and it was there that I met Jessie Ennis and her husband Bill. She was not only a delightful, entertaining and very modest person, but a pioneer lady rider in the 1920’s.

Jessie’s life history was described in the June 1988 edition of The Classic Motorcycle and the February 1995 edition of Motorcycle Sport, but briefly she was born Jessie Hole in 1908 and her father was the manager of the gas and coking plant in Battersea. He had no interest in motorcycles but Jessie’s elder brother George did and he used to ride the cinder track around the gasworks, which was where, at the tender age of 11 in 1917, Jessie learnt to ride motorcycles. By age 16 she was the proud owner of a 2-speed Scott Super Squirrel on which she competed in reliability trials and immediately tasted success, winning the Visitors Cup in the Bognor Trial in 1926. The following year New Imperial advertised for a lady rider to promote its products and with her proven ability and good looks, Jessie became a works rider.

Despite this innovation, there were still official restrictions imposed by the motorcycling authorities on her sex; for example she was not able to enter races at Brooklands until Lady Campbell (mother of World Speed Record holder Donald) organised the first ladies race there (1929?), in which Jessie was only beaten into second place by the eventual winner who had the benefit of riding a Grindley Peerless factory racer.
Nonetheless the ACU still refused to allow women into the premier events, the London to Exeter and Land’s End Trials. With typical determination Jessie got around this restriction by joining the upper class Women’s Automobile and Sports Association and persuaded them to run their own Land’s End Trial a week after the MCC one, which demonstrated clearly that “we ladies could do anything that the men could”. Not only that but with her brother George, she did stunt riding events for charity where she rode through a large sheet of plate glass, describing the experience thus: “I had to lean forward and ride quickly because I didn’t want to be there when the big pieces of glass came down like a guillotine”. What a gal.

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Jessie in the London to Barnstaple trial with her mother in the sidecar
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Jessie – Brooklands 1929

Jessie was elected an Emeritus Member of the Brooklands Society in 1998 and she had a cupboard full of memorabilia, including her much scarred leather helmet, which she brought to our Open Days at Ripley and two Guildford Lions Easter events (for which Peter and I organised a motorcycle section with local dealers and the Witley motorcycle Club).

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Jessie aged 88 at 1996 Festival of 1000 bikes

She was elected a WVAM Life Member and I had the pleasure of taking members down to her house near Chichester on two occasions, when she provided an enormous spread of sandwiches and cakes for us, while her husband Bill plied us with varying shades of his homemade wine. It really was an absolute pleasure to meet them both. (As a postscript, BBC Radio 4 ran a series of interviews called ‘Riders Tales’ including Neil Hodgson, Nick Sanders and Jessie, from 3rd to 7th December 2001).

In July I led a Breakfast run to the Duxford Air Museum, Peter Walker led one to the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham and during the August bank holiday weekend, Peter took us once again to the wonderful Ken Hall Motocross event on the Downs near Petersfield, and Kevin Watson created a Treasure Hunt starting from Box Hill.

In October 89, as the events calendar shows, Peter and I led a (half day) breakfast run departing at 0800 from the Hogs Back carpark to the unique Millburys pub in Hampshire (go down the A32 to Warnham and turn right). By taking a roundabout route we arrived at around 1000 and had a lovely breakfast while reading the Sunday papers. It was an old coaching Inn which sits on the high Chalk Downs, complete with a 100m deep well plus man-wheel for hauling up the water, right inside the building. As Jeremy Clarkson might say, that’s my top tip for a superb English country pub.

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Millberrys pub – June 1993

On 15 November 89, inevitably organised by Peter Walker, the Club held its third Motorcycle Forum at the House of Commons, with Panellists John Over (Chief Constable of Gwent and famous for his views on road safety), Dave Dixon (Institute of Motorcycling), Phil Russell (National Director of the Star Rider Scheme), Ted Clements (IAM Chief Examiner) and our President, David Strathcarron.

There were also rides with the Basingstoke Group charity event round the south of England cathedrals, to France with Sally, and some dissatisfaction with the Rowbarge as a venue for Club nights due to the failure to implement promised redecoration. And finally the Christmas Dinner moved to Bricks Restaurant at Smithbrook Kilns, at which Chairman Ian gave a short speech commending Peter’s enormous contribution to the Club.

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(Bricks is a good place for a coffee and cake stop especially as there are some brilliant cycles in a shop nearby).

1990
In the January newsletter the new decade was welcomed in by the Editor Don Hoaglin, who supplied the Club with ‘calling’ cards to hand out to fellow bikers. The Chairman, Ian Johnson, reported that while the overall membership remained around 130, the social activities continued, in the main, to be poorly attended and even at the Motorcycle Forum event the majority had come from other local groups. By contrast, at the Christmas party, members had to be turned away (it only held seating for 60). So all members were urged to note the events planned for the year, and in particular, the first one, a stimulating talk by Peter Amey who had spoken at the House of Commons Forum event in 89. Also in January, Sally finally wrote about the event she led the previous year for the second time: watery biking (or jet skiing to give it its proper name) at the Cotswold Water Park near Cirencester.

In the April edition, our hard working ex Chairman Peter wrote a lengthy piece reflecting on many years of pleasant and variable commuting to his London office, Edward Meryon described the Pioneer Breakfast Run for 200 vintage bikes in March, which took off from the Epsom race course to in Brighton; Tony Madgwick regaled us for the second time about his experiences on the substantial, 10 day road test, this time on a VFR 750R (RC30); and Kevin Watson reviewed the skittles evening in February where the Bennett Bunglers and other teams were thrashed by the Chief Observer’s team ‘Merry Macs’. All a total fix of course.

A feature by Tony Warner advocating the Club should join the BMF was logical (it was still based in Motspur Park then) and we did join eventually; but sadly after it moved its HQ to the Midlands about a decade later, there was such intense infighting that its CEO resigned and M.A.G now seems to be the more important group tackling the nonsense that emerges from Brussels.

