Ride Report – Sunday 7th February

Milton went on this ride led by Brian and writes:

On a fairly cold and windy but clear skied morning only three of us were at the Canoe Centre for the start.  As it was one of the few dry starts of the past couple of months, it was surprising to see so few people.  Perhaps we’ve got out of the habit in recent wet and windy times.

We set off to Cogenhoe and on to Grendon where we found Geoff waiting to join us – and on his “fixie” too, which he rode all day as if it had a multiplicity of gears!  On to Wollaston to Poddington and to Melchbourne and Souldrop before stopping for our only break at the Garden Centre in Milton Ernest.  The world’s most expensive cakes surprised us, but the newly re-furbished room was warm and welcoming and not too busy, so we forgave them the £3.00 bits of cake and ordered meat and potato pies instead.

We returned via Harrold, Bozeat and Castle Ashby and were back by 2.30 p.m. as promised.

Largely blown to Milton Ernest, we fought a stiff breeze for most of the way home, and, with 55 miles on my computer, we were pretty knackered.

The rain stayed largely where it should, in the clouds, and I think we had a cracking day of it.  Lots of quiet country roads with little traffic meant it had been, unsurprisingly, well planned, and was well led, and our thanks, as ever, to Brian.

Ride Report – Saturday 9th January

Brian writes:

At 9.00 a.m. the prospects of a morning ride were a bit grim.  Phil J was down with a cold so had asked me to lead the ride.  The previous week I had been in the same situation and Phil L had stepped in to lead what had been a pretty wet ride.  Was this to be my chance to enjoy the rain?

It was bucketing down so I decided on the easy option – to put the bike in the car and drive to this morning’s meeting point East Hunsbury given the chance that nobody would venture out in this rain.  By 9.25 a.m. it was still raining and no sight of any riders.  By 9.30 a.m. I thought that was it but decided to go and have a quick look in case anybody was sheltering in the underpass.  At this point James turned up having having cycled over in the rain!  We had a quick discussion.  The rain stopped at that point, so we decided to go!

Luckily the rain had stopped for good that morning.  But ten minutes into the ride I had a p*nct*re.  A change of tube and we were off again on a busy road to Wootton and then on to quieter roads to Quinton and over to Cogenhoe and Whiston.  We decided against a coffee stop at Castle Ashby and headed for Denton.  When we reversed the road to Quinton in the late morning, blue sky appeared and we decided to extend the ride to Courteenhall and on to Blisworth.  From here we had warm sun on our backs and a tail wind all the way back to East Hunsbury.

The forecast had been for rain at 9.00 a.m. followed by a clear spell later in the morning.  This turned out to be correct but it was cutting it a bit fine to get a ride in, free of rain and with comfortable temperatures!

Ride report – Boxing Day

James went on this ride led by Milton and writes:

Six of us left the Canoe Centre on a very quiet, heavily overcast Boxing Day morning. Heading out through Little Houghton, our post-Christmas levels of fitness were quickly tested by the climbs into Cogenhoe and Castle Ashby.  Moreover, any lingering hopes of this being a gentle ‘recovery’ jaunt were soon put out of our heads by the strong headwind that accompanied us as we continued on towards Yardley Hastings and crossed the A428.

It was on the B5388 into Olney – the next stage of our ride – that the blustery conditions were at their worst, and there were a couple of occasions when bike control became a little tricky.  Mercifully, things eased up once we left the main road and returned to the near deserted country lanes that took us on through Weston Underwood, Ravenstone and Stoke Goldington.

Given that a few of us were feeling a little fragile as a result of the previous day’s excesses it was with relief that our next stop was Salcey Forest Café, where strong coffee and cake provided temporary rejuvenation.  It was also good to see the presence of so many other cyclists – both solo and with local clubs – at the café who, like us, had obviously decided that getting out on their bikes was preferable to another day of over indulgence.

The return journey was in complete contrast to the outward ride both in terms of effort and weather.  Not only did we have a tailwind blowing us through Quinton, Preston Deanery and Great Houghton, but the sun also made a brief appearance!  Arriving back at the Canoe Centre, we said our farewells and looked forward to doing the same thing on Boxing Day 2016!!

Ride report – Sunday 6th December

James went on this ride led by Ian and writes:

Eight of us left the Canoe Centre on a blustery but rain-free Sunday morning to cycle south in the direction of Cranfield and our designated coffee stop, the Bike Bus.  After heading out of Brackmills on the A428, our legs and lungs were soon tested by the climb through Great Houghton, an ascent made all the more arduous by the strength of the wind that turned out to be a constant, yet unwelcome companion.

