27 March 2011

27 Mar 2011: Hatfield to Puckeridge

It was a chilly morning when we set off from our Hatfield start aiming for Ware. Heading out past the QE2 Hospital we soon, for a change of route, cut through the woods at Panshanger.  Immediately confusing, because of the numerous forking paths between the trees.  However, a helpful dog walker pointed us in the right direction and we soon emerged on the lane to the airfield.  Then we crossed the Mimram valley, climbing to Tewin and on to Bramfield.  Here we turned back south to Hertford, and passing Hertford North Station, turned left along the River Beane meadows, climbing steeply through the Bengeo side streets to emerge at the top of Bengeo Hill.  Here we took the road, soon becoming a bridleway track along the ridge overlooking the Lee valley and the Kings Mead nature reserve - the largest grazed flood meadows in Herts, with brilliant views across the flood plane crossed by the A10 viaduct.  Emerging in Ware and passing the pharmaceutical factories, we arrived at our excellent morning stop, always good value.  Here Tracey, who obviously had trouble getting up on the first day of summer time, joined us.

Judy taking a short cut along the Cole Green Way
Gathering at Esem Cafe in Ware

After refreshments, Peter, who somehow knows the back streets of Ware like the back of his hand, led us out to the road north to Babbs Green and then on to Much Hadham.  Passing along the splendid main street of the village, we continued north following the old London to Cambridge road, heading for Furneaux Pelham.  I was planning to go around through Patient End, but when we got to Aldbury, Carol could no longer contain her appetite for a bit of rough and suggested an alternative off road route turning west through Albury village and then along a bridle way, soon turning into ploughed fields. However, it hadn't rained for ages, so the going was bouncy not muddy.
North of Little Hadham
Rough track to Braughing from Albury

Passing a water tower, we emerged onto lanes again at Braughing Friars, and so on to Braughing and lunch at Puckeridge.  A pleasant pub with nice food, which included striking corkscrew shaped chips. 

In the Crown & Falcon, Puckeridge


From lunch, we headed north again along the A10 path, then to Westmill, looping around to Nasty, Haultwick, Green End, Stonyhills and so back to Hertford.  By now it was 4.00 and our usual tea stop was just closing, but there are plenty of alternatives in the area and a refreshing tea was taken before the trip back home.  From Hertford we headed off back to our various homes.  It had been a longer day than we had been used to since last autumn, but a great day out blessed by good weather.


20 March 2011

20 Mar 2011: St Albans to Wilstone

A clear sunny day saw a select group of eight people meet at the War memorial in St Albans.  It was like the first sighting of a spring cuckoo as Giles, who hadn’t been seen since early last summer, arrived on a retro home-assembled bicycle.

We went via Bedmond then down past the Ovaltine factory (now luxury flats) before climbing from Hunton Bridge to Sarratt. Someone spotted a new coffee shop for our list before I pointed out it was the remains of a film set... probably Midsomer Murders. I wonder how many other cyclists have been fooled by the ‘Curlew cafe’; after all, some of the cafes that are trading have equally grim signage!

The former Ovaltine factory
Curlew Cafe

After several more climbs and descents we arrived late in Chesham only to find the planned cafe stop already filled with a different cycling group. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we went to the newly refurbished Poppins where Giles demonstrated he hadn’t lost his touch for devouring a ‘full English’.

Giles with his full English

Cycling quietly through Little Pednor

Afterwards we climbed again (this is the Chilterns) and wound our way up through Little Pednor where it feels like a private gateway before wiggling via the Lee and down Dancers Hill to Aston Clinton then Wilstone to the pub. 

We found Jon and Judy there and realised they had missed us at coffee as we’d been in a different cafe. The pub was a typical unmodernised old village pub with very good sandwiches; so well filled that I kept half of mine for next day’s lunch.

It seemed a long way back via Tring Station, Aldbury, Gaddesden and Piccotts End and, after such a hilly ride, my evening bath was welcome.


13 March 2011

13 Mar 2011: Hatfield to Dane End

I arrived at the start in Hatfield at 9.15am and Simon, Neil, Jon and Judy where already there waiting.  The weather forecast wasn't great so I had planned a quite direct, yet hilly route to breakfast to give us a good workout!  We headed south out of Hatfield through the University and under the A1 to Bullens Green (avoiding the omnipresent broken glass).  We then turned up to Water End and onto Hawkshead Lane then Little Heath and Potters Bar.

