Saturday morning rides – 27th August

James has organised these rides and writes:

Start: 9.00 a.m.
Meeting point: East Hunsbury(Overslade Close, NN4 0RZ)
Distance: 42 miles (brisk), 36 miles (moderate)
Refreshments: Daventry Country Park Café – Reservoir Café
Leaders: James (brisk), Brian (moderate)

Saturday’s ride is a straightforward affair taking us through some of the more salubrious slices of our wonderful county – discounting Daventry, of course.  Heading out via Gayton, we will ride on through Bugbrooke, Nether Heyford, Upper Stowe, Farthingstone and Preston Capes.  No doubt the lactic will start to rise as we reach Newnham Hill but, given that we’re all in peak condition after a summer of high intensity training and disciplined eating, I can’t imagine this causing anyone the slightest discomfort …

We’ll then cycle through Daventry’s town centre as fast as is humanly possible before making our refreshment stop at the country park.  The café there serves a range of cyclist-friendly cakes and ale – well, coffee – and there’s normally ample seating available.  Once Giles has digested his pig sandwich we’ll head home through Whilton, the Bringtons, Kislingbury and Rothersthorpe.

The route is picturesque (for the most part) and the roads are in good condition. For anyone not comfortable with riding on the A425/Northern Way in Daventry (the area close to the country park) there are some good, well-maintained cycle paths you can follow.

The brisk route is here on RideWithGPS.

For those in the moderate pace group we will take a similar route to arrive at the coffee stop at the same time as the others.  There is also a slightly shorter route home.

More details of both the brisk and moderate rides from Brian on 01604 622073 or 07722 055149.

The Mildenhall Rally is also on the published programme as some of our members will be cycle camping at the event.

Ride to Wistow Rural Centre – Sunday 21st August

Brian will be leading this ride and writes:

Start: 9.00 am (note: it’s 9am in SUMMER not 9.30)
Start point: Moulton Coop
Distance: 59 miles
Only one refreshment stop

Steady pace ride  (average speed 13mph (21kph), speed on the flat 16-18mph). Return to Moulton before 4pm.

The route is via Pitsford along a short stretch of the A508 to Brixworth where we move on to quiet roads through Guilsborough, Naseby (cafe / shop in both) and on to Sibbertoft, Laughton Hills and on to Wistow (31miles), the most northerly point where we stop for an early brunch. There are no planned stops before this so please bring water and a snack. The return route heads South via Lubenham to Naseby, Cottesbrooke and back to Moulton. Depending on the group we have a chance to stop for tea on the way back.

This is a route originally planned by Milton who will be very disappointed not to be doing the few challenging hills on this route. It is mainly on quiet country lanes through some attractive countryside.

More details from Brian on 01604 622073  ( 07722 055149 )
Do join us.

See the route link on www.ctc-northampton.org.uk or direct on RideWithGPS

Ride *to* London – a Report

James, one of our Ride Leaders, reports on the CTC Northampton ride *to* London on 7th August 2016, planned and led by Ian Macsporran (group Treasurer and your regular correspondent). 

Northampton Station

Northampton Station

With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, seven of us met 
outside Northampton Railway Station on a veritable assortment of bikes, 
e.g. tourers, Italian fixies, hybrids and trusty racers. On this 
occasion, however, we weren’t there to board any of London Midland’s 
delightful carriages down to Euston but to ride there instead. Our goal 
was to follow a route Ian had planned with his usual thoughtful 
meticulousness insofar as it incorporated as many ‘bike-friendly’ 
stretches of road as possible. Typically, he was also kind enough to 
provide a very helpful information sheet for members who like to ride a 
little quicker than others. This highlighted regrouping points, lunch 
stops and junctions where the traffic could get hairy. Unfortunately, 
for anyone (me) who’d left their reading glasses at home, Ian’s careful 
handiwork was reduced to a blur and ensured that stopping at the correct 
places was largely due to guesswork and a well-known online mapping service.

Setting out via the B526 towards Newport Pagnell it soon became clear 
that – aside from some surprisingly gusty blasts of wind – the day was 
going to provide us with something akin to perfect cycling conditions. 
The sun was out, the thermometer was rising and, with a few exceptions, 
even the drivers seemed happy to share the roads with us. After Newport 
Pagnell and the outer reaches of Bedfordshire our route became more 
rural as we passed through Sharpenhoe, Barton-le-Clay, Hexton, etc., 
climbed a few hills and reassembled for lunch at The Lilley Arms in, 
err, Lilley. The food was wonderful, as was the service and the 
plentiful supply of free water. The only downside being the sad news 
that a fellow cyclist had been taken seriously ill somewhere along our 
route.

