A splendid day riding a Brompton in Herefordshire

Just over a week ago, I had a lovely day out in Herefordshire, attracted by The Folding Society‘s “Origami Ride” for July.

An early start saw me pedal to Northampton railway station for the ticket office to open at 6.00 a.m.  Why not use the ticket machines as I normally do?  I wanted a “West Midlands Day Ranger” – travel anywhere in the West Midlands for a day for £14.50 (Railcard price); I bet you didn’t know that both Northampton and Hereford are in the “West Midlands”!  Anyway, it’s cheaper than buying a Northampton-to-Hereford off-peak day return.

At that time of the morning, the trains were very quiet, both from Northampton to Birmingham New Street and then from New Street to Hereford.

Hereford railway station is just to the north of the city centre – the right direction for Leominster – and a quick climb of Aylestone Hill brings you to lovely country roads.  Quiet again on a Saturday morning and still quite cool during this heatwave, the route I’d planned took me through Sutton St Nicholas and Bodenham.  Two hundred yards on the A49 and then a B road in Leominster.

I’d only cycled once before in Leominster – during my Land’s End to John O’Groats trip in 2010 when I stayed at Leominster Youth Hostel behind the Abbey.  This time I met up with the Folding Society at Savery’s Café on Broad Street.  As ever, FoldSoc members are very socialble indeed and, as we chatted over coffee and cake, we had to be reminded that we were there for a bike ride!

Local riders chatted about cycling in Herefordshire and, not too far away, in The Malverns – with an Elgar cycling route – so that’s been added to my “must do” list.  In Kingsland we missed a turn because the leader and I were deep in conversation but we were soon at Shobden  and its airfield where a converted WWII Nissen hut was to be our lunchtime café.  I enjoyed the draught cider which was nice and cold on the hottest day of the year so far!  Not quite up to Normandy cider though!

After Shobden, it wasn’t far to Eardisland and a quirky village tea room run from the proprietors’ house – we sat under the shade of trees in their back garden.  The shortest leg of the day was back from Eardisland to Leominster.

After quick good-byes to my friends, I pedalled back the way I had come to Hereford.  It was hot but my Brompton moved quickly and it felt great.  I went past the railway station and into the city centre to look at the Cathedral.

At the west door of Hereford Cathedral

At the west door of Hereford Cathedral

The trains were as pleasant on the return journey as they had been in the morning and by the time I pedalled home from Northampton railway station it was just about nine o’clock in the evening.

A splendid day out!  Fifty-five miles pedalled on the Brompton.  A map of the route in Herefordshire here.

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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.

The Fridays’ Tour – London to John O’Groats (LonJoG)

Well, I’m making a fresh start.  Tomorrow at midnight, at Hyde Park Corner, I join a large group of friends for a ride to John O’Groats.

I’m only going to ride as far as Wellingborough, the stop for the first breakfast, and then I’ve offered my services as a driver of the support van.

The purpose of this Blog now will be to record daily, I hope, our adventures.

Don’t expect anything too literary or imaginative from me.  I’m a rather factual writer.  On previous tours, I’ve just kept a small notebook or diary and written an entry each evening.  That’s what I’ll try to do over the next week albeit in electronic format.

Very excited!