17 December 2017

17 Dec 2017: St Albans to Hatfield

Through the swirling mist on a cold morning six riders gathered in the welcome warmth of the Waterend Barn. Coffee, and for some, breakfast was consumed in preparation for the twenty-mile jaunt to Hatfield. Taking a roundabout route to get to the King William on Sandridge Road, Carol complained about a noise emanating from her front wheel, After stopping for inspection & removing her front wheel, her disc-brake pads promptly fell out. Taking this as a bad omen, she decided to return the half-mile home to take the bus to Hatfield.  We continued through Sandridge, across Nomansland and down Leasey Bridge Lane and through Marshalls Heath with the sky brightening. I had intended to go via Peters Green, but after a descent to the Lower Luton Road & looking at my watch I aborted this plan & headed for Kimpton to take the shortest route from there to Hatfield.  Promptly at mid-day the rain started; it was light at first & I made the mistake of not donning my waterproof shorts. The rain slowly but steadily intensified, so by the time we had traversed along Kimpton Bottom, up to Ayot Green and down to Lemsford & Hatfield Garden Village to Hatfield we were all rather wet. John E arrived at the same time as us (1 p.m.) having cycled straight to the pub. 
Harpsfield Hall
All the others, including Jon and Judy who had ridden from Barnet were already sitting in warmth and dry at a table for twelve in Harpsfield Hall where we all enjoyed a Christmas Lunch, one of us having the traditional dish of vegetable curry. Jon presented Carol with "The Jon Crosby trophy for best South Herts ride leader".


3 December 2017

3 Dec 2017: St Albans to Caddington

This was our first winter ride of the season, with a later start time and a single stop at lunch.  Fortunately the weather was mild and, despite some light rain on the way to the start, dry.

We welcomed two new riders: Richard from Harpenden, who had recently given up commuting for a local job; and fellow EU citizen Ronny, an astrophysicist from Germany currently living in St Albans.  Ronny told us he had come here for love and work, so let’s hope the funding for science does not disappear in the next few years.

There were a lot of charity Santa runners around the pub forecourt for the Jingle Bell Jog, so I took a slightly circuitous route to the Market Street and then headed out towards Redbourn before using Hogg End Lane to skirt around the edge of Hemel.  There was a lot of motor traffic in the narrow lanes near Hemel, perhaps a consequence of our later start.  The wider route along Gaddesden Row was welcome, as the cars had room to overtake.

After Gaddesden Row, we cut cross country, up and down a couple of hills to hit the outskirts of Dunstable.  A back seat driver interfered at one stage, but then admitted my route was correct.  From Dunstable, a short stretch of the A5 took us to the turning for Caddington.

Carol had checked with the Chequers at Caddington, that they would be able to serve us sandwiches, and they had said there was no problem.  Once we were there, the pub decided they had too many bookings for lunch to cope with us.  Fortunately we had reached the pub in good time and a quick phone call by Carol to the Plough at Woodside, confirmed they would welcome us.

After lunch, we took a reasonably direct lanes route back through Slip End and Annables Lane to Harpenden and from there over Nomansland Common.  Richard left the group at Harpenden to put in a fast circuit before he got home.
Judy 03/12/2017

26 November 2017

26 Nov 2017: Hatfield to Benington

We welcomed new rider John and set off around a familiar route to Hertford. Taking in the delights of Tyler’s Causeway, Cucumber Lane, Little Berkhamsted, Bayford, and Brickendon. One of the great and satisfying things about leading a ride is introducing folk to new countryside, so it was with a bit of pleasure that this aim was well and truly achieved. At Brickendon I took a light bridleway near the Celtic Harmony camp. This track wheedles its way over to Monks Green and then onto the Mangrove Green road that drops into Hertford.

Tea break was a rowdy and sociable affair, with Rose’s in full swing, and here we met Jon, Judy, Richard and Peter and we introduced new people plus gave a quick report on the state of ice-less roads. We lost two of our number, and gained a puncture. I guess doing the light off-road didn’t agree with Steve H’s front tyre, but the situation was resolved extremely quickly and efficiently.

Haultwick Library
We headed out towards Stoney Hills and over the busy A602 to Sacombe Park. Here Jon and Judy took the lower route to Dane End to avoid the nasty crossing and the gravelly track in the park, while we did the gravelly track and zipped down White Hill in style. We didn’t have to wait for long before our party reunited again, then we traversed a wiggly, undulating route that took in Haultwick, Wood Green, Ardeley and made its way down to Walkern. At Haultwick, we stopped to inspect a great bit of community spirit. An old telephone box had been turned into a lending library of sorts, with some rather recent books on display.

In Walkern it was my intention to go on to Clay End, but the road I needed to take was before a pub on the OS map. I got to the pub with no road in sight, but luckily one of our number came to the rescue and found the lane was right after the pub and very easy to miss. So off to Clay End we toddled. We also toddled straight on at a crossroads where we should’ve gone right, so we dipped down and came back on ourselves to take a bridleway to Benington.

The Bell is a wonderful Grade II 500 year old pub, with a very friendly team running it. It features a Trinidadian and Caribbean menu, plus some good old staples. Curries were chosen by some of our gourmets, and I have to say they smelt lovely and everyone enjoyed the food and the relaxed atmosphere of the establishment.

The Wednesday evening gang would love this pub.

