On a lovely sunny Sunday, a group of 12 people (Dympna, Anne, Tony, Meade and Viv, Tim, Kieran, Geoff and Hannah, John and Jean) assembled at Flitwick Station at about 11:15 ready to set off on the ride with George in the lead.
We set off over the railway bridge on the road through Greenfield towards Flitton where we passed the impressive St John the Baptist church.
When we reached Silsoe Village, after a short stretch on the High Street we turned left into Wrest Park.
The ride through Wrest Park passes the stately home and then follows a very rough track across fields to the top of a hill and down the other side. A good place for memorable photos!
When we reached the bottom of the track, we all followed John’s advice and inspected our tyres for small stones and sharp things – and certainly nobody had a puncture during the remainder of the ride. The rough track had provided a vital connection enabling us to avoid a diversion and a section of A road.
We sped on through pleasant countryside and under the main road through a tunnel providing a very convenient cycle bypass just before Shefford. We wait in line at the signal in the centre of Shefford then turned left and soon escaped on to a country lane by means of a right turn just before a gigantic roundabout.
We continued on quiet wooded roads to Old Warden where we admired the thatched cottages, then down a hill and a sharp right turn into our lunch stop at the Shuttleworth Collection.
The Shuttleworth Collection consists of a surprising number of early aircraft kept in a series of very large hangars. None of us went in this time, but we were able to see a few of them by peeping in through the doors of the hangars. One we glimpsed was a very early bird-like machine with cloth coverings for the wings in a hangar with several others of that era. The wing covers look like tissue paper and it is only the folds that gives away the fact that it is really cloth. On some Sundays there are flying shows, but when there is no such show, visitors can come in and use the large and well-organised café as we did.
There were options for the first part of the return route. John led a group on the long route back (actually all but four of us). The main attraction for this group was a ride past the giant airship sheds at Cardington that at one time housed the R101. But when the R101 crashed with the loss of almost everyone on board (4 October 1930) all work on airship building ceased. Those that stayed behind, watched someone learning to take off in the blue and orange aircraft in the photo above.
After an agreed interval, the lazy group set off and were surprised to meet up with the active group just down the road. We all rode on together to our tea stop at St Mary’s Church Haynes. The tea was fantastic, fine china was set at tables for four; we went up to choose our cakes (fruit cake or scones or ‘refrigerator cake’) and then the ladies came to ply us with tea. They seemed to realise that cyclists get great thirsts and kept topping us up.
After the tea we returned to Flitwick from a northern approach on a busier road through an industrial area and then a cut through residential streets. The train to London soon arrived and we managed to fit in all the bikes and enjoy the unexpected air conditioning.
Thanks to George for a very enjoyable day riding on an interesting route.
Photos by Geoff Stilwell