31 July 2011

31 Jul 2011: Sights of London

Today’s ride was a chance to let someone else lead us for a change, by joining a Forty Plus CC ‘Diamond Jubilee’ ride in central London organised by Bernie of the Essex ‘A’ section.  Bernie used to be a London tour guide and had planned an interesting route around the major tourist sights of London.  Riders from all points of the compass were to meet on the Greenway overlooking the Olympic Stadium and all we had to do was to get there by 10 am.

I led a feeder ride from New Barnet at 8 am, which proved to be far too early for most of our regulars, although Neil enjoyed the ride in from Hatfield in brilliant early morning sunshine.  Our route from New Barnet took us to Bounds Green along a broad cycle route going through various parks and over a superb new bridge across the North Circ.  I then skirted around back streets to the River Lea at Warwick reservoir and followed the towpath right down to The Olympic Park.

  The View Tube is built from recycled shipping containers, including one stood on end to form a high tower, from which we had plenty of time to check on preparations for the Olympics.  The stadium was hard to miss, but we could also see the Aquatics Centre, with its temporary wings providing extra seating.  Anish Kapoor’s Orbit sculpture was nearly finished.  In the distance, we could just make out the Basketball Arena looking like a giant white pillow and the Velodrome with its Pringle roof.  All impressive structures, but all were completely different.  Perhaps the landscaping work will bring it together into more of a park than an industrial estate.

Others arrived by train, car and bike from all around London and the Home Counties and soon there were at least 35 cyclists gathered at the View Tube café.

The logistics of leading such a large group around London were not easy and Bernie split us into three groups with leaders and tail gunners, the idea being to keep in sight, but leave gaps between.   The first section along the Regents Canal was quite tricky as we ducked under low bridges on a narrow towpath with runners, pedestrians and other cyclists coming towards us.  Two of the first group soon fell off due to a cyclist speeding towards them, but escaped with minor cuts, bruises and a dented helmet.  At least they didn’t end up in the canal.

We left the canal at The Angel and soon after Mount Pleasant stopped briefly at 35 Doughty Street, where the Forty Plus CC was founded 60 years ago.  Our next detour was a circuit of Regents Park Outer Circle, with its expensive mansions, mosque and zoo.  By this time we were getting hungry and headed for the Albion Gate into Hyde Park, crossed the Serpentine Bridge and stopped near the Diana Fountain for our picnic.

Tower Bridge
We were then ready to tackle the tourist sights of Central London.  We crossed Hyde Park Corner and passed Buckingham Palace, then cycled down a traffic-free Mall and beside Horseguards Parade, where the trials for the Beach Volleyball had just been held.  Passing Central Hall and Westminster Abbey, we headed across Lambeth Bridge, along the South Bank near the London Eye and over Blackfriars Bridge.  We passed the Bank of England and crossed back over London Bridge and back again over Tower Bridge.  After looping around the Tower of London we walked our bikes along the river to St Katherine Docks, then mounted up to tackle the hellish cobbled streets of Wapping.   Then we joined CS3 (Cycling Superhighway) and it was a relief to stop briefly while the Triathlon went past on the Limehouse Link.  Before we knew it, Bernie had led us through Poplar and Canning Town alive and we were back on the Greenway, and heading for the View Tube, to finish the 30-mile circuit.

 View map full screen

Many thanks to Bernie for organising such an interesting ride.


24 July 2011

24 Jul 2011: Birthday Ride

This ride was our annual chance to meet up with the other three CTC groups in Hertfordshire.  The plan was for Stuart to lead the South Herts contingent to Codicote, to meet the other groups at Vanstones Garden Centre.
20110724 Stuart leading at Burnham Green
Re-grouping in Burnham Green

Seven of us socialites set off on a southerly loop from Hatfield skirting the boundary of Hatfield House, then up to Essendon and down to cross the Lea into Letty Green.  From here it was a direct route to Codicote, although some confusion arose as our group mingled with the North Herts and we were not sure who was following whom.  I must have taken a more direct route as I reached Vanstones 10 minutes before the others.

