16 June 2019

16 June 2019: Hatfield to Bishops Stortford

It started raining as nine gathered under the bike shed outside Asda in Hatfield, but in the warm weather it didn't last long and jackets were soon removed. The usual picturesque route south went around the back of the M and S depot and through the industrial estate in Welham Green before branching east through the village of Little Berkhamsted and behind the Paradise Park zoo to Hoddesdon. We arrived at the River Palace café to find it heaving with dads being treated to a Fathers' Day breakfast. A quick re-plan took us backtracking to a different café on Rye Road called Anatolia's. The service could not have been more different to the previous week as all the food was produced in double-quick time at a very economical price. The café is like a Dr Who Tardis as it is huge inside, hiding behind a modest exterior.

After another change of plan, we cycled pasted the Rye House gatehouse where the Rye House plot took place.
We decided the original planned lunch pub would not be a good idea as sitting in the garden in the rain didn't sound appealing so we headed to the usually ever dependable JD Wetherspoon outlet in Bishops Stortford pausing for a photoshoot near Perry Green by the Henry Moore statue.
Perry Green

Carol got a puncture just afterwards so the rest of the group went ahead to the pub. The road seemed exceptionally busy on the way into Stortford and it turned out the A120 trunk road was closed between Little Hadham and Stortford as the works have started on the Little Hadham bypass. Unfortunately we were cycling on the official diversion. 

As Carol and Steve approached the JDW pub the others came out after having been told of an hour wait for food, so we decamped to the reliable Bridge Café for lunch instead. 

We left Stortford via quiet lanes north, then west before crossing the now-opened  A120 and headed west through Wellpond Green where we saw the illegal camp set up by members of the Travelling Community. This hit the national news recently as they bought a field and have built a caravan site illegally.

Get the map out
Ronny's photo showed there was some fine weather around and eventually we had a coffee stop in Hertford before getting back to Hatfield in the late afternoon.

I forgot to switch my tracker on until we were on the edge of Hatfield so the map looks a bit strange. 

Lesson learned - next year set up a picnic ride on any special occasion day if we want to avoid any overloaded pubs!

About 60 miles and unusually no planned stops were used!


15 June 2019

15 June 2019: Hatfield to Potters Bar

We had a good turn out this week, welcoming a rider from the 40+ and seeing the return of a new rider from the last ride. It was one of those what-the-hell-should-you-wear kind of mornings, quite warm with drizzle in the air. The route to Potters Bar was a meandering affair as usual. We headed out via the university and took the road from Colney Heath to Water End. After we’d gone through there I decided to take the cycle path beside Swanland Road, which turned out to be an arm scratchingly, leg stingy, branch in the face kind of experience. Plants just love to grow out of control!

Anyway, after we’d put our machetes away, the delights of South Mimms were awaiting us. Now I don’t go through here often and when we got to the main junction in the village I remembered why. There’s a small bit of one way road here that I always forget about, so we all cycled along the road the wrong way, motor vehicle drivers would’ve had a field day if they’d seen us.

After we’d passed the Old Guinea pub we stayed on Cross Oaks Lane and took the farm road over to Well End towards the Mop & Brooms pub on Rowley Lane, for a nice change. Then it was over the A1, along Trotters Bottom and up Dancers Hill into Potters Bar. The hill that nearly did everyone in was Mutton Lane, which leads up to the top part of the town and our café.

Hiding inside the café were Jon and Judy, who we haven’t seen for a while and both looked happy and well. It was nice to catch up with them. Upon exiting the café I spied lots of traffic and some furious honking of horns. This was because the traffic had nearly come to a standstill, so we chose to break the rules again taking carefully to the pavement. It really was the most sensible idea as we came across the cause of the problem, an artic lorry delivering to the Co-op mixed with the road being ripped up for re-surfacing.

Once we were through the traffic we headed for Northaw and took the back road to Brookmans Park. Here we chose to use Upland Road and headed into Welham Green via Bell Lane, a great route as it’s almost all down hill . After a little jiggery pokery we were back in Hatfield with happy faces all around, there was a request for weekly rides but for this to happen we will need more leaders.

Our next ride is from a new starting place, Wheathampstead (public car park behind the Bull pub).

Neil 15/06/2019

9 June 2019

09 June 2019: St Albans to Wrest Park, Silsoe

As it was the start of Bike Week, we'd listed this event on the LetsRide website, so we welcomed some newcomers, which simultaneously fixed the usual gender imbalance, and started off from St Albans with 12 riders. Avoiding the route of the St Albans half marathon, we cycled towards Redbourn before skirting Maylands industrial area in Hemel to gently climb to Gaddesden Row. In Studham we missed the planned turn as Carol was chatting so zig-zagged back to join the gradual ascent towards Whipsnade then cut across to Kensworth and then used the very quiet Isle of Wight Lane to the top of the Dunstable Downs. A fast descent brought us to the newly found Downs café where it unfortunately took ages for the food to arrive.

Neil joined us at the elevenses stop, so 13 carried on to Silsoe using the back streets of Dunstable before joining NCR 6 for a couple of miles through a surprisingly green area of Dunstable and Houghton Regis.
Posh picnic area at Wrest Park café
It was a short distance along the road towards the new M1junction, then we rode on the cycle path alongside the new-junction access roads bringing us us back onto the lanes near Sundon. Largely quiet roads took us past Flitton church where the De Grey mausoleum is situated. (The De Greys were the family who lived at Wrest Park). We split into picnickers and pub-goers in Silsoe. The picnic area of Wrest Park was generously equipped with proper tables and chairs where we enjoyed the sunshine. The pub-goers were not so lucky as the pub didn't serve sandwiches. Two bad choices on one day is not a good track record. We didn't get to see Wrest Park House, so I've included a picture below to show its architecture. It also is run by English Heritage and was a run-down agricultural college until 2006.

Wrest Park
Ronny had gone straight back from Silsoe, so after lunch 12 of us made our way to Emily's at Whitwell for an afternoon stop where we encountered a huge queue of other cyclists. However we still got back to St Albans at 5pm, just as the rain began, after almost exactly 60 miles. On reflection, another trip out this way should use the Gary Cooper (named after the 1950's film star who lived in Dunstable as a child), just off the cycle route in the park in Dunstable, as a morning-coffee stop.