All that was left to do now was go home and we did this via Bragbury End and Datchworth to finish a lovely day’s ride.
Neil 26/11/2017

19 November 2017

19 Nov 2017: St Albans to Woodside

We welcomed two new people who had seen our ride advertised and had cycled up from south of Watford.  Mick and Geoff must have had a very cold start and it wasn't much warmer by the time the ride started, due to the light, northerly wind, but the roads weren't icy.  Seven of us set off in bright sunshine and a few hills soon dispelled the chill on our route through Verulamium Park to Ragged Hall Lane and on to tackle a few Chiltern hills to Berkhamsted.

We were slightly late due to a rouge flint, but service at Wetherspoons was swift due to the robotisation of the coffee dispensing process. Just pressing a button for unlimited refills ensured that most had enough caffeine drug in their bloodstreams to fail a UCI test, although one of us managed an early pint while fixing his bike.

Outside Ashridge House
It was still cold outside, so we didn't mind too much that the next set of Chiltern hills kept the blood flowing. Ashridge Park was particularly scenic with autumnal colours on the beech trees and we stopped for a photo call by the management college. Our only other stop was for a 'call of nature' due to the pint consumed earlier.

We were welcomed at the pub in Woodside and shown to our reserved table in the restaurant, complete with plastic tablecloths, which seemed a bit strange for a country pub. But it was nice and warm inside, the lunch was substantial and there was one real ale, the ubiquitous Doombar, on offer.

We left lunch a bit later than planned, but the final leg back to St Albans was only 11 miles. It was a good route to Harpenden, but the direct route then took us along the A1081 cycle track, which is narrow, uneven and generally a good example of how not to provide safer routes for cyclists.

It was better when we rejoined the main road and we got back at 3:15 pm, so even those who had to ride home another 10-15 miles made it just before it was completely dark.

Carol had led us on a lovely circuit into The Chilterns, which really was almost an exactly circular route.

18 November 2017

18 Nov 2017: Fun ride to Hoddesdon

Undaunted by the wet forecast, three of us met in Hatfield for a slightly more challenging saunter around the lumpier bits of Hertfordshire. We set off for Welham Green, and took Bulls Lane over to the Great North Road, where David took charge of getting us over the rather busy road: there was traffic everywhere. Our route took us up Cum Cum Hill and via Cucumber Lane to Little Berkhamsted, then White Stubbs Lane before dropping down into Bayford.

Throughout this the countryside looked fantastic, a glorious display of reds, golds, fire oranges and some plants with deep reddish purple leaves.

We climbed up to Brickendon and here it started to drizzle and it didn’t stop; this was the kind of rain that got you very wet. We persevered and thoroughly enjoyed a trip through Broxbourne Woods, which looked splendid as it always does. By the time we got to Hoddesdon we were well and truly wet, not soaked but wet. So a nice hot coffee was the order of the day.

Our route back home was less hilly, but it was a steady climb for most of the way, we made our soggy way via Goose Green, Hertford, Hertingfordbury and WGC. By the time we got back to Hatfield we were all ready to head home. It was a lovely ride marred only by the rain.

One of our small number also made a personal best with his mileage and he had raised his seat a tad, which really made a difference to his ride.

Neil 18/11/2017

12 November 2017

12 Nov 2017: Hatfield to Wareside

Eight people at the start in Hatfield, not bad for winter morning and especially as three were relative newcomers. Still, although it was cold, it was bright and sunny, which always lifts the spirits. So away we went heading for Dane End, which was to be our elevenses stop. We went at a sensible pace through Tewin Woods where we marvelled at the hyper expensive mansions which are there and on through Datchworth and Watton at Stone. Then instead of going directly to Dane End we went northwards towards Benington before turning northeast up a little used lane. The countryside here is glorious and in the winter sunshine it was almost idyllic, apart from the fact that it was a long steady climb. Eventually we were up on the ridge and an easy ride to Whempstead before some ups and downs leading to Dane End. Here our destination was the golf club, which is just beyond the village but up a very steep hill. However, once this was climbed we had earned our break and could relax in the clubhouse with coffee and food. After this our three ‘newcomers’ had to turn back as they had other commitments.

There were now five of us going to lunch at Wareside which is not far, most of whom were eagerly anticipating the Foxholes farm sausages.

So instead of heading southeast we went away from Wareside, back down the steep hill and northwest using very quiet rural lanes through Haultwick and Rush Green before swinging around to Puckeridge. Then we cruised through Standon where we looked at its famous ‘megalithic’ pudding stone (ancient fertility symbol) before crossing the river by the footbridge at the 3-foot deep ford. Then it was down the valley along a narrow and beautiful lane following the river Rib before crossing it again on another footbridge at Barwick ford. From there it was just a few more easy miles to Wareside. Lunch was at “The Chequers”, a much-liked proper old style pub where we met Jon and Judy who had ridden directly there, and the sausages were excellent!

After that it was homewards via Ware and Hertford and the “Old Coach Road” back to Hatfield. All told we had done about 38 miles mostly in sunshine and had got back easily before it had got dark.


5 November 2017

5 Nov 2017:St Albans to Mangrove Green

Yet another dry and sunny Sunday found eight riders gathering at the start for a trip to Woodside for a coffee stop. It was good to see two brand-new riders and one for a second time. We headed out of St Albans via Hogg End Lane, then on the way past Old Jeromes on the link road to Punchbowl Lane, we came across a flood spanning the full width of the road. We all pedalled through the murky water with only Peter unfortunately having to put a foot down midway after he wobbled. After cutting through the back of Buncefield and Maylands industrial estate we managed to cycle through many quiet lanes near Gaddesden Row and Flamstead before arriving at Jake's cafe only to find it shut on Sundays for the winter. (Why don't businesses update their websites with this type of information? I just looked online and it still says open on Sunday 10 till 2!)

