The Sustrans / University of Northampton ride

The event took place last Wednesday and was a great opportunity to meet people.  I met George Pollard, the new Sustrans officer at the University.  And then he equipped half-a-dozen students with bikes from his Sustrans “fleet”.  Two more helpers turned up: John from the CTC and Bill, George’s brother, of Bomberdrome and Ministry of Bicycles fame.

We made a little alternative to the planned route down to the Brampton Valley Way – going through Obelisk Spinney into Boughton rather than down Lynton Avenue to the A508.

 

The students were keen on the fast descent of Brampton Lane and enjoyed the flat BVW going further than they thought.  With of course the result that there was further to pedal back!

The limit of our adventure: the BVW at the Brixworth-to-Spratton road

The limit of our adventure: the BVW at the Brixworth-to-Spratton road

A non-alcoholic break was taken at The Windhover, hosted by George (Sustrans’ expenses exclude the taking of alcoholic beverages.

Refreshments at The Windhover

Refreshments at The Windhover

Then we were off along the BVW towards Kingsthorpe, leaving at Kentstone Avenue before a slightly gentler climb up to the University.  And one little alternative again: straight along Reynard Way to use the toucan crossing of Holly Lodge Drive.

The students all enjoyed it.  The prize for those who had come the furthest went to the three Greek students on Erasmus exchanges!

Route here: http://ridewithgps.com/trips/2183486 and the Greek girls were very pleased to have cycled 20 kilometres!

Advertisements

Recce’ing a ride for Sustrans / University of Northampton

Thursday morning was bright and mild – almost spring-like – and so I decided it would be an ideal time for recce’ing a short ride being organised next week for students at my local university by Sustrans.  I think it’s part of the university’s Environment Week.

The fun part of the ride is to be along the traffic-free Brampton Valley Way (BVW).  The problem is to find a safe route from the university to the BVW – and another safe route back again – for cyclists who may well be inexperienced or nervous in motor traffic.

With friends John and Phil, I’d helped on a smiler ride last year but couldn’t remember the safe route back.  And I have to admit that that part of Kingsthorpe (between the BVW and the Welford Road) is a bit of a mystery triangle for me.

So, I started at the University and got quickly down to The Windhover where the A5199 crosses the BVW and I remembered two pieces I’d read by fellow Kingsthorpe Blogger “baptissimo”.  In his blog “Searching for Lucia” he’d written about a tile mosaic erected beside the path.  And then he’d found another one!

So, instead of just recce’ing a safe way back, I pedalled along the BVW (We’ll be going along there with the university group on Wednesday anyway).  Met three ladies; asked them; no, they hadn’t seen any mosaics.  And then I did – just where the restored railway begins.

A ghostly figure enjoys a cup of coffee

A ghostly figure enjoys a cup of coffee

A quick pedal back; chat with the three women (their dogs must have been slow); onto the BVW going south from The Windhover.  What a lovely surface for that part of the Way!  And then nipping through a jitty into Kentstone Close, it was a safe journey back to the University.

Now the upside to all this is that Carole Miles commented on “Searching for Lucia” and identified herself as the artist.  The mosaics project is called “Marking a Fine Lane” and there are some excellent photos by the splendidly named MacCanonymous here on Flickr.

Here’s the route I’ll suggest to Sustrans: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/3924804

A cycle route saved! But an opportunity lost!

I attended a meeting of Northamptonshire County Council’s Cabinet for their discussion of the re-opening of Abington Street in Northampton town centre to traffic.

