30 November 2014

30 Nov 2014: Hatfield to Goff's Oak

The Gods looked down kindly on us once more, after bad weather cancelled the previous Sunday ride, with a misty morning developing into a sunny, last day of autumn.  Following the inevitable ups and downs from Hatfield to Hertford via Bayford,  the course was unusually flat for the twelve riders who set out, though one had to turn back early because of domestic circumstances.  
Mist clearing at Hertford
Broxbourne rowers
From Hertford we followed Sustrans’ route 61 through Ware along the River Lee Navigation towpath. Smoke rising from some of the narrow boats moored along the bank made us wonder how many were occupied throughout the winter months.   The towpath was quite rough in parts – the parts that hadn’t been smoothed by a soft, mucky layer of autumn leaf mould. The major hazards here proved to be joggers with earphones, insulated from our bicycle bell warnings, and the odd kamikaze dog.

The Village Café in Stanstead Abbotts provided swift service with generous food and drink to over fortify us for the continued mainly flat route to Goff’s Oak.  This followed route 61 along the Lee Navigation intermittently, with detours through the outskirts of Hoddesdon and Cheshunt and final cycle paths and minor roads up to the Wheelwrights at Goff’s Oak.  Carol was quite concerned that she may not have ridden off her bacon sandwich, although a blood-boiling episode with an inconsiderate driver in Hoddesdon might have helped burn off some calories.

The Wheelwrights was a modern, featureless structure by pub standards, providing only McMullens’ mediocre AK on hand pump (the IPA was off).  However, they served up prompt and nourishing food, which again was probably excessive for the 10 or so miles for those going back to Hatfield!

Craig 30/11/2014

16 November 2014

16 Nov 2014: St Albans to Hyde Heath

Eleven of us met at St Albans for another ride into the Chilterns, famed for its picture postcard countryside, pleasant lanes and villages.  On a grey and chilly morning we were pleased to see two new riders out:  Yvette from London Colney and Hari - a refugee from Essex CTC. It had rained pretty hard overnight and the lanes were covered in matted soggy leaves, but neither had mudguards: perhaps a mistake in light of the route we were taking.

Yvette joins her first CTC ride
Richard joins his umpteenth ride
We followed familiar lanes through Potters Crouch, Abbots Langley and into the Chilterns at Sarratt. Shortly after Sarratt, we turned onto a track with some very thick mud on a corner at the bottom of the hill. Rather than face a long slog back up the hill we persevered and the track was not as bad as we had expected. Eventually we emerged onto tarmac but the planned route took us back onto tracks, using a foot bridge over the Chess.  This involved lifting Judy's new e-trice over a barrier, but fortunately there were a couple of people mad enough to assist.  They then carried it along the wooden foot bridge, which was about a centimetre narrower than the wheel track width, while nervously trying to keep balance on the slippery planks.  Another rather muddy track followed (uphill this time) before we reached Chenies, from where it was a short ride into Little Chalfont for a much-needed elevenses at Ozzy’s.

Having stopped at Ozzy’s in Little Chalfont we set out on our detour to Hyde Heath. This is only about 5 miles in a straight line so we planned to make a loop round to the south of Amersham. Unfortunately we had two problems: the ride leader (myself) did not know the area and this short journey required 3 maps of which he only had two. We set off through Chalfont St Giles and on to Penn Street. So far so good. Then we should have gone through Holmer Green and on to Little Missenden. Unfortunately we made wrong turning in Holmer Green and ended up in Great Kingshill. At least we had avoided Beamond End Lane, which is just as well as the last time we went that way it was deep mud that would prove a challenge for the ubiquitous 4WD vehicles. Fortunately Steve had the missing map and we were able to make our way through Little Kingshill and after a brief thrash down the A413 we turned on to the little lane leading up to the Hyde Heath. Here with much relief we stopped for lunch at the Plough inn. This proved to be a very welcoming unspoilt pub with good food and reasonable prices.

Hari on his first ride
As we left the pub it started to rain but fortunately it didn’t really turn into anything serious. Most of us set off back through Chesham and Latimer whilst a few others set off for Bovingdon. When we arrived back in St Albans it was just beginning to rain again.

It was interesting to see how the group of eleven at the start split up during the ride to leave just three of us together in St Albans.  John left us at Ozzy’s and Yvette went home without stopping at  Hyde Heath. Of the five who left together from the pub there were just the three of us remaining by the time we reached St Albans town centre. I hope everyone else did get home all right! Those with mudguards looked forward to giving their bikes a good hosing down, while those without mudguards probably needed to hose themselves down first.