Whilst Peter had stepped down as Chairman, he had remained on the committee as Membership Secretary, but what only a few people knew was that it worked as a double act: I had no time to go to committee meetings but used a database and could 10 finger type, so Peter and I liaised on the phone and by post which allowed me to operate the actual membership list. This arrangement worked perfectly well for us and went on for many years from 1990.

In the summer newsletter Chairman Ian Johnson noted that the Rowbarge had become progressively less attractive for Club Nights as attendance had dropped, so a new venue was sought. As a counterbalance, the July BBQ was held at Smithbrook Kilns, which was not only an interesting venue having been recently converted from a redundant brickworks to a mixed group of small businesses, but one of these was Motosport run by Graham Koster, who had recently moved from Woodbridge Rd in Guildford where we had run our first Open Days. As is traditional on Open Days, dealers had generously brought lots of bikes for us to try out including Kawasakis all the way from Canterbury, BMWs from Coombs and some Harleys too. I took out one of the HOGs (no idea of the model) but which had no rear suspension and which threw you out of the seat at regular intervals on the local country lanes around Cranleigh. Why anyone found these bikes attractive has been a mystery to me ever since!

Other summer events included a trip to Germany in May led by young Kevin Watson, jet skiing near Cirencester with Sally again, a Ron McLaughlin trip to the splendid Amberley Chalk Pits & Steam museum near Arundel, my own run to the Middle Wallop Air Show, the British Grand Prix at Donnington led by Peter, Festival of 100 Bikes for the vintage enthusiasts with Tony Madgwick, another round of the Ken Hall Motocross with Peter, a very pleasant ‘Cotswolds Cruise’

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Cotswolds cruise – September 1990

also by Peter (he and Judith had honeymooned in Bibury!), the BMF rally with Tony Madgwick, and numerous Breakfast and Afternoon runs. Apart from these whole day runs, scanning through the summer edition of the newsletter, I see that Peter also contributed 4 articles. His quiet enjoyment of riding and writing was certainly inspirational to me and perhaps to others as well.

In Sept the Club Night moved to the Wheatsheaf in Bramley (where Peter lived; strange that) and the Christmas dinner was held again at the pleasant but confined ambience of Hazel’s restaurant at Smithbrook Kilns. I will let you guess who organised that, as usual.

Although not reported in the newsletter until the following year, the stagnant nature of the membership numbers (120-130) had been a bit of a concern and so Peter and I hatched a plan to visit local bike dealers on a Saturday in summertime to meet their customers and promote the Group. The committee also appointed a group of 4 to look after publicity (David Hans, Pat Beckett, Steve Novak and myself). Armed with the stand, new leaflets and many other members, we went to seven dealerships from London to Hampshire that year and the autumn newsletter reported that we had a record membership. So the strategy seemed to be working.

The Dec 1990 newsletter recorded that two stalwart members, Gerry Gooch and Julie Wallis had passed their Tests, and coincidentally it was also the month that the CBT was introduced for all new motorcyclists. It also contained an 8 page article about my own accidental meeting in Guildford with a BMW R100RT and the subsequent experiences over 9years & 80,000miles. (The now refurbished old girl and I have since completed a very happy 139,000miles together!)

1991

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Talmag

The first event that year was the historic Talmag Trial at Hungry Hill on the outskirts of Aldershot. Talmag was formed after the war and stood for Territorial Army London Motorcycle Activity Group; the Trial is for pre-1965 British bikes and sidecars only, and helmets are optional. It’s a lovely event albeit a bit chilly in January.

The events list for the rest of the year included a visit to Leeds Castle in April by Kevin Watson, to the Shuttleworth Air Museum with me, the BMF rally and the Annual Rally with Sally also in May, Sammy Miller’s Museum and the Banbury Classic Run in June, a Suffolk run with Peter and jet skiing with Sally in July, Festival of 1000 bikes and the Beaulieu Museum in August, another breakfast run to Millberry’s plus a visit to Chartwell (Churchill’s home in Kent) in Sep, the IAM all Groups conference in Oct and the traditional Christmas dinner in Dec.

Peter Parvin was active with his pen again this year, with articles on winter riding and, separately, riding in gale force winds, and to cap it all, a feature on the Eurocrats proposals for a 400cc limit. Quite a varied remit.

As a round up to the ‘RT’ article the previous year, I had invited members to let me know about their experiences and costs of commuting by bike and the resulting contributions from members made interesting reading in the Spring edition of the newsletter.

That edition also included a full page notice about Tony East’s ARE classic bike collection in Guildford. Tony ran the ARE Motor Factor business with 10 branches in Surrey & Hampshire and his collection could be viewed by appointment. Sadly I never got to see his collection of 24 bikes from 1925 on and I believe that after retirement he moved his collection, appropriately enough perhaps, to the Isle of Man.

Features in the summer newsletter that entertained included the Chairman, Ian Johnson, questioning how ‘relaxing’ commuting by bike through London was (as claimed by his predecessor), the image of motorcyclists by our resident polymath (PP), Tony Madgwick’s move to a Japanese machine with shaft drive (horrors), a lively article by that man PP again, on the delights of riding trail bikes offroad in Derbyshire with ‘White Knuckles Knight’, ‘Paddling Pete’, ‘Wizzo Wadham’, ‘Basher Bennett’, and ‘Mountain (bike) Mitchell’ – which was apparently the order in which we all fell off! That weekend was the most fun I think any of us had ever had on a bike. Not surprising then that I went on two subsequent occasions as a result. Simply brilliant.

An anonymous article in the same edition, headed ‘French for foreigners’, offered good advice for the first timer venturing across the Channel, written I suspect by Arthur Palmer because the photo looked like an FJ1300 and there was reference to Tricia being ticked off by the gendarmerie for not wearing a helmet on a hot day in the Lot valley!

