Central London CTC blog

Ride reports, maps, pictures, announcements and other news …

One star Aviation Ride

Posted on Monday 29 January 2018 by Charles Harvey

Sometimes rides don’t go as you hoped. This one started badly when I had a spectacular blow out in my rear tyre en route to the station. Fortunately, I always take an early train if I’m leading a ride so I had time to fix it and still get to Radlett in time to meet seven other riders.

The theme of this ride was aviation history. It’s perhaps inevitable that I have an interest in it. My mother was in the Air Force during the war and I grew up near RAF Hendon, now the site of the RAF Museum. Our first stops were the two sites in Radlett occupied by 80 (Signals) Wing during the 2nd World War. They were occupied in trying to locate the navigation beams used by the German bomber force. They then used this knowledge to warn the defences about impending raids and worked to jam or distort the beams.

After brunch at the Orchard Café in Shenley Park, we headed towards Salisbury Hall. Sadly, we then had an accident. Colin went into a hedge after losing his balance when he went over a pothole that was disguised by a puddle. His handlebars were badly bent and his coat torn but, fortunately, he just had some minor scratches and carried on with the ride. It looks as though the handlebars took most of the impact.

At Salisbury Hall, we learned about its use during the last war by De Havilland’s design bureau. The Mosquito was designed there and the fighter prototype flown off from the field behind it. It is now the site of the De Havilland Aircraft Museum.

An off road route took us to the site of the former London Colney airfield. It was here that 56 Squadron, a crack fighter unit, worked up on the new SE5 fighter before heading of to France to take on the Richthofen squadron. We also visited Shenleybury Church Yard and saw the graves of two pilots killed in flying accidents there in 1918.

A bridlepath took us the across the airfield site. There’s no trace of the airfield now. It was simply a grass field and was returned to agriculture after 1918 though the hangars were subsequently used as warehouses and survived until about fifteen years ago.

The last part of the ride went wrong. My planned off road route to our final destination, the site of the former Handley Page works and airfield, was too muddy to ride on and the route we finally used was muddy and depressing, made ugly by fly tipping. When we got to Moor Mill, our planned tea stop, the staff claimed that they were too busy to serve us tea and coffee. Next time, we will skip this section of the ride.  We headed back along the main road to Radlett and just missed a train. To cap it all, my rear tyre blew out again just as I was getting home.

My thanks to John Silvertown and Pat Wheeler for acting as backstops.

Blue plaque ride, January 2018

Posted on Monday 15 January 2018 by Charles Harvey

For some years, Brian has led a ride visiting blue plaques in Camden and I have led one that visits blue plaques in Barnet. Last year we combined the two rides. It went well so we did it again this year.

13 riders met up by Finchley Road station at 10.00 and headed up a very steep slope that one had to push up. Our first stop was the plaque to Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who helped found both the Fabian Society and the London School of Economics. It would take pages to list every plaque, memorial or grave we looked at but those commemorated included Sigmund Freud, Edward Elgar, John Constable, Cecil Sharp, Robert Louis Stevenson, Evelyn Waugh, Harold Wilson, Tony Hancock and Ralph Richardson.

The route climbed up through Hampstead Village to the Whitestone Pond then down through North End to lunch at the café at Golders Hill Park. We then rode round the original part of Hampstead Garden Suburb and the Hampstead Heath Extension before pushing our bikes up a steep path on Hampstead Heath to near the Spaniards Inn. We returned to the Whitestone Pond and then descended past the plaque commemorating Paul Robeson’s time in London. A few doors away, I spotted another plaque to an Alfred Reynolds, a Hungarian philosopher and poet that even the Hungarian on our ride had never heard of. Can anyone enlighten me on how he came to get a blue plaque? We finished at the café at the Camden Arts Centre, close to our original start point.

The ride seems to have gone down well and Brian and I hope to lead another blue plaque ride next year. No doubt, we will tweak the route slightly. One thing we will change is to add to the entry on the rides list the advice to bring extra warm clothing. The ride is inevitably a stop start one as we stop to look at blue plaques and hear about the people they commemorate. So one does not build up heat as one would on a continuous ride. Two riders left the ride, one in the morning and one after lunch, as they were getting too cold.


Posted on Monday 8 January 2018 by Charles Harvey

This ride with an espionage theme was led under  Spokes’ auspices but was also put on the CLCTC rides list as a one star ride. It’s a ride I’ve led many times before and, since many people have already ridden it and it was very cold, I wasn’t expecting large numbers. Rather to my surprise, 16 people turned up at our rendezvous point at the Cha Café in Cassiobury Park.

Almost at once, we hit our first problem. Jiten had a puncture within a minute of starting. As we were just outside Watford Metropolitan Line Station and he could get home easily, he decided to turn back rather than let the rest of us get very cold while it was fixed. This self-sacrifice is much appreciated and I look forward to seeing him again on future rides.

From Watford, the ride went up through Whippendell Wood to Chandlers Cross and then to Belsize and Flaunden. All the time we were climbing gradually to the top of this part of the Chilterns. It was sunny and the wooded landscape looked attractive. We arrived at The Green Dragon at Flaunden at 12.00 just as it opened. The Green Dragon used to serve mainly Thai food but nowadays serves traditional pub grub and, this being Sunday, Sunday roast.

