25 August 2013

25 Aug 2013: Hatfield to Maulden

August Bank holiday weekend and today’s ride was to a new lunch stop for us in Bedfordshire, The Dog & Badger.  True to form, it’s a bit drizzly and damp, still, quite undaunted eight of us turned up keen to support any persecuted badgers we might come across.  First stage was to Hitchin taking our usual route via the Ayots and various quiet back lanes, some of them officially designated "Quiet Lanes".  Having said that, and not wanting the climb up to Preston, the last bit was down the ‘B’ road into Hitchin which thankfully was very quiet.  The café of choice was the ‘Hitchin Kitchen’ or rather caff because it has all the virtues of the latter.  We were served excellent food at very cheap prices in a proper caff atmosphere, which is interesting, because it is run by east Europeans.  Arriving there we were met by Jon and Judy, who had led their own ‘easy ride’ from the start and arrived before us.

Judy and Jon
Judy and Jon at Hatfield

Group on quiet lane
Quiet Please!

Three cycling past
Leaving Ayot St Peter

At this point three of the group turned back (and had to miss the best part of the ride) and the rest of us headed off for the lunch stop at Maulden, in what is now known as central Bedfordshire.  I made a point of leaving Hitchin via Tilehouse Street, which is lined with interesting old buildings.  Being a Sunday morning there were no cars and it was as if cycling up a street in a time warp of a couple of centuries ago.

From there it was out of Hitchin up the B road towards Barton (if it was drier we could have tried the cycle route instead) and to Pirton and then up a 14% hill into Pulloxhill, which made up for the hill we had avoided earlier at Preston.  After going through Flitton we realised we were running early, so instead of going straight to the pub we made a diversion via Ampthill.  Now, not knowing this place, I had always wrongly assumed it was a somewhat nondescript sort of town; but how wrong can one be.  I was very impressed by the town centre with lots of very interesting and attractive Georgian buildings.  Then it was on through Maulden as our lunch pub ‘The Dog and Badger’ is well out of the village to the east.  By now the sun was out so we had lunch outside what was a very pleasant establishment.

The original plan had been to go to Caddington for tea, but to get there means cycling through the suburbs of Dunstable and Luton, not an inspiring prospect, although it might be easier once the new Busway is open.  So following discussion we headed off through Silsoe and Hexton, followed by the long climb up before we could enjoy the run down Lilley Bottom with the wind behind us to Whitwell and tea at Emily’s tearoom.

From there we dispersed and those going back to the start found, when they got there, they had done just over 60 miles, which is a respectable distance for us.


18 August 2013

18 Aug 2013: Elstree to Hampton Court

Looking forward to a different type of Sunday outing, three of us met for the feeder ride from St Albans to meet Bill at the main start in Elstree.  Richard had a nice straightforward route for us to follow: straight down Watling Street we flew, quiet on a Sunday morning, as we went through Radlett (one of many places I had never been to), and very soon arrived at the meeting point in Elstree.  Soon after then, Carol and Steve turned up (having opted for the train).
From 2013 Weekend Rides
Click photo to view slideshow

As we waited for Bill we had an eerie feeling we were being watched, then we noticed a giraffe was peering over the hedge.  You do see some strange things when you’ve just woken up; Bill soon turned up and we were on our way.  Taking a plethora of back streets and parks Bill led us on a meandering and quiet ride around our capital.  An amazing bit was when we shot down an alleyway only to emerge opposite the truly impressive Neasden Hindu Temple (Shri Swaminarayan Mandir).  This place was stunning and the first Mandir in Europe to be built from stone using traditional methods.

Our first stop was the world famous Ace Café on the North Circular: home of bikers from all over and every kind imaginable was there.  It has to be said that it was the noisiest stop of the year.  We had the fortune of bumping into some bikers from Germany; they were touring to the Isle of Man on classic BMW’s, with one of the machines supposedly dating from 1949.  Great to see two motorcycling cultures brought together in this historic cafe.  Also at the café was a commemorative plaque for David (Screaming Lord) Sutch, head of the onetime Monster Raving Loony Party.