The main section of our outward journey was spent on the undulating B526. Passing through an assortment of pleasant villages such as Stoke Goldington and Gayhurst, we eventually turned on to the Sherington Road heading towards North Crawley.  This latter stage was enlivened by two things.  Firstly, the prospect of knowing we were soon to stop for coffee.  And, secondly, the sight of numerous sweaty runners wearing tormented expressions as they wheezed their way through the eight mile point of the Bedford Harriers’ Half Marathon …

We could tell when we were close to our resting point because of the increased presence of light aircraft preparing to descend into Cranfield Airport.  Nonetheless, this and the fact that our coffee stop was a big red double-decker bus didn’t prevent us cycling straight past it.  Fortunately, the error was quickly noticed, and it wasn’t long before we were sitting on the top deck fortifying ourselves with strong coffee, bacon rolls and the obligatory slices of artery clogging cake.

Bike Bus Loyalty Card

Bike Bus Loyalty Card – front & reverse

Reinvigorated, we got back in our saddles and started the return trip to Northampton via Newton Blossomville, Emberton and Olney.  Again, the route was pleasantly undulating, but the wind gusty.  On the plus side, the clouds started to give way to the occasional glimpse of blue and the sun made a few guest appearances.  The temptation to take a second coffee break at Olney was quickly voted down when we saw how crowded the town was.  The usual Sunday afternoon antique collectors being supplemented by families out to enjoy the annual Christmas Fair.

Given the crowds, it was unsurprising that the road out of Olney was busy, and it was with some relief that after crossing the A428 at Yardley Hastings we were soon back on some quieter stretches that took us through Castle Ashby and on towards the ‘Col de Cogenhoe’.  Whilst short, the climb itself is very steep and our efforts clearly weren’t helped by the conditions.  It was whilst in Cogenhoe – after regrouping and rediscovering how to breathe – that some of us said our farewells and cycled off in various homeward bound directions.  The remainder carried on, via Little Houghton, back to our starting point at the Canoe Centre.  Overall, a very enjoyable ride made all the more fun by the discovery of such a unique coffee stop!

Ride Report – Saturday 21st November

Phil L led this ride and writes:

I must admit, looking out of the window early this morning with the wind blowing hard and sleeting buckets, it didn’t look promising for a brisk ride. But, “When the going gets tough, the tough etc.,etc., …. !”

So four of us turned out and “Dares yuh!”  And, amazingly, had a good ride ‘cos by mid morning the sun was out and, whisked along by a fierce following wind, we shot to Olney pretty quickly.  But then WHEN we turned into the wind….ouch!  That was a hard slog to Castle Ashby and coffee stop.

But hey, we got 35 pretty brisk miles in and enjoyed it!

CTC Northampton in 1923

David, one of our committee members, has been researching the history of Northampton’s cycling clubs.  Here he republishes a 1923 article about the Cyclists’ Touring Club Northamptonshire District Association.  It comes from the Northampton Independent, a weekly newspaper which ran from 1905 to 1960.  It It was written by Mr B Clowes who was based at 5 Castilian Street.  The editor described him as “the assiduous Hon Secretary” of the association.

The Cyclists’ Touring Club popularly known as the C.T.C. was formed as far back as 1878, and in those early days of cycling laid the foundation of those rights and privileges which cyclists enjoy to-day.

Amongst the objects of the Club are the defence of cyclists’ rights, provision of special touring facilities, promotion of legislation for cyclists, publication of road books and maps, scheduling of hotels and refreshment houses (with tariffs), appointment of official repairers, insurance of machines and riders, and the supply of cycling information.

The Club has a paid secretary and office staff located in Euston Road, London. Here there is a reference library and touring bureau, from which members who apply are supplied with routes and the latest information regarding the district in which they propose to tour.  The Club has in various parts of the country local representatives, or consuls, as they are called, who are always ready to assist and advise all cycling and touring members generally.  So far as continental travel is concerned, the Club has reciprocal arrangements with the Continental Touring Clubs.

Amongst other things the Club gives legal assistance to cyclists, issues a very fine illustrated monthly gazette (worth the subscription alone) and publishes an annual handbook.

For fostering local interest amongst members there are a large number of district associations which are in themselves complete social cycling clubs.  The Northants District Association is one of the youngest and is now forging ahead.  It is managed by a local committee, who are at all times willing to give careful consideration to matters appertaining to cycling brought to their notice by members.  Club runs are arranged for Thursdays, Saturdays, and at holiday times tours are arranged.  During the time the Association has been in being, runs have been held to many places of interest in this and neighbouring counties, and many pleasant hours have been spent at joint runs with other Associations. Ladies are eligible for membership, and we have several regular lady riders. We have no hard and fast rules, the runs being “free and easy”, and there is an air of sociability and good fellowship throughout.

