28 July 2013

28 Jul 2013: Herts CTC Birthday Event

The South Herts section met at the war memorial in St Albans.  9 o’clock was the designated time and lo and behold 10 riders turned up, which is a great showing for a ride we rarely do.

Herts CTC
All 4 Herts CTC sections' annual meeting at Vanstone's
We had great pleasure in welcoming back Geoff and Liz, both on their second ride with us; we also had the delight of Anne’s company, new to Sunday rides but a familiar face on our Wednesday evening rides.

The idea for today was to have a quick blast to Vanstone’s garden centre in Codicote, to meet up with the other sections of the CTC at 11 am.  On previous years this place has been packed.  So off we set and made it to Codicote in just over an hour. Oops, maybe my route was a little bit too short.  But there you have it: a nice little ride and we had the luxury of the wind behind us.

So we well and truly beat the maddening crowds of cyclists and got our refreshments without queuing.  After a longer break than planned, everybody else turned up with old friends greeting each other, including some familiar faces like Stuart, Barrie and Margaret.

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Well lunch was at Great Offley and there were two groups heading off there: a fast group and a rather more sedate group.  I chose the latter group, as I love meandering about, and this is just what we did.  It was a lovely ride taking in some of the great lanes that Hertfordshire has to offer. Our leader Paul had chosen his route well and, with the light breeze and beaming sunshine, it was an idyllic ride.

After some time the fast group passed us led by Brian, and we picked up Geoff who had found the pace a little too fast (I hear the fast group averaged 15 mph) and dropped off the back.    In our group the leader and sweeper were communicating by walkie-talkie and my ‘slight mechanical’ (bottle cage falling off) was soon broadcast to the front of the group – at least I was spared the embarrassment of the leader coming to look for me.

Not long after that we were at lunch, a great little pub with some rather burnt looking sausages, and a buzzing atmosphere. I have to say it was good meeting other riders from the area and just listening to all the chat.  It was a very pleasant day.  I was expecting an afternoon portion to the ride but no, after a longer lunch than normal, everyone headed back home to all corners of Hertfordshire.

It was a lovely day and one I think I’ll do again next year, I also think I got a fantastic shot of Judy on her trike.

View map full screen (Blue=feeder ride; Green=easy ride; red=hard ride)

Neil 28/07/2013

21 July 2013

21 Jul 2013: Hertford to Saffron Walden

Following some blazing hot days six of us turned up at the start at Hertford for another sunny ride.  Today’s destination was Saffron Walden, hence the Hertford start to make the distance more manageable.  Elevenses was to be at Bishops Stortford and for a change we left Hertford by a new route, riding up the back streets of Bengeo and exploring alleyways until we emerged at the top.  Then it was a sweep across to Wadesmill and Thundridge and on through ‘Cold Christmas’.  The village church here is abandoned and derelict and has been know to give people cold feelings – perhaps we should have visited as we sweated away on a very hot July day.  On through the Hadhams and finally into Bishops Stortford down a back road lined with beautiful historic houses.  Following an excellent elevenses at a proper ‘caff’ in the centre of town, Jon and Bill turned back for home, being very busy people, leaving just four of us to carry on.

Row of thatched cottages
Old cottages in Wendens Ambo
We left heading north and as we went on down smaller lanes the traffic dropped away giving us a beautiful peaceful ride through the countryside.  We went through Clavering and a host of other very pretty villages and, getting closer, through Wendens Ambo (another interesting name, which originates from the joining of two villages, Great and Little Wenden to form Wendens Ambo meaning “both Wendens”), Audley End and into Saffron Walden.  Then down the ancient High Street we found the ‘Temeraire’, an imposing Georgian hostelry, now part of the Wetherspoons empire.  The ‘Temeraire’, as I am sure you all know, was the name of the sailing ship that fought alongside Nelson’s flagship  ‘Victory’ at Trafalgar.  It is also the subject of a famous painting by Turner. 

As always Wetherspoons was good value and then discussion turned to our next leg, which was to get to Braughing for their famous tea and cakes in the church hall.  For once we were in good time and decided if we went straight to Braughing we might well be there too early before they opened for tea.  So in a fit of enthusiasm we headed further northwest away from our destination.  We went through more quiet lanes and villages sleeping in the hot sun: Elmdon, Great Chishill and then Barkway.  Once here it was straight 7-mile cycle south, down to Braughing.  As always the tea and home made cakes were superb.

Finally we made our way down the old A10, now a reasonably quiet backwater, to Ware and then alongside the canal back to the start at Hertford.  All told a total distance of around 60 miles, and despite being in the middle of a rare heat wave it hadn’t seemed too bad.

peteR 21/07/2013

20 July 2013

20 Jul 2013: Saturday Saunter to Wheathampstead

Today’s ride had a change to the start time as to avoid clashing with the Five Miles to Fabulous gang, we started at 2.30, and at Morrisons four of us met up for the afternoon saunter out into the wilds of Wheathampstead.

