30 March 2014

30 Mar 2014: Hertford to Standon

This little jaunt started at Hertford and was attended by the dedicated and slightly mad few who loved getting up an hour earlier than usual.  We also welcomed new rider Kevin who was training for a Lands End to John O’Groats attempt.

Eight of us blasted off into the countryside and headed straight towards Sawbridgeworth through Stanstead Abbotts, Roydon and Harlow.  The weather was pleasant, nice and bright and not too hot.  Around the lanes one of our hardy crew fell victim to a puncture.  Not to fear, Steve was on hand with the wrong size inner tube, which really didn’t matter as it held up for the rest of the ride.  This minor delay meant we actually made tea stop on time rather than early.  This was the Mint Café in Sawbridgeworth, a pleasant café with a relaxed atmosphere.

man carries wheel
Steve to the rescue
two men standing
Chris & Kevin look on
three cyclists
We want our tea!##
Man fixes puncture
Steve fixes another one

Lunch destination had been changed due to it being Mother’s Day, so after our refreshments we found our way over to Standon via Green Tye, Much Hadham and some nice country lanes.  Kevin was doing very well and having a great time, and then it was Tracey’s turn to discover that wobbly feeling from a puncture.  Fortunately this happened near the lunch stop (The Bell) in Standon.  Four of us had brought our own lunch so we made use of the village bench then it was to the pub for a drink and to fix that tyre.  Steve is really is good at this stuff and he explained all the ins and outs of puncture repair as Tracey nodded dutifully in rapt attention.  So the wheel was fixed, attached to the bike and we were on our way.

Next stop the golf club at Dane End and again a great set of lanes got us over to there.  By the time we made it the sun had decided enough was enough and went in.  After a brief stop for a cuppa and cake - ahhh Steve treated himself to a bit of homemade crumble, and very delicious it was too - we headed off home and all went our separate ways at Stoney Hills. 

It was a superb day out.

Neil 30/03/2014

23 March 2014

23 Mar 2014: St Albans to Asheridge

There were only 3 of us today, myself, Bill and Peter. I guess the poor weather was keeping everyone at home. There was a cold NW wind and showers were threatening. 

Alt text
Buncefield in 2005
We set off towards Redbourn and then turned up Punchbowl Lane then Hogg End Lane towards Hemel Hempstead.  The delightfully named Three Cherry Trees Lane was still closed, 9 years after the oil terminal blew up.  So skirting hastily around the Buncefield terminal we passed through Hemel Industrial Estate and on to Cupid Green Lane via Shenley Road and then Dodds Lane.

Dodds Lane is very open to the weather. By now the sun was out but the wind was keenly felt.  Following the Leighton Buzzard road we eventually turned left along Nettleden Road towards Berkhamsted. Ivy House Lane is nice little lane that took us down to Berkhamsted and a welcome break at the Crown pub.

We all had a good fry up for breakfast and then set off for Asheridge. After crossing over the A41 a small shower of Hail caught us but it did not last long. The weather was looking threatening so Bill suggested we take a more direct route to Asheridge. This proved right. We had a nice easy ride with the wind behind us all the way to the Blue Ball. 

After a leisurely lunch we headed back via Chesham and Flaunden.  The threatening clouds had dispersed and the sun was out. There were a few spits and spots of rain along Rucklers Lane and following Bunkers Lane back to St Albans via the A4147.

Mike 23/03/2014

16 March 2014

16 Mar 2014: Hatfield to Sawbridgeworth

Another perfect day for cycling, or so it seemed as a dozen off us headed out past the QE2 Hospital, an attractive place which Tracey would not resist returning to later.  There was not a cloud in the sky all day and appeared to be no wind to speak of (funny how you always think that when there’s a strong tail wind).  We made the most of it and arrived quite early for a morning break in Hoddesdon, despite putting a loop in through Bramfield.

group in dappled shade
A pause on the way to Bramfield
at cafe tables
Sainsbury's Cafe in Hoddesdon
The staff in Sainsbury’s Café greeted us warmly and coped cheerily with the sudden influx.  Three of us went home, but Carol & Steve joined the rest of us here and we followed a route through Harlow Town Park, which uses an old preserved lane where you can easily forget you are in the middle of a large conurbation.  Another long loop took us through Matching Tye and Matching Green, then past the ponds to Matching Church.  Apparently isolated, the 12th century church was sited conveniently next to Matching Manor, while the local villagers had a good long walk to get there. 

cyclists in sunny park
Through Harlow Town Park
cycling past a large pond
Matching Pond
Cock pheasant sitting on a log
Tame pheasant
medal presenation
Neil receiving his medal
Luckily we had some mechanical assistance and soon reached Sawbridgeworth for an excellent lunch at The Gate.  The décor consisted largely of flat screens showing people chasing balls around a pitch, but they were easily ignored as the sound was off.  This allowed Steve to wax lyrical about the achievements of the best attending Sunday rider as he presented Neil with a suitably heavy medal to wear around his neck.  Perhaps being the fourth such medal the weight will start to slow him down a bit.

