26 April 2015

26 Apr 2015: St Albans to Prestwood

The hills are alive with the sound of groaning cyclists.

We met at the war memorial in St Albans and it was a lovely, if slightly cold spring morning with cherry blossom in abundance. The ride today was into the lovely hills of the Chilterns and (we were all hard riders) I was determined to make the route as far from the norm as possible, as I wanted people to enjoy a different ride to an area we frequent quite regularly.  So out of the window went Nash Mills, Rucklers lane and Tom’s Lane and I snubbed my nose at Bedmond lane.
Cherry blossom at the start in St Albans

Commonwood House
Flint hunting
Bluebells in Sandfield Wood near Sarratt

Instead we headed out to Bedmond via Ragged Hall Lane and other small lanes around there and ended up at Serge Hill. This route is a really quiet and rather leisurely way to get to Bedmond, and makes for a great change to pounding the normal roads. We made our way into Abbotts Langley and this should’ve really been a foreshadowing of the day’s trials to come, for it was here that we had to dodge around the High Street that was being re-tarmaced.

We reached Bucks Hill via Hunton Bridge and it was whilst going along Quickmoor Lane we discovered Judy’s outstanding talent for scaring the crap out of horses.  Despite best effort to keep a low profile, she demonstrated this feat many times throughout the day, as this is prime horsy country.  Around the corner we passed a huge and amazing house: Commonwood House is a mock Tudor monstrosity built in the early part of the last century. It has a colourful history and was used as a nightclub for American officers during WWII. Then we headed to Sarratt Bottom going by the very tight Dawes Lane, but before we could even think of going down there Mike’s Dawes bike decided to have a puncture. That gave us plenty of time to admire the bluebells growing in profusion in the woods while he focussed on mending his tyre.  We found the offending hole in the tube and removed a flint from the tread (always a good idea to keep the tyre on the rim so you can home in on the right area, as he’ll know next time).  Mike forced the Marathon tyre back on and explained that this was the first puncture for that bike.

With the tyre mended we headed down the tricky lane with gravel, potholes and dog walkers everywhere. It was down the bottom that Judy suddenly realised where I had taken her.  She explained that getting her Trice over the gate at the bottom and across the too-narrow bridge was something she said she would never try again after the last time: something I hadn’t taken into consideration. So we went back but up Moor Lane, this is slightly fortunate as it led to an alternative route I had considered in case the weather was appalling BUT as we were going up this lane we encountered one of the world’s inconsiderate drivers. This lane was bounded by thick hedges and only just wide enough for a car. Yes, as we half way up the climb we met this car, whose driver just stopped in the middle, right there avoiding eye contact and not thinking of reversing and pulling aside.  So we had to squeeze past and as we were doing so I heard a clump. Judy had tried to get around by going up the verge only to end up tipping over onto the car as the bank was too steep. Jon and Steve quickly rushed to her rescue, got her righted and past the obstruction. Looking back I could see the driver checking his car for scratches, some people! 
Mike back on the road
Roast beef in Stottie at The Polecat
HS2 banner
HS2 landfill site near The Lee

Neil's heart rate tracker?

Upon using the alternative route Judy managed to stick the willies up another horse (despite doing our best to hide her machine and flag from view) and Mike discovered a bump in his tyre where he hadn’t put it back on properly. All that was left after fixing this was get to the first stop, yes the first stop, all this and we hadn’t had a cuppa yet.  We considered skipping this break and going straight to lunch, but decided to stop (even though it was now mid-day) to get some calories. So we made quick progress to Little Chalfont and enjoyed a much welcome break at Ozzy’s. Leaving the café was a different matter; Jon had somehow managed to change the combination on his bike lock.  Whilst I went in search for tin snips another member of our party (who will remain nameless) displayed the skills of a mis-spent youth and picked the lock. Handy talent.

Soon we headed out and made for Great Missenden, everywhere we went we encountered a hill, if we weren’t struggling up we were zooming down them, a quaintly named Hotley Bottom Lane turned out to be a killer of an ascent. We weren’t lost but boy were we tired.  It was approaching 2 pm and getting to the Polecat became a mission, and one that we soon accomplished after a final steep climb up Perks Lane. The Polecat served a lovely Roast Beef in a Stottie smothered in gravy, just what we needed, it was great and I made short work of mine.

After lunch it was getting late for most cafes and we decided to have our break in Berkhamsted. Some impromptu route planning took into consideration the contour lines on the map and between us we had plotted a great route. We went through the Lee (not many supporters of HS2 hereabouts) and out via Cholesbury, we were all very tired by this time but in good spirits as we enjoyed a lovely break consuming coffee and lemon drizzle cake at Wetherspoons. We then took a familiar route back home, some 63 miles and over 3,000 feet of climbing ticked off (not the 10,000 ft the GPS had initially recorded).  

Neil 26/04/2015

5 April 2015

05 Apr 2015: Hertford to Bishops Stortford

The ride started from Hertford war memorial and proceeded in a southerly direction up Mangrove Lane, past the campsite to Hoddesdon. The route through Hoddesdon to Dobbs Weir, normally so busy with commercial vehicles, was strangely quiet, and for the rest of the day there was about as much traffic as there was sunshine. 

Regrouping at the top of Low Hill
old buildings
Steve at the cafe in Old Harlow
Encountering the grey wastelands of Harlow, the cycleway was found, giving us an enchanted ride to Café Blue at Old Harlow. After tea we continued eastward, and although the day was sunless, it was also windless, and we bowled along through the Land of the Rodings (a group of 8 villages dating from the Saxon invasion ‘famous for Good Land, Good Malt, and Dirty Roads’) with great ease, putting in an extra loop through Abbess Roding and eventually turning north through Hatfield Forest, to lunch at a JDW pub in the redeveloped canal area of Bishops Stortford. 

The day was turning out to be very enjoyable, no rain, no traffic, and no wind, so in the afternoon a tour down the Ash and Rib river valleys ensued, finishing at The Feathers in Wadesmill for teas and coffees, which we were hoping would provide an alternative to Thundridge Stores as that was shut in the afternoon.  It wasn’t far from there back to Hertford, so the fact that the coffee & cake for £3 offer didn’t apply at weekends wasn’t too much of a blow.

SteveH 05/04/2015