31 October 2010

31 Oct 2010: St Albans to Tring

Richard writes: It was Halloween - and the first ride of the autumn after the clocks had gone back, so there would be no tea stop on this trip.  The ride was not especially long overall, but the first leg to coffee was a bit over 20 miles, so a direct route was called for via Redbourn and Gaddesden Row.  Nine of us set off from St Albans heading for Dobbers cafe in Leighton Buzzard. 
Clements End Road, near Studham
Dobbers in 1930

At Whipsnade, we took the old road running beside the zoo enclosures (none of the fiercer types of animal were in evidence, though I spotted a surly wallaby), and then down Bison Hill and onto the Vale of Aylesbury. The sharp hill at Billington is a nasty shock - one of those sudden steep hills that are scattered over the otherwise flat countryside of the vale. When we got there, the light railway was doing extra business for Halloween and, judging by their appearance, the staff in Dobbers cafe seemed to be taking the date seriously - it must be the first time my food has been served up by someone with a green and blue face.
Pages Park Station

We were served by a giant green woman and a witch in Dobbers cafe.

Apart from that, a pleasant stop. Here some stoked up with a decent breakfast, probably their second breakfast of the day. We then skirted through the fringes of Leighton Buzzard, marred by recently extended industrial estates, but one must take the rough with the smooth.  Then we were out again on quiet lanes and on to Ledburn.  The pub here used to be a fairly regular venue but I think it went up market and unwelcoming.  Continuing to Mentmore cross roads, the rain, which had been threatening for a while, started up a bit more seriously and a stop for waterproofs was called for. Then left to Mentmore, another of those sudden steep hills, then Cheddington. We crossed over the Grand Union Canal at Cook's Wharf, passing the Duke of Wellington pub, also a former venue, but recently closed.
Bill in Mentmore
One of 12 support rollers for a 38 ton kiln operating at 1700 degrees C
 and used at the cement works in Pitstone Green.

Turning left here, we continued past the Pitstone Green Museum and on to Tring itself. The lunch stop, the Kings Arms, was completely new to me, but came with a strong recommendation. It is well tucked away in the side streets of old Tring, but turned out to be an excellent stop, a CAMRA favourite and with good food too. I'd rate it one of the best pubs we have visited this year, certainly one to go on our next list.
A cold, wet sandwich outside...
...or a hot, wet sandwich inside.
Stylish headgear

After a hearty feed for most, it was time to ponder the trip back. My group went for the more vigorous ride across to Aldbury, Ashridge and Bridens Camp. The woods at Ashridge were looking at their autumn best, but by now it was raining and we didn't hang around. I had turned in 60 miles by the time I got back.   Others favoured an easier route down the valley. 
The Grand Union canal at Northchurch
Well surfaced towpath
Rod, pole or perch?

This was equally scenic, with autumnal views along the towpath and a pause to negotiate passage past fishermen, who were engrossed in a competition that appeared to be more about who had the longest carbon fibre pole.

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24 October 2010

24 Oct 2010: Hatfield to Wareside

Tracey writes: At the start in Hatfield there was a great turn out, 14 of us!  It was a nippy but bright morning and we headed off briskly to Welwyn Garden City and on to Tewin Green then Bramfield.  From there we turned down to Waterford and up a very stoney lane to Stoney Hills.  Crossing the main road, we cut through the picturesque Sacombe Park and over to Whitehill golf course above Dane End.  There some of us tucked into a very large breakfast!
Sacombe Park

Golfer's Breakfast

Thus fortified, we cycled to Great Munden and turned right to Puckeridge, then on to Standon and Barwick Ford.  Graham, Michael and Judy enjoyed splashing through the water; the rest of us took the bridge. 
Barwick Ford

We then took the winding roads to Bakers End and Babbs Green then into Wareside to the Chequers Pub.  Here we took over the Snug room and were joined by Carol and Steve, making 16 of us!  We sampled some very good beers and baguettes in one of my favourite pubs.  As there were a large number of us (and I had already lost a few people on route earlier!), I explained to everyone the loop I had planned for our afternoon ride into Hertford, (just as well)!

From Wareside we cycled to Ware, at this point when I turned round I had managed to loose half the ride!  Quite an achievement even for me!  We decided to carry on to Stanstead Abbotts and then turned into St Margarets Road and up to Haileybury.  We carried on to Hoddesdon and up Lord Street towards Goose Green and on to Hertford.  There everyone else had already arrived at the Rose CafĂ© (not following the leader’s explanations, they had taken Holly Cross Road from Ware to St Margarets).  We timed this stop to perfection, as there was a 10-minute down pour of rain (the only rain of the day) while we had our tea!  On the way home we saw a rainbow.
Haileybury College


17 October 2010

17 Oct 2010: Hertford to Nuthampstead

Six of us set off from Hertford taking the back streets to join up with the Ware road.  We were held up in Ware at the level crossing and then had to look for a loo - which was locked!  We left Ware past Fanhams Hall to Bakers End where we turned north to Barwick Ford.  After crossing the river, we turned right in Barwick and followed the river northwards to Puckeridge where we crossed the A120.  Through Puckeridge, we then joined the old Cambridge road, continued through Braughing, Hay Street, and then arrived at Hare Street slightly early.
Tortoise Tea Rooms


The Tortoise Tea Rooms was a new stop for us and we were provided with drinks and food at fairly reasonable prices. Fortunately, the service wasn't too tortoise-like and we got a slightly warmer welcome than was usual at the other Hare Street venue!  Steve & Carol joined us at elevenses and (due to the planned pub stop not providing sandwiches) it was decided to change the lunch stop.  Carol made a few phone calls and our new stop was to be The Woodman at Nuthampstead.  After recalibrating the GPS, I set off through Anstey.  Here Fred punctured and it was noted that his tyre had more than a passing resemblance to Kojak!
Cottage at Langley

Cambridgeshire vista

Puncture sorted, we carried on to Meesden and then Langley Lower Green. At Little Chishill the views opened out across Cambridgeshire and some deer were spotted in a distant field. At Shaftenhoe End we turned back south again to Nuthampstead.
Hill climb
Memorial at Nuthampstead

Next to the Woodman is an impressive memorial to the American airmen of 398th bomber group, who lost their lives in the bombing raids that left from the nearby airstrip.
A group of walkers were also at the pub and some were picnicking in a neighbouring field; those of us with our own sandwiches joined them.

