26 February 2017

26 Feb 2017: Wheathampstead to Benington

Three Houses Lane
Today’s ride was a bit different in several ways.  

As we were heading north, our start was in Wheathampstead making the ride shorter for most of the seven of us. 

But our esteemed leader Carol was absent, and in true leadership style had sought to delegate the task via email.  
Both Steve C and Jon had taken up the challenge, but as Steve had stayed up into the small hours loading a route onto his Garmin it was only fair to let him lead it. Fortunately the diminishing size of the reflection of followers in his rear-view mirror served to moderate his speed nicely.
Dimples Cafe

With a following wind, we soon reached Dimples Café located at a small par-3 golf course buried in the suburbs of Letchworth.  They provided excellent coffee and beans on toast in friendly style.

Adrian joined us, and answered the question of why the previous name of the café, shown on a painted-over sign, was ‘The Niblick’.  This showed an impressive knowledge of obscure golfing terms, considering he hated the game. 

Chalk Hill
Steve took the reins again to lead us out of Letchworth and up the steep Chalk Hills climb south of Baldock, where the enjoyment of the extensive views was marred only by the realisation that it was blowing a gale up there.  This was mostly behind us still, so again we reached our lunch spot early.  

Just as well as it was snowdrop weekend in Benington, and we were glad Carol had reserved a table for us in the village pub.  

We hadn’t been to this pub for years, but it was now in new hands and service was really excellent. 

Snowdrops at Benington
As usual after lunch, we soon found our group dividing up as we headed for home. Those going south had quite a battle against the strengthening wind. 

Jon 25/02/2017

19 February 2017

19 Feb 2017: Hatfield to Rye House

The 10 riders assembled at the ASDA car-park anxiously inspected their watches; it was past 9:15 and there was no sign of the designated leader, Graham. I rang his mobile number, but his phone was turned off. I wondered if he turns it off when he doesn’t want his movements to be tracked.  
Ash Valley Golf Club
A subsequent call to his land-line unexpectedly did elicit a response and yes, he had forgotten. What had caused this amnesia was open to conjecture: had he played football in his youth and headed the ball too often? Or was the memory-loss due to an activity closely associated with the conclusion of each Wednesday-evening ride? Had he been struck on the head by a rolling-pin after returning home last Wednesday?

Whatever had caused this dereliction of duty, Carol immediately seized the initiative and quickly mapped out a route to Much Hadham, passing through Bramfield and Cold Christmas and avoiding the motor traffic and associated toxins of the urban conglomerations of Hertford and Ware. Our destination, Ash Valley Golf Club lies just north of Much Hadham where a magnificent carpet of Snowdrops adjoined the road through the village.

The large green sign
Unfortunately, Bill, whose formidable knowledge of four-letter words is legendary but apparently does not include the words GOLF and CLUB, even when prominently displayed in foot-high white letters on a bright-green notice, sped straight past the entrance and was almost in Little Hadham before a call to his mobile phone caused him to backtrack. 
At the club we were met by Steve and Jackie, who had cycled directly from their home, as we rested for the consumption of bacon sandwiches.  On departure we headed vaguely south, passing a large group of eccentric-looking cyclists going in the opposite direction; the identification of one of them indicated that this was North Herts CTC. Then Bill experienced another problem: his back tyre was rubbing against the mudguard stays, but a short stop enabled Jon to establish the cause as a loose skewer.

Despite the delay we arrived at our destination, the Rye House in Hoddesdon, at exactly 1 o’clock after approaching it via the picturesque and fragrant toll road through Rye Meads sewage works. A member of staff immediately approached us and invited us to park our bikes in the garden at the side of the pub. The bar was surprisingly empty for a Sunday and was essentially a two-for-one establishment, so we paired up to order reasonably priced food which quickly came. 

The return journey, starting through Broxbourne Woods, passed through Little Berkhamsted, where Bill correctly named some Winter Aconite growing in the verge, and then via Wild Hill, where Philip, on looking at his watch, was devastated to discover that the time, 3:05, had precluded another pint at The Woodman, South Herts CAMRA Pub of the Year. It was all Bill’s fault.

5 February 2017

05 Feb 2017: Hatfield to Old Stevenage

After the mid winter late starts it was a bit of a shock now we were back to the normal winter start time of 9.15 at Hatfield. Despite this 10 people turned up on this somewhat grey and overcast morning, including a lady called Emma who had not been out with us before. Our first stop was to be White Hill Golf Club near Dane End for elevenses. 

Because there had been a lot of rain overnight I decided to stick to roads and to keep away from those known to flood. 
Easy access to The Cole Green Way
So it was a fairly straightforward ride going via Bramfield and then up the valley to Dane End. All along here were placards saying; “Say no to the lagoon”, which on the face of it is a strange slogan for rural Hertfordshire. It appears there is to be a planning appeal about a proposed slurry ‘lagoon’ in Dane End. Opponents fear it will lead to large numbers of trucks carrying slurry using the lanes in the area. From Dane End there was a steep climb up to the golf course where we stopped for coffee and eats.
First stop: Whitehill Golf Club
Then it was back down the steep hill and off across country heading for Graveley (just north of Stevenage) for lunch. It is a lovely route through remote unspoilt countryside past hamlets clustered around large village greens such as Wood End and Moor Green. The only downside is that it is a bit hilly. By now we were running a bit late when Emma got a puncture. Volunteers sprang into action to repair it, which was just as well as Emma had forgotten to bring spare tube, pump and tyre levers, whilst the rest went on to organise lunch. 
Jon & Neil make quick work of fixing Emma's puncture
Arriving at ‘The Highwayman’ it seemed very busy, but we joined a queue to order food. After a little while the rest of our party arrived and it was only then that the pub staff deigned to tell us that there was a one and a half hour wait for food! Quite useless for us, so it was quickly decided we would move on to the ever-reliable Wetherspoon pub in Stevenage Old Town. Here food was provided with customary efficiency. Meanwhile Emma, who had just got another puncture, had sensibly decided she had had enough and made her way to the station to take a train home. 
Near Ardeley
After our late lunch the rest of us shot through Stevenage on their network of proper cycle paths and then split into two. Some going westwards towards St Albans and others going south, on the main road, towards Hatfield via Woolmer Green and Digswell Hill.

Back in Hatfield I had done about 45 miles, not a lot but it had been a good day’s ride and despite the gloom it hadn’t rained.

peteR 05/02/2017