29 January 2012

29 Jan 2012: Hatfield to Aston

Sunday morning and it was cold, (2 oC) dank and foggy.  Surely no sensible person would want to go out cycling?  But of course cyclists aren’t renowned for being sensible weather-wise.

So seven of us gathered in the car park at Asda in Hatfield for the start.  First stop was to be the Hitchin Kitchen which, strangely enough, is in Hitchin.  Two of the party set off on their own as they wanted a reasonably flat ride.  The rest of us headed off via Lemsford and ground our way uphill on the old A1 to Ayot Green. Here Neil sensibly decided to go back home as he was feeling unwell.  We were concerned that he would be OK, but as he only had to go back down the hill and into Hatfield where he lived we thought he should be alright. Then we headed on down towards Codicote Bottom and on the way, out of the mist, a small herd of deer ran across the lane just in front of us. Next we turned right at Kimpton Mill with its watercress beds. Then meandered across country using very quiet lanes, which were almost eerie in the mist, climbing slowly towards Preston. From there, apart from some undulations, it was downhill all the way through Gosmore and into Hitchin. Past its busy market and soon we were at the Hitchin Kitchen, where one of our regular riders was already ensconced.  Now this busy cafĂ© is a proper British ‘caff’, with a good range of super breakfasts and very reasonable prices.  This despite, or maybe because, it is apparently run by very hard working Eastern Europeans.

Having received a text from Neil saying he had got home OK, we could think about the next leg.  The lunch stop was to be Aston, which is actually quite close, so to ensure we built up a proper appetite a hilly roundabout route was chosen, (while some opted for the flatter route using Stevenage cycleways). Off through the northern suburbs of Hitchin, through Willian and down towards Baldock. Having gone down, it was now up with a vengeance alongside Weston Hill.  I remarked to one of the others that we didn’t often come this way, which invited the retort that this wasn’t surprising given how ‘xxxxxx’ steep it was. This route now crosses the new Baldock bypass, the A505 with a bridge. From here into the village of Weston and then on via Hall’s Green, skirting well to the west of Stevenage and down to Walkern. We were still a bit early for lunch, so a diversionary loop was put in going further east from Walkern, up to a quite remote hamlet called Bassus Green with it’s ancient cottages. Then back down to the Walkern road again and on to Aston. Here we went into the Rose and Crown. This seemed a very pleasant pub serving excellent sandwiches and a special offer on beer at £2 a pint which is too good to miss despite it being McMullens.

Five cyclists standing by bikes
Ready for a cold ride home
Passing early daffodils on Essendon Road

After lunch it was back on the bikes and a quick return to the start at Hatfield via Tewin and WGC. The overall distance start to finish was about 45 miles. It had been a cold but dry day with virtually no wind, so all in all not a bad day’s ride.

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22 January 2012

22 Jan 2012: St Albans to Wildhill

It was a fine but breezy, very breezy, morning when we met up at the War Memorial in St Albans. There was a good attendance of riders and we were glad to see some new faces included along with the old faces. The lunch stop today was going to be quite close to home, so the longest part of the trip would be to the coffee stop in Crews Hill. We set off through St Albans fringes and then Colney Heath to Welham Green. The wind was so far helping our progress. Then, heading south parallel to the A1, we used the underpass under the M25 to emerge at Dancers Hill. A very handy cut through and part of the Sustrans route. Now heading east, the route runs nicely on the ridge overlooking Enfield Chase and Trent Park with fine views over the countryside. Eventually arriving at the fringes of Enfield we soon took the bridleway to Rectory Farm - mostly a good concrete surface, with only a short muddy bit to walk round - and soon the garden centres at Crews Hill were in sight. The one we used this time, the Blackberry Cafe, was definitely better than some of the others. Something to remember for future rides in this direction. 
Entering Theobalds Lane

In the cafe there were 4 more riders waiting for us, so after refreshments it was a good sized group that headed off round Theobalds Park, then the fringes of Goffs Oak to Bread & Cheese Lane. 
Up Bread & Cheese Lane

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Very lumpy all this was and we were having a strong head wind too. Soon we passed the Woodman pub at Wormley West End, now refurbished and ominously renamed the Woodman and Olive (will it still be our kind of place?). On to Little Berkhamsted and soon arriving at the Woodman Wild Hill. A first class and busy pub with a back room reserved for us to eat our sarnies. What more could you want? After lunch people dispersed for their own routes home.
Crossing Lieutenant Ellis Way (see footnote)
Sandwiches in the back room of the pub

A really good, shorter winter ride.
Richard 22/01/2012

Footnote: Lieutenant Ellis Way was named in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of VE day, in memory of the captain of a B24 Liberator bomber flying from Wendling in Norfolk.  It crashed there, possibly following a mid air collision with a B17 Fortress from Nuthampstead.  Many believe that Lieutenant Ellis sacrificed his chance to bale out in order to steer his bomber away from Cheshunt. Read more...

15 January 2012

15 Jan 2012: St Albans to Berkhamsted

The morning was bright; frost shimmered in the sun and ice lined the kerbs; the brass monkey on the patio wore a pained expression; surely only maniacs would cycle in these conditions.  Six riders duly stood shivering at the War Memorial ready for the signal to go. Then they were off down St Peters St past the remnants of the sales, up Bluehouse Hill & along the A4147, which was devoid of traffic (sensible people, these motorists), to slalom down Bunkers Lane and up Rucklers Lane where the evidence of global warming was distinctly lacking.

