Going Solo

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(Courtesy of WI Life Magazine)

Hilary Gadd of Stoneleigh WI, Surrey, loves the freedom of her chosen form of transport.


Freelance journalist, press officer and motorcyclist Hilary Gadd jumped at the chance to be photographed at Brooklands Museum, Weybridge. It wasn’t long before other visitors were admiring and photographing her bike.

How did you begin biking?

I needed transport from my home in Surrey to the London hospital where I worked as a nurse for about 25 years. I used to go by train but it took a long time and cost a lot of money. I’ve been an all-weather biker now for 30 years.

My bike’s a 535cc Yamaha Virago – perfect because it’s light, low to the ground, offers a good riding position and is very comfortable for long journeys. As its paintwork wasn’t available in the UK, it gets a lot of interest from bike enthusiasts. Compared to a Harley Davidson it just purrs, so I don’t wake up the street getting home late.

What’s the best bit?

The freedom of not being cooped up in a tin box, of being out in the fresh air. You can see a lot better on a bike than in a car and it’s easier to avoid problems ahead. You’re more manoeuvrable too.

Just like Toad in The Wind in the Willows, ‘the open road’ is good enough for me. My favourite ride is out to Dorking, in the North Downs. The scenery’s wonderful.

Are you interested in mechanics?

I don’t like getting my hands too dirty although I’m very aware of any variation in the bike’s performance and handling. My husband Andrew is the mechanic and polisher. My other interests include home decorating, reading and studying Spanish – and more traditional WI ones like bread-making and crafts.

I’m Surrey Federation’s Press Officer, a terrific job. It brings some challenging and privileged moments, such as this year when the Countess of Wessex opened our new Federation HQ. What I like most about it is changing the perception many people have of the WI.

Do you know other WI bikers?

I’ve never met another WI member who rides a motorbike – but more women over 60 are riding them than those in their 20’s, so there must be some other WI bikers out there.

Favourite biking memory?

Our honeymoon. We went away on Andrew’s 800cc BMW and he’d had a special number plate made up – WE2R1 (we two are one). We’ve still got it.

What is an NFWI Associate?

If, you’d like to join the WI but aren’t able to attend regular WI meetings, you can become an NFWI Associate for £40 a year. This entitles you to a copy of WI Life eight times a year, a copy of the WI’s Annual Review, a money-off voucher booklet and, in the first year of joining, an AGM observer ticket. Contact Kerri Fuchs ( k.fuchs@nfwi.org.uk ) for further information. Please note, only women can become NFWI Associates.

Hilary Gadd was talking to Neal Maidment

The Spirit of Brooklands

Brooklands Museum, in Weybridge, Surrey, is ‘the cradle of British motorsport and aviation history’ and it makes a great day out for the family. Open every day from 10am-5pm, you can see the historic racetrack banking, restored wartime aircraft and Concorde alongside vintage cars
and motorbikes.
Tel: 01932 857381 or visit www.brooklandsmuseum.com


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