30 September 2012

30 Sep 2012: Hatfield to Broom

The 9 o’clock start from Asda was nice and bright but a bit chilly.  Great to see Simon again and Katie whose first ride with us was a rain drenched affair.  Talia I hadn’t met before, but she had also been out on a previous ride.
A brief pause for breath
Inside Hitchin Kitchen
We headed out to the Ayots via Lemsford and once there we took the lane down to Old Welwyn, zipped up through Codicote and made our way to Whitwell where we took the road up to St Paul’s Walden.  I was going to go around by Preston, but we had done that very recently so I pootled up to the Hitchin road and we blasted our way to elevenses from there.   On our way we met up with Graham who had just missed us at the start.

The Hitchin Kitchen is a great café; there we encountered the rest of the group.  It ended up being 13 riders strong.  Heading out of Hitchin was a bit of a puzzle, which Jon helped me out with.  I don’t think I would’ve made that without help.  From Hitchin we made our way through Ickleford, Arlesley and Henlow.  One of the great things about being dyslexic is you read things wrong, I was certain we had to go to Heplow, but all was well and we were on the right track. 

Phoning ahead to make sure the pub could accommodate us was a good idea from Jon.  It took us a little over an hour to get to Broom and it seemed that we were the only ones at the Fox.  A lovely country pub.

Here Steve and Carol left us, we had a leisurely lunch and discussed all things about everything.  The ride to lunch was surprisingly quick as we had the benefit of a wind behind us.  That was soon to change.
The route to tea stop took us via Shefford, Upper Gravenhurst and Shillington, and we battled a head wind all the way; seriously it was really blowing.  At Apsley End we came across some familiar riders, and a junction that had me confused.  It led to everywhere but Peter was on hand to give guidance (via the experience of going in the wrong direction the last time he was there). 
The pub at Broom
Near Upper Gravenhurst

From here it was a quick trek to the strangely named Higham Gobion and then a straight blast down to Lilly, up Butts Hill and then down to Whitwell.  Graham’s wife and son met us there, along with their pony and trap; I have to say Graham has a nice Pony.  After a welcome cuppa, we made our ways back to home, a group going to St Albans and another going to Hatfield.

This was a great day out and a very successful ride for me, it was the biggest group I had led (I lost no-one), and at no point in the ride was I completely stumped.  Thank you to everybody for coming along I hope you all had a great time as I did.

23 September 2012

23 Sep 2012: St Albans to Amersham

River flowing through meadows
River Chess
Through the cafe window of cyclists having coffee
Inside the cafe 
The weather forecast on Saturday was predicting dire conditions for Sunday's ride - heavy rain and wind heading our way, the only question was when it would get here - later in the afternoon or in the morning? But Sunday morning dawned dry, if cloudy and cold. So, setting off from St Albans, we decided to take it to the mid morning stop and then decide whether to go on or call it a day. We were glad to see, Kate a new rider, but she had a heavy chunky bike. Would she be able to keep up? Yes, sailing past me on the first climb, she wasn't even out of breath.

Heading across through Bedmond and then down through Hunton Bridge we crossed the M25 to arrive in Sarratt. Turning here through the woods we dropped down to Sarratt Bottom, then following the delightful track along the River Chess. Lingering by the foot bridge for a bit we eventually emerged onto the road at Chennies. Then along the road to Chesham and soon climbing the awkward hill to Chesham Bois - what a rotten surface! A few drops of rain were felt but we managed to get into the cafe before it really got going.

We enjoyed this excellent cafe stop, but looking out of window, it was now  hammering down. So, it did not need much discussion for us to call it a day and head back for an early bath the quickest way we could think of. A shame the conditions cut short the ride, but at least we had a couple of hours of dry weather to start the day.

Richard 23/09/2012

Neil adds:
The trip down to Amersham was great and without any event to speak of, but for me the trip back became a challenge.

Halfway down the Latimer road and in the pouring rain, my front wheel decided to very helpfully have a puncture; luckily Steve was behind me. We called ahead but no one heard, so Steve shot off to let the group know. Whilst he was doing that I tried to patch my (brand new) tube. Self-adhesive patches are cra…not very good in the rain.

So we resorted to old style patches, worked like a dream, by this time Carol had come back to let us know that the group had gone on, for the best really. The weather wasn't good at all.

All patched up we set off heading for Flaunden, we made fairly decent time but as we were approaching Flaunden hill, I felt that sort of wobbly feeling you get with a flat. Steve pointed out that my back tyre was going down (pants). He suggested a stop at the Green Dragon, good idea, but as we headed up the hill, I discovered that the cable for the front derailleur had come away from my bike; I couldn't change down my gears. At about half way up the hill the chain decided to go onto the small ring, which was great and I made some progress up the hill.

At the pub I told Steve what had happened, he thought he might be able to mend there and then, but that really wasn't an option; we were soaked as it was. Carol suggested going back to theirs and fixing things up in the comfort of a garage. So I pumped up the back tyre, after finding it was a slow puncture.

It was about 10 miles to St Albans and we went via Rucklers Lane and Bunkers Lane. The going was slow as all I had was the lowest gears to use and boy did I pedal. Eventually we made it back to Steve and Carol’s.
Steve very deftly reattached the cable and we found the slow puncture in the back tyre, I have also found the reason for my spate of recent flats. I have the wrong tyres for what I want to do; those things are getting changed.

Whilst the fixing was going on Carol had very kindly made us some sandwiches and a wonderful cup of coffee, it was great to sit down somewhere without rain pouring down.
If it wasn't for Steve and Carol I would’ve given up, at Flaunden I was ready to get a taxi, but they proved to me that you can limp home. Sure it’s going to take long time but you’ll get there. When I thanked Steve for his help, he said not a problem this is what being in a club means.

