27 December 2015

27 Dec 2015: Hatfield to Shephall

As we left home on another warm and drizzly day, fueled on Christmas fare, we thought ourselves lucky compared to the flood victims up north.  For us, this mediterranean style winter (warm wet winters westerly winds), was preferable to the icy conditions you might expect, but how many others would be joining us?  Our starting cafe, Jenny's in Hatfield, had the shutters up and looked closed for the day when we arrived at 10 am; so Vish, Judy and I found our way to the Asda cafe.  Having left a note on Jenny's shutters, we were soon joined by our leader, Carol.  After our coffee and cake, with no-one else arriving, would it be worth going out on the ride?  We decided to check for any stragglers lingering outside Jenny's and there they were - six of them inside the cafe enjoying themselves and wondering where the leader was - maybe sticking a note on roller shutters wasn't the cleverest idea?

Group paused in sunshine
We dragged them out for a late start and soon Carol was leading us onto the Cole Green Way, where Judy's Radar Key came in very useful for opening the gate on the Old Coach Road. We were cycling along happily enough through the scotch mist and light drizzle, but came to a sudden halt on the Watton Road in Datchworth,  A deep flood across the road here and we did a hasty u-turn to find another way into Watton.  Soon the sun made a welcome appearance as Carol led us from Aston on a complicated route, including a short bit of rather mucky off-road, into Stevenage to the swallowed-up village of Shephall.

The Old Red Lion has mutated into a Hungry Horse.  It lived up to its name by providing substantial and good value lunches provided with friendly and efficient service.

After lunch some opted for the direct route south on the B road, but most were happy to follow the quieter lanes via Old Knebworth and Codicote.  The drizzle returned for a while, but it was never heavy enough to worry us too much and our last Sunday ride of 2015 had been an enjoyable one thanks to Carol.

Jon 27/12/2015

20 December 2015

20 Dec 2015: St Albans to Hatfield

Our destination, the new JD Wetherspoon pub named Harpsfield Hall, bears no resemblance whatsoever to the former mansion after which it is named.  The Hall that dated from the 16th century had been converted into a farmhouse in the 19th century and that had been demolished in the 1930s, when Hatfield Aerodrome was developed. Indeed, the industrial theme used in the pub is based on the aerodrome and the de Havilland factory.  There are aerial photos and some interesting bench seats made from aircraft engine cowlings.  Quite why it was given the name of a mediaeval manor house is a mystery. 

Waterend Barn
Sunny stop

We could have gone straight along the Alban Way, but Carol is not known for taking the easy route, so a convoluted path was traced out as eleven of us headed north out of St Albans to Wheathampstead, then Ayot St Lawrence and Ayot St Peter, before turning south towards Hatfield.  Here we met John and Russ, who had gone there directly.

Dinner time

This was our Christmas Lunch ride, and we’ve used various Wetherspoons for this before, but this one was new and wasn’t doing turkey dinners.  Never mind, there was plenty on the menu to satisfy and we weren’t too bothered about missing out on the silly paper hats.  A heavy shower delayed our departure, but all the riding was in the dry, which made a welcome change for the thirteen who had ventured out in this decidedly wet December.


13 December 2015

13 Dec 2015: Hatfield to Hoddesdon

This was the first time we had scheduled a Sunday ride meeting at a café at 10.00 for a 10.30 departure.  The plan is to do this through the depths of winter when icy roads can often make cycling hazardous early on, but the roads can clear by mid-morning.  Perhaps we should have allowed more for global warming, as we've had record high temperatures this December.
two cyclists
There were seven of us at the start.  Carol came to give us the latest bulletin on Steve's health (a prolapsed disc) before leaving to attend to the invalid.  John Edwards, whom we had not seen on a South Herts ride for some time, promised us a regular attendance if these late starts could be made permanent.

There was no ice to avoid but the delayed start did mean that the rain had cleared by the time we left.  Our lunch destination was the new Wetherspoons pub in Hoddesdon.  I'd had some fun finding a route that was long enough, without venturing into the urban areas such as Harlow, WGC and Cheshunt.  We looped around a bit through Little Switzerland, before joining the main lane along Tylers Causeway and White Stubbs Lane.  This seemed busier than normal, perhaps a consequence of our later departure.  Next time I'll do even more looping around in the smaller lanes.

We crossed the Lea Valley at Broxbourne and did a loop round in Essex, taking the small lane that climbs uphill to Nazeing Church.  I resisted venturing further into Harlow but headed back downhill again though Roydon Hamlet to Dobbs Weir bridge, which a quick check of the Highways web-site the day before had shown to be open to cyclists that weekend.  Once through here, it was a short ride to our lunch time destination where Richard joined us.
As usual, Wetherspoons had done a good job of converting the pub and provided a good value menu.  After lunch we divided into two groups to ride home: the more northerly group heading back via Goose Green and Hertford and the southerly group taking the traffic free (but tarmaced) route through the Lea Valley Park.

Judy 13/12/2015

6 December 2015

06 Dec 2015: St Albans to Chesham

A wet and windy day in December – ideal weather for a picnic ride?  At least it was nothing compared to the torrential rain up north.

