30 May 2010

30 May 2010: St Albans to Beaconsfield

Richard writes: Our destination today was the oldest pub in England (one of the many, including Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St Albans).  This is the Royal Standard of England near Penn, first visited by us last year when we were meant to be heading for Hedgerley and, passing the Standard sign, on a whim decided we could not be bothered to go any further - it was a hot day.

Today, there were ten of us setting off from St Albans, including Steve from Harrow for the first time with our group.  Through Flaunden and up the scary, narrow steep hill to Chesham Bois and to the Masterchef cafe in Amersham - a first class, friendly, good value cafe - much used by cyclists, so it must be OK.  Here we met Jon already eyeing up the breakfasts.  Some ate a hearty meal, even though lunch was not too many miles. 

 Descending to Little Missenden
 Uphill to Penn
Then on to Hyde Heath, Little Missenden, Holmer Green, Penn Bottom, Penn and on to the pub for the lunch stop down the narrow, descending lane from Penn.  Some of the most attractive, if hilly, parts of the Chilterns and looking at their best at this time of year.

The Royal Standard lived up to its reputation: a fascinating establishment with nice food, possibly a bit pricey, lovely setting and an amazing choice of beers.

The Royal Standard has some quirky features:
 Winged skull
 Stained glass window

Then for the return leg, we dodged around Beaconsfield to Flaunden Church Hall for tea and home made cakes.
Flaunden Church
 Planning routes home from Flaunden

After this we headed off in various directions, some for north London, others for parts of Herts.  Not one of my longer rides, I'd done 58 miles when I got home, but a great day out.

Jon adds: after tea Craig headed for Radlett and, using his local knowledge, led me and Bill on a useful but intricate route that avoided major climbs and made good use of cycle routes through Watford.  We followed Rousebarn lane, crossed the Grand Union canal into Cassiobury Park, used the cycle route along Watford High Street and emerged to follow the River Colne to Otterspool.  Despite going direct to Amersham in the morning, I’d done a rewarding 79 mile circuit on getting back to north London.

23 May 2010

23 May 2010: Ride to Broom

Richard & Neil write: Seven of us (including Chris and Paul, who have not been out for a while) set off from St Albans in perfect weather.  What a relief after the bad Sundays there have been recently.  We headed across Nomansland Common to Leasey Bridge where Stuart was waiting to join us.  Here we turned onto the cycle path leading up the Lea valley above the Lower Luton Road.  Looking down onto the road you suddenly realise that this is a very picturesque route; having the new view point really does it wonders.  We had the pleasure of passing the Harpenden and then the Luton sewage works.  The difference in quality was immediately obvious (Waitrose v. Aldi).  Here is a picture at the Luton works of a large machine recycling material (into what?). 

A pile of ????
 Lea valley cycle route

A lot of work has gone into upgrading the cycle path including a new bridge over the Lower Luton Road. 
Before Luton we turned up towards Someries Castle, then on to Tea Green and Lilley.  The Village Hall at Hexton was a welcome stop - the heat was starting to build up.  The quality of the refreshments here is exceptional. 

 Clock over Hexton village hall


Then a pleasant ride on through the Bedfordshire villages to Ireland, Southill and finally the Cock at Broom.  Throughout the ride we were accompanied by the sounds of the countryside: birds, cows, horses, sheep; you name they all had something to say.  We were feeling the heat now.  The pub was good, always a favourite, but John didn't like his pub sandwich.  Neil and Stuart had their own sarnies and thought it would be a great idea if one day we all had another picnic. 

By Meppershall water tower

The Cock at Broom

After lunch we headed back south realising that a major climb back up the ridge was unavoidable.  We were aiming for the off road track up to Offley from the Pegsdon road. 
After lunch is when the fun and games began.  Honestly it took us hours to get to where we were going.  It all started after a lovely decent into Shillington, where Tracey noted that this hill gives one of the best views around and she wasn't wrong.

First casualty was Chris copping a puncture on the way down.  Richard stayed with him until it was fixed.  Quote of the day came at this point when John remarked that it was fortuitous that we had stopped as he was feeling well bonked, which left Graham wondering how you get bonked on a bike. (Ed: for the non-cyclist, ‘the bonk’ is the cycling equivalent of ‘hitting the wall’, when you run out of energy).

Second casualty was Neil who copped a flat going up a hill just after Shillington, and with the brains of an eager lemming he stopped on a blind bend of the hill to mend his tyre.  Richard gallantly came back to make sure he was alright.

Third casualty (yes that is 3) was John who copped a flat on the off road bit to Great Offley.  This one was an amazingly long wait, as the rest of the group had got to the top of that stretch and to pass time we played spot the cyclist.  Richard again stayed with the stricken to help out.
After that we really had to motor to get to Whitwell in time for tea and along the way a few dropped behind or peeled off for home.  The remaining three made it to Whitwell, and soon after Paul & Chris showed up and informed us that Tracey had headed for home. We asked after John and they had no idea where he had got to.  Hope he's not still riding around getting bonked!

View full map.

Despite everything that had happened we had helped each other and kept our humour. We enjoyed the weather and it was a really great ride.