Bill 16/11/2014

9 November 2014

09 Nov 2014: Hatfield to Wareside

A dry, fine and warmish day’s forecast resulted in twelve of us being at the start in Hatfield. Our elevenses destination was Church Farm, Ardeley, which is well out in the country to the north east of Stevenage. As it is a fairly long way I decided not to use the back lanes to start with and we used the old A1, which is now reasonably quiet, going over Digswell Hill and down the other side into Old Welwyn. From here we entered ‘Robbery Bottom Lane’ (lovely name –reputed to have been a haunt of Dick Turpin) and then out into more rural areas. We headed through Watton at Stone, then up the valley to Walkern and beyond. Here the countryside is lovely and open with typical east Herts scenery. Before reaching Cromer there’s a right turn up a lane leading to the hamlet of Ardeley.

group photo
A dozen at the start
man with large plate of scrambled eggs
Take it slowly Mike
Church Farm is trendy with a farm shop and café etc. In fact it is so trendy it featured on a BBC radio 4 programme about modern farming trends and diversification. The café food is excellent but with prices to match its exalted reputation.

Leaving Ardeley we were heading for Wareside. So looking for a ‘nice’ route we headed off due east through more open country and little villages before crossing the A10 and going into Puckeridge, whose high street is lined with beautiful and quaint old houses. Leaving there we were now heading due south down a very pretty and quiet lane, which runs down the valley of the river Rib and crosses it at Barwick ford.  Then just a few more miles down little lanes and we arrived at ‘The Chequers’ in Wareside.

cycling along a dark lane
Carol on the switchback lane from Puckeridge
crossing footbridge at ford
Crossing the footbridge at Barwick Ford

The Chequers is a proper old pub, nice because, as a member of our party put it; “it hasn’t been b*****d about with”. It also does excellent food at very reasonable prices. So after a very pleasant lunch break it was back on the bikes to return home. Whilst Wareside is just to the east of Ware the overall journey back to the start at Hatfield is quite a stretch. Still we took a reasonably flat route via Ware, into Hertford and then along the Old Coach Road to Welwyn G.C. and Hatfield, with some of the group turning off along the way for their homes. For those of us who went back to the start the overall ride had been about 46 miles. Just right for a pleasant November ride.


2 November 2014

02 Nov 2014: Hatfield to Hertford

When it rains it pours.  Sunday morning 9.15, the place ASDA Hatfield and the event a half day ride around the quiet lanes of Hertfordshire. Today we welcomed a new rider Alex who hailed from Muswell Hill. She’d been looking for some more challenging rides, and getting a little bored with the streets of London, so decided to give us a try-out.

Now the weather forecast mentioned rain, but I was under the impression that it would be heavy showers, not a downpour from 9.00 to about 11.30. Some brave souls came out today: Tracy, Steve and Jackie, Mike, Bill and a late arriving Peter (he went to St Albans to start).

So we headed out and I wanted to take some new roads through WGC, so as we came to the roundabouts just before Digswell Park I took a left along a winding road through the estate, which has a massive dip in the middle of it. This leads us nicely down to Digswell and just a skip across a busy road into the park. From here we headed over to Harmer Green Lane, which leads to Bulls Green and runs parallel to New Road. This lane is a lovely tree lined and leafy affair that goes past the train station. With all the rain it was somewhat like riding through the Amazon rain forest. I found it rather pleasant. When we got to Bull’s Green we lost Steve and Jackie. The rest of us pressed on, omitting the deviation that I had planned, for the rain didn’t stop.  It was going to be a straight run to Dane End.

Datchworth Green, Watton at Stone, Whempstead and Dane End, from here back to Sacombe Green and up the hill to the junction at Rowney Lane. It was a quick and easy blast from here to the golf club, where we all got cooked breakfasts (great scrambled eggs) and dripped admirably onto the furniture. We were all sodden and soaked to the skin.  A discussion ensued about heading on and the decision was reached that we should go to Hertford for lunch (rather than Great Wymondley).

So we made for Lunch via Sacombe Park, Stoney Hills and Bengeo, we alighted at the Six Templars and had good break there, it had stopped raining but spirits had been dampened and we were a rather subdued bunch. The route home from lunch was via the back road from Hertford to Hatfield and up through Letty Green the along the Cole Green Way back to Hatfield. 

A short ride under the circumstances and Alex enjoyed herself: 36 miles of dribbley fun.

Neil 2/11/2014