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   

15 August 2015

15 Aug 2015: Saturday ride to Stanborough Lakes

This was a great Saturday jaunt out with a well-attended group of riders of all abilities. Richard was our leader and he had an interesting route planned.

Large group outside supermarket
Starting outside Morrisons, Fleetville

We set off down the Alban Way and it was really lovely, many of the group not having being there before were pleasantly surprised at this tranquil little path that led us straight to Hatfield. We kept off the road as we navigated our way to Mill Green and just past the museum we picked up a dirt track that took us under a bridge and on to the lakes. We skirted the lake and took a refreshing break at the café there watching the sailing and the dogs chasing the ducks.

Group with bikes at lake 
Sailing on the lake
Stanborough Lakes
 Dog chasing ducks in the lake

From here we headed up through the town of WGC, and at the big white bridge we popped down onto the wooded path of Sherrardspark Wood, a lovely leafy affair of oaks and hornbeams in the middle of WGC. We followed this and made our way over towards the Ayots and then took the Ayot Greenway to Wheathampstead.

From Wheathampstead we navigated through the lanes and back over to Sandridge, and then we went up through Oakland’s college and back onto the Alban Way to complete a lovely morning’s ride of under 20 miles. Many thanks are due to Richard for giving us a good and mostly off road route.

Neil 15/08/2015

9 August 2015

09 Aug 2015: St Albans to Winslow

The morning churchgoers quickened their pace as they passed the war memorial. What was that strangely clad group standing furtively by it? Could they be migrants discharged from a lorry from Calais? Or was it vagrants recovering from an alcoholic Saturday night? And those bicycles were obviously stolen, shouldn’t the police be called?  They hurried on into St Peter’s Church. But their fears and suspicions were unfounded as it was just South Herts CTC assembling for their ride to Winslow. 

The route was straight up the Redbourn Road, then Gaddesden Row to Whipsnade. Here could be seen through the fence of the zoo the wallabies distinctly lacking a spring in their steps today. Had news about the Test Cricket result been conveyed by their keepers? We continued through Eaton Bray & Slapton to arrive at the cafe at Pages Park railway station, Leighton Buzzard at 11 a.m. to find the staff discussing their prospects if the railways were nationalised as had been proposed by some Labour leadership contestants. 

outside the station cafe
Page's Park Station

Here we met Mike from Amersham who usually rides with South Bucks CTC. So we had gained one but lost six (the pace had been a little fast on a hot day). We left the cafe and continued via Ledburn, where the pub containing memorabilia from the Great Train Robbery was now just a house. 

After Wing we reached the quaintly named Soulbury, where the annual scarecrow competition was in full swing and some of our number were in danger of winning first prize if they stayed still long enough. Such festivals are a recent phenomenon spread by concern over the welfare of this dwindling breed frowned upon by agri-business.

Two scarecrows enjoying a pint outside the pub
Scarecrow vicar holding teacup on a tractor
Scarecrows in Soulbury
Finally we reached Winslow and the Bell Hotel. This was old-fashioned enough to have a bowl of cheese cubes on the bar; moreover there were not many punters around yet to have coughed over them. Nonetheless we bought sandwiches & settled down on the patio to enjoy our drinks. Conversation homed in on the alarming decline in the number of nightclubs, which could affect the riders’ weekend activities. Meanwhile, Richard was fixing his slow puncture which had been evident since mid-morning, but when he put his tyre back on there was a bulge around the valve. The collective expertise of the other riders was then used to rectify this situation and we left Winslow a little late at 2:15 pm. 

The tea stop was scheduled at Berkhamsted and although it was 4:15 pm when we arrived we noticed that Simmons was still open so we piled in to enjoy coffee & cakes in the air-conditioned interior. Then it was the well-ridden route back via Hemel & Bunkers Lane to end relatively flat this 75 mile circuit.

Steve 9/8/2015

8 August 2015

08 Aug 2015: Saturday fun ride to Redbourn

The meet: Morrison’s Fleetville  

The destination: the Hub Redbourn  

This week we welcomed a really healthy sized group to the ride; we had 4 of the 5MTF regular ladies and 8 riders who had seen our group on the GoSkyRide site or had spied our own website and decided to give us a go. We are used to riders coming up from London, but this week our fame had spread as far as Wellingborough! 

So at 10am a contingent of a dozen riders followed me along a route I knew well, taking the quiet Valley Road that swings around to the Harpenden Road. We pootled along and took Beesonend Lane, which leads to the fisheries. It’s here that everybody has to do their best at lifting their bike up onto a bridge to get over the river Ver. We made our way past the Redbournbury Mill, which is a fine sight. One of the pleasures of doing these rides is showing people who live in this area just what is sitting on their doorstep, with main roads bypassing a lot of the more interesting parts of our countryside.

2 August 2015

02 Aug 2015: Panshanger to Royston

It must have been a good weather forecast as there were 13 of us starting at the Panshanger golf course in Welwyn Garden City. The first (elevenses) stop was at Hare Street, a village north of Braughing in the east of the county. So we were off at a good pace through Bramfield, Dane End and then across the A10 into Puckeridge. From there it was into Braughing and straight up a quiet ‘B’ road past various hamlets until 18 miles from the start we reached Hare Street.

This is a picturesque village with some ancient ‘jettied’ houses. Our stop was at just such an ancient building, ‘The Old Swan’ tea rooms. In fact we sat in the garden next to a pond being entertained by a gaggle of noisy geese.

1 August 2015

01 Aug 2015: FreeCycle London

South Herts CTC helped out at the Dr Bike session held next to St Paul's Cathedral.