28 September 2014

28 Sep 2014: Wheathampstead to Royston

The strangely clad figures loitering around the toilets at Wheathampstead car park turned out to be the South Herts CTC riders preparing for the last ride in September. The lingering mist and bright colours in the foliage confirmed that we were now well into autumn as we passed the former golf club on the road to Codicote, once rumoured to have been purchased by David & Victoria Beckham (a recently appointed UN ambassador), but now evidently planted with trees and landscaped to incorporate a new lake, and no doubt owned by a multi-millionaire currently subdividing his properties to escape any future mansion tax. We skirted Codicote and were heading towards St Paul’s Walden along a very narrow road when we were overtaken by a group of about ten maniacs cycling furiously, only one of whom was daring to wear the blue-and-yellow strip of a well-known St Albans racing club. Proceeding at a more civilised pace we wended our way through Willian and the back streets of Baldock to Cafe Plus. 

Cafe Plus, Baldock
David and Victoria
David & Victoria
Other cyclists had inconsiderately occupied all the outside tables so we huddled together in the rather cramped interior. The subsequent trek out of the town took us along a decommissioned road, now reduced to half its former width to become a cycle route with a bridge over the new A505 bypass, to Wallington where there was the obligatory stop at the former post office. Here a plaque claimed Eric Blair (George Orwell) had lived from 1936 to 1940. As most of this period was occupied by the Spanish Civil War in which Orwell had participated, maybe there was some poetic licence. The plains of Cambridgeshire seemed to have disappeared as we tackled a hilly route into Royston and arrived at the sumptuous interior of the Manor House, now owned by J D Wetherspoon. This is a recent acquisition and certainly had a better ambience than most of their establishments, being a former hotel. 

Orwell's Cottage in Wallington
manor house
Wetherspoons in Royston
Conversation inevitably drifted into the recent resignation of the Minister for Civil Society, and all the riders agreed that they would be more careful in future when sending pictures of their private parts to members of the opposite sex, and particularly avoid wearing paisley pyjamas. We then headed south, avoiding the A10, to the reliable golf club at Dane End, where ignoring the rules about wearing white socks with shorts, we feasted on highly calorific cakes while making disparaging remarks about the profiles of some of the pub's lunch-time customers, and noting with satisfaction the Ryder Cup was not going America’s way. We then made the usual route home though Watton-at-Stone, the long drag up to Datchworth being the least enjoyable.

Steve 28/09/2014

21 September 2014

21 Sep 2014: Hatfield to Bishop's Stortford

It was good to welcome new rider Ryan who had come on his first ride with us on Neil's Saturday Saunter and was keen to try a full day ride.

A bright, if chilly, morning was a welcome change from the recent heavy thunderstorms and it saw us heading off from Hatfield to Ware. In an effort to come up with a slightly different route to a place often visited, we went through Welwyn and up Digswell Hill - a long climb. Then through Tewin and Bramfield, after nice lanes through the woods, we came into north Hertford. Climbing through the side streets of Port Vale, in Bengeo we turned along the track towards Ware, with its spectacular views across the valley and the A10 viaduct. 

negotiating gates
Negotiating gates along the Stort Navigation
maggots end sign
On the way to tea

Truly Scrumptious is a nice morning stop and after a bit of a breather, we continued on our route through Stanstead Abbotts and Roydon, here picking up the path along the Stort Navigation, a delightful track, and for a riverside path, very few other users. Only one or two irritating gates which are difficult to get a bike through. Leaving the river, we went through a network of small traffic free lanes, emerging at Allen's Green and on to the road to Bishop's Stortford. 

The pub stop was a new one for me in the new development bit of the town, but as it was a Wetherspoons, it was just like all the others. Lunch stop done, we found the way out of the town going north towards Clavering - mercifully a flat route following the river.  We were soon back on lanes again, through Berden and the Pelhams arriving at the cake lovers' paradise - the village hall in Braughing. Surely this is the second best value and biggest choice Sunday afternoon stop known (after Upshire Church). From here it was a familiar route back. It was an excellent day out along some less trodden lanes.

