2 August 2020

2 Aug 2020: St Albans to Eaton Bray

Four people turned up for the start at 10.30 in St Albans at the usual spot outside the Blacksmith's Arms. It was good to see Peter out and about again after a 6-month absence during the lockdown. Ronny said we were expecting Gary to join us, so after phoning him and waiting until 10.35 we set off. My phone rang on Sandridge Road and it was Gary! We had a bizarre conversation whereby he asked me where we were as he was at the War Memorial on time at 10:30. When Gary subsequently joined us on Sandridge Road it turned out his watch was slow, hence the confusion. Even though  hadn't been cycling recently he kept up well as we headed out over Nomansland Common before passing through Harpenden and Pepperstock to reach Markyate. We climbed the easy way to Dunstable Downs, where Ronny and Gary left us to return home, then had a glorious downhill all the way to Totternhoe before a stop in Eaton Bray for our picnic on a green under a shady tree.
Shady spot for our picnic
We took a fairly direct route back through Edlesborough, with good view of the White Lion from the road near Dagnall,
Whipsnade White Lion

then climbing up to Studham and taking the long descent along Gaddesdon Row (passing the new cyclists' cafe at Jockey End) down to Redbourn and along the A5183 back to St Albans.

43 miles on a hot day

19 July 2020

19 July 2020: St Albans to Ley Hill

Three fearless cyclists set out after a rainy early morning on another ride limited to a maximum of 6 booked riders. However, by the time we met at the War Memorial in St Albans the rain had passed. Our destination was Ley Hill and we started heading south using the route through Serge Hill, Bedmond, and Abbots Langley. I followed Old House Lane and found the views around it quite nice (after the M25 crossing). My curiosity as to why I hadn’t come along it during other group rides was answered by the steep downhill and uphill part in the middle. A bit further on, the wind at our backs helped us to follow the small valley along Bottom Lane (and other named lanes) through Belsize and Flaunden. Another valley had to be crossed to get to Ley Hill and I decided Flaunden Bottom, as I couldn’t remember going along Ashridge Lane before. While it was nice to go down the hill by the Green Dragon, the uphill made our lunch well deserved.

We all brought our picnics with us and found some nice benches on the green. Three benches close to each other, but well spaced for social distancing, were ideal, as the grass was still very wet.

After the break we continued heading north through Whelpley Hill, where the sign for the Coronation Hall caught my eye.
Corona - Nation Hall?
From there I thought it would be a nice downhill into Berkhamsted. However, geography didn’t follow my imagination and hence we had another valley to cross before reaching the upper parts of Berkhamsted. From there we followed the usual route along the railway to Hemel Hempstead and Bunkers Lane. With traffic back to pre-lockdown levels, I didn’t stay on the main road for long, but used the diversion through Potters Crouch. Around St Michael's Church in St Albans our paths diverged for our individual ways back home.


12 July 2020

12 July 2020:St Albans to Asheridge with an "e"!

Desperate to escape the blanket coverage in the news of a footballer apparently called Charlton (I thought that was the name of a club), three of us met at St Albans war-memorial. Dodging the heavy traffic apparently caused by the monthly junk market on St Peters Street, we set off via Bedmond and Rucklers Lane, passing Roger and Judith of the 40+ cycling club ( and Wednesday group of Souuth Herts Cyclists) returning from Chipperfield, and unexpectedly picking up Simon of Edgware CTC near Bulstrode. He rode with us all the way to Ashley Green and left us for Berkhamsted whereas we rode on towards the illustriously named Brazier's End, briefly sighting Tony B of the Chiltern Society cycling group on the way.  Making the final ascent to Asheridge at about 12:45, we were surprised to see how quiet the Blue Ball was, as it had previously been very popular with walkers and cyclists. A sign near the entrance announced no dogs, no ball games and no cycling. The implication of this appeared to be no customers! We ordered drinks and ate our picnic sandwiches on the seats on the small green opposite the pub.

First pint outside the Blue Ball
While we consumed our wares,  another group of four cyclists arrived and also ordered beers which they also drank on the green. A woman from a passing car then approached us to ask where the National Trust car-park was. Carol patiently explained that she was at Asheridge but needed to be at Ashridge, near Aldbury, and offered to show her an OS map. The woman declined, saying she couldn't read maps, (the consequences of which were all too evident) and she drove off, not doubt again putting her faith into a SatNav. No-one else arrived at the pub by the time we set  off at 1:30 for Chesham and we wiggled our way back through Flaunden.
Green Dragon new sign
We knew from a few weeks ago that the Green Dragon, former drinking haunt of Joachim von Ribbentrop and Guy Burgess, had restored its iconic wooden figure-head in the back garden and now had a new pub sign as well. Its refurbishment looked almost complete and we hoped it would soon be opening. Passing through Belsize, we noted that the garden of the Plough looked very busy, showing that some pubs had a winning formula. After saying goodbye to Steve H as he headed for Harrow, we passed through Chiswell Green to look at the new bike shop on the site of the old Maserati showroom.
Cycle shop in Chiswell Green

It was closed, of course, and the business had been transferred from CTH cycles in Bricket Wood. We arrived back in St Albans at about 3:30.

We did a round trip of just over 42 miles.

Words from Steve, technical stuff from Carol!