Turning North West into the wind, in a week when physicists were celebrating the discovery of gravitational waves stemming from inflation after the big bang, we were still struggling with Newton’s third law of motion.  The apparent lack of wind had turned out to be a head-on gale as we crossed open farmland towards Green Tye.  Here some headed south for a direct route through Hertford, while we were hoping for an unofficial tea stop at Thundridge Stores.  Not so – someone had scribbled a 1 over the 4 on the Sunday opening hours.  Undaunted, we carried on to Hertford for an excellent coffee and carrot cake at Wetherspoons instead.  Just what Tracey needed to sustain her during a long stint that evening at The QE2: she had ridden all day with a suspected scaphoid fracture after participating in the strange pastime of wrestling with a frisky foal on Saturday.

(61 miles)
Jon 16/03/2014

9 March 2014

09 Mar 2014: Hatfield to Great Offley

Spring was here at last, it was warm, sunny, even hot as the day went on, and great to see our largest group of cyclists of the year so far. First stop was to be Hitchin, so trying to find a slightly different route to the well trodden direct ones, we did a few zigzags. Setting off from Hatfield we were soon through Welwyn and passing under the ever magnificent Digswell viaduct (what monument to Victorian civil engineering), we climbed Digswell hill. On through Woolmer Green and St Paul's Walden, we soon descended from Preston and into Hitchin. The was plenty of flooding still around and the lanes were in a dire condition with mud, pebbles and general debris thrown around. Hitchin Kitchen was doing a roaring trade as ever. We were glad to see three other riders who had made their own way and joined us there.
large group of cyclists
Starting in Hatfield on a chilly morning
cyclists in front of cafe
Hot at Hitchin Kitchen

The next bit was to find our way out of the town towards Ickleford, and thanks to Peter's local knowledge, we managed it with scarcely a wobble. A bit of main road and we were on lanes again to Holwell and Pirton. Continuing along the Bedfordshire flat lands we arrived in Barton and then Sharpenhoe. The Clappers glowered ominously, yes, it was a stiff climb to Streatley. Downhill next and so to Lilley and our pub lunch stop in Great Offley.

map reading group
Maps out at Apsley End
ascending steep hill
Climbing the hill at Sharpenhoe Clappers

It had been quite a long and hilly route to lunch and the pub was heaving for some unkown reason. But we did manage to get served in the end, and relax and contemplate a fairly easy route back home from there. An excellent day out in perfect weather.

at top of hill
At the top of Sharpenhoe Clappers

Richard 9/3/2014

2 March 2014

02 Mar 2014: St Albans to Wilstone

St Peter’s Church clock chimed at 9 o’clock, prompting the massed ranks of the Verulam cycling club to set off north from outside Cafe Roma, each rider identically clad in a blue-&-yellow top (£75 each).

They were watched by the not-so-massed ranks of the CTC from the opposite side of the road, clad in an assortment of blue, red, green & yellow tops (£8 each from Lidl or Aldi). As an acknowledgement to civilised standards a 5-minute grace period was allowed for riders who had over-indulged on Saturday evening.

The route took us through Bedmond, birthplace of Nicolas Breakspear, Britain’s only pope. Maybe this did not imply much reflected glory, after all hadn’t Pope Benedict been a member of the Hitler Youth (even if not simultaneously)? Continuing on the historical theme we passed through Flaunden, the haunt in the thirties of a former champagne salesman who had become Germany’s Ambassador to Britain. Lending his name later to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, which directly led to the outbreak of the Second World War, he had taken his final downward step at Nuremberg. 

Cycling through house grounds
Cycling through Pednor
man saluting
Ribbentrop saluting
The pact is agreed with Molotov

Passing down to Latimer and up the Chiltern Hills though Ley Hill, where a Methodist Chapel sits uneasily beside two adjacent pubs, we swept down a long hill into Chesham, noticing the stacked bikes outside Caffe Nero indicating the presence of West Herts CTC, who would be lining their stomachs in preparation for their multiple-hour liquid-lunch stop.  Poppin’s cafe was more to our taste (i.e. cheaper) where artery-clogging breakfasts were ordered while discussions focused on the impending war in Crimea, a far-off place about which we knew nothing.  The subsequent departure back home of 3 riders from the Wimpish Tendency had depleted our number, but the remaining hard riders took the route out of Chesham through the medieval buildings at Pednor, where we paused for a photo shoot.  An ascent to Chartridge and a long descent down Aston Hill, skirting the edge of Aston Clinton, took us on to a flat finish to Wilstone, where we met another rider for whom even a 5-minute grace period had been insufficient.

Poppins Cafe, Chesham
The Half Moon, Wilstone

The pub was busy and there was nowhere to sit inside. There were seats outside but the air quality was deemed unacceptable due to the presence of a large number of human beagles. As we stood by the bar loudly conversing about bottom-bracket removal techniques, a nearby table was suddenly evacuated and we rapidly took the opportunity and occupied it. Food was delivered surprisingly quickly & we left promptly at 2 p.m. having decided on a challenging route back through Aldbury, up Tom’s Hill. We paused at the top to let our heart rates recover and study two large herds of deer, then carried on through the 4x4 village of Little Gaddesden, down to Water End and up through Briden’s Camp, where again we paused outside the heaving Crown & Sceptre to inspect heart-rate monitors, along Gaddesden Row and back to St Albans avoiding the looming rain.  Meanwhile, West Herts CTC were returning to their bikes after lunch & the Verulam riders were probably waking up after their afternoon naps.

Steve 02/03/2014