The day started with gale force winds and the rain forecast for later kept the numbers riding this week down. But the brave souls who ventured out were soon heading west to Belsize and Flaunden. The fierce wind was unnerving going through some woods, but I suppose anything that was going to blow down did it last week when the wind was even stronger.

up hill riding

Crossing the river Chess from Latimer we went up the steep and bumpy hill opposite - the steepest climb of the lot to get up to the Chalfonts. Our stop in Ozzy's in Little Chalfont was OK, but the place may have changed hands and we were treated with exaggerated politeness - how often does the owner of a caff open the door for a bedraggled bunch of soaked cyclists and bow when you are leaving?

consulting the map

Lunch was now only about three miles as the crow flies, so a loop was called for. Quiet lanes took us to Chalfont St Giles, then Winchmore Hill and Holmer Green. We dropped down the delightful valley road to Little Missenden and then up and down again to lunch in the Pheasant in Chesham. They are quite happy for us to eat your own picnic of sandwiches in the pub, washed down with soft drinks, real ale or coffee to suit personal habits. From there a direct way home was called for as the rain was getting to be persistent, but we still managed almost 50 miles in less than ideal conditions.

Richard 06/12/2015

29 November 2015

29 Nov 2015: Hatfield to Ardeley

Four of us met at Asda Hatfield for what I can safely say was the windiest ride of the year. Vish, Jon, Judy and myself set off for the wilds of Dane End with the thoughts of a rather challenging ride ahead, but no sooner had we got out of Hatfield and Judy decided to treat herself to a puncture. It was a routine job made more pleasant by the sparkling white gloves supplied by Vish. Judy couldn’t have picked a more exposed place to get a flat though; the wind really was picking up.
Cyclist following a flag

I took the group through WGC via Lemsford then along the B1000 and took the Tewin turn off. As we meandered up through Tewin we passed another bunch of mad souls from Stevenage out on a pedaly bike ride (or wind push, depending on your direction) and within this group I spied Jim Brown. We carried on over to Burnham Green then headed for Woolmer Green. This route whilst slightly longer takes in roads we haven’t used for a while. Around here one of our party decided it would be an idea to take his lined glove off and pull it inside out. It’s bad enough when someone needs help with a puncture, but helping someone to dress after a call of nature is getting ridiculous!

We travelled up through Datchworth and on to Watton-at-Stone, then I copped a puncture myself, fortunately right by the train station where there was shelter from the gale. Out came the white gloves again and swift work was made of fixing a puncture that seemingly had no cause, but I suspect a spoke was the culprit. These white work gloves are better than the black ones as you can see if they get black grease on them and avoid spreading it where it’s not wanted.  We were now very late for 11’s and from Watton we took a direct route to the golf club. Upon arriving Steve and Jackie, who had come out to meet us, were just leaving so we had a quick chat before they headed for home. It was great to see them though and inside the club a Mr Figg was also waiting for us.
After some discussion it was decided to cut the ride short and take lunch at a closer destination, a bit more haggling and lunch stop was settled upon - Ardeley. As we left I jokingly said we could make The Jolly Waggoner in time for lunch. But it only took us half an hour to get there through a wind that sounded as if we were sailing on the high seas.
Lots of turkeys

As we left the farm a massive gobble sounded out as we put the frighteners on some turkeys – we refrained from mentioning that Christmas was coming. Now we knew this leg of the journey would be hard but bloody hell. We were blown to a standstill at some points, Graham saved me from taking the wrong turning and we battled our way towards Bragbury End. Going up to Datchworth proved to be nearly impossible, with gusts trying to blow us over while cars overtook regardless. The South Herts CTC formation wobbling team really showed their grit, guts and sheer determination to wobble like pros.

As the wind howled and whipped around us we spied a house that looked like it might be on fire but we decided it was a bonfire (mad). Going was slow but we all stuck together and kept our humour. We took a very familiar route back to Hatfield and parted our ways around the Alban Way. It was a tough ride but I’d do it again.

Neil 29/11/2015

22 November 2015

22 Nov 2015: Hatfield to Cuffley

Graham led a good ride via 'Little Switzerland' and Lea Valley Country Park.  At least the mountains sheltered the riders from the winds and the sun made a welcome appearance by the time we reached the Village Cafe in Stanstead Abbotts.  From there it was a circuitous route to Cuffley and a short ride home:

outside cafe

Graham 22/11/2015

21 November 2015

21 Nov 2015: Hatfield to Potters Bar - Saturday Ride

After a snowy start the roads were surprisingly clear for the three of us to complete a pleasant ride to Potters Bar. From Hatfield we went out via Welham Green and down through Water End and it was around here that we discovered just why the area is called Water End: the puddles were big but manageable. We made our way up to the village of South Mymms; now this was quite a blustery part of the ride, when it got windy it really did its best to knock us off our bikes.

Going around Ridge proved to be a blustery experience, and passing yet another wedding cortege as we went through the area. We followed the road right down to the bridge over the A1. Once over this obstacle, it was short journey along Trotters Bottom and then up Dancers hill and into Potters Bar itself. Our chosen tea stop presented itself just after the bridge, Café Nero a great little place a bit on the pricey side, but they do a lovely brownie.