20110724 At Vanstones
Cyclists rarely stay still
long enough to count them
or to photograph them

With about 50 cyclists it was a noisy tea break (I pity the shoppers) and I was glad when it was time to get back on the bike.  Those going on to lunch then split into a fast group, led by Brian and a slower group led by Paul.  Brian led us a merry dance snaking around some of the best lanes Herts has to offer, although the speed didn't allow for much staring at the scenery. 

Brian leading the fast group down dale and up hill
We're somewhere near Luton Airport

Needless to say the slow group arrived at the pub first having taken a short route.  Brilliant planning, as there was no queue to be served at all - excellent beer, a good selection of food and good company.
Lunch at the Red Lion

View map full screen

We left well after 2 pm to wend our leisurely ways home.


17 July 2011

17 Jul 2011: Hatfield to Birchanger

Despite the prospect of heavy showers, seven of us met at Hatfield for a ride Jon was leading to Birchanger, near Stansted, in Essex.  Craig had a new Thorn bike with big Marathon Plus tyres and Rohloff gears, ready for his trip to Vietnam.  Bill was trying out his new low loaders and front panniers, ready for his ride to the Semaine Fédérale in Flers.

We headed through Welwyn Garden City to the Cole Green Way, following this most of the way to Hertford, from where we climbed to Goose Green, before dropping down into Hoddesdon.  We then picked up the canal towpath into Stansted Abbotts, where we were trying a new café – the Village Café – which offered a good range of rolls, sandwiches and fry ups.

Judy struggles while gentlemen look on and take photos!
Towpath at St Margarets
Village Cafe, Stanstead Abbotts
Near Hunsdon

Despite the weather forecast of heavy showers, everyone decided to continue to lunch at Birchanger.  Our route took us through Hunsdon and then past the Henry Moore Foundation up onto the plateau above Sawbridgeworth.  We then only had to go though Spelbrook and the Hallingburys to Birchanger.  By the time we got near to Birchanger, I was behind the others and Jon stayed back with me, directing the rest of the group to the pub around the big roundabouts near the M11.  Jon and I followed on, only to overtake the others while they were doing a non-scenic detour of the service station.
We settled down to an al fresco lunch in the pub garden against a background of darkening clouds.  Before long, the inevitable heavy rain arrived and, not wanting to leave the fresh air for the inside of the pub, we moved rapidly to a table under a shelter.

Lunch located


Useful canopy
Near Farnham

At 2 pm prompt, the skies cleared and we left in the sun, but with threatening clouds overhead.  We did not get very far before we had to stop under some trees to cape up.  However, this shower was not as prolonged as the first and we were soon in the dry again.  We continued to dodge the showers and remained (more or less) dry until we got to tea at Whitehill golf course near Dane End.  Once again, while we were inside eating our tea and cakes, the heavens opened.  The golfers were in the clubhouse watching The Open, while thunder roared and the gutters overflowed.  Again, luck was with us and we left in the dry, with a dry evening to ride home in.

The group split and by the time Jon & I got home to Barnet, we had clocked up 83 miles.  The rest of the group went back to Hatfield via the B1000 to complete the 63 mile circuit; but descending a steep hill, Craig had the misfortune to clip Bill’s back wheel and fall off, scraping his fingers.  Fortunately, they were near Mimram Kennels and a young lad came out with a first aid kit and patched him up, so he was able to carry on home.


10 July 2011

10 Jul 2011: Hatfield to Fiddlers Hamlet

The weather forecast was good, so when I arrived at the start in Hatfield I was pleased to see seven other cyclists waiting for the off. Two of these were women, new to the group (welcome to nurses Rachel & Andrea!).  That made a good balance of four women and four men on the ride.  It’s always good to have new members, but sometimes the ride leader has a little trepidation, lest they have difficulty keeping up. In this case my concerns were completely groundless as it was more my difficulty keeping up with them, rather than the other way around.  Anyway, first stop was to be at the new Olympic white water centre in the Lea Valley near Waltham Abbey. Our route included a southerly loop via Brookmans Park and Cuffley and then we crossed the New River and the A10 on the new cycleway and bridge.

