26 October 2014

26 Oct 2014: St Albans to Berkhamsted

Those attending morning service at St Peters Church hurried past the ghoulish figures standing near the war memorial, suspecting that this was a Halloween rehearsal. They ominously numbered thirteen, but this was maybe a reflection of the clocks going back, leaving little excuse for lingering in bed that morning.  Despite the mild conditions, only a few bare legs were on view, fortunately an even number. 
Group of cyclists

The later start time also meant we didn’t have a chance to review the synchronised start of the formation riders from the VCC on the opposite side of the roundabout. The leaden skies contributed to a sombre mood as we set off to Bedmond, passing West Herts CTC on their way to the Elephant & Castle (not the architectural masterpiece in Southwark but the pub hear Wheathampstead), and Kings Langley, skimming the frontage of the former Ovaltine factory to Hunton Bridge and then Chorleywood, crossing the M25 to Duran’s café at Maple Cross. This was unusually but fortunately nearly empty as the group swiftly occupied two tables before ordering diet-busting calorie-intensive breakfasts as training for the season of gluttony, now fast approaching, while digesting the world’s news supplied by the Sun on Sunday. Suitably refreshed and watered, and now reduced to twelve we set off, skirting Little Chalfont & down the steep hill of Stony Lane to cross the river Chess and climb through Latimer to Ley Hill where a Methodist chapel looks over disapprovingly the two mutually adjacent pubs.
Line of cyclists
Smiling cyclists
Still smiling after all those hills

Crossing the A416 at Ashley Green we descended into the birthplace of Graham Greene, author of the Third Man, to the Crown on Berkhamsted High Street. This is unusual for a Wetherspoon establishment, having already been a pub before its current ownership, and had attracted the attendance of the Edgware CTC this time, who had outrageously occupied the only large table. Split over two tables in different rooms, advantage was taken of the foreign-beer festival to supplement the calorie intake even further.

With the clocks now back on GMT and so no tea stop, this was the official end of the ride, and the club ethos (every man for himself) was applied as the riders subsequently made their own ways home in the fading light.

Steve 26/10/2014

19 October 2014

19 Oct 2014: St Albans to Great Missenden

With several regulars away and the ride leader (Pete) sending in a sick note, I came up with a hastily devised route for today’s ride to Great Missenden.  Pete had led this ride last October when he was delayed by having to scrape ice off his car window, so I was glad it was a warm, dry day this year.  Pete had mentioned a myriad of hills, as is common for the Chilterns, but my route had as few as possible (only 2,500 ft of climb over 57 miles). 

This was partly because it was the first test of Judy’s new Trice, which has battery-powered motor assistance with an estimated range of 84 miles.  Would the battery last over a total of 82 miles and 3,500 ft of climbing including to and from St Albans?  So six of us set off on a direct route to Pitstone Wharf via Gaddesden Row, Dagnall and Ivinghoe, arriving at our elevenses stop at 10:30.  Craig and John had to leave us here, but Steve H joined us (somewhat jet lagged from his trip to the USA) and the sun came out as we left.  My route now avoided the hilly direct option and the busy roads through Wendover by looping north on flat lanes through Long Marston and Weston Turville, marred only by the strong head wind.  Added interest was provided when we passed a miniature traction engine, and then we encountered three very large traction engines lumbering along the country lanes and holding up a queue of cars. I paused to take a photo, but not for long as I wasn’t sure how good the brakes were on those beasts and didn’t want to get flattened.

At Pitsone Wharf
rear of traction engine
One of three traction engines
front of traction engine

Great Missenden
One steep climb was inevitable and we ascended the scarp slope up to Chequers, the country retreat of the serving prime minister.  Then we had a fantastic 5-mile descent with the wind behind us into Great Missenden and stopped for lunch in the pub garden of The Cross Keys.  We were soon climbing again out of town and through the churchyard, then over to Chesham Bois before descending to the Chess Valley, before another 12% climb to Belsize and Chipperfield.  Here it was time for tea at Blackwells – the village club given to the village by the Blackwell family, of Cross & Blackwell. 

A descent into Kings Langley was followed by a climb up Toms Hill.  Judy had been under strict instructions to stay at the back all day, but here we let her go ahead.  Even on minimum power she shot up the hill well ahead of us.  Any worries about running out of battery were unfounded – there were still 53 miles ‘in the tank’ after the 82 mile circuit, mainly because the motor had only been used on the hills.

Jon 19/10/2014

12 October 2014

12 Oct 2014: Hatfield to Puckeridge

To Tyler’s Causeway or not to Tyler’s Causeway?