In the early 1950s, Guy Burgess often stayed in Flaunden and was a regular drinker at this pub. One day the landlord noticed Burgess in deep conversation with another man he did not recognise. Days later, the papers were full of details of the defection of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean to Moscow complete with photos and the landlord recognised who the other man was. More details here.

After lunch, we returned to Watford via Sarratt, which is the home of the Circus’s training school for agents in John Le Carre’s spy novels. We were going mainly downhill now and made it back to Watford about 15.00. The ride didn’t so much finish as disintegrate as riders peeled off to go to their homes. We planned to visit the Cha Café again, but with a queue stretching back to the entrance, we decided it wasn’t worth waiting and headed to Watford Junction station.


Epping Forest Transport Action Group

Posted on Saturday 6 January 2018 by Richard Philpott

As our rides frequently take us through the Epping Forest area, some of you may be interested in a group that has recently been formed to campaign for improved transport there. The Epping Forest Transport Action Group say that one of their highest priorities is developing and improving the cycling infrastructure.

They’d appreciate additional support from local cyclists, and have sent out the following invitation:

“If you’d like to meet us, we will be in the Last Post, in Loughton IG10 1BB on Saturday 24 February from 13.00 to 15.00. Allow us to buy you a drink and introduce ourselves. Even if you could only stop in for a few minutes, it would be great to see you.”

You can find out more, and sign up for their newsletter, on the EFTAG website.


Beer and Bunyan ride 23 Dec 2017

Posted on Monday 1 January 2018 by Charles Harvey

I’ve never led a ride so close to Christmas before so I was unsure how many riders I’d get. In the event, we had seven on the ride. As it was almost the shortest day of the year, the ride was inevitably a short one, especially as it included a trip to a brewery.

I first came across Farr Brew when I tried their beer at a blues gig by The Untouchables at Wheathampstead and I came across their beer again at the Kimpton Folk Festival. I’m always on the lookout for interesting places to take bike rides to so I’ve wanted to lead a ride to their brewery for some time. I finally found an open day at the brewery when I was free to lead a ride on the 23rd December. We rode out to the brewery, which is in farm outbuildings at Colemans Green, via Sandridgebury and Sandridge, taking about an hour. We stopped to have a look at the remains of a cottage where John Bunyan is believed to have stayed while preaching in the area. There’s no way or proving it but I’m inclined to believe that the tradition is true. Though Bunyan was based in Bedford, he did preach extensively in Hertfordshire and the county was a centre of religious dissent.

At the brewery, we had a half hour talk on how beer is brewed and the opportunity to have a beer there or take a bottle with us. Then it was back past the John Bunyan cottage to the John Bunyan pub for lunch.

After lunch, we had a short ride though Symondshyde Great Wood and Peacock Hill back to Sandridge for tea at the newly opened Heartwood Tea Rooms. Then it was back to St Albans while it was still light to catch the 15.48 train back to London.

My thanks to Pat Wheeler for acting as backstop throughout the ride.

One-star ride to the Docklands Museum

Posted on Tuesday 31 October 2017 by Charles Harvey

Rather to my surprise, 16 turned up for the ride. I suspect that it was the appeal of a late start and the fact that the clocks had gone back the previous night helped. Our start was slightly delayed when one of our number found she had a puncture in a tyre that was very hard to lever off the rim. Fortunately, there was a branch of Evans nearby where a mechanic was able to remove it easily without even using tyre levers. How do these professionals do it?

I’m quite shameless when it comes to recycling (pun intended) old rides. The route, best described as labyrinthine, was the same one as I used at Easter for Barnet Cyclists and number of Barnet Cyclist members who hadn’t been able to come at Easter joined us. The route twisted and turned until we reached CS3 at Lower Thames Street near Southwark Bridge. From there CS3 is almost a straight-line route to the Docklands Museum. En route, we looked at various plaques and memorials, to William Wallace, the Scottish patriot, to the Battle of Cable Street (commemorated by both a plaque and a mural) and to the chemist Sir William Perkin, who discovered the first aniline dye.

Once at the museum, we had two hours to have lunch and look round the museum. Few on the ride had been there before and were impressed by its size and the quality of the exhibits. We used the Thames Path to return and had some spectacular views of the river. Passing back through the City of London, we paused to look at Postman’s Park and George Frederick Watts’ distinctive memorial to those who lost their lives trying to save others. We returned to King’s Cross at 16.00.

I’d like to record my particular thanks to Geoff Stilwell, who acted as backstop throughout the ride. The fact that nobody got separated from the group in what was a complicated and twisty route is due to him.

Photo competition

Posted on Monday 4 September 2017 by Richard Philpott

At our AGM on Friday 10 November attendees will be deciding the winner of our new photo competition.

Photos of our rides sent to me (Richard Philpott) between 1 October 2016 and 30 September 2017 (our club year) inclusive will be included in the “Recent Rides” album on our website and will be reviewed by a small judging panel.

Those considered to be the best ten will be on display at the AGM, with the final winner decided by a vote of those attending.

My Ride London

Posted on Thursday 17 August 2017 by Charles Harvey

I was heavily involved in this year’s Ride London but never did any cycling on either day. On the Saturday FreeCycle event, I was on a Dr Bike stall run by CyclingUK (a.k.a. CTC). I’d responded to an appeal for volunteers from CyclingUK and duly turned up at St Pauls at 08.30.

It turned out to be a much bigger operation than I’d expected. There were about 15 people on my stall and it was one of six. Many of the volunteers had travelled a long way to help out.


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