It was pleasantly steady as we wandered down the back alley to Sandridge; this is actually quite a nice route going through the middle of Jersey farm and Marshalswick.  After Sandridge we headed for the delights of Sandridgebury, where there must have been some sort of junior horse event on as there were a lot of saddled up steeds roaming about.  Along the route we noticed some yellow and green arrows had been put up on the street furniture and Jon explained these were for tomorrow’s charity ride route, which he had devised for the Grove House Hospice.

From Sandridgebury we made for the Redbourn road, thence onto Ayres End.  Around here we have some lovely undulating lanes that wind around all over the place; it’s great and makes for some relaxing riding.  Soon we were heading into the hot spot known as Wheathampstead and a visit to Jack’s Café.

This rather nice establishment closed at 3pm on a Saturday but as we arrived (3.35pm) the place was still doing a good trade, albeit we had to sit outside (the shame of it) and we were served some great drinks and a lush fudge brownie.

After tea we all headed off on our separate ways, I heading back home via Woodcock hill, only to meet up with Jon again in Hatfield.
It was a nice little ride on a Saturday afternoon and if you fancy doing one the next is the 17th of August taking in the delights of Redbourn Fisheries and Gorhambury.

Neil 20/07/2013

14 July 2013

14 Jul 2013: St Albans to Caddington

Eight of us met at St Albans for a trip out to a new café for us at Tring.   It was great to see Giles again.  We also saw the welcome addition of Kev, of Forty Plus fame.

After a brief and rather hilarious discussion, it was decided to leave the city via the park.  This is a great way out of St Albans now the cycle routes crossing Verulamium Park are open, although getting to the park required a taxi driver’s knowledge of the one-way streets.   
We took the route beside the old Roman wall, then a familiar, hilly route out to Tring.  A great little jaunt out and at that time in the morning it was rather comfortable, if not slightly breezy.

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At Tring we stopped at the café-cum-farm-cum-brewery.  Sampling some beer from the Tring Brewery was tempting, but Dunsley Farm served a lovely cuppa coffee and the sweets were very nice indeed.  It was here that discussions turned to the weather and the heat.  It was only going to get hotter, we had quite a challenge last week riding after 3 o’clock, and it was decided to cut the day short and do more of winter’s ride destination.

As we were leaving Judy turned up on her trusty trike, having done a long route of her own to get there, so both Jon and Judy headed home while we made our way over to Caddington, The Chequers to be precise.  Now this pub is a real find, great friendly people, fantastic food, a really nice relaxed atmosphere and reasonable prices, so we need to use this place again. 

After a rather leisurely lunch we pushed on back to St Albans, completing a great day’s ride of 48 miles on a lovely summer’s day and no one felt ill, tired or over exerted.  We’d had a very pleasant day and could only marvel at Froome’s fantastic effort on Mont Ventoux the same day.

Neil 14/07/2013

7 July 2013

07 Jul 2013: Panshanger to Ickleton

The challenge was there.  Could the heat be endured?  Could the physical and mental challenges be overcome?  Could the nation be lifted and the next generation be inspired – while competing in shorts and white socks?  

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Well, we did our best, but the only cups we’d be kissing today were tea and coffee cups and plenty of them, as we lived up to our café-to-café (CTC) image with three in one day.  It was my turn to lead around a 72-mile circuit from Panshanger on the hottest day of the year so far.  I was half expecting no-one to turn up, but some like it hot and I was delighted to have a group of seven and doubly pleased that newcomer Geoff picked this as his first ride with us.

Our route to Hare Street was a bit lumpy, especially for me as the potholes were so bad on the lane into Westmill that my bottle cage broke and is now held together with zip ties.  Our first café was The Old Swan, which only opens one Sunday a month, but is well worth a visit just to sit around the garden pond, sampling the home-made scones and teacakes (either/or, not both), feed the numerous fish and geese and quaff plenty of tea or coffee.

Our next challenge was to reach Ickleton for lunch.  A nice ride, along almost deserted lanes, took us into unfamiliar territory around Duddenhoe End and Elmdon.  Into Essex, then into Cambridgeshire and it was a swooping run down the chalk hills to Ickleton, sited where the ancient Icknield Way crossed the River Cam.

The Riverside Barns is a set of rather tacky small businesses, mostly deserted today by their owners, but the café has shady tables overlooking the River Cam and is a pleasant spot to cool off on a hot day and one we were reluctant to leave.

At half-past one it was the hottest time of the day, so I was grateful the route was a flat one through Fowlmere, Meldreth and Bassingbourn to the source of the Cam.  I hugged the roadside seeking any shade offered by hedges and trees, but still arrived soaked in sweat at the church hall opposite Ashwell museum. 

What a treat – lovely homemade cakes, a small selection but real quality.  Bottles refilled, it was now a small matter of getting back to Panshanger and we all finished well satisfied if a bit pooped, to say the least.

Jon, 7 July 2013