A local Sustrans ride

This afternoon I went along to my local university (the main campus of the University of Northampton is less than five minutes away) at the invitation of Dan Romberg who is Sustrans’ university officer there.  With a colleague who works in local schools, he has a project to reduce congestion in the “Kingsthorpe corridor”.  With two other CTC friends – John and Phil L – I was to help him lead a group ride out to, and then along, the Brampton Valley Way.  The individuals who made up the group were staff members from the university, most of whom lived locally and might be helped to make a decision to cycle to work rather than always travelling by car.

It was a great afternoon! Sustrans has found the money for half-a-dozen new hybrid bikes.  (By coincidence from Pitsford Cycles where my touring bike is presently being serviced.)  We collected them from a secure bike park and this was to be their first outing.  Dan had checked them in advance and my job was to adjust the saddle height for the riders who chose them.  When the ride started, I was Tail-End Charlie.

We went out through the quiet roads of two or three housing estates (including the one where I live) with just a short stretch of 300 metres along the A508 before turning onto a great downhill down Brampton Lane.  Hats went flying!

We re-grouped at the start of the Brampton Valley Way.

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and then there was no stopping anyone!  One or two stretches of the path, where it was exposed, were bitterly cold but in the sheltered parts (which form the majority) it was lovely and … sunny!

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Our leader, Dan!

We passed the restored Pitsford railway and the Merry Tom crossing and almost reached the Brixworth-to-Spratton road – before someone remembered that a pub stop had been promised!  We turned about and pedalled to an old favourite, “The Windhover”.  The first puncture (someone had been flailing hedges and there were thorns aplenty) happened just before the pub.  The rider manfully carried on until it could be repaired indoors!

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Well-earned refreshment

Dan was a whizz at repairing the puncture inside the pub.  I don’t think I’ve seen that before.

And then, finding a quiet way back to the university, our second puncture happened just having left the pub.  Dan was even faster at getting that one repaired.  John had chosen a route that didn’t take in too much hill climbing although, because we’d all enjoyed the chatter in the pub, dusk was upon us.  The Sustrans bikes had lights and so all was well.

Everyone had enjoyed themselves, agreed that the exercise had been good fun, and some were enquiring about other organised rides – and indeed the possibility of cycling to work once or twice a week!

Part of the route – from the University to The Windhover is here.

A great afternoon!

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A Brompton Ride along the Thames

A grand day out with the London Brompton Club!

An early start to catch the 0733 train from Northampton to Euston and then a quick pedal to reach Charing Cross Station at 9.00 a.m. where the Club was meeting.IMGP5749

We pedalled along the Strand, past the Royal Courts of Justice and into the City.  Soon we were speeding past the Tower of London and dipping down a side road to St Katherine’s Dock for the first photo shoot.

IMGP5751Two fellow bloggers: Orange Brompton and Bumble Bee

Canary Wharf seems prosperous, especially next to the original parts of the Isle of Dogs but then there was a brilliant surprise – the Mudchute Farm – for elevenses.  We had our first sight of our final destination, the Old Royal Naval College.IMGP5755  Then we went under the Thames by the Greenwich Foot Tunnel.IMGP5759 We popped beside the Cutty Sark for the one climb of the day up Greenwich Park to Wolfe’s statue beside the Observatory to look down on the College.IMGP5760

To shelter from the rain, we found a bandstand.IMGP5764A steep swoop down to the riverside and a circumnavigation of the Millennium Dome (or O2 Arena), under the cable cars, and onto the Thames Barrier café for lunch.IMGP5772

Then a second crossing, again under the river, but by the much quieter Woolwich Foot Tunnel.IMGP5775No lift here though – so 127 steps to climb.IMGP5776This pops up at Silvertown with a good view of the barrier.IMGP5778From here it’s a short ride to the northern end of the cable car ride at the Royal Docks.IMGP5770The cable car ride (the Emirates Air Line) was a great giggle!  Deposited on the south side of the river again, we made our way to the Old Royal Naval College.IMGP5786And studied the beers on offer at the Meantime Brewery!In the  meantime!

I then pedalled back to Euston via Goldsmiths College.IMGP5791

I first walked through this door in December 1965!

Then I crossed Tower Bridge and a meander through Bethnal Green, eventually finding Roseberry Avenue and Grays Inn Road to get to the station!

Route here.