After lunch I led Fred back home, while the others completed the ride via Much Hadham.

10 October 2010

10 Oct 2010: St Albans to Linslade

Peter says: When I arrived at the start in St. Albans I was amazed to find 13 people waiting, which included a new couple: Steve and Jackie.  Also, we were all very pleased to see Vish there, as he had suffered a cycling accident about 3 months ago and this was his first real cycling session since then. Anyway, we set off for elevenses at Ivinghoe by skirting Hemel Hempstead to climb up onto Gaddesden Row.  Jackie had very modestly said at beginning that she was worried she wouldn’t be able to keep up and hills were a bit of a problem.  False modesty indeed as she absolutely shot up the first one. 
Re-grouping by Hogg End Lane
Jackie shoots up Pipers Hill

We then proceeded to Ashridge where the trees were starting to look quite autumnal, and from there across the Dunstable Downs with a fast downhill run to Ivinghoe. The Ivinghoe tearooms there are in a pretty and quaint old cottage with a very nice garden and a view of the windmill.
Beacon Road
Ivinghoe Church

From here Vish wisely decided not to overdo things and headed back accompanied by Neil as support.  For the rest of us the next stop was to be ‘The Globe’ pub at Linslade.  We went via Mentmore, Wing and Soulbury, which is a reasonably flat bit of country.  From there we picked up the towpath of the Grand Union canal, which has an excellent metalled surface and very easy to ride.  We were about 2 miles north of the pub at this point, so the ride down the towpath alongside the placid waters of the canal was very pleasant.  The situation of the pub is also very pleasant as it lies beside the canal in a quiet location.  The snag however was that they were not doing any sandwiches, on the dubious grounds that they were too busy.  So, the always-prepared ‘boy scout’ members of our party, who had brought their own sandwiches, felt duly smug.  Some of the others simply felt hungry, as they didn’t want to shell out large sums for the meals on offer.  After drinks, the route was then altered to get sustenance for the starving by heading straight into nearby Leighton Buzzard and the nearest Tesco’s.  Here cheap food refuelling was available and duly scoffed.
Grand Union canal
Refuelling stop

After this we had to exit the town on rather boring main roads until we were out in the country again going through Totternhoe, before starting on the stiff climb up onto the Dunstable Downs  Here we made for the new National Trust tearooms along with zillions of other people in their cars, no doubt brought out by the ‘Indian summer’ sunshine (Judy found the cycle route from Dunstable, which avoids the traffic, but not the crowds).
Cycle route on Dunstable Downs

Then it was time for the sprint back to St. Albans, with riders peeling off to go their separate ways home. The core group went downhill all the way to Markyate, back road around Flamstead, through old Redbourn (avoiding the bypass) and onward into St. Albans.  All told we did about 55 miles in beautiful weather for the time of year.

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3 October 2010

03 Oct 2010: Hertford to Sawbridgeworth

Jon writes: We were delighted that Sunday turned out, contrary to earlier expectations, to be mostly dry.  However, the forecast may have put off some of our less stalwart members, as just three of us set off from the Hart in Hertford with the sun starting to come out.  Approaching Goose Green, we had our first wild life encounter of the day as a large grass snake wriggled its way at high speed between Judy’s three wheels.  We snaked through Hoddesdon, Dobbs Weir (where the river was in spate) and Roydon, then south of Harlow to the garden centre at Hastingwood.
The distinctive bronze statue of a hart in Hertford
At the top of Low Hill Road in Roydon

Leaving elevenses, we took a tour of some Essex lanes through Magdalene Laver and High Laver.  After Matching Green, we explored the bridleway past Matching Pond and the isolated Matching Church.
Matching Pond
 Matching Church

In the quiet lanes between Matching Church and Sheering, was the highlight of our day.  We spotted a falconer emerging from a field with a huge buzzard from South America - pictured here holding the rabbit it had just caught.  Two more falconers then emerged carrying smaller Harris Hawks.
South American buzzard with rabbit
Real ales at the Gate in Sawbridgeworth

The Gate pub in Sawbridgeworth had a good range of food on offer, together with beers and cider from the attached microbrewery, so we were not keen to leave too early.  It was raining when we left, but this cleared up after an hour and the sun came out again, just as the familiar cry of “puncture!” went up.  Fortunately, it was easy to fix in-situ on the Trice front wheel.
Barwick Ford

We by-passed Hadham ford (a new concrete ramp is being installed here) and walked around Barwick Ford as the river was quite high.  Tea at Whitehill was enlivened by a group of crows struggling to fly across the links but being beaten back by the wind.
The drive to the Golf Club
A deserted golf course

We returned via Hertford after 50 miles, pleased at our close encounters with wildlife, not only the more unusual specimens mentioned above, but also the more common pheasants, ducks, rabbits and squirrels.