14 December 2014

14 Dec 2014: Hatfield to Potters Bar

Hertford. Would we make it to that destination, on a rather icy morning? To be honest I wasn’t really expecting anyone to come out when I left my home, as the road beneath me sparkled and crunched in a rather delightful way.

outside the cafe
The elusive Broadway Cafe in Potters Bar
But I did attract one customer and that was Richard, so the pair of us set off on a careful ride. Now Hatfield to Potters Bar is a staggeringly awesome mileage of 7 miles: not really stretching it is it? So I managed to work out a wiggly route that covered 18 miles, and most of them were icy. We headed out via Green Lanes and up over Woodcock Hill, dropping down into Jersey Farm, then we wobbled up through Oaklands College (I’m slightly envious of sheep and their warm, woolly coats).

Soon enough we hit the outskirts of St Albans and I chose to power on through and take Napsbury by surprise, when most of the natives were still in their beds.  In the more built up areas ice was not a problem, but as soon as we were on the quiet lanes slushy ice was everywhere and strangely enough, there was a lot of running water as well.

We headed towards Shenley, and were well warmed up as we tackled Black Lion Hill, named because there aren’t any Black Lions in the area at all. Then we took to the lanes and followed a lovely meandering route sandwiched between major roads (M25 and A1M). This widdly (sic) winding lane takes us into Ridge and down into Trotters Bottom. Leaving Trotters Bottom is a nice leisurely climb. Then we were in Potters Bar and we zoooooooomed straight past the café: I could have sworn it was the other side of the bridge. I couldn’t find the bloody café anywhere but after making enquiries we were directed back the way we came. It’s a good café and had an added extra as Stuart was waiting for us.

Even though it was heating up we called it a day at this point; one of our party had a rather chesty cough and I wanted to see him back home OK.
Neil 14/12/2014

7 December 2014

07 Dec 2014: St Albans to Woodside

Not many daylight hours at this time of year, so this ride was quite short. The weather forecast was rain in the morning and sunny in the afternoon, which was not too far from the truth. Starting in St Albans we followed what turned out to a somewhat cultural tour of Hertfordshire.  Heading towards Sandridge via Valley Road and Sandridgebury Lane we crossed Beech Bottom Dyke, thought to have been built by King Cunobelinus (subject of the Shakespeare play - "Cymbeline") during the Iron Age as part of defences that stretched between the rivers Lea and Ver. Then we rode through Sandridge and along the old Roman Road to Welwyn, where planting more trees is extending Heartwood Forest, although we were hard pressed to see any. Turning left we crossed through Nomansland Common and over the River Lea at Leasey Bridge. Then we ascended to Gustard Wood and took a quiet lane to Ayot St Lawrence to see George Bernard Shaw’s house and the ruined Church. 

group at church
The church in Ayot St Lawrence
Bridge over the B653

Then it was down the hill and left to Kimpton Mill, where we crossed the River Mimram at some watercress beds towards Whitwell. The weather decided to show us who was boss here and the result was a rush to get out of the rain in Emily’s café, which was packed with cyclists as usual. Dried out in the cafe then we headed up the hill to Bendish and through Peters Green to pick up the Cycle Path towards Luton along the Lea Valley.  The cycle path is very pleasant and there are steel cutout statues of the comedian Eric Morecambe and Capability Brown the designer of the gardens at Luton Hoo.  

Statues on NCR6 near Luton
Mike posing as Eric Morecambe

Reaching the edge of Luton we followed the cycle paths towards the town centre and took a left up a long and very steep Cutenhoe Road and into Stockwood Park, where we managed to avoid the Christmas fair. I was hoping to take the cycle path to Woodside but it looked too steep and muddy so we took a short detour to Farley Hill, crossed under the M1 and headed to the Plough at Woodside.  We got to the Plough in time to miss an afternoon shower as a front came over.  After lunch it had turned colder and we headed to Harpenden via Pepperstock and Kinsbourne Green.

Mike 07/12/2014

30 November 2014

30 Nov 2014: Hatfield to Goff's Oak

The Gods looked down kindly on us once more, after bad weather cancelled the previous Sunday ride, with a misty morning developing into a sunny, last day of autumn.  Following the inevitable ups and downs from Hatfield to Hertford via Bayford,  the course was unusually flat for the twelve riders who set out, though one had to turn back early because of domestic circumstances.  
Mist clearing at Hertford
Broxbourne rowers
From Hertford we followed Sustrans’ route 61 through Ware along the River Lee Navigation towpath. Smoke rising from some of the narrow boats moored along the bank made us wonder how many were occupied throughout the winter months.   The towpath was quite rough in parts – the parts that hadn’t been smoothed by a soft, mucky layer of autumn leaf mould. The major hazards here proved to be joggers with earphones, insulated from our bicycle bell warnings, and the odd kamikaze dog.