Although not reported in the newsletter, for me the most memorable summer run that year was with a group led by Peter to Kentwell Hall in Suffolk, with lunch on the coast at Orford.

The Christmas dinner was held at Hazel’s Bricks restaurant at Smithbrook Kilns.

 

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Kentwell – July 1991
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Orford lunch July 1991 – Peter & Arthur Palmer at the front

1992
This marked the re-introduction of the A5 newsletter, albeit the reproduction quality in those days was a far cry from the high quality colour Intercoms we have got used to. But there was no shortage of events for the whole year in the Spring edition, about 60 were listed, so clearly the Group was thriving and David Hans the Events Secretary was kept busy chasing members and compiling the list. The Club Nights were still held at the Wheatsheaf in Bramley, Sally continued to get her kicks on jet skis, Observed Runs and Observers meetings continued at Ripley, Tim Mitchell and I organised another motocross weekend in Derbyshire with Karl Hayes (Derbyshire Dirt Bikes), Don Elms took the Club to the IoM for TT races, a trip to the BMF rally at Peterborough, a trip to Germany with David Hans, lots of evening runs and there was even a long weekend run to Ben Nevis! Finally the Christmas dinner was once again held at Smithbrook Kilns.

“Anyone who knows me is probably aware of my passion for Moto Guzzi machines, so a chance to visit the factory in Italy to celebrate its 70th anniversary could not be missed”. So wrote Julie Wallis in the Spring newsletter. “When the gates opened it was complete and utter chaos at its Italian best. I did see Eric Richard (Sgt Bob Cryer of ‘The Bill’) on his Honda Pan European, not his Guzzi. I wonder why” – Julie the answer is obvious, his Guzzi would have broken down before he got to the Swiss border! Anyway as many of you will be aware Julie grew out of her Guzzi infatuation eventually and bought a BMW. Sensible girl.

In membership terms Peter reported that the Club now had over 150 sustaining members which was one of our objectives, and that a total of 426 people had joined the Club since it was formed. The membership/recruitment/publicity team consisted of Peter Parvin, Pat Beckett, Jon Lovett, Brian Wadham, Dave Mitchell, Ed Meryon, Ian Johnson, Peter Walker and myself, and we allocated ourselves the role of Dealer contacts. The point being that we reckoned that at least a quarter of our members came to us via dealerships so we wanted to promote ourselves actively and not just sit and wait for potential members to come to us. The dealerships we covered included Wheel Sport in Haslemere, G D Brown in Godalming, FCL in Cranleigh, Continental in Woking, Normandy motorcycle’s, Gordon Farley in Ash, Guildford Honda, Mocheck in Clapham, Frontiers in Wimbledon, Jack Lilley in Shepperton, Tippets in Surbiton, SPC near Alton, Coombs in Guildford, Townsends in Wallington, and Roy Smith Motors in New Malden.

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Derbyshire Dirt Bikes 1991 – Peter
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Derbyshire Dirt Bikes 1991- river crossing

The autumn newsletter had reports on some of the summer activities, including Don Hoaglin’s article about the Derbyshire Dirt Bike weekend from near Clay Cross. Despite being not nearly as fit as he would have liked, he described the experience thus: “The trails and scenery were mind blowing. I would not have attempted to walk up or even down some of the tracks we went on, yet I rode the bike along them”. After experiencing this the previous year I would certainly agree with him. All this fun clearly made an impression because Don joined the TRF afterwards and that was virtually the last time we saw him at the Club!

One of the other summer fun filled events was of course Sally’s ever popular jet skiing, as reported by WVAM stalwart Malcolm Perry, when 13 members and friends travelled to the Cotswolds Water Park. On the route back across the Marlborough Downs: “The weather was superb, clear blue sky, temperature just right, the road and countryside so perfect for motorcycling and the memories of the day’s events so good that Sally reflected: ‘I was riding along thinking there really was no other place on earth I would rather have been, or anything else I would rather have been doing at that time.’ She was not alone with those thoughts.” Sounds like a perfect day.

Malcolm also found time in the same edition to report on a Gerry Gooch run to Oxford in July, including a walk around Balliol College, where Gerry’s daughter had studied.

The newsletter ended with a short but very satisfying note from another Club stalwart and long time Editor of the magazine, Peter Walker, who reported that Triumph had shipped its first order of 200 bikes to Japan. Groundbreaking news.

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Gerry Gooch

The front cover of the winter edition of the newsletter had an incredible photo of Gerry up a ladder on a stunt bike, with his feet clearly over 2m above the grass arena.

This of course was followed by a feature on his ‘secret life’ as a former member of a motorcycle display team, despite the innocent exterior. One of his other tricks was the “skilful removal of his trousers while standing astride the petrol tank”! The team had formed in 1965 and before Gerry hung up his leathers, had given more than a 1,000 public performances in Britain, Zambia and South Africa. How did we ever let such an unhinged exhibitionist into the Club? Despite his undoubted riding skills he readily admitted he learnt a lot of road skills with the Club and in due course passed his IAM test and the following year became the Events Secretary. Perhaps, on reflection, all that foolhardy behaviour was in his youth, long, long ago.

Sadly, one of the dealer adverts in the winter edition concerned the closing down sale of Motosport, the bike clothing dealer run by Graham Koster, who you may recall had moved from a shop next to the Woodbridge Road carpark in Guildford out to Smithbrook Kilns, and with whom we had liaised closely for many Open Days during our formative years. He had gradually moved into the then burgeoning mountain bike business and it remains a cycle emporium to this day.

1993
The poor attendance at Club nights in Bramley had concerned the committee for some time so one of the first things Gerry did was not only to move it to a different venue – the Barn café at Newlands Corner – but more importantly to have a guest speaker of which the first was Alan Hobbs, one of our former Examiners. The third Monday of the month remained unchanged but an additional benefit of the Barn was that it served food.

