“Boundary Rides” – Two morning rides circling Northampton – Saturday 11th March

Phil L has organised these two rides and writes:

Start: 9.30 a.m.
Meeting point: Brampton Valley Way (BVW)/A5199 crossing near The Windhover, NN6 8AA.  There is a BVW car park just up Brampton Lane.
Distance: 40 miles (brisk), 35 miles (moderate).
Refreshments: Salcey Forest Café

This circuit of Northampton skirts/circles the Borough boundary keeping the Express Lift Tower as our “hub” all morning – taking in Boughton, Moulton, Overstone, the Houghtons and Salcey Forest for an early brunch.  Then we complete the circuit through Quinton, Blisworth, Milton Malsor, Rothersthorpe, Kislingbury and return to BVW.

Brisk ride led by Phil L; moderate ride led by Brian.

Questions?  Phil is on 07867 388592.

Boxing Day Ride Report

Milton led this ride and writes:

Perfect weather saw ten cyclists with nothing but coffee and cake in mind meet up at the Canoe Centre for a simple 28-mile drift through the south east of the County.

Little Houghton, Cogenhoe, Castle Ashby, Yardley Hastings, Weston Underwood and Ravenstone gently slid past as we sauntered slowly but with great determination to cake at Salcey.

Down the hill through Great Houghton and we were back at the Canoe Centre just after mid-day and heading home to some cake and mince pies and whatever chocolates were left before getting stuck into lunch.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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 – Saturday 12th December

Phil L led this ride and writes:

Following all the dire weather forecasts emanating from the Met Office for “continuous heavy rain from 5.00 a.m. onwards” I had my doubts that this morning’s planned brisk ride would even start.  By 8.30 a.m., however, it was still dry and seemed promising so I met the other three wanting to ride at the Brampton Valley Way start point.  And then it started raining!  Later than predicted but enough to make it a bit of a wet start.

But we got a good brisk pace going despite a fairly tough headwind and soon took in Flore, Nether Heyford, Stoke Bruerne, Ashton and Hartwell before it started to abate.  We called in at Salcey for a coffee and quick “steam”!

Our usual return loop through Quinton, Preston Deanery and Great Houghton was pleasantly aided by a following wind and so a good quick 35 miles were achieved and enjoyed.

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!

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 – Saturday 24th January

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

Five of us met at the Brampton Valley Way start point to be taken by Phil L on one of his legendary brisks!  In fact, because we had a nearly new rider with us, we were able to keep the brakes on Phil as we set off on the route round Northampton clockwise through Boughton and Moulton to Overstone and Ecton.  On through Little Houghton and up the hill at Great Houghton and via Quinton and Preston Deanery to coffee at Salcey Forest café.

We had already lost Eleanor before the cafe (Packing for the great Thailand trip perhaps?  Good luck you two!)  Our new rider decided to get a lift back home from there.  We look forward to your company again, Janne!

We three remainders continued off through Horton towards Kislingbury where Phil G left us to go to the bike shop to try out a new bike.  The remaining Phil, L that is, and I parted at Sixfields to our respective homes.

A cold and icy morning had miraculously turned into a sunny and almost warm day with only the slightest breeze.  As good a cycling day as you get. Good weather, a good route and fine company. What more can you ask for?