The Village Café in Stanstead Abbotts provided swift service with generous food and drink to over fortify us for the continued mainly flat route to Goff’s Oak.  This followed route 61 along the Lee Navigation intermittently, with detours through the outskirts of Hoddesdon and Cheshunt and final cycle paths and minor roads up to the Wheelwrights at Goff’s Oak.  Carol was quite concerned that she may not have ridden off her bacon sandwich, although a blood-boiling episode with an inconsiderate driver in Hoddesdon might have helped burn off some calories.

The Wheelwrights was a modern, featureless structure by pub standards, providing only McMullens’ mediocre AK on hand pump (the IPA was off).  However, they served up prompt and nourishing food, which again was probably excessive for the 10 or so miles for those going back to Hatfield!

Craig 30/11/2014

16 November 2014

16 Nov 2014: St Albans to Hyde Heath

Eleven of us met at St Albans for another ride into the Chilterns, famed for its picture postcard countryside, pleasant lanes and villages.  On a grey and chilly morning we were pleased to see two new riders out:  Yvette from London Colney and Hari - a refugee from Essex CTC. It had rained pretty hard overnight and the lanes were covered in matted soggy leaves, but neither had mudguards: perhaps a mistake in light of the route we were taking.

Yvette joins her first CTC ride
Richard joins his umpteenth ride
We followed familiar lanes through Potters Crouch, Abbots Langley and into the Chilterns at Sarratt. Shortly after Sarratt, we turned onto a track with some very thick mud on a corner at the bottom of the hill. Rather than face a long slog back up the hill we persevered and the track was not as bad as we had expected. Eventually we emerged onto tarmac but the planned route took us back onto tracks, using a foot bridge over the Chess.  This involved lifting Judy's new e-trice over a barrier, but fortunately there were a couple of people mad enough to assist.  They then carried it along the wooden foot bridge, which was about a centimetre narrower than the wheel track width, while nervously trying to keep balance on the slippery planks.  Another rather muddy track followed (uphill this time) before we reached Chenies, from where it was a short ride into Little Chalfont for a much-needed elevenses at Ozzy’s.

Having stopped at Ozzy’s in Little Chalfont we set out on our detour to Hyde Heath. This is only about 5 miles in a straight line so we planned to make a loop round to the south of Amersham. Unfortunately we had two problems: the ride leader (myself) did not know the area and this short journey required 3 maps of which he only had two. We set off through Chalfont St Giles and on to Penn Street. So far so good. Then we should have gone through Holmer Green and on to Little Missenden. Unfortunately we made wrong turning in Holmer Green and ended up in Great Kingshill. At least we had avoided Beamond End Lane, which is just as well as the last time we went that way it was deep mud that would prove a challenge for the ubiquitous 4WD vehicles. Fortunately Steve had the missing map and we were able to make our way through Little Kingshill and after a brief thrash down the A413 we turned on to the little lane leading up to the Hyde Heath. Here with much relief we stopped for lunch at the Plough inn. This proved to be a very welcoming unspoilt pub with good food and reasonable prices.

Hari on his first ride
As we left the pub it started to rain but fortunately it didn’t really turn into anything serious. Most of us set off back through Chesham and Latimer whilst a few others set off for Bovingdon. When we arrived back in St Albans it was just beginning to rain again.

It was interesting to see how the group of eleven at the start split up during the ride to leave just three of us together in St Albans.  John left us at Ozzy’s and Yvette went home without stopping at  Hyde Heath. Of the five who left together from the pub there were just the three of us remaining by the time we reached St Albans town centre. I hope everyone else did get home all right! Those with mudguards looked forward to giving their bikes a good hosing down, while those without mudguards probably needed to hose themselves down first.

Bill 16/11/2014

9 November 2014

09 Nov 2014: Hatfield to Wareside

A dry, fine and warmish day’s forecast resulted in twelve of us being at the start in Hatfield. Our elevenses destination was Church Farm, Ardeley, which is well out in the country to the north east of Stevenage. As it is a fairly long way I decided not to use the back lanes to start with and we used the old A1, which is now reasonably quiet, going over Digswell Hill and down the other side into Old Welwyn. From here we entered ‘Robbery Bottom Lane’ (lovely name –reputed to have been a haunt of Dick Turpin) and then out into more rural areas. We headed through Watton at Stone, then up the valley to Walkern and beyond. Here the countryside is lovely and open with typical east Herts scenery. Before reaching Cromer there’s a right turn up a lane leading to the hamlet of Ardeley.

group photo
A dozen at the start
man with large plate of scrambled eggs
Take it slowly Mike
Church Farm is trendy with a farm shop and café etc. In fact it is so trendy it featured on a BBC radio 4 programme about modern farming trends and diversification. The café food is excellent but with prices to match its exalted reputation.

