28 November 2010

28 Nov 2010: Hatfield to Rye House

I don’t normally venture out on icy roads and a good ride leader knows how to delegate.  It was minus 4 degrees overnight, but Judy was happy to take her three-wheeler up to Hatfield to collect the five stalwarts gathered there, while I went straight to Trent Park (all of 10 minutes from home)!  

It was a slowish ride from Hatfield to Trent Park following NCR 12 - caution being needed where icy surfaces were suspected.  You can’t always rely on pushing hard to keep warm and there’s no substitute for wearing plenty of layers on a prolonged ride.  Exposure to the cold had also caused brake and gear cables on the Trice to ice up, so a quick phone call led to me bringing a flask of boiling water to free them.
Arriving at the cafe in Trent Park
Trent Park Animal Centre
Taxidermy display
Good tracks in Trent Park

There are two cafes in Trent Park and we prefer the less-crowded Animal Centre in the middle of the park, with its taxidermy displays in the café.  The sun was providing some warmth as we followed good tracks through the park to Hadley Road.  Then it was a direct route across the northern edge of Enfield, past Forty Hall and along Turkey Street to Enfield Island Village.  Here we turned north to follow NCR 1 into the Lea Valley Country Park and through Fishers Green - no risk of ice on these well-surfaced tracks.  The biggest risk was from the low flying Canada Geese. 
Leaving Fishers Green


Emerging on St Leonards Road there was a minor rebellion against doing any more off-road (as it meant a climb over Clayton Hill) and time was pressing, so we followed roads to Dobbs Weir.  Here we took to a deserted towpath, tranquillity briefly interrupted by a noisy race on the karting raceway, before reaching the Rye House Tavern. 
Partly frozen River Lea Navigation
Towpath near Rye House

Right opposite is a moated gatehouse, which is all that remains of a once extensive manor house, built in 1443.  Rye House became notorious in 1683 when it was the centre of a plot to assassinate Charles II.
Rye House Tavern
The ancient Rye House Gatehouse

We were reluctant to leave the warmth of the tavern, where we enjoyed the good value meals and friendly service, but the sun was still shining as we made our various ways home after an enjoyable winter ride of just over 40 miles.

21 November 2010

21 Nov 2010: St Albans to Great Offley

Another ride heading north found a good turnout of eleven people in St Albans. The route to coffee at Markyate could have been very short, so I planned a bit of a detour via Sandridge and Nomansland Common then passing through the edge of Batford to pick up the new cycle path from Harpenden towards Luton. A very good quality tarmac path allows cyclists to avoid the busy Lower Luton Road.
Where's the leader?
The Chiltern Cycleway at Harpenden

We then looped back to Kinsbourne Green (funny, I think I was here last week…) before descending to Markyate to use the Village Café.  Very good value and the bacon rolls went down a treat after 16 miles.  Harry joined us for coffee again; this time brandy less.

Leaving Markyate
Someries Castle

After coffee we headed up to Wood End, then crossed the M1 on a footbridge to enter Stockwood Park on the southern edge of Luton. After crossing the park we whizzed down a suburban road before using a clever new cycle route skirting Luton Parkway station to pick up the other end of the Luton to Harpenden path, this time heading back towards Harpenden.  Great views over to the Luton Hoo estate made this an enjoyable car-free section.  We then circumnavigated Luton airport, by the derelict Someries Castle, before climbing up to Great Offley. The Red Lion saw us proud as they were busy, but managed to supply our baguettes in a timely manner. A cosy warm pub - just right for a winter ride.

Fortunately the rain held off as we all took a direct ride home. We ended up clocking up about 47 miles round trip when we got back to St Albans.  Another interesting day showing we can still find some new roads to use after all the years we’ve been pedalling locally.

21/11/2010 Carol.

14 November 2010

14 Nov 2010: St Albans to Flamstead

Remembrance Sunday saw seven cyclists meeting appropriately at the war memorial in St Albans for a short circular ride taking in a new coffee stop in Dunstable before skirting the downs to climb back to Flamstead.  We went up the main road to Redbourn, then cut across to Kinsbourne Green, pausing to view my favourite alpacas who wouldn’t be enticed closer for my photograph.

