26 May 2013

26 May 2013: Hatfield to Ardeley

Six of us today and we welcomed Rebecca on her first outing with us.  Well, it was a bank holiday weekend and superb barbeque weather, possibly better than that which Carol & Steve are getting on their fortnight in northern Spain, so plenty of sunscreen was called for.

Not wishing to race along too much in this fine weather, we headed along a quiet, scenic route for most of the day, taking in The Cole Green Way (now dry enough to follow into Hertford) and the riverside path to Ware.  What a nice spot to watch Craig fixing a flat tyre!  This delayed us a little, so rather than exploring the possibilities of cycling some of the Harcamlow Way from Fanhams to Cold Christmas, we settled for a bash up the little-used old A10 to Thundridge, where the Village Stores took good care of our caffeine levels.

group on disused railway
On the Cole Green Way
cyclist removing back wheel
A short break by the River Lea

The climb out of Wadesmill was not too distressing, but we took the opportunity to point out the monument to Thomas Clarkson, who was ‘too much distressed and disturbed to show myself’ on this spot in 1785, as he rode to The Feathers, located at the bottom of the hill.  His concerns were over the slave trade and he went on to devote his life to its abolition, riding his horse 35,000 miles gathering information to support his cause. 

rear view of two cyclists on lane thro yellow fields
The Rib Valley
two cyclists approaching on lane
Approaching Puckeridge

A scenic detour took us along the Rib valley on a switchback lane through woods and rape fields and into Puckeridge, from where we took a fairly direct route to the pub in Ardeley, meeting the Herts Wheelers coming towards us.  We also found The Tandem Club at the pub and Rona was there too. 

cyclists crossing village green
Moor Green
Cyclists at a ford
Codicote ford

After a rather jovial lunch, we headed south pushed by the wind and I managed to find my way from Aston through the southern environs of Stevenage by using Shephall Lane, a tree-lined cycle path, emerging at The Roebuck for the climb to Old Knebworth.  A loop around using Three Houses Lane brought us to Codicote for an afternoon cuppa, from where we made our way via Ayot St Peter, where bluebells could still be seen in the woods.  There's even a rumour that some stopped for a pint before getting back home.

bluebells in a wood
Bluebells in Dowdell's Wood

Jon 26 May 2013

19 May 2013

19 May 2013: Hatfield to Hatfield Forest

You may think Hatfield Forest is near Hatfield, but it’s in Essex just south of Stansted Airport and a fairly long ride for the seven people who gathered at the start.  The weather forecast was reasonable, no rain and not too cold, but not very hot either, in fact good cycling weather.  First stop was to be Lea Valley Park Farm (café) in the Country Park.  We set off in a southerly loop via Cuffley and the long climb up to Goffs Oak and then by a back route to Cheshunt.  From here it’s across an unmanned level crossing, looking out for trains, and then entering the park.  The route is very attractive wending past rivers and lakes and through the trees to the far side.  Here, as has happened before, we had some difficulty actually finding the café in the maze of paths.  Once located it was warm enough to sit outside and refuel.  We had a new rider with us called Matt who was wearing a London/Paris top.  When asked how many days the ride had taken, he said 24 hours!  This explained why he had seemed such a strong rider compared to us lesser mortals.

Cyclist riding towards camera
Craig approaching
two riding away
Steve & Carol

From here Harlow lies in the way, so we skirted through the southerly outskirts of the town and then it was out into the glorious little lanes and unspoilt countryside wending northwards towards Hatfield Forest.  The forest is National Trust and it’s always nice, when on a cycle, to enter without paying the steep car park charges everyone else has to pay.  Once inside it’s quite a distance to the café, which is next to a lake, and for a National Trust venue the café was very reasonably priced.  The forest was a medieval hunting ground and is a mixture of open spaces and trees.

Bearded man on bike
Five cyclists collecting bikes
Leaving Hatfield Forest

After lunch we decided to change the tea stop to Ware and we set off south westwards.  Whilst this is beautiful countryside it was amazing how far from the airport was blighted by the noise of aircraft going in and out of Stansted.  On the way we went through Perry Green where there was an event at the foundation of the famous sculptor Henry Moore, who has a permanent exhibition there.

At Ware we stopped for tea and then it was back along the pretty canal linking Ware and Hertford. Finally we reached Hatfield after an excellent day’s cycling, of altogether about 65 miles.