That Easter, “Thanks to some energetic work by Peter Parvin” (who else?) the Club took part in the Guildford Lions Easter Show at Shalford Park, in order to “project our operations to a large audience”. But it was actually much more than that – he roped me into its organisation as well – and we contacted all the local bike dealers and other Clubs who all brought their stands to the Show as well. Peter reported on the event in the Spring newsletter: There were 22 exhibitors, including national organisations like the BMF & MAG, HOG, TRF, Velocette & Goldwing Owners etc, and the Lions had the largest crown in the 25 years the show had been running.

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Peter Parvin, Jon Lovett & Don Hoaglin

The day ended with a parade of all the exhibitor bikes including our own, and I recall my son Greg then aged 7, was impressed with being able to ride pillion around the arena without a helmet. Another particularly memorable part of the day was the great pleasure of introducing Jessie to a local lad of equivalent age and status, Graeme Browne.

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Jessie with Graeme Browne

June 1993 saw a revival, after a break of many years, of the Navigation Trail, organised by Peter P and Ron McLaughlin, rounded off with a BBQ at the Barn.

As promised, Don Hoaglin caught the trail bug after the weekend in Derbyshire, and bought a “Q-plated offroader and found somewhere to get it muddy”. And so it would seem did another member, Graeme Lynam who got to know friends who also went on a Derbyshire Dirt Bike weekend. Graeme wrote about the different skills required offroad and in particular use of the front brake: “The big difference is that very careful hand control is needed. Going down steep hills in very soft sand is one such occasion when the front brake should be avoided, because the weight transfer buries the front end, shortly followed by yourself as you go over the top!” Hilarious advice.

1994
Whether they ever existed or whether I have lost them is the question, but the fact is that I have only one newsletter from 94, the summer edition, in which it was proudly announced that the Club was booming with a membership of 179 in its 10th year as an independent group. One of the events was a breakfast run down to Chichester but with a difference, to visit our then 86 year old Life member, Jessie Ennis, who I mentioned earlier and who had been riding bikes since the age of 11. Another interesting fact according to our Sal, was that 60% of the riders on the 19 May evening run were female. We must have been doing something right then!

Peter Walker was a most deserving recipient of the Peter Parvin award (a glass motorcycle; see appendix 2) that year after many years editing the magazine. Thoroughly well deserved and I trust that it is still on his mantelpiece.

Gerry Gooch wrote an interesting article about his trip to Italy with Sheila on his new Triumph Trophy 900. He is clearly a poetic soul: “Oh France how much I love you. Not for your wine, nor your women, but for your roads. The steady beat of the Triumph engine was like a lullaby in my ears as we sped along the almost traffic free roads, mile after mile”. At the end he concluded that the homeward journey was his most enjoyable ever.

Although it was not reported in the newsletter, 1994 was especially noteworthy because Jim Osborne’s daughter Rebecca became an observer aged only 19, and later went on to become the IAM’s youngest ever female Senior Observer.

1995
In the spring newsletter Chairman Ian Johnson reviewed the previous year thus: “a remarkable year for the WVAM which saw a substantial increase in membership from an average of 150 in previous years to around 225. Much of this came from Alan Hobbs’ courses on Defensive and Better Motorcycling organised by the Chief Observer”. And we still had a 100% pass record and there were now 40 trained Observers. Ian also noted from an article in the FT that there had been an increase in motorcycle sales due to the large number of London commuters turning to motorcycles as driving and parking was becoming impossible, and the train service unattractive. Ian also had a note about the forthcoming French trip in September and said it was as a result of the very successful trip the previous year.

But the membership number also benefited both from the number of ‘born again bikers’ that joined and that a large number of members had either wives or girlfriends who didn’t want to be left at home, so with the enthusiasm of quite a few members, notably Gerry Gooch, the social side of Wey Valley moved on in leaps and bounds and became the platform for what we have today.

Alan Hobbs, our local Examiner, wrote an appreciation of our founding Secretary Keith Millican which made very good reading because I do not recall Keith actually saying much about himself . Alan had met Keith at one of his public lectures held in the early 80’s at the Surrey Police traffic centre at Burpham, which were thoroughly entertaining as I attended them myself around that time. In IAM terms, the interesting thing about Keith was that after moving to the Basingstoke area he formed a motorcycle sub group of the Basingstoke car group (in which he was the first Chief Observer), which soon became the independent Basingstoke Advanced Motorcycle group with Keith as the first Chairman. During this formative period Geoff Baldwin and I went over there one Sunday to help with their Observed Runs because, obviously, they did not have many Observers. For a long time now the BAM and WVAM have been the two largest IAM motorcycle groups and Keith was a key member in founding both of them. He was made Honorary Life President of the BAM in recognition of his tireless efforts. Quite a record to be a founder member of the two largest IAM bike Groups!

The second Guildford Lions Easter Show was again led by Peter with 15 bike exhibiters, numerous Club members manning the new Club exhibition stand, and over a 100 bikes and vintage cars in the arena at the close.

Other summer events included, just for a change, Sally leading a trip to the Garden of England in deepest Kent, a New Forest run with the evergreen Arthur Palmer, trips to Matlock Bath in Derbyshire, to Sammy Miller’s museum, a treasure hunt with Ron and Peter, and last but not least the long French weekend with Ian Johnson in Sept closely followed by a separate trip to the Bol d’Or.

The Government introduced the Pass Plus early driver scheme that year too. Just in case you were wondering.