The route back involved Billy Lowes Lane and a trip along the A1000 to head off down towards Brookmans Park, then we shot off down Hawkshead Lane past the Royal Vet College (where alpacas are often seen) and back to Water End, this time taking the other direction and heading off to Tollgate Road which leads us nicely to Bullen’s Green and then back to Hatfield via the university.


It was a great morning’s ride for three of us to mark the last Saturday morning ride of the year.

Neil 21/11/2015

15 November 2015

15 Nov 2015: St Albans to Woodside

We were joined at the start by Tim, a new rider from Luton who had cleverly trained it down to St Albans, knowing that the pub stop was only a few miles from his home.  We cycled through Gorhambury and it was not until I turned a corner on Hoggs Lane that I experienced the strength of the westerly headwind, probably the tail of ‘Abigail’.  A succession of longish but gentle climbs on the hills skirting south of Hemel took us to The Crown at Berkhamsted where we met three more who had started independently from Bedmond. 

Ashridge woods
Group waiting at top of hill

The weather stayed dry and amazingly warm for the time of year as we climbed up through Ashridge Woods and doubled back down Gaddesden row and up Pedley Hill. From here it was across to Flamstead and finally The Plough at Woodside. Two young ladies who seemed to be learning the ropes served us.  The food took some time (except for mine which I think was meant for another customer) leading to some second pints during the wait.  The riders took a variety of routes home, most going via Stockwood Park to join NCR6 via Harpenden to Nomansland Common.  I ended up being led into a quagmire on a supposed ‘cycleable’ route parallel to B road towards Sandridge and have only just finished cleaning up the result.

47.3 mile circuit

Craig 15/11/2015

8 November 2015

08 Nov 2015: Hatfield to Wareside

I thought I would be early, but waiting for me at the start already were Sue (on her new carbon bike) , Neil and Vish (on his 3rd ride in a row), soon to be joined by Mark (one of the Wednesday evening riders) and Richard. Judy had a head start on us and missed my hazard assessment: to watch out for the wrong sort of slippery leaves on the road.  Not that they would have bothered Judy on her 3-wheel recumbent.

My warnings would be appropriate as I had planned an unusual route to our familiar coffee stop, using several cycle paths.  We headed through Old Hatfield and under the towering viaduct, built to allow Lord Salisbury access from Hatfield House to the railway station, without mixing with the local peasantry. This being Rememberance Sunday, it's interesting that the grounds of Hatfield House were used to test the first british tanks during World War 1.  Our first cycle path, from Mill Green to the golf course, was ankle deep in slippery leaves. I then found a very direct route to Panshanger via a couple of leafy cycle routes, with the additional hazard of stategically placed concrete posts, emerging on Herns Lane.  Then it was lanes via Tewin and Datchworth Green to Watton-at Stone, and a loop around Whempstead, where we picked up Stuart. A small poppy-wearing procession through Dane End included a familiar face, then we climbed White Hill to arrive at the golf club just in time for the 2-minute silence.
Four cyclists next to a deep ford
Standon Ford

Wareside was quite close, so I headed north to cross the River Rib at Standon, then across to Much Hadham and up to Babbs Green, arriving at Wareside in time for lunch, where the local sausages come highly recommended.  After lunch with the locals it was back to Babbs Green, then Ware and the road to Hertford and beyond.  Just 43 miles, but a mild and dry day in good company made for a pleasant November ride.

Jon 08/11/2015

1 November 2015

01 Nov 2015: St Albans to Mangrove Green

The passers-by hurried past the eight figures standing at the War Memorial; surely those ghastly looking ghouls should have returned to their graves by now as Hallowe’en had finished hours ago.

Then all was explained as the group mounted their nearby machines and cycled off through the deserted market place.

As we ascended the causeway in Verulamium Park, it was evident that contrary to the predictions of the Met Office there was not much mist or fog, but instead bright sun shining through the yellow autumn leaves; maybe this was why the BBC was terminating their contract and instead investing in a piece of seaweed to be hung outside the back door of the newsroom. We continued to Potters Crouch where we turned right to enjoy the aromas of the wood-recycling site by the A4147 before again turning towards Maylands, crossing the roundabout by the former BP building and turning along Cherry Trees Lane, now re-opened ten years after the Buncefield fire

Heading north along Three Cherry Trees Lane we encountered mud across the road on a downhill stretch that could easily, but fortunately didn’t cause any falls. We then cycled through Trowley Bottom, and headed towards Markyate. This village’s most famous daughter is Katherine Ferrers, the highwaywoman memorably played by Margaret Lockwood in the film The Wicked Lady; the pub of the same name on Nomansland marks where she was mortally wounded during her final hold-up. After the underpass beneath the A5 it was granny rings all round as we made the final ascent to Woodside Farm

Coffee at Woodside Farm
Coffee at Woodside Farm

Here the sunshine was very strong and as some other punters were sitting outside at the cafe we decided to join them. What more evidence of global warming could there be than this sort of weather in November? Three other riders including Harry from Dunstable, whom we hadn’t seen for some years, also joined us.
With the now-swollen group continuing through Slip End we crossed the A1081 at Kennels Farm to make the long descent to the East Hyde sewage works, passing a group from West Herts CTC struggling up the hill as they made their way to their two-hour liquid lunch at Studham.

