27 April 2014

27 Apr 2014: Wheathampstead to Broom

Neil took a few snaps and recorded the route on Craig's ride to Broom:
Craig installs turbo drive at Wheathampstead. 
Skittles in The Cock at Broom. 
Spot the bogus caller in Gravenhurst. 
Definitely a shady character. 

20 April 2014

20 Apr 2014: St Albans to Prestwood

On an overcast Easter Sunday morning we met for the jaunt down into the wilds of the Chiltern district of Buckinghamshire.  Heading off out we took some lesser-used roads and this made for a really pleasant change.  It was nice to approach Bedmond from a different viewpoint.  We were heading for Rucklers Lane and again I took a hardly used road that dropped us down into the right area.

Now the wind had gotten up a bit so the going was very quick indeed, soon we had traversed Rucklers lane and were onto a familiar journey taking in Flaunden, Flaunden Bottom (which had a massive bull in one of the fields) and Latimer.  We arrived in Little Chalfont in plenty of time for a good cuppa and a well-deserved bacon sandwich, if the café was open.  I had checked the lunch stop, but just never thought about the café being closed.  With bucket loads of confidence I proclaimed there was a café around the corner and went looking for it, I found a Ladbrokes and an Orthodontist but no café.  So I headed off in the next direction and found two side by side.  We chose the most expensive to go in.  It was a very nice Italian place and rather up market with 60 quid bottles of wine on the shelf.  Here Steve and Carol joined us and Peter left us.

drinking coffee with shelves of wine bottles
Italian coffee in Little Chalfont
fallen signs
Confusing for motorists

Carol took over the leading duties as I really wasn’t sure of the area at all, and this worked rather well.  We made our way into Chesham and then out to Pednor, from where we took a route around to Great Missenden (where Carol spied a new café).  From this delightful village we headed along a new road, which skirted a couple of forests and then eventually dropped down into Prestwood. Lunch was at the Polecat Inn; I had never been inside this place and was astounded to see the collection of stuffed animals.  We had a really nice lunch.

stuffed polecat in glass case
Stuffed polecat
stuffed birds
Stuffed birds

By the time lunch was over the weather had decided to make it presence felt and the rain played with us as we headed towards the Mediterranean Café in Flaunden.  The route was fairly familiar and took in the hill that leads to the Green Dragon; the desired café was closed so we then decided that the golf course in Bovingdon was the stop for us.  The Little Hay golf complex was actually rather good, they don’t serve snacks and I think that’s due to having no custom for it.  This would make a lovely stop in the summer.  After break it was time to head home and the weather had no plans of letting us fool ourselves that it was summer and pissed down on us as we squelched back into St Albans.  We made a bedraggled lot but it was a great day nevertheless.

Stuffed cows at Boxmoor.
Belted Galloway Cows near Hemel, quite hairy and very friendly, but destined for the table as they were beef cattle.

Neil 20/04/2014

13 April 2014

13 Apr 2014: Hatfield to Shepreth

Ten of us set out from Hatfield on a glorious spring morning. The sun was warm but there was a very cold wind, which we felt as soon as we passed into any shade. After struggling through Hatfield and WGC to Tewin we embarked on what turned out to be a very enjoyable trundle through the countryside. There were several passages where we noticed the very strong scent coming from the blossom in the hedgerows (I don't think anybody was spraying us with Fabreze!), although inevitably there was often the sour smell of Rape in full bloom.  We followed the lanes through Datchworth Green on to Watton-at-Stone and then via Dane End, Nasty and on - passing the very pretty villages to Westmill before finally arriving at Buntingford for Elevenses.
line of stopped cyclists
On the road out of Dane End
female cyclist near flint-built church
Diane at Great Chishill

This was a long but very enjoyable section, but we were very grateful for the tea stop at the Village Cafe where we met Jon and Judy who had come direct from East Barnet. The only problem with this route was that we needed four different maps to cover the whole area and I only had three of them with me. This meant we made an unexpected detour to Anstey before Jon put us back on the right route for Nuthampstead.  We saw two muntjac deer, rabbits and magpies, but perhaps we were lucky not to see the fearsome South American Rhea, which has been roaming these parts for a month. It’s 6ft tall, can run at 40 mph and its six-inch claws are said to be capable of disembowelling a man.

The countryside was much more open now and we had some wonderful views across the open fields.  Some said they had spied the tower of Cambridge University Library on the horizon. With another small navigational error we had to suffer half a mile down the busy A505 before arriving at the Green Man at Shepreth for lunch.
group holding bikes in pub garden
Leaving the Green Man at Shepreth
man fixing tyre
A brief pause in Litlington

The pub was very busy but the service was good and we were able to sit out on the patio - although as the cloud cover increased we began to feel the chill again. The return ride to Baldock was a relatively flat run into the wind through Litlington and Ashwell, where we were very happy to find the Cafe Plus was still open. The ride to there had been just 50 miles, and the ride leader (and his cough) then took the train back to Hatfield. Others completed the 74-mile ride back to Hatfield and some went much further – notably Jon and Judy who did almost 100 miles before returning home at that evening!!

Bill 13/04/2014

6 April 2014

06 Apr 2014: St Albans to Tring

Sunday morning dawned with a poor weather forecast and heavy rain at 8.30 on the way to the start. Nonetheless a total of eight brave souls had turned out at St. Albans and by the time we got under way it was dry (and it stayed that way for the rest of the day). 

First stop Ivinghoe, so we set off skirting round Hemel Hempstead then on to the steady climb through Nettleden and up to Ashridge and Ivinghoe Common. Then it’s a long swoop down to the village of Ivinghoe itself. Then locate the café, a new one for us called ‘Curiositea’, a community run facility in the old school house, and very nice it was too. 

Inside cafe
Curiositea in Ivinghoe
Three cyclists
On the road to Wing

Lunch was to be in Tring, which is very close to where we were.  So to keep everyone amused I led them on a large loop going north up to Wing via Mentmore and close to where the infamous ‘Great Train Robbery’ took place many years ago. From Wing we swung around going back south through Wingrave, Long Marston and into Tring for the Robin Hood pub. 

Stopped to read map
We're not lost, just checking the accuracy of the map.##

After a very reasonable and typical pub lunch it was away again heading for Bovingdon. The original plan had been to go to the Mediterranean Café near there for tea. But as the name suggests this is more suitable for a balmier climate than England in April and the last time we were there it had outdoors seating only.  So instead we went on to an old favourite the Tower Hill Garden Centre and a bit closer to home. 

After that it was taking a well-used route back to St Albans starting down Rucklers Lane.  By the time we got back the overall distance from the start was about 55 miles that we had accomplished in nice easy stages moving from hostelry to hostelry.

peteR 06/04/2014