The Cyclists' Touring Club's Harrogate celebration

A NATIONAL cycling group returned to its Harrogate roots to celebrate a historic milestone this week.

The Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC) was formed on the Harrogate Stray 130 years ago by an 18-year-old cycling enthusiast, Stanley Cotterell.

From its humble Harrogate roots, the club has grown into an amazing nationwide force with more than 60,000 members.

Its 75th anniversary in 1953 was celebrated with the presentation of a plaque by the then Mayor of Harrogate, Coun A.V. Milton, which still stands on a circle of grass in Crescent Gardens.

On Tuesday, 130 years to the day that the group was formed, the current Mayor of Harrogate, Coun John Fox marked the occasion by meeting with cycling development officer Martyn Bolt on the same spot.

The CTC, which encourages safe cycling and works with the Government and the Highways Agency, is the largest group of its kind in the UK.

And it all began when Stanley Cotterell placed an article in the Bicycling Times, the trade magazine of the day.

"He was the driving force behind the group," explained Mr Bolt, who works to promote cycling in North Yorkshire.

"He had made contact with someone in Bradford through the Bicycling Times, and on August 5 he cycled down from Edinburgh to meet him in Bradford.

"These two chaps met up and rode across to Harrogate, arriving in good time to join other cyclists assembled on The Stray."

More than 200 cyclists from 32 different clubs joined the gathering.

Stanley, the gentleman from Bradford, and another cycling enthusiast sat underneath a chestnut tree and discussed plans for a meeting that evening at 5pm.

Fifty people attended the meeting, which signalled the start of the CTC.

Mr Bolt said it was ironic that the club was formed on the one spot in Harrogate to which it cannot return, as cycling is now banned on The Stray.

A bylaw under the Stray Act prevents anyone from cycling on The Stray – a move that has caused much controversy in the town.

Harrogate Borough Council confirmed last month it will look again at the policy, a move welcomed by Mr Bolt, who would like to see a return of bikes to the 200-acre park.

"Our cycling was here before the Stray Act," he said. "If there are grounds for proposals I would hope to see some accommodation.

"If people say 'I don't want it because I don't want change,' then that's not a good way of thinking. The potential for linking the two sides of Harrogate, the safety, the health links – there's a great opportunity for further generations of Harrogate children to cycle."

There are other major positives connected with biking, Mr Bolt said.

"Whether it's getting groups of people together in communities, or giving people the confidence to cycle and basic mechanical skills, it's a benefit.

"I think from personal experience that for so many people, particularly around here, cycling is just pure enjoyment.

"If you're on a bike, you're going at a slower pace and have got the chance to take things in. You don't need to go far from Harrogate to see how wonderful it is.

"You've got the health benefits, the benefits to the environment, and the economic benefits. I don't think anybody's talking about taking away grass on The Stray – a lot of people are walking.”

It is important for all local groups to work together to find a solution, he stressed.

"I think if people look at it there are ways of accomplishing everybody's objectives.

“You would still have a green and pleasant Stray, but it would be something that's far more enjoyable for Harrogate residents."