That was the mission this ride, a ride for which I had stepped in to lead. I had the vision of going to Dobb’s Weir via Water End, Bookmans Park, Northaw, Newgate Street and down into Broxbourne that way, but I mentioned this to one of our riders and his face paled, for there are two whacking great hills between Northaw and Newgate Street.

Have no fear; I decided to change my route. So nine of us set off for Dobb’s Weir via Bull’s lane, Bell Bar, Woodside and a lovely little meander up into Little Berkhamsted. From here we started back onto a familiar road but I soon shunned the delights of White Stubbs lane, and played with the new found wonder of Ashendene Road which lead straight into Bayford and past a great pub, soon we wiggled around to Brickendon, past the wild life park and then we were back onto familiar territory as we bombed down into Broxbourne. BOOOOM and we were negotiating that rather awkward little bridge over the River Lea that leads us into Old Nazing, and then it was a quick waddle up the NCR1 path to the café at Dobb’s Weir. Now for those that don’t know this café had been shut for a while, not due to flooding as you might expect but due to a great landlord who wanted to refurbish the place and it looked really nice.

narrow boat on river
Narrow boat on the River Lea
Well from here I took a route that mirrored one I had done before but going in the other direction, and so we headed out to Roydon, Stansted Abbotts, here I didn’t do a turning (Kitten Lane) and had to make an awkward U turn on myself but no real harm done. Then we wiggled up through Hunsdon, Widford and Much Hadham. It was here that I remembered Judy’s blow out the last time I came this way, when everything was recovering from being flooded. Now it was just a short trek into Standon and then onto Puckeridge (LLLLUUUUUUNNNNCCCHHH). Just to note it looks like the Bell in Standon might be closed.

Lunch was a great little feast of baguettes, soup, tortilla chips and visitors. Yes Stuart and Dave (Hitchin Nomad) turned up to say hi and it was great to see them.

After lunch it was a bash on to the best café in Hertford (Rose’s).  Now it was really good that we had Jon with us because he had the right of the route and I had got mixed up with a shorter route, but hey and we headed out to Great Munden then down into Dane End.  Ha ha I took them up White Hill past the golf course; here mike commented on the fact that we never go through this area backwards and it made for a pleasant change, especially Sacombe Park, very nice.

Rose’s was just as expected: great. Then I led our thinning group out towards Essendon and then onto home. The weather for the day was very pleasant and made for some great riding.

I enjoyed this ride and I hope everybody else did as well.

Neil 12/10/2014

5 October 2014

05 Oct 2014: Hatfield to Epping

It was Mike's turn to shepherd an unruly bunch of cyclists around today and we soon managed to lose three just going through Welwyn Garden City, only to find they had got ahead of us by taking a different route once they had lost touch with the group.  The independent nature of some was soon revealed again when half the bunch disappeared up a footpath in Hertford rather than follow the leader along the main road, but we soon regrouped and found our way through the town centre and out on a quiet lane to Hoddesdon.  Here we dodged around the amusements that were being erected as the fair had come to town, then it was a short way to our first stop at Rye Park Cafe.  No cakes or even toasted teacakes on the menu, but they did a very tasty hummus & pitta bread. 

woman showing gloves
Carol's cloven handed gloves
Three cyclists
Cole Green Way
Essex Air Ambulance in Epping
group in car park
Leaving The Black Lion in Epping
level crossing
Improved level crossing in Waltham Cross
cyclists bridge
Paul Cully Bridge over the A10
After Hoddesdon we lost three who just wanted the morning ride and gained Stuart from Stevenage.  So it was off to Harlow via Roydon, with the inevitable wait at the level crossing.  Mike found a very useful cycle route through Harlow, which started with a pleasant ride through woods and kept us off any roads until we emerged at the south of Harlow on Rye Hill Road.  Then it was a loop to the west of Thornwood and we were in the busy market town of Epping, where the Essex air ambulance was on display to the amusement of the local kids.

A pleasant lunch in the Black Lion was followed by a rather unpleasant ride along a very busy main road into Epping Forest, where we realised we would be far too early to stop for tea in Cheshunt.  Carol suggested going to Bell Bar for tea instead, so we ventured into the Lea Valley Park and over the level crossing, which was now much easier to use following a redesign of the gates.  But having crossed the cyclists' bridge over the A10 there were some steep hills leading to a split in the group and sincere apologies are due to those who were left behind.  It just goes to show how tricky leading a ride can be and the value of appointing a back-marker who knows the route.

Jon 5/10/2014