26 February 2012

26 Feb 2012: St Albans to Asheridge

What a contrast to a few Sundays ago. The arctic blast of the early part of the month had been replaced by almost spring like conditions.  There was still a nip in the air as 10 riders gathered by the war memorial in St Albans, but the sky was blue and promised an excellent day.  We headed out of St Albans on the Redbourn Road before taking the left turn for Kettlewells farm, passing through the lanes east of Hemel Hempstead and on to Gaddesden Row.  This is always a popular spot for cyclists but the warm weather had brought out many more than usual both here and for the rest of the morning’s cycling.
Gathering at the war memorial in St Albans
Shedding layers on Hogg End Lane

We had a good distance to cover to our lunch spot and so, for time reasons, we weren’t able to explore any of the more minor lanes in these parts.  We pressed on straight through Studham, past Deadmansey Wood to Kensworth, and our coffee stop at the National Trust Cafe on Dunstable Downs where two additional riders joined the party and one left.  This cafe is always popular but doesn’t seem to be able to cope very well with its counter service; something we might need to think about for the future.

Outside the National Trust Cafe on Dunstable Downs
As a novice ride leader I was a little nervous about whether I had got the route right for the next leg and whether we would get to our lunch venue in reasonable time. But the ever-reliable Carol was on hand to pronounce that, at a hand-span and a half on my Landranger Map, the route was fine.  The second leg took us down to Whipsnade Crossroads, through Studham and down Peddley Hill (still chilly in the shade) to Hudnall Corner and Ringshall. We cycled through Ashridge Forest before turning West to Aldbury and on up to Wiggington.  After the long climb here we had a welcome level(ish) run through to Cholesbury and on to the Blue Ball at Asheridge. Arriving at five minutes to one confirmed that Carol’s hand-span measurement had been pretty accurate.

We knew this was a popular pub and so I had booked a table, which was just as well as it was packed.  One of our number had left us just before lunch leaving ten of us, which by good luck was the number of places I’d told the pub to expect and they had reserved for us – definitely worth booking for any future visits here.

Down to Chesham after lunch, three riders left us and the remaining seven headed for home.  I had been warned that the B4505 out of Chesham was a bit steep but managed to take it anyway – apologies to the other riders but at least it burnt off the lunch.  Next through Botley and Ley Hill to Bovingdon and Rucklers Lane.  At the top of Bunkers Lane I left the group who cycled back to St Albans after a trouble free ride in some soon-to-be-Spring sunshine.
Simon Redmore

19 February 2012

19 Feb 2012: St Albans to Whelpley Hill

Winter’s icy grip weakened enough for our first Sunday ride since January, although some icy patches were evident as I headed into a bitterly cold northwesterly on my ride to St Albans.  As I arrived, I was pleased to see Neil in good health again and soon eight riders were sheltering behind me to warm up in the sunshine along the Redbourn Road.  As we dropped then climbed out of Trowley Bottom, our idle thoughts turned to wondering how some of the lanes in the area, such as Friendless Lane, Hogg End Lane, Punchbowl Lane and Puddlephat’s Lane had acquired their names.  These thoughts were soon banished as my attention turned to why my gears were playing up.  Soon I was stuck on the granny gears as my front gear cable finally gave up and I was glad to be freewheeling down Pedley Hill to the Café at Hudnall Corner.  While the others elbowed their way to the counter in this steamy café, Steve lent me a spare cable to save me using my 3 metre long spare and I soon had it fixed.  Just time for a quick cuppa and a look at some of the scooters parked outside, including one festooned with lights and mirrors.

Pausing in the sunshine on Hogg End Lane
Well decorated scooter

Craig leaving Fourways Cafe

More hills followed in quick succession as we skirted Ashridge Park and dropped down Tom’s Hill into Aldbury.  From here it was a very pretty route via Little Champneys and Ashley Green to Whelpley Hill were a roaring fire awaited us in the pub.  We left at 2 pm, narrowly missing Phil who arrived a minute later.  On the way back, hedge-clipping season was in full swing and claimed two victims.  Giles punctured on Rucklers Lane, where some of the group stayed back to assist.  We carried on then someone else (who shall remain nameless) punctured at Bedmond.  The contents of his repair kit were emptied out, only to find firstly no spare tube, secondly no patches and thirdly only dried up glue.  Fortunately we could repair the tube between us, avoiding a long walk home.

Jon 19/02/2012