29 July 2012

29 Jul 2012: St Albans to Farnham Royal

Eight of us met at the war memorial in St Albans and the morning was bright and sunny but a little windy.  We had all heard the weather report and some of us felt a little over dressed.

Broken gear hanger on a new Raleigh
A wealth of expertise
Stranded cyclist
Bunting in Chalfont
We made a brisk start of things and headed off for Kings Langley.  The roads were peaceful and the sun was actually rather hot, but the breeze cooled us down.  First stop was Chalfont St Giles and on our way there we came across a hapless cyclist whose rear mech had sheared off.  Everyone stopped to help and Carol mentioned that there was a wealth of experience in the group.  Well we all looked at the problem and made the statutory muttering sounds, but came to the resounding conclusion that we could do nothing to help.  We bid the poor chap adieu and set off for tea.

Tea was a welcome break, and Chalfont was decked out in splendid bunting, the owner of the café wanted pic of us for their web site, so we obliged.

Soon we were making our way to Cookham; the weather couldn’t decide what it wanted to be so it settled on being all four in a twenty minute rotation.  Now the weather report had mentioned heavy showers; it hadn’t mentioned driving rain, thunder and lightning along with the hail stones.  This little treat had us all scurrying for cover.
Torrential rain
Not much shelter

But when the storm was over and as we set off, Bill heard the roar of engines and spied some classic cars in a field just over from us, so being a nosey bunch we decided to investigate.  The MG car club were holding a private meet.  These cars were lovely and very well looked after.  We spoke to the organiser and he let us have a wander around, which was really decent of him.
MG Car Club
MG racing car
MG sports car

What with the stops and the weather we decided that Cookham was a little too far.  Lunch was going to be closer - Farnham Royal to be exact.  Now I wish I could remember the name of the pub we visited because they were superb.  The rain lashed down and we were able to have our sandwiches inside.  They didn’t do food and really had no problem with us eating our own.  A rather nice place.

After watching the lashing rain and the F1 we made our way home, not the longest of rides but it was fun and held some great surprises.

22 July 2012

22 Jul 2012: Wheathampstead to Marston Vale

A bright, sunny and warm day! Sun creams, and not waterproofs, were at the ready when we met up at Wheathampstead.  There was a good turn out of cyclists – too many to count easily.  Our first stop was to be Harlington - the other side of Luton. We could either circle round it - a long and hilly route; or boldly go straight through it.
14 gathering at Wheathampstead
Lee Valley cycle route

Following the Lee Valley cycle route we went directly towards Luton (diverting to the road to avoid that annoyingly muddy bit in the middle).  Soon we were startling the gathering winos and misfits in Luton town centre, who didn't know whether to run for it or say hello when they saw us cycling towards them.  Following the Bedford direction through the town we picked up the more pleasant green route along the upper course of the Lee, eventually emerging on the road to Sundon.  Then it was a smooth climb through the villages and over the edge of the escarpment - a fast descent - and through Harlington to the garden centre.  

From this coffee stop, some of us needed to return home, but the rest soon pressed on through the quiet woods surrounding Woburn and then past the Milbrook proving ground and on to our lunch stop at Marston Vale Country Park.  Here we were due to meet up with the Cambridge CTC group. They weren't there when we arrived and in fact didn't arrive until we had eaten and were itching to leave.  So socialising cut a bit short.  However, it was nice to see them for a brief chat.  
Marston Vale Country Park
Boys will be boys

Picnic by the lake
Cambridge CTC arrive

We left the park through the model village of Stewartby, built in the 1920s for the workers at the London Brick Co. Once the largest brick works in the world, whose legacy is the enormous clay pits (now recreational lakes) and four preserved chimneys.  The works were closed in 2008, because of the difficulty of removing sulphur emissions from the clay - it is full of ancient seaweed, which gives off fumes when burned. 

Note the sandals
Looking cool

Our course now lay east, cutting across several north/south roads, so a bit of a zigzag, passing through Haynes, Ireland and Southill. A nice trip, though, through rolling countryside. Eventually arriving at Langford, we took a welcome tea break - the unaccustomed heat was getting to us. From here most headed back to Wheathampstead where parked cars were waiting and a straightforward route took us through Hitchin and Codicote. 


