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4th August 2006

My L-O-N-G Ner-a-Car Trip!

Ner-a-Car Ken takes the Slowest Way Round in pursuit of Gwenda Glub. "The only problem is Hatfield..."

Well, it's just over 2 weeks away if I get to do it. If my health stays as it is, and the weather is okay, it seems a go-er. Last weeks driving to and from Cadwell, with fairly strenuous riding on the track in between, sort-of shows I can do it. The bike is just about ready.

Owen John riding 1921 Model A. Note pipe on the go.

Since I got involved with the unusual Ner-a-Cars, I've learnt a lot about them, including some unusual trips undertaken by some unusual people. From the first time I heard about it, I have been considering re-creating a ride done by a young woman back in 1921 using a bike that is exactly the same model as I now have.

She was born Gwenda Glubb, and her brother became to be known as Glubb Pasha, a sort-of fore-runner of Lawrence of Arabia, in the political and military sense. Gwenda had three husbands in the 1920's and 1930's, and became a very accomplished motor speed record setter on 2, 3, and 4 wheels. She was the first *person* ever to do over 100 miles in an hour in a three-wheeled car, a JAP-powered Morgan. As Gwenda Stewart she was the fastest woman around the pre-war Brooklands racing circuit - she did just under 136mph in 1935. I *think* that car is actually in the Donington Racing Car Museum.

My main interest in her, however, is that her first motoring involvement was with the Ner-a-Car motorcycle. As Gwenda Janson, she did a 1,000-mile test on one of these over 6 days in pouring rain in November 1921. As soon as I got involved with one of these bikes, I thought of doing the same Barnet to Thetford return trip - just on one warm day, though! Now that I have my own bike, it has become more appealing.

I have a copy of the ACU Certificate that she was awarded for that feat, and so I know the route she took. That route, as far as I can discern from that Certificate, and by using an early road map, is as listed below.

Ken's bike, freshly painted.

My intention is to follow this as closely as possible, which will explain why no ring roads or obvious relatively modern deviations are used.

Gwenda Janson did this route non-stop each day, it says, but I'm pretty certain she must have re-fuelled at some stage. I *think* a tankful will get me to Thetford, so the plan is to refuel there. My son will be following the route with my car and trailer, with fuel on board, and to pick me or the bike up should I need to abort the attempt.

The intention is to leave Hadley Green, Barnet, at about 9.00 a.m. on Sunday August 20th. (We will be staying overnight Sat/Sun in that area.) That particular area has been chosen because there are photos of her arriving there at the end of the 1,000 miles, at about 4.00 p.m. on November 4th, 1921.

Ken's bike, still freshly painted.

The only possible problem is at Hatfield. The old Great North Road used to cross the railway there, but the old bridge was demolished a number of years ago. I'm told that there is a flat footbridge over the railway at that point now, and that it would be possible to at least wheel the bike over, but if someone can confirm that this is the case, I'd appreciate it. The modern A1000 takes one to a set of traffic lights at a big T-junction in Hatfield, and the old road goes North from there, i.e. straight across into a narrow road. This can be seen by looking at this link - the footbridge is marked FB, and is just on the left as the Great North Road becomes Bull Stag Green.

I have now chosen a mid-point stopping place. It's the BP filling station, on the A505/A1301 r/about. I've spoken to them, and there's apparently plenty of parking around, as it has a McDonalds on the site, as well as their own area - it's a modern-style place, with a small cafe inside. I've chosen this rather than a pub, not really being a sporran man, and it'll only be a brief stop, maybe 30 minutes, for a drink.

I've chosen the same sort of place at the Thetford end, too - another BP place on Norwich Road, Thetford. If anybody can have a look at this place, I'd appreciate it - I've phoned them, and it *seems* okay, but not entirely sure.

Anyhow, that's the plan! I'll be averaging about 25mph, hopefully, and have 160 miles or thereabouts to do, so it's going to be a long ride, so of necessity the stops won't be very long. It MAY be that something happens, to the bike OR me! -and I have to abandon it during the day. I hope not, though!

Ken at the Festival of 1000 biks, Mallory Park, 2006

I have already had offers to accompany me through some of the more congested areas, and will be contacting those riders later.

Photos all from Ken's Ner-a-Car website

Proposed Route

Please note:- Any suggested alterations or comments are very welcome!

  • Hadley Green A1000 U M25 to X
  • S/O A1000 Hatfield
  • Thro Hatfield to X roads (Traffic lights)
  • (Alt. and car route:-)
  • (L into St.Albans Rd. East then R at 1st R/bout)
  • (SO to next R/Bout. Then R into Cornerfield Rd.)
  • (At T-junction turn R to Great North Road.)
  • (Turn L to rejoin Gt. North Road.)
  • SO into Great North Road, over footbridge,
  • Back on Great North Road, to R/Bout.
  • Take 5th Exit, A6129 or B197 to next R/Bout
  • Left to next R/Bout, under M/way, to R/Bout
  • Take R exit on B197 to Welwyn
  • B197 thro Stevenage to A6141
  • R onto A6141 to A505 (Baldock)
  • R onto A505 to Royston
  • R thro Royston to regain A505
  • A505 to M11
  • Over M11 on A505 toA1301 r/about
  • Stop at BP Petrol Station,
    Approx 11.00 a.m.?

  • Continue on A505 to A11
  • L onto A11 to A1304
  • Fork L onto A1304 thro Newmarket
  • Fork L back onto A11
  • A11 to L Fork to B1085
  • R over A11 then L onto B1085
  • Regain A11
  • R into Thetford thro town to A11 r/bout
  • Return to A11 thro Thetford
  • BP Service Stn, Norwich Rd, Thetford.
    Approx 1.30 p.m.?

  • Take A11 to B1085
  • L onto B1085
  • Regain A11
  • L onto A1304 thro Newmarket
  • Regain A11, to A505
  • R onto A505
  • L thro Royston
  • Regain A505 to A6141
  • L onto A6141 to B197
  • L onto B197 thro Stevenage to Welwyn
  • Take A197 South to Great North Rd,
  • Hatfield
  • (Take alt. Route if necessary.)
  • (Turn R into Longmead, then L. into Cornerfield)
  • (At R/Bout, turn L. into Homestead Rd.)
  • (At R/Bout, turn L. into St. Albans Rd. East.)
  • (At T/Lights Turn R onto Gt. North Rd. A1000)
  • A1000 to Barnet

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