25 November 2012

25 Nov 2012: Hatfield to Aspenden

We welcomed two somewhat contrasting newcomers, who decided to join us on a blustery day for our ride to Aspenden.  Our first stop was Whitehill Golf Club.  Saving the really hilly route for the return journey, we took the easier and faster option via the tarmaced section of the Cole Green Way, then through Hertford, up Port Hill and through Sacombe Park.
The old main road to Hertford
Sacombe Park
Sacombe Park
Natalie leading through the flood

Natalie, who had borrowed a friend’s bike to ride with us, was more used to the mountains, beaches and warmth of Cape Town, but she was revelling in the experience of exploring Hertfordshire in a colourful English autumn.  Neil, a seasoned CTC member from Chester, also out on his first ride with us, was discovering some routes around his new abode in WGC.

We met Richard as we were turned into the entrance of the golf club together at exactly 11 am.  But disaster had struck.  All was dark inside and we were told that a fallen tree had brought down the power supply.  Nothing daunted, we pressed on to Thundridge Stores instead (sorry Giles – no fry-up for you).

This was already Natalie’s longest ride, but she was enjoying it and keen to press on to lunch, so I took a more direct route up the old A10, through Puckeridge and Westmill, with a strong wind behind us and we reached the pub at 1 pm.  Here we were welcomed warmly and shown to a round table by the roaring fire – the last free table in this deservedly popular establishment.

We took a direct but more hilly route back, which sheltered us from the wind, although this had abated by now.  One last obstacle was a flooded lane before Watton; deep enough to half submerge Judy on her Trice recumbent!   Natalie was starting to struggle and the chunky tyres on her friend’s bike looked a bit soft.  A quick squirt from Giles’ CO2 canister made all the difference and we all made it back to Hatfield just as it was getting dark. It’s amazing was a difference fully inflated tyres can make.

Jon 25/11/2012

18 November 2012

18 Nov 2012: St Albans to Luton

A frosty morning, but a clear blue sky and bright sunshine welcomed us when we met up at the War Memorial in St Albans.  We were soon off heading north across Nomansland Common and then through the back streets of Harpenden.  Soon the lanes towards Luton would have brought us to our morning stop.  So, just when some were beginning to wonder about what they would order in the cafe when we got there, we turned instead to Markyate and along the Whipsnade road, through Kensworth and then into that deep dip, before climbing to the fringes of Dunstable.  Passing the largest chalk pit in the country, where chalk is pumped in solution to Rugby through a 56-mile pipeline!
Largest chalk pit
Cafe 7 in Caddington

A quick stretch on the busy A5 and a short climb brought us to a new cafe stop for us in the centre of Caddington.  An excellent value establishment with a mug of tea at 70p!  Surely this is a record?  Now our route to lunch was blocked by Luton. So no more quiet rural lanes for a while but a bash through some serious traffic and then some back streets to soon pick up Sustrans route 6 following the upper Lea.  Here misfortune struck when Neil hit a bollard in the path and fell off.  He fell heavily and was badly cut.  
Group stands around fallen cyclist
Neil recovering after hitting the post he is leaning on
Group by steel post
Stupid place to stick a post

But after checking nothing was broken and a rest, he gamely wanted to carry on.  We took things a bit easy, and soon in the fringes of Luton we saw a marathon run event.  A first aid post for the run gave Neil a bit of further treatment.  
3 ambulance people around patient
Ambulance crew get some practice
Cycle path
Pleasant route through Luton

But, instead of carrying on with the planned route round the north of Luton, it seemed best to cut things short and head back into the town centre and seek out a convenient stop for lunch.  Jon recommended the Red Lion which turned out to be a pleasant stop and excellent value and good service.
Group outside pub
Town centre pub in Luton
rear view of group riding
New tarmac on NCR 6!

Heading home from Luton, it seemed worth checking whether the new Lea cycle path had been completed.  And yes, riding past the sewage works on a new tarmac surface was a pleasure. 

The path is complete (but maybe not yet officially opened).  Quick progress on the new route and we parted on our separate ways.  An eventful trip, and all the best to Neil, who said he got in to work as usual on Monday.  Lesson - bollards in the middle of cycle paths are dangerous especially when riding in a group and they are not well painted.

rear view of group riding
All the way (nearly) to Wheathampstead
Richard 18/11/2012

11 November 2012

11 Nov 2012: Hatfield to Essendon

Essendon or bust!!
Bill, Judy, John, Richard, Steve, Jackie, Steve, Tracy, Craig and Peter all made it to Asda to meet me for the day’s ride out to Essendon via Dobb’s Weir.  I explained to Richard that the ride was fairly straightforward, as I was aware that some may have wanted to attend the AGM that was being held in Colney Heath at 2.30.

