24 April 2011

24 Apr 2011: Hatfield to Rye House

Another beautiful summer’s day in April and eight of us headed for the Lea Valley, expecting Carol & Steve to join us there for a picnic by the river.  We welcomed another Carol, back again on her mountain bike, who was relishing cycling in a group rather than spinning in a gym.

We had a brief rest before tacking the climb to Tewin, while I mended the first of the day’s punctures, but after a few more hills we still managed to get to Whitehill at 11.00 for what some called breakfast.  Service was friendly and efficient, so we were soon off again to Barwick Ford, which Giles found particularly inviting as he hadn’t washed his bike recently.
Tracey inspects Barwick Ford...
..and Giles gives his bike a wash.

A scenic ride followed via Wareside and Stanstead Abbotts, culminating in a dash past the sewage works to reach the Rye House.  We took a look at Rye House Gatehouse: all that remains of one of the first brick buildings in the country, complete with a marvellous “Barley Sugar Twist” chimney.  We laughed at the dog swimming after a swan, despite the frantic efforts of its owners to call it back.  The swan didn’t seem too bothered by this.  The pub was surprisingly empty for a bank holiday, and we found some welcome shade in the large rear garden, which served as a useful mooring point for some of the motorboats cruising the river.
Rye House Gatehouse
Dog chases swan

The route then followed the towpath to Dobbs Weir and NCR 1 all the way to Waltham Abbey.  A very scenic route, but you can be unlucky if your tyre picks up one of the flints among the loose gravel used on top of the tarmac, and it wasn’t long before Carol found one for her rear tyre.  Giles came to the rescue with some ‘Pit-Stop’ - a high pressure can of liquid latex that inflated the tyre and sealed it - anything for an easy life.
Near Fisher's Green on NCR1


Passing the newly opened White Water centre, we decided to take a quick look at this Olympics venue.  It was quite entertaining to watch the amateur efforts of the rafters going down the Grade IV water course, who seemed to do better if they left it to the expert who was manning the back of the boat.
How not to do it
The right way

Leaving here, Carol’s tyre had gone down.  Attempting another inflation with ‘Pit-Stop’, this is when Giles discovered how to make an explosion of foaming silicone rubber - he was covered in the stuff when it spayed out of the valve hole.  After this fun it was soon time to cool off again in Cedar’s park, with a welcome ice cream under the trees. 
Silicone goes in
After the silicone explosion
Cedar's Park tea rooms
 Lick that!

Returning home, I found a text message about Steve on his way to joining us.  His front mudguard had jammed in the wheel and the disk brake rotor had hit and damaged the down tube, despite having lugs that should prevent the wheel coming out.  Fortunately he wasn’t hurt and managed to get home OK.  So that makes two seriously damaged bikes in two weeks, as I had broken the rear axle and drop-out on my summer model in a pothole while returning from last Sunday’s ride. 

24/04/2011 Jon

17 April 2011

17 Apr 2011: Hatfield to Nuthampstead

Nine of us met and set off from Hatfield on a bright sunny morning, perfect for cycling.  After Codicote, we turned off the main high street onto winding picturesque country lanes.  The Bluebells were out in full magnificent display as we cycled up Hitchwood Lane and on to Preston.
Welcome shade in Ayot Green
Bluebells in Hitchwood Lane

We continued across to Great Wymondley, where we passed Hornbeam Court, a row of five thatched early 19th C cottages, named after Henry VIII first five wives (shame there wasn’t a sixth cottage for Katherine Parr).  Taking the back route into Baldock, we had fun extricating Judy’s Trice from a determined cycle barrier.  
 Hornbeam Court, Great Wymondley
Baldock barrier

At Cafe Plus we were greeted by another old faithful, Roger! who had travelled to elevenses on an intriguing bike he has been working on.  Not sure if it was electric, motorised or push, or combination of all three! But it looked good fun!  I wonder, does he get a point for arriving on this?
Roger's VeloSolex (as ridden by Steve McQueen)
Approaching Nuthampstead

After a hearty breakfast we headed out in a NE direction over the bypass and out to Wallington, Sandon and Buckland. For once on this route there was no head or side wind, which gave us a pleasant undulating ride with great views across vast open, green and yellow countryside, with rape fields coming into flower.  We crossed over the A10 to Barkway then Nuthampstead to our lunch stop, the Woodman pub.
Memorial to the 398th at Nuthampstead
Quiet lane from Nuthampstead to Anstey

Luckily, the service was prompt and friendly at the Woodman and we departed at 2pm.  Our route to afternoon tea took us on a lovely route via Anstey, Wyddial, Buntingford, Aspenden, Westmill, Nasty, Great Munden and Dane End.  After climbing White Hill we were all ready for cake!  We ate al fresco overlooking the golf course.  Well satisfied, we left in three different groups to return home.

10 April 2011

10 Apr 2011: St Albans to Tring

It was a chilly but clear-blue start to what was to be an unseasonably hot day.  Nine of us started out from the War Memorial (Steve, Carol, Tracey, Esther Luxton on her second week, Peter, Neil, Clive Smith on his first ride with us, Stuart and myself).  It was the first ride I had led and I’d made such careful plans….
Our meeting place in St Albans
Route planning in the Village Cafe, Markyate

We headed out on the Redbourn Road before turning up Hogg End Land to run East of Hemel Hempstead towards Gaddesden Row.  The route took us past Valley Bottom Farm to Cheverell’s Green and on to our coffee stop at the Village Café, Markyate. Spring was really showing off with cherry trees in full blossom and the bluebells starting to show.

