Ian Macsporran went on this ride and writes:
In which CTC members, as Cycling UK’s Patron, HM The Queen, would expect, behave legally.
Despite the alarms of the preceding twenty-four hours, when it seemed that as few as two riders would simply stumble along without a leader, a great day out was enjoyed by six riders who gathered in Moulton for the start of Philip’s expedition to Oundle. His route was to take us on a lovely ride, often along lanes that were new to us. Quite an achievement given that we have cycled to Oundle many times in the past. Among the six riders was Jeoff who was tackling his first ride with CTC. As he was young, he brought our average age down considerably! Welcome, Jeoff!
It was not a fast getaway. A cautious crossing of the A43 saw us pedalling through the middle of a travellers’ camp; then an event, apparently called “Supercar Fest the Runway”, had great deal of slow and stationary cars blocking all the roads leading to Sywell aerodrome. Even at a slow pace, we enjoyed the smug pleasure of going a good deal faster than their occupants. The Harrowdens were negotiated but the climb to Finedon was interrupted by a flat tyre. Our leader assisted the stricken cyclist, leading to the unusual shout: “Has anyone brought a pair of pliers?” This was the cue for Hartley to come to the rescue. While waiting, we had a conversation with a passing group out for a morning spin. Mutual acquaintances were, or were not, recognised.
We rode quickly along the A510 for a short distance to cross the A14 at the Cranford. Then, after Slipton, we headed towards Lowick, slowing again for a most unusual feature: a road which for all the evidence of our eyes was indeed a road (wide, flat, tarmac, speed signs) but which legally was only a footpath. We behaved legally, dismounting and walking for well over a mile. This was the approach to and from Drayton House, the “seat” of the Sackvilles. One can imagine the conversation:
Lady Sackville de Sackville: Dearest, I have received reports that common people are using mechanical contraptions they call velocipedes. They travel quickly and disturb my afternoon rest as they flicker minutely along the horizon.
Lord Sackville de Sackville: I know nothing of these common people and their contraptions. What I do know is that my ancestors did not fight alongside William at Hastings in order to allow the Saxon serfs to travel faster than walking pace. Have they forgotten that my lineage includes earls, viscounts and dukes? Summon my master of hounds.
The master of hounds is summoned and appears.
Lord Sackville de Sackville: Starve my hounds a little this week. Should you see any common people travelling faster than walking pace, let them loose so that they may enjoy a taste of flesh!
These legal niceties slowed us down further and, expecting to meet a seventh rider along the lane south from Lowick to the A6116, we were to be disappointed. Our leader had texted ahead explaining our delays but of the seventh rider there was no sign. Crossing the A6116 we began to see signposts for Oundle. Visions of coffee, cake, all-day breakfasts and vegetarian chilli filled our minds and our pace became more rapid. Aldwincle, Wadenhoe and Stoke Doyle passed in a comparative flash. Oh my, the wonder of these velocipedes! An interesting approach to the centre of Oundle via an alleyway led us to Beans, a coffee shop where our visions turned to culinary reality. An hour of good conversation passed with tales of brave Achilles and reminiscences of decades past. It must have been bewildering for young Jeoff.
Then we were off, looping through Glapthorn and Benefield, and enjoying the long descent through Brigstock. Pace was maintained through Grafton Underwood and back to the Cranfords once more. Hurrahs again for velocipedes which could ease through the closed road between Burton Latimer and Isham. At Orlingbury the group split in half with those who lived in the north of town covering the last few familiar miles back to our start point in Moulton.
Big thanks to Philip for organising and leading and to everyone for their good companionship. Fifty-five miles covered and, for me, ten of those were along lanes I had not travelled before. One of the great things about our CTC group is that, no matter how well you know Northamptonshire, the leaders of our rides will reveal to you unknown lanes and their eccentricities!
P.S. After the revolution, velocipedes will be able to use any roads and lanes their riders wish to navigate. News just in, however, that the coming days are to be filled with fawning and obsequiousness for something called a “jubilee” – of which I know nothing – suggests that the revolution may be delayed by the cunning tactics of the aristocracy.