Origami Phoenix Ride

11th December 2004 – Meriden to Hampton in Arden Christmas Ride

December means that the Origami Ride is also our Christmas Ride, with a stop for a rather more formal sit-down meal than is sometimes the case. This year the start point was Meriden, for a ride to The Engine at Hampton in Arden for lunch - about 2Km away by the direct route, but of course we were following a much more circuitous route.

My rail journey was somewhat complicated by the inevitable engineering works - this time the line was closed between Wolverhampton and Birmingham, with bustitution. Since the buses were not a very useful substitute, I rode instead into Birmingham, where I met Paul "Three Bromptons" Evans, Susan Barlow and Dave Minter to catch a train to Hampton in Arden. I won't say that we travelled together, as Paul and I ended up in one half of the train and Dave and Susan in the other - for some odd reason 2 Class 323s coupled together were being used (usually a single 4-coach 321 or a single 323), and there is no means of getting from one part to the other. Interestingly, this meant the train was too long to fit some of the stations en route, so it was not stopping there, and buses were being provided instead, which cannot have been a very good way of providing a service. Fortunately for us, Hampton in Arden has very long platforms, so the train was stopping thee (Hampton in Arden used to be a major stopping point used by commuters travelling to London, before Birmingham International station and the NEC existed, and a few expresses stopped there in the early morning and evening). These oddities apart, the journey to Hampton in Arden, and then on by road to Meriden was uneventful.

Due to the fact that I had to ride to and from Birmingham, I had abandoned my original intention to use either a Moulton Stowaway or the Airframe for the event, and opted instead for the Dahon Jetstream XP - much more suited to the longer ride. Paul, Dave and Susan were all using Bromptons, Paul's boasting a brand new rear wheel (he was using his original one with the "Welsh Gears"). Although the new train timetables meant that we arrived a bit earlier than usual, we were please to find other Origami-ists already ensconced at the the Tearooms. As we settled down to the usual (optional!) substantial breakfast, we were joined by other riders, both regulars and some new or relatively new faces. By 11:00, there were no less than 21 people starting the ride - a really excellent turnout by any standards, but especially for this time of year.

Apart from the inevitable Bromptons, the bikes included several Moultons (AM, APB and original F-frame models), 2 Birdys, 2 Micros (one current, one an early Cross example), the Dahon XP, a couple of Dawes Galaxys and even an 1895 bicycle fitted with wooden wheel rims! Star of the show though was Phil Wray, whose hat suited the occasion, and was riding one of the 'new' Raleigh Choppers. Although he is one of our strongest riders, I think it is fair to say that even he found the ride hard work on this bike!

As the ride set off, Dick Hanson discovered a loose headset on his Micro, and had to make some swift adjustments, by which time the main group had disappeared. Fortunately we guessed the route, and swiftly caught them up near Berkswell. This was the only bike -related event of the whole ride, and we were able to ride at a gentle pace, enjoying glorious sunny weather, through an interesting collection of lanes, and stopping to look at various houses and other places of interest on the way - the stop at the Saracens Head shown here (Dick's Micro is in the foreground) was strictly because of its historic interest, not for refreshment (on this occasion).

After following a rather circular route, we found ourselves re-entering Berkswell from a different direction, and we stopped to look at the well which gives the village its name - there are a number of other things of potential interest in Berkswell, and we may well make a point of planning a longer stop there sometime.

Although I regularly ride from Berkswell to Hampton in Arden, on my way home from the university, our ride leader had found a route I had never used before, which took us close to the railway line and over Packhorse Bridge on the approach to Hampton in Arden. The Engine, our lunch stop, is situated almost next to the station, and here we were able to sit down to lunch at two large tables - our organiser had made a booking before hand to ensure that we would be expected. A good range of food was available, and this was well prepared, served quickly, and at a very reasonable price - excellent service.

One problem with riding at this time of year is that it gets dark early, and knowing that I had to cycle back from Birmingham, I made a fairly speedy exit at the end, although in view of the light none of us were able to dawdle over the meal in the way that perhaps we might have done otherwise. An visit I'd made to the station before lunch seemed to indicate that trains might be a bit erratic at the local station, so I decided to cycle to nearby Birmingham International, where nearly all the trains, not just the locals, stop, and I was joined by Paul Stobbs (on the Cross Micro) for this section of the ride - the others were returning to Hampton in Arden.

I timed my arrival at Birmingham International quite well, and was able to squeeze on to a rather full Virgin Voyager which arrived just as I had finished folding the bike on the platform. By the time we arrived at Birmingham it was already dark enough to need to use lights for the 17Km ride back home, which, on busy main roads in the dark, was not especially enjoyable, but incident free.

This was another very enjoyable Origami Ride, and thanks are due to all the large number of people who came along, but of course especially to the organisers, Trevor and Irene Batchelor, whose planning of the route and lunch arrangements were excellent, and who also managed to get us some exceptionally good weather for the event.

Copyright (C)2004 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 17 December 2004