After passing through Pepperstock and Caddington we swept down the hill then turned right into a school road, to use a newly discovered underpass, avoiding a short section of the A5. Onwards into Dunstable passing the remembrance parade to reach our coffee stop at the Gary Cooper pub

The Gary Cooper

Not many people know the famous ‘High Noon’ film actor lived in the town during his early years and there is a blue plaque on the high street above a shop.

Gary Cooper in High Noon

Harry joined us at the Gary Cooper and it felt quite continental as he had a brandy with his coffee at 11am!! He insisted he'd been cycling around for hours so it was for medicinal reasons to warm him up. 

After bargain breakfasts we weaved through the back streets to go via Totternoe, Dagnall, Gaddesdon Row and Cheverells Green to Flamstead. 

Richard joined us after a morning cleaning out drains. 

A very welcoming pub with good beer and very reasonably priced food enticed us to stay a bit too long as, when we left, it was heavy rain so we all bee-lined back home.  Quite a short ride at about 38 miles - but appropriate for the weather.

Autumn colour at Gaddesden Row

7 November 2010

07 Nov 2010: Hatfield to Braughing

A bright, sunny but cold morning (4 degrees C - brrrh) saw 10 of us outside Asda in Hatfield ready to start out for a café in Ware. There is no direct route so we meandered in a southerly loop going through the Broxbourne Woods, which were ablaze with autumn colour. The other beauty of this route is a chance to see the local fauna. Not your usual squirrels, pigs or suchlike but real large-as-life lions. Not many cycle groups around the country can lay claim to lion spotting on a normal country ride. But at Paradise Park, a small local zoo has a pride of lions in an enclosure close to the road. Here the lions often rest upon an elevated platform so they can have a good view of us in our bright cycling clothing, which seems to interest them. It crossed my mind whether a fit cyclist, if pursued by a hungry lion could, pedalling furiously escape it. (All the foregoing is without prejudice to the moral issue of whether it is right to keep such animals encaged in zoos).
A fit cyclist
Anyway, leaving the lions, the next animal we came upon was a saddled horse, sans rider, trotting up the road through the woods. A bit of deft manoeuvring by Bill and the horse was persuaded to enter a nearby garden where it started eating the lawn. Shortly thereafter, a young lad accompanied by a large dog came panting up the road asking if we’d seen a horse. So we reunited them. Carrying on we next came upon a posse of women running up the road, they were enquiring about both the lad and the horse. So we reassured them that all appeared well. After all this excitement, it was a relief after another few miles to finally reach the café in Ware.

Ware is a fascinating place with wonderful old buildings. For example just sitting in the café and looking across the road I noticed that the building opposite had embossed into its plasterwork façade the date 1512, and that is pretty old.

Duly rested we left Ware climbing up through its modern eastern suburbs en route for Braughing for lunch. Again, we took a roundabout route out to the east using little lanes and passing through Perry Green, the home of Henry Moore the sculptor. There is a large exhibition of his interesting works here but (unlike the lions) they can’t be seen for free from the road.
A Henry Moore sculpture at Perry Green

We crossed a ford at the back of Much Hadham and carried on up back lanes at the rear of the village, where there seemed to be an awful lot of traffic for such an out of the way place.  Then it was down into Standon - another very pretty village, Puckeridge and into Braughing heading for the “Brown Bear” pub.
Picnic spot...
...overlooking Braughing ford.
The pub, which has a good reputation, is in a very old and attractive building . Yet strangely, despite a welcoming open log fire and excellent food, it was virtually empty apart from us.  Even the dog seemed desperate to escape from the pub - perhaps he smelled a rat?
Dead rat
Then it was time to head straight back without a tea stop, as we dispense with these in winter, in order to try and get back before it gets dark. Straight back is a bit of a misnomer as it involves wiggling around with a fair bit of up and down as well. As usual, some of the group turned off en-route to head directly for their homes. In the end just three of us went all the way back to the start clocking up about 53 miles in all.