21 October 2012

21 Oct 2012: Hertford to Croydon (Cambridgeshire)

Meeting in Hertford for a change, we had a slightly longer than usual first leg ride to the coffee stop to do, so a reasonably direct route seemed called for.  Heading through Stony Hills and Sacombe Park we continued through the villages to Buntingford.  Then passing through Wyddial, a slow climb brought us to Barkway and a turn along the ridge to Reed and its ever popular, and very cheap, Silver Ball cafe – the bikers' favourite.  Tea is 80p and there's a special shelf for patrons' helmets.  The lady looked askance when I asked for brown bread, they don't do that poncey stuff. 

We fleetingly bumped into the Stort Valley CTC group also seeking cheap and cheerful refreshment.  Continuing on our way, we passed through the pleasant village of Therfield, for those of a certain generation - the manor house was once the home of a member of the Pink Floyd.  Then we descended to cross, with care, the A505.  A series of quiet and flat lanes brought us to our pub stop at Croydon, a nice venue in a very off-the-beaten-track Cambridgeshire village.  

The return leg took us along the flat route to Ashwell and then a long climb to re-cross the A505 and on to Cromer.  Here, turning past the windmill, we were soon in Ardeley and the cafe at Church Farm.  How different, how very different, to our morning stop this was.  Vases of pleasing herbs and fresh flowers adorned the tablecloths (tablecloths!).  Still that sort of thing does not come cheap!  An enjoyable stop though.  Now it was just a matter of taking the quiet lanes through Dane End to either get back to cars left in Hertford or head back to Welwyn and Hatfield.


14 October 2012

14 Oct 2012: St Albans to Great Missenden

As I actually live in Barnet and, being idle, have a tendency to drive to the start of our rides I was a little perturbed to find early that morning my car was iced up. Still duty called and I was soon in St. Albans. Onto the bike and a short ride to the start reinforced my view that it was pretty cold, but the sun was shining and it looked to be a nice day. So eight of us started out heading for our first stop at Pitstone Wharf just beyond Ivinghoe. One of our party was a visitor from Australia who had been lent a bike for the ride. Our route skirted around Hemel Hempstead and about here we noticed a guy on a mountain bike riding the same route as us. After a while when we were stopped just before Nettleden he asked if he could join us and of course we said we would be delighted. So after the long climb up to Ivinghoe Beacon (where our two new friends were nearly outpacing us) we hurtled down the other side into Ivinghoe and on to the canal-side café at Pitstone Wharf. There we performed our good deed for the day by noticing that someone else’s bike that was parked there amazingly had its front forks fitted facing backwards! (Admittedly the forks were pretty straight ones with disc brakes but there was no doubt that they were back to front). So we managed to ruin the owners day by pointing out to them that their forks were wrong and dangerous to boot. 

After this two of the party had to return whilst the rest of us pressed on to Great Missenden our lunch stop. The route took us up (with emphasis on the up) through Wendover Woods with fantastic views across the plain to the north. Then it was up and down through a myriad of small lanes until we reached the “Black Horse” just outside Great Missenden. Despite the fact that there were only a few of us the virtually empty pub declared that they couldn’t do sandwiches as they were too busy. So we went on into the village and found a far better pub, which despite being very busy, did very good sandwiches remarkably quickly. Top marks to “The Cross Keys”, on the list for a future visit. 

Now it was time to start the return journey. Great Missenden’s current claim to fame is as the home to the childrens’ author Roald Dahl and our route took us through the churchyard where he is buried. Almost a secular place of pilgrimage for families with children. Then it was up and down through different myriad small lanes until we reached the community café in Chipperfield for our afternoon tea stop. 

After a suitable break we summoned up the strength to mount our bikes for the last leg back to St. Albans. In summary it had been an ideal day, despite the chill the sun had shone, an Australian had seen some of the best of English scenery in the Chilterns, and a passing cyclist who had joined the group appeared to enjoy his ride with us. Total distance about 55 miles in easy stages.


7 October 2012

07 Oct 2012: Hatfield to Barkway

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…

John Keats' poem Autumn came to mind as eight of us set off on a cold misty morning.  A fairly direct route took us on the cycle track from Mill Green (thankfully now cleared of overhanging vegetation following my report to the Council) and along the tarmac section of the Cole Green Way.  Then it was over the A414 to Bramfield.  Ascending the hill out of Stapleford we were overtaken by an emergency water company van.  We found him at the top of the hill puzzling over how to fix a broken water main, while we half-cranked it through the flood and Judy on the recumbent had to lift her bags clear of the water.  Unfortunately no-one fell in (I had my camera ready), so we carried on past the duck pond at Chapmore End, swooped down the hill and sped along Anchor Lane to The Village Stores at Thundridge.

Tracey emerges from the flood
Judy trying not to get wet

It was our first visit to this newly opened café.  We found Paul sitting in the bay window and the rest of us were soon provided with fine coffee or tea and a good choice of cakes.  Let’s hope the shop and café keeps going, as it’s just the right distance out for us.  

At Chapmore End
Thundridge Stores

The sun was creeping out as we headed north up the deserted old main road to Puckeridge and followed the old coaching route towards Cambridge.  Here we caught a glimpse of John flashing by in the opposite direction on (or in) his Quest velomobile.  A scenic diversion via Great Hornmead and Anstey brought us to the Tally Ho in Barkway.  Greeted by a fading photo of Gordon Brown, and seeing no-one having Sunday lunch in the large restaurant, the conversation soon turned to the economy and the relative merits of the theories of Keynes, Hayek and Marx for solving the current economic slump.  The log fire was making us dozy and no conclusion was reached, so we decided it was time to move on.

Making good progress and as the sun was out, I decided to put in an extra loop after Great Munden along an unfrequented lane to Colliers End.  This justified consuming large slices of chocolate cake when we arrived at the golf club.  It fortified us nicely while the temperature dropped rapidly on the journey home.

Cup Cake advert

Jon 7/10/2012