There are those who say cycling is hard work, but these are the people, one imagines, who never tried anything but a “dreadnought” and perhaps even then never gave their bicycle a chance to make the acquaintance of an oil can.  With a light machine, kept in proper trim and a reasonably low gear, one can comfortably cover a century a day.  We have met on some of our joint runs members who were doing considerably more.  We are an all-the-year round cycling club.  The bicycle has enabled us to get about this delightful county of ours (which as not so flat as some people think) in all seasons. We have revelled in her Summer and Autumn glory, and we have enjoyed the sombre beauty of her Winter.  We have found one hundred and one beauty spots in this and neighbouring counties, and have drank of their beauty to the full.  We have enjoyed the expansive views of the Cotswolds.  We have meandered along the pretty lanes in the Thame Valley.  We have seen the gorgeous scenery of the Wye, and some of us have ridden to the majestic scenery of North Wales.  We have a host of delightful memories of this country of ours.  All these pleasures and many more are open to the cyclist, and to belong to an organisation such as ours means congenial companionship in addition.  There are numerous beauty spots in and around the outskirts of the town with which a large number of cyclists and other lovers of the open road are totally unfamiliar.

Here, for instance, is an exceptionally enjoyable run quite near at hand of which many of our cycling readers will doubtless avail themselves. Leaving Northampton by the Houghton Road we cross the river at the Paper Mills – where bank note paper was formerly manufactured – and soon pass Great Houghton with its church built in an Italian style.  Proceeding uphill we reach Little Houghton: near the church are the moat and foundations of an ancient mansion of the Louches.  A pleasant run takes us to Brafield-on-the Green, and then to Denton, where there is a tortuous twist round the church.  We now enter the picturesque country of Yardley Chase, the old forest which bounds the county to the southeast.  The village of Yardley Hastings takes its name from the de Hastings, lords of the village in the 13th and 14th centuries.  Edward Lye, the famous scholar, is buried in the Church of St. Andrew, which derived its dedication probably through the connection of the manor with the Royal line of Scotland.  Two miles further on, at Warrington cross roads, we turn to the left and proceed to Bozeat, and from there to the pretty village of Easton Maudit.  The church with its graceful spire should be visited.  Restored by the Marquis of
Northampton in 1860, it contains a number of inscriptions to ancient families.  At Easton Maudit dwelt Thomas Percy, author of the “Relique”, who entertained many famous literary men at the vicarage, including Goldsmith and Johnson.  Dr Johnson spent several weeks here. We now go to Grendon to explore the beauties of Castle Ashby park and village; then return to Northampton through Cogenhoe.

Around picturesque Castle Ashby

Around picturesque Castle Ashby

Another good journey for the cyclist and a pleasant spin for the motorist is to be enjoyed in the Mears Ashby and Earls Barton districts shown on the map.  Leaving by the Billing Road, we pass on the left Abington Rectory, where Sir Douglas Haig used to visit as a boy when his uncle was rector, and soon reach Little Billing.  Here are picturesque cottages, a church with a Saxon front, and the remains of a 14th century Manor House. Billing Bridge – said to have been the scene of a fight in the Civil Wars – is crossed, and a climb takes us to Cogenhoe.  The origin of this name is Gucken, to spy and hoe a hill.  Further on Whiston, a very pretty village, is worth visiting.  At Castle Ashby gates turn to the left and cross the railway line and river. Earls Barton tower is the next landmark.  The “most characteristic piece of Saxon work in the land,” it is 1000 years old.  Cross the Wellingborough Road and proceed through pretty lanes to Mears and Sywell.  In Sywell Woods, Captain Thompson, a Leveller mutineer who broke open Northampton Gaol in 1649 and robbed the public coffers, was rounded up and, after a bitter resistance, killed.  We pass through Overstone and return on Kettering Road.  It is said that from a hill between Overstone and Great Billing forty-five churches can be seen.  The panorama is certainly superb.  Those who desire a pretty walk should take the bus to Ecton, walk across the fields to Cogenhoe, and return by train from Billing station.

Around Mears Ashby and Earls Barton

Around Mears Ashby and Earls Barton

Ride Report – Easter Monday

Iain D, our Chairman, went on this ride led by Brian, our Rides Secretary, and writes:

Eight of us gathered on a spectacularly warm – for early April – Monday morning at the Canoe Centre on Bedford Road, including two faces I’d not seen before and the ever-welcome Ken.

Brian led us out through Cogenhoe, Wollaston and Poddington where we encountered the first problem of the day: the Brompton – my ride for the day – didn’t want to make the turn at the bottom of Poddington’s hill. It was eventually persuaded round but the front tyre was looking rather empty. I think the two are linked.