En-Route in Hertfordshire

En-Route in Hertfordshire

Post-lunch riding began with a suitably gentle five mile(ish) descent to 
Whitwell; a village it is easy to assume must have an exceptionally poor 
water drainage system until you’re told that it’s actually the 
watercress capital of the universe and is, in fact, meant to look like 
that. Such fascinations, however, were quickly forgotten thanks to the 
incline that greeted us as we took a right turn out of the village 
centre. Still, we continued to make good progress as we headed on out 
through Blackmore, Wheathampstead and Sandridge before finally reaching 
a cycle path that took us to our afternoon tea break: South Mimms 
Services.

Cycle Sign for MWSA

Yes, it’s real

In terms of atmosphere, this particular stop was a million 
miles away from your usual cyclist’s café. However, we were thirsty, 
hungry and, to be fair, it did have a Waitrose. Aside from the fruit 
machines, additional entertainment was provided in the form of Ian and 
his latex gloves as he sought to locate and repair a puncture with a 
dexterity and precision more commonly associated with world-class 
cardiac surgeons.

Cyclists at South Mimms Motorway Services

Cyclists at South Mimms Motorway Services – Not a Usual Sight

The final stage of our jaunt was perhaps the most demanding insofar as 
we were soon in Barnet and the outskirts of London. Cycling through 
London is always an adventure – even on a late Sunday afternoon. 
However, we made good use of the bus lanes and Ian was always keen to 
make sure that as a group we never became too spread out. Highgate, 
Gospel Oak and Camden all passed in a haze of traffic and frazzled 
pedestrians before we finally crossed Hampstead Road and arrived at our 
destination: hot, but happy, and, for those of us who’d not bothered 
with factor 50, some tan lines that were to look quite peculiar on 
Monday morning.

Euston Station

End of the Road

I’ve been to London many times by train, car, coach, etc., but can 
easily say that this was the most interesting and fun way that I’ve ever 
travelled there. It was just a shame that we didn’t carry on down to 
Brighton! Many thanks to Ian for organising the trip and making the day 
such an enjoyable one.

Note: this report has been edited slightly from the original for legal and other reasons.

Ride *to* London, Sunday 7th August

This Sunday we will ride from Northampton station to Euston station and then get the train home!  If you would like a shorter route (that avoids London traffic) then you can finish at St Albans Abbey station.

Meeting time: 9.00 a.m.
Place: Northampton Rail Station – at the bottom of the steps to the main entrance on Black Lion Hill
Distance: 77 miles (shorter route to St Albans 58 miles)
Refreshments: Marston Moretaine (Beds) 25 miles; Lilley (Herts) 42 miles; South Mimms motorway services 64 miles
Pace: About 13 m.p.h. (if anyone wants to ride faster between refreshment stops, there will be printed instructions)
Finish: Euston Rail Station (shorter route finishes at St Albans Abbey Rail Station)

We leave Northampton on the B526 to Newport Pagnell, then head through along minor roads to The Forest Centre at Marston Moretaine for coffee and cake.

We continue 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 quiet lanes to Whitwell, the watercress capital of England! Then the B651 through dappled woodland to Wheathampstead; follow the eastern edge of St Albans and cross the A414 to Colney Heath; onto the old and quiet Great North Road to South Mimms where a 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!

We go under the M25 and, without climbing, onto Dancers Hill. It’s still rural until we reach the Barnet boundary. We then follow the A1000 to 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.

The full route to Euston is here on RideWithGPS. The short route to St Albans Abbey is here. Both routes can be downloaded as .gpx tracks.

On the recce last month, Iain D and I reached St Albans at about 4.00 p.m. and Euston at 6.55 p.m. This allowed for generous refreshment stops and one p*nct*r*! We caught the 1934 from Euston and arrived at Northampton at 2044. The “walk-on” cost of an off-peak single is £27.40 (£18.10 with a railcard. Advance tickets – bought online when you nominate a particular train – start at £7.45 (£4.95 with a railcard). The “walk-on” fare from St Albans Abbey (change at Watford Junction) is £25.90 (£17.25 with a railcard).

