26 August 2012

26 Aug 2012: Hatfield to Wareside

We had a great day out with a group of 15 riders, and we welcomed two first timers.  Two 'new' cafes were planned.  The morning stop at Roydon Marina was a success, but unfortunately the Carousel Cafe in the afternoon had closed very early.  Not that Rachel and Andrea minded too much - you should see what they cooked themselves for lunch...

Rye Road Lea Valley
Stort at Roydon Mill
Carol & Steve at Roydon Marina
Steve pumping up
Judy navigating Barwick Ford
Giles riding and Talia paddling
Rachel cooking lunch in Standon
Andrea & Rachel in Standon
Lane to Ardley
Carousel Cafe - closed

19 August 2012

19 Aug 2012: St Albans to Quainton

We're having some great rides this year and this was to be one of the longest and maybe most challenging rides of our summer programme.  It was already warming up when we met at the start of our ride and forecast to be one of the hottest days of the year.  
Richard makes it up the hill in Berkhamsted
It's what trees are made for
Wendover Woods Cafe
Time to relax

Our numbers were down on our normal turnout (wimps?).  We muttered about not doing the full ride if conditions proved too difficult, but resolved to at least get to the coffee stop and then decide the next leg.  We headed off towards Hemel and, dodging round the centre of the town, picked the quiet lanes running along the valley towards Berkhamsted.

Here the stiff climb brought us through the lanes to Cholesbury and on from there to Wendover Woods and the very welcome morning stop.

The cafe was full of cyclists of all persuasions.  After a spot of refreshment, we decided we would do the full route - the stretch to lunch another 20 miles skirting to the east of Aylesbury.  We were just moving off when a sweaty and weary figure came into view; it was Adrian.  Having had mechanical problems on his way to the start he had struggled to catch us.  We hung on while he grabbed a cup of tea, then fixed a puncture, and we were off.  Down the steep descent to Aston Clinton, through Astrope (what an odd village name), Wingrave and Cubblington and then turning west to Whitchurch.  

Passing through Oving, we were on Pitchcott Hill with its superb views across the vale to the Chiltern escarpment beyond.  But ominous black thunderclouds were forming over the hills - would we be in for a soaking?  Soon we were arriving in Quainton, one of the most attractive of villages, and into the George & Dragon a highly recommended stop.  
Adrian not having a great day
Vintage bike of a different kind in Quainton

The thunderclouds seemed to be just missing us as we set off for the return leg.  Adrian said he knew the way through Waddesdon Park; we gave it a try but still finished up at the bottom of Waddesdon Hill having missed a right turn in the park.  But soon we were going down hill again through traffic free Eythrope Park, over the River Thame and then on for a long stretch heading due south.  We went through Halton and then, picking up the path beside the branch of the Grand Union Canal, arrived gasping for drink at the Zebra Cafe (Natural History Museum) in Tring.  Mercifully it was not full of screaming summer holiday kids.  From here we all felt that the quickest and flattest route was to be preferred, even if it wasn't too attractive to look at.  So straight down the valley through Berkhamsted and Hemel soon got us back to the start.  I certainly knew I had been for a cycle ride when I got into the soothing bath, but a great day out.
Richard 19/08/2012

18 August 2012

18 Aug 2012: Saturday Saunter to Wheathampstead

We met at Morrisons for this morning’s easy ride, and couldn’t have picked a better day for it.  Myself and Nixon greeted a new rider Debbie; an experienced MTB rider who likes to do triathlons, but wants to take it easy sometimes and enjoy the ride (who can blame her it’s lovely out there on a day like this).
This could be embarrassing
Nixon at Morrisons

On leaving Morrisons we made our way to the off-road back alleys that join Marshallswick to Sandridge.  This is a woodland green route, which makes you forget you are actually in a rather built up area.  Once at Sandridge we headed up to Sandridgebury; this is a nice little country road.  It was as we were pootling through this serene countryside that my bike decided to have a puncture, MOST embarrassing.
Demonstration on how to fix a puncture
Relaxing at Jack's Coffee Shop

It was a brand new inner tube put in that morning.  Anyway, deftly I put my skills to use and mended the thing and soon enough we were on our way towards Chidwickbury.  Took a right turn heading in the direction of Ayres End Lane, which was a nice little wizzy bit.  From the lane we took in Pipers Lane and Harpenden Road to drop into Wheathampstead. 

Jack’s Coffee shop (run by a chap who stole my name) is a great destination for a sit down with a superb cup of coffee.  We had arrived a little late and Debbie had to be back rather sharpish, so we decided to go over THE hill into Sandridge, and what a hill - it can kill.

We sped up House Lane and made our way through Oaklands College and thence back to Morrisons. All in all a really great little 15 mile loop which everybody enjoyed.

