30 Days of Biking – across five countries

Oh dear, I didn’t bike for 30 Days!  But I did bike in five different countries (England, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany).

I’ve borrowed my friend Iain Dawson’s words – and then added my own photographs – to describe (on the sister blog to this) our ride, as CTC Northampton, to meet up with our new “twin” organisation, ADFC Aachen in Germany.

You’ll find them here:

I’d like to express deep personal thanks to Sabine Neitzel, a lovely cyclist in Aachen who took in Alex and myself – two unknown cyclists – and looked after us for five days.  Sabine, you are magnificent!

A recce ride around London

With my friend Iain D, I went for a lovely ride around London last Saturday.  We rode our Bromptons to Northampton station, caught the 0850 and we were at Euston in under an hour.  The purpose?  To recce a ride we’ll offer to CTC Northampton in the summer.

I’d therefore better not, at this stage, disclose our route in detail.  Suffice to say that we are old-school – no fancy GPS gizmos on our handlebars; Iain D had worked out a route and written it down; I’d added one or two amendments and pinned my copy to my ‘bars (small print, though, so I had to wear my reading glasses throughout the day!).

The route is a mixture of main “tourist sights” (but they do look different from a bicycle saddle) and some obscure and eccentric sights (which are well worth seeking out).  It will be much appreciated, I’m sure.  Some uncaptioned photographic clues:


And shortly after photographing Virginia, we encountered this!


Isn’t it brilliant?

Well, that’s it for the moment.  I hope I’ve tickled your curiosity buds!

We caught a very fast train back from Euston, the 1649 gets into Northampton at 1741 – 52 minutes.

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.



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!


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!



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!

A bike ride to a jumble sale – with added Arts & Crafts / Garden Suburb features

Part of this ride I’ve already covered in the CTC Northampton blog here.

Four wet riders met in the pouring rain at Hunsbury: David, Phil, our leader Bill and me.  The destination was the A5 Rangers Clubhouse in Towcester which was hosting the annual Cyclists’ Jumble Sale!

We didn’t hang about for latecomers and Bill set a good pace to get us to Towcester and dry shelter!  It was the first time I’d been to this annual event and it was fascinating – not just for the items for sale but for the coffee and cake and, of course, the conversations with old friends.IMGP5682

The plan was always that we would make our ways home independently.  Phil pretty much turned round for the return leg straightaway; David must have followed him shortly afterwards; and Bill was to head for a cycle shop in Milton Keynes.

I had two lots of coffee and cake and felt fortified enough not just to skip lunch at Greens Norton (my original plan) but to add to that part of the loop by going through Abthorpe, Slapton and Bradden as well.  Route here.

From Hunsbury back to Hunsbury, this was 26 miles.  Add to and from home, and I enjoyed a  very damp but worthwhile 37 miles.

And then the bonus: returning to the town centre down Towcester Road, I stopped to photograph two houses which a friend who grew up in the area told me were the only houses built in a proposed Northampton Garden Suburb.  Presumably this was in the 1920s?  They looked to me like William Morris’s Red House (in Bexley) arrived in Northampton, perhaps via Philip Webb’s Worship Mews (in Shoreditch).  Here’s the most striking bit of their Arts & Crafts inheritance:



with a detail of the entrance doorway:



Here’s the whole house:



And here’s its next door neighbour:IMGP5683

and another view:



Now, Pevsner says nothing about this development in his volume on Northamptonshire.  A Google search reveals nothing.  And so I’ve added another item to my task list: to visit the Local Studies Department of the Central Library in Northamptonshire and see if it holds any further clues – beyond the oral history of my friend, Paul Bland.

Upgrading the Brampton Valley Way Cycle Path, part 2

At the end of CTC Northampton’s bike ride on Saturday morning Iain Dawson and I took the opportunity to look at and photograph the improvements to the Brampton Valley Way cycle path – this time where it goes under the Northampton-to-Rugby railway line (between King’s Heath and The Windhover).  I’ve written text and photos on the blog I maintain for CTC Northampton here:

Upgrading the Brampton Valley Way cycle path, part 2.

To whet your appetite, here’s a nice photograph of what I mean:


Upgrading the Brampton Valley Way cycle path

I was out for a bike ride this morning and took the opportunity to look at and photograph the improvements to the Brampton Valley Way cycle path (where it crosses the A5099 near The Windhover).  I’ve written text and photos on the blog I maintain for CTC Northampton here:

Upgrading the Brampton Valley Way cycle path.