26 December 2010

26 Dec 2010: Hatfield to Wild Hill

The hill from the Essenden Road down to Wild Hill village was a sheet of smooth ice.
Richard at the Woodman in Wild Hill
Richard writes: Our Boxing Day ride to Hertford, followed by Wild Hill for lunch, was planned to have close stops so the ride could be kept short if the conditions were bad.  And the conditions on Sunday were helping to make this December the coldest for 100 years.  Thick snow and below freezing temperatures had been around for days. 

However, encouraging texts from others persuaded me to brave it to the start in Hatfield and the road surfaces on fairly main roads were in fact reasonable, though it was bitterly cold and well below freezing.  I wasn't expecting a great turnout in view of the weather and the holiday, in the event it was just me and Tracey, but others had sent messages that they intended to go to the pub.  It made sense to pick a short route to the Wetherspoons in Hertford and, if it avoided traffic, so much the better.  So off we set for the Cole Green Way.  The surface on the old railway was thick compacted snow with a rougher bit down the middle; we were doubtful about how rideable it would be, but both had off road bikes and decided to give it a go.  The crumbly snow was ok, but a bit of walking was needed on slopes and icy patches.  The view of the smaller lanes, where the track crossed them on bridges, showed they were completely unrideable. 

Arriving at the Six Templars gasping for hot drinks, we found that their equipment was out of order - cold drinks only were to be had.  Thank goodness the food was in order.  Then, once more a mainish direct route to lunch was the only choice, so along the lower Hertford Road to Essendon. Tracey turned off here - she wasn't chicken - she had not intended to go to lunch.  I now planned a quick visit to the Woodman to see who had made it and then home.  It was still early, so there was time for a slight detour down West End Lane and the surface at first seemed ok.  But this is a hilly, damp lane and it wasn't long before I was walking and that with difficulty.

In the end I walked the whole thing, passing five abandoned cars stuck in the lane.  Arriving at the Woodman, I found Jon snugly set up in the back bar.  Judy's brakes had frozen up and she had needed to go home.  So, a record for the smallest participation on a ride yet, but very character strengthening for those who made it.

19 December 2010

19 Dec 2010 - Snowed in

In view of the heavy fall of snow, Peter cancelled his ride. Our next ride is after Christmas now, so have a superb Christmas and let's hope we can work off some of those extra pounds soon afterwards.

12 December 2010

12 Dec 2010: Hatfield to Ley Green (or Weston)

Neil writes: The day started off wonderfully with Simon, Jon, Judy, Tracey, Jackie and new comer Steve and I meeting at ASDA at 9.15.  It was a bright chilly morning and we had a warning of ice out by Ascot's Lane.  So off we set out of Hatfield to Welwyn, then down towards Tewin as a few spots of rain made their presence felt, but this didn't last too long at all.  Along the B1000 a bunch of healthy buggers passed us, which included Jacki's husband Steve.  They motored on ahead while we took the more scenic route to Tewin.

From here it was a nice ride over to Bull's Green then Datchworth, where we made a right and cruised down to Watton-at-Stone.  We pottered along the high street and made our way up Walkern road where I spied a sign for Aston.  Judy and Jon had decided to make their own way to the cafĂ©, so we took this left, which turned out to be very nice.  The countryside looks lovely covered in frost, and there were several small iced-over streams.  The road led us to Frogmore Hill, from there to Aston, then Aston End and the wilds of Stevenage.  The frozen lake in Fairlands Park made a picturesque scene while we refuelled at Costello’s. 

Fairlands Park, Stevenage
Costello's Cafe

Jackie decided to wait for Steve to join her and go home, and Jon and Judy decided to make their own way to lunch via the Stevenage cycle tracks.  I think that was a cunning plan and they knew what was going to happen.  I decided to avoid Stevenage as I thought the hardest part of the ride would be going through it; how wrong could I get?  Yep, you guessed it, we got lost and I led the team into the wilds.  In fact, Stevenage was easy as we kept to the cycle paths.  Just outside Stevenage, Simon found a road that led into Graveley with relative ease.  From here on in, I was relying heavily on the map and checked it as much as I could.  The plan was to go to Great Wymondley, but I took the road in the opposite direction leading to Weston instead.  Once we had realised the mistake (when we were at Weston) a decision had to be made - do we carry on or stop for lunch?  Steve got a puncture so the decision was made for us and we were soon having lunch in the Red Lion, a lovely pub with nice food, an open log fire and a lot of friendly people.

