27 June 2010

27 Jun 2010: Sylvia Clifford memorial ride

Jon writes: With a heat wave hitting Hertfordshire and the possibly the hilliest 100 km cycling circuit the county has to offer, I wasn’t expecting a big turnout for the Sylvia Clifford ride.  In fact only three of our regulars had entered in advance. 

I cheated a bit to take advantage of the early dawn and rode the leg from Bramfield in the cool.  On arriving at Wheathampstead I was amazed to find the car park almost full, but this turned out to be 150 walkers of the LDWA starting off on the Hertfordshire Hobble, a 26 mile or 16 mile walk.  They must be madder than us.

Maybe it was the prospect of riding for a good cause, or the chance to escape from the stress of following England in the World Cup, that encouraged another six of our members to come along and enter ‘on the line’.

Judy wished us well as we set off in the clockwise direction on what turned out to be a wonderfully scenic route.  We were on the lookout for other participants, who could start anywhere on the circuit riding in either direction and, just before reaching Preston, we caught up with a small group of 40 plussers led by Roger.
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At Graveley we were getting desperate for refreshments and diverted to the Garden Centre, now run by Wyevale.  It was hot outside, but comments of ‘it’s like a greenhouse in here’ soon echoed around what was, admittedly, a greenhouse as we queued up inside.

A much better resting place was the air-conditioned Crown & Falcon at Puckeridge, where we found Roger’s group cooling off inside.  We joined them rather than sit in the garden, where the pub was cashing in (while it could) by setting up to show the football.
 Standon Ford
 Chapmore End
With the temperature hitting 30 centigrade it was off again via Standon and Barwick fords to Chapmore End and Bramfield.  Here I left the others, who completed the circuit after a tea break at the thrilling Bramfield Summer Fair or in the farm shop in Bury Lane. 

20 June 2010

20 Jun 2010: St Albans to Lacey Green

Peter writes: On Sunday, the day before mid-summer, eight of us gathered in St. Albans to set forth on what seemed like the coldest June morning since records began.  Undaunted, apart from some light moaning, we began our ride to that distant mountainous region known as the deep Chilterns.  This was to be via a coffee stop in Ivinghoe, reaching which in itself required a certain amount of climbing as a sort of training for what was to come. We got to Ivinghoe by skirting Hemel Hempsted and then climbing through Nettleden and along the edge of the Ashridge Estate.  Then we climbed again across Ivinghoe Common, which opens out to give beautiful views across the downs.  Then, cycling heaven, a long fast descent down Beacon Hill to Ivinghoe village.  ‘Ivinghoe Tearooms’ are in a quaint, ancient cottage dated circa 1500 with a beautiful garden looking out upon a distant windmill, and the ‘fare’ is good too.
 Beacon Hill

From here the direct route to the ‘Whip Inn’ at Lacey Green for lunch is across the Chiltern hills, which involves far too much going up and down.  Further but much flatter is to keep to the north of the escarpment via Halton.  Which we did.  Not far from Aston Clinton we took to the towpath of the abandoned Wendover arm of the Grand Union canal which is a delightful backwater.  Leaving this in a little way we turned south into the Chilterns proper, passing ‘Chequers’ the prime minister’s country retreat.  We paused there to consider whether to call in upon Dave and Sam Cam but decided we couldn’t spare the time.
 Wendover canal
 Chequers entrance

Then it was time for some serious climbing and twisting and turning in the lanes of the hills.  As ride leader I came to the conclusion that the actual terrain seemed markedly different from what was on my map as I became increasing confused as to where I was.  Others appeared to think it was my map reading that was defective, but I stoutly maintained the locals had deliberately altered the landscape/signposts in order to discourage interlopers.  Emerging at the top of the scarp slope, We paused to watch a soaring red kite near the Loosley Row windmill. However, eventually we reached the pub and had a restorative lunch.
Red Kite above Loosley Row windmill 
 Peter, Phil, Carol, Steve, Sue, Tracey & Richard

Then it was back into the confusing maelstrom of lanes and hills as we headed east to pass through Chesham before reaching the church at Flaunden, which unsurprisingly, is at the top of yet another long steep hill.  Still the church provides excellent afternoon tea and cakes and comfortable chairs to collapse into.  It was thus with great difficulty that we finally managed to rouse ourselves and head off again via Kings Langley and back to the start at St. Albans.
 Little Pednor farm

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All in all about 67 miles of varied and interesting cycling.