Two large birds
Rheas hidden in a field at Breachwood Green

After we passed through Chiltern Green I felt my front tyre become spongy and later inspection confirmed that it must be a slowish puncture. As we were only 3 miles from the pub at Mangrove Green, I just pumped it up again, needing to do it again only once more before we reached our lunch stop. Here we met three more riders who had already arrived, & while the rest of the group indulged in gossip, beer & sandwiches, I took advantage of the washbasin in the toilet to establish the location of my puncture and consequently the cause, as usual a piece of flint. A group from the VCC then arrived on their 50’s bikes with elegant curly forks and with whom I had a brief chat before returning inside for my well-deserved beer & lunch.

Village sign with horses ploughing
Village Sign

We returned via Nomansland with riders peeling off at various locations depending on their destinations with most arriving home still in bright sunlight.

Steve 01/11/2015

25 October 2015

25 Oct 2015: Hatfield to Braughing

Bill's ride to Braughing took full advantage of yet another sunny Sunday.  It was a shame the clocks had changed so we couldn't stay out longer without getting back in the dark.

3 cyclists in red jackets
A thorn between two roses

4 cyclists
Vish emerges from the shadows

50 miles.  

Bill 25/10/2015

18 October 2015

18 Oct 2015: St Albans to Little Chalfont

This is a rather odd one that turned out to be a short but pleasant ride down to Ozzy’s café in Little Chalfont. Four of us met at St Albans, but out of the four riders only one wasn’t feeling unwell. So the ride took a steady pace and we went down some of the usual roads. To start with though we headed out to the park and made our way up through there and as we did a jogger (yes a jogger) kept up with us and was happily chatting away.

We took a route that followed Bedmond Lane and then down into Nash Mills we rode; it’s always nice going up Rucklers Lane and from here we took the road into Flaunden where we ignored the usual route (a massive hill), much to one riders pleasure and we bombed down Chenies Hill and then up through Chenies to follow the Amersham Road for a bit. Soon we were in the café for a well-deserved cuppa and sandwich.

After our break it was decided best to go back as the group was feeling unwell, we headed back via the Grand Union canal. This was a lovely ride along the canal side and took us right through Watford, without seeing anything remotely urban, giving me food for thought for a ride next year. After a good deal of navigating we made our way back to King’s Langley and then it was just a trip up Tom’s Lane to retrace our tracks back to the beginning. A short but pleasant ride, and it is nice to report that the unwell riders were all fit and well for Bill’s ride the following Sunday.

Neil 18/10/2015

17 October 2015

17 Oct 2015: Fun ride to Wheathampstead

It’s time for another saunter and 7 riders met at Morrison’s for the quick ride out to the café in Wheathampstead. We welcomed a new rider Fabio and we had a rather nice visit from Mr Ian Gow, it’s always pleasant to see him.

The ride got off to a nice steady pace with all riders happily chatting away; I took a very familiar route over to Ayres End via the Valley Road and the network of lanes at the back of the rugby club. One of the pleasures of doing rides like this is introducing folks to the countryside that is on their doorstep and listening to the amazement they express.

After Ayres End we headed into Wheathampstead via a lane that I’ve always wondered about, this lane could’ve led to Mars but thankfully it didn’t and took us up past the Elephant and Castle pub, then we just dropped down into the village for our tea stop.

cyclists outside cafe

After break we made our way back via Beach Hyde Lane, then we dropped into Sandridge and took House lane to meet the junction at Jersey Farm. On our way to the cut through that takes us up through Oaklands Collage we encountered the 5 miles to Fabulous group and for 10 minutes the two groups had a lovely little meet up as 14 of us went through the college grounds.

To finish off we popped onto the Alban way and headed back to the start. It was a lovely morning’s ride out.

Neil 17/10/2015

11 October 2015

11 Oct 2015: Panshanger to Ardeley

A welcome return to dry sunny weather continued our recent run of good luck on Sundays and eight of us met at Panshanger Golf Club for our ride to Ardeley.  Meeting there rather than Hatfield meant we were soon into the quiet Hertfordshire lanes as we cruised through Tewin and Bramfield.  In Stapleford we noted the passing of The Woodhall Arms, where the owners of Papillon Restaurant sold up and retired in August.  As we then passed the former Three Harts pub in Stony Hills we reflected that these days we seem to pass more pubs that are closed down than those still in business.

cyclists in parkland
In Sacombe Park

We crossed the busy A602 directly into the tranquillity of Sacombe Park, where the manor house was undergoing a complete makeover.  Then it was down to Barwick Ford and into Much Hadham to find ourselves at Ash Valley Golf Club.  We received a warm welcome and were quickly served with tea, coffee and bacon sandwiches as we relaxed in the wooden clubhouse.  This looked quite old, but the list of club champions only went back about 20 years. 

In clubhouse
Ash Valley Golf Club

Geoff joined us here, and all nine of us carried on via Standon and Puckeridge to lunch at The Jolly Waggoner in Ardeley.  This pub is linked to the café at Church Farm opposite and we found we could order sandwiches to be brought over to us from there, which most did as the Sunday roast was almost £14.  No doubt it’s excellent real food, but rather unreal prices for cyclists on a club run.  Despite it being mid October the sun was keeping it just about warm enough to sit out in the pub garden.