Leaving Ardeley we were heading for Wareside. So looking for a ‘nice’ route we headed off due east through more open country and little villages before crossing the A10 and going into Puckeridge, whose high street is lined with beautiful and quaint old houses. Leaving there we were now heading due south down a very pretty and quiet lane, which runs down the valley of the river Rib and crosses it at Barwick ford.  Then just a few more miles down little lanes and we arrived at ‘The Chequers’ in Wareside.

cycling along a dark lane
Carol on the switchback lane from Puckeridge
crossing footbridge at ford
Crossing the footbridge at Barwick Ford

The Chequers is a proper old pub, nice because, as a member of our party put it; “it hasn’t been b*****d about with”. It also does excellent food at very reasonable prices. So after a very pleasant lunch break it was back on the bikes to return home. Whilst Wareside is just to the east of Ware the overall journey back to the start at Hatfield is quite a stretch. Still we took a reasonably flat route via Ware, into Hertford and then along the Old Coach Road to Welwyn G.C. and Hatfield, with some of the group turning off along the way for their homes. For those of us who went back to the start the overall ride had been about 46 miles. Just right for a pleasant November ride.


2 November 2014

02 Nov 2014: Hatfield to Hertford

When it rains it pours.  Sunday morning 9.15, the place ASDA Hatfield and the event a half day ride around the quiet lanes of Hertfordshire. Today we welcomed a new rider Alex who hailed from Muswell Hill. She’d been looking for some more challenging rides, and getting a little bored with the streets of London, so decided to give us a try-out.

Now the weather forecast mentioned rain, but I was under the impression that it would be heavy showers, not a downpour from 9.00 to about 11.30. Some brave souls came out today: Tracy, Steve and Jackie, Mike, Bill and a late arriving Peter (he went to St Albans to start).

So we headed out and I wanted to take some new roads through WGC, so as we came to the roundabouts just before Digswell Park I took a left along a winding road through the estate, which has a massive dip in the middle of it. This leads us nicely down to Digswell and just a skip across a busy road into the park. From here we headed over to Harmer Green Lane, which leads to Bulls Green and runs parallel to New Road. This lane is a lovely tree lined and leafy affair that goes past the train station. With all the rain it was somewhat like riding through the Amazon rain forest. I found it rather pleasant. When we got to Bull’s Green we lost Steve and Jackie. The rest of us pressed on, omitting the deviation that I had planned, for the rain didn’t stop.  It was going to be a straight run to Dane End.

Datchworth Green, Watton at Stone, Whempstead and Dane End, from here back to Sacombe Green and up the hill to the junction at Rowney Lane. It was a quick and easy blast from here to the golf club, where we all got cooked breakfasts (great scrambled eggs) and dripped admirably onto the furniture. We were all sodden and soaked to the skin.  A discussion ensued about heading on and the decision was reached that we should go to Hertford for lunch (rather than Great Wymondley).

So we made for Lunch via Sacombe Park, Stoney Hills and Bengeo, we alighted at the Six Templars and had good break there, it had stopped raining but spirits had been dampened and we were a rather subdued bunch. The route home from lunch was via the back road from Hertford to Hatfield and up through Letty Green the along the Cole Green Way back to Hatfield. 

A short ride under the circumstances and Alex enjoyed herself: 36 miles of dribbley fun.

Neil 2/11/2014

26 October 2014

26 Oct 2014: St Albans to Berkhamsted

Those attending morning service at St Peters Church hurried past the ghoulish figures standing near the war memorial, suspecting that this was a Halloween rehearsal. They ominously numbered thirteen, but this was maybe a reflection of the clocks going back, leaving little excuse for lingering in bed that morning.  Despite the mild conditions, only a few bare legs were on view, fortunately an even number. 
Group of cyclists

