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

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