I went to County Hall yesterday afternoon silently supporting the Cycle Touring Club (CTC) Right-to-Ride Officer who was going to exercise his right, as a member of the public, to address the Cabinet.  (An individual is entitled to up to three minutes to make his or her points.  This happens at the start of an agenda item before the Cabinet Member with responsibility for the item speaks.)
John and I met in Reception and parked our bikes in the 18th-century Courthouse Room before being invited into the Blue Room to attend the meeting.  Seven members of the Cabinet were meeting and the room was packed with other councillors.  I was a little surprised at this but a journalist from the Chronicle & Echo to whom I got chatting said that our item was the one which had attracted them.  I’d wrongly assumed it would be the item after ours – about HS2!
In the absence of Cllr Jim Harker, the Council Leader, the meeting was chaired by Cllr Heather Smith, the Deputy Leader.  She took the meeting briskly through the first five items, all procedural ones.  Item 6 was a review of Special Educational Needs Units (which I sort of found interesting as a retired teacher).  And then it was Item 7 and John’s turn to speak.
John was very good.  He opened with CTC’s objection to the making of St Giles Terrace one-way for all vehicles (severing the west-east cycle route from the Railway Station to Billing Road), following up with observations on the opportunity to make the town centre more cycle-friendly (this time by allowing two-way cycling in Abington Street) in preparation for the re-location of the university to the town centre.
He reminded Cabinet that they had adopted a Cycling Strategy in 2013 to encourage cycling in all schemes – and yet here was the Highways Department entirely forgetting this.
Very soon John’s three minutes were up and, from the floor, he received a loud round of applause!  We were both surprised and delighted at this.  Later, however, it became clearer that the applause – from opposition party Councillors – was politically motivated and may not have helped our case with the ruling party on Cabinet.
Another member of the public – an Abington Street trader – used his three minutes to suggest reducing the use of disabled parking bays in the proposed scheme.
Cllr Michael Clarke then introduced his report.  He made one concession: St Giles Terrace will remain two-way south of The Ridings (hence preserving the current cycle route).  But he then spoke against two-way cycling in Abington Street (missing, in our opinion, an opportunity to enhance provision).  Nevertheless, a concession gained – and gained, I feel, thanks to the number of my fellow CTC members who had e-mailed the consultation process with our objections!  (Cllr Clarke: “This is a listening Council …”)
The floor was then opened to other county councillors.  Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors spoke against the TRO.  Their objections, however, were not against the details of the arrangements but against the scheme in principle.  In fairness, this had already been decided by the Borough Council and was in the Conservative manifesto for the Borough Council elections.  Cllr Smith, in the chair, reminded them of this but they were having none of it!  You can read the Chronicle and Echo’s report here.  (“Further criticism for plan to reopen part of Abington Street to traffic”)  This is when I realised that the applause for John’s comments were not in support for cycling but a bit of party knockabout.
Last speaker from the floor was the leader of the Borough Council, David Macintosh.  He was heckled by opposition County Councillors.  And Cllr Smith was, in my opinion, a little easier on him when he strayed away from the TRO onto the scheme in principle!  (The relevant gist: a marvellous TRO and Highways Department had been wonderful …)
Then something happened that reminded me of rowdy teenage boys in a classroom!  The councillors on the floor began to argue amongst themselves, swearing loudly!  I think the chair was a little non-plussed at this.  She asked for an end to swearing.  ”You tell him off for swearing then!  He swore at me first!” said one – clearly finding his inner thirteen-year-old.  Amazing!
None of the other Cabinet members contributed and the discussion concluded with Cllr Smith declaring that the report on the TRO was passed.

A London Tourette

On Sunday 29th December I joined The Fridays‘ annual Xmas/New Year Day Ride.  This year’s ride was christened the London Tourette by Simon, the Fridays’ leader, and was a ride around the city’s best architecture.  We started, as usual, at Hyde Park Corner and finished, as usual, at All Bar One, Shad Thames.  On the way we made eight stops and Simon, himself an architect, gave a personal account of his choices.

Getting there

Getting to Hyde Park Corner by 10.30 a.m. by public transport from Northampton was not easy on the Sunday between Christmas and New Year.  No trains were running south of Watford Junction but a bus replacement service was promised for the final part of the journey.  I left home on my Brompton folding bike in the dark on the frostiest morning of the winter so far.  From Kingsthorpe onwards the roads were clearer but became frosty again on approaching the station.  No mishaps and I caught the 0753 service.  The ticket collector announced that the promised bus replacement was cancelled but that passengers could use the London Overground from Watford Junction instead.  The train arrived late and missed the Overground connection but a replacement coach was offered. This turned out to be an “express” service in that it didn’t stop at Harrow & Wealdstone!  It reached Euston just before 10.00 a.m.

Three miles of quick pedalling along a direct route (quiet on this Sunday morning) meant that I was one of the earliest to arrive at Hyde Park Corner.  By 10.30 a.m. we were ready to go – and the Tourette proved to be well worth the effort.

The Household Cavalry see us at the beginning of our ride

The Household Cavalry see us at the beginning of our ride

1 Westbourne Grove public toilets and florists, Piers Gough, 1993

Westbourne Grove public toilets and florists, Piers Gough, CZWG, 1993

Westbourne Grove public toilets and florists

Our first stop was at these remarkable public lavatories (unfortunately closed on Sundays).  Local residents took the initiative of commissioning this design as an alternative to Kensington & Chelsea Council’s own mediocre proposal. An area of triangular paving was reclaimed from the centre of two diverging roads and furnished with benches and trees. The plan of the building echoes the triangular site with the lavatories at the wide end.  The plinth at the sharp end is partially enclosed by glass to form the florist’s kiosk.  Gough is an architect in the CZWG practice.