13 June 2010

13 Jun 2010: Thornwood Common to Writtle

Jon writes: Judy & I cycled the 17 miles to Thornwood Common, where we found Tracey and Peter and headed off towards North Weald airfield along a minor road that is only shown on recent OS maps.  The airfield first saw service in 1916 to protect London from Zeppelin raids and was an RAF base for the battle of Britain and through to the ‘50s.   As we came close our conversation was drowned out by a loud jet taxiing along the runway.

We looped North through Hastingwood then crossed the once northern extremity of the Central Line (now kept alive by train enthusiasts operating a weekend service) and approached Chipping Ongar via Greensted church.  Having visited the oldest freehouse a couple of weeks ago, it was only fitting to visit the oldest wooden church, dating from the 11th century.
Greensted Church
 Paslows Farm track

We reached Norton Heath Café just after 11 am via the track through Paslows Farm.  Recently refurbished and now open on Sunday mornings, this café is proving popular with the local cycling clubs.  The sign said Good Food Café and it certainly lived up to this claim.
Norton Heath Cafe

I did my best not to get lost in the network of small, quiet lanes and was helped by following National Cycle Route 1, which took us through Writtle Agricultural College (or should I say University) to the village for lunch at the Rose & Crown.  Light rain briefly sprinkled on the sunshade in the garden, but had stopped before we left.

Then we took a fairly direct route via Kelvedon Hatch, where I was tempted to divert to the ‘Secret Nuclear Bunker’ for a cuppa (it’s worth a visit if only to see the Maggie Thatcher dummy tucked into a bunk bed), but we pressed on to Stapleford Aerodrome for tea, where we watched several light aircraft taking off and landing.
 The old road near Kelvedon H
 Stapleford Aerodrome cafeatch

The route finished with a climb through the top end of Epping Forest to complete a 50 mile circuit and a pleasant day spent exploring unfamiliar and relatively flat lanes in the lush Essex countryside.

View full route map.

6 June 2010

06 June 2010: Hertford to Birchanger via Clavering Lakes

Stuart writes: Seven people were waiting for me when I arrived at the start in Hertford. We set off and took the Wadesmill road straight up Port Hill. At Wadesmill we turned left on the old A10 and went up hill again past the Thomas Clarkson memorial (surely no relation to Jeremy?).  It was here that Clarkson decided to devote his life to abolishing the Slave Trade.
 The Thomas Clarkson memorial is on this hill out of Wadesmill.

The old A10 is now quiet following the building of the new bypass and we quickly made progress northwards to Colliers End then dived back into the lanes and cut across to Puckeridge. We pushed on through Braughing and the Pelhams and then joined the B road to Newport, quickly leaving this on a minor lane that took us round the back of Clavering and then to the fishing lodge.
 The fishing lodge
 at Clavering Lakes

As we left the clouds were starting to darken and rain seemed inevitable. Fortunately it held off and we headed back to Clavering village and on to Rickling and Quendon where we took the lovely minor lane to Manuden.  After Manuden we took more minor lanes to meet the old A11 near Stansted Mountfitchet.  Despite being bypassed by the M11 this road was very busy and we had a struggle to get across it.  We quickly turned off and headed to Birchanger where we stopped at the Three Willows for lunch.
 Three Willows at Birchanger

As we left after lunch Jon C arrived having been to the original lunch stop at Sawbridgeworth, where he had met Barry out training for the Vets triennial 100 mile ride.  Rain was starting to fall, however this didn't amount to much and after negotiating the traffic around the Birchanger interchange we headed into the lanes again around the Hallingburys and south of Bishops Stortford.  By now it was dry and the sun broke through the clouds so waterproofs were swiftly removed.

We headed into the wind through Green Tye to Much Hadham where John risked riding his recumbent through the shallow water, then left us for home in Ware.  After Much Hadham we went via Barwick Ford, crossed the old A10, through Standon Green End and stopped off at Whitehill Golf club, where Judy grabbed the last piece of sponge cake.  We sat on the terrace overlooking the course which was very pleasant, although there seemed to be few golfers enjoying it.
 Barwick Ford
 Whitehill Golf Club

After tea we all dispersed to take our separate ways home. I had clocked 70 miles when I got back.