Anyway, plan B came into effect and we went a mile along the road to the lovely Harpers cafe at the farm shop in Pepperstock instead, where we all chose off the reasonably priced menu. Newcomer Tanya had the largest hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows I've ever seen.

Five of us carried on to the lunch stop using a route cutting back towards Harpenden then meandering through the quiet lanes east of Luton airport. The photo below shows how rural it is in Chiltern Green, just a few yards from the runway.

Chiltern Green
Near Breachwood Green I tried to get a photo of the low flying aircraft just above us before they land at Luton airport. Unfortunately the plane went by directly overhead and I missed the shot. You can use your imagination by looking at the two photos below.

At  Mangrove Green we met up with Jon, Judy and Adrian and had good-value food in the nicely refurbished pub. Afterwards Peter, Steve B and I headed back via Harpenden while the others went along Lilley Bottom. We all benefitted from a tail wind for the home leg. We covered just over 40 miles, rather less than Jon and Judy.


29 October 2017

29 Oct 2017: Hatfield to Wadesmill

We were only just in time arriving at Hatfield due to a couple of 'mechanicals' on the way there and it was great to see a goodly bunch of day glow clad cyclists waiting eagerly at the start.  The nine riders included newcomer Alisdair, with his day glow yellow winter bike.  With the clocks going back an hour there would be no problem being seen in the twilight hours (unlike several all-in-black solo cyclists we spied later that day).

Some leaders research their routes carefully, even riding them first before leading a group.  I prefer a more adventurous approach and like to explore routes seen on the map and Streetview that I haven't done before. The first was a track through Balls Park just south of Hertford. Carol knew this one, so led us through this gated area on a quiet bridleway, emerging near the top of the hill approaching Hertford Heath.

My second diversion was through the grounds of the grand Haileybury School, with its classical buildings designed by William Wilkins (who also designed the National Gallery). This school is where Clement Attlee and Field Marshal Allenby were educated.

After an excellent break at the Village Cafe in Stanstead Abbotts, we carried on through Hunsdon, Widford and Wareside until we reached Baker's End.  Here the third bit of exploration began, although as no-one had tried it before, half decided to stick to the longer lanes routes. Four of us turned left instead onto a direct, bridleway route to Cold Christmas. It started as tarmac, then after a pond, the surface was well compacted stone until we emerged on the lane to Thundridge slightly ahead of the others.

Baker's End to Cold Christmas bridleway

Lunch at Wadesmill went very well, despite 6 kitchen staff having just walked out for some unknown reason. We made good use of the time by sorting out ride leaders for the rides list.  Then we decided to return via Ware to avoid roadworks on the A602 and we all got as far as Hertford before individuals started to peel off for home.  It was a shortish ride and we all got back well before dark.

Jon 29/10/2017

22 October 2017

22 Oct 2017: St Albans to Tring

The forecast was for a very strong westerly wind so I wasn't surprised that there were only four people turned up at the start. The original planned destination was Hughenden Valley on the far side of the Chilterns which would have been a long slog into a headwind. We decided to go to the planned coffee stop in Tring which we reached via the usual Gaddesdon Row, Little Gaddesden and Aldbury route. We were amazed to see what appeared to be the biggest pumpkin in the world displayed on a pallet outside the cafe.

Probably perpetual pumpkin pie?

After coffee and a long chat, Steve C (who shared with us he does 12,000 miles per year on his bike) left to go home and the rest of us climbed up to Cholesbury via the gentle Hastoe Hill before heading back to Hemel via Ashley Green, Bovingdon and Felden. As Richard had carried a sandwich he headed for home and we went into the Full House where Steve delivered his quota of CAMRA "Pints of View" magazines and we took advantage of the last day of their autumn beer festival to try a chocolate porter.

We got back to St Albans at about 3.15 after a round trip of 48 miles; quite enough on a bright windy day. My gpx track showed a three-minute stop where Steve called in at the frequently used-by cyclists public lavatory on Romeland Hill so I thought it worthy of a mention on the map.


21 October 2017

21 Oct 2017: Blustery fun ride to Chipperfield

Four of us met at Morrison’s on Saturday morning and it was very blustery due to storm Brian (the second named storm to hit us this autumn). We chatted as to whether we should go ahead with ride and decided to go for it. We took a familiar straightforward route through the park and up along Bedmond Lane.

Storm Brian approaching the UK
One of our number had a bad back and was feeling the pinch and he persevered, but at Nash Mills he took the sensible decision to turn around, which left three of us to deal with the rather pleasant ascent that is Rucklers Lane. Going up this way afforded us some protection from the winds. We arrived at the garden centre in very good spirits; so good we decided to carry on with the ride instead of heading back the way we came.

So after a quick break we headed home via Chipperfield, Kings Langley and Tom’s Lane. Actually we were blown most of the way back with only one dodgy bit as it started to rain and get really blustery, but this passed rather quickly and the skies parted for a mo to give us some sunshine.

In all it was a pleasant, windy ride out.