Avoiding the direct route, we then turned left in Northaw and it started to rain!  Undeterred we all sped down a very steep hill (great fun)!  But as we all know, if you go down a steep hill, you usually have to go up one!  By the time we had climbed up the other side of Hemp Hill, we were well warmed up!  We then went to Cuffley and down some more fun hills through Tolmers Housing estate, followed by a long climb up to in-ex Garden Centre for Breakfast where Geoff joined us.  The cafĂ© here had doubled in size since our last visit and waitresses delivered our orders.
We left Goffs Oak suitably refreshed and cycled out to Bread and Cheese Lane and down to Wormley West End.  

Bread & Cheese Lane

We looped back to check on Lenny the Lion at Paradise Park. Just two of Lenny’s harem were keeping watch from their platform, looking very bored despite the prospect of meals on wheels as we cycled past.  At this point, the heavens opened and they looked very unimpressed with the weather and us as we stopped to put on our waterproofs.  We carried on to Brickendon and Hertford, up to Bengeo, Stoney Hills and through Sacombe Park past the isolated church and down to Dane End.  

Descending to Sacombe

Our listed lunch stop in Watton was not doing food today, so I decided our new destination was to be The Boot at Dane End, which had recently been refurbished and promised hot food and baguettes on Sundays.  On arriving at the Boot, we found a hot radiator at the entrance, where we hung up our wet coats on a nice big rack.  Inside, we found a village pub that had now been converted rather incongruously into a ‘modernised’ bar, full of youngish blokes swilling larger.  However, we pushed our way to the bar to order and the lunch proved to be very tasty, filling and reasonably priced.
Thus fortified, we all cycled home via: Whempstead, Watton-at-Stone, Datchworth, Tewin and, at Welwyn Garden City, we went our separate ways.

Tewin village sign

Although it had rained hard today I enjoyed the ride, the country lanes, the hills, the food and the company!

Tracey 13/11/2011

6 March 2011

06 Mar 2011: Hertford to Wareside

Seven of us assembled by the Stag (Hart?) monument in Hertford on a very chilly March morning.  We set off and almost immediately climbed up Port Hill to Bengeo where we took the left fork through Stonyhills. As we had bikes with sturdy tyres I decided to take the route through Sacombe Park to Sacombe Green and go past one of our other elevenses haunts at Whitehill Golf club. We dropped down to the Great Munden road and followed this through to Great Munden and Nasty.  On the way there the Welwyn Wheelers passed us, one of whom I thought was Alan Wratten from Stevenage (he was riding a metallic dark blue Roberts). I subsequently chased after this group to see whether it was in fact Alan only to find it was somebody completely different!

After waiting for the rest of my group to catch up we carried on through Nasty, Westmill, Aspenden and reached Buntingford where we turned right onto the B road to Hare Street for our elevenses break at the Tortoise tea rooms.  After finishing and paying, we all posed for the obligatory group photo outside the venue only to find, as I pressed the button to take the picture that my camera's battery had gone flat. Richard duly stepped into the breach, whipped out his camera and did his best David Bailey impression!

Steve, Bill, Stuart, Neil, William & Tracey
at the Tortoise Tearooms

Seven of us became six as newish rider William decided to make his own way back. We carried on through to Furneaux Pelham, Gravesend and then down to the traffic lights on the A120 at Little Hadham. The wait here wasn't too long and we were soon on our way to Much Hadham.  Through here and onto Widford where we stopped to regroup, Bill decided to show us his trick of holding onto a hedge whilst stationary and clipped into the pedals. Unfortunately, the part of the hedge he was holding onto broke off leaving Bill to do a spectacular roll across the road. Fortunately, there was no traffic coming along!

view map full screen

From here, it was only a short hop to lunch at The Chequers, Wareside where we had the back room almost to ourselves. Neil and I had the sausage baguette, which the menu boasted had "a trio of sausages". Obviously, this means something else in these parts as when it arrived we had four sausages each although one of mine did try to escape!  We left lunch and took the back lane down to Ware and then took the towpath to Hertford and returned to the Stag having covered 35 miles.

6 March 2011