26 July 2015

26 Jul 2015: Wet ride to Codicote

This being the end of July and the first Sunday of the school holidays the weather forecast was for rain all day.  So a few brave (daft?) members met at the top of St Peter’s Street in St Albans. I had planned a long route through the Chilterns out to Towersey on the Aylesbury Plain (Plan A). This would have been a challenging route on any day. I had already decided to cut the route short and ride out to Chesham and return after the morning stop (Plan B).  Jon advised me that it was the annual get together of the Herts CTC at Vanstones Garden Centre near Codicote. So Plan B was abandoned and we decided to go there instead (Plan C).

We set off out of St Albans towards Sandridge and by the time we had reached the bottom of Valley Road the rain had started. A quick stop at Beech Bottom Dyke and we noted that Verulamium was the name of the settlement before the Romans arrived. We put on wet weather gear and continued along Sandridgebury Lane into Sandridge. Then it was a pleasant, drippy route along Coleman Green Lane, across Nomansland up through the woods skirting Wheathampstead Golf Course to Harpenden Road. 

Mike in the rain
Mike in his element

Turning right down Leasey Bridge Lane we crossed the River Lea and headed towards Gustard Wood. The rain was getting heavier as we passed the Cross Keys Pub and turned towards Ayot St Lawrence.  A very quick stop allowed us to view Shaw’s Corner and the ruined Church then we headed down Tanyard Lane towards Kimpton Road.  Here we came across two horse riders at the bottom of the hill riding a couple of flighty fillies, which were nervous of the flag on Judy’s trike.  Half a mile further down Kimpton Road the road was flooded, but we managed to get by taking it easy - turned out the flood was only a few inches deep. We made it to Vanstones around 10.30 and the rain was really meaning business as we listened to it hammering on the café roof.  

I was not expecting many cyclists to make it on such a wet day, but a few hardy souls turned up and a pleasant hour was spent catching up with old acquaintances.  Afterwards we went home by the most direct route. By this time the rain was very heavy as we headed into a strong head wind down the B656 into Old Welwyn. Then we took the Old A1 over Digswell Hill, through Lemsford and back to Hatfield via Green Lanes. Not the best preparation for my imminent end-to-end ride, or maybe it was?

'Never never give up' (Winston Churchill)

Mike 26/07/2015

25 July 2015

25 Jul 2015: Saturday fun ride to Potters Bar

This week we welcomed three keen new riders to our sensational saunteriffic morning rides, with one rider under the impression that we were leaving at 10.30. The meeting point Jenny’s Hatfield Market Square, time 10.00 a.m., so Jon had to get straight back on his bike.

smiling cyclists at cafe Richard, Terry, Marianne, Neil and Gill at Cafe Larsa

Riders Gill, Marianne, Terry, Jon and myself made for a really happy bunch of cyclists on a bright and breezy Saturday morning ride. We took off towards Welham Green via Travellers Lane, this is quite a straightforward route out of Hatfield and takes in a path around the back of the Tesco depot that leads straight into Welham Green. Negotiating our way through the small high street and up past the Sibthorpe A#rms towards Brookmans Park, just before the train station I hung a left and took a lovely winding lane down to Water End (so called because the stream disappears into a sinkhole hereabouts). After a little wiggle through there I was cheeky and took them up Hawkshead Lane. It’s quite a steady climb up to the Royal Veterinary College then back to Brookmans Park. Soon we were in Potters Bar and wheeling our way through the traffic towards a welcome tea stop.

Now I like to make sure that the tea stops are of great quality but in this instance unfortunately I failed. The Broadway café is closed for a refurbishment, so deftly we re-traced our steps and stopped at a quaint little place by the train station. At the stop we had a lovely chat and shared our thoughts on cycling. The furtive Mr Stubbs also joined us here. Suitably watered and fed we set off on our home run, this entailed going up Baker Street (completely forgetting about the hill), and turning on to Dancers Hill Road to follow it all the way down to Trotters Bottom (what lovely names). Here we have a Tri Bridge (for horses, cyclists and walkers) that spans the A1, over we pop but at this point one of our number discovered that changing the chain on front rings makes climbing much easier. We made a steady climb up to Ridge and then down to South Mymms, where I unwittingly broke the law by taking everyone down a one-way street (naughty, naughty). After South Mymms we headed for North Mymms via Swanland Road and Waterend. As we came by Hertfordshire University, we noticed that some works had blocked off the road; the ladies found a way around this obstacle and soon we were back at the beginning of our ride.

A lovely ride out.  Neil 25/07/2015

19 July 2015

19 Jul 2015: Wheathampstead to Great Barford

After early morning rain, the weather turned up trumps with warm sunny periods and a tail wind for our ride starting at Wheathampstead.  Five riders started out for our elevenses stop at Barton-le-Clay. Neil was out again, although he had led a very successful Saturday Fun Ride the day before to Shenley, which had attracted 7 riders.

We took the direct route up Lilley Bottom and down into Hexton and Higham Gobion in order to approach Barton-le-Clay from the north and find a route across the A6. Mobile mapping came to the rescue, showing a cycle route to cross to Hayden’s Cafe via Grange Farm Close. Hidden away in a collection of twee shops, the café had some excellent bread pudding as well as the usual fry-ups.  Three riders continued onto Great Barford, through what must be Bedfordshire’s most picturesque villages, especially Old Warden, liberally sprinkled with thatched cottages. 

