For the past three years we’ve had a London ride each summer starting and finishing at Euston station. Last year we went to Highgate and Brompton Cemeteries; in 2014 we went under the Thames at Greenwich and visited the Bamboo Bicycle Club; in 2013 we went sightseeing around the Royal Parks and Westminster.
This year, the proposal is to ride from Northampton to London – specifically from Northampton station to Euston station and then get the train home.
Meeting time: Sunday 7th August, 9.00 a.m.
Place: Northampton rail station
Distance: 77 miles
Refreshments: Marston Moretaine (Bedfordshire) – 25 miles
Lilley (Hertfordshire) – 42 miles
South Mimms Motorway Services – 64 miles
Pace: About 13 m.p.h.
Finish: Euston rail station
We leave Northampton on the B526 to Newport Pagnell, then head through along minor roads via North Crawley and Cranfield to The Forest Centre at Marston Moretaine for coffee and cake.
Then we continue on through Millbrook (past the motor vehicle proving track) to Flitwick. We’ve then two miles of the A5120 before minor roads to Barton-le-Clay. Then it’s up the easternmost edge of the Chilterns escarpment to lunch at Lilley (The Lilley Arms).
From Lilley there’s a gentle downhill for five miles through wonderfully quiet lanes to Whitwell, the watercress capital of England! Then we’re on the B651 through dappled woodland to Wheathampstead; follow the eastern edge of St Albans and cross the A414 to Colney Heath; then onto the old and quiet Great North Road – parallel to the A1(M) – to South Mimms where a delightful bike path takes us into (and out of) the motorway services at the M25/A1(M) junction! If you’ve never visited a motorway service area on a bike, then this will be special!
Not your usual motorway services sign!
The bike path takes us under the M25 and, without climbing, onto Dancers Hill. It’s still rural until we reach the Barnet boundary. We then follow the A1000 through Finchley before our last hill up to Highgate; from there we follow basically the reverse of last year’s route from Euston to Highgate. For fans of I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, we’ll pedal the full length of Mornington Crescent.
The route uses OS Maps 152 (Northampton to North Crawley), 153 (North Crawley to Flitwick) and 166 (Flitwick to Barnet). From Barnet to Euston, I’ve used Transport for London’s Cycling Guide maps: No 2 from the M25 to the North Circular, and No 14 from the North Circular to Euston.
It’s also here on RideWithGPS.
I’ve now ridden the route twice. Iain D came with me the second occasion – on Sunday 10th July – and added some helpful tweaks. Let me give you some idea of our timings:
We left Northampton station at 8.55 a.m. and reached the Forest Centre at 10.45 a.m. It’s popular with cyclists and you can take bikes round to the rear of the café in full view of the tables and chairs. In addition to coffee and cake, the café sells large portions of bread pudding!
We left Marston Moretaine at 11.20 a.m. and reached The Lilley Arms at 12.55 p.m. The pub has bike stands in the rear garden There’s a full range of hot food, snacks and sandwiches … and Camra-approved local ale from the Tring Brewery! Because food is cooked to order, we spent just over an hour there.
We left Lilley at 2.00 p.m. and reached South Mimms at 4.20 p.m. We stopped on this part of the journey once to put on sun-cream and once to get water bottles refilled. South Mimms has plenty of railings for locking bikes; we sat at a table on the outside decking area beside the bikes; if we were to go indoors the walls are plate glass so the bikes would be in full view. We gave Starbucks our business – other outlets are available!
We left South Mimms at 5.05 p.m. and reached the concourse on Euston station at 6.55 p.m. This included a stop to repair a p*nct*r*.
I think the timings are reliable for what we can expect as a group. They allow for brief stops between our planned breaks; and for a mechanical problem; and we did pedal into a 14 mph headwind all the way!
Faster? Slower? Not sure of the distance?
For our faster colleagues, the break stops are pretty clear (and I’ll hand out photocopied maps of them on the day for riders who don’t have Garmins) but there are also good re-gathering points in-between.
If you’re concerned about being slow, Iain D will be our tail-end-charlie and no-one will be left behind.
If you’re not certain that you want to pedal as many as 77 miles – or about London traffic – then why not come as far as St Albans? That would be 58 miles to St Albans Abbey rail station for trains back to Northampton via Watford Junction. You’d be at St Albans at about 4.00 p.m.
On the recce, we caught the 1934 from Euston to Northampton, arriving at 2044.
London Midland trains to Northampton leave Euston at 34 and 50 minutes past the hour throughout the late afternoon and up to 2044. (Then there are two trains an hour to a different pattern.)
The “walk-on” cost, buying an off-peak single ticket when we arrive at Euston, is £27.40 (£18.10 with a railcard). This is the ticket I bought on Sunday.
If you want to opt for a much cheaper “advance” ticket – where you nominate a timed train you will catch – you might be safe nominating the 1934 or you might prefer the peace of mind of nominating the 1950 or 2034 just in case … ! “Advance” tickets start at £7.45 (£4.95 with a railcard). [You could nominate a late train and drink the profits away in the nearby Bree Louise …!]
There’s one train an hour from St Albans Abbey at 28 minutes past the hour. It takes just over fifteen minutes to Watford Junction, then a five minute wait for the Northampton train. Catching the 1628 at St Albans gets you to Northampton at 1744; later trains follow the same pattern. An off-peak single is £25.90 (£17.25 with a railcard). “Advance” tickets don’t seem to be available.
If returning to Wellingborough or Kettering rail station is more convenient to you, I’m happy to guide you to St Pancras rail station from Euston. Unlike London Midland out of Euston or St Albans (where in practice there are no restrictions on off-peak services), Midland Mainline out of St Pancras require you to reserve a bicycle space; they have two available on each service.
Do join us for what promises to be a memorable day’s ride!
Questions? Ian M is on 07960 302095.