The weather on Friday 12th was not promising for this ride - some quite brisk snow showers in the Coventry-Birmingham-Dudley areas, and at 7:30am on the Saturday there was some quite heavy rainfall, which meant that I arrived at my local station already quite wet, my Dry Bags failing to live up to their name. The train journey proved very straightforward for me - local train to Smethwick Galton Bridge, change lines, and from there direct to Stratford, with both the trains running perfectly on time. The weather gradually improved, so that by the time I reached Stratford (rather early, but the next train would have cut it rather fine) the sun was out and conditions were very pleasant. We met up at the Café Fresco inside Safeways Mega Store close to the station, where we were able to get some food, coffee etc (though the service was extremely slow). By the time we left at 10:30, 17 riders were present, and the bikes consisted of a Fold-It, Birdy Red, Moulton AM7/14, two fx Moultons, 1 older Moulton APB, an immaculate Moulton Stowaway, 2 SPs and the remainder were Bromptons. We were almost immediately on cycle tracks on route 26, where there was no traffic, although dogs wandering in front of us did present quite a hazard at times. Along the path we passed a very smart railway carriage in GWR livery which had opened that day as a cafe - several riders expressed disappointment that we didn't stop there for more refreshment! Our coffee stop was at Barn Antiques Centre, just before Lower Quainton. No sooner had we secured our bikes, gone inside and sat down than there was a heavy rain shower, which had stopped by the time we emerged half an hour later - perfect timing!
We reached the lunch stop, The Red Lion at Illmington, at about 12:45, where we
were joined by Jane Grogan, who unfortunately is not able to ride at present due
to a knee problem.
Although the cooker had just expired, we were still able to get
satisfying meals in the form of sandwiches, chips etc, plus some liquid
refreshment, and we were delighted to find the weather still dry and
sunny when we emerged soon after 2:15 to start the ride back to
Stratford. Over lunch some alterations were made to the planned return
route, so that a tea stop could be made at the railway carriage cafe
which we had passed in the morning. Apart from this revised section,
the return route was different from the outward journey, and it was not
long after leaving Illmington that we had the most significant bicycle
incident - on the the fx Moultons suffering a front tyre explosion,
fortunately without damage to the rider. As a local, he was able to
summon assistance, so we left him waiting for this to arrive while the
rest of us continued on our ride. In order to avoid one rather awkward
section of the original route, we used a piece of farm track, which was
slightly muddy and rough in places, and it was here that the second fx
ran into minor difficulties, the rear mudguard somehow slipping round
in its mountings. Some brute force restored it to its correct position
quite quickly, but on this section some of the Bromptons also struggled
a bit, the mud as usual presenting a problem with the extremely small
mudguard clearances which these bikes have.
The tea stop at the railway carriage proved welcome, as we had been riding a few gentle hills just before then, and though the hills themselves were not particularly severe, there was quite a strong head wind. While we were at the tea stop our missing fx rider reappeared, but on a large-wheeled machine! We also encountered, quite by accident, another folder enthusiast, who, it transpired, is the uncle of well-known folder character David Edge.
Our group photo was taken just before we left the tea stop and set off
on the final leg back to Stratford. Train times meant that Susan
Barlow, Dave Minter and I sprinted on ahead towards the end, as by
doing so we would just be able to catch the 4:20, and would have to
wait another hour if we missed it (we were the only ones who travelled
to and from the event by train.
This was a very successful ride in some different country, and Paul Grogan's planning and organisation was excellent. The total distance was billed as being 26 miles - although not particularly hilly, this was compensated for by the head wind and by the additional effort required on the softer surface of cycle tracks and tracks. By the time I got home, my personal distance was 55Km. I had originally planned to use my 'new' Stowaway, but the poor weather conditions when I left home resulted in a switch to my APB, as this was already dirty. I was glad of the decision in the end because of the head winds, and the fact that Paul's superb Stowaway would really have made mine look very tatty! Many of us felt that a return visit would be welcome, and so we may go to the area again next year, if we can fit it into the already quite full calendar!
Many thanks to Paul for organising the ride, and for somehow arranging that the weather was fine when we were riding (by the time I changed trains at Smethwick Galton Bridge on the way back, it was showing signs of rain again).
Copyright (C)2004 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 14 March 2004