29 May 2011

29 May 2011: Hatfield to Hailey

We picked the best day of the bank holiday weekend for a scenic circuit of southern Hertfordshire.  Six of us set out through Hatfield Uni, into a refreshing breeze and through the glass-strewn A1 underpass to Colney Heath.  Tollgate Road, in common with several others, had been re-surfaced with loose chippings.  We reflected on whether this was false economy and sure enough, the gaps each side of the long trench had not been filled and were already opening up, ready to catch a front wheel.

Whitewebbs Park
Waltham Abbey

The wind was in our backs now and we soon reached Whitewebbs Park, where we detoured through the golf course and then past Forty Hall (café closed for refurbishment) and Gunpowder Park into Waltham Abbey.  The Apollo Café provided quick service and we paused to admire the impressive church where King Harold prayed on his way to the battle of Hastings.
Waltham Abbey Church
The bridge over the River Lea at Fisher's Green

We followed NCR 1 via Fishers Green to Lower Nazeing then tackled the steep climb over to Roydon.  It was still windy when we reached the pub at Hailey, so we retreated inside for a break.  Then Tracey led us on a devious route through the grounds of Haileybury and Imperial Service College (whose architect also designed the National Galley). 


Tow path at Ware
We wended through the back streets of Hertford Heath and across to Ware, where we took the towpath to Hertford and found some shelter along Cole Green Way to Welwyn GC, where we finished at the interesting watermill museum at Mill Green. 

 Cole Green Way

 Mill Green Museum
Here we found a beautifully secluded garden, where willing volunteers were supplying coffee, tea and scones at rather random prices. 

 Mill Green garden
A 46.3 mile cicuit  29/05/2011

22 May 2011

22 May 2011: St Albans to Marston Mortaine

Neil writes: Nine of us met at St Albans and it was apparent that this would be a windy ride. Soon the group was heading off to Barton Le-Clay via Harpenden, Breachwood Green and Lilly. Throughout the morning we were dodging clouds, spits of rain and playful gusts of wind.

Barton-le-Clay Mill
Old Bedford bus

The cafe at Barton-le-Clay is IMHO expensive (£4 for coffee and cake).  Bill spied an old Bedford Bus and the seating for the driver impressed him (a church pew).

From here on the ride became a battle with the weather and the ghastly gusts of wind; some of the route was shortened for this reason. Both myself and Tracey found it quite hard going, not having much weight on me the wind took full advantage of that predicament and decided that it would try it's level best to blow me off my bike (it very nearly succeeded).

It was a rather worn out bunch that arrived at Marston Moretaine Lake for a picnic, and this place was just about as wind swept as everywhere else.  Carol pointed out that we couldn't eat our sarnies at the tables, so we planted ourselves on the grass in front of a small lake, which was giving a good impression of the mid Atlantic during a storm.

It was here that we decided to make for Dunstable and then home.  The wind had got to several people and had frightened some of us (the thought of being blown off your bike isn't nice).
So, off we rode to Dunstable via Eversholt.  Around this area is a hill and at the top of it sits Chalgrave Church, with a little sign advertising cream teas, so we stopped. 

This place was amazing, up the top of a steep hill and miles from anywhere stood a its impressive church. The graveyard was immaculate; a lot of care and attention was on show here.  Inside was just as well loved as the exterior; a sarcophagus here, a sarcophagus there, some faded frescos, a superb altar and, best of all, coffee and cake was just a pound (yes £1). We were then treated to organ renditions of Lloyd-Webber’s greatest hits. 

This church begs to be visited again.


From here, we all made our windy way home, all without incident.

15 May 2011

15 May 2011: Hertford to Saffron Walden

Nine of us left Hertford on a bright and breezy May morning. We were going to a new venue for elevenses and I wasn't sure how long it would take to get there so I decided to take a direct route. We went to Ware and then took the steep hill up New Road (I received several complaints about this!). Onto Bakers End and Wareside where we joined the B road to Widford. After Widford we cut across to Perry Green and Green Tye passing one of our other haunts the Prince of Wales PH. From Green Tye we rejoined the B road that we had previously left and then followed this to Bishops Stortford. We found the cafe quite easily and were quickly served. The cafe proved to be one of noisiest I have ever been in - must be something to do with the acoustics - so I am not sure whether we will be returning there in future!


After elevenses Steve and Carol left us as they had pressing domestic commitments. The remaining seven pressed on northwards out of the town. There were some ominous looking clouds hurtling across the sky to meet us from our left however no rain materialised from them. We took some back lanes around Stansted Mountfitchet and crossed the old A11 into Ugley Green and then Elsenham. Here we turned north again and a few miles up the road I took a right turn up a very minor lane signposted to Little Henham. This lane didn't go anywhere, it just looped round and brought us back out further up the lane we had come off however it was a very pleasant diversion.