1996
The Spring newsletter opened with a feature by Malcolm Clee on his trip to the Bol d’Or. As he said, it was billed as ‘not for the faint hearted’ and so it proved! It started badly: “..with a phone call at 0500 enquiring why I wasn’t at the meeting place for the ride down to Dover. The answer was that I thought we were leaving on Friday”. Classic balls up and very funny. But after “Frantic packing and a brisk ride I still managed to make the ferry on schedule”. Yep, I bet that was a brisk ride too. At the event he clearly enjoyed himself: “Mere words cannot describe the event”. But as he woke up on the morning of the return through the Alps, there was a torrential thunderstorm that showed no sign of going away. It was warm rain though so he set off on his Ducati with a lightweight waterproof over one-piece racing leathers and summer gloves & boots. But as he climbed above 2,000m the rain turned to snow and he became “painfully cold” and rode in “the worst and most dangerous conditions I have ever ridden in”. Definitely character defining as a similar thing happened to me in the Massif Central in early April one year as I rode from northern Italy to Bordeaux.

Our intrepid Sally meanwhile had forsaken her WVAM duties in favour of a (bikeless) round the world trip, and an extract from her recent trip to NZ was included, albeit with a threat from the Chairman that he had booked her as a guest speaker on her return.

In keeping with the Club’s expansionist (not to say colonial) policies the last page of that issue included an impressive list of 24 dealers for whom members had volunteered to be contacts to provide supplies of WVAM leaflets.

The main feature in the autumn edition was a report by Peter of the Sept French trip titled ‘Paris avec mon capitaine’. There were only 5 bikes, surprisingly, but they had an interesting first day, crossing via Le Shuttle, then down the A20 autoroute to the impressive Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge, then to Avril Williams’ well known historic farmhouse at Auchonvilliers (pronounced Ocean Villas by the Tommies of course), before heading all the way into Paris which they were stupid enough to hit at rush hour. Not only were the roads gridlocked with French drivers leaving on a Friday evening, but the thermometer was in the high 80’s and everyone was stationary in full bike gear and certainly one of those 5 told me afterwards she was definitely a wilting, exhausted flower! Wonderful way to see gay Paris eh? The other two days were spent, as Peter put it so eloquently, “chateau bashing”.

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the IAM (in 1956 obviously), Gerry Gooch organised a novel display of 20 bikes on Guildford High St one Saturday in June. They met at Newlands and rode in neat formation into town, parking at distances carefully worked out by GG himself. Besides giving out scores of leaflets, there was a lot of interest from the public and everyone felt it was a very successful ruse.

The final page contained an interesting ‘Offroad biking – a novices account’ from Teresa Allen who had her first go on a trail bike. There were 4 of us – Teresa, Geoff Baldwin, myself and Paul (an offroad cycling friend of mine) – travelling in Geoff’s comfortable Jag. It was huge fun as we all gelled pretty well although it was apparent on the first morning that two of our team (who shall remain nameless) were contemplating nervously the forthcoming activity and ate very little breakfast.
By the evening it was clear that their fears was well placed as at least one person had leg bruises that simply ran into one another in a wonderfully colourful pattern. Teresa your secret is safe with me!

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Derbyshire again

1997
Ron McLaughlin had been Chief motorcycle Observer (firstly with the Guildford car group) since about 1979 and had decided to stand down at the end of 1996. Peter wrote about Ron’s contribution in the January newsletter where I for one discovered the range of Ron’s other voluntary activities. So it was that the Club acquired only its second Chief Observer in the shape of Jim Osborne, who many of you will have known very well. As a professional rider working for the AA, and having been an observer with the Club for 3 years, he was well qualified for the role.

In the March newsletter Peter confirmed that the membership was over 300 for the first time (the breakdown being 147 Members, 165 Associates, 6 Life and 7 Friends) and there was also a helpful guide to the steps necessary to becoming a Senior Observer (Associate, Member, Trainee Observer (at least 4 accompanied runs with a Group Observer), Qualified Observer (at least 10hrs more observing and sit a 30 question exam & pass by >80%) & Senior Observer (at least 6 more runs and total of 20hrs in past 12 months, and a practical demo with an IAM Examiner). There was also, as far as I am aware for the first time, a one page guide on WVAM social run procedures. Had we really never published this before? Maybe as a handout.

The Open Day in May provided demo bikes from Coombs, Tippetts and Jack Lilley while Teresa hosted a BBQ and swim in Esher after the Observed Runs on 1st June, closely followed by the French trip starting on June 6th to the Loire valley, led by the Chairman.

Over 100 guests went to the Christmas dinner at the Watermill restaurant in Dorking which went on until 2am. Must have been chilly riding back of course and Observed Runs that month were put back a week to allow the party goers time to recover, although the front page photo of Sally and Teresa in the Jan 98 newsletter showed that they at least were none the worse for wear.

1998
The Jan newsletter included an article from Malcolm Clee on ‘A tale of 4 bikes from the Bol d’Or’ which he had obviously visited for the second time on the south coast of France. One portion of this caught my eye: “Six bikes stolen in one go from outside the next hotel 50m up the road” followed by “25% of bikes in our group broke down, got dropped, went down the road or were introduced to a French car, but for me it was absolutely brilliant, the roads, the mountains, the scenery and the weather all made it a fantastic experience”.

For me one of the best Club Night talks was in Jan when I persuaded local lass and near neighbour Elspeth Beard to describe her travels; she was the first British woman to ride round the world, completed on her R80GS in 1984-5.

The main feature in the April newsletter was a picture of well known member and for many years the Club’s membership secretary, Charles Hooker, beside his yellow Firestorm. Why was he so featured? Simply that he had fortuitously become the 1000th member signed up since records began (in the Medieval period). In fact the Club membership had just reached another all time high at the end of Mar, at 438 (excluding Life members and Friends).