The first leg was only 14 miles and we arrived at the café soon after 10.30.  The place wasn’t busy but the chef must have been having an off day and it took three quarters of an hour to get us all served.  Richard and Bill joined us here, so now we were eleven. Outside the breeze was still cool, but we could dispense with the arm-warmers.

The slow service meant we were running late, but a phone call to the lunchtime stop confirmed they were open and would be expecting us.  We took the lane past Dedmansey Wood to Whipsnade, then back to Studham and down to Dagnall.  The fairly busy road up to Ringshall got the legs warmed up before we turned northwest to Ivinghoe Beacon, down to Ivinghoe and on to Aldbury. By now there were lots of walkers and horse riders out enjoying the spring sunshine.
Drinks at the Kings Head, Tring...
...but where's the food?

From Aldbury we went passed Tring Station and straight on to the King’s Arms.  Clive left us at the pub and headed home.  Despite the delay in Markyate, we arrived at 12.50 and ordered various sandwiches and salads.  The last time the club visited this pub it was cold and very wet and all of us on that ride were really impressed with the food.  This time our food took over an hour to arrive!  How difficult can it be to make a cheese and pickle sandwich?!  The general consensus was that this pub probably needs to come off our list unless they seriously improve their service.

By the time we’d finished it was 2.15 pm and my planned route for the afternoon needed rethinking (always good to have a plan B).  Bill, Peter, Stuart and Tracey decided to call it a day and cycled for home.  The remaining six of us mounted up just as Esther discovered she had a puncture – a flint chip had worked its way into the tread of her front tyre.  She’d forgotten her pump and had Schrader valves.  We had a range of mini-pumps all set up for Prestas but finger nails were used to turn an adaptor around.  The various volunteers, who worked in rotation, can report that mini-pumps are even more difficult on Schrader valves than on Prestas.  After half an hour, we’d squeezed enough air in to make the bike rideable but decided on finding a garage with an airline to top it up.  The Total garage in Tring had what we needed (once we’d found 20p) and Esther’s bike was restored.
Tyre wrestling is a team sport


3 pm and we could begin the afternoon part of the ride….

Time to implement plan C.  Carol’s superior knowledge took over and the planned route for that afternoon will have to wait for another time.  We used the lanes South of Berkhamstead to get to Ashley Green then South of Bovingdon to Blackwell’s Café in Chipperfield arriving just before 4 pm.  It was a glorious afternoon with the temperature in the low 20s.  Chipperfield Common was packed with people and there was live music outside at the café.

We went our separate ways by 4.30 pm with about 50 miles on the clock since St Albans. And the moral of the day is … even if your best-laid plans do get obliterated it’s pretty hard to beat a Sunday ride in Hertfordshire with the South Herts CTC in the spring sunshine.

Monday 11 April 2011

3 April 2011

03 Apr 2011: St Albans to Ivinghoe

Another chilly morning when we set off from St Albans, first stop was to be coffee at Hudnall Corner Cafe.  As a change from the maybe more usual way of getting to this area, we headed off through Sandridge, Nomansland and at Leasey Bridge turned onto the path along the old railway for a few miles.  An excellent path, giving a nice aspect of the upper Lea valley, apart, that is, from the uncompleted section at the back of the sewage works.  Climbing out of the valley up a long drag of a hill, we headed for Markyate.  Would we need to wait at the top of the hill for our new rider, Esther?  No - she soon went past on her bike with the shopping basket on the bars.  Crossing the main Luton road and then passing under the M1, we mistook our lane into Markyate and finished up at the one with the nasty ford (sometimes impassable).  Neil was the first to brave it.  The water was deep enough to be a problem anyway, but then he hit a hidden pothole and had to put his feet down in the stream (shame the camera was not at the ready).  The rest of us crossed without a wetting, apart from Eric who decided go another way.  

Passing through Markyate we headed out on the Whipsnade road, turning to Studham and, crossing the common there, descending down to the River Gade and Hudnall Corner cafe.  It was Mothers' Day and we were keen to get to lunch early to avoid possible problems with crowds of partygoers at the pub, but the cafe was full of bikers - the hairy sort - and we had to wait ages.  By the time we finally got back on the road again, time was really getting on, so it seemed an idea to cut the route to lunch a bit shorter.  So, climbing to Hudnall, we headed north to Ringshall and then down the beacon to Ivinghoe village.  

Ivinghoe village

Not very far, but it was already past 12.30 and the pub was busy.  However, it was just about warm enough to sit very pleasantly in the garden with our food and drinks.  After lunch, we had a nice ride down to Aldbury.  Then climbing up to Wigginton, we followed the road towards Chesham.  Turning to Ashley Green, we wound through the lanes to Bovingdon, then down one of the three parallel lanes that drop down the hill to Hemel.  The tea stop at Shirella's Cafe was a new venue for us and we struggled to find it.  It had been recommended by Jon, and when I saw the prices I understood why - very reasonable.  Our initial group was now quite a bit reduced as people had headed off to their own homes during the day, but there was still a band who needed to get back to St Albans.  Through Hemel and up one of the Bedmond direction lanes, we looped through the Gorhambury estate, pausing for a photo opportunity by the ruins of old Gorhambury.  And so back into St Albans.  A really enjoyable day's cycling, but with timing somewhat messed by things beyond our control.

At Gorhambury