The Swan family

Lunch was sandwiches on the banks of the Great Ouse, watching a pair of swans teaching their adolescent offspring the rudiments of wing flapping in preparation for flight.  Remarkably, none of us succumbed to a pint at the Anchor just behind us.  It must have been the thought of the distance from home to be cycled and the heat. 

Bridge over the river
The old bridge over the Ouse at Great Barford

To avoid retracing our steps, we swung north and east across the A1 and then down through Everton and Potton to Stotfold.  The breeze, which had been a tail wind as far as lunch, mercifully dropped on the return leg.  In Stotfold, I led our small party on a wild goose chase looking for the mill, being misled by a sign for the mill, which led us into a new, unfinished housing estate.  When we eventually found the mill teashop, we all had a traditional tea and scones and contemplated the 25 to 30 miles to home, having already clocked up more than 60 miles.

Using Richards 1990’s OS map (I only had mapping as far as Stotfold) we somehow managed to head south bypassing Letchworth to Hitchin, despite the complete change in the road layout since his map was published!  It was then plain sailing through Codicote and home.

74.2 miles
Craig 19/07/2015

18 July 2015

18 Jul 2015: Saturday Saunter to Shenley

Well this Saturday we had the delight of welcoming some more new riders, we had Nick and Lorreine (both new to group cycling) then we had Graham (we borrowed him from STACC), we had the return of Sally from last week and to bolster the numbers Sue (a regular Sunday rider).

Group at outside table

Our group at Shenley

It was a lovely morning with the sun doing its stuff. We headed out via the Alban Way going towards the train station. Graham had expressed a concern that it needed to be a saunter and not a race but he needn’t have worried as the pace was nice and steady and there was a lot of happy chatting as we headed towards Chiswell Green. I entered Ragged Hall Lane and onto the lanes that skirt the National Rose Society Gardens then led up to the Butterfly Gardens over the North Orbital and onto Lye Lane. It was nice going through the leafy lane towards Bricket Wood and we emerged into the sunshine again to hop over the bridge and sample the delights of Drop Lane. This is a great lane that follows the river Ver and leads to Smug Oak Lane.

Now a feature of this ride is that I like to take a variety of differing roads that are meant to test abilities and give the riders a taste of different traffic conditions. So we took in a bit of the busy Watling Street and then Harper Lane and soon we were on the hill to get into Shenley.

Six lady cyclists

Five Miles to Fabulous at Shenley

At the tearooms we met up with Rona and her ‘fabulous ladies’ out on their 5 miles to fabulous ride, but as we got there as they were about to leave. There were happy faces all around though and they had left us some cakes.

From the tearooms it was a quick jaunt back to Morrison’s via London Colney to end another successful ride.

Neil 18/07/2015

12 July 2015

12 Jul 2015: Harlington to Harrold-Odell

It was one of Carol's picnic rides in deepest Bedfordshire, so naturally we had all crammed our waterproofs in alongside our picnic hampers.

Group outside station
Starting at Harlington Station allowed us to explore new territory to the north, but with the rail engineering works in place we had all arrived by car.

Cycling on concrete track
Carol took us past the Millbrook Proving Ground (no petrol-heads around at this time) and used the well-surfaced National Cycle Route 51 to cross the A421.  After a steep climb up to a windswept plateau we arrived at Cranfield ready for a break.

We found our way to the Cafe Pacific, overlooking the vast runway at Cranfield, but it had closed down in June and the bookshop/cafe in the village was also closed.  Carol enquired at the village shop and we were given directions back to the Cranfield Students' Union cafe & bar.  Just as well as it was hidden away amongst the myriad of developments on the Cranfield University site.

Toast being served at cafe
We received a warm welcome as we seemed to be the only customers - most students were either on vacation or still in bed at that time.

The CSU cafe was a great find and served up some excellent and good-value meals for us mature students.

Group at picnic table in waterproofs
Sure enough, the rain only really got going as we were enjoying our picnic at Harrold-Odell Country Park.  But it wasn't raining quite hard enough to wash the hundreds of little black flying beetles off our yellow rain jackets.  Oh - the joys of a typical British summer!

muddy track
The rain just got heavier and heavier for most of the 15 miles after lunch and included a brief spell of hail.  We were thoroughly soaked but the sun finally re-emerged as we came into Marston Moretaine on another part of NCR 51.
Sunny picnic table
Drying out at Marston Moretaine Country Park.

Wind turbine
There are some good cycle routes around the country park.  We followed one of them to Stewartby Station, where we could see the few remaining chimneys of the London Brickworks in Marston Vale. Our route then took us through the historic town centre of Ampthill and back to Harlington for the drive back down a rather congested M1 after a memorable day out.

60 mile route.

Jon 12/07/2015

5 July 2015

05 Jul 2015: Fete du Velo at Redbourn

Just four people turned up for the morning ride while other regulars were volunteering at the Redbourn cycling event.  Geoff, Judy and the Braziers whizzed around the flattish route and enjoyed a coffee stop at CuriosiTea cafe in Ivinghoe. 

Afterwards they headed back to the Fete du Velo on Redbourn common for a picnic lunch. 
Cycle event

Meanwhile Richard, Rona, Neil and Jon were gathering interest in rides, helping people with their enquiries and handing out lots of free maps, while gamely trying to stop everything blowing away in the breeze.
Cycle event
We'll have to restock before the next one.

Route via Ivinghoe:

Carol 05/07/2015