Neil 18/08/2012

12 August 2012

12 Aug 2012: Hertford to Ickleton

A ride to a new destination for us: Ickleton.   It was on a bright, but slightly breezy summer’s morning that eight of us met at the Hart in Hertford.  
Hertford Hart war memorial
Stopped in the shade
Our leader had taken ill the day before (get well soon Peter), so the ride had a great chance of going wrong.  But never fear, Richard and Carol were on hand to take the reins and plot a route.  We set off up hill along a path that led eventually through to Ware, then we were whizzing our way through the Hadhams onto our elevenses stop at Clavering lakes.  

We all got to the lakes fine and well and in good cheer.  Well I say all, but we seemed to be missing a wayward Steve.  Much to Carol’s annoyance, Steve had managed to get himself split from the party.  This situation caused much amusement among the riders and other dinners at the tea stop.  George and Mildred summed it up.  Soon after Craig left us, to make his way back home, while we pushed on for Ickleton.  

On our way there we passed through some really lovely villages, Arkesden and the delightfully named Wendens Ambo amongst them.  Both of these villages had lovely looking pubs and beg to be visited again (more new destinations).  Lunch at the riverside cafe was wonderful.  This place is really nice and needs to be visited again; there was a great menu, which featured a black pudding breakfast (YES please).  The surroundings were plain relaxing, with a peacock, some chickens and a few ducks to keep us company.  Carol waxed lyrical about the eccentricities of some cyclists, which got a smile from all of us.
Judy at Babbs green
Riverside Cafe gardens in Ickleton
Thirsty guys
Friendly peacock

After lunch we made a pleasant way over to Braughing for tea in the church hall.  This was actually a long and hot part of the day and I for one felt a bit pooped by it.  

Then after tea and homemade cakes it was time to head home.  I would like to thank Carol and Richard for leading a very interesting and enjoyable ride. 

Neil 12/08/2012

5 August 2012

05 Aug 2012: Hatfield to Tawney Common

Inspired by Team GB’s tremendous haul of gold medals in cycling events we dragged ourselves away from our couches to emulate their efforts in our own way.  No matter that it’s August, in England, so it’s bound to be wet, and what’s more the forecast says so too, plus thunderstorms.  Despite this five of us turned up at Asda Hatfield for the start of our Sunday ride. It was programmed as a ride with an initial stage for beginners, so I had chosen the flattest route I could and also a reasonably short one on account of the weather.  We were headed for the River’s Edge Cafe at Dobb’s Weir near Hoddesdon.  We started off via Welham Green and then down Tylers Causeway where, whilst stopped for a moment, we were caught up by Bill who was heading straight for the café from his home, which he had left too late for the start.
Inside the River's Edge Cafe at Dobbs Weir
Think we'll stay a bit longer
Flooded car park
Sheltered from above but not below

Later on I made my usual detour via ‘Paradise Park’ (zoo), where usually one can see the lions, which always seems amusingly incongruous in this English woodland setting.  However this time no lions on show, and one of us said the elderly patriarch lion had died last year (RIP Thabo - now succeeded by his son Themba).  So on to the café getting there quite early and a good job that we did.  Because no sooner were we ensconced under their marquee type extension with our coffee and buns etc. when the heavens opened.  The rain simply hammered down, so we settled in for a longish wait for it to blow over.

In the end it stopped and we went on with Judy on her trike, which had also come straight there arriving just before the rain.  We headed for Tawney Common in Essex after skirting around the southern edge of Harlow.  After the rain the roads were awash but we pressed on, donning full waterproofs again when the rain restarted.  The rain finally ceased as we approached ‘The Moletrap’ our lunch pub (so called because in the 19thC a local had invented/manufactured a cunning mole trap and with the proceeds had bought the pub).
Wet roads
The gathering storm
Waterproofs are for wimps
Flat roads in Essex

After lunch the sun came out, so we embarked enthusiastically through the Essex countryside on a southerly loop to put in a few miles to avoid arriving too soon at the tea stop in Upshire.  So on our circuitous route we passed through Abridge and then, sunny no more, on came the rain.  We were sheltering under a tree as it started thundering and lightning (Judy was caught in the hailstorm and has the bruises on her legs to prove it).  

An interesting discussion ensued on the merits and demerits of being under a tree risking being hit by lightning or getting soaking wet instead.  This was resolved when we saw a phone mast nearby, which was a far better target for any stray lightening strikes.  So the rain eased off and on we went and just around the corner was an amazing view.  Looking beyond a cottage and across fields into the far distance we could plainly see the landmark towers of the City of London; Canary Wharf, The Gherkin and, to the west the new ‘Shard’.  

After this we climbed up to Epping and then plunged down again to Upshire Church famous for it’s superb tea and homemade cakes.  It was now dry enough to sit outside and savour these delicacies. Then we were onto the homeward stretch.  Down past Waltham Abbey and the now closed Olympic White Water Centre.  Then to Crews Hill, Potters Bar and Welham Green again, before finishing back at Hatfield with various parties having dropped off (so to speak) along the way to go home.

Sunshine after lunch
The hail storm arrives
Upshire cake display
A pleasant tea stop at Upshire Church

In all about 60 miles round trip, which surprisingly despite the rain people said they had really enjoyed!