Neil 21/10/2017

15 October 2017

15 Oct 2017: Wheathampstead to Biggleswade

The forecast was for a dry day as five riders met for the 9 a.m. start in Wheathampstead. There would have been six but one person got lost en-route in the Hatfield cycle paths so missed the ride. We reached Baldock quite early, as a tail wind, left over from the previous day's hurricane Ophelia, pushed us along the back lanes via Ayot St Lawrence, Kimpton, Wymondley and Willian. Adrian met us at Cafe Plus where it was busy,  so for the first time ever we had to sit downstairs in the basement.

After coffee we headed north-east for a loop out into Cambridgeshire via Ashwell and the Mordens. There seemed to be two types of rally on these roads, as first we saw three old Rolls Royces and then a series of steam rollers and traction engines.

Puffing up the hill
The Crown in Biggleswade is a new J.D. Wetherspoon hotel  and we managed to find a sunny sheltered spot outside to enjoy the very reasonably priced food alongside some of the beer-festival ales on offer. They have made an effort to showcase some local information on the various pictures and storyboards inside the pub, and one in particular caught our interest, referencing the Ivel bicycle invented by Dan Albone, a Biggleswade resident.
294 miles in 24 hours!
(Sorry about the reflected lamp above looking a bit like a spaceship. )
After lunch we turned back south and followed a country route via Broom, Ireland, Shefford and Pirton before a short spell on the extremely busy B655 before Adrian showed us a quiet route to miss Hitchin's busy roads and reach our tea stop. We had coffeee and large bits of cake courtesy of the Three Moorhens and sat in the sunny garden so long it was getting dark before we reached home in St Albans after a 65-mile round trip. You couldn't have had a better October day for cycling


8 October 2017

08 Oct 2017: Panshanger to Great Hornmead

One or two surprises were in store for us today. The first was the ride leader morphing overnight - I had to do some rapid route planning due to Tracey having to miss today's ride. Tracey had chosen Panshanger as the start (she lives in WGC), but it's a place that's easy to get 'temporarily disorientated' in, as Sue proved when she had to phone for help finding the starting place.

The sun was out and with autumn colours starting to appear it was a beautiful ride across to Stony Hills. Then came the inevitable crossing of the A602. What a nightmare - even at 10 am on a Sunday morning it was a long wait for a gap and then we still had a near miss with a speeding motorcyclist.  The bridleway through Sacombe Park was a bit rough, but we were soon back onto quiet lanes to Barwick Ford and the coffee stop in Much Hadham.
There goes Emma
We had noticed several sportive riders, and soon after leaving we did a double take as we spotted Emma cycling towards us.  We stopped for a brief chat before letting her continue on her 'The Only Way is Essex' ride.

Inspired, we put in an extra loop via Hazel End and Manuden, pausing only to inspect Neil's new Aldi winter tights, which appeared to be on back to front.
The reflective bits really are on the front of the tights
We soon arrived at the quiet pub in Great Hornmead for lunch in the sunny garden.  Then it was an easy ride down to Puckeridge and across towards Dane End. Along here we noticed the rusting Greenwich Meridian sign, erected in 2000 near St Edmund's College. The obelisk in the field behind it was erected a little later. It works as a sundial and was also built on the meridian to commemorate the millennium.
Meridian sign near Old Hall Green
Having been given the bums rush at Rose cafe before, we opted this time for Sainsbury's cafe in Hertford. This is on the site of the McMullen brewery, which just happened to be having an open day, so after tea we had a look around.

1932 Sentinel Steam Wagon
The steam-driven dray was fascinating.  Originally owned by a Yorkshire flour mill, it was later converted into a tar sprayer then converted back to a wagon. McMullens bought it in 1983. Not the most efficient of vehicles, weighing just under 6 tons it consumes 250 gallons of water and 2 cwt of coal to go 20 miles at a top speed of 45 mph.

Having a fun time at the brewery
We didn't have time to book on a brewery tour and get a free ale, but made the most of our visit by pretending to be local yokels instead.

Jon 08/10/2017

1 October 2017

01 Oct 2017: St Albans to Lacey Green

On the first day of October in the dense autumn mist we set off heading north, avoiding St Peters Street which was occupied with stalls, including a Routemaster bus, in preparation for the annual St Albans Food and Drink festival, By the time we got to Bedmond Lane there was heavy drizzle so we stooped to don rain jackets. Continuing through Chipperfield and Belsize, we stopped again near Hollins Hall as Peter had suffered a sudden deflation. The culprit, a sharp flint that would have penetrated even a Marathon Plus, was found almost instantly, but the inevitable delay caused us to be late arriving at Masterchef in Amersham. A parked Roberts bike nearby betrayed the presence of Richard who claimed he had recently arrived after “just missing” us at the start. Snacks and coffee were quickly served by a charming young waitress who made the riders reluctant to leave the cafe. Continuing on through Hyde Heath and the HS2 NIMBY boards at Great Missenden we passed through Great Hampden and Parslows Hillock to arrive at the Black Horse at Lacey Green at 12:25. The timing turned out to be fortunate, for all tables except the one by the patio, were marked as reserved. We swiftly occupied this and ordered baguettes and beer and managed to leave at 13:20. Working off lunch over the steep hills at Darvillshill and Speen we called in at Ray and  Rhona's Open Day at Prestwood. This is an annual exhibition of ancient bikes that Ray, of the South Bucks CTC, inherited from his father-in-law.
Ancient Bikes
A very unusual bike was this wooden one with skis.
Wooden Ski Bike
After marvelling at the weight of some of the bikes from the early 1900s we ploughed on through Great Missenden and towards Little Pednor, ignoring the the signs that the road was closed even to pedestrians. Cyclists coming in the opposite direction assured us that the obstruction was navigable which indeed it was; a subsequent notice proclaimed that it  was due to “conducter pulling in progress”. 
Engineers' Spelling!
Despite the bizarre spelling, we deduced that this was something to do with the electricity cables attached to the nearby pylon. Passing then through the medieval Little Pednor farm we continued through Chesham, climbing up to Pinner Green, followed by the steep dip after Ley Hill, and along Venus Hill to arrive at the Mediterranean Garden Centre at 3:45. Anticipating to be brushed off so close to closing time, we were warmly welcomed by the staff who said we were the only cyclists to have visited them after a very quiet day and were pleased to see us. Leaving at 4:10 we returned taking the usual route via Rucklers Lane and  Bunkers Lane. We had done about 58 miles.