At the AGM in May, Ian Johnson stood down as Chairman, succeeded by Alan Brooks. This was reported in the Aug newsletter as: “Retiring Chairman Ian Johnson handed over to Alan the chairmanship of what must be one of the most successful motorcycle clubs in the UK. Ian can rest assured that the club he has worked so hard for and lead so well over the past 10 years, will be in the capable hands of a committee of enthusiastic members. There is a growing feeling amongst the membership of pride and pleasure about the achievements of the Club. The social events which so many members enjoy, complement the main activity of the Club, rider training”. And as a long standing member myself who had been aware of the extent of the work put in by previous committee members and Observers, these were very heartening words. Not only that but in the same newsletter Dave Goodger, dealer co-ordinator, reported that the membership had climbed to 450, no doubt related to the fact that so many dealers displayed our promotional material. This success was probably less appreciated by the Editor who had to get nearly 500 copies of the newsletter printed!

Over the years it is very rare for a member to write to the Editor (now Gerry Gooch) but the Nov issue contained a top letter from, as he put it, “a very inactive member with monstrously busy weekends and a hefty journey to work”. I’m sure a lot of people will relate to those sentiments. But the key point he made was that the two Observed Runs he had attended “taught me more about motorcycling than any amount of written advice seen in the piles of mags which I buy”. Isn’t that the most brilliant feedback the Club could ever get about its core activity?

Mind you Gerry Gooch had some decent feedback from a grateful member who had recently taken his test; he was taken out for a spin in a Piper aircraft from Fairoaks airport, from which of course the same skills of forward planning and good observation are required to demonstrate complete control of the machine.

Equally good however, in the same issue, was a short but hilarious piece from Mike Davidson about a Sep evening run to Brighton on the day after a day of torrential rain. As he put it:

“whilst riding around a bend we came across a huge new water park that had opened that very day. Rex was leading and carried straight on, Dave Fearey weaved an exhilarating route through this new water park, while I decided to alter course and head for the Kamikaze slide. This was an incredible experience and as we parted company with the bike, Sue shrieked in excitement as the 20 yard slide was quite spectacular and the spray truly amazing”.

Mike I want you to know that it took me 10 minutes to type that quote due to an overabundance of laughter. The article had a nice finish too, from “Our underwater correspondents, Mike and Sue Davidson”.

At the end of the year the Club had over 500 members.

1999
A Burns Night supper was held on January 16th which, Chairman Alan Brooks reported in the Feb newsletter, “was a night to be remembered. Both Rex Hawkes, with his tribute to Robbie Burns & Motorcycling, and Dave Goodger with his ‘floor show’, had everyone in stitches, and Russell King turned many a ladies eye looking so dashing in his full regalia”.

The February newsletter also included a feature about Andy Gray, another ex-Guildford and District IAM Club member (membership No 19) who was an observer for many years on his FJ1200. The newsletter also noted that the Club membership had risen to £25 for the first year (from an original £8) but this now included both the excellent IAM book ‘Pass your advanced motorcycling test’ and The Highway Code. Subsequent years’ fee remained at £10.

In case you missed an addendum to the Highway Code concerning pillion riders, as pointed out by Mary Johnson in the May newsletter (on 1st April), I include the key points below:

“ Light tap on both shoulders: When you find a safe and convenient place, please come to a complete stop.”

“Thumping both shoulders: Stop this ruddy bike NOW!”

“Gentle squeezing of both knees: Not one of your better attempts at cornering.”

“Embracing the rider tightly with both arms around upper body: Often mistaken for affection. Actual meaning is: ‘I’m scared witless by your riding and would like to tap you on both shoulders’. See above.”

Clearly sound guidance which all Advanced riders should memorise.

The May 1999 newsletter informed members of a new format for social runs, Meet & Go, starting from Ryka’s at Box Hill every Sunday at 10am. There were very precise guidelines: just turn up. Don’t you just love brevity? The regular Open Day with BMW, Honda and Triumph demo bikes took place on 30th May, followed by a BBQ and disco in the evening.

Sally retired at the AGM after 10 years as Secretary. A feat that will not, I suspect, ever be bettered. Alan Brooks probably summed up the situation most succinctly: “Sally will be a hard act to follow, as over the years she has made the job look so easy, which of course is isn’t.”

Gerry Gooch also retired with a big round of thanks after 9 years of committee life where he contributed massively to the club, firstly taking responsibility for the social rides, then Club nights and finally he served as the newsletter editor. But in particular Gerry and his wife Shiela will be remembered for actively inspiring partners and lady riders to come on social rides.

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Ossuary

The June French trip was to Sedan in the Ardennes which, as it turned out, was my own last such event. It was genuinely memorable for the magnificent sights such as the Peronne museum, the South African memorial, the American cemetery at Romagne, the Douament Ossuary near Verdun, and the extraordinary sounds of happy bikers having an impromptu dance after dinner.

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Rex, Russell et al doing the quickstep in Sedan

From autumn 1999 onwards, the newsletter was renamed ‘Intercom’ and back in an A5 booklet format. This edition is also notable for including a brief review of the Club’s history by our founder Chairman, Peter Parvin, who also stepped down at the AGM.

Past Chairman Ian Naylor reflected on yet another (mostly) successful French trip to L’Aigle in Normandy. Mostly, that is, because as I got back from an excellent day’s ride, a prominent member was sitting outside cuddling a pint with a bandaged hand. Luckily a strained thumb was all he had to show for a mishap which was described anonymously but poetically as follows:

“My name is Goodger and I love riding my Honda,

I wear tartan skirts which makes people wonda,

I’m flying down the road and dive into a bend,

It goes on and on and I just can’t see the end,

I’m scraping everything and can’t lean no further,

Running out of road and I think ‘Oh Mother’

Then I’m off and in a creek with nothing left to do,

Covered in **** and no paddle for my canoe.”

Despite this hilarious mishap, Dave was also instrumental in getting the social rides to blossom into the enormous success that they now so clearly are.

