Cycling Britain: Day 5

Milton Keynes → Northampton → Market Harborough → Leicester → Copt Oak

[Overpass with no streetlights] With Chris' bike newly repaired, we resumed our journey North. On our fifth trip through Milton Keynes I spotted something odd about this overpass. There are no streetlights on the road above.

[Canal overpass] Ah, that's why. It's not a road, it's a canal.

[Northampton street] The first goal was to get to Northampton. It was only a few miles away, but once we reached it we were guaranteed never to have to return to dreaded Milton Keynes.

[Cycle path] This accomplished, we joined a cycle path that was built on the road bed of an old railway. One nice thing about cycle paths based on rail corridors is that they are straight and flat.

[Tunnel entrance] When this cycle path intersected a couple of hills, we were provided with long dark tunnels cutting straight through to the other side.

[Steam engines and signals] The other surprise was when freshly laid track appeared on this disused rail corridor. This was followed by an eclectic array of rolling stock, steam and diesel locomotives, and other railroad paraphernalia. At the end of this bizarre stretch of track we encountered a man making repairs to a bridge. According to him the railroad was slowly being rebuilt by volunteers such as himself. On weekends they would hang 'Thomas the Tank Engine' faces on the fronts of their locomotives and charge admission for children, thereby generating funds to rebuild the railroad.

[Canal boats and towpath] Once we reached Market Harborough the cycle path left the rail bed, went up a steep hill (think about this), and joined the towpath of a canal which led to Leicester. We passed several barges piloted by enthusiastic amateurs. These pilots were issued with universal keys which allowed them to unlock and control the hand-powered locks and swing bridges along the canal.

[Leicester city centre] A quick pass through Leicester was enough to show that it was a disaster in urban planning. The center of the city has been bulldozed to make way for expressways and huge interchanges. As an afterthought some cycle lanes were added, but they didn't actually lead anywhere and rarely lasted for more than two blocks before being squeezed out of existence.

[Copt Oak hostel] Our hostel was located in Copt Oak, several miles away from Leicester, and at the top of a rather formidable set of hills. In all it was an extremely interesting, productive and exhausting day.

< Prev | Up | Next >