Steve B

30 September 2017

30 Sep 2017: St Albans to Dacorum Cycle Hub

A group of 12 riders met at Morrison’s for this morning’s proceedings and we welcomed a new Breeze rider Julia. We took a short but lovely route to The Dacorum Hub, a familiar way through the back streets of Fleetville and the Verulamium Ind. Estate. Then we headed out on Sandridgebury Road and took the farmer’s road leading to Redbourn Road. I always forget that this is a private road and had a polite reminder from the farmer half way down.

It was then just a case of popping through Childwickbury, up the A5 and then up the undulating road that is Hog End Lane. We traversed the whole of this lane, bringing up conversations and memories of the Buncefield explosion. Couldn’t help feeling a little nervous as we cycled between the new fuel tanks, where they want to store petrol again despite previous assurances.

Soon we arrived at The Hub and we were made very welcome. It’s great to see this new facility for cyclists in Hemel and it was a great, chatty atmosphere, which was commented on by one of the ladies. I had a feeling we may have been the first large group to actually use the place as a destination, or maybe just the noisiest. One of them lined us up and took a great photo of us all.
Leaving the Dacorum Cycle Hub
Photo: Tracey Palmer
After our break we headed for the Nicky line. Here we left Jon and Judy as they thought it would be too muddy for the trike. I must say this part of the ride was really enjoyable. The trees were in great form and the going was slightly squidgy. It was also a mostly downhill ride and very pleasant it was too - a real breeze of a ride. We left the old train track at Redbourn to head back to Fleetville via the A5, Hertingfordbury Mill and over to Ayots End Lane.

We crossed Nomansland Common and headed back through the small village of Sandridge and Oaklands College, where we visited the very shaven alpacas. Along the way I tested the water on thoughts of doing an all day Saturday ride, there were some favourable murmurings.

Neil 30/09/2017

24 September 2017

24 Sep 2017: Hertford to Hazel End

Today was " The ride of the road closures!"

We had only returned from a three-week trip to France on Friday evening, so admittedly it was with some dismay we realised the need to get over to Hertford for a 9am start on Sunday morning. Anyway we used the car to get there and met up with Jon, Judy, Tracey, Steve H and a rarely seen Alan from Stevenage. We decided to take a fairly direct route to Old Harlow so used the delightfully quiet route via Goose Green to Hoddesdon where we encountered our first unannounced road closure of the day in Lord Street. We managed to squeeze by on the pavement and reached the edge of Harlow via Rye House and Roydon before picking up the almost rural car-free route through the new town to get to the Cross Keys cafe by 10.45am.

Bob joined us at the coffee stop and Tracey went back so there were still seven of us who headed off to Hazel End. We wiggled around the countryside passing Rod Stewart's house in Lower Sheering, where we paused to admire the football pitch, and made good progress in the warm sunshine until we hit our second road closure in Bishops Stortford due to the construction of a new housing estate. We optimistically ignored the signs and ultimately managed to access the road towards Farnham.
New housing development on the edge of Bishops Stortford
The previously unvisited pub at Hazel End served us food quite quickly in the sunshine in their attractive garden.

Three Horseshoes in Hazel End
A decision was made to go back directly to Hertford and the group ended up splitting as Judy didn't know if her recumbent would get over the narrow bridge over the Ford at Standon.  Steve H was still with us finding another road closure at the end of Anchor Lane near Tonwell, which fortunately we could get through, then we naively went up to Chapmore End to use the quiet road into Hertford. It was only when we had climbed the hill that we saw another road-closed sign blocking our access. This time it was water works and there was a large cage across the entire road width surrounding a hole on only one side of the road. This time the intrepid trio had to climb over a ditch and use a field to bypass the obstruction, so it was just as well that Judy had taken a different route. Shortly afterwards we encountered 3 more cages round holes, but all of these blocked only one side of the road, so why hadn't the first one?
Steves carrying bikes at Chapmore End - look closely!

Finally we regrouped in Hertford for a cup of tea or coffee after a fairly short ride of about 49 miles

Carol & Steve

21 September 2017

17 Sep 2017: St Albans to Silsoe

A small group of courageous travellers met at the war memorial where we welcomed a new rider John (already a member of CTC, or CUK as some would have it).