I would like to thank the Braziers for their time, patience, help and hospitality.

It was an experience - one I don’t want to repeat, but if I do I will be far better prepared for it mentally.

16 September 2012

16 Sep 2012: Hatfield to Hatfield Heath

A last chance for a summer picnic saw us heading for Hatfield Heath.  Four of us (from North London) decided to head straight for the elevenses at Lee Valley Park Farms.  Two of that number were beginning to regret their decision as they went around in circles trying to find the cafe amongst the maze of tracks in the park.  They still arrived before the main ride, who had diverted to have a look at the antics of rafters at the White Water Centre nearby.  
group having picnic on grass
The sun comes out in Hatfield Heath
A fairly direct route took us through the leafy Harlow Town Park and out to Hatfield Heath.  Steve's attempt to get a pint at the nearest pub was unsuccessful as the barmaid didn't have the strength to pull the hand engine, but fortunately there was another pub very close by.

Well it was just about warm enough for shorts and the sun made an appearance at lunch-time, so a picnic was not such a mad idea.  But we wasted no time in heading for tea at Upshire Church for the last time this year, where the bread pudding was superb.  
Three sitting on grass
Now where did I put my egg and cress sandwiches?

View map full screen

Jon 16/09/2012

15 September 2012

15 Sep 2012: Super Saturday Morning Ride

Group outside start
Meeting at Morrisons
At 10 am eight of us met at Morrison’s Fleetville, Graham, Carol, Helen, Jackie, Esther, Cath & Jill.

They were a happy and chatty group of riders ranging from all abilities.  Four of them had already met and were familiar with the CTC, as they had been out with Rona on her Five Miles to Fabulous rides.  Cath and Jill were new for everybody and were new to the idea of riding in a group.

We set off for Valley Road via Marshalswick, and from there we headed out to Childwickbury, down through the small but very lovely estate there and onto the Redbourn road which we pootled along until we found the entrance for Gorhambury park.  It was here that we lost two of our company as they didn’t see us turn in, but after a quick look around we found them and the party was re-united.

We proceeded into the park and as we passed the cows happily munching away in the fields, we were shouted at by an epileptic gentleman (or so he seemed).  I didn’t know that the park was closed for shooting every Saturday until January. So that put paid to the main part of my ride.

We made our way back to the entrance and headed down the Redbourn road to the roundabout then up the Hemel road to St Michaels Street, from there we popped into Inn on the Park for a cuppa.  Then we made our way back to the start via the park and The Alban Way.

Although a short ride, it was very enjoyable and everybody had a great time.  The next time I try this one will be after January as I think Gorhambury is a wonderful place to visit if you’re not being shot at.

Neil 15/09/2012

9 September 2012

09 Sep 2012: Panshanger to Wimpole Hall

We were pleased to meet two new recruits at Panshanger Golf Club, Yen and Fran, who had previously been out on one of Neil’s Saturday rides.

We took a leisurely paced ride out through Welwyn Garden City and out onto quiet, Hertfordshire, shady country lanes to Wyevale Garden Centre in Hitchin.  After our hearty elevenses, Fran and Yen decided to head back to the start, as it was their first longer, yet enjoyable ride, with Peter.
Hill on the Baldock-Ashwell Road
355 Fighter Group memorial at Steeple Morden

 With a warm tail wind behind us, we picked up the pace into South Cambridgeshire. On such a bright sunny day we could see for miles across beautiful open landscape. Having made good time we entered Wimpole Hall Estate, some of us enjoyed a picnic in the grounds and others enjoyed another hearty meal in the café there.
Entrance to Wimpole Hall
Outside the cafe in Baldock

After lunch the tail wind was now a very warm head wind, which made for a challenging ride to Café Plus in Baldock, where I enjoyed a really delicious chocolate milkshake! It was just what I needed to give me the energy to do the last leg home.

Tracey 09/09/2012

2 September 2012

02 Sep 2012: St Albans to Bryant's Bottom

Our ride today was out into the Chiltern Hills; a bit hillier than some but not so many miles.  Setting off from St Albans we headed for Hunton Bridge and then Sarratt.  Descending from Sarratt Church into the Chess valley I realised why we don't often use this road - the climb up the other side is really steep!  Soon we were coasting along the level the other side and arrived at the excellent Ozzy's Cafe.  It was suggested it was named for Ozzy Osbourne who lived round the corner and was a familiar sight.  But the cafe looked too clean, upstanding and decent for that.  (If you read this Ozzy, only joking!)  Some, tempted by the good value prices, put big breakfasts away, but we were soon on the road again. 

On quiet lanes, we passed through Chalfont St Giles and Coleshill and soon along Penn Bottom.  Then through Great Kingshill and down the steep lane to Bryant's Bottom.  A big group of red kites low in the fields was spotted, perhaps attracted by the distressed squeaking of the rear axle on Spencer’s bike?

In the pleasant pub, the big breakfast eaters were soon ordering up another big meal, but a modest sandwich was OK for me.  We continued up the valley to Great Hampden, Hampden Bottom, then the steep lane through Cockshoots Wood (2 arrows).  Then across the main road to yet another steep lane to The Lee.  Lots of signs round here protesting about the high speed rail line, due to pass through this unspoiled countryside.  Then through Lee Common, Ballinger Bottom and Little Pednor.  Through Chesham we took the valley road to Chenies. 
5 cyclists outside church
After tea at Chenies Church

In the church we were glad to meet up with Jon, who had been spending the morning leading a Sky Ride.  This is a delightful and historic spot and the refreshments are fine too.  Weariness was beginning to set in, so a fairly direct route back through Kings Langley seemed called for.  A hilly route, but a great day out.

Richard 2 Sept 2012