We continued north a bit further but then took another right turn to Widdington, which involved a long drag up to the village. From here, we cut across to the Debden road and then went left at the crossroads to go to Saffron Walden.

 This sign was erected to mark the year 2000

At the pub stop, I found I was the only one without sandwiches (usually its the other way round!). I didn't fancy going into the Wetherspoons on my own so whilst everyone else went off to find a suitable picnic stop I went across the road to Mochas cafe (a known haunt of the North Herts section). The service here is fantastic, I ordered a baguette at the counter and it was almost at my table before I was!
Picnic in Saffron Walden

I was joined later by the group, who came in for coffee. After leaving the cafe, we had a quick ride around the town to admire the buildings that it has to offer and then we left heading towards Audley End. The dark clouds were gathering again but the rain was holding off apart from a few spots in the wind.

We were now heading into the wind as we went through Wendons Ambo and then took the long climb to Arkesden. From here, we went onto Clavering and then took the quieter back roads towards the two post mills. We joined the Newport-Buntingford road for a short stretch and then turned off to Stocking and then Furneaux Pelham and the well-ridden route to Braughing where we joined by another Stevenage rider, David.

The usual tea and cakes were enjoyed and then we left for home via Puckeridge, Levens Green and Dane End where I left the group to return to Stevenage.

8 May 2011

08 May 2011: St Albans to Bourne End

This Sunday's ride was a hilly one down to the Thames at Bourne End.  It was a good day for exploring the Chilterns and we passed Chenies and found a scenic route across East Burnham Common.  Not sticking exactly to plan, we stopped at a 'new' cafe in Little Chalfont.

East Burnham Common

Little Chalfont Cafe


1 May 2011

01 May 2011: St Albans to Weedon

Another bright sunny morning, but with a stiff wind that would be with us all day. Off we set from St Albans, first stop Ivinghoe Tea Rooms. As this is quite a long way out, a direct route seemed to be called for. So, up the A5 to Redbourn, then to Gaddesden Row and down into the valley to Great Gaddesden. Climbing, we took the lane past the Buddhist monastery - there was a shaven headed chap outside having a fag, so the smoking rules must apply there too. The lane briefly becomes a footpath, muddy in wet weather, but perfect in this dry spell. Emerging onto Hudnall Common, we turned to Ringshall. Then, descending Ivinghoe Beacon we arrived at the village.

Here we were met by Jon and Judy, not, as might be expected, already nicely tucked up in the tea rooms, but standing by the side of the road bearing the melancholy news that the tea rooms were closed - not just for the day, but shut for good. Oh dear! Goodbye another familiar haunt. Fortunately, a memory of the cafe at Pitstone marina sprang to mind and we were there in a few minutes.

Waterside cafe at Pitstone
Boats at Pitstone Wharf

A very pleasant refreshment stop by the canal it turned out to be - one to use again. Heading off again we passed through Mentmore, Wing, Cublington, Aston Abbots and then the road to Weedon emerges onto a high ridge with superb views across the countryside in each direction.

Pause for breath outside Mentmore

The Five Elms was a new stop for us, couldn't have been more charmingly situated in this quiet village, and I thought the food was good, though some parsimonious types found it a bit pricey. A very relaxing stop in the spring sunshine. Graham suggested we have a rating system for lunch stops. A great idea, I would give this one 8 out of 10.

Five Elms at Weedon


The next leg was going to be a bit long as Aylesbury was in the way of our return direction and we had to get round it. Jon and Judy decided to return more directly as they were already a long way out from their north London start (88 mile round trip). However, we headed north again to Whitchurch, turning to Pitchcott and its hill, again offering panoramic views across the vale of Aylesbury.  On to Waddesdon hill, a steep climb, then left, descending through Eythrope Park, still a Rothschild residence. Here Lady Alice Rothschild famously told a visiting Queen Victoria to stop treading on her flowers. Crossing the River Thame by the picturesque bridge, we continued south east for a few miles, through Stone and Bishopstone to Terrick. Then turning east, passing the Chiltern Brewery, and dodging round on quiet back roads we arrived at Halton. Here we turned onto the canal towpath and, following this for a couple of miles, emerged to climb to the bridge over the A41 and then on into Tring.

The gatehouse at Eythrope Park
Bridge over the Thame
The canal at Halton

The tea stop in the High street was a welcome break; we could sit in the garden at the back. All that remained now was to get back from Tring. All seemed keen to take the direct, rather than scenic, route. So, we took the old A41 down to Berkhamsted (horrible road surface), then after Berko, turning down past the canal to arrive at Hemel centre. Then up Bunkers Lane, newly restored after its winter's collapse. Esther headed off to Watford and the St Albans and beyond group continued along the main road. It turned out to be around a 70 miles round trip from the start, more door to door. A really enjoyable ride, blessed by superb spring weather and some good stopping places. 

1 May 2011