17 November 2013

17 Nov 2013: St Albans to Mangrove Green

Intrigued by the prospect of finding a more interesting way through Luton, or maybe just out for a ride, I was pleased to see nine people (including four women) on today’s jaunt, as it was a rather grey, drizzly November day.  After a quick dash up the main road to Redbourn, our route to Dunstable followed quiet lanes along Gaddesden Row then a lumpy bit through Kensworth and Beech Road into Dunstable.  The last time we came along Beech Road was last winter, when it was covered in snow and ice, but today it was a pleasant ride. 

CafĂ© Latte was soon dishing up refreshments, with some of us opting for the full English (I wish I had), while others saved their appetites for the pub stop (which I never reached).  

Leaving here, we joined NCR 6 briefly, then crossed Grove House Gardens and rode past Central Bedfordshire College to join the new Busway on College Drive.  Those with broad shoulders, and bikes with straight handlebars, got through the narrow barriers with a bit of a struggle and we were off.
Cycle barrier
Tight squeeze
Bus on busway
Way to travel
Built over 3 years at a cost of £91m, the Busway carries standard buses fitted with two small guide-wheels.  The cycle track alongside provides a traffic-free route from Dunstable to the other side of Luton.  However, in contrast to the beautifully smooth, tarmac cycleway on the Cambridge Busway, this one looks like an afterthought and has some coarse gravel stretches, while other parts are smoother crushed limestone.  The argument that smooth blacktop would not be in keeping with the ‘County Wildlife Site’ it passes through is not that convincing when you see the effect of the concrete Busway strips. 

Busway sculpture
Steel sculpture
Eric Morecambe
Steel sculpture
Capability Brown
Steel sculpture
Sea Scout
I can’t tell you much about the rest of the ride (see footnote), but the others reached Mangrove Green at 1:30 pm for a good pub lunch.

Following Sustrans Route 6 and on the first hill out of Luton, overlooking Luton Hoo estate, we found a portrait bench with a group of three characters cut out of thick steel plate.  These are the comedian, Eric Morecambe who became a keen supporter of Luton Town FC when he moved to Harpenden; Capability Brown, who designed the Luton Hoo gardens and a female sea scout from the Luton Sea Scouts, who practice on Luton Hoo lake.

Having mended one Trice rear wheel puncture, caused by a thorn, on the way to the start, it picked up some glass on the Busway and went down again.  This time, the tyre bead had stretched and would not stay on the rim except a very low pressure, so Judy & I had to leave the group, miss lunch and limp home via Route 6.  Just as well as both front wheels picked up flints at the same time in Harpenden – sometimes three spare tubes are not enough! 

Jon 17/11/2013

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