The later start time also meant we didn’t have a chance to review the synchronised start of the formation riders from the VCC on the opposite side of the roundabout. The leaden skies contributed to a sombre mood as we set off to Bedmond, passing West Herts CTC on their way to the Elephant & Castle (not the architectural masterpiece in Southwark but the pub hear Wheathampstead), and Kings Langley, skimming the frontage of the former Ovaltine factory to Hunton Bridge and then Chorleywood, crossing the M25 to Duran’s café at Maple Cross. This was unusually but fortunately nearly empty as the group swiftly occupied two tables before ordering diet-busting calorie-intensive breakfasts as training for the season of gluttony, now fast approaching, while digesting the world’s news supplied by the Sun on Sunday. Suitably refreshed and watered, and now reduced to twelve we set off, skirting Little Chalfont & down the steep hill of Stony Lane to cross the river Chess and climb through Latimer to Ley Hill where a Methodist chapel looks over disapprovingly the two mutually adjacent pubs.
Line of cyclists
Smiling cyclists
Still smiling after all those hills

Crossing the A416 at Ashley Green we descended into the birthplace of Graham Greene, author of the Third Man, to the Crown on Berkhamsted High Street. This is unusual for a Wetherspoon establishment, having already been a pub before its current ownership, and had attracted the attendance of the Edgware CTC this time, who had outrageously occupied the only large table. Split over two tables in different rooms, advantage was taken of the foreign-beer festival to supplement the calorie intake even further.

With the clocks now back on GMT and so no tea stop, this was the official end of the ride, and the club ethos (every man for himself) was applied as the riders subsequently made their own ways home in the fading light.

Steve 26/10/2014

19 October 2014

19 Oct 2014: St Albans to Great Missenden

With several regulars away and the ride leader (Pete) sending in a sick note, I came up with a hastily devised route for today’s ride to Great Missenden.  Pete had led this ride last October when he was delayed by having to scrape ice off his car window, so I was glad it was a warm, dry day this year.  Pete had mentioned a myriad of hills, as is common for the Chilterns, but my route had as few as possible (only 2,500 ft of climb over 57 miles). 

This was partly because it was the first test of Judy’s new Trice, which has battery-powered motor assistance with an estimated range of 84 miles.  Would the battery last over a total of 82 miles and 3,500 ft of climbing including to and from St Albans?  So six of us set off on a direct route to Pitstone Wharf via Gaddesden Row, Dagnall and Ivinghoe, arriving at our elevenses stop at 10:30.  Craig and John had to leave us here, but Steve H joined us (somewhat jet lagged from his trip to the USA) and the sun came out as we left.  My route now avoided the hilly direct option and the busy roads through Wendover by looping north on flat lanes through Long Marston and Weston Turville, marred only by the strong head wind.  Added interest was provided when we passed a miniature traction engine, and then we encountered three very large traction engines lumbering along the country lanes and holding up a queue of cars. I paused to take a photo, but not for long as I wasn’t sure how good the brakes were on those beasts and didn’t want to get flattened.

At Pitsone Wharf
rear of traction engine
One of three traction engines
front of traction engine

Great Missenden
One steep climb was inevitable and we ascended the scarp slope up to Chequers, the country retreat of the serving prime minister.  Then we had a fantastic 5-mile descent with the wind behind us into Great Missenden and stopped for lunch in the pub garden of The Cross Keys.  We were soon climbing again out of town and through the churchyard, then over to Chesham Bois before descending to the Chess Valley, before another 12% climb to Belsize and Chipperfield.  Here it was time for tea at Blackwells – the village club given to the village by the Blackwell family, of Cross & Blackwell. 

A descent into Kings Langley was followed by a climb up Toms Hill.  Judy had been under strict instructions to stay at the back all day, but here we let her go ahead.  Even on minimum power she shot up the hill well ahead of us.  Any worries about running out of battery were unfounded – there were still 53 miles ‘in the tank’ after the 82 mile circuit, mainly because the motor had only been used on the hills.

Jon 19/10/2014

12 October 2014

12 Oct 2014: Hatfield to Puckeridge

To Tyler’s Causeway or not to Tyler’s Causeway?

That was the mission this ride, a ride for which I had stepped in to lead. I had the vision of going to Dobb’s Weir via Water End, Bookmans Park, Northaw, Newgate Street and down into Broxbourne that way, but I mentioned this to one of our riders and his face paled, for there are two whacking great hills between Northaw and Newgate Street.

