13 January 2013

13 Jan 2013: Hatfield to Wildhill

As I gaze out of the window at snowflakes floating down, I think how lucky we were to get a ride in on Sunday.  It was certainly cold enough for snow, with a Met Office amber warning for ice, so I led our group of six out on the flattest section of the route through a quiet WGC.  But having donned five layers on body and feet, I was soon overheating as we came into Tewin, and Stephen grabbed my spare skull cap as I shed some clothing.  Hands can still get cold, so I held onto my superb Helly Hansen fleece lined mitts.  We forked right past the Post Office on a scenic lane through Red Wood and up Holly Grove Road.  The roads were mostly dry and ice free, but here we were overtaken by a lone cyclist, whose sudden slowing down on the next bend warned us of the only stretch of ice we encountered all day.
Pausing on the road to Tewin
The Buck's Alley climb

Arriving in Hertford, I turned off Beane Road and took a scenic route into town along a cycle path by the river, emerging at the foot of Port Hill.  It was just a short distance to our destination near Parliament Square by Hertford Castle.  It was to here that the English Parliament moved in 1665 during the Great Plague of London. The Six Templars was unusually quiet and service was quick, pleasant and good value.  Our numbers grew steadily as 3 more members arrived independently, having been put off an early start by the weather, or simply reluctance to emerge from a warm bed!

Herts secretary Brian also appeared to present Neil with yet another award for the best ride attendance – an example to us all.  The sun was out now, although this hadn’t changed the temperature, so I did my best to find the hilliest route possible on the short stretch to lunch.  Strange that nobody thanked me for taking Buck’s Alley, which has the only hill for miles that warrants a single arrow on the OS Leisure Map.

We arrived at The Woodman in Wildhill armed with our sandwiches and took our usual places in the exclusive room at the back.  The beers tasted particularly good after tackling all those hills, but we left reluctantly and got home well before freezing time, having done a pleasing circuit of just 29 miles and 1311 ft of climbing.

6 January 2013

06 Jan 2013: Hatfield to Whitwell

The lovely thing about riding in the mist is that everything seems to be asleep, there’s hardly any sound from traffic and you can hear some of the more vocal birds. In fact for me mist lends a very serene feel to everything.  So it was on a damp and misty Sunday morning that 6 of us met outside ASDA in Hatfield.  With it being the first ride of the month I had planned a straightforward ride and just as well, because the weather didn't seem all that promising.
Four riders approaching
Stephen leading on the Codicote Road

We soon made our way over to Green Lanes then along to Lemsford.  From here it was straight up the hill to the turn-off for the Ayots.  As we were finding our way through this area, shrouded in mist it did strike me as to why Hammer decided to make films in this area, everywhere was very atmospheric.

Descending towards Codicote we spied a deep ford in the dip, which is never normally flooded, so took a small trip around to Kimpton Mill and on to Whitwell.  For those who were paying attention, yes that was the lunch stop in the distance.  From here it is a nice straightforward assent up through St Paul’s Walden and onto Hitchin. This is a great little road that doesn’t seem to get boring, but I might just be easily pleased.

So nicely relaxed we all meet up at the Hitchin kitchen, a well-used stop for us.  It was here that we re-met Jon & Judy; we also bumped into Steve and Jackie, then a bit later Steve and Carol.

After break it was back to Whitwell for us, and after a small detour lead by Peter (I’m not good at getting out of Hitchin), we found ourselves on the undulating B road heading in the direction of Hexton.   On the map it looked easy - just straight there, but in reality this road proved to have its challenges, although little traffic.  At Hexton we took a left and made our speedy way up Butts Hill; well one of us made their speedy way up and it wasn't me.

From the rise of this hill you could see misty Hertfordshire and the way down was delightful.  We passed through Lilly and then onto Whitwell and The Maiden’s Head. This was a new venue for us and very homely it was too, there is a bar and a lounge and a very relaxed atmosphere, they were in the process of pulling down the Xmas decorations and happily fitted us in for lunch.  The lounge is more like someone’s front room with bits and bob’s everywhere, really living up to the name of Public House.

After lunch we retraced our steps back to Hatfield, which happened to be the quickest way.  The route looks a bit like a balloon, it was a good days ride and we covered 42 miles in all.