First off to first break, we took a nice winding route through the lanes around Wheathampstead, Mackerye End and Peter’s Green, climbing up and wending around the countryside. It was a sort of misty, damp affair and rather pleasant if truth be told. New guy John had no trouble in keeping up. At Break we alighted at the Tea Green Golf Club, resplendent with its adverts of Foot Golf and its crazy golf course. This place seemed more like a shack and I can imagine it being very cold in winter, but lovely in summer. The lass who served us was persuaded to do a bit of toast and beans for us, she was very helpful and it turned out we weren’t the only ones who wanted breakfast.
Neil's way of doing the Bedfordshire Knowledge
Now we generally meet a few people at break and today was no exception, Adrian and Geoff joined us as did Peter, who went to the wrong starting point, but he found us so all was well.

Now on to Silsoe, we headed out towards Cockernhoe and took the chalk hill to drop down into Lilley Bottom, from here we traversed a familiar route to Higham Gobion then we made our way to Pulloxhill via the Gravenhurst roads, utilising the local knowledge that Adrian had to offer, in fact he led this part of the ride. Geoff went up the A6 instead of taking the route to Pulloxhill.

The stop at Silsoe is pleasant and they give too much food, so two of us didn’t finish our lunches.
The ride to Emily’s involved re-tracing our route but carrying onto the A6 where we pootled up the side of said road on a path, passed through Barton-le-Clay and then it was back to a path beside the A6. We came off at Streatley and made our way along the length of Lilley Bottom to Emily’s in Whitwell. Along the way Geoff and Adrian peeled off to go home and Peter had to climb up back to Tea Green to collect his car. After break made our various ways back home. A lovely day’s ride.

Neil 17/09/2017

10 September 2017

10 Sep 2017: Hatfield to Tawney Common

Just five of us at the start in Hatfield set off for Roydon in Essex as our first stop. We went on a usual route through Broxbourne Woods, which were as delightful as always. We also skirted ‘Paradise Park’ the zoo near the woods where it seemed more like being in the tropics (not because of the temperature) but rather because the monkeys in the zoo were howling and screeching very loudly. Then more down to earth, after going past historic Rye House, we went past the large sewage works and so after about 17 miles from Hatfield we reached Roydon Marina.

There we used the pleasant timber cafe overlooking all the boats for our elevenses stop.
Lunch was to be at Tawney Common away to the east. Because rain was forecast for later we went by a fairly direct route to Epping and then out through more countryside to ‘The Moletrap’ pub at Tawney Common. Excellent pub, nice setting and as a plus it often has classic cars and motorcycles meeting there.
Then heading back via Upshire and its church, where we often stop for their afternoon teas, but not this time as it was too close to lunch. So on to Cedar Park Cheshunt. There is a cafe here in the interesting grounds of what was an Elizabethan mansion.

After that it was a dash homeward to try to beat the imminent rain.  Two of us went back to the start at Hatfield,  having done about 52 miles in total and just beating the rain, but the other three had further to go so may not have been so lucky.


9 September 2017

09 Sep 2017: Hatfield to Potters Bar

It was a nice crispy morning as five of us met in Hatfield. The route I had planned was a bit windy and nicely undulating. As we set off and just going up Woods Avenue Emma joined us, so we had a crew of six pootling around on the mornings ride. I chose to visit Welham Green and then make our way over to South Mimms via Waterend and up Swanland road. We were soon going through Ridge and heading down towards the A1 where there is a large tri-bridge crossing the major roadway. After that we rode up Trotters Bottom and headed along Dancers Hill. Dali, one of our newer riders, found this quite challenging, but she made it and that really is credit to her. Emma’s confidence is coming along as well, this is a nice thing to see.

We headed into Potters Bar and at the junction took Mutton Lane to get to our café. This road surprised me as I wasn’t expecting it to be a hill with a bend, but hey we all dealt with it. The café (Potters café) was a lovely, well run place which will be getting many more visits from us.
Soon it was time to head off home and we took the rather quicker route of going through town and down through Brookmans Park and then back through Welham Green. It was a lovely 19 mile ride.

3 September 2017

03 Sept 2017: Sandy to St Ives

Arriving by train or car, a smaller group than is probably usual for a Sunday ride gathered in the car park at Sandy railway station for a ride out into the wilds of Cambridgeshire.

We made our way out of Sandy past an ancient hill fort known as Caesar's Camp (though not Roman!) and on to Woodview Farm Shop and Cafe near Gamlingay for elevenses. The route then took us north, with a not inconsiderable tailwind, through the Cambridgeshire countryside and on to lunch at the Wetherspoon’s pub in St Ives, a very pretty riverside market town.

St Ives
After the usual excellent value refreshments, we retraced our path across the pedestrianised river bridge, and on through the Hemingfords. The road petered out into a well-paved cycle path across the water meadows to Godmanchester, where by necessity we picked up a number of 'B' roads out to Perry and our final stop of the day in a pleasant lakeside cafe overlooking Grafham Water. This impressively large reservoir was built in 1965 and we resisted the temptation to cycle around its 10-mile circumference.

Water Meadows

Shortly after leaving Perry the previously encountered tail wind was now in our faces, which made the final leg quite tough going. The route made up for the hard work, being along quiet country lanes for the most part, through Colmworth, Great Barford and Blunham. As time was getting on by this stage, I suggested that the Sandy party would benefit from taking the cycle path back, rather than continuing on to Moggerhanger as originally intended. It was agreed this was a good idea, and we parted company, myself heading on southward towards Shefford and home. It had been a long day out, but most enjoyable nonetheless.