Have no fear; I decided to change my route. So nine of us set off for Dobb’s Weir via Bull’s lane, Bell Bar, Woodside and a lovely little meander up into Little Berkhamsted. From here we started back onto a familiar road but I soon shunned the delights of White Stubbs lane, and played with the new found wonder of Ashendene Road which lead straight into Bayford and past a great pub, soon we wiggled around to Brickendon, past the wild life park and then we were back onto familiar territory as we bombed down into Broxbourne. BOOOOM and we were negotiating that rather awkward little bridge over the River Lea that leads us into Old Nazing, and then it was a quick waddle up the NCR1 path to the café at Dobb’s Weir. Now for those that don’t know this café had been shut for a while, not due to flooding as you might expect but due to a great landlord who wanted to refurbish the place and it looked really nice.

narrow boat on river
Narrow boat on the River Lea
Well from here I took a route that mirrored one I had done before but going in the other direction, and so we headed out to Roydon, Stansted Abbotts, here I didn’t do a turning (Kitten Lane) and had to make an awkward U turn on myself but no real harm done. Then we wiggled up through Hunsdon, Widford and Much Hadham. It was here that I remembered Judy’s blow out the last time I came this way, when everything was recovering from being flooded. Now it was just a short trek into Standon and then onto Puckeridge (LLLLUUUUUUNNNNCCCHHH). Just to note it looks like the Bell in Standon might be closed.

Lunch was a great little feast of baguettes, soup, tortilla chips and visitors. Yes Stuart and Dave (Hitchin Nomad) turned up to say hi and it was great to see them.

After lunch it was a bash on to the best café in Hertford (Rose’s).  Now it was really good that we had Jon with us because he had the right of the route and I had got mixed up with a shorter route, but hey and we headed out to Great Munden then down into Dane End.  Ha ha I took them up White Hill past the golf course; here mike commented on the fact that we never go through this area backwards and it made for a pleasant change, especially Sacombe Park, very nice.

Rose’s was just as expected: great. Then I led our thinning group out towards Essendon and then onto home. The weather for the day was very pleasant and made for some great riding.

I enjoyed this ride and I hope everybody else did as well.

Neil 12/10/2014

5 October 2014

05 Oct 2014: Hatfield to Epping

It was Mike's turn to shepherd an unruly bunch of cyclists around today and we soon managed to lose three just going through Welwyn Garden City, only to find they had got ahead of us by taking a different route once they had lost touch with the group.  The independent nature of some was soon revealed again when half the bunch disappeared up a footpath in Hertford rather than follow the leader along the main road, but we soon regrouped and found our way through the town centre and out on a quiet lane to Hoddesdon.  Here we dodged around the amusements that were being erected as the fair had come to town, then it was a short way to our first stop at Rye Park Cafe.  No cakes or even toasted teacakes on the menu, but they did a very tasty hummus & pitta bread. 

woman showing gloves
Carol's cloven handed gloves
Three cyclists
Cole Green Way
Essex Air Ambulance in Epping
group in car park
Leaving The Black Lion in Epping
level crossing
Improved level crossing in Waltham Cross
cyclists bridge
Paul Cully Bridge over the A10
After Hoddesdon we lost three who just wanted the morning ride and gained Stuart from Stevenage.  So it was off to Harlow via Roydon, with the inevitable wait at the level crossing.  Mike found a very useful cycle route through Harlow, which started with a pleasant ride through woods and kept us off any roads until we emerged at the south of Harlow on Rye Hill Road.  Then it was a loop to the west of Thornwood and we were in the busy market town of Epping, where the Essex air ambulance was on display to the amusement of the local kids.

A pleasant lunch in the Black Lion was followed by a rather unpleasant ride along a very busy main road into Epping Forest, where we realised we would be far too early to stop for tea in Cheshunt.  Carol suggested going to Bell Bar for tea instead, so we ventured into the Lea Valley Park and over the level crossing, which was now much easier to use following a redesign of the gates.  But having crossed the cyclists' bridge over the A10 there were some steep hills leading to a split in the group and sincere apologies are due to those who were left behind.  It just goes to show how tricky leading a ride can be and the value of appointing a back-marker who knows the route.

Jon 5/10/2014

28 September 2014

28 Sep 2014: Wheathampstead to Royston

The strangely clad figures loitering around the toilets at Wheathampstead car park turned out to be the South Herts CTC riders preparing for the last ride in September. The lingering mist and bright colours in the foliage confirmed that we were now well into autumn as we passed the former golf club on the road to Codicote, once rumoured to have been purchased by David & Victoria Beckham (a recently appointed UN ambassador), but now evidently planted with trees and landscaped to incorporate a new lake, and no doubt owned by a multi-millionaire currently subdividing his properties to escape any future mansion tax. We skirted Codicote and were heading towards St Paul’s Walden along a very narrow road when we were overtaken by a group of about ten maniacs cycling furiously, only one of whom was daring to wear the blue-and-yellow strip of a well-known St Albans racing club. Proceeding at a more civilised pace we wended our way through Willian and the back streets of Baldock to Cafe Plus. 

