26 September 2010

26 Sep 2010: Wheathampstead to Steeple Morden

Stuart writes: There were four people waiting for me when I got to Wheathampstead and after a few minutes, Carol and Steve arrived. I think we had all seen different weather forecasts for today as we each had a different opinion on when the rain would arrive.  We didn't have to wait long for the rain as part way up the Codicote road we had to stop to don the waterproofs. The rain didn't amount to much and it was on and off all the way to elevenses.  We threaded our way through the lanes to Ayot St Lawrence and then dropped down to Codicote bottom. We then climbed back up to the B656 and then joined this for a short while before turning into Three Houses Lane.

After going through the lanes, we rejoined the B road up to Little Almshoe where we turned off and headed to Great Wymondley.  Just after here Tracey punctured and after this was sorted, I decided to shorten the ride as we were behind schedule, so we went to Baldock for elevenses instead of the planned stop at Hinxworth.  Cafe Plus, which is our usual haunt in Baldock, looked quite busy and would have been standing room only. Steve went off to find an alternative and this was found in the form of Baldock Sandwich bar.
Elevenses in Baldock

We were soon tucking into bacon sandwiches, beans on toast etc. This looks to be a good alternative to Cafe Plus; the only downside is that there is no loo!  We left Baldock on the A507 towards Stotfold. Near the Baldock services the rain started again quite heavily, so we stopped again to put jackets on. We continued through Newnham to Ashwell where we turned off to Hinxworth. The rain had now eased off and we headed up to Dunton and then Wrestlingworth where we turned right to Guilden Morden and then continued to Steeple Morden.  Bill, Peter and I headed off to the graveyard to eat our sandwiches while the rest of the group went into the pub.
Waggon & Horses, Steeple Morden
Picnic in the churchyard

Whilst eating our lunch we noticed that the wooden structure that had previously been bolted onto the front of the church has now been removed (was this the vicar's smoking shelter?). 
St Peter & St Paul, Steeple Morden

View route full screen

After lunch the rain returned, so I made a direct route back to Ashwell, Bygrave and then Baldock.  Fortunately the wind was now behind us, but by the time we got to Baldock the rain had become heavier and we were all wet and fed up.  Tracey went to the station to investigate trains back home whilst everyone else took a direct route back to Wheathampstead.  I think the mileage was around 60, my computer packed up at 53 due to the rain!

19 September 2010

19 Sep 2010: St Albans to Hinxworth

We met at the St Albans start at 9am as today's ride had a coffee stop in Barton le Clay, which was over just over twenty miles by the route I had chosen. We'd had a phone call from Bill at 8.30 saying he'd only just noticed the earlier start so he would make his own way to Barton directly from Barnet.  We crossed Harpenden Common then climbed up to Peters Green via Batford, before skirting Luton airport and dropping into Lilley Bottom.  After the long drag up to the top of Gravel Hill we flew down the hill to Hexton then along to Barton.   The new coffee stop was on the wrong side of the A6 dual carriageway, but with a little help from Google street view, I could see there was a safe crossing point to use.  The cafe was good and situated on top of a shopping emporium and garden centre. It was based round an old mill.  We wondered what had happened to Bill and he just arrived as we were leaving. 
Barton Mill

 A house in Barton le Clay

There was a pretty house on the route out of Barton where we stopped for a photo shoot.  We headed east via Gravenhurst and Shefford then crossed the A1 to arrive at Hinxworth where Jon and Judy were waiting for us.  We made good time as there was a strong tailwind all the way.

After lunch we headed back via Ashwell, Baldock and Weston then skirted the edge of Stevenage on the old Weston Lane where the group stopped to take a peek at Rooks Nest House, which was the childhood home of the novelist E M Forster.  It is believed he based Howards End on this house. There is also a memorial to him in the church at the bottom of the lane.  
Rook's Nest House

I found this link to the EM Forster country website. It looks interesting, as there is a campaign to prevent the land north of Stevenage being developed. It gives history of his links to the area.
Monument to EM Forster

We went through Old Stevenage on paths before taking a direct route to the ever-reliable cafe at Whitwell.
 Emily's Cafe, Whitwell

Fortified by excellent carrot cake we sped back to our various homes.


12 September 2010

12 Sep 2010: Hatfield to Croydon

Tracey writes: Ten of us met at Asda in Hatfield; and it was great to meet and welcome Mark, a Wednesday night club rider, to our Sunday ride.  We set off promptly at 9.05 a.m. on a fine bright morning and headed out via Hatfield Garden Village, through Lemsford and up to Ayot Green, where we were joined by Stewart, who kindly agreed to take some pictures on route.  We then headed to Codicote and followed country lanes up towards Preston.  When we turned off to Hitchwood Lane the road was closed due to flooding!  Not wanting to deviate from my planned route we went "off piste" through Bluebell wood and joined the road further up the hill.  We continued to Gosmore, through Hitchin town centre and up hill to our coffee stop at Hitchin Garden Centre. 