After leaving such a place behind, we made our mad way over to Hampton Court.  More back alleys and quiet roads greeted us and we passed the Brompton bicycle factory.  Then Bill took us through Gunnersbury Park and Sion Park, which has some great off-road parts to it.  Fortunately there were no dogs around to chase us today.

Hampton Court itself is a stunning building and well worth a visit; there is some wonderful architecture on display.  We had a lovely picnic lunch down by the Thames and waved at the punters on the steamboat (that had no steam).

After lunch we made our way over to Kew Gardens to catch the over ground train home.  Not the longest ride going but one of the most interesting and a great day out thanks to Bill.

Neil 18/08/2013

17 August 2013

Exmouth Exodus 2013

Having done the Dunwich Dynamo, two of our intrepid Wednesday Evening Riders, Graham Figg & Mark Keeley, took part in a follow up night-ride of 110 miles from Bristol to Exmouth.  Here is a brief account of their exploits on the eighth Exmouth Exodus:

Getting there.  

Graham - ready for the mountains
We cycled to Malmesbury in Wiltshire on the Friday, about 105-110 miles. Took it easy and didn’t arrive until 8 pm.  It was raining until about 3 pm., but turned out to be a nice, sunny afternoon/evening.  We then rode 30 miles into Bristol on Saturday morning/afternoon, via a pub lunch in Tormarton, the rain still refusing to go away.  Had a look round the SS Great Britain, which got us out of the rain.  After a meal in Pizza Express we went up to Channing’s hotel in Clifton where the event starts.  Here we met sometime Sunday rider Giles Fordham and we decided to ride together.

Over the magic bridge 

Set off about 9pm over the Clifton suspension bridge, then due west, turning south (although Mark had a puncture around here) to hit the Mendips and the first big climb up the gorge of Burrington Combe.  Halfway up here it started raining heavily.  A few miles later, zooming down Cheddar Gorge and nearing the bottom (by which time you can easily top 30 mph before braking for the hairpins), some youths doing handbrake turns in their 10-year-old Vauxhall Corsas added to the excitement.  Then the first feed stop at which Mark noticed his tyre was flat again, at which point the repair team there offered to repair it.

On the level

Giles crouches with Graham
Then it was a good 20 miles across the Somerset levels.  At some point during all this, or possibly after the next feed stop Giles had a puncture, which was repaired with a C02 canister - well the second one after the first sprayed out all over the road. After a long climb we then reached the middle feed station, clearly being last on the road at this point.  We picked up, although not in the biblical sense, a waif and stray semi-lost bloke Tristan here, who rode with us the rest of the way.

The only way is up!

Next, after miles of skirting Taunton, was the climb of Blagdon Hill, steeply out of Pitminster village and then 2 long hairpins, before the endless road into Devon and the last tea stop at Ewins Ash.

To the sea

Then the interminable navigation to get to the last climb of Lympstone Common, via an abortive climb where we had to retrace, but hey, sh1t happenzzz!  After this a fast downhill into Exmouth and an artery clogging blow-out in the beach café, which after leaving we discovered I had a puncture to complete the set.

Getting back

We got a train to Exeter, where Mark and I stayed with his sister (riding down to Dawlish and back on Monday) and Giles got another train back to Bristol.  We only narrowly caught the train back to Waterloo, crossed London (overtaking a trendy cycling couple I just about heard the words “Wow! Old school streeters” (whatever that means) and I discussed with the considerably-more-attractive-than-her-bike female what we had been doing) and arrived safely back in St. Albans by about 8pm.

So in Summary: loadsa miles (approx. 290), punctures, rain, beers, great company and sense of achievement….

Route map


11 August 2013

11 Aug 2013: Wheathampstead to Steeple Morden

It was nice to welcome two new riders, as well as the more familiar members, when we all met up in Wheathampstead.  This isn't a start we use too often, but it puts you a bit further north than most we use and today our trip was out into Cambridgeshire.  Yes, we do put some thought into where we are going sometimes!

