CTC Northampton in the 1940s

I know it should be “Northampton CTC DA” (I think!) but I am grateful to David Upton for finding this article by Alan Burman, first published in 1997.

Day trip to Derbyshire on two wheels!

It was a sparkling summer morning in the late forties, the air rushing on our faces was full of the scent of hedgerow flowers and the verges were waist-high with keck.

The only sounds were the thrill of songbirds…and the swish of 60 narrow tyres!

1940s Image1

I was out with the Northampton branch of the Cyclists Touring Club in the post war heyday of the bicycle boom.

The Northampton group, officially known as the District Association, had existed on and off since the turn of the century and had been at its most thriving back in the 1920’s during the enthusiasm for the great outdoors that spawned numerous hiking and biking clubs.

After the Second World War, with petrol in short supply and new cars only obtainable under priority purchase schemes, the bicycle again came into its own and the pastime blossomed once again.  The CTC nationally had over 53,000 members at this time.

The Northampton section commonly met about 6.00 a.m. on a Sunday morning outside the cycle shop opposite the Town Hall. Riding two abreast in a long column we would set out heading for, perhaps, the Thames Valley, Bath or the Derbyshire Dales, distances on a day’s ride that now fill me with awe.

Many other clubs would be awheel before the countryside was awake and it was common to meet and greet other clubs, some from large towns like Coventry and Birmingham, in groups of 100 or more swishing past in the opposite direction.  We might see half a dozen such clubs before an early stop for breakfast.

1940s Image2

Cyclists, at that time, had many well-known and favourite cafés or teashops that catered especially for them.  Indeed, the CTC was the first organisation to run an approval scheme for eating houses, well before the RAC ,the AA or Egon Ronay!

Now and again a “tramps outing” would be run.  These events had a long history in the bicycling fraternity dating back to the old penny-farthing days. Dressed in old garb, we would cook up sausages and bacon over our little folding Primus stoves in the corner of some farmer’s field.

Once a year,we together with thousands of other cyclists, would converge on the Warwickshire village of Meriden, where a cyclists war memorial had been erected in 1921. Here, an open air service would be conducted by the Bishop of Coventry.

Well before the days when ancient bicycles were valued, an old gentleman from Coventry, a Mr Golby as I recall, had assembled a collection of historic machines and unselfishly loaned them out to be ridden to the service. The village was crammed with cycles, prewar tandems and sidecar machines, you name it and it was there.

Our local group included riders of some odd machines. One family rode out on a tandem with their son on a trailing attachment rather like a fork-less bicycle attached to a pivot under the saddle. A younger child rode in a miniature sidecar alongside.  Tricycles had had great popularity in the pioneer days of cycling, but by the fifties were uncommon.

Nevertheless, the Tremaine family, father and two sons, were great exponents on  three wheels. The sight of the boys on a tandem trike descending the hill into Aldbury  at speed, leaning below the level of the wheels to keep balance, the tyres screaming, and with the wheels flexing under the strain as the machine rounded the hairpin bend is indelibly imprinted on my memory.

The local CTC was one of the first groups to run a cycling proficiency scheme anywhere.  The idea had first been mooted in 1947, a joint conception by the club and RoSPA, and shortly afterwards the Northampton section joined the Brixworth Rural District Council in initiating a training programme for young riders.

The Northampton group still survives and must be approaching its centenary.  I wonder if today’s riders have as much fun as we did. I hope so!

[Editor’s note: CTC Northampton still cycles down the hill into Aldbury, most recently on the Nearly Golden Beeches Weekend last October.]

Report – Ride on Sunday 10th February

Ian Macsporran went on this ride, led by Bill Simpson, and writes:

Just like the last time we cycled to the A5 Rangers Club-House in Towcester (for the CTC Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes AGM), four wet riders met in the pouring rain at Hunsbury.  This time we were Ian, David, Phil L and our leader Bill.  This time the venue was hosting the annual Cyclists’ Jumble Sale!

Again, we didn’t hang about after 9.30 a.m. and Bill set a good pace to get us to Towcester and dry shelter!  It was the first time I’d been to this annual event and it was fascinating – not just for the items for sale but for the coffee and cake and, of course, the conversations with old friends.

IMGP5682The plan was always that we would make our ways home independently.  Phil pretty much turned round for the return leg straightaway; David must have followed him shortly afterwards; and Bill was to head for a cycle shop in Milton Keynes.

I had two lots of coffee and cake and felt fortified enough not just to skip lunch at Greens Norton (my original plan) but to add to that part of the loop by going through Abthorpe, Slapton and Bradden as well.  Route here.

From Hunsbury back to Hunsbury, this was 26 miles.  Add to and from home, and I enjoyed a damp but worthwhile 37 miles.

Footnote: returning to the town centre down Towcester Road, I stopped to photograph two houses which a friend who grew up in the area told me were the only houses built in a proposed Northampton Garden Suburb.  Photos and more details in my personal blog here.


Ride to Towcester – Sunday 10th February

Iain Dawson, our Rides Secretary, writes:

On Sunday morning, at 9.30 a.m., we will be gathering in East Hunsbury for a ride over to Towcester and the annual cycle jumble at the A5 Rangers Clubroom.

Bill will be leading the group there but it may be a case of making your own way back, especially if you divert to Greens Norton for lunch.

Bring some pennies and stock up on brake blocks and p*nct*re repair kits (or bring some pounds and see what bigger stuff takes your fancy).

Upgrading the Brampton Valley Way Cycle Path, part 2

At the end of CTC Northampton’s morning ride last Saturday, Iain Dawson and I continued back to The Windhover along the Brampton Valley Way (BVW) to see the improvements where the BVW goes under the Northampton-to-Rugby railway line.

This crossing has been notorious for many years – a complete mud-bath – and, let’s face it, a local disgrace since the BVW is part of the National Cycle Network Route 6.  It’s been pretty much impassible in all but the driest weather and, even then, you’d want an off-road bike!

We were pleasantly surprised.  Here’s the start of the underpass approached from the south:

IMGP5669Iain shows how it’s negotiated:

IMGP5671and how you emerge on the other side:

IMGP5673Once you’ve emerged, you can see why it used to flood so often – it’s where cycle path, railway line and river all merged:

IMGP5675This is the edge of Kingsthorpe Local Nature Reserve, which has splendid views:

IMGP5676IMGP5677The cycle path then swings up to run alongside the railway line:

IMGP5680and the view remains good:IMGP5679All in all, a very welcome improvement!

And work looks well underway to complete a nice tarmac surface between here and the A5099 crossing, further north near The Windhover.

Report – Ride on Saturday 2nd February

Phil Letts led this ride and writes:

How nice was it to get out today in the sunshine after all that snow with a convivial group of eight keen riders eager to shake the winter blues out of their legs. Patches of ice here and there meant we needed to keep a sharp lookout but no-one, not even Ian, threw themselves to the ground!

It was pretty cold with a biting wind but we didn’t care as we tackled a ‘bumpy’ route out via Dodford and Everdon to The Dairy Farm for a welcome coffee, cake and warm by the stove.  (Bad luck to those whose table was too far away! Ride-leader’s privilege!)

We kept the pace up on the route back and totalled a good 35 miles.  Nice to ride and chat with everyone.

Ian Macsporran was on the ride and adds his thanks to Phil.  The route is here.