28 April 2013

28 Apr 2013: St Albans to Beaconsfield

Spring had finally sprung, a warmish day was forecast and so eight of us were ready in St. Albans to head off into the hilly Chilterns.  Well Amersham to begin with for elevenses.  Now Amersham always sounds like a very far away place but, by the time we’d gone through our usual haunts of Nash Mills and Flaunden etc. and climbed up to Amersham on the Hill (note the name), it didn’t seem outrageously far at about 17 miles from the start.  Certainly it all seems a very affluent area typified maybe by the Aston Martin dealership we passed on the way into town, not to mention the plethora of coffee shops in the High St.  Still, we had picked a fairly mundane eatery which was very good value.  Not only that, but we were also met there by Bill who had taken a shorter car assisted route (very sensible) and by Esther who we hadn’t seen for a while.

Then it was onwards into the depths of the Chilterns via Penn, heading for the outskirts of Beaconsfield. So after a suitable amount of up and downing we arrived at the ‘Royal Standard of England’, an impressive name for an impressive pub. Its sign proudly proclaims it to be the oldest free house in England.  Certainly it is a delightful old building, but its claim is echoed by quite a number of other establishments around the country. And it is certainly very popular, so much so that there was no room inside which led to us sitting at an outside table. Now the warmish day I remarked on at the beginning had turned out to be a bit deceptive, because sitting at this outside table was b--- freezing.  To such an extent, that once we had had our excellent food we were on our bikes and off again to try to get warm.

Coffee Hut at Mediterranean Garden Centre
The original idea was to head to Chipperfield for tea so we set off through various Chalfonts heading for Latimer.  Before getting there we came upon a road closed sign which we ignored, followed by at least another 6 or 7 similar signs which, together with the occasional car we also ignored.  The reason for ignoring them, as always when one is cycling, is because to deviate from the route means an awful lot of extra pedalling.  And of course, as is so often the case, there was no road closure; it was a normal fully functional open road!  Then it was a haul back up the hill to Flaunden where we agreed we would deviate from the original Chipperfield tea-stop to try a new one we had passed on the outward journey that morning.

So we went to the Mediterranean Garden Centre, which is on Flauden Lane just off Chipperfield Road.  And it had a Mediterranean ambience with appropriate plants and music in the tastefully painted shed, which served as the café and source of home made cakes, which were superb.  The only downside was that, as yet, it had no loo.  In fact it was all so superb that I managed to lose the key to my bike padlock.  So sending the group on its way, together with Bill I hunted for my key for a short while before I gave up and prevailed upon one of the guys there to cut the cable, which he did with frightening ease with just a pair of pliers. By this point my enthusiasm for cycling had left me, so I cycled the short distance down to Chipperfield, where Bill had his car, to take the easy way home.

So having ‘copped’ out, I’m afraid I can’t say how far we went that day.  But I can say that when I got home and was taking off my cycling gear what fell on the floor but my cycle padlock key.  Which of course was now quite useless, as the lock cable had been cut!

peteR 28/04/2013

21 April 2013

21 Apr 2013: Hatfield to Allens Green

The sunshine brought 15 of us out at various times to enjoy the ride heading east from Hatfield.  It was great to see Jenny and son Charlie getting ready for the London-Paris challenge.  A warm welcome also to Julian from Old Hatfield, out on his first ride with us.  

Most people seemed to be on their lighter bikes today, so time to test them on a slightly different route to Dane End.  A lovely descent from Datchworth Green, down Raffin Green Lane and across the River Rib, brought us to an equally lovely ascent up High Elms Lane.  There was no wind, so the lack of hedges was welcome and allowed us to enjoy views over the wide-open spaces.  No NIMBY signs regarding wind turbines any more, so maybe those plans had been dropped.
Line of cyclists going up hill
Charlie in the lead
cyclists in sunny pub garden
Lunch at Allens Green

Charlie was doing brilliantly, despite carrying a hamstring injury, and was keen to complete the ride if he possibly could.  So after a good break at Whitehill, where a few left and a few more joined the party, we carried on.  Judy led Charlie & Jenny on a more leisurely route while I led the main group.  With so many out, I was grateful Neil agreed to be ‘back-marker’, which meant I didn’t have to take my shoes and socks off to check I hadn’t lost anyone.

Again, a slightly unusual route took us up to Great Munden and across into Braughing, but I must confess I hadn’t remembered quite how hilly Horse Cross Lane was.  At least it gave us a long fast descent into Much Hadham down Bromley Lane (one we normally have to slog up).  We caught the leisurely riders just before reaching lunch – brilliantly timed.

The Queens Head was doing one of their monthly beer festivals, although cyclists still outnumbered other customers, especially as we found some friends from the Forty Plus CC there.  After a leisurely lunch in the garden, the ride was more relaxed and mostly down hill, passing the Henry Moore Foundation in Perry Green and into Stanstead Abbotts.  Here we followed The New River, which was completed exactly 400 years ago, bringing drinking water from Ware to London on a 40-mile route along the 100ft contour.
Pool with island and tree
Amwell Pond on The New River
After a welcome break at Rose’s Café in Hertford, the last leg back to Hatfield was also relatively flat and easy, completing a circuit of about 55 miles in April sunshine.

Jon 21/04/2013

20 April 2013

20 Apr 2013: Shenley Park - Saturday

Four of us met for the first Saturday ride of the year, it was great to see Diane and Jackie along with Diane’s husband Steven, the weather was being nice to us and someone had turned up the brightness on the sun.
Three cyclists standing by their bikes
Jackie, Diane & Steven
We took a leisurely pace and route to our destination, as the morning begged to be savoured.  We headed along the Alban Way through the Cotton Mill Estate to St Julian’s wood and then down to Park street; here we headed to Bricket Wood but took Drop Lane when we got there. This was a nice route and Drop Lane follows a rather full river Ver.  Somewhere along here we spied a film crew, so we may be famous and just don’t know it.

