25 January 2015

25 Jan 2015: Hatfield to Benington

Air temperatures were above freezing and it was sunny, but there was patchy ice around on Sunday morning.  Nevertheless nine riders turned up at the start, including one new rider, Charlie.

Our group mounting bikes at pub
Leaving the Lordship Arms
We made our way slowly and cautiously down the cycle path to Welham Green and then through Little Switzerland.  Steve and Carol decided to turn back at Grubbs Lane, a combination of prudence in the icy conditions and Carol's problems with her knee. 

On the downhill stretch near the end of Tylers Causeway, Charlie came to grief and parted company with his bike. Steve H was behind and came down too.  There were no serious injuries to riders and their bikes but Charlie also took the path of prudence and returned home as the fall had hit a vulnerable knee hard.  We hope you got back safely and that we will see you again soon, Charlie.  It’s not the first year that ice on this west-east route has been a problem for us when other lanes have been better, so we really must avoid it in very cold weather.

That was the last casualty of the day and we all continued into Hoddesdon and then uphill, through Goose Green to Hertford and the Rose Café.  We had travelled more slowly than planned, so it was 11.15 when we got to the café, where Tracey, Mary and Peter R were waiting for us.  Rose Café provided their usual lightning fast service with enormous portions for those who had chosen baked beans on toast.

By the time we left, temperatures had gone up and there was no risk of ice.  We took a relatively short route to lunch and arrived promptly at the Lordship Arms, near Bennington, at 1 p.m. where Jon (who had walked from Dane End) was waiting for us.  The Lordship Arms no longer do food on Sundays, but, having been warned the previous evening, were happy to provide a selection of sandwiches and baguettes.  The sandwich defeated Richard who had yet to digest his baked beans on toast.

Our return journey took us through Watton to Tewin, where the group split up for the last leg home.

Judy 25/01/2015

18 January 2015

18 Jan 2015: St Albans to Knebworth

The trembling figures standing outside the Blacksmith’s Arms pub were not waiting for the doors to open, but South Herts CTC anticipating a foray into the sub-arctic hinterland. The route was through Nomansland Common, scene of the recovery of the left-forearm exhibit from the body-parts murder that had put St Albans on the map, then through Southdown to cross the A6 and up the hill in Harpenden to cross the Nickey Line. We passed through Kinsbourne Green and sadly noted the absence of the alpacas by Annables Lane – had they provided an exotic Christmas dinner for one of the local squires? Skirting the edge of Flamstead we ascended the heights of Caddington to our chosen morning stop, Cafe 7. We had used this before and it had provided fast & efficient service, but as soon as we entered we noticed 
bike rack
Peter taking the strain at Knebworth Station
 baguette & chips
 A light lunch
that it must have changed hands.  Now it might seem a simple matter to serve a few breakfasts consisting of the usual staples of bacon, eggs, sausages and beans, but obviously not here. After waiting 30 minutes for the orders to appear, during which one of the staff had gone out to get supplies from the Co-op next door, we politely enquired as to their expected time of arrival, only to get the response that the staff were very busy. Hmm, apart from the seven cyclists there was only one other customer.
Setting off later than planned, we crossed the M1 on a bridleway bridge that led into Stockwood Park and then took the well-surfaced Upper Lea Valley cycle route to New Mill End where we ascended the hill to Peter’s Green & then went through Whitwell and Nup End using familiar roads but in the opposite direction. Passing through the elegance of Old Knebworth we descended into the somewhat less elegant main village to a new destination for us: the Station Hotel at a rather late 1:30 pm. In the interests of inclusiveness, we do try to vary the nature of our destination pubs, and this was clearly a drinking-man’s football pub with a large loud television showing 22 men wearing advertising shirts shouting, spitting and running round 
a perfectly turfed field. Despite the main bar heaving with similarly clad men, we found a back room shielded from the noise and occupied by only 3 other punters. We grabbed a large table and ordered the good-value food on offer, which duly arrived during a discussion on the abrupt departure of the CTC’s technical officer.
On departure, we inspected the double-decker bike racks outside Knebworth Station and came to the conclusion that getting a bike onto an upper rack required undue physical strength, despite the cantilevered design.  Then we followed a standard route back through Codicote, Wheathampstead and Sandridge.

Steve 18/01/2015

11 January 2015

11 Jan 2015: St Albans to Chalfont St Peter

We are at the mercy of the weather at this time of year but the weather forecast was for a reasonable day: dry but cold, fortunately no thundersnow. On the way to the start I noticed a bit of frost on the grass, but the roads had dried out overnight so it was OK to go.   Seven of us set off from St Albans straight down St Peters Street, down Holywell Hill, up Wilshere Avenue and down to Park Street Roundabout, through the underpass and over the hill into Park Street.  Following Park Street lane into Bricket Wood we took School Lane through Peartree Wood and on into Garston.  

Now we are on the Colne Valley Trail, a nice traffic free cycle path through Watford. Passing through Watford Fields we picked up the cycle path again at Riverside.  Here we could have followed the Ebury Way, but I decided it might be too muddy so we turned onto Eastbury Road towards Northwood.   The roads are very busy here so following Batchworth Lane I was glad to get out onto the road to Harefield.  

fixing a broken chain
Fixing Neil's chain
man inspecting menu
Steve inspecting the menu

Outside Harefield we headed back to the Colne Valley and were treated to some nice views across the valley. Crossing the A412 we took Chalfont Lane towards our morning stop.  I had reached the bridge over the M25 when I noticed Neil and Craig were missing from the group. Tracey got a text from Neil saying his chain had broken at the bottom the hill.  We all headed back down the hill to sort it out.  Steve came to the rescue with an almost perfect demo of how to mend a broken chain, but no one had noticed the repaired chain had fallen out of the front gear shifter. So the chain had to be broken and repaired again (sigh).   By now we were well behind time and everyone was getting cold. So we decided to abandon the pub lunch stop and go straight to the elevenses café for an early lunch.  20 minutes later we were all in the Madeira Cafe in Chalfont St Peter ordering hot meals.

After lunch we headed back via Chalfont St Giles, following Vache Lane, Roughwood lane and Lodge Lane. Down the very steep Stony Lane and we are back on familiar routes through Latimer and up Flaunden Hill.  We descended Rucklers Lane into Hemel Hempstead then climbed the other side of the valley up Bunkers Lane and onto the A road back to St Albans.

All in all a good ride even if it did not quite go according to plan.  Lessons learned: don't go via Northwood and how to fix a broken chain.

Mike 11/01/2015.