Adrian 03/09/2017

27 August 2017

27 Aug 2017: St Albans to Quainton

A perfect summer's day for our ride out into the Vale of Aylesbury. But it would be one of our longer rides, so a fairly direct route via Ashley Green and Cholesbury was called for to our first stop - the cafe in Wendover Woods. The place was heaving, but the feared long wait did not happen and after pleasing refreshments we were soon on our way.

Our route NE brought us through the delightful park at Eythrope and its bridge over the River Thame. This is the only one of the Bucks Rothschild estates still occupied by the family. Next it was through the grounds of the neighbouring Waddesdon estate, through the village and on to Quainton. The George and Dragon set on the picturesque green is a treat and still doing reasonably priced food.

Time to check the map
We now set out to circle through the villages north of Aylesbury, quite high and hilly but some great views across to the Chilterns. Fearing we were going to be late for our planned tea stop, as we passed through Wingrave we saw an inviting sign for cream teas in the church. It turned out to be an all home made spread - a nice find.  The church had a plaque recording a visit by Vaclav Havel, at the time president of Czechoslovakia and distinguished author. He came to commemorate the wartime Czech government in exile, which was based in Wingrave.

Unfamiliar territory
After this relaxing break we chose the flattest route back through Tring and Berkhamsted.

Richard 27/08/2017

26 August 2017

26 Aug 2017: St Albans to Watford

We had a great turnout for our trip down the towpath. We nearly had 16 out but one of their number was late so we had to settle with 12. This was a rather straightforward ride there and back along the same route. With several newcomers it was a pleasure to welcome them and first order of the day was to get to the towpath. A wiggly route via Ragged Hall Lane, Bedmond Lane and straight down Tom’s Lane accomplished this. We popped over the junction at the end then proceeded to join the towpath at the bridge. The first part of the path was quite scrubby and rough, so two of our riders decided that going by road would be better for them.

Grand Union Canal near Watford
The surface improved, but route was full of stops and starts, as we had to pass walkers and other cyclists on the path. The path was more overgrown since I was last there and I nearly came a cropper. I cycled into what I thought was a bush (as you do) and it turned out to be a brick like thing, sending me canalwards. I still have the scars to this day. Apart from a very humped hump back bridge it was an unbroken and scenic route into Watford. Near the end some enthusiastic youngsters, having a great adventure on their bikes, joined us. All we had to do was leave the path at the bridge in Cassiobury Park and head to the café.

Cha Cha Cafe in Cassiobury Park
It’s a really good little café and quite busy. Then our group split into two with a contingency going into Watford and the rest of us going back up the towpath and to experience the delights of going up Tom’s Lane.

Neil 26/08/2017

20 August 2017

20 Aug 2017: Hatfield to Aspenden

It was great pleasure to see the return of two regular riders after some unfortunate events and it was nice to see them happy and well. Our ride to Hitchin took in some regular routes, but we had the small task of meeting another rider en-route at Rabley Heath. So I took us through the Ayots and down to Codicote. Here we passed the outskirts of the village and headed up Rabley Heath Lane. Now this ascent starts with a steep dip and a sharp incline and if you’re not ready for it chains can fly off as riders frantically find a lower gear. This happened to one of our number, who blocked another, ending up with both having to walk a while. But it wasn’t long before we met Jackie at the agreed spot, then we took some quiet lanes: some old, some new, some going up, many going down and ended up approaching The Three Moorhens in Hitchin. The group split into two, as choice of how to get to the pub was divided, but we all got there and had a lovely breakfast. It’s a friendly pub and made a change from our usual choice of a café.

Soon we headed back out on the roads and made our way to Great Wymondley, then headed toward Baldock, but Carol treated us to a crafty short cut that lead us to Lannock Hill, which in turn leads to Weston. Then came a meeting of drivers as one sped past us only to meet another coming in the opposite direction.

“F***ing w***er!” wailed one driver. “Shut it you silly cow!” replied the other.

As they both jostled for passing rights, ahhh the frustrations of motorists, we cycled along chuckling to ourselves, thinking this was probably the height of their physical exercise for the day. Once at Weston it was an undulating and familiar route to Aspenden and a nice happy ride, though we thought we had lost Judy in Westmill and I was just about to go out searching for her when she appeared behind us. We were running late so stopped for lunch at the Fox, a lovely little pub.
Lunch at Aspenden
After a great lunch, we shot off to Hertford via Westmill, Nasty, Dane End and a ‘wonderful’ experience in Sacombe. The road Sacombe Pound connects to the A602 and we had to navigate this very busy road to take the Stony Hills turn off - no easy task by any means. The traffic here doesn’t care and zips past you close and at quite an alarming rate, someone one day will come unstuck unless a decent cycleway is built.

We got to Rose café a good half hour before closing, but they were very reluctant to serve us. I could see why as this usually heaving café was empty. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t think the staff could either and they were pushing for an early one, I hope they got it as that they work their nuts off. We decamped to the Six Templars and had a great tea break, so all in all a good day out.