18 May 2013

18 May 2013: Saturday ride to Redbourn

Three of us turned up for the Saturday ride to The Hub in Redbourn:  Nixon, myself and Rob Bulland a new rider.  The weather was rather pleasant but it did have a chilly side to it.
We set off for the back road down by the Valley road industrial estate and where it turns for Sandridgebury we followed the gravely road over to the Harpenden road, but just before Harpenden we took a left and headed down to the Redbourn fisheries.  It really is lovely down there and the mill that you pass as you make your way back up is very interesting (it featured on a bready show with Paul Hollywood).
Cyclists on footbridge
Crossing the bridge at Redbournbury
The Hub window
 The Hub at Redbourn

From there we made a bee line for Punchbowl lane and followed that until it was no longer, to be honest it’s a lovely lane with a plethora of wild life inhabiting the hedges and fields.   From the top of this lane we headed for Gaddesden Lane, which brought us into the village of Redbourn.

The Hub sits on the first corner as you come into the village and it is a very nice place indeed, slightly pricey but well worth it.  The Hub itself is full of cycling paraphernalia and there is a repair shop out back.  I have also heard a tale of the owner jumping into a car to pick up a stranded cyclist.  Want a quick sugar fix then this is the place to go.  Very friendly and welcoming, bit like your favourite living room but with great coffee, cakes and bikes.

Cycling pictures on wall in shop
Cycling memorabilia inside The Hub
View map full screen

After our break we bashed along the Nicky line to Harpenden, then from what was a rather busy town centre we made our way to Wheathampstead via the back road, then we made off to Nomansland common, over to Sandridge, up through Oaklands collage and back for another cuppa.

A great morning’s ride all in all.

Neil 18/05/2013

12 May 2013

12 May 2013: St Albans to Lacey Green

Our destination today was up into the Chiltern HILLS.  Always slightly mixed feelings about these routes as the area includes the word hills in its name for a good reason - it will be very scenic, but it will involve some hard work.
Picnic at Lacey Green
Breezy picnic at Lacey Green
Wooden windmill
The Windmill
Setting off from St Albans, the first leg was straightforward enough, and we headed west towards Chesham.  This does mean crossing a couple of valleys, but after 16 or 17 miles we were soon taking our ease in the very pleasant Poppins Cafe in Chesham, a highly recommended stop for cyclists.  Then there was a climb out of Chesham to Hyde Heath and then down into Little Missenden, then up again through Beamond Woods to Holmer Green.  From here we soon reached the top of the Hughenden Valley (Disraeli's home is well worth a visit, but not this time), then a long climb up the steep valley to Speen.  There were some sharp bends and climbs further on before we got to the top at Lacey Green. 

The windmill was open and some ate sandwiches watching the sails going round before going in the pub with the rest.  From here a great long descent through the woods got us to Hampden Bottom, then a long steep lane through Cockshoots Wood to cross the A413 to The Lee.  Everyone fancied a change of tea stop to the one planned in Great Missenden, so we headed on to Cholesbury and from there to Chipperfield.  A quick cup of tea, then all headed for home.  A great spring day out in kinder weather than some we have been having.


5 May 2013

05 May 2013: Hertford to Thaxted

It was a great sunny morning when we all met in Hertford for this ride to Thaxted.  I think 10 of us were there with returns from Charlie and Jenny.  Also Recumbent John was along for the day, though there was no spaceship looking recumbent as he had decided to test its durability against a tree and a tree is a very durable thing.  Our leader for the day was a superstar called Craig, using a route that Carol had devised. 

We headed off to Ware then onto Wareside, scooted around the Hadhams and came up against Bishops Stortford in no time; this was a nice and quick 15 miles that we all enjoyed.

The road to Thaxted
Soon the sun was heating us very nicely and we made our way to Thaxted by a very nice route.  It has to be said that Carol did a great job planning it. Craig was a superb leader, not going too fast or too slow.  He kept his pace fairly even and very enjoyable.  Coming into Thaxted we discovered that the Star was closed.  Some of us had sandwiches and others had to find a café for lunch.  I was lucky and had brought sarnies.  Up at the top of a hill stood a lovely church and in the hot sun, who needs cafes for lunch.
The trek to the last tea stop was just as enjoyable as the rest of the day, but it was broken up by a wonderful idea. Ice cream on Hatfield Heath, ahhhhhh it was lush.

We made the coffee shed in Sawbridgeworth in great time, then after our little stop it was to home we headed.  John had recorded his highest ever mileage on his Brompton and 14-year-old Charlie was amazed at achieving 93 miles when he got back home to St Albans.

It was a great day out thanks to Craig (leader) and Carol (route planner).

Neil 05/05/2013