We left rather reluctantly just before 2 pm and did a double take as we exchanged the usual greetings with a fellow cyclist coming towards us, then realised as he was passing it was Steve H, getting up to speed following a broken leg.

It wasn’t far to Codicote, so I put in a short detour via Benington and Aston to get onto the cycle track through Shephalbury Park in Stevenage, coming out at The Roebuck and climbing up to Old Knebworth.  After tea at Vanstones some went directly back to Panshanger via Old Welwyn and others towards Hatfield via Ayot St Peter.  The sun was still shining when we got home and it had been an enjoyable circuit of less than 50 miles.

Jon 11/10/2015

4 October 2015

04 Oct 2015: Hatfield to Sawbridgeworth

The weather was fine and sunny, as it sometimes can be in early autumn. There were 8 riders to set off from Hatfield.  Welcome to Maddie from Neil’s Saturday group on her first Sunday ride. We had hardly gone a mile when Craig disappeared from the group. Jon and Peter went back to find him but he could not be found. (see below). We continued down the A1000 and followed Wildhill Road around the edge of the Hatfield Estate. Crossing the Essendon Road we headed to Epping Green then Bayford and joined the B158 to Hertford.  Passing through Hertford town centre we took the rough cycle path beside the river Lea. 

Crossing a bridge
Crossing the canal near Hertford

There was very little wind and in the sunshine it was very pleasant by the river.  At Ware we followed London Road and Amwell Lane to Stanstead Abbots.  Here the road was completely blocked – why was that large JCB stuck into the front of a shop on the High Street? This turned out to be a failed Ram Raid that had happened at 3 am that morning and the alarm was still going off as no one dared enter the collapsing building. Continuing on to Roydon Marina for a tea break. There was Craig already having a cup of tea.  Group complete again.

JCB in shop window
Ram raid in Stanstead Abbotts

After tea we headed into Harlow and took the cycle path through to the south of the town and along Paringdon Road: first navigation error. I missed the turning into Commonside Road. This was the same mistake Jon had made a few weeks earlier. I was corrected by Jon as had Jon been by Carol. Back tracking we picked up the route, crossed Latton Common and Harlow Common, then headed north alongside the M11 to Churchgate Street. Still heading north along the Sheering Lower Road to Sheering and we arrived in Sawbridgeworth for lunch at The Gate pub.

After lunch it was west for Much Hadham via Allen Green and Green Tye: second navigation error. I missed the turn to Much Hadham after Green Tye. Rescued by Jon (again) who had realised my mistake. We backtracked and found the ford at Much Hadham and ascended Kettle Green Road at Hadham Cross and on to Barwick ford. Twice along this route a professional photographer took our photos, no doubt thinking we were taking part in some sportive – no, we do this every Sunday and it doesn’t cost us a penny!  Crossing under the A10 we headed to Whitehill Golf club for a much needed afternoon tea break.  Jon urged me to pose for a photo of my cycling jersey after my recent return from LEJOG.

Group having tea at golf course

Mike with his LEJOG shirt

I was intending to head back through Whempstead and Watton at stone, but I don’t like that route much, so we went back to Hertford via Dane End down Stony Hills and Sacombe Road. Then we took The Old Coach Road back to Welwyn and on to Hatfield to complete a very enjoyable ride with lovely weather all day.

Mike 4/10/2015

27 September 2015

27 Sep 2015: St Albans to Lacey Green

I arrived at the war memorial to see the other riders deep in conversation with a lady vicar (or someone dressed like one). She was interested in the Saturday Saunter rides as she was otherwise engaged on Sundays. This was a shame as she might have raised the usual level of conversation but nonetheless I thought she should be advised to see her trade-union representative about working unsocial hours. Six of us set off north towards Redbourn, avoiding Hogg End Lane as we knew it was blocked at the far end, and instead turned up Punchbowl Lane. This is narrower & steeper and as usual had several mounds of dumped builders’ rubbish near Old Jeromes. On reaching the end we were pleasantly surprised to see that Three Cherry Trees Lane, closed since the Buncefield fire, then opened and closed again last year, was now again open.

Cyclists in the sun
Warm sun after a chilly start

So we could have used Hogg End Lane after all. Continuing through Piccotts End and Frithsden, we overtook the West Herts CTC group at Little Gaddesden, some of whom were riding fixed-wheel bikes. After an exchange of gossip and on the way up to Ivinghoe Beacon we saw a single deer in an adjacent field, which then leapt over a barbed-wire fence before crossing the road just in front of us.

White lion in chalk hillside
The Whipsnade White Lion

On the right hand side I usually like to look over to the white lion carved on the hillside under Whipsnade zoo. It should look like the photo above, but is currently so dirty it was almost impossible to spot. After a fast descent to Ivinghoe village we had a welcome coffee stop in Curiositea cafe in the old school after about 20 miles. Craig left us at this stop and five of us travelled on to lunch in Lacey Green at the Black Horse pub. Rather than climb up and down several times over the Chiltern Hills we took a flatter route through Aston Clinton, Weston Turville, Terrick and Marsh, looping north and west of Princes Risborough before climbing up Wardrobes Hill to reach the pub after 22 miles of fairly easy riding and where I did not change out of my outer chain-ring.

