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