I’ve been asked about the suitability of different sorts of bike. I’ve ridden the route twice – first on a Dawes Galaxy tourer with 32mm tyres (and panniers) and on the recce with Iain D on a Bianchi with 23mm tyres. So all types of bike are fine!

There were a few more comments in an earlier post on this blog.

Any questions? I’m on 07960 302095.

Do join us for what promises to be a memorable ride.

Ride report – Saturday 23rd July

Phil J went on this ride organised by James and writes:

Eight cyclists assembled at Moulton for James’ Queen of the Mountains ride of two halves on a glorious sunny morning.  Moderate or brisk?  The choice was yours. The sides were quickly picked and gave us four riders in each group.  We set off on the long road out towards Holcot and the groups splintered as expected.  Our moderate group set into a nice steady pace which included Elspeth once again.

The sun shone but a gentle breeze cooled us sufficiently and made it one of the best days for cycling so far this year. The pace quickened for the moderate group but with still no sign of the faster riders in the brisk group ahead.  We meandered through picturesque villages without much traffic to hold us up and it wasn’t long before we were entering the wonderful Cottesbrooke estate with its steep climb at the end.  But we skirted round this and soon headed for Naseby with a number of testing hills there instead.  Cyclists passed us as we regrouped but we managed to rein one or two of them in on the climbs as they lost power much to our satisfaction.

Some miles on after a short stretch along the busy Market Harborough road we approached the tea stop at the Waterloo Farm Café and a welcome break for us all.  The brisk group hadn’t arrived yet as they were still out covering the extra miles and climbs on their own particular route but the “moderates” were ahead of time according to our leader.

We settled onto an outside table and it wasn’t long before the “brisks” arrived and joined us.  The location was baked in sunshine and we all enjoyed teas and coffees whilst some got stuck into tasty fayre.

On the move again we all set off together before two became one after the first rise.  The route continued through familiar territory including the long haul up Harrington Hill, the final QoM stage, ending at the Tollemache Arms which seemed rather tempting on a hot day but we continued without succumbing to a swift pint or two!

Towards Foxhall a police roadblock was in place and a helicopter circled overhead where a stolen car had been abandoned in the nearby field.  Further on Old and Walgrave tested the weary legs of the group before we met up again with the brisk group just outside Holcot.

The final stretch into Moulton was the last couple of miles of the day and we blazed down the road whatever group you were in.  James and I had a bunch sprint to the finish which of course he won and punched the air in delight. A great days riding with a choice of ways to do it.

Thanks to James for devising the QoM route. James lead the brisk group at a challenging pace leaving Brian, Phil and Co to enjoy a more steady pace.

Ride report – Saturday 16th July

Brian went on this ride led by Iain D and writes:

A select group of four riders left Moulton at 9.00 a.m. on an overcast but warm and humid morning for a full day’s ride.  Soon after Sywell we met rolling hills through Mears Ashby, Castle Ashby and on to Olney, on relatively quiet roads.   Here we stopped for coffee and sat outside in the café courtyard enjoying toasted tea cakes as the sun came out.  Showing just how small the world is Anne and Ken discovered that they had both grown up in the same area of Lancashire.  The hills of Northamptonshire apparently have nothing on those in the north west!!  This was to be well tested later in the ride.

From Olney we headed north-east to Turvey and on to Carlton where we did a loop to Odell, Sharnbrook and through the picturesque village of Bletsoe before we turned back though Milton Ernest and more quiet roads.  We returned to the Emmaus Centre at Carlton for lunch at 1.00 p.m.  The weather was now warming up with blue skies and highs of 23C.  We were ready for a break.

After a very convivial lunch we headed up to Poddington and Wollaston before dropping into the Nene valley at Great Doddington.  From here it was all uphill via Wilby to Sywell which was the highest point on the ride, not that it was an obvious summit finish.

We arrived in Moulton at 3.45 p.m. after a pleasant day in the saddle.  Ideal cycling weather, summer at last!  Thanks to Iain for devising and leading the ride.

Advance notice: Ride *to* London, Sunday 7th August

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.

The Outline

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

The Route

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!

IMG_0873

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.

The Recce

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.

Trains home

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.