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.

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Ride Report – Saturday 22nd February

Phil L led this ride to Newport Pagnell and writes:

The six of us who turned out for today’s ride, stood blinking for a while in a strange new light, trying to figure out what was different about the day.  Ah yes!  It wasn’t raining and that ethereal light was sunshine!

It was good to welcome new rider Wojter from Poland who proved to be a fit addition to our group as we made brisk progress out via Ashton and Castlethorpe to Newport Pagnell for coffee plus.  I say that because the owner of the cafe we dropped into wasn’t keen for “Coffees only” orders which “forced” us pretty willingly to go for bacon butties etc.

The return route via NR6 and Salcey made it just about 40 miles and in time for the rugby!

Ride to Newport Pagnell – Saturday 22nd February

Phil L is leading this ride and writes:

We’ll start at 9.30 a.m. at Hunsbury (Overslade Close, East Hunsbury, NN4 0RZ) for a ride of approximately 38 miles at a brisk pace (say 14 mph).

The route takes us out via Blisworth, Ashton and Castlethorpe to Newport Pagnell for brunch.  We’ll return via Hanslope and NCR 6.

This is slightly shorter than the route originally in the programme due to the recent flooding but allows us to stop for coffee and cake/snacks in Newport Pagnell instead of at Willen Lake.

Phil is on 07867 3889592.

Bike Week 15th – 23rd June

Once again the CTC will be promoting Bike Rides for All as part of Bike Week, the UK’s only annual promotion of all kinds of cycling activities – a nationwide programme of rides and events.  The aim is to get more people cycling more often – to have fun, get fit and feel free!

Here are some local events:

Saturday 15th June MK Millennium Cycle Route – 12 miles from the Great Linford Festival, Milton Keynes, starting at 10.30 a.m. (organised by Phil Ashbourn)

Sunday 16th June (1) The Sustrans Kingsthorpe Festival

Sunday 16th June (2) A 25-mile Mystery Ride from the Newport Pagnell Medical Centre, starting at 10.00 a.m. (organised by Phil Ashbourn)

Thursday 20th June Bike Week Breakfast at the Salcey Forest Café.  Two CTC rides both at7.30 a.m. (1) from the Canoe Centre, Bedford Road, Northampton – led by Philip Gray (2) from Wolverton Railway Station, Milton Keynes – organised by Phil Ashbourn

Saturday 22nd June Morning Leisure Ride  – 10.30 a.m. from Midsummer Meadow, Bedford Road, Northampton (led by Brian Tunbridge)

Sunday 23rd June All-day Challenging Ride – 9.30 a.m. from Hunsbury Hill Library, Overslade Close, Northampton to Stowe Park and return.  Lunch at Sulgrave Manor.  Led again by Brian Tunbridge.

Contact details

Phil Ashbourn 01908 698063
Philip Gray 01604 720522
Brian Tunbridge 01604 622073
Sustrans @SustransUoN

Ride Report – Sunday 5th May

Iain Dawson led this ride – “A Ride of Two Rivers” – and writes:

There were five of us ready, outside the Canoe Centre, for this trip on Sunday morning and the weather was looking promising as well. Better than it did last time I tried to lead this ride anyway.

After a short deviation into the industrial estate, we picked-up National Cycle Route 6 in Great Houghton, rode on past Salcey Forest, and down through Haversham on the north side of Milton Keynes. Then we turned onto a gated road that brought us out by Stantonbury Wharf and the Grand Union Canal. We followed this, more or less, half way to Willen Lake, the only snag being that whoever drew the Buckinghamshire street map didn’t know where the bridges over the canal were! Redway navigation is tricky at the best of times, because you never see the street signs, but to have bridges spring up out of nowhere? That’s a new one on me! Anyway, after a couple more pauses to check the map and the signs on nearby streets (thanks Karen and Dave), we found a sign, an actual sign, for “Willen Lake” and were duly delivered to the café there.

Refreshed, we took to the Redways once again to cut through a corner of the original Milton Keynes, with its 12th-century church, and past the Open University, which wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped. We did, however, get to see a lot of the greenery that Milton Keynes has to offer before we cut through the car parks at the west end of the shopping centre and headed up past Linford Wood to the old railway line that now serves as a pedestrian/cycle link between northern MK and Newport Pagnell. A short ride from there – up through Sherington and Emberton Country Park – saw us installed in our favourite Olney café for lunch, sitting out in the sun. I have to say, each time we crossed the Ouse I was getting more and more tempted to drop down to it and take a dip. The weather was magnificent for May.

With only the few miles separating Olney (on the Ouse) from the Canoe Centre (on the Nene), we set off with just Cogenhoe hill left requiring any real work ahead of us and we had an uneventful final leg back to Northampton to finish around 4pm. Not bad for a 52 mile ride taking in some very congested Redways with a couple of navigation errors thrown in to temper the pace.