27 July 2014

27 Jul 2014: Hatfield to Gt Offley

The ride started from Asda in Hatfield and ten members turned up with good weather, including new man Paulo from Kimpton who was upgrading from a Saturday Saunter to try a Sunday ride. The ride destination for elevenses was Vanstones Garden Centre in Codicote where we were to meet up with other CTC member groups.

It is only a short ride to Codicote from Hatfield so I took a roundabout route thorough Lemsford to Welwyn Garden City, which was virtually free of motor traffic at this hour of the morning.  We chose a novel way through WGC making use of a leafy Lyles Lane next to the railway line and escaped through a small park onto a deserted Hertford Road.

Whichever way you go north from Welwyn it's uphill so I chose the easy route through Tewin to Burnham Green and Datchworth. Looping back to Woolmer Green we headed up to Nup End and on to the Garden Centre. Quite a few Cyclists from other member groups turned up at Vanstones to renew acquaintances.

Fast and slow rides were sort of organised after elevenses with riders tagging on to various groups that were all heading in the vague direction of Great Offley for lunch. We took the more direct route along Lilley Bottom road through Ley Green to the Red Lion and spent a happy hour in the garden there.  After Lunch we headed back directly down Lilley Bottom to Codicote. A few headed back through Welwyn Garden City where we watched some of the final stage of the Tour de France on a big screen in the shopping centre.  Surly bikes were demonstrating their Fat Tyre bikes for riding on a beach. The tyres are Huge! but only blown up to low pressure.  Maybe they double as buoyancy aids if you get too close to the water?  It was an interesting end to a hazy lazy day and one of the easiest rides of the year.

Mike 27/07/2014

group riding ahead
Quiet route into WGC##
riding into a park
...and out
riding on a lane
Heading for Woolmer Green
riding along
then Nup End

leaving the garden centre
Various Herts CTC groups leaving Codicote
herd of cows
Moos in Hoo Park
in pub garden
Lunch in Great Offley
man eating banana
Mike watching Le Tour in WGC

20 July 2014

20 Jul 2014: Hertford to Stondon Massey

Women outnumbered men at the start on a sunny Sunday morning in Hertford, but Bill soon joined us to even the numbers.  It was good to see Mary out with us after a long absence and, despite nursing a sick knee, she was soon showing us how to climb the hill out of Hertford to Hoddesdon.  I'd figured an early start in Hertford would get us further into Essex, but Carol & Steve had worked out they could take a more direct route from St Albans to Hastingwood and leave a bit later.  It took longer than they thought but they still arrived just before 11, albeit a little overheated.  

The prospect of a burning sun prompted Judy to head for home as we reached Weald Lodge, where the rest of us continued by retracing part of the Tour de France route, still marked by the odd yellow bike hanging precariously from the side of a building here and there as well as the occasional newly patched pothole.

group in front of war memorial
Gathering in Hertford
five cycling towards camera
Cycling through Nazeing
walking around gate
Start of the bridleway near Fyfield
entering a field
Path near Gaynes Park
At Fyfield we left the TdeF route as I fancied exploring a bridleway which route planning software was sending me down, so just after the chicken farm we turned off right onto a farm track.  This turned out to have a good concrete or gravel surface all the way through to the Willingale Road and it saved quite a distance.  I had passed this numerous times with other groups and no-one had thought to explore it, but being chuffed with myself for discovering this useful shortcut was very short lived.  

On emerging from the track we paused as what must have been over 50 young female cyclists approached on sportified bikes and promptly took to the track we had just left!  This group turned out to one of over 350 groups in which 7,670 women took part around the globe on Sunday in a Women's 100 km ride.

female cyclist

Leaving them behind we soon reached The Bricklayers in Stondon and had a very pleasant lunch in the garden and there was a small park and pond opposite for the picnickers amongst us.  Reluctantly we left for tea with an easy drop down to High Ongar followed by a gentle climb to Toot Hill passing the oldest wooden church in the World (where I forgot to stop and look).  Then it was time for more exploring as we bumped into more of these female cyclists at the top of the last switchback after Toot Hill.  Carol had spotted a direct path across to Stonard's Hill and Epping, so we took to the field edge where most had to push their bikes, especially when climbing over the fallen tree (not impassable this one).  A bridge took us over the M11 (fortunately) but the driveway we had hoped to join was fenced off here with barbed wire, so more field edges followed until we emerged on the drive as intended.  Well, it was an interesting walk on a sunny day.

riding on grass
Neil heading off
climbing over a tree
Obstacle course
tea and cakes
Bill at Upshire
another cake
Cake at Nazeing Church
At Epping the two of us in the Barnet contingent headed south to Upshire for tea, where we were flagged down by a couple of old gents doing their best not to let any cyclists zoom past them without refueling. Meanwhile the rest of our group headed west to Nazeing Church to compare their cakes, only on offer until the end of July and very fine they were too. It had been a fine day on the bike, on which we had seen far more women cyclists than men - a demonstration that male dominance of the sport is fast becoming a thing of the past.  Hopefully that will lead to more integration rather than segregation, especially in non-competitive clubs like the CTC.

Jon 20/07/2014

13 July 2014

13 Jul 2014: St Albans to Towersey

A large group had gone north to sample the N Yorkshire Tour de France routes and another group were away in France.  There were only three at the start and we set off under threatening skies but were fortunate to experience only two brief periods of drizzle, insufficient to warrant waterproofs. 

All went well until a premature right turn before Bulstrode that took us back uphill to Felden and on a circuitous route to Flaunden, Steve being too polite to point out my error.  After Kevan had led us on a neat route through Chesham, we decided to take the scenic road through Pednor.  On the hill out of Chesham we came across two road cyclists attempting to mend a puncture.  They were having difficulty removing the wired-rim tyre and had already broken two plastic tyre levers.  Kevan came to the rescue with some strong, thin metal levers, which he had inherited from his father (‘they don’t make them like that anymore’), and in a trice had changed the tyre.  This was much to the relief of the cyclist who was dreading having to phone his wife, an hour away, to come and rescue him.

As a result of detours and our Samaritan deed we were late at the Coffee Approach in Gt Missenden.  We took a democratic decision (3 to 0) to turn back and lunch at the Green Dragon in Flaunden, not knowing that Judy and Jon were going straight to Towersey.
 Judy on The Phoenix Trail at Towersey

The ride destination in Towersey
Our proposed route back was through Hyde Heath, Amersham and Little Chalfont before crossing the Chess valley.  After climbing up Frith Hill, another wrong right turn took us downhill again to the A413 at Deep Mill, only a stone’s throw from Gt Missenden, so we had to cycle through Little Missenden and back uphill to Hyde Heath.  I’m not sure I will be asked to lead any more rides!  On the outskirts of Amersham we picked up cycle route 30 which took us all the way to Little Chalfont, but included a rough shared path by the A404.  Otherwise it proved a relatively easy route to Flaunden.  We went our own ways after lunch, but I made up for the lack of tea stop by having coffee in Watford on my way back to Radlett.

Meanwhile, Judy & Jon had gone for a flatter route and reached the advertised destination of Towersey via a morning stop in Ivinghoe, returning on the excellent Phoenix Trail – a disused railway route from Thame to Princes Risborough, part of NCR 57 which runs between Oxford and Chesham.

Craig 13/07/2014