Ride Report – Sunday 20th March

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Assembling at the Canoe Centre on Sunday morning!

James went on this ride, led by Brian, and writes:

Seven of us departed from the Canoe Centre on a cold, overcast morning for what was the longest ride of the year so far; a sixty-plus mile round trip to Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire.  After heading out through Little Houghton – where we met up with our two newest members, Alison and Carwyn – we journeyed on at a leisurely pace via Cogenhoe and Poddington towards Melchbourne, where the option of a shortcut to Harrold Country Park was on offer to any riders lacking the stamina to make it to Grafham and back.  Happily, everyone was feeling healthy and strong and nobody took up this alternative route.  The fact that the sun was (contrary to the forecast) making frequent appearances, combined with the picturesque scenery, meant that the miles passed quickly, and it wasn’t long before we’d cycled through Perry and arrived at our destination.

Any thoughts of filling our faces with bacon rolls or jacket potatoes (or both) were soon put out of our minds by the poor overworked chap who – due to staff shortages – was running the restaurant at Grafham by himself and, understandably, didn’t have the time to cook as well as serve drinks to the assorted walkers, runners, windsurfers, etc.  Still, he was kind enough to rustle up some sandwiches for us and there was plenty of cake for sale on the counter.  Leaving Grafham the weather was noticeably cooler and the sky slightly darker.  However, a few miles of pedalling soon warmed us up, and the sunshine made a welcome reappearance as we headed homewards via Felmersham and Chellington.

Given the length of the ride and the lack of satisfactory refreshments at Grafham the journey back included a stop off at the aforementioned Harrold Country Park.  Fortunately, the café here was fully operational and able to accommodate nine famished cyclists in search of flapjacks and caffeine.  Suitably stuffed, we remounted and continued homewards on a route that was just as scenic as the outward trip – passing, as it did, through Easton Maudit and the ever impressive Castle Ashby.  Alas, whatever energy we’d regained at Harrold was quickly drained away by Whiston Hill and the “Col de Cogenhoe’, two sharp little inclines that were made all the more demanding given that they were on the final stage of the ride.  With this in mind, then, it was clearly a notable achievement that none of us collapsed into weeping heaps by the roadside or required oxygen cylinders, defibrillators or ambulances once we’d conquered them!  As well as providing the final climb of the ride, Cogenhoe also served as the end point of our journey where we said our farewells and broke off into smaller groups.

All in all, this was a lovely ride, which thanks to the sunshine and lambs in the fields, signalled the fact that Spring has properly arrived and with it the prospect of many more enjoyable miles on our bikes.  Happy Easter!

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!

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 – 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!

Ride report: Saturday 11th January

Phil L led this ride and writes:

What a great day for a ride! Bright winter sunshine and no rain – what’s going on?!! So good was the weather in fact, ten of us turned out a brisk and bumpy ride to Irchester Country Park. An excellent opportunity to ‘burn off’ some of that Christmas pud!

Splitting into two groups meant we could cater for different riding speeds and appetites and I think we all enjoyed breezing through the villages of Whiston, Castle Ashby, Bozeat and Hinwick before regrouping at the country park for coffee and cake refuelling!

We split again for the return via the Wollaston-Great Doddington route which incidently is still rideable for bikes despite closure notices for vehicles while they strengthen the bridge over the river -there’s a footbridge available for pedestrians.

My thanks to Brian for leading the other group today.

Ride to Irchester Country Park – Saturday morning, 11th January

Phil L is leading this ride and writes:

Start at 9.30 a.m. at the Canoe Club (Nene Whitewater Centre, Bedford Road NN4 7AA).

A pretty brisk ride with a fair few “bumps” taking us out through Little Houghton, Cogenhoe, Whiston, Castle Ashby, Easton Maudit, Bozeat and Hinwick.  Coffee at Irchester Country Park.

Returning through Wollaston, Great Doddington, Earls Barton, Overstone and Moulton.

Total = 40 miles

Contact: 07867 388592

Ride Report – Sunday 3rd March

Iain Dawson went on this ride and writes:

Six of us gathered in the bright but chilly forecourt of the Canoe Centre – three of us equipped in usual day-ride trim, two on fixed gears and one poor soul who’d decided to see how his bike rode with a week’s worth of touring gear strapped to it!

Brian led us off into the sunshine and down the A45 cycle-path before dispatching the climbs into Cogenhoe and Grendon in a brisk-ish fashion before we hauled ourselves through Wollaston and into Podington to find Eleanor basking in the sun while waiting for us to turn up.

After a quick comfort/shopping stop at the garden centre, we rolled eastwards and out onto the A6 (the road itself, because some berk had parked his car right on the cycle path) then past the motte-and-bailey at Yelden and up to the old airfield at Bedford, familiar to those who’ve ridden the Guy Barber ride.

Lunch was at a very good garden centre café in Milton Ernest. Not only had they reserved us a table but they’d had to because the place was so busy. I guess it must be spring or something. Anyway, highly recommended for future stops.

The return leg was just as pleasant with a steady roll through Felpersham, sorry Felmersham, and Bozeat before hitting the lovely swooping lanes behind Castle Ashby. Discretion being the better part of valour, Brian elected to give Whiston Hill a miss and so we took the easy way round to Cogenhoe (with its unmissable hill), the group starting to split as various riders turned for home on the way. The small rise to Little Houghton and a brief sprint along the A428 brought the ride (well just me actually, the others all having split off by now) back to the Canoe Centre just before a quarter past three, with the sun still shining and the forecourt considerably warmer than it had been when we left.

Thanks to Brian for a pleasant day’s ride, and for searching out a new lunch stop for us.

See you next time!