Hedge laying – a third update

My friend John Cutler writes:

For progress on hedge see this photo:

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To earn one’s living it is necessary to do a chain per day.  Half that has taken me a week.  The beech hedge is much easier as it was laid about twelve years ago.  Now I shall manage it lower and wider and neater than hitherto and probably will never lay it again.  Next season, if I find I have become addicted to this endlessly fascinating and satisfying craft, it is possible that I shall run amok over the countryside laying hedges in all directions!

Hedge laying – a second update

John Cutler has kindly kept me in touch with his hedge laying.

I wrote a first update, with some photos, here.

This photo shows new planting along John’s front hedge.

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His son Quinn (whom I used to teach) helped him plant 165 plants: fifty hawthorn on the original line to fill gaps and the remainder on garden side to form a double row to encourage wildlife.  These plants are of six other species: hazel, crab apple, wild pear, damson, cherry plum and sweet briar.  Also visible is ‘dead hedging’ which is twigs stuck in to make it look less gappy until some growth appears in a year or two.

Brilliant, John!

Twenty-four hours in the life of a Brompton

On Friday evening, I had planned to go to the Fridays’ LonJoGers Reunion in Clapham.  Train ticket had been booked well in advance for the 1725 from Northampton to Euston.  The train system, however, wasn’t playing along – the overhead cables at Hanslope, just north of Milton Keynes, had become dreadfully tangled – like a kitting playing with a  ball of wool.  Where coach travel could be laid on, there were coaches from Northampton to Milton Keynes – but the train service south of MK to London was dreadfully disrupted.  And there were coaches (albeit only a few) from Northampton to Wellingborough to catch the unaffected service into St Pancras.

Brompton to the rescue.  It was a simple decision to pedal from home to Wellingborough station – and this had the added attraction that the route would take me near the site of the first LonJoGers’ breakfast at Wellingborough Tesco.  I didn’t eat another breakfast but did catch a quiet and efficient train into St Pancras.

A short pedal took me to Stanford’s in Covent Garden to buy a couple of maps for an Italian adventure in early May.  And then I was pedalling on to Clapham via Waterloo Bridge, the Elephant & Castle and the Cycle Superhighway that is the broad blue line painted down the A3 (Kennington Park Road and Clapham Road).  This is the most used of Boris’s Superhighways and, at six o’clock on a Friday evening I was witness to its use by dozens and dozens of cyclists.

Clapham Park Road was easy to find and then eventually The Coach & Horses just after the road took a left turn.  And an excellent reunion it was – hosted by Simon and Susie.  Shepherd’s pie, prosecco and lashing of Wandle, the locally brewed ale.

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And plenty of catching up with friends from the great LonJoG adventure.

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That’s Olaf in the backgroundIMGP5735

and Xi looking at the camera.

The evening rushed by; farewells were made; and I set off for Twickenham where I had a bargain room (£19) at the Premier Inn.  Further pedalling along the A3, but very shortly onto the A205 and then the A305 into Richmond and then out the A305 Staines Road through Twickenham.  A huge room, a comfortable bath and a comfortable bed.

On Saturday morning, the Brompton re-traced its route along the A 305 to Richmond Bridge.

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and on to the Costa Coffee near Richmond Station which was the London Brompton Club’s meeting point

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You may recognise John, Mr O, who blogs as Orange Brompton.  Anyway, we were marshalled by David Parkinson who was to lead the group out into Surrey and a climb of Box Hill.  First, elevenses at Headley Village Hall:

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A beautiful descent from Headley to the foot of the Zig Zag Road gave us an indication of the task ahead:

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a task which everyone accomplished in good humour.  Here we are at the National Trust café at the summit

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and, two hundred metres further along, a spectacular view south

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On the way back to Richmond we met Alasdair, a man who takes personalising his Brompton to an extreme

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We entered Richmond via the Thames Path.  Here we are opposite Eel Pie Island

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Leaving Richmond I made it a point of honour to pedal back to St Pancras following the A205 again and then heading for Putney Bridge.  New King’s Road was very busy (some unimportant football match) so I made it through Chelsea, Sloane Square, Knightsbridge, Hyde Park Corner and what I think is the quickest route – up Park Lane, Edgeware Road and Euston Road to the station.

At St Pancras, East Midlands railway staff told me the west coast line had been untangled so I retraced the route to Euston.  A fairly quick train back to Northampton station and I pedalled home.

Here’s a link to the Endomondo recorded route from St Pancras on Friday evening back to St Pancras on Saturday evening.  It comes out at just over eighty miles.  Add ten miles from home to Wellingborough station and four miles from Northampton station to home and the Brommie reached a total of 95 miles on its little adventure.