Church with tall spire
Steeple Morden Church
at table inside pub
Relaxing in the pub
It was a fresh day with a brisk southerly wind, not a problem going out, but then you do have to come back, so even more thought was required as to the route I should take today.  Heading through the lanes, we were soon climbing to Preston, then down through Offleyholes to Hitchin.  Our first stop, Farrowby Farm, is smack next to the A1.  Although I know the route approaching from Baldock, for a change I fancied taking a more westerly route.  This involved finding that particular small side road out of a busy town that can be so tricky when navigating on an OS map.  However, after advice from a GPS user, we did find the right way out of Hitchin and then through the villages to the north and, dodging the traffic on the A1, crossed to the very pleasant cafe at Farrowby Farm.

After refreshments, our pub lunch stop wasn't very far as the crow flies, so a loop through the flat open country brought us through Potton, Gamlingay and Hatley, arriving at the obliging pub in Steeple Morden.  By now we'd turned quite a few miles, so a shorter route back home than originally planned really seemed like a good idea.  Through Ashwell, then stopping for a bargain cup of tea in Baldock (only 70p!) we were soon back in familiar country.  After Codicote we began to disperse to home.  A great day out, blessed with fine weather.

Richard 11/08/2013

4 August 2013

04 Aug 2013: Hatfield to Tawney Common

While half the local cycling nation squeezed themselves into the jam-packed streets of London for RideLondon, the more discerning of us took a happy jaunt out to the delights of the Moletrap public house on Tawney Common.

cycling under treees
A leafy White Stubbs Lane
posing cyclists
Entering Lea Valley Park
We started at Hatfield and had a great turn out, made better by hanging on for Richard.  It was good to have Tracey and Craig back out again and we also had Rebecca along for the day.

Not forgetting me, that made 9 riders, and we all stayed out all day.  We headed out to Welham Green and took Bulls Lane - a meandering route over to the great North road.  Over that and we joined a very familiar route along Tylers causeway and White Stubbs Lane down into Hoddesdon. This route is just simply a great way to get to Dobbs Weir; you go right through the middle of the Broxbourne nature reserve.  It’s a wonderful forest to cycle through: fume free, with birds singing and puddles happily splashing as you zip through them.  We followed route 1 to get to the café and a sumptuous break awaited us.

Getting to lunch was a fun filled fumble around Harlow.  With Jon’s knowledge of the area we made good progress through the town via cycle paths, none of them unfamiliar to me, but I doubt I could take you through them again.  We emerged at Churchgate Street and, from there, we made our meandering wobbly way south.  It was really nice to see the countryside looking splendid.  We crossed the A414 and made for Toot Hill, from where it was just a small potter over to Tawney Common and the Moletrap (not mole skinner as some thought) pub.  Every time we come here there is always a great showing of classic well-kept British motorcycles and today was no different.

taking a breather
That was a 1 in 7 hill
cyclist waving
Give us a wave

After lunch our destination was Upshire, famous for its tea and cakes.  We swooped down to Stapleford Tawney via a lovely little lane that wandered all over the place, but this lane was taking us down and we had to go up.  So, as you can imagine, a hill featured in the next portion of the ride, which was great, but, if we hadn’t had Jon's help, I’d have led us back towards Epping.  Soon enough we were heading in the right direction and the scrumptious cakes of Upshire were calling to us.
cycling next to field
Crossing Tawney Common
looking over London
View over Epping Forest to London

This church really is a great stop, the ladies here put on a fabulous spread that just makes you dribble and the view of the London skyline is fantastic.  We could see as far as Wembley Stadium.

All that was left for the day was to get back home led by Tracey through the Lee Valley Park back to Wormley and White Stubbs Lane then home.
It was great day out with thanks to Jon for all his help and Tracey for leading us back home.

Neil 04/08/2013