  Neil 20/08/2017

13 August 2017

13 Aug 2017: St Albans to Leighton Buzzard

We were pleased to be joined by another new rider, Rolanda (aka Andy), an ‘Olympic’ distance triathlete granny from Elstree, keen to improve her group-riding skills. We left St Albans under clear blue skies after having seen periodic waves of Verulam riders pass by the war memorial, some wearing their new purple kit. The coffee stop at Ivinghoe is a 20-mile stretch so we took the geodesic route via Hogg End Lane, Buncefield, Cupid Green and Gaddesden Row. Following the steep descent past Briden’s Camp and up through Nettleden, we passed a few badger corpses on the hill and arrived at Ringshall.

Continuing northwest we passed by Dockey Wood, where the National Trust now charges for entry during the bluebell season, now long past. A final descent from Ivinghoe Beacon down the moderately busy, but unavoidable B489 took us to Curiositea, housed in an old school house saved from demolition by local villagers.

Here we sat outside in the sun while Andy, who had intended to turn back here, decided she would continue to Leighton Buzzard and then catch a train south to Watford.

Continuing through Pitstone, we crossed the Grand Union Canal, wondering if Andy would want to do some triathlon training by performing a flying squirrel dismount and jumping into the water for a 1.5 Km swim. After Cheddington, Wingrave and Ledburn we arrived via a cycle-path at Leighton Buzzard, having to negotiate a sea of traffic before entry to the oasis of tranquillity of the old town.
Leighton Buzzard
While Jon guided Andy to the train station, we found Adrian in the sparsely attended Swan Hotel. Again we ate outside in the sunny courtyard, discussing an upcoming train-assisted ride. Continuing this ride we headed due east to Stanbridge and then south east to Totternhoe, followed by the climb past the White Lion, now looking distinctly grey, to Dagnall where another climb took us to Jockey End and the narrow Friendless Lane to Flamstead. Here again we were met by a sea of traffic and also people, who had turned out in force for the cultural event of the Flamstead Scarecrow Festival.


 Taking care not to stand motionless too long in case one of us won it, we found the church, which was serving tea and cakes, before departing south along Lyebury Lane to Redbourn and then going our separate ways.

Steve 13/08/2017

6 August 2017

06 Aug 2017: Hatfield to Langley Lower Green

Another almost perfect day for cycling: not too hot, not too sunny, no rain at all and good company, especially as we welcomed new member Jenny from WGC on her first ride with us. The traffic was light and a strong SW wind was a bonus, getting us out to Much Hadham quickly, where we received friendly service at the golf club.  The car park was quite full this time, but most people were out playing golf or putting their dogs through their paces on the obstacle course.

It was a lovely ride with the wind to Lower Langley Green, the only hold-up being a long wait at the lights on the A120 – let’s hope the Little Hadham bypass gets built soon. Around here the vistas start to open up. The vast wheat fields in the middle of the harvest season were a hive of activity, with dust clouds marking the progress of the harvesters.

We arrived at The Bull too early; the chef at this sleepy little pub doesn’t start work before 1 pm, but this was no problem for us as we enjoyed relaxing in the sun for 15 minutes. It was then that Richard, newly returned from cycling in France, commented on how this village reminded him of so many places in the French countryside, which appeared to be deserted, and nothing ever happened.  No sooner had he said that than a police car appeared with blue lights flashing, followed shortly by the whirr of helicopter blades as the air ambulance landed right next to the pub, then an incident response van arrived. People appeared from all over the place to see what was going on – was it a shoot out between rival farmers? No, evidently a 3-week-old baby had been taken ill in the village and we gather that fortunately it wasn’t too serious.

After an hour it was time to go. Adrian had joined us and we retraced most of his route through Barkway and Reed, where the views north towards Cambridge were fantastic. This village was far from being sleepy. A largish crowd was watching the Reed cricket team playing for a place in the Village Cricket final to be held at Lords cricket ground. We learned later that Reed had beaten Aston Rowant by 74 runs.

After tackling a head wind and some more hills we were glad for the afternoon break at Mill End Nursery, were a fine tea was had in the polytunnel. Adrian left us here and we made our leisurely way back to Hatfield. A brief clash of wheels between Jenny and Chris led to some minor excitement, but fortunately there was no need to call the air ambulance.

Soon people were peeling off to WGC or St Albans. We dropped Neil back in Hatfield after a 66.5 mile circuit and it was more like 90 miles for the Barnet contingent.

A good day for my longest ride for over 2 years – no wonder I overslept the next day.

Jon 06/08/2017

5 August 2017

05 Aug 2017: Hatfield to Knebworth

We welcomed new rider Helen for this ride as four of us headed off to a new destination, but before we could reach the country lanes there was the small matter of going through a rather busy Hatfield and WGC. Once were off the beaten track it was a really pleasant ride taking the lanes around Bramfield, where we usually head for Hertford, but this time we carried on through the village and onto the Winding Shott. This is a great lane that has dips and rises all along it. This leads to a junction of lanes and we chose the one to Woolmer Green. Once there it was a case of shooting down the main road to Coasters in Knebworth, a really nice and busy café that is well worth a visit.

After a short break it was to head back home, which we did by going via Rabley Heath, where Richard found that he had a slow puncture in his tyre, but then we spied a large and looming cloud of darkness. It was time to get a move on. We picked up the pace and headed for Codicote and took the route back through the Ayots to Hatfield. Sadly we weren’t successful in outrunning the cloud. At the top of the hill in Lemsford the heavens opened and it was heavy. We sheltered for about 10 minutes and decided to head back to the start and the shower stopped. It was a great morning out, with new routes and a new stop. Our next Saturday adventure is a trip down a towpath to another new café.

Neil 05/08/2017