Just as we get into Shenley we have to deal with the hill and I have to say we all do admirably, and each take our own pace instead of being pushed to kill ourselves.

After tea we made a beeline back to Morrisons via the old St Albans Road and London Colney.  Coming down the St Albans road we clocked a rather healthy 30 mph so the climb before tea was well worth it.  I took the wrong exit off a roundabout and we ended up going through London Colney itself but that gave Jackie a chance to show us where she worked.

All in all it was a great Saturday morning’s ride.

Neil 20/04/2013

14 April 2013

14 Apr 2013: St Albans to Leighton Buzzard

In a week that saw a past PM die and we recalled the divisiveness that gripped the nation in the 80’s, rather than rioting, the South Herts CTC took Norman Tebbit’s advice and got on their bikes; in our case to look for a great day out rather than for work.
queue in cafe
Queuing for a cuppa
man eating baked beans
Simon looks for a quick exit?

Our first destination was Pitstone Wharf on the Grand Union Canal and the weather was fine but windy.  Diane made a happy return from last week; Tracey made it out, as did Simon, so all in all we had a good happy crew of 10 people.  

We set off for the Wharf via Hogg End lane, Gaddesden Row, Hudnall, Ringshall and the wonderful Ivinghoe Beacon.  In parts the ride was getting blasted from all sides by the wind, in fact at one point Carol thought that the hand of God was pushing her along.   At coffee break Richard and Steve met us, but we lost a couple of riders as they headed home. 

vintage car with SLOW sign on back
One of the vintage cars
cyclists fixing bike chain
Fixing a skipping chain
Our next stop was Leighton Buzzard.  The route from Pitstone was fairly straightforward and posed no problems, well apart from Peter’s chain jumping all over the place.  But with the sheer amount of experienced riders a quick fiddle sorted the problem tout suite.  As we headed for lunch we had the great pleasure of passing many of the pre-1st WW vintage cars that were puttering along the road.  Peter commented that he’d love to have one; I don’t think he’s the only one.

From lunch it can seem like a grueling push back to Berkhamsted; even my GPS had had enough at one point, but we all made it to a closed café!  The last stop had shut down.  So we popped into the Wetherspoons and found that their range of afternoon goodies had been pushed up in price, making lunch cheaper than afternoon tea.  Once we were all refreshed we headed back through Hemel, up Bunkers lane and back into St Albans: a great day out in perfect harmony.

View map full screen

Neil 14/04/2013

7 April 2013

07 Apr 2013: Hatfield to Broom

Nine of us met in Hatfield for the start of the day’s ride.  This included newcomer Diane, who had been recommended to us by the Forty Plus CC.  We also had the very pleasant company of the sun; yes that’s right THE SUN.  It was strange to see it up there.
Four cyclists standing
Gathering in Hatfield
Group outside cafe
Cafe Plus, Baldock

I had two routes in mind and after a quick consultation it was pointed out that my second route out was near the last stop, so route one it was.  Both the easy ride and my moderate ride followed more or less the same route all day, with the easy ride arriving at the stops just as the queue was going down.

We headed to Baldock via Tewin, Datchworth, Hall’s Green and Weston.  It turned out to be a very nice route and really straightforward, which it needed to be as the tea stop was a fair way to go (23 miles in fact).  As we made our way the countryside really did have that springy feel to it, with birds and horses all over the place.  I spied some cows and our little herd of riders were making a happy chatting sound as we pootled through all this.  When we got to Weston I had to check my map, just to make sure we got it right.  This gave Ian a chance to test out the public bench.  Soon enough we headed into Baldock and Café Plus. 

Nobody was there to meet us, which was just as well as we were 20 minutes late, HA!  It was here that Jackie and Diane left us to head back home, but Diane had a good time and I’m hoping we’ll see her again.  Coming out of Baldock we had to do a little wiggle, nip under a bridge and head off for Stotfold, and that was rather easily done.  We picked up National Cycle Route 12, which took us through Arlesey Station, under and up the cycle path beside the A507, through a gap and onto the B659.  Done!  Now we just followed that until the signpost for Broom magically appeared, and here we did a left and straight to lunch.
Vintage cars in car park
Triumph TR cars
Group of cyclists in front of old cars
Bonnets up as we left

Lunch was at The Cock, which had been attacked by a Triumph TR owners club, so the food took a little time coming out, but the staff were pleasant and very helpful (let’s hope the new publican keeps the pub going).  Here we picked up more riders: Carol, Steve and Richard. It was great to see them all.  Well it was only 10 miles to lunch and we were enjoying the sunshine on the patio, but had to make a move - destination Whitwell.  As we were leaving, the Triumph owners must have been worried about starting their cars as they all had the bonnets up.  Off we went in the direction of Southill, which we didn’t reach as I took a wrong turning, but never fear we went off down to Clifton.  Through Shefford, Campton and Upper Gravenhurst, but just on reaching it we turned off for Shillington and from there onwards it was plain sailing to Hexton, up Butts Hill, down through Lilly Bottom and straight on for Whitwell and Emily’s teashop.  
Man being served from pub cellar
Bill gets his pint from the cellar
Cycles leaning on ancient waggon
Cycle parking at Whitwell
This is a cyclist-friendly farm type place, with chickens and rabbits and lots of people.  That leg was 20 miles and believe you me some of us were beginning to feel it.  After this we made our separate ways home.

All in all I covered 65 miles from home, some did more, some did less but we all had a great time.