The first article in the Christmas edition 1999 made interesting reading because it was Sheila Gooch’s exploits as part of her husband’s motorcycle display team (see the previous note for 1992). Yes she too used to climb up the top of a ladder fitted to a motorcycle while it was going around a circular grass arena at 20mph by a rider with no hands on the handlebars! Sheila only once piloted a biker herself, and that was a 500cc Gold Star, as she said: “comfort was always my priority and I dream of my husband buying a Gold Wing”!

Continuing the theme of lady members, the following article related to Nicky Young’s experience of leading her first ride-out, only weeks after passing her test: “It takes a bit of planning, but it’s a great sense of achievement to pull into a pub car park and know you haven’t lost anyone along the way!”.

And there was more feminine charm and expertise from Coral Taylor on doing a track day: “Don’t just talk about it, go do it!” she said in the opening paragraph, which just about summed up Coral’s Kiwi approach to life.

Not to be outdone, Julie-Ann Rudd braved Keith Code’s California Superbike School at Donington and told us about her experiences, along with partner Steve and friend Rosie “who was providing some much welcome girlie support”, riding a Senna(?) and 2 Firestorms. Naturally apprehensive, she was told on the first day’s classroom session that all track work would be conducted at 60% of your ability. No doubt that was reassuring as everyone would doubtless have thought, like Julie-Ann, “I can do that”. The outcome? “Worth every penny. You’ll never have a ‘moment’ in a corner again”. Must give it a go sometime.

Jim Osborne

In the christmas 1999 edition of Intercom, Chairman Alan Brooks reported on the tragic deaths of both Jim Osborne, Chief Observer, and his wife Carol, leaving the Club in a state of shock. There must have been over 300 people at their funeral at Leatherhead as most members were well aware of their enormous contribution to the Club and their agreeable personalities. As a tribute to Jim, his article which appeared in that issue is reproduced below.

“Just like the old Soviet Union, I set myself a 3-year plan when I took over as Chief Observer at the start of 1997. By constantly moaning to the then Chairman, Ian Johnson, that the standards of observing weren’t in my opinion, all they should be. I had talked myself into the position when, after many years as Chief Observer, Ron McLaughlin retired from the position to concentrate on his other hobby, the Basingstoke Canal. ‘After all’, Ian said with a crooked smile, ‘it’s no good complaining if you’re not prepared to do something about it, now you have the opportunity.” Snookered.

Ian had just carried out a survey among the Observers and he happily dumped the pile of replies in my lap. On reading through them I was pleased to find that virtually everyone had asked if there could be more training for Observers, so my task was made easy from the start. After blowing off the cobwebs and prising open that exciting tome known as the Group Handbook, I discovered that the IAM had set up their Senior Observer scheme only the year before. Taking up this option meant that all Observers had to qualify right from the beginning as all hours spent observing had to be verified and collated, something that had not been done before, and without complaint, everyone complied.

Once set on this course, the system of training Observers was brought up to date with Mons Elmberg in charge. We tried several systems and altered them until I thought that the way we start off with our Observers now ensures that the associates get a very high standard of training from day one. This starts with an introduction to advanced riding given by Terry Tomlin and his team prior to having their first run. This is a first class course on the Tuesday evening before the Sunday Observed Runs In Ripley and is open to all. I would urge everyone to go along, even if you have passed your advanced test, you could be surprised at what you might learn.

From a personal point of view, the hardest thing for me was standing up on a Sunday morning and seeing about 150 faces turned in my direction, where normally I wouldn’t speak out if there were more than six present. But once I learnt that they wouldn’t bite, and in fact seemed wary of me, I soon calmed down. The interest now shown in rider training is amazing and when you consider that the majority of our associates know about us purely by word of mouth, it says a lot about the esteem that the Club is held in by its members.

After passing the IAM test it seems a lot of people think ‘that’s it, I’m an advanced rider’, end of story. That’s not so in my opinion, it’s just the first rung on a very long ladder. You’ve proved you now think about what you’re doing, but if you don’t carry on in that training mode and get yourself checked out periodically, you will find you have fallen off the ladder.

On this subject I have lost count of the number of people who, having passed their IAM test, ask the question ‘what now?’. Apart from advising them to become an Observer I usually go on to explain about the Rospa test, which because of its graded passes, makes the applicant strive even harder to excel. After all, we all want Gold and an ‘A’ pass don’t we?

It’s been an enjoyable 3 years with just a couple of black spots, Steve Henniker’s death while on a training run being the lowest point of all. And the 3 year plan? Well I suppose I managed to get about a third of the things done that I had hoped, but I know that when I hand over the reins to Dave Goodfellow at Christmas, he along with the Training Team, have many good things in store for you all. In finishing I would like to thank all the Observers for going back to basics, some after many years with the WVAM, and for your help and suggestions (some of which were physically impossible). I look forward to seeing the WVAM and its crew thrusting ahead into the new millennium.”

It was therefore a very sad time for Dave to take on the role of Chief Observer, particularly as he had only been a member for a year, but he had been impressed by the “enthusiasm of the Committee and the structured and well organised way the Club was run”. Hear, hear. Needless to say Dave was highly qualified for the role, after working in the Met for 30 years, including membership of the Special Escort Group since 1994 (escorting Royalty & Heads of State) and escorting Diana’s hearse in 1997. And in his spare time he just happened to be an international judge (i.e. Commonwealth Games, Olympics & World Championships) in rifle shooting.

And finally, yes there is a theme developing here: the committee list included Coral as Press Officer and Teresa Allen in charge of Recruitment and the Dealer Contacts. So you will not be the least surprised that one of the last items in the Winter 1999 Intercom was a notice by the indefatigable Coral, announcing the intention to hold a Wild Wheel Women day in the year 2000, to encourage more women members. The event’s name ended up being toned down a tad in the end, to Ladies Day 2000, but nonetheless, well done Coral. Come and see us again soon.