Cafe Plus, Baldock
David and Victoria
David & Victoria
Other cyclists had inconsiderately occupied all the outside tables so we huddled together in the rather cramped interior. The subsequent trek out of the town took us along a decommissioned road, now reduced to half its former width to become a cycle route with a bridge over the new A505 bypass, to Wallington where there was the obligatory stop at the former post office. Here a plaque claimed Eric Blair (George Orwell) had lived from 1936 to 1940. As most of this period was occupied by the Spanish Civil War in which Orwell had participated, maybe there was some poetic licence. The plains of Cambridgeshire seemed to have disappeared as we tackled a hilly route into Royston and arrived at the sumptuous interior of the Manor House, now owned by J D Wetherspoon. This is a recent acquisition and certainly had a better ambience than most of their establishments, being a former hotel. 

Orwell's Cottage in Wallington
manor house
Wetherspoons in Royston
Conversation inevitably drifted into the recent resignation of the Minister for Civil Society, and all the riders agreed that they would be more careful in future when sending pictures of their private parts to members of the opposite sex, and particularly avoid wearing paisley pyjamas. We then headed south, avoiding the A10, to the reliable golf club at Dane End, where ignoring the rules about wearing white socks with shorts, we feasted on highly calorific cakes while making disparaging remarks about the profiles of some of the pub's lunch-time customers, and noting with satisfaction the Ryder Cup was not going America’s way. We then made the usual route home though Watton-at-Stone, the long drag up to Datchworth being the least enjoyable.

Steve 28/09/2014

21 September 2014

21 Sep 2014: Hatfield to Bishop's Stortford

It was good to welcome new rider Ryan who had come on his first ride with us on Neil's Saturday Saunter and was keen to try a full day ride.

A bright, if chilly, morning was a welcome change from the recent heavy thunderstorms and it saw us heading off from Hatfield to Ware. In an effort to come up with a slightly different route to a place often visited, we went through Welwyn and up Digswell Hill - a long climb. Then through Tewin and Bramfield, after nice lanes through the woods, we came into north Hertford. Climbing through the side streets of Port Vale, in Bengeo we turned along the track towards Ware, with its spectacular views across the valley and the A10 viaduct. 

negotiating gates
Negotiating gates along the Stort Navigation
maggots end sign
On the way to tea

Truly Scrumptious is a nice morning stop and after a bit of a breather, we continued on our route through Stanstead Abbotts and Roydon, here picking up the path along the Stort Navigation, a delightful track, and for a riverside path, very few other users. Only one or two irritating gates which are difficult to get a bike through. Leaving the river, we went through a network of small traffic free lanes, emerging at Allen's Green and on to the road to Bishop's Stortford. 

The pub stop was a new one for me in the new development bit of the town, but as it was a Wetherspoons, it was just like all the others. Lunch stop done, we found the way out of the town going north towards Clavering - mercifully a flat route following the river.  We were soon back on lanes again, through Berden and the Pelhams arriving at the cake lovers' paradise - the village hall in Braughing. Surely this is the second best value and biggest choice Sunday afternoon stop known (after Upshire Church). From here it was a familiar route back. It was an excellent day out along some less trodden lanes.

Richard 21/09/2014

14 September 2014

14 Sep 2014: St Albans to Hedgerley

A band of six hardy riders met for what was going to be (in my mind at least) a day of getting slightly lost, as I really didn’t know the area we were riding to and there was a very BIG road (in Blue on the map) to negotiate.

two people
Sue and Craig on the road to Hedgerley
So without further ado we headed off for Ozzy’s café in Little Chalfont. The route I chose is a very familiar one and as we were banging along the roads, I did think about a detour but I kept it linear just in case it went tits up after break. In fact we made great time down there and did it an hour and a half. This gave us plenty of time for tea and a great chat, where it turned out that one of our members (who shall remain nameless) is a secret WI groupie, and he (for it is a male) regaled us with a tale told at a WI lecture of the MOD site on Woodcock Hill near Sandridge and how the Germans had entered Britain in WW2 with radar equipment in small briefcases, which had been sabotaged by Allied sympathisers in Germany. This made for a great stop. But we had to push on and at this point one of our group decided to go home.