We wiggled through the country lanes keeping to the middle of the roads, until near Chenies we stopped to wonder at a symbol of the cold war, very appropriate for the climatic conditions. After Chenies village, we turned onto a track passing Chenies Manor, clearly a prime candidate for a mansion tax.  The track gave great views over the Chess valley to Latimer House, before joining the road to Little Chalfont.
Cyclists looking at a dome on a tower
Cold war listening post?
Two cyclists in front of Chenies manor house
By Chenies manor

Our destination was Ozzy's, a cafe reputedly named after one of Britain's most eminent musicians; would the soothing tones of Black Sabbath ease the pain in the frozen fingers & toes of the cyclists?

Fortunately not, as silence reigned, and strong black coffee was quickly served to alleviate any lingering hangovers and warm the extremities. New Year's resolutions were swiftly abandoned as calories were ingested ready for the onward journey, which took us through Chesham, Cholesbury, Champneys (the idea of a massage was tempting) & into Berkhamsted.
Mid-morning and still frozen

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The Crown is interesting as it was a pub before JD Wetherspoon took it over, so it unusually has both cheapness & ambience. Then it was the usual trek back to St Albans, via Hemel Hempstead but avoiding the magic roundabout & retracing our route up Bunkers Lane with plenty of time to purchase those sale bargains after the final reductions.  Christmas cards seemed really cheap.

Carol & Steve 15/01/2012

8 January 2012

08 Jan 2012: Hatfield to Hoddesdon

When I arrived at Hatfield, maintenance work was underway on Tracey's bike.  Her front mech was siezed up and would not budge, so it was middle ring only for the next part of the ride.  Six of us set off from Hatfield, including a new rider James, who had read about our rides on the web.

We took the lanes south of Hatfield through "Little Switzerland".  At Essendon road, I let Jon lead the main group on a hilly route to elevenses.  I'm slow on the hills, so Tracey and I headed straight along the B road (only one major hill) to Hertford, where Tracey dashed off to Halfords to buy some spray oil for her front mech.

As the longer part of the planned route was after elevenses, I'd planned to get to the Wetherspoons pub at 10.30, allowing us to leave soon after 11.00.  However, more people kept turning up for coffee: Richard (who had failed to wake up in time), Bill (with similar excuses) and Steve and Jackie (today celebrating the first anniversary of the ride last year when Jackie broke her hip). 

The North Herts CTC were having their elevenses break at the Rose Cafe, also in Hertford, and Brian (our DA/Member Group Secretary) dashed in, asked "Who's Neil" and thrust a small box at Neil.  The box contained Neil's medal for the most attendance points last year but Brian rushed out before Neil had time to deliver his carefully crafted speech.  Perhaps Neil had upset Brian by forgetting to renew his (Neil's) CTC membership last year.
Cyclists outside cafe
Outside Six Templars in Hertford
Cyclists outside pub
Leaving the White Swan in Hoddesdon

By 11.00 Tracey's front mech was in semi-working order (small and middle ring only) so I set off with Tracey, Neil and James, leaving Jon to lead a faster, longer ride when the later arrivals were ready.  We rode out of Hertford, through Bengeo, Wadesmill and Cold Christmas, before dropping down to Wareside (where the fast group joined us) and then following the river valley to Stanstead Abbotts.  From there, it was a short ride through suburbia to Hoddesdon for lunch at the 16th century White Swan inn (Dick Turpin held up coaches from here on the Ware-Cambridge road).  The White Swan is now a friendly pub with good value meals and an ideal winter venue.

After lunch, the group split up.  Part of the party headed to Welwyn Garden City and St Albans via Goose Green, Hertford and the Cole Green Way.  The Hatfield and Barnet contingent headed up past the zoo.  Neil, Peter and Bill passed Jon and I on the hill out of Hoddesdon, only to be briefly overtaken by us later, at the top of the hill, while they were studying their OS map.  It made a welcome change to be home well before dark.

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Judy, 8 Jan 2012

1 January 2012

01 Jan 2012: St Albans to Cheshunt

I had just glanced at some of our ride reports for this time last year, with their talk of icy and treacherous conditions and pictures of snow and ice. What a difference today, mild and balmy, but heavy rain forecast for later - would we get back before it arrived? So, it was a good turn out of 15 riders for our first ride of 2012 and traditional New Year's Day lunch. Meeting up in the Cafe Roma in St Albans, a later start and undemanding distance seemed the order of the day.
Mother with bike - daughter with scooter
Rona with daughter on two wheels
Lots of cyclists outside cafe
Richard showing us the way

We didn't set off until 10.30, heading out of the town by way of Barley Mow Lane and then through Colney Heath and Welham Green, passing the Royal Vet College and into Potters Bar. Then taking the pleasant wooded lane we passed through Crews Hill and on past Whitewebbs Park. We turned sharp left onto the track over he M25 through Theobalds Park, and RIGHT at the T junction to emerge onto the new cycle path and cross the magnificent cycle bridge over the A10. From here, it was just a short step into Cheshunt High Street and the welcoming King James. We all enjoyed a relaxed and good value lunch.
Cyclist descends from cycle bridge
Descending from the bridge over A414
Cyclists having pub lunch
Lunch at the King James in Cheshunt

Afterwards, we all started the return home by heading for Cuffley, and then there was a general heading off for north London, Welwyn, Hatfield, St Albans, etc. Heavy rain got going and I was pretty damp when I got home, having cycled less than 40 miles.
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1 Jan 2012