After some chat we decided to go back via Preston, so we headed to Great Wymondley.  Here we should have turned left on Arch Road down into St Ippollitts, but that didn't happen because I stuck to my guns and dutifully read the map wrong, going full steam ahead into Hitchin!  This wasn't such a great disaster as it seemed, because we were just around the corner from the London Road, which leads right into Old Welwyn.  At the B651 Simon left us and made his way to Hemel via Kimpton, while myself, Tracey and Steve motored into Old Welwyn then WGC, where Tracey left us, then we made it back to Hatfield.  A great days ride - really good fun that tested my map reading skills, but showed me that I should be more confident and take a little more notice of my surroundings.  As was pointed out to me, where I was reading there were no houses and we had just gone through an estate. 

Jon adds: I just kept the sun on our left through Stevenage (brown route on map) and ended up on cycle paths passing Aldi (where we did a bit of xmas shopping).  We found the road out via Redcoats, where we found Richard lurking about, then reached the pub in good time.  As per my txt back to Tracey, they were lucky in stopping at Weston as the Plough in Ley Green had beer, but no food (the freezer had broken down).   It’s worth phoning ahead next time to check.   Carol & Steve joined us at the pub, having explored an off-road part of the Chiltern Cycleway near Hitchin, so we were not alone and starving (just starving).

Chiltern Cycleway near Hitchin

Their bikes had been covered in mud, but as were leaving, the pub dog was kindly doing its best to wash the mud off Steve’s front wheel, panda fashion! 
The Plough, Ley Hill
Ley Hill Post Office (cafe)

Carol noticed the Post Office in the Ley Green had a sign up and, on the way out, we asked the owner, who confirmed they were opening on Sunday mornings for coffee and cake (new cafe for the map).  We pressed on to Whitwell, where Steve and Carol stopped for a meal at Emily’s cafe.  It was getting late so Judy & I carried on and I picked up a snack in Wheathampstead to fuel up for the journey home to London.  It all made for a varied and interesting ride.


5 December 2010

05 Dec 2010: St Albans to Asheridge

Would a ride on 5 December be possible? The whole of the previous week had seen cold, ice and snow, traffic chaos, schools closed, etc. The week ahead was due to be just as bad. I was fully expecting to cancel because of the weather, but decided to go to the start, see what the conditions were like, who turned up and take it from there. In the event the morning was much warmer - foggy, but with the feeling that the sun could break through. A gap in the arctic conditions and seven non-wimps were there ready to go.

Although there was not much ice around in St Albans, we would have to climb up into the Chilterns where conditions could be worse, so it did seem a good idea to cut the planned route a bit shorter. Instead of heading for the wildlife centre at College Lakes, we aimed for a coffee stop at Berkhamsted. So straight up the A5 to Redbourn, then Gaddesden Row and Water End. Then to get at bit of a loop in, we climbed to Little Gaddesden, doubling back through the Ashridge Estate. It was misty with the sun breaking through - spectacular scenery through the woods. 

Then down into Berkhamsted to a new venue for us - the Olive Tree Cafe in the High Street. After refreshments, Steve, Jacki and Judy headed off back home. I had originally planned to climb out of the valley by way of Dancers End and the Crong from Tring, but we were now too far down the valley for this to be a good route. Getting out of Berko to the southwest is going to be a climb, so we headed off towards Wigginton. After a couple of miles, my narrative of the route comes to an end; for me Tommy the ride is over. A regular noise from my back wheel - have I lost a spoke? No, worse, the rim is bulging and possibly about to go off bang. I had known the rims were well worn and had bought new wheels ready as replacements some while back, but had not quite got round to putting them on. I let the tyre inflation down to just rideable, said goodbye to the others and headed off home.

I wondered if there would be a bang any minute and I would be walking. But there wasn't and I cycled back fairly normally. I have now put my new wheels on. Rim wear in winter conditions is a serious problem and a major design fault. Why are rims made of an extremely soft metal - aluminium? If I buy a new bike for winter use, it will certainly have disc brakes. However, it could have been worse and I believe the others got to the Blue Ball at Asheridge and enjoyed the rest of the trip.

47 miles