Welcome to this weeks Newbury Velo Quest! The club ride you can do in a Covid secure way and then share with friends on our Facebook page. To stay Covid secure we stay local, ride alone or with a household member or one other using social distancing. At the bottom of this post you'll see on road 19, 25, 43 and 55 mile routes as well as a Dirty Chai for those who like it muddy ( and a filthy chai for those who like it very muddy… ). Please take photos but be careful to the avoid Aldermaston and Burghfield installations as that would be against the law.
The theme for this week's Quest is "Nuclear Newbury". We look back to a simple time before global warming and pandemics, a time when all we had worry about was global nuclear annihilation.
In 1946 the British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin ( tough ex Bristol docker and union leader ) said this about the nuclear bomb, having realised we had lost international influence without it:
"We've got to have this thing whatever it costs, we've got to have a bloody Union Jack on top of it!"
And so it was decided that West Berkshire would be at the centre of the United Kingdom's efforts to gain the nuclear bomb. The project was imaginatively named "High Explosive Research". This was the start of the impressive complex we have now = Aldermaston where the research and development takes place, and Burghfield where the bombs are assembled. The project was a success with the UK's first bomb detonated in 1952.
Fast forward 30 years, and once again West Berkshire is at the centre of world events. In 1975 The Soviets deployed the SS20 medium range missile in Eastern Europe. NATO forces thought this would give the Soviets an advantage and looked to deploy nuclear armed Cruise missiles to counter the threat. On 13th November 1983 these missiles arrived at Greenham, while the nuclear warheads themselves were being stored at nearby RAF Welford.
With the US President describing the Soviets as the "evil empire" and the Russians themselves seemingly locked in the battle for supremacy, this was a time when ordinary people genuinely thought we were on the brink of nuclear war and complete destruction. Government information films were released advising on what action to take in the event of a nuclear attack. Obviously, it did also inspire some great pop such as Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Two Tribes.
It was with this background that the women's peace camp was set up around Greenham Common in 1981. The peace women gained widespread publicity, not just in the UK but around the world. The threat of nuclear war became a mainstream political issue as much as education or health are in normal times.
And so, President Reagan and President Gorbachev saw the need to change the course they were on and signed the historic Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 1987. This removed the SS20 and Cruise missiles from Europe, de-escalating the situation and making the world a safer place. The final Cruise missile left Greenham in 1991. in 1997 The Greenham Trust was established to purchase the airbase and re-direct profits made from the land to benefit charitable causes.
As ever, all riders who post a picture will get entered into the prize draw for the coveted Newbury Velo bottle. Anyone in cold war themed fancy dress gets two entries. Two entries also to anyone doing the ride with President Gorbachev pink lipstick birthmark on their forehead.
19 mile road route with a bit of Greenham and Welford (and Valley Rd which was built for Aldermaston workers by the same contractor that built Aldermaston).
25 mile road route as above
43 Mile road route with thanks to Shaun Ward:
55 mile route with thanks to Andy Hockedy:
Greenham based gravel dirty chai with thanks to Beckie Hamilton Unwin taking in bunkers, the peace garden, aircraft fire training area and old bomb store down Crookham Common Road:
Filthy Chai for hard core mud pluggers ( that'll be the girls then ):