And so as we entered the new millenium, the WVAM had completed its formative period and had matured into a thriving, very well managed organisation, with all the key elements in place (training team, social events, rideouts, colour newsletter, website, committee leadership, nationally graded Observers, Observer training team, Peter Parvin award etc), that we now take for granted. It’s a great Club which has brought me huge enjoyment and satisfaction, many friends, and I am extremely proud to have been part of its early development.

To round off, in 2003 my son Greg became a full member at age 18, with Jessie Ennis age 95 sitting on his bike. That was a gap of 77 years between our youngest and oldest members, a record that is not likely to be surpassed.

33-jessie-greg
Jessie & Greg

Appendix 1 – press articles

 DatePublisherTopicSource
11 Nov 84Woking InformerReport on the Inaugural AGM (Mon 29 Oct 84)Keith Millican
1985    
212 Apr 85Surrey AdvertiserFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
319 Apr 85Aldershot NewsFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayJohn Bennett
425 Apr 85Woking News & MailFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
530 Apr 85Motorcycling WeeklyFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
69 May 85Haslemere HeraldFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
710 May 85Farnham HeraldFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
810 May 85Alton HeraldFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
910 May 85Bordon HeraldFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
1010 May 85Petersfield HeraldFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
1115 May 85Motorcycle NewsFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
1218 May 85Godalming TimesFeature prior to first Open Day on 18 MayKeith Millican
134 Jun 85Motorcycling WeeklyReport on first Open DayKeith Millican
147 Jun 85Surrey AdvertiserReport on first Open DayKeith Millican
1514 Jun 85Surrey AdvertiserNavigation TrailKeith Millican
1621 Jun 85Surrey AdvertiserNavigation TrailKeith Millican
1712 Jul 85Surrey AdvertiserFeature prior to Lake District ride for MencapKeith Millican
182 Aug 85Surrey AdvertiserReport on Lake District ride for MencapKeith Millican
1910 Aug 85Westmoreland HeraldReport on Lake District ride for MencapKeith Millican
2023 Aug 85Westmoreland GazetteReport on Lake District ride for MencapKeith Millican
211 Nov 85Surrey AdvertiserObserved Run with journalist Amanda HarlowJohn Bennett
221 Nov 85Dorking AdvertiserObserved Run (Geoff Baldwin & Keith Millican)Keith Millican
2331 Oct 85Leatherhead AdvertiserRide for children at Woking residential care homeKeith Millican
241 Nov 85Dorking AdvertiserRide for children at Woking residential care homeKeith Millican
2514 Nov 85Woking News & MailRide for children at Woking residential care homeKeith Millican
2626 Nov 85Motorcycle WeeklyRide for children at Woking residential care homeKeith Millican
273 Dec 85Motorcycle WeeklyObserved Run with journalist Dave RichmondRon McLaughlin
287 Dec 85Surrey MailObserved Run with journalist Adam FordeJohn Bennett
2910 Dec 85Motorcycle Weekly  
3020 Dec 85Surrey AdvertiserLake District ride for Mencap raised £1,400Tony Warner
1986    
3121 May 86Motorcycle NewsAdvance Notice of Open Day on 24th MayKeith Millican
3222 Aug 86Farnham HeraldObserved Run with journalist Tom FaulknerJohn Bennett
1987    
339 Jan 87Aldershot NewsObserved Run with journalist Laurie TuckerJohn Bennett
34Feb 87Motorcycle Rider  
356 Mar 87Surrey AdvertiserAdvance notice of debate with Peter Bottomley on 17 Mar in RipleyPeter Parvin
363  Apr 87Surrey AdvertiserReport on the debatePeter Walker
378 Apr 87Motorcycle NewsReport on the debatePeter Walker
3824 Apr 87Surrey AdvertiserAdvance notice of 3rd Open Day in Woodbridge RdJohn Bennett
3924 Apr 87HansardReference to WVAMPeter Walker
401 May 87Surrey AdvertiserAdvance notice of 3rd Open Day in Woodbridge Rd?
416 May 87Motorcycle NewsAdvance notice of 3rd Open Day in Woodbridge Rd?
423 Jul 87Surrey AdvertiserClassified ad notice about the Club?
4321 Aug 87Surrey AdvertiserNotice of charity ride for Guide Dogs for the BlindJohn Bennett
44? Sep 87Kingston paperObserved Run with journalist Jeremy GoughGeoff Baldwin
1988    
45Mar/Apr 88Motorcycle RiderGeneral WVAM publicityJohn Bennett
4613 May 88Surrey AdvertiserAdvance notice of 4th Open Day on 15 MayJohn Bennett
471988?Surrey AdvertiserObserved Run with journalist Christine NapthineJohn Bennett
1989    
4829 Mar 89Motorcycle NewsCharity ride for Mencap & NSPCCTony Madgwick
4914 Jul 89Surrey AdvertiserCharity ride for Mencap & NSPCCTony Madgwick
1990    
5012 Apr 90Surrey AdvertiserCharity ride for Easter Egg appealTony Madgwick
5127 Apr 90Surrey AdvertiserCommuting to LondonPeter Parvin
5210 Aug 90Surrey AdvertiserReport on Open Day at Smithbrook KilnsJohn Bennett
1991    
5321 Mar 91Woking News & MailGeneral publicity noticeRon McLaughlin
5410 Jun 91The TimesCommuting to London featuring Chris KnightPeter Parvin
1993    
551 Jan 93Surrey AdvertiserFeature article about Club activitiesPeter Parvin

Appendix 2 – Peter Parvin awards

1990Tony Madgwick for publicity
1991Ron McLaughlin for Chief Observer over many years
1992John Bennett for publicity and observing
1994Peter Walker for observing and as long service as newsletter editor
1995Gerry Gooch for observing and organising social events
1996Julie Wallis for administration at observed runs
1997Dave and Margaret Mitchell for refreshments at observed runs
1998Ian Johnson for French trips and long service as Chairman

There were no awards in 1993 or 1999-2000.