Which leads me on to the second problem of the day, and a lesson for all of us: bring your tyre levers AND the right pump for the inner tube. Honestly, who puts a Presta valve on a 16″ tube ? Won’t be buying those again … . Anyway, thanks to Milton, we got rolling again fairly quickly and on to something I’m not used to – being passed by a bin wagon. A little reminder that we were out on a weekday, for a change.

The day’s route spent a few miles running against the grain on previous years’ Guy Barber route before cutting down to Sharnbrook and following the same in the more familiar direction, and since the café in Sharnbrook was closed, we looped over the A6 again and back to Milton Ernest for lunch at their fine garden centre.

Leaving Milton Ernest, we hit snag no. 3: Network Rail’s ongoing plan to raise bridges on the Midland Main Line. Rather annoyingly, the road closure signs promised 26 weeks of closure starting 03rd October last year. We’re now into week 27 and they’re a long way from done yet. I’m told the current estimate is completion by 31st May. Fortunately, there’s a well-trodden path across an adjacent OSR field that leads out to another road. Phew.

Carlton – Harrold – Bozeat – Castle Ashby and you know the rest. All completed without further mishap and not a single drop of rain.

Many thanks to Brian for a pleasant day’s outing and I promise to be better equipped next time out.

Ride report – The Turkey Buster, Saturday 27th December

Phil J went on this ride led by Milton, our Secretary, and writes:

Five hardy riders including Northampton visitor Ken and ‘rarely to be seen’ Mike H set off on this post festive ride from the Canoe Centre surprised that it hadn’t been snowed off considering the forecast.  After a couple of miles we all began to regret the extra helpings of Christmas pudding and Quality Street as we climbed the first hill at Great Houghton.

Once up, it seemed like a wonderful autumn day rather than a winter’s ride as the sun was shining against lovely blue skies and helping to keep us warm.

We blazed down to Hackleton at a pace and, heading towards Denton, it seemed like Milton had arranged for closed roads as we barely saw any motorised transport.  Large puddles of surface water were the main obstacles on the roads but nobody came unstuck.

A winter breeze accompanied us from then on and the skies turned grey as we headed towards Castle Ashby where we enjoyed the view of the great building as we passed by.

Hardwater Hill proved to be another gem in Milton’s route as it tested all riders right to the top.

We pressed on at a steady pace eventually arriving at the Beckworth Emporium in Sywell for a well-earned rest. As befits the location some of the group opted for Earl Grey and scones!

Once on our way again, Eleanor said goodbye leaving the four guys to continue the journey.  As the A45 came into view we realised we were on the best form of transport as there was total gridlock all around.  On the cycle paths alongside we spilt up and headed our own way home leaving just the writer to continue back to the Canoe Centre.

Thanks for the ride Milton!  Well done all!

Ride report – Leisure ride to Castle Ashby – Saturday 22nd November

Milton went on this ride, led by Brian (our Secretary), and writes:

On a warm and wind free day, eight of us set off from the Canoe Centre on the Bedford Road.  It was good to have Giles along for the first time in a couple of years as well as Colin and Nick.  The rain promised to make an appearance all morning but largely stayed away.

We set off through Little Houghton and Cogenhoe and took the low road to Wollaston.  Once through Wollaston, five of the more muscular sort headed off on a seven mile loop which skirted the Irchester suburbs, whilst us three weaklings headed directly to coffee at Castle Ashby via Bozeat and Easton Maudit.

The café at Castle Ashby served a fine selection of cakes, good coffee with tap water automatically supplied to the table (outside in the quadrangle in November !! – hardy types) and gave us, as cyclists, a significant discount!  What’s not to like, as they say across the pond!

The larger group appeared twenty minutes after us having collected Eleanor along the way. There was a lot of talk about phone calls and neighbours popping round at the wrong time but it was clearly a long lie-in that was the reason for her late appearance!

Up to Whiston, up to Cogenhoe and home, on time, along the A45 path.

A fine mild day’s riding on some lovely quiet roads which all nine of us enjoyed.  Thanks to Brian for leading!

Brisk morning ride – “The Harrold Loop” – Saturday 8th February

Brian, our Secretary, is leading this ride and writes:

We start at the Canoe Centre (Nene Whitewater Centre, Bedford Road, NN4 7AA) at 9.30 a.m. prompt for a short and fast ride of  34 miles  return by 13.00

Route:  Canoe Centre  – Cogenhoe – Castle Ashby – Yardley Hastings – Olney – Cold Brayfield – Turvey – Carlton – Harrold – Bozeat – Grendon – Canoe Centre

We will stop for a quick coffee at the Emmaus Village Bistro in Carlton (MK43 7LQ).

The route includes two short stretches of the A428; otherwise it is on reasonably quiet B roads.

More information from Brian on 01604 622073  (or  07722 055149 on the day)

Hope to see your there.