There had been a cycling and athletics club in Midsomer Norton during the 50s, called the Somervale Cycling and Athletics Club. This ceased to exist at some point in the late 50s when cycling declined generally. Around 1980 the Spar Shop, located near the traffic light in Midsomer Norton closed and soon reopened as a bike shop. This ran successfully for a couple of years, generating local interest. The shop was taken over by Derek Healis and his wife Jane around 1982 and they developed the shop with enthusiasm, encouraging customers to stop for a chat, turning the shop into a meeting point for cyclists, and creating a small community of cyclists. At that point Derek along with his Wife Jane, and a few interested customers, decided it would be a good idea to form a new cycling club in the area.
John Shearn, who had been a member of the Somervale club, and Dave Simmonds, were among the first to be involved with the project, and both had organisational skills. Dave Simmonds also had previous experience of club riding and organisation, and John luckily owned premises suited to hosting club meetings. These three with the support of their wives, were the main players in getting the club started.
It was decided to hold a provisional meeting, gathering together as many people as possible to establish that a club was viable. Chris Dowding and I were members of Frome and District Wheelers at the time and were invited to attend that meeting. We had both ridden Frome club events during 1982 and the FDW open 10 that September. There were some others invited, probably Dave Box and Tony Brown, and others. The meeting was, as I recall at Dave Simmonds house, and there were only about 10 people. At that meeting the club name and colours were decided, and the club objectives and some rules were set out. A few name options were floated, Somervale CC, to continue the original club was a strong contender, and something trendy was favoured by Dave, who gave St Fairy Ann as an example. Somervale is the name of a local school and was we didn’t want people think it was a school only cub, St Fairy something was a bit too trendy. A compromise was reached, keeping Somer, but to replace Vale with Valley. We seemed determined to involve Somervale School in some way and so green and yellow it was.
The first meeting proper was at John Shearn’s café, Jan’s Kitchen. This time there were probably 30 people in attendance, and the Club was setup with a committee put in place. A first club run was arranged, headed up by Dave Simmonds, and was a ride to the Hunters Rest on the Mendips, without a stop for refreshment! This was about 14 miles but highlighted the natural differentials in rider speeds and the Club quickly formed into groups. These were the Wayfarers who were focused on touring style rides, and those who raced or wanted to race. There was a broad spectrum of riders, but in most cases, members were new to cycling or starting again after a long layoff. The club attracted several family groups, and was a club for everyone, and although racing was important, the club resisted becoming a commercial club.
The first organised events were reliability rides, similar to sportives, but without the direction signs and with a maximum pace of 18 MPH, which required you to wait at way stations if you were faster. The point being to keep to a schedule and on course. These were fairly easy to arrange not requiring any affiliations or official notifications. A ride to Lyme Regis and back was an early example. I recall riding this and wishing I had eaten something at Lyme
Time trials were being entered by a few people before the club was formed and they were joined by several new members who took part in open events and club time trials during 1984 under the Somer Valley CC Name. A SVCC Club evening time trial took until 1985 to put in place, due to the complications of setting up a new course, as there were none locally, and meeting the other official requirements. This course was called U261, a 10mile time trial, (from hell), located on the Mendips, starting near the Priddy turn off from Plumbers lane, heading to the Miners Arms junction, where sharp left, mind the gravel, to the top of Burrington Coombe, to dead turn, just turn in the road that is, (with a marshal) and return to finish 250 yds from the Miners Junction. The first recorded event there was 8th May 1985, with 10 riders and was won by Graham Jones with 25:34. Time trials continued to thrive and several riders were entering open events during 1985. A club 25 was introduced the next year on the U21, an established local course, based on the A38 turning at Bridgewater, which in following years became the SVCC open event held on the same course.
Time trials remained popular along with the occasional reliability ride when the racers and Wayfarer groups joined up, but road racing was a much more interesting form of racing. Dave Whittington was possibly the only rider in the club with experience of that and had a big input into arranging many of the early road races on and around the Mendips. One of these was a very ambitious event, being an evening criterium around Midsomer Norton with closed roads, and was a fantastic success and a huge boost to cycling in the area. This was the brain child of Derek Healis and ran for three seasons. Other races at Castle Coombe circuit were organised, where up to 300 riders would compete, and road races proper followed, using variations of circuits of the Mendips. A highlight being our man Mark Perry beating Gerrant Thomas to the win! One of the biggest organised was a 95 mile race for cats 1 and 2 with a field of 75 racers.
Our Honorary President Pete Head was approached to join the Club by Dave Whittington in the mid 1980’s. There is a separate account of Pete’s cycling career from an archived interview in a 1960’s cycling journal which can be found in the archive pictures section on our web site. Pete had raced successfully as an amateur in France for 6-7 seasons and then turned pro cycling for Bic. Pete was instrumental in taking cycling into local schools which culminated in the establishment of a youth cycling club.