27 December 2015

27 Dec 2015: Hatfield to Shephall

As we left home on another warm and drizzly day, fueled on Christmas fare, we thought ourselves lucky compared to the flood victims up north.  For us, this mediterranean style winter (warm wet winters westerly winds), was preferable to the icy conditions you might expect, but how many others would be joining us?  Our starting cafe, Jenny's in Hatfield, had the shutters up and looked closed for the day when we arrived at 10 am; so Vish, Judy and I found our way to the Asda cafe.  Having left a note on Jenny's shutters, we were soon joined by our leader, Carol.  After our coffee and cake, with no-one else arriving, would it be worth going out on the ride?  We decided to check for any stragglers lingering outside Jenny's and there they were - six of them inside the cafe enjoying themselves and wondering where the leader was - maybe sticking a note on roller shutters wasn't the cleverest idea?

Group paused in sunshine
We dragged them out for a late start and soon Carol was leading us onto the Cole Green Way, where Judy's Radar Key came in very useful for opening the gate on the Old Coach Road. We were cycling along happily enough through the scotch mist and light drizzle, but came to a sudden halt on the Watton Road in Datchworth,  A deep flood across the road here and we did a hasty u-turn to find another way into Watton.  Soon the sun made a welcome appearance as Carol led us from Aston on a complicated route, including a short bit of rather mucky off-road, into Stevenage to the swallowed-up village of Shephall.

The Old Red Lion has mutated into a Hungry Horse.  It lived up to its name by providing substantial and good value lunches provided with friendly and efficient service.

After lunch some opted for the direct route south on the B road, but most were happy to follow the quieter lanes via Old Knebworth and Codicote.  The drizzle returned for a while, but it was never heavy enough to worry us too much and our last Sunday ride of 2015 had been an enjoyable one thanks to Carol.

Jon 27/12/2015

20 December 2015

20 Dec 2015: St Albans to Hatfield

Our destination, the new JD Wetherspoon pub named Harpsfield Hall, bears no resemblance whatsoever to the former mansion after which it is named.  The Hall that dated from the 16th century had been converted into a farmhouse in the 19th century and that had been demolished in the 1930s, when Hatfield Aerodrome was developed. Indeed, the industrial theme used in the pub is based on the aerodrome and the de Havilland factory.  There are aerial photos and some interesting bench seats made from aircraft engine cowlings.  Quite why it was given the name of a mediaeval manor house is a mystery. 

Waterend Barn
Sunny stop

We could have gone straight along the Alban Way, but Carol is not known for taking the easy route, so a convoluted path was traced out as eleven of us headed north out of St Albans to Wheathampstead, then Ayot St Lawrence and Ayot St Peter, before turning south towards Hatfield.  Here we met John and Russ, who had gone there directly.

Dinner time

This was our Christmas Lunch ride, and we’ve used various Wetherspoons for this before, but this one was new and wasn’t doing turkey dinners.  Never mind, there was plenty on the menu to satisfy and we weren’t too bothered about missing out on the silly paper hats.  A heavy shower delayed our departure, but all the riding was in the dry, which made a welcome change for the thirteen who had ventured out in this decidedly wet December.


13 December 2015

13 Dec 2015: Hatfield to Hoddesdon

This was the first time we had scheduled a Sunday ride meeting at a cafĂ© at 10.00 for a 10.30 departure.  The plan is to do this through the depths of winter when icy roads can often make cycling hazardous early on, but the roads can clear by mid-morning.  Perhaps we should have allowed more for global warming, as we've had record high temperatures this December.
two cyclists
There were seven of us at the start.  Carol came to give us the latest bulletin on Steve's health (a prolapsed disc) before leaving to attend to the invalid.  John Edwards, whom we had not seen on a South Herts ride for some time, promised us a regular attendance if these late starts could be made permanent.

There was no ice to avoid but the delayed start did mean that the rain had cleared by the time we left.  Our lunch destination was the new Wetherspoons pub in Hoddesdon.  I'd had some fun finding a route that was long enough, without venturing into the urban areas such as Harlow, WGC and Cheshunt.  We looped around a bit through Little Switzerland, before joining the main lane along Tylers Causeway and White Stubbs Lane.  This seemed busier than normal, perhaps a consequence of our later departure.  Next time I'll do even more looping around in the smaller lanes.

We crossed the Lea Valley at Broxbourne and did a loop round in Essex, taking the small lane that climbs uphill to Nazeing Church.  I resisted venturing further into Harlow but headed back downhill again though Roydon Hamlet to Dobbs Weir bridge, which a quick check of the Highways web-site the day before had shown to be open to cyclists that weekend.  Once through here, it was a short ride to our lunch time destination where Richard joined us.
As usual, Wetherspoons had done a good job of converting the pub and provided a good value menu.  After lunch we divided into two groups to ride home: the more northerly group heading back via Goose Green and Hertford and the southerly group taking the traffic free (but tarmaced) route through the Lea Valley Park.

Judy 13/12/2015

6 December 2015

06 Dec 2015: St Albans to Chesham

A wet and windy day in December – ideal weather for a picnic ride?  At least it was nothing compared to the torrential rain up north.

The day started with gale force winds and the rain forecast for later kept the numbers riding this week down. But the brave souls who ventured out were soon heading west to Belsize and Flaunden. The fierce wind was unnerving going through some woods, but I suppose anything that was going to blow down did it last week when the wind was even stronger.

up hill riding

Crossing the river Chess from Latimer we went up the steep and bumpy hill opposite - the steepest climb of the lot to get up to the Chalfonts. Our stop in Ozzy's in Little Chalfont was OK, but the place may have changed hands and we were treated with exaggerated politeness - how often does the owner of a caff open the door for a bedraggled bunch of soaked cyclists and bow when you are leaving?

consulting the map

Lunch was now only about three miles as the crow flies, so a loop was called for. Quiet lanes took us to Chalfont St Giles, then Winchmore Hill and Holmer Green. We dropped down the delightful valley road to Little Missenden and then up and down again to lunch in the Pheasant in Chesham. They are quite happy for us to eat your own picnic of sandwiches in the pub, washed down with soft drinks, real ale or coffee to suit personal habits. From there a direct way home was called for as the rain was getting to be persistent, but we still managed almost 50 miles in less than ideal conditions.

Richard 06/12/2015