27 November 2011

27 Nov 2011: St Albans to Whelpley Hill

As the west wind abated, eight riders assembled at The War Memorial anxious for a quick getaway before the hordes of Christmas shoppers swamped St Peters Street, our intended exit route from the city.  We avoided Chiswell Green by taking the back road to Bedmond & paused briefly outside what had once been the White Hart, but now a boarded-up property for sale.  The high fence, originally erected to deter rubbish dumpers had been removed, except for the gate, which was securely padlocked & serving no evident purpose.
At the tin church near the former White Hart
From here, it was though Abbotts Langley to Hunton Bridge, across the A41 towards Chandlers Cross.  

Jon was lagging on a steepish hill; was this due to over-indulgence the previous evening?  We stopped to check. His right clipless pedal was attached to his shoe, but the pedal wasn’t attached to the pedal axle, although the axle was still screwed into the crank.  This was a serious mechanical malfunction with no immediate means of repair.  His choice was to carry on to the coffee stop, by adjusting his pedalling motion to squeeze the middle, to use a current popular phrase.  

At Chandlers Cross we freewheeled down Rousebarn Lane, (a no-through road to cars) into Croxley Green & wiggled our way through suburban houses, several of which looked eligible for the mooted mansion tax, to the Mill End café.  Here I had a puncture in the back tyre; was this good or bad luck?
On Rousebarn Lane
Suitably refreshed, our depleted numbers sailed (the wind was now in our favour) our way through the late-autumn sunshine to the White Hart at Whelpley Hill, about a mile outside Bovingdon.  Inside a group of heavily built men in Prison Warders’ uniforms sat drinking beer, having time off for bad behaviour from the local Young Offenders institution.  

The young landlady informed us that she was a local and had only just taken over the pub from the previous owner who had tried & failed to run it as an expensive restaurant.  The food & beer was good & reasonably priced and there was agreement that we should return in February.

Then it was a quick ride down Rucklers Lane & up Bunkers Lane to get back to St Albans where the Christmas shoppers formed a heaving throng.  So there was still time to do some shopping, but none of us did.

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Steve B

20 November 2011

20 Nov 2011: Hatfield to Puckeridge

With eight riders emerging from the fog to gather in Hatfield, some hasty route planning was called for on my part, as I hadn’t realised this was the ride I had swapped with Neil.  We were keen to warm up on some hills, so I decided on the southerly option via the cycle route to Welham Green, over Bell Bar and up to Kentish Lane, where we were almost above the low-lying fog.
Above the fog on Kentish Lane
By special request, I avoided Tylers Causeway, choosing Cucumber Hill instead, and found a few more hills via Bayford before the long descent from Brickendon to Hertford.  Here we were really enveloped in fog as we cruised along by the River Lea to Ware.
Along the Hertford-Ware cycle route

Here three late-risers joined in, while three others decided on a swift return home.  The cold snap had caught Bill out, who was only wearing his track mitts, but a quick rummage into the depths of Judy’s banana bags and some spare “No. 2” gloves were soon on loan.  However, on leaving the café, the sun was out and it was a brilliant day as we headed through Ware.

Passing through Wadesmill, we paused where Thomas Clarkson received a ‘direct revelation from God’, ordering him to devote his life to abolishing the slave trade.  Our dilemma was more selfish.  Carol had called both pubs in Benington (no sandwiches) and one in Aston (no answer), so we were wondering if we would have to go into Stevenage.  Inspiration came from Richard, who suggested The Crown & Falcon in Puckeridge.  A few twists and turns and we were there.  The choice was between full meals, baguettes (at £7), or less healthy burgers or battered sausages.

After lunch it was a lovely ride back home in brilliant sunshine.  But just as an ember sun was setting, the fog was starting to creep back across low-lying fields reminding us that autumn was in full swing.

