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.

Visit to Aachen – Day 7 Ride Report

Tuesday 23rd April – Dunkirk to Northampton – words by Iain Dawson

FRANCE
Ian was away early to meet up with Alex and make the 10.00 a.m. boat out of Dunkerque. As a result, those two may have been the only part of the group to have ridden in rain all week. It had finished by time Dave and I had had breakfast.

We wandered across to the supermarché to grab a few food goodies (no beer or fags on this trip) then packed the bikes and headed for the port. Rather annoyingly, the French had decided to dig up the road that we’d come in on the previous evening but we remembered the alternative from our nocturnal food run so we were soon battling the wind on the route back through Dunkerque’s industrial hinterland. We did actually see the 10.00 a.m. boat departing but it took us a further fifteen minutes to get to the port ourselves.

Dunkerque is easier to navigate than Dover – no need for red lines here – and other passengers more talkative, both dockside and on the boat itself, so we had plenty of conversation on the way back.

UK
We should have been last off the boat in (a cold and foggy) Dover, but someone upset the deckhand by not being ready to move when instructed so we enjoyed a leisurely stroll down the ramp, picked up the red line again and a few minutes later found ourselves outside the Travel Centre where it had all begun not one week earlier.

When we got to the top of the hill, where I’d left the car, all was sunny and warm. We did break the journey home by stopping at South Mimms services which I thought was the only Motorway Services signed from a National Cycle Route. Appropriate, I thought. I’ve since discovered that Severn View is also on an NCN route.

I’m still wondering how to work this idea into one of our routes.

Only one thing left to ask: Where are we going next year?