Now I headed out towards Chalfont St Giles and I have to say I surprised myself, I knew the way but as soon as we got there we encountered a roundabout not on the map, it was here that Richard came to the fore and revealed that he had done this ride recently, gosh was I relieved is all that I can say. He did an admirable job of guiding me to the destination. We went via Jordans and Seer Green and then we dropped into Beaconsfield, all these roads were very unfamiliar to me, I need to do more homework in this area. In Beaconsfield we met another roundabout that I knew we went straight over although the road sign clearly showed a dead end, but we went straight over and on to The White Horse in Hedgerley. This wasn’t far from the tea stop either.

So after lunch we decided that the last stop would be Blackwell’s in Chipperfield, via a lovely little road/track that followed the river Chess, but to get onto that there was a rather steep downhill to negotiate and Richard’s comment was ‘lovely path but I wouldn’t recommend it in the winter’.

After Blackwell’s I took the chaps home via Kings Langley, Tom’s lane and that road by the tin church into St Albans.

It was a really good day out, brought to you by team SAS (Surtees And Stubbs). 

Neil 14/09/2014

7 September 2014

07 Sep 2014: Hatfield to Allens Green

A happy bunch gathered in Hatfield ready to venture East into Essex.  It was a fair distance to Old Harlow so I avoided most of the hills by using a cunning route along the Cole Green Way to Hertford, where we followed the almost flat New River to Stansted Abbotts.  We weren't quite so happy when in Roydon a particularly thick bit of cloud decided to shed it's load on us, especially as the forecast hadn't mentioned rain and some (including me) were dressed for the warmer weather we've been spoiled with recently.  After not quite 20 miles we reached the Cross Keys Cafe, relocated from it's old site on the old A11 to the centre of Old Harlow.  The fare hadn't changed much though, with the Big Boy Breakfast being popular amongst the less active customers and we found plenty to refuel us too for the next stage.

group at start
Gathering in Hatfield
group at cafe
Outside the cafe in Old Harlow

You may be surprised that Harlow boasts some 60 sculptures by various artists and has earned the designation of 'Harlow Sculpture Town'.  We spotted one of these sculptures outside the Cross Keys Cafe, but you can discover more of these works by following this handy Sculpture map.

man and bike
Stuart arrives in Old Harlow to join our ride
'Kore A Little Girl' is by Betty Rea

We were served quickly at the cafe and had time for a 17 mile loop on some really quiet lanes around Matching Tye, High Laver and Matching Green.  Then we passed the strangely isolated Matching Church, well off the beaten track, and through Sheering and Sawbridgeworth to Allens Green.  

group in lane
At Little Laver
Craig and his shadow

A slight panic ensured after lunch, knowing that the Rose Cafe in Hertford shuts at 4 pm, but we made it just before they started upending the chairs on the tables.  

Jon 7/9/2014

31 August 2014

31 Aug 2014: Hatfield to Maulden

Several months ago after years of riding with South Herts CTC, mostly on Wednesday rides which I’ve led on numerous occasions, I finally stepped up to the plate and volunteered to lead a Sunday ride on the last day of August to the north of Hertfordshire and “Central Bedfordshire”, as the numerous signs inform us. The first leg was to Hitchin. I decided to depart from Hatfield via the Garden Village and Lemsford. Quite soon we were crossing the A1M at Ayot Green, passing the site of the old Ayot station on the branch to Leighton Buzzard. This is the station that George Bernard Shaw used when travelling up to London to see his publisher. It was burned down in 1948 and formally closed the following year, well before the building of the A1M in 1971 severed the stump of the branch to Blackbridge dump. Soon we were passing through Whitwell and further “railway” interest at “Cressman’s Corner”, before turning right to pass through Preston and Gosmore and arriving at Hitchin.

group leaves cafe
Leaving Hitchin Kitchen
sign board
Colourful sign near Hitchin
recumbent on grassy track
Judy on Oughton Head Lane
thatched cottages
Thatched cottages in Ampthill
Lots of establishments would do well to heed the price structure of some of our elevenses cafes - Hitchin Kitchen et al seem to be able to offer substantial amounts of food at low cost and remain a thriving and enduring business. The Hertfordshire traffic police “refuelling” in the corner certainly seemed to agree with me, at least on this matter. We’d arrived quite early at Hitchin, although Jon and Judy were already there, so I decided to add a bit of distance to the following leg to the pub. In retrospect this may have been a mistake. I’d researched the exit from Hitchin extensively so we had a smooth progression to Arlesey and Clifton, a village that sadly no longer has the “Byercycles” shop, Richard Byers having retired. We then proceeded up the B658 until a left turn past the Shuttleworth Collection and Old Warden. Richard Ormonde Shuttleworth founded the Shuttleworth Collection in 1928, the avowed, and visionary intention being to preserve historic machinery as far as possible in working condition. This has been achieved, with a Bleriot XI being the world’s oldest airworthy aeroplane, and a Blackburn Type D being the oldest airworthy British aeroplane, as well as many other aircraft, cars and bicycles.  Richard Shuttleworth was killed in 1940 in an air training crash, and his mother formed a remembrance trust to teach “the science and practice of aviation, afforestation and agriculture”. The Shuttleworth mansion was frequently in view as well as the fields that constitute the classroom of the agricultural college.