16 May 2010

16 May 2010: Ride to Hedgerley

Jon writes: Steve’s email promising beer from the barrel tempted me out to the start at St Albans despite the poor weather forecast.  Neil and Richard were there and we were soon joined by John giving his Boardman carbon fibre bike it’s first outing for a quite a while.  Steve and Carol led us to the Crumbs café in Chalfont St Peter, where the coffee was good although service was quite slow.
Crumbs cafe in Chalfont St Peter
 Stylish rainwear

We reached the excellent White Horse at Hedgerley by an interesting and very hilly route.  The pub dates from 1679 and has retained much of its character.  It was offering about a dozen real ales and food from a separate counter with fast service.   We were happy to sit in the garden to avoid the crowds who were inside, or gathered around the gas burners (ideal target for a new carbon tax?) in the adjacent tent.  
Not a bad place to camp

Carol found another good route after lunch.  Surprisingly rural despite the proximity of so many motorways.  The last stretch was alongside a mile of canal towards the Aquadome café, but we had picked the wrong weekend.  It was the annual Rickmansworth canal festival with bands playing, boat trips and even a boat tug of war going on.  So we headed into town and negotiated coffee and muffins at Weatherspoons.
Canal towpath near Rickmansworth
 Boats gathered for the festival

The rain had been sporadic so far, but the run home was a nerve wracking ride through torrential rain.  Roads were soon flooded and drains overflowing.  Given the state of the roads I took to the pavement on a few stretches to avoid hitting any flooded potholes.  Maybe John made the right choice by getting picked up at lunchtime.


9 May 2010

9th May 2010: Sunday ride to Barkway

Tracey writes: Eight of us met at Hatfield and as the time approached 9.20 Brian  presented Richard with the Hargreaves trophy (for coming out on the most rides last year).

We all set off through Welwyn Garden City, up through Tewin to Datchworth, Bragbury End, Aston, Weston and on to Cromer and then up to Church Farm at Ardeley.  It was more like an autumn morning than a spring one, feeling quite cold, and we all tucked into a very tasty, filling, organic cooked breakfast which was most welcome!

Feeling a bit warmer and refreshed we headed out through Great Munden, Nasty, Cherry Green, Westmill, Buntingford, Wyddial and up to Barkway to the Tally Ho Pub.  I had phoned them from Hatfield and ordered Baguettes, as they are not normally on the Sunday lunch menu.  The staff were very accommodating and made us all very large baguettes with chips and salad.  It was Brian’s birthday and he very kindly bought us all a drink.  Cheers Brian!

All feeling very full we set off to Braughing.  As the crow flies this isn’t very far and we made a group decision to loop out to Anstey, Meesden and on to Clavering.  Stuart kindly helped lead this section of the ride as I was struggling with three maps!  We headed back down to Braughing church via the Pelhams for afternoon tea.

Outside Braughing church hall
 Superb carrot cake

Let's hope they keep going for another 25 years

View on a large map

We then set off for home and most of us headed towards Hertford down the old A10, turned off up towards Sacombe, took a wrong turn and ended up in a large gravel pit!  It looked like a film set for "Mad Max" and would have been great fun if we were on off road motor bikes!  But as we weren’t we walked our bikes up to the road and dropped into Bengeo, Hertford and back home (I had cycled approx 68 miles door to door).

Neil adds:  At Tewin I was fascinated by the naming of Queen Hoo lane - evidently the ancient Queen Hoo house had connections with the Hoo family, who were related to Queen Anne Boleyn.  Also, Queen Elizabeth may have stayed there.

As the day wore on the colours of the fields and countryside seemed to get brighter as the clouds seemed to get darker.  In fact the yellow of the rapeseed and the lush green fields made a great contrast to the deep greys of the menacing skies.  At one point though the sky got quite creepy.  There was a ring of dark cloud.  It was like someone had drawn a line between the clouds: on one side light and wispy and on the other side dark and malevolent.  It seemed the clouds here were twirling down like mini tornadoes.

Tracey led a great route and wasn’t responsible for leading us into a quarry near Chapmore End on the way home.  I must say this old pit is a great playground for mountain bikers. The place looks like a load of fun. 
Oops - must have taken a wrong turn
Great for mountain bikes

Here is the route.

2 May 2010

02 May 2010: Wet Sunday ride to Patchetts

Neil writes: As the rain beat a steady tattoo upon the shelter roof at Asda, it became clear that no one in their right mind would come out, but just as I was getting ready to say hello to my bed again, two forlorn riders rounded the car park.  Steve and Carol had made the effort. After a quick discussion we decided to abandon the ride to Brent Pelham and go on a short exploration for cafe's.

We headed off up past Hatfield university and down into Bullen's Green, then from there along the Tollgate road past North Mimms and down through Water End.  Arriving in Borehamwood, I’ve got to say that Weatherspoons do the best in breakfast at a great price.

The weather for the ride was 'orrible: very windy and the gusts really did try to knock us off our bikes, the rain was wet (der), very cold and it stung our faces.  The northerly wind had brought winter back in early May.

I was soooo pleased when Carol complained that her feet were like little ice blocks, ‘cus awhile back I had stopped feeling my feet.

The main point of the ride was an equestrian centre, this we found near Aldenham, yes Steve's directions were right.  Patchetts was very warm and good value.  This would make for a lovely stop for either lunch or a break during the summer.  I love horses so it was right up my street.
Patchetts Equestrian Centre

I took the pic with my phone and had a play around in Photoshop, hope you like it.