Thus fortified we set off for the next leg of our journey through Letchworth and on to Baldock, where we turned off towards Bygrave.  I was really glad the sun was shining through a lovely blue sky, as this is a very open and uphill stretch of road!  We then cycled through the picturesque villages of Ashwell and Guilden Morden and turned off towards Shingay.  We were bombing along this road (well for me anyway, about 16 miles an hour!) probably because the wind was behind us and I had just had the most humongous cheese scone at breakfast!  As we were ahead of time, I decided to loop around to Wendy-cum-Shingay and up to Wimpole, to go through the National Trust Wimpole Hall Estate before lunch. 
Wimpole Hall Park

It was busy with fun-runners doing a charity event, but we managed to persuade a walker to take a great picture of us all in front of the very impressive Hall. 
Wimpole Hall

We continued through the grounds of the estate admiring some of the rare breed cows with big horns (they may have been White Park cattle).  We came out of the side exit at Arrington, crossed over the Ermine Way and followed the lane up to Croydon, where we parked up at the Queen Adelaide Pub. There some of us enjoyed a pre-ordered sandwich lunch or hot meal and we sat in the nice gardens and had a well deserved drink!  (The half-pint glass Peter had looked smaller than anybody else’s; optical illusion?). 
Same again?
The Queen Adelaide

From the lunch stop, we did a parallel route back to Wendy then Shingay and turned off to Abington Piggotts, around Litlington Church and on to Steeple Morden.  We then realised we had lost Richard!  Steve, (who had more miles left in his legs than me) kindly went back to try to find him.  The rest of the group waited at the impressive Steeple Morden 355th Roll of Honour Memorial.  It stands outside the old Steeple Morden fighter base (AAF station F-122).  This was manned by USA personnel during World War 2 and from here flew P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs.
355th memorial at Steeple Morden

Richard’s bike had got a puncture and after fixing it he returned to the group and we continued back to Ashwell, headed south-east to Slip End, continued up to Rushden then up to Cromer windmill and right to Ardley Church Farm for afternoon tea and cake.  Our homeward journey took us through Wakern, Aston and Bragbury End.  The St. Albans posse turned off towards Woolmer Green and the Hatfield posse went on to Datchworth, Tewin and Welwyn Garden.  It was a long but enjoyable ride of 76 miles, aided by good weather and good company!


5 September 2010

05 Sep 2010: Panshanger to Birchanger

Carol writes: We thought we’d try a new start point this week for the ride, so I was pleased to see ten people gather at the entrance to Panshanger Golf club on the northern edge of Welwyn Garden City for the 9am start.  Leaving from this point saved spending up to half an hour cycling through urban Hatfield and WGC before reaching the start of the country lanes we planned to use to access a route to Much Hadham for our coffee stop.
We wiggled through Tewin, Bramfield and Stapleford, then climbed out of the Rib valley and over to the Beane valley via Sacombe.  James from St Albans had joined us for the first time and had no problems keeping up as he had recently completed LEJOG (or should I say JOGLE as he started in Scotland). 
Carol leading through Stonyhills
Sacombe Green

Near Barwick Ford it was disappointing that the Llamas had gone from the field, but we made it to the Ash Valley Golf Club for bacon sandwiches and coffees all round.  It was a welcome stop after fighting an unusual warm east wind all morning.  Judy was a bit late getting there, as her recumbent’s rear wheel tyre developed a nasty bulge (due to scraping off the rubber on a climb) and one of its front tyres punctured. 
After coffee we took a new route south of Bishop’s Stortford and Hatfield forest, before turning west again to use a Sustrans route that allowed us to get to Birchanger without using the large roundabout over the M11 near Stansted airport. Using a bridge and two underpasses, the bridle path offered a ‘dry weather’ alternative.
Joining NCR 16 near the Dunmow Road...
...crossing the Stansted Airport flypath...
...and under the M11 slip road.

We emerged at the Three Willows pub, which was friendly and welcoming – great sandwiches with local granary bread. Twenty miles to tea via Burton End, Elsenham, Ugley, Farnham and Little Hadham – some lanes we had never used before.  It was remarkable how quiet and pretty it was in Burton End, then moments later a Ryanair jet took off over us, watched by a myriad of plane spotters parked by a hedge next to the runway.
Braughing teas were up to the usual standards in the village hall then it was about twenty miles home, this time with a strong tailwind to help us along the way.   We left Jon patching up Judy’s tyre as the bulge had by now caused a puncture, but we all got back OK in the end.