Passing through Old Warden village I took an incorrect left turn, but not too much trouble ensued; we were soon passing Ireland as intended and crossing the A600. Joining up again at Haynes Church End, we descended Great Lane to Clophill, and then crossed the A6 (near Deadman’s Hill, the site of the infamous 1960 A6 murder) before coming into Maulden and The Dog and Badger, where we re-joined Jon and Judy in the pub garden. It was now 13:10 and we’d ridden about 42 miles in 3.5 hours of cycling since 09:05 - exactly 12mph as advertised on the club’s website. However, after lunch there was a considerable thinning in the ranks of the peloton, with only 4 of us continuing to Dunstable while several others opted for a direct route back via Whitwell.

View map full screen (The blue route was used by most; mauve is Graham's route after lunch and brown is Jon & Judy's short cut to lunch).

On leaving the pub, fortified by a beef sandwich and 2 pints of “waggle-dance”, I continued to Ampthill, and then to Steppingley, turning left just before the M1 and then through Harlington, upper and lower Sundon, up a steep hill over the end of the Chilterns and into Dunstable via Houghton Regis. Café Latte was again excellent value and served us even though we were just past their formal last orders time. Having crossed the Luton-Dunstable guided busway (the other end of the former Hatfield-Leighton Buzzard branch encountered earlier) on the cycle path to the café, we decided to use the cycle path alongside this piece of novel infrastructure to get to Luton, despite the gates to prevent motorcyclists using it being almost too narrow to squeeze a bicycle through. I can’t say I’m a big fan of this form of public transport. Road vehicles running on bits of concrete seems a bit of reverse evolution from steel rails and wheels to me. The similar busway in Cambridgeshire undisputedly cost more to construct than just reinstating the railway it replaced (although it has a fantastically smooth, fast cycle route), and once a bus leaves the busway, which is not available for any other motor vehicle to use, it just gets snarled up in all the town centre traffic as before. As such they combine the worst aspects of both rail and bus travel - surely a tram system would be better?

From Luton we stayed on the old railway path into Harpenden, losing a further rider at Luton station. By the time I got home at 18:00 after 9 hours out of the house, 7 cycling I’d ridden 82 miles, an average speed of less than 12mph in perfect weather and through beautiful countryside.

Graham 31/08/2014

24 August 2014

24 Aug 2014: St Albans to Winslow

Richard led a super ride of nearly 74 relatively flat miles. It was a bright but chilly start from St Albans, with frosts reported from parts of the UK - and still August too!
traction engine
Steam tractor on the Redbourn Road
steam train
Steam train in Leighton Buzzard
straw man
Straw man in Drayton Parslow
group at pub
The Bell in Winslow
group leaving
Leaving Winslow

It was going to be one of our longer rides, so we took the main road to Redbourn to get some distance covered quickly, and then along Gaddesden Row to Studham. Descending to Dagnall we climbed the edge of the beacon and then on to Slapton.  The roads were quiet on this Bank Holiday Sunday, except when disturbed by the rumbling of the odd steam driven tractor.

We soon came to the station on the Leighton Buzzard Light Railway, where steam was up in the tourist trains and that was our handy and cheap coffee stop. Leighton Buzzard seems to be bursting at the seams with new developments, but we managed to head off on a cycle route through some industrial estates and suburbs to get to Soulbury and nice quiet lanes taking us towards Winslow; the pleasing rural scene only spoilt by distant views of Milton Keynes.

A convenient cycle path took us to the centre of the town and a lunch stop at The Bell in the market square, an excellent venue with nice and reasonably priced food - what cracking sandwiches - highly recommended. I had forgotten what a charming place Winslow is.

After enjoying a relaxing lunch we needed to navigate towards more familiar country, but fairly soon we were back to villages visited before and soon through Tring and then a final stop in the ever popular Wetherspoons in Berko. The flattest and easiest route from here was called for as a certain weariness had set in. A great day out, if slightly longer than usual. I clocked up 75 miles by the time I got home, thankful that all that rain had held off until the Monday.

Richard 24/08/2014