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Gravesend Ferry to Takeley. 38 miles

The ferry service starts at 6.45 from the Town Pier in Gravesend and runs to Tilbury Riverside Pontoon. At present, the 50 passenger capacity has been reduced to 20, because of social distancing requirements.

For many people emigrating from the UK, between 1945-1972, Tilbury was their last sight of ‘home’. One of my in-laws, Mrs Pitt, a native Mancunian, departed for Australia in 1951, heading for Melbourne. She used to tell my family of the excitement of leaving the grey dampness of Manchester, travelling by train to Tilbury, and being allocated a 6 person shared cabin on the ship. It was slightly worrying when she saw people on the decks of incoming ships, shouting ‘stay home, it’s dreadful out there’. She’d had a hard young life, working in the mills, and although there were 6 of them in the cabin, it was total luxury as she’d never had her own bed before. Mrs Pitt always described being a ‘£10 Pom’ as an opportunity for an adventure.

Arrival in Australia

The £10 Pom fare was considerably subsidised by the Australian Government, to address their skilled labour shortage. The normal passage to Australia was about £120. However in order to be entitled to the subsidy, emigrants had to remain in Australia for 2 years, or pay their full fare home. Migrants also had to pass a medical and be under 45 years of age. During the 50s and 60s, about 1 million Britons left for Australia, with about 25% deciding to return home. Originally 70,000 Britons were anticipated to leave per year, but the carrot of wages being 50% higher in Australia led to many skilled tradespeople applying – 400,000 in the first year! Migration from the UK peaked in 1968, with 600,000 Britons arrived in Australia. ‘Whinging Poms’ were the British people who returned home, and Boomerang Poms are the ones who make a ‘permanent’ migration several times! My family member, Mrs Pitt, remained in Melbourne for 10 years, then moved to New Zealand for 4 years, and finally returned to the UK for family reasons.

Some £10 Poms, often thought as being Australia born-and-bred are: Hugh Jackman, The Bee Gees, Olivia Newton John, Kylie Minogue, Julia Gillard and Alan Bond.

SS Arcadia – migration ship for Mrs Pitt

From Tilbury, the Dover-Durness route heads due north to Takeley. There are several theories about how it came by its name, although it is known to have been recorded in Normal times, c1086. It could be Teg-ley, meaning sheep clearing; a corruption of the Saxon Lord Taecca’s name; or it could mean a settlement next to open forest, referring to the Forest of Essex.

Takeley-Newport 10 miles.

The actual ride took place with me and Fiona riding 10 miles. This was a recovery ride for Fiona, who had a running accident, which damaged her knee. After considerable recovery and recuperation, Fiona was able to ride her bike, but only for a short distance and with care.

Newport is another small Essex town, first recorded in the Doomsday Book 1086. Newport might seem to be a strange name for a landlocked town, with not even a river port. However, ‘port’ is an Anglo-Saxon word for market, which makes New Market a more understandable name for the town in the middle of Essex.

A year or so ago, I went to an interesting talk in Newport: Suffrage, Women and Cycling. The speaker gave a detailed account of the commencement of women’s cycling clubs in late Victorian/Edwardian times. She focussed on the Rosslyn (Essex) women’s cycling club, where she had studied lots of club minutes, which debated club colours, social events and uniform (Rational dress or full dresses). A uniform in Rational Dress meant trousers (easier to ride a bike) whereas Full Dress, meant riding in full length Edwardian dresses which required a different style of bike – with no chain!. Unsurprisingly women club members tended to be from the affluent parts of society.

There was a strong correlation between women cyclists and suffrage. In the campaign to get Votes for Women, there were Suffragists (eg Millicent Garrett Fawcett, non-violent, constitutional lobbyists) and Suffragettes (eg Emmeline Pankhurst, gaining attention via civil disobedience). Suffragist cycling clubs had policies that stated "dress like a woman, behave like a man" (ie get the vote) and tended to have a Full Dress club uniform, whereas suffragettes usually had their uniform in Rational Dress: more practical/safe trousers because they were ‘happy to dress like a man/behave like a man?’. It was an absolutely fascinating talk.

Total miles this week: 48

Total miles ridden: 105.


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