18 May 2014

18 May 2014: Hatfield to Shefford

Group in cafe
A good nosh at Hitchin Kitchen
Line of cyclists
Follow my leader in Arlesey
Group stopped in pretty high street
Shefford High Street
Cyclists heading for underpass
Campton underpass - so good we did it thrice
Group discussing where to go
Now where can we get some food?
Horses grazing in yellow field
Horses grazing buttercups in Lilley
Woman wearing rubber gloves examines upturned bike
Now this won't hurt much -
I'm only going to pull your tube out
The weather gods smiled upon us this Sunday with a bright, sunny and warm day.  My route took us through Welwyn Garden City and the long climb from Digswell to Harmer Green then on to Datchworth, where we were treated to some nice views over Hertfordshire, before descending Bragbury Lane and into Stevenage.  I used the cycle path network in Stevenage, which brought us out on the NW of the town at Fishers Green.  Then it was on through Little Wymondley and into Hitchin to the cafe.  Fellow riders seemed to enjoy this unusual route from Hatfield to Hitchin and it made a change from going through the hilly lanes west of Stevenage (see map).

Leaving Hitchin we took the road to Arlesey via Ickleford and then the cycle path to Henlow and on to Clifton and Shefford.  This was a fast, flat route typical of this part of Bedfordshire.  I had intended to stop for lunch at the White Hart in Campton, but we discovered they did not do food apart from crisps (unfortunately, the message that this was supposed to be a picnic ride had been lost somewhere between the planning and the execution).  So we retraced to Shefford and enjoyed a good lunch in the quiet garden behind the White Hart Hotel. The landlady was very helpful and it was the second time in recent years this venue had come to the rescue in our hour of need.

After lunch we headed back through Gravenhurst, Hexton and another long climb to Lilley, glad to find some shade on the way up and a nice cooling breeze at the top.  One or two riders on the 100-mile St Albans charity ride struggled past so we encouraged them with cries of “only 30 miles to go!”  We were held up just a little when Sue wrestled with a puncture in her rear tyre. Some stayed to help (or watch at least) while others carried on to Whitwell, where we regrouped with a refreshing afternoon drink at Emily’s cafe.  The afternoon was getting very hot, so we were all glad to cool down at the cafe in and it was good to meet up with Anne Jarman there.

After tea back to Hatfield via Codicote and Digswell Hill, which we ascended considerably slower than the elite females had done in the Women’s Tour of Britain last week.

59 miles:

Mike 18/04/2014

11 May 2014

11 May 2014: St Albans to Penn

The middle of May, and Sunday dawned with powerful cold winds and heavy showers promised at any time, thunder possible! The ride was also planned to be quite a long one - south of the M40. So, not the most benign conditions and I wondered if many people would be there as I approached our start rendezvous. 

Yes a hardy, if smaller group than usual was there, and although we muttered about the weather, we were soon off towards Amersham. A bit of main road to start with and then we were through the pleasant, if hilly, lanes round Ley Hill.  A stiff climb to Amersham and we arrived at the very efficient cafe for morning refreshments. Our route then took us down to HS2 country and in Little Missenden an awkward puncture held us up. Then climbing to Holmer Green, Peter's gear cable snapped inside the pod. It proved impossible to get the broken bits out of the casing in spite of plenty of advice from well-intended bystanders.  So a temporary, get-you-home repair was all that could be done. 
fixing a flat
Even the fattest tyres go flat - Little Missenden
consulting the map
A map can be useful around here.
working on gear cable
Gear cable broken inside the pod
Outside church
Arriving at Chenies Church for tea

Time was getting on and it was already nearly 1.00 pm.  We continued through Penn and were soon passing the entrance to The Royal Standard of England, so we decided to get lunch there instead of carrying on. The place was packed and we had to sit outside in the cold wind, but the excellent food came very quickly.  An improvised route from here took us through nice lanes passing Jordans Quaker Meeting House and Milton's cottage to Chenies Church and tea.  But it wasn’t a day to linger and from here it was back home through fairly familiar lanes. The threatened rain never came so it was a great day out if not quite what had been planned.

50 miles

Richard 11/05/2014

4 May 2014

04 May 2014: Hatfield to Tawney Common

Early May Bank Holiday weekend and a dozen adventure-seekers are expecting a varied ride with some new off-road bits thrown in for good measure.  Well, those who read the e-newsletter knew what to expect but it was a bit of a surprise to those who hadn’t!  

So with the recent drier weather we took our first trip right through to Hertford along the Cole Green Way.  Virtually deserted at that time of the morning, it made for a tranquil, leafy route and downhill too.  A quick wiggle through the historic centre of Hertford took us onto the river route to Ware past some fascinating activities at the canoe club and then several well-attended Sunday League soccer matches.  Crossing the main road in Ware we descended a rather scary slope (heading straight for the water) to join the towpath to Stanstead Abbotts.
group approaches barrier
Entering The Cole Green Way
rear view of group cycling on disused railway
Cole Green Way
group on slope
Entering Hertford
kayakers on grass in boats
Kayakers getting ready for the next drought

No objections so far, so I risked unfamiliar territory by taking Netherfield Lane towards Rye Meads, avoiding the busy hill on the main road.  A few water-filled potholes to weave around, then we were under the A414 and onto a short path, emerging onto Rye Road to relieved cries of ‘Oh! I know where I am now!’

We were soon relaxing in the quiet surroundings of the Waterside CafĂ© at Roydon Marina, which had a good bakery selection this time.  30 minutes later it was off to explore another bit of unfamiliar territory through the back alleys of Harlow, but we found our way out OK and along Rye Hill Road to Thornwood, around the back of North Weald airfield and into Epping Forest.  A few nice hills took us to the isolated Moletrap pub, where the queue was long, but our meals arrived quickly.  Mike R sampled the Dark Star Espresso flavoured beer, not everyone’s cup of tea perhaps, but good for sobering up fast?

It’s not easy finding a route the right length from there to Upshire, so after scaling Sixteen String Jack Hill (named after one of the first criminal celebrities, whose breeches were better decorated than ours) we diverted to High Beech, which was packed with lazy types trying to find a parking space.  Fortunately, they didn’t stray far from the ice-cream van and we found our way to a quiet short cut along the old road to Upshire, where Tracey was waiting for us.  The fare was up to its usual high standards, with savoury choices as well as the usual cakes on offer. 
barrier on towpath
Barrier at Stanstead Abbotts
barrier on path
Judy loves these scenic routes
cyclist near wild flowers
Wild flowers in Rye Meads
canal boats in marina
Roydon Marina
cyclists at marina
Leaving the Waterside Cafe
three cyclists riding
Nearing the pub in Tawney Common

cycling in forest
The old road in Epping Forest

The route back to Hatfield was intended to use the new cyclists’ bridge at Cadmore Lane, but went further north instead, which made it slightly longer than planned at 62 miles for the whole day.  

Jon 04/05/2014