After a very reasonably priced lunch in their garden, but where the aroma of farm animals was evident, we headed back via Great Missenden, Hyde Heath and Chesham Bois. As we climbed up the hill from Latimer to see the head of the Green Dragon peering over the hedge at Flaunden we had done another 18 miles. This pub has had two infamous figures among its former clientele: Joachim von Ribbentrop  and Guy Burgess. However, today we were visiting the church on the opposite side of the road for tea and cakes, where we were blessed by the presence of yet another lady vicar, and also Phil from the midweek riders, who had gone for an afternoon spin. From here it was an easy route back to St Albans for four of us, arriving at 5:15, and a bit further for Judy who was pedalling all the way back to Barnet. A perfect day for this longish ride of about 70 miles.

Carol 27/09/2015

20 September 2015

20 Sep 2015: Hatfield to Langley Lower Green

At last a fine day was forecast and seven of us turned up at the start at Hatfield, including Mark a newcomer.

First stop was to be Ash Valley Golf Course near Much Hadham. Now this is to the north east of Hatfield so we started off by going to Hertford and then along the river/canal towpath to Ware. From there a climb up through the ‘suburbs’ of Ware to get to the high ground to the north of the town. Here onwards it was fairly flat through lovely open countryside, in the sunshine, through Babbs Green, Rush Green and other such rural sounding places. Then onto a road northwards through Much Hadham itself and out into the countryside again where, in a beautiful location, is the golf club. It has an interesting timber clubhouse, which was virtually empty, but it’s plus point for cyclists being that it does breakfast type goodies at a reasonable price. Whilst there, Stuart a cyclist from Stevenage joined us.

On the road
On the road to Langley Lower Green

Refreshed we moved on north through Little Hadham and then further on, just before Stocking Pelham, we turned east on a very minor lane for a couple of miles to Maggots End (what a charming old English name!)  Now it was north again on a quiet road that runs up the valley of the river Stort. Following river valleys is nice because they tend to be fairly flat and this one was again in lovely open countryside. Then it was into Clavering, a pleasant village where apparently Jamie Oliver’s parents run (ran?) the village pub. However we had a better destination in mind, namely ‘The Bull’ in Langley Lower Green a few miles further on. This is an old village pub, which stands on the green. Food-wise a speciality of this area is ‘huffers’ which are like enormous (bread) baps. Two of our party were man enough (or foolish enough) to take on these monsters and managed to demolish them together with their fillings. The rest of us were more conventional and well satisfied with the normal pub food provided.

After lunch we decided not to go to Stevenage as planned but to cut across more directly to Dane End where there is another golf club that also caters well for us cyclists. So, having partaken of tea (and cake) we headed back towards the start at Hatfield.

On the way some peeled off towards their homes but those who went back had done about 63 miles in all.

It was generally agreed it had been a perfect day for cycling; warm but not too hot, not much wind and dry with delightful scenery.

peteR 20/09/2015

13 September 2015

13 Sep 2015: St Albans to Towersey

Starting from St Albans our Sunday ride was going to be out into the Chilterns. The first stop was planned for Great Missenden - a bit further out than usual - so some main road towards Hemel to start with, then crossing the canal and up through the lanes to Chesham. We had another climb out of Chesham, picking a small lane then joining the main road we were soon in the coffee stop in Missenden. It had been just over 20 miles.

The way to lunch could now be through the maze of narrow, twisty and up and down hilly lanes of the Chilterns. But we picked the simplest route - following the road to Butler's Cross for a bit, but turning off to Askett. Only one climb and a long descent involved. Then, following the straight and flat Lower Icknield Way towards Chinnor, after a bit we encountered the Phoenix Trail, an old railway, well converted into a cycle/walking track. It runs from Princess Risborough to Thame and the surface is perfect for cycling. After a few miles of easy cycling, Towersey and The Three Horseshoes were spotted just off the track and it was time for lunch at this excellent pub and its pleasant garden.

3 members in front of a sculpture
On the Phoenix trail

After refreshments it was time to head back. But the timetabled route seemed to want to take us back through those Chiltern Hills again. Not fancying this, we picked a route to Tring, including a bit of canal towpath, and then on to Berkhamsted for a cup of afternoon tea at The Crown followed by an easy ride home. It had been a great ride of less than 70 miles and a lot less hilly than I had been expecting.

Richard 13/09/2015

6 September 2015

06 Sep 2015: Hatfield to Tawney Common

The Mole Trap Ride:

6 of us met at ASDA in Hatfield on a crisp dry sunny morning, we welcomed newcomer J who had travelled from Tottenham to be with us today. After brief discussions and how do you do’s a happy little party set off for the Cole Green way, most of us stuck to the rules of the road but one unruly member decided to take the bus route by the hospital (tut, tut).

Cyclists standing around
Tracey getting ready to lead from Hatfield

After the leafy Cole Green Way we headed towards Hertingfordbury and encountered our first group of super deluxe speedsters, there must have been about 20-30 riders and they looked as if they hailed from Watford, a happy group as well. We took the back road to Bayfordbury, as we were approaching the junction you could see a mobile multi-coloured group of cyclists, about 20-30 again, all very happily bombing around the countryside. We took the steady climb up to Bayford and then headed back down and up to Brickendon. At the green they were preparing for a fete, some of the conversation turned to hot dogs, indicating a hungry group. We made our way down through the lovely nature reserve of Broxbourne, which features a fantastic ancient forest and in my opinion one of the best in the county, the road we chose cuts right through the middle of it and it is an extremely pleasant experience.

