Once at a café stop on a club ride in the Ludlow Cycling Club colours, a woman approached and asked if we knew Danny Mason. She then gave a lovely account of Danny, and his wife Jean, when they were Ludlow’s Youth Hostel wardens, introducing the woman to many outdoor activities: canoeing (including ‘shooting’ the weirs when flooded!), camping, walking and of course cycling.
Danny served with honour as a paratrooper at the end of WW2 before being wounded, and he and Jean were married in 1949. They came to Ludlow in 1956 from Bridges Youth Hostel, where Danny had met several members of the Wolverhampton Wheelers’ cycling club, which the Mason family joined. He and Jean managed the now-closed Ludlow Youth Hostel on Ludford Bridge. Later he and Jean started and ran a much-loved Do it Youself shop in the Bull Ring, Ludlow, where Danny still lives. They retired from the shop in 1992.
In July 1992, Danny organised the first Shropshire Highland Challenge bike ride, because he wanted to share his experience of riding the lovely, untouched and quiet Shropshire Lanes. It was 70 miles long with 6,000 feet of climbing and had 112 participants. Although much has changed over the years in how the Challenge is organised, some key principles remain:
- A new route each year in the Shropshire Hills and adjacent counties
- Approximately 65 hilly miles, many of them on remote lanes
- No on-route signposting, timing or support wagons
- Open to all who are fit enough and have a roadworthy bike: young and old, fast and slow, all genders
- Famously friendly food stops
Over thirty years later the event is still going strong. Danny’s last Challenge as Organiser was in 2016 and attracted over 700 participants. Isla Rowntree of Islabikes and then Pete Ding of Ludlow Cycling Club took on the running of the Challenge, which is now organised by Ludlow Cycling Club and in particular Committee members Charles Edwards and Gwyneth Bowyer.
Danny and Jean had five sons, some of whom still ride the Highland Challenge. Jean died in 2011. You can still see Danny walking regularly and stoutly in and around Ludlow. Danny, now in his late nineties, sometimes arranges for one of his family to take him round some of the route and feed stops on the day. If you see him say hello, and thank you, to this outdoor legend.