9.20 we left and headed out towards Welham Green via the University.  It was here that 2 latecomers joined us for the ride.  Then we headed for the Great North Road and turned off to take Westfield road up to Grubbs Lane.  From there it was straight down Tyler’s Causeway, and up around to White Stubbs Lane.  This is a lovely long whack right into Broxbourne.  Although this route is direct, it is very pleasing to the eye, both sides are lined with trees in all their multi-coloured glory, as well as being popular with cyclists, so we passed a few familiar faces.
Eleven cyclists and bikes
Eleven meet in Hatfield
Two cyclists passing trees
Dappled shade in Tyler's Causeway

In Broxbourne we went down Station Road and took the Old Nazing Road, which lead us onto a road I could’ve stayed on. Then we turned onto Nursery Road and about halfway up headed on to the pathways of the Lee valley Park.  

Back on the Old Nazing Road there is a joining point onto the tow path up to Dobb’s Weir: I didn’t want to take that because it would be very muddy, but I wasn’t familiar with the route to get to Dobb’s.  Fortunately Jon took the lead and led us along National Cycle Route 1 to the café. 

The café did an amazing job, there were 13 of us and as we arrived so did a few bikers.  A very busy little place.
Cycling past a lake and willows
Lakes and willows in the Lea Valley
Group outside pub in sun
Outside The Candlestick

Again I had to rely on the group’s knowledge of the area as we left the café and headed to Hoddesdon.  I needed to get to Cock Lane and didn’t really have a clue, but as the group helped out I found myself riding down very familiar roads.  

We made Cock Lane and from there it was straight up to Brickendon, skirting the Broxbourne nature reserve. From Brickendon to Bayford then down to the Lower Hatfield road, here I stopped to phone the pub of our imminent arrival. 

Essendon hill beckoned the hill of the day, not so much a hill but just a very long ascent that tests will power and stamina more than anything.  In Essendon we took the West End Road to The Candlestick (lunch) and to be honest the hill up to the pub was worse than the hill into Essendon.

The pub was fantastic and very welcoming; they had set aside two tables for us, one very kindly by the fire.  A really pleasant pub, good affordable food, a great pint with a relaxed atmosphere.

From this viewpoint we could see great billows of smoke coming from the Hatfield direction; it could’ve been anything but it turned out the pallets at the back of the nursery in Smallford had caught fire.  We made lunch for 1.00pm giving Jon and Judy plenty of time to get to the AGM to represent us.
Smoke in blue sky
Smoke over Essendon
Blazing fire
Blazing pallets in Smallford

It was a great day and a great ride.  I thank everybody for coming along and I thank you all for your assistance.


10 November 2012

10 Nov 2012: Saturday ride to Colney Heath

Super soar away, Scandal free Saturday Smasher
Meeting up at Morrisons
Fantastic cup cakes
Pink interior

3 of us met at Morrisons today, Richard ‘Sturdy’ Stubbs, new rider Sylvia and me.  The weather was threatening dribbles, lots of dribbles so I had decided on a fairly straightforward route to the tea stop.

Sylvia had come along to see if she could manage riding with a group, she had been out with Rona and Rona recommended us, nice one Rona.

Our journey took us straight down the Alban Way, which at this time of year is leaf infested, but apart from that it is gorgeous. The trees were at their multi-coloured best: reds, bronze and golden browns intermingled with the yellows and lush greens.  As we neared the rise up to the Galleria, we noted that the path was covered with leaves which hid the edge of the path: someone could take a tumble there.

From the Alban Way we headed towards Beaconsfield Road and then made our way to The Great North Road. This was great, as the road follows the grounds of Hatfield House and the vegetation was just wonderful.

We then swung round to Welham Green, zipping down Dixon’s Hill Road, over the big motorway and up Tollgate Road, a quick detour to Bullen’s Green then round to the Haley Jane Café in Colney Heath.

This café is small and furnished with a sofa that could fit 3 people in, some tall seats and standing room.  They had a lush array of cupcakes for sale, and the coffee was very good.  A very pleasant café, which had a kitchen attached, so I think there was a lot of home cooking going on there. The owner was also a great chap.  Recommended for small parties of no more than 4.

It was at the stop we found out that Sylvia had come up from Barnet; now that’s dedication.   I was chuffed with that.  From Colney Heath we headed off to Colney Heath Lane, then shot along Barley Mow Lane into Tyttenhanger, where the dreaded dribbles threatened to turn into rain, but it held off.  From here it was a quick plod through High Fields, over to Camp Road and through the back streets to Morrisons.

A great scandal free ride.

Neil 10/11/2012