After a quick jaunt through the suburbia of Hoddesdon we eventually arrived at our chosen (closed) destination, but right next to it was a new establishment called Anatolia, which strangely enough did exactly the same fare, good cheap café food. So we came to the conclusion that the same people owned the new place. We deftly question a waiter and he confirmed that the old establishment was now a Kebab house.

After a break we took a wiggling and meandering route out towards Epping, passing through Roydon without waiting for the train (gasp). In and around Epping seems to be the home of boy racers of every sort and today was no exception, cars and bikes whizzed past us as we made our steady but safe way towards lunch. It does seem a little odd that there is an opinion that Essex is flat, when in fact this part is really quite lumpy, there were quite a few huffs and puffs along the way. At some point we treated our new comer to the traditional CTC strip off as the sun came out to bid us all a hearty hello and it was really nice to see shadows after such a dreary week. Heading to lunch we climbed quite a lot, and the views that we were granted were very good, you can see for miles up there.
Quite quickly we had pinged through Epping upland and then through Epping itself, from there we carried on to a rather aptly named Fiddlers Hatch, home of the Fiddlers arms (a pub I’ve never been in but have past many a time). It was here that the leader got confused by the map, Tracey’s route called for her to go straight on but the road ahead was a dead end, we all looked at the map and right enough it looked like we needed to go straight on. So we did - what can you lose? Well we encountered a dead end, with a chap loading his lorry, so I asked him for directions. He was clueless, as he didn’t come from the area. Time to get the map out again, this time we noticed that that there were 2 pubs on the map we had been looking at the wrong pub. Once we had got our bearings it was just a quick jaunt to The Moletrap, lunch and chocolate eggs.

The pub was great as ever and the vintage motorcycle enthusiasts were out in force, they provide a lovely sight and an even better sound as they roar off, a couple of us love our British bikes.

After lunch it was a simple matter of navigating through everywhere called Theydon, brave some irritable motorists, and some motorcyclists that were trying to break the sound barrier. The route to Upshire was very pleasant but surprisingly lumpy (again), soon we were shooting down the Epping Road and making our way towards a well deserved break and cakes of ‘Bakeoff’ standard. It has been said many a time that the ladies of Upshire make the BEST cakes.

After cakes we all took the familiar route back home. J followed the Lee Navigation back to Tottenham; Bill made his way back to Barnet while the rest of us wiggled our way back to Hatfield and home.

A great day out led by Tracey.    

Neil 06/09/2015

30 August 2015

30 Aug 2015: Hertford to Saffron Walden

On a dark, damp morning with leaden skies signalling the end of the summer, ten cyclists assembled at the Hart statue in Hertford. The town seemed unusually busy for a Sunday morning, as it was the day of the Hertford Music Festival.

Proceeding alongside the river on the path to Ware, we passed some brave souls performing a competitive wild swim and a bemused bullock, which had strayed onto the path. 

swimmers in the river 
Bullock on the path
Swimmers in the River Lea and a bullock in the way

We then went up High Oak Road in Ware through the back of Wareside to Much Hadham and then a minor road through Green Tye to rejoin the B1004 for the final descent into Bishops Stortford.

The coffee stop was the usual greasy spoon, but service was quick & efficient; we thought the staff should train their counterparts at the garden-centre cafes we sometimes use.  
Losing one of our number here, the remainder headed north, crossing the Stort at Manuden and the M11 near Quendon and then following a dog-leg route through Howlett End into Saffron Walden. Here the lunch stop was at the unusually named Temeraire, where we sat outside in their garden, which was covered entirely by artificial grass. Although this was signed as a no-smoking area, we wondered how the surface coped with the general detritus that would inevitably fall from the tables.
After lunch we headed west to cross again the M11 turning southwest to Brent Pelham, west again towards Hare Street & then south along the B1368 to the village hall at Braughing. Here they had made a special provision for healthy eaters by providing quiches made with wholemeal pastry alongside the mega calorific cakes.
After this we split into two groups, as some riders had come from north London or Welwyn and the rest took the most direct to Ware to retrace our route back to Hertford along the riverbank. One rider was delayed here while he fielded a phone call from his wife whom he had promised in the morning he was only popping out for a pint of milk. 

Two female cyclists at a field of sunflowers
These sunflowers in a field near Stony Hills were facing north - it was a cloudy day

In Hertford the music festival was in full swing, with seemingly all pubs providing free music, and no doubt recouping their costs with extra beer sales.

Steve B 30/08/2015

23 August 2015

23 Aug 2015: St Albans to Amersham

We met in St Albans on a pleasant and sunny morning, but as cyclists always keep an eye on the forecast, all knew it was due to be dire later in the day. How far would we get on what was planned to be a fairly long ride? We were pleased to welcome two guest riders, Freddy and Keith Austin, friends of Tracey, who were keen to see a bit of Hertfordshire and do a few of its hills. 

Lots of riders at the start
Gathering in St Albans

Setting off, we did a bit of main road towards Hemel to start with, then down to Nash Mills and the new marina development. 

