The Thanet Silverlight comes home after 61 years

He (Les Cassell) eventually bought the freehold of 50 Elmdale Road, Bedminster, for which he had his leg pulled by some of his friends for being a “bloated capitalist”.
Hilary Stone, Ease with Elegance, The Story of Thanet Cycles.

Yesterday, on the way over to Portsmouth on the ferry from Saint-Malo, I remembered a coaching inn on the edge of the Hampshire South Downs where Richard (my cycling pal from our village) and I had stayed last year en-route to Paris on our bikes. We’d enjoyed a great welcome and good food there. I did a quick web search on the iPhone and booked the last available room. The George and Falcon at Warnford doesn’t serve food on a Sunday evening but I was assured that Mat, who runs the place, would be able to make a sandwich for my scheduled arrival between 8:30 and 9:00pm.

The pub is 16 miles from the ferry terminal and I was pleasantly surprised to pick up a well-signposted cycle path through Portsmouth. I then climbed a long, steep hill up onto the South Downs. It seemed to me to be the toughest of the whole trip, but that may simply have been tiredness. The ride to Warnford was a bit of race against impending darkness because I managed to take the long way around again, rather than the most direct route. It rained intermittently, but I didn’t get soaked. When I arrived at my destination for the night, the promised sandwich was forthcoming, washed down with a couple of glasses of wine and I slept soundly through to 6:30am. It was raining when I left at 8:30 after a very good breakfast. The rain was to continue on and off all day.

40810-img_0107Setting out in the rain from the George and Falcon for the last day of the trip.

The final day’s journey started with a climb onto the South Downs again as I headed for Winchester. My route then took me via Andover, Devizes, Melksham and Bath, before following the Bristol and Bath Cycle Path into Bristol. At one point, I ended up on the A34 dual carriageway north of Winchester and the traffic was horrific. I should have paid more attention to the map and gone through the centre of Winchester, picking up the Andover road without using the A34. I turned off the dual carriage with great relief at the first opportunity.

The day’s ride was pretty wet and windy but I was riding through wonderful countryside, crossing both the South Downs and Salisbury Plain. It got easier after Devizes, with very few hills and greater shelter from the wind. At one point, I passed within 2 miles of home but I was determined to achieve the original goal of taking the Thanet back to where it was made: 50 Elmdale Road, Bristol.

Riding along very familiar roads, I went through Bath onto the cycle path, the first major cycleway in the country created by Sustrans.  As I arrived in Bristol, the heavens really opened and I got my first and only major soaking of the whole trip. Finding Elmdale Road took about another 30 minutes, and when I arrived at my destination I was surprised to find that 50 and 50A, as they are now, had been subject to some serious development at the front and didn’t look at all like the building as it was in 2008. I actually double-checked to make sure I was at the right place, which I was. There were no answers when I rang the doorbells so I just propped the bike up outside and took my photographs.

50 Elmdale Road, Bristol  BS3: the Thanet Silverlight comes home after
more than 61 years, but nobody else is at home.

According to my Garmin Edge 200 GPS, I had covered the 903 miles in 8 days 10 hours and 20 minutes. (Due to some finger trouble in St Emillion, the journey was actually split into two sections, Barcelona to St Emillion and St Emillion to Bristol).

I finally rode the 25 miles home to a very warm welcome from my family. Champagne, roast chicken and asparagus fresh from the garden. What could be better after 928 miles in the saddle?

What next? This looks fun: L’Eroica (and I do have a 1965 Hetchins bike in the garage that needs a good run).

2 thoughts on “The Thanet Silverlight comes home after 61 years

  1. Hattie November 21, 2012 / 10:36 pm

    Bob, What a fantastic journey from Barca to Bristol! I stumbled upon your blog whilst researching Thanet Silverlights and have thoroughly enjoyed having a read. I recently discovered my Grandad's old Silverlight frame in my parents attic in Portsmouth, and have now brought the frame back to Bristol. Do you know where I'd be able to get hold of a copy of Hilary Stone's book? I think you mention that he still has some? I'd love to know more of the bike's story.

    Any more adventures in the pipeline?




  2. Bob Jones November 26, 2012 / 8:38 pm

    Hi Hattie, thanks for your note and what a wonderful discovery of your Grandad's old Silverlight frame. If you ever decide to build it up, I have few period parts including some cottered crank and a pair of 26 x 1 1/4 wheels. You should be able to get a copy of the Thanet book directly from Hilary ( but if you can't I'd be happy to loan you mine. You can reach me directly at bob.jones[at] Hilary has some old documents from Thanet and if you can find the serial number he may well be able to tell you the original spec, the exact date when it was sold, and the name of the customer – if your Grandad didn't buy it new.

    I did L'Eroica on a 1965 Hetchins last month as the last big ride of the year and now looking out for some challenges for next year. I'm off to read your blog for new ideas!



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