2 The Royal College of Organists, Kensington Grove, Henry Cole Jr, 1875

Royal College of Organists, Kensington Grove, Henry Cole Jr, 1875, with charming sgaffito decoration

Royal College of Organists with charming sgaffito decoration

This building – which looks to me as if it really belongs in a medieval town centre in Germany or Austria – is opposite the Royal Albert Hall on the west.  It was the original home of the Royal National Training School for Music, now the Royal College of Music.

3 Natural History Museum (Alfred Waterhouse, 1873-80) and shared space of Exhibition Road

Exhibition Road shared surface with Natural History Museum

Shared road surface outside the Natural History Museum

Waterhouse’s museum was a very modern building in the 1870s: an iron frame on which rest terracotta tiles, so much more interesting than the stodgy V & A next door.  The shared space controversy seems to have died down a bit.  Taxi drivers make life interesting.

4 The Michelin Building, 81 Fulham Road, François Espinasse, 1911

The Michelin Building, François Espinasse, 1911

The Michelin Building

To quote Simon, “Zut alors! You want decoration?  You got decoration!  The Age of Motoring has arrived.  To be followed by the Age of Eating Out.  Both involving Spare Tyres.”

Stained glass window featuring the original Bibendum

Stained glass window featuring the original Bibendum

Notice how the original Bibendum (or Michelin Man) was made of cycle tyres and had a pince-nez for eyes.

5 The Royal Danish Embassy, 55 Sloan Street, Arne Jacobsen, 1977

Royal Danish Embassy, Arne Jacobsen, 1977

Royal Danish Embassy, Arne Jacobsen, 1977

Designed by the late great Arne Jacobsen this modern embassy is shared by Iceland too.

6 Lambeth North Underground Station, Westminster Bridge Road, Leslie Green, 1906

Lambeth North Underground Station, Leslie Green, 1906 - ox-blood-red tiled façade, arches

Lambeth North Underground Station

Leslie Green designed over thirty London Underground stations in five or six years after 1900.  They have iron frames covered in ox-blood-red tiled façade and the semi-circular windows of the first storey – arches in all but name – indicated straightforwardly to the Victorians and Edwardians that these were railway stations!  The arch serves no purpose at this level – but railways meant arches!  The tiles were resistant to London soot.

Opposite this station is a church – a Congregationalist chapel – with an interesting historical connection.

Lincoln Tower above Christ Church Chapel, (1) E C Robins (2) Paull & Bickerdike, 1876

Lincoln Tower above Christ Church Chapel, (1) E C Robins (2) Paull & Bickerdike, 1876

Erected on the centenary of the United States Declaration of Independence, the driving force behind it was Christopher Newman Hall.  He had lectured extensively in support of the abolition of slavery during the American Civil War and afterwards he raised funds for the tower as a London memorial to President Lincoln.

Lincoln Tower - Stars & Stripes detail

Lincoln Tower – Stars & Stripes detail

7 Christ Church Spitalfields, Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1714-29

Christ Church Spitalfields, Nicholas Hawksmoor, 1714-29, west front

Christ Church Spitalfields –  west front

The highlight of the tour!  Christ Church Spitalfields makes it into Jenkins’ hundred best churches in his 1999 book “England’s Thousand Best Churches”.  Then – fourteen years ago – he noted that the restoration was far from complete: “the ceiling seems to rest … on gloom and dust”.  In 1970 the church was near to collapse but Jenkins was able to describe it as “London Baroque at its most self-confident” although he does quote Pevsner’s view that it “could not be called anything but ugly”.

Christ Church Spitalfields,  interior facing east

Christ Church Spitalfields, interior facing east

8 The Blue House, Hackney, FAT (Shaun Griffiths), 2002

The Blue House, FAT (Shaun Griffiths), 2002

The Blue House

A delightful final stop.  Domestic house and offices by FAT, the practice that has just announced that it is calling it quits.  We see the cut-out form of a diminutive pitched-roof house, stuck on to a cartoon office block.  “Adolf Loos on the inside, South Park on the outside,” as Griffiths put it.

And so to the bar

Ten minutes riding from Hackney, across Tower Bridge, and we were at Shad Thames where Simon had reserved tables for the group.  Much beer was drunk, food was eaten, conversations had, and plans made.  Old friends who had not made the ride were welcomed on arrival.  Like the whole day, a good time was had by all!

IMG_0250

Getting home

So much easier than getting from home!  A straightforward bit of pedalling from Tower Bridge to Euston station, a train to Northampton, and a final pedal saw me home by mid-evening.

My route for the day in London (starting and finishing at Euston station) is here on Ride with GPS.  My friend Els had an interesting account of the day here on her blog with additional pictures, often lovely little asides, here on Picasa.