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13 November 2011

13 Nov 2011: Hatfield to Bayford

11 of us set off from Hatfield on what turned out to be a beautifully bright autumnal day.  We headed out to Cole Green Way and cycled the tarmaced route to Letty Green then followed the road to Hertingfordbury, Bayford and up to Brickendon Green and along some leafy lanes to Broxbourne.  It was Remembrance Sunday and an impressive band and crowd had gathered for the Service at the church.  At the Lido, we picked up the towpath along the river to the café at Dobbs Weir.
Simon and Giles at the Hatfield start
Peering through the cafe window
After a superb value for money, filling breakfast with excellent service, we headed doubled back on the towpath to Meadgate and picked up the Sustrans National Cycle network Route 1 to Nazing, through Clayton Hill Park and all the way to Lee Valley Park Farm and on to Fishers Green.  Here we crossed the old River Lea and the River Lee navigation to Turnford Brook, then cycled north along virgin territory on a path that led us to the railway crossing at Slip Lane in Wormley.  

We turned off through Wormley woods past the Woodman Pub (scheduled stop closed for refurbishment) and followed White Stubbs Lane up to The Baker Arms in Bayford. Here the staff were welcoming and provided us promptly with reasonably priced baguettes, as we sat in their pretty gardens making the most of the good weather and pondering how long it would last! We left the pub for home or the AGM in good time before it got dark.

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For a map of the Lee Valley Regional Park visit www.leevalleypark.org.uk or ring them on 08456 770 600 and they will post you a free map, which I would have been lost without! Sorry to those of you who didn't have a map today that I did briefly lose!


6 November 2011

06 Nov 2011: St Albans to Eaton Bray

As the first Sunday of the month, today’s ride was one where newcomers are invited along to ride to elevenses. Then they are guaranteed someone will lead them back to the start, so they can be sure they have a ride of reasonable length for a beginner/newcomer.

However, as it was a very dull and damp day weather wise, no beginners turned up. But, anticipating there might be I had thoughtfully planned the flattest possible ride to elevenses at Woodside Farm at Slip End near Luton. So ten of us set off, including Mike who normally rides with the Wednesday evening group, but thought a ride to elevenses would be ideal.

We took a roundabout route out of St. Albans going through the Childwick Estate where the film director Stanley Kubrick used to live. After that, we meandered across to Gaddesden Row and in due course dropped down into Markyate before reaching Woodside Farm having done about 17 miles.
Outside Jakes Cafe
Llamas at Woodside Farm
The café there is delightful -small and cosy with the walls lined with bookshelves of second hand books, with sales going to charity. So, after a literary elevenses three of the group returned to St Albans and the rest of us set off for Eaton Bay, which is sort of N.E. of Dunstable, together with three who had joined the ride at elevenses.

The original published plan had been to go to the ‘Old Farm Inn’ at Totternhoe for lunch, but prior checking had revealed they had already booked a party of 28 walkers so couldn’t accommodate us. Some other pubs seemed excessively expensive so I had settled on the ‘White Horse’ at Eaton Bray. To reach there we cycled up past Whipsnade Zoo seeing a large shaggy bison and then hurtled down the long, steep and appropriately named Bison Hill, before looping around  through Totternhoe and into Eaton Bray.

The ‘White Horse’ turned out to be a popular pub, i.e. it was crowded but we squeezed onto a table in a corner. Having fed, there was some discussion as to the best route home as we didn’t want to go back up Bison Hill, nor any of the other steep routes to get over the Dunstable Downs. The consensus was that we should go via Dagnall and then across to Studham.
This proved to be a very wise decision as we went along a relatively flat route below the zoo and the escarpment of the downs passing beneath the enormous white lion carved into the chalk of the downs.
Whipsnade Zoo
White Lion Hillside

At Dagnall, we turned towards Studham and reached there without really noticing we had climbed very much at all. From here, it seemed an easy run back to St Albans via Redbourn. So, a slightly damp day, but it never actually rained, wasn’t too cold and a good day was had by all. Total distance was round about 50 miles. Note that we didn’t have a tea stop, as this is the beginning of the winter rides programme and we want to get back before dark. This also means that winter rides tend to be shorter than summer ones.