Lovely weather on my day off so I went on a nice bike ride from Raunds to Oundle to join Jane and her sister Anne for lunch.
The route should be lovely, car free through Stanwick Lakes to Islip and then on to Aldwinckle with quiet back roads from there to Oundle. Total distance there is about 14 miles.
However, it is totally ridiculous when the right bike for a gentle ride through the regions premier visitor attraction followed by some bridal ways, quiet roads and a byway is a full suspension mountain bike.
Meadow Lane is a bridal way that connects Raunds to Stanwick Lakes. It is the only way to Stanwick Lakes for cyclists, pedestrians and mobility scooters that avoids crossing the A45 (at this point a busy dual carriageway) at a busy roundabout with no assistance. So it is an important route. The surface is so potholed that they have been patching it with piles of bricks. I kid you not, some potholes have been filled with bricks, the smallest pieces being about 1/4 brick size. The pothole filling has not been enough to avoid some points where puddles go right across the bridal way forcing pedestrians into the bushes.
At the bottom of Meadow Lane is an underpass going under the A45. Last time I rode through the flooding was so bad I got wet feet. This time an agile pedestrian and a mountain bike can get past reasonably clean and dry. After that you have to do through two tight kissing gates to get into Stanwick lakes. I think that a disabled person is supposed to be able to open the padlock to get through but the gates are not fitted properly so even if you had a key the gate will not open fully. My bike only fits if I lift the front wheel and balance it vertically on the back wheel. Stupid restrictions from someone who has never thought about getting a pushchair, child trailer, trailer bike, mobility scooter through.
Ok then into Stanwick Lakes, nice riding although the surface will rip through any road bike tyres so I guess 28mm or larger with good puncture resistance is needed.
As you approach Islip after you go under the A14 you are essentially abandoned. No clear track. I made the wrong choice and was cycling through a flood between the river and a small lake. Well over my shoes as I pedalled from hassock to hassock. What a crazy situation! Provide a nice facility at Stanwick Lakes and then not finish the routes to anywhere.
From Islip you can go along Mill Road, go round the fishing lake and get to Aldwinkle. Not too bad although the fishermen drive at crazy speeds on the rough gravel.
Aldwinkle to Oundle is nice quite back roads, if you are reasonably careful and not too heavy it will be ok on road bike wheels and tyres.
On the way home I took the drift Road/Byway from around Wadenhoe towards Islip. Impassible to any bike except a mountain bike and I wished I had grippier mud tyres.
So it was a nice 28 mile ride, but it should have been suitable for anyone with pretty much any bike. How can we claim to be encouraging cycling when for a simple ride between two towns (on what should be the obvious cycle route) you need a full suspension mountain bike and need to assume you will get wet feet.
Summary. Lovely countryside, pathetic cycle facilities.