Modern footbridge over canal
The modern bridge at Nash Mills

Crossing the river, we did a stiff climb through some new housing to Felden. Was visitor Freddy (14 years old) able to keep up with a seasoned group of cyclists? Yes - as I gasped up the hill, he had the sauce to glide past effortlessly without even appearing to be breathing deeply.  He was on a super light bike, was that it, or were we over seasoned? We made good progress along the pleasant lanes to Venus Hill, then the dip at Ley Hill, then more quiet lanes to the River Chess. A further climb up Hollow Way Lane (recently re-surfaced) soon brought us to the centre of Amersham-on-the Hill and a favourite coffee stop.  

Cyclists at a junction

At Bovingdon

Nobody rushed their refreshments and the storm clouds were gathering over Hertfordshire (and Bucks). Frieth would be a long and mucky ride in the wet. It was soon obvious that nobody was keen to press on any further because of the imminent bad weather, so there was a general dispersal back home, some picking one route, some another. Personally, I went for a less direct one, and got soundly soaked.

Only 33 miles today

Richard 23/08/2015

22 August 2015

22 Aug 2015: Saturday ride to Whitwell

A lovely morning for a beginners' ride and seven of us set off from Jenny's Cafe in Hatfield bound for Emily's Cafe in Whitwell (I wonder if Jenny and Emily have ever met?).  Here were Nick and Sally again (soon to join CTC after their 3rd rides) and Madeleine and Tony on their second rides.  Rona of 5MTF fame came along for the ride in her new Billie Fleming shirt with Neil leading the bunch and Jon keeping in his rightful place at the rear.

Two women cyclists  
Man in CTC shirt
          Rona & Madeleine                                       Jon has been looking after cyclists since 1878

We were soon onto the lovely leafy lane through Symondshyde Woods and twiddling through Coleman Green and down to Wheathampstead.  Neil was keen to test us on some gentle climbs and it was a longish drag out of the village and up to Gustard Wood, then another climb to Tower Hill to be rewarded by a swift descent to the cafe in Whitwell for a well earned break.

Outside the cafe in Whitwell
Relaxing at Emily's cafe in Whitwell

As we headed for home Nick sped ahead and captured a few frames on his helmet camera - fame on Youtube at last.

It was an easier ride back and after Lemford the Harpenden contingent bade us farewell and took a direct route back via Wheathampstead while we returned to Hatfield having completed just over 21 satisfying miles.

Jon 23/08/2015


16 August 2015

16 Aug 2015: Hertford to Mill Green

I like trying new routes and a round dozen riders gathered for a journey to explore lands to the east of our usual hunting grounds, thinking that I knew Essex like the back of my hand.  Little did they know that I knew nothing about one part of the route, where my route planner was taking a direct line along a bridleway.  But first we had to get to Harlow, avoiding the bridge at Dobbs Weir, which was closed for rebuilding. 

We took the scenic route along the river to Ware, trying to dodge the worst of the rough bits, and I thought I’d be clever and take a short cut coming out at the station.  That was fine, but the barriers came down as we arrived so we ended up back by the river and crossed the railway on Viaduct Road instead.

We reached Stanstead Abbotts without climbing any hills at all, so I felt merciful and took the easier climb out via Kitten Lane to avoid the 10% gradient.  It’s a lovely descent to Roydon where the inevitable barriers were down, but we were soon in Harlow and onto the north-south cycleway we’d used before.  Emerging on Paringdon Road I thought I was further south and missed the turn to Commonside Road - it was becoming clear that I didn’t know the back of my hand too well.  Carol came to the rescue and found the way to what used to be the Pink Cottage pub. We negotiated the M11 roundabout safely, helped by an improved junction design, and the sun came out as we reached the garden centre.

Negotiating a barrier
Barrier on Old Barns Lane

I was pleased when everyone said they were carrying on to lunch, but some had little choice, as they didn’t know their way back from here. It was a familiar route to Radley Green, mostly on NCR1, but then we headed south to cross the A414 and onto over a mile of bridleway. One of the privileges of leading a ride is that it lets you try new routes and this looked like a useful short cut, but I wondered why I’d never been taken down there before.  After getting around a locked gate it turned out to be quite rideable with just a few water filled dips to avoid. After passing some isolated houses we were onto a concrete road through very dark and spooky woodland before emerging on the Blackmore Road.  Soon Metsons Lane provided another off-road shortcut through the wood yard and onto Ingatestone Road, where we paused to inspect a vintage Dodge car that was for sale. 

Vintage car for sale
An old Dodge

The Viper is hidden away in the woods and deservedly popular with walkers and cyclists.  Quick service, good sandwiches and beer, what more could you want?  After an hour in the garden the only real incentive to leave was the prospect of our first visit of the year to Upshire Church for tea.  It was a quiet route to Ongar and Toot Hill, then the steep climb up Ivy Chimneys, along the Epping Road and down to Upshire.  It doesn’t seem possible, but the range and quality of the food on offer looked even better than last year.

The Viper pub
Lunch at The Viper

After Waltham Abbey we divided with most joining NCR1 going north through Lea Valley Country Park, then across to Hoddesdon and over the hill back to Hertford to complete an enjoyable 65-mile circuit. 

Jon 16/08/2015