21 July 2012

21 Jul 2012: Saturday morning ride to Shenley

Well this was our first Saturday ride, and we couldn’t have picked a better day. Bright blue skies, a slight breeze and spank loads of sun.  10am Morrison’s was the time for the meet; Richard and John (a new rider) were there to meet me.  As the clouds bubbled away in the sky we made our escape from urban shopping frenzy and rode of in the direction of the St Albans Way.
John meets Richard outside Morrisons

We mainly followed route 61 and the first highlight of the ride was Saint Julian’s Wood, this offers a lovely view of St Albans and is a nice well-used track.  We kept to a leisurely pace of about 11mph and this suited everyone.  We were soon nipping through parts of Park Street on our way to Bricket Wood.  It was as we passed Smug Oak Green I made a change to the route.  The original went down School Lane then turned off onto a farm track (a lovely track but not good for beginners).  So I decided to make use of Drop Lane.  Highlight number 2: this wonderful little lane follows the river Ver and it’s very nice pootling along beside it.

Richard left us as we made our way up to Harper lane, then I introduced John to Black Lion Hill (he loved me for that).

After tea stop we made our way back via Rectory lane and a wonderful decent down Black Horse Lane.  We zipped through London Colney and made it back to Morrison’s.  The ride was just a little over 20 miles and took 2hrs 15 mins.

A great ride that showed John loads of roads he didn’t know before; he liked the fact that there was a good mix of roads.
This was a successful exercise - our next one is 18th of August.

Hope to see you there.


8 July 2012

08 Jul 2012: Hatfield to Lea Valley

The wet roads were almost deserted today, which made it a peaceful route to the Lea Valley and even more peaceful as only Neil had the enthusiasm to join me on a rather foul morning.  Of course, we were competing with TV showing the British grand prix, Murray in the Wimbledon final and a mountain stage on the Tour de France.  It was also the day when the Olympic torch came to our area.  Maybe if we charged for our rides people would turn up to get their money’s worth!
Heading north from the cafe on NCR1 
We soon warmed up on a nice hilly route through Newgate Street and Goffs Oak, then over the Connect 2 cycle bridge to cross the A10, from where I explored a new route into the Lea Valley Park.  Here there were ducks and coots wandering everywhere.  So many that the confused wildfowl were colonising some of the larger puddles we cycled through.

Surprisingly, the Orchard Café was packed out with a large buggy-pushing mothers’ group, although most had overflowed out of the café onto the patio.  It seemed to be a regular meeting point, but they were preferring to stay there scoffing rather than do any pushing in the rain.  Somehow, I can’t see that becoming an Olympic sport.  Judy had saved us a table so we stayed and dried out a bit.
Large flint

It was still raining on leaving the café, so we decided to forego the pub and the cakes at Upshire and headed north on NCR1 to loop back home.  Not easy going as the gravel topping was being washed into piles and I soon had a flat tyre.  At least the cause was easy to find – as I pulled out the inner tube the flint was still sticking into it, leaving a large cut in the tyre.

We left Neil at Dobbs Weir - having discovered some lovely mud in the Lea Valley, he was quite keen to get good and dirty on his mountain bike and returned via the towpath to Ware & Hertford.   Looks from the photos as if he achieved his aim, proving you can have fun cycling in wet weather!

Tow path mud
Hose me down

Jon 8/7/2012

1 July 2012

01 Jul 2012: Wheathampstead to Great Barford

The lasses outnumbered the lads as ten riders gathered at Wheathampstead for the first official picnic ride of the year, which had attracted six ladies, including new rider Lucy and Rachel from London.  We climbed up to Gustard Wood then took a left turn to go to Peters Green via an unplanned visit to Bowers Heath. Along the well used Lilley Bottom and across the Icknield Way, down Gravel Hill, we were soon in Barton-le-Clay for our coffee stop. Although we had a tail wind we arrived slightly behind schedule, which was of little concern.

After coffee Lucy and Jackie went back and the rest of the group travelled northwest towards Bedford. We passed through the intriguingly named Ireland near Old Warden where notices announced the cancellation of that day's air show (later discovered to be due to the fatal crash of a vintage aircraft).

An unusual sight today was the number of pink foxgloves at the edge of several woods we passed. As we travelled further north than our usual destinations, we passed some symbols of a bygone era: the massive old airship hangers at Cardington (what are they used for now?) before arriving at the river Ouse at Great Barford.  We ate our picnics in a riverside park conveniently adjacent to the pub, which supplied drinks in plastic glasses, achieving the requirement of a cheap lunch with beer available. Unfortunately it was rather cold for this time of year, but at least the rain held off.

Afterwards we headed south along some lovely wooded lanes around Old Warden before using the Pendleton Way cycle path to get into Stotfold. (None of the ladies was clad in the style of Victoria Pendleton  the Olympic gold-medal cyclist originally from Stotfold.)

Stotfold Mill with its tearoom unusually was open this afternoon, and was a very civilised venue for an afternoon stop.

As we still had a long way to get home the group took a direct route back via Letchworth, Willian and Almshoe before heading south down the B656 to Codicote, then back to Wheathampstead. My round trip (from St Albans) was about 90 miles for the day.

Carol 1/7/2012