20110710 Silver Street
Silver Street near Goffs Oak
New River Bridge
Paul Cully Bridge over the A10
Crossing the A10

Eventually this led directly to the Lee Valley Park via an unattended railway crossing. As you approach the white water centre from the north at first all you can see is a very modern looking building and a large mound. Parking the bikes at the bottom you can then go in and up through the building or up the mound itself. The upper level has a nice café with an outside terrace and beyond this is the white water course. This is an excellent free spectacle watching alternately, rafts (inflatable boats) with 9 paddlers in them, or canoeists tackle the plunging white water rapids. Apparently, they have enormous pumps pumping the water to the top from where it cascades down as rapids. This might explain why the rafting sessions cost £50 per person. Nevertheless, it does look thrilling.

White Water raft

10k Fun Run in the Lea Valley

Duly excited and fed we attempted to leave whereupon Neil found he had a puncture.  Having dealt with this we decided to change our onward route and go north in the Lee Valley Park. This is very pleasant riding alongside tranquil waterways and lakes with waterfowl etc.
Near Fishers Green in the Lea Valley

Unfortunately, Neil’s tyre let him down (literally) again. Now we had intended to go to a pub called the ‘Moletrap’ deep in the Essex countryside to the southeast of Harlow. However, time was ticking away and we decided this was too far and a nearer venue was needed for lunch. Therefore, we left Jon to help Neil fix his puncture and instead we took a direct route to The Theydon Oak in Fiddlers Hamlet, just beyond Epping.

The pub was very busy, but the staff were friendly and efficient.  Having lunched, some at the pub and others with sandwiches, off we went again. Next stop was to be at Upshire church famous for its Sunday teas and absolutely superb cakes. This was not too far from where we were. So to earn our reward a loop of a couple of miles and a few hills were put into the route. Strangely whilst the countryside generally was idyllically quiet, there was a part of this loop where there seemed to be an excess of noisy motorways and intersections. (M25/M11). Still, once we were away from that and had negotiated the Epping road through Epping Forest, we were soon dropping down to Upshire village. There, as always, the garden around the church was full of tables with people hard at work eating cake.

Horses near the M25
Upshire Church
Upshire cakes

As proper cyclists, we are fully trained cake eaters ourselves, so having selected from the scrumptious array of cakes we were soon joining in.  Neil liked them so much he bought the recipe book.

Now it was time to head for home. Just after Waltham Abbey, the party split with half going towards north London and the rest towards Hatfield. Just short of Hatfield the weather, which had been dry all day despite looking a little suspect at times, decided it was time for some very light rain. Overall, the distance from the start at Hatfield and back there again was about 63 miles on a very wiggly course.

3 July 2011

03 Jul 2011: St Albans to Chesham

We met at the war memorial on a hot and sultry day and Mike from the Wednesday evening riders came along and rode with us.

Tom meeting us in St Albans
Ashridge House

We soon got off on a lovely trek to Pitstone via Redbourn and Little Gaddesden.  It was a brisk start and the pace remained the same throughout the first part of the ride.  As we made our way through the Ashridge estate I noted that, since they had cut the trees back, we were now greeted with a wonderful view of Ashridge House. A place I need to take more photos of one day, it is a very impressive building and has featured in films such as The Dirty Dozen.

At break, Adrian who hadn’t been out for a while met us and Steve met with another old friend from the road. Another Steve and Mike left us here (these chaps had to get home), and strangely enough with out Mike the pace of the ride slowed down.

Pitstone Wharf
Meeting at the Cafe

From Pitstone we made our way towards Chesham.  On reaching Chesham, we took a very strange route through the town that included a quick ride through the park.  Here we stopped at the Pheasant; a lovely pub that lets us bring our own sandwiches.
In the garden at The Pheasant
The Crong

From lunch, it was another lovely ride back to St Albans, but our destination was shrouded in mystery.  On reaching St Albans, we were invited to Carol's Pantry. A new tea stop for us, this was a rather wonderful place that gave us homemade cakes and free coffee.  We were encouraged to inspect the proud owner’s  kitchen, which was extremely clean and well laid out.  We must use it again!

The chat at tea came round to ride reports and the lack of them from the Wednesday evening group, which gives a rather unbalanced impression of our activities. 


Ride leader: Steve.