More than 30 bikes, trikes and scooters completed a 100-mile ride yesterday to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Carolyn Bointon met the riders in Derby ahead of their journey to Ashbourne.
JUST the sound of the bikes as they approached was enough to make my knees feel weak. After all, I had never been on a motorbike in my life.
So when I finally caught a glimpse of the leather-clad, tattooed and bearded bunch, I genuinely questioned my sanity for agreeing to get involved.
But I couldn’t have asked to meet a more welcoming, and friendly bunch of men and women, who immediately reassured me that I would be joining organiser Graham Mogford leading the convoy on his trike.
Three wheels and a very comfortable seat seemed so much more inviting than the two-wheel ride I had been worrying about.
The riders from the Royal British Legion had started their journey at Alfreton’s war memorial at 8.30am, where they laid a poppy wreath before heading off to Matlock Bath.
After stops in Belper, Ripley and Heanor, where small wooden crosses were placed at war memorials, the group arrived in Derby’s Market Place to enjoy a short coffee break and collect money for the Poppy Appeal.
The group welcomed passers-by who wanted to know more about the bikes, and to admire some of the spectacular artwork on many of the fuel tanks.
Poppies, scenes of battlefields and personal messages of hope and remembrance were just a few of the decorations adorning the machines.
At 12.15pm, the convoy moved off from the Market Place and started the ride to Ashbourne, where we were stopping for lunch.
Many of the bikes had poppy flags, banners and emblems flying behind and a number of the riders had artwork with various military themes painted on to their leathers.
We rode at a steady, gentle pace and enjoyed plenty of smiles and waves from people we passed in the street.
Arriving in Ashbourne just after 1pm, the bikers were welcomed to the town by secretary of the Royal British Legion, Caroline Cooper.
Leaving their bikes outside the Ex-Servicemen’s club, the group walked over to the Memorial Gardens, where they were met by Col Charles Swabey and Trilby Shaw, Vice Chairman of the Royal British Legion.
There, they held a two-minute’s silence and said a short prayer before Frank Mellor had the honour of laying the wreath.
Frank, of Burton, served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
He said: “It’s an honour to do this, to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and ensure that future generations understand the role they played in our country’s history.”
Dawn Sperduti, of Birmingham, was riding with the group on her Kawasaki bike.
She said: “I wanted to do this ride as I have family in the services – my nephew is in 42 Commando. It’s important that we all show our support for the troops involved in conflicts around the world.”
Her husband, “Spud”, was out on his Yamaha bike. He said was delighted to see so many people supporting the ride and talking to the bikers.
He said: “I know people see us in our full leathers and think we’re an intimidating bunch – but really we’re just a group of old men and women doing what we can to raise awareness of the centenary year.”
Following a lunch at the Ex Servicemen’s club in Ashbourne, the group travelled on to Buxton, Castleton, Hope, Grindleford, Chesterfield and Clay Cross before finishing in Shirland.
There, they were welcomed back with the Shirland Brass Band, which played the Last Post as the final bike back shut down its engine.
I felt very proud to have played just a small part in such a wonderful tribute.