Richard 21/09/2014

14 September 2014

14 Sep 2014: St Albans to Hedgerley

A band of six hardy riders met for what was going to be (in my mind at least) a day of getting slightly lost, as I really didn’t know the area we were riding to and there was a very BIG road (in Blue on the map) to negotiate.

two people
Sue and Craig on the road to Hedgerley
So without further ado we headed off for Ozzy’s cafĂ© in Little Chalfont. The route I chose is a very familiar one and as we were banging along the roads, I did think about a detour but I kept it linear just in case it went tits up after break. In fact we made great time down there and did it an hour and a half. This gave us plenty of time for tea and a great chat, where it turned out that one of our members (who shall remain nameless) is a secret WI groupie, and he (for it is a male) regaled us with a tale told at a WI lecture of the MOD site on Woodcock Hill near Sandridge and how the Germans had entered Britain in WW2 with radar equipment in small briefcases, which had been sabotaged by Allied sympathisers in Germany. This made for a great stop. But we had to push on and at this point one of our group decided to go home.

Now I headed out towards Chalfont St Giles and I have to say I surprised myself, I knew the way but as soon as we got there we encountered a roundabout not on the map, it was here that Richard came to the fore and revealed that he had done this ride recently, gosh was I relieved is all that I can say. He did an admirable job of guiding me to the destination. We went via Jordans and Seer Green and then we dropped into Beaconsfield, all these roads were very unfamiliar to me, I need to do more homework in this area. In Beaconsfield we met another roundabout that I knew we went straight over although the road sign clearly showed a dead end, but we went straight over and on to The White Horse in Hedgerley. This wasn’t far from the tea stop either.

So after lunch we decided that the last stop would be Blackwell’s in Chipperfield, via a lovely little road/track that followed the river Chess, but to get onto that there was a rather steep downhill to negotiate and Richard’s comment was ‘lovely path but I wouldn’t recommend it in the winter’.

After Blackwell’s I took the chaps home via Kings Langley, Tom’s lane and that road by the tin church into St Albans.

It was a really good day out, brought to you by team SAS (Surtees And Stubbs). 

Neil 14/09/2014

7 September 2014

07 Sep 2014: Hatfield to Allens Green

A happy bunch gathered in Hatfield ready to venture East into Essex.  It was a fair distance to Old Harlow so I avoided most of the hills by using a cunning route along the Cole Green Way to Hertford, where we followed the almost flat New River to Stansted Abbotts.  We weren't quite so happy when in Roydon a particularly thick bit of cloud decided to shed it's load on us, especially as the forecast hadn't mentioned rain and some (including me) were dressed for the warmer weather we've been spoiled with recently.  After not quite 20 miles we reached the Cross Keys Cafe, relocated from it's old site on the old A11 to the centre of Old Harlow.  The fare hadn't changed much though, with the Big Boy Breakfast being popular amongst the less active customers and we found plenty to refuel us too for the next stage.

group at start
Gathering in Hatfield
group at cafe
Outside the cafe in Old Harlow

You may be surprised that Harlow boasts some 60 sculptures by various artists and has earned the designation of 'Harlow Sculpture Town'.  We spotted one of these sculptures outside the Cross Keys Cafe, but you can discover more of these works by following this handy Sculpture map.

man and bike
Stuart arrives in Old Harlow to join our ride
'Kore A Little Girl' is by Betty Rea

We were served quickly at the cafe and had time for a 17 mile loop on some really quiet lanes around Matching Tye, High Laver and Matching Green.  Then we passed the strangely isolated Matching Church, well off the beaten track, and through Sheering and Sawbridgeworth to Allens Green.  

group in lane
At Little Laver
Craig and his shadow

A slight panic ensured after lunch, knowing that the Rose Cafe in Hertford shuts at 4 pm, but we made it just before they started upending the chairs on the tables.  

Jon 7/9/2014