26 March 2017

26 Mar 2017: Panshanger to Gilston

Ok, well it wasn't really Panshanger to Gilston in the end as when I rang the planned lunch-pub the day before they told me they were  fully booked for Mothers' Day and would not serve food in the garden. Apparently the summer season has not yet started in Essex!

Anyway eight bleary eyed people were assembled at the start after remembering to set their alarms for the arrival of BST. Steve H was leading and we went via Tewin, Bramfield and Stapleford before taking a scenic quiet route past the ancient St Leonard's church in Hertford then following the river path to Ware and the ever efficient Esem Express cafe. There was a distinct lack of customers when we arrived so we got served quickly. Tracey and Bill left to go home for MD celebrations and we were joined by Bob who had cycled up from Enfield.

Although the forecast was dry and fine it was really hard work cycling into the strong east wind.  After coffee we headed north to Much Hadham then headed south to the edge of Harlow where we passed the marina on the river Stort. We managed to find a quiet route into the north edge of Harlow where Carol had found an alternate lunch stop.
River Stort Marina
The prettily named Willow pub looked a reasonable bet when viewed on google maps as its patio backed onto some playing fields, but the reality was Harlow council had allowed the playing fields to be completely built over with housing. The food was cheap and the Steves complimented the pub on the quality of its beer. All the pubs in Harlow were originally named after butterflies and this pub used to be called the Willow Beauty after the butterfly. As you can see neither the butterfly 
Willow beauty butterfly
or the pub lived up to the name!  After lunch we headed back to Hertford and the Rose cafe for a quick tea stop via Roydon and Hoddesdon, before bowling back to the start helped by the now strong tailwind. about 48 miles in all. Route below:

19 March 2017

19 Mar 2017: St Albans to Streatley

There's a whole network of pleasing and not completely flat lanes  between St Albans (our start) and Hitchin (our coffee stop). We maybe included too many of them because when we got to the excellent Hitchin Kitchen for a break we had already turned in well over 20 miles. We included Peters Green and Preston in our route and a lot of twisty lanes in between.

The always efficient cafe soon sorted out our refreshments but a shorter route to lunch at Streatley seemed a good idea. Our weather seems to have featured powerful winds over recent days, Sunday was no exception with a strong westerly. not too bad on our outward leg but as soon as we turned west in the flat open country north of Hitchin cycling was a struggle. You are faced with a stiff climb which ever way you approach Streatley, we chose the A6 footpath out of Barton-le-Clay - a long but steady gradient. 

The Chequers
The Chequers is a relaxed and accommodating pub. We stopped on the way home down Lilley Bottom to watch close-up a number of red kites enjoying a tasty snack in the road-side field.

12 March 2017

12 Mar 2017: St Albans to Hertford

The forecast isn’t great so I decide on a fairly direct, albeit a bit of a hilly route to Waltham Abbey via Goffs Oak.  It’s good to see Sue again after quite a time off and hopefully we’ll get to see her some more.  We head for the quiet lanes, but first we have to navigate around some tree cuttings blocking Grubbs Lane.
Dumped logs on Grubbs Lane

Soon we are tackling Tylers Causeway and, instead of heading to White Stubbs Lane, I choose to experience the delights of Newgate Street. This is quite a sharp down and up route, but it makes for a nice change and avoids the traffic going up Cuffley Hill. After some huffing and puffing we are soon zooming through Goffs Oak and heading off down Halstead Hill, which has some rather large new builds at Hallstead Grange.

We make our way to the off road route that crosses the A10 on a big white bridge built for cyclists. Over that and it’s straight down Theobalds Lane and into Waltham Cross. Down Trinity Road at the train line we are greeted by a cordoned off gate and a brand spanking new bridge spanning the tracks. There is no ramp and the steep steps have a gully up the side to place your bike in and push it up over the bridge. I am looking forward to taking some snaps of everyone struggling to do this, but luckily an attendant was there and he opened the gate for us.
Steep steps at Trinity Lane rail bridge

I have to note here that if unattended, the gate has NO access for people who are unable to use the bridge, such as recumbents, mobility scooters, the elderly and infirm, and from a quick discussion we learn this whole situation is a work in progress.

Soon we arrive in Waltham Abbey, where we see another closed down pub next to the thriving café – what does that say about changing drinking habits? In the café we are pleasantly surprised to meet Stuart, who has cycled down from Stevenage to meet us. The café is buzzing and has a rather young clientele yawning and having their breakfast.
Another closed pub
After this break we head back out to the Lee Valley Park and have a really pleasant time cycling around this area. It starts to rain, but nothing heavy and in fact it is rather welcome. We come off the towpath at Nazeing and use the road as I had previously been down that part and it’s been a mud bath along there. Back on the towpath to the Jolly Fisherman, I think this is St Margarets; from here it’s just a couple of miles to The Galley Hall in Hailey. This pub no longer does sandwiches on a Sunday and has gone quite Gastro orientated, so we decamp to the Six Templars in Hertford via Balls Park. Now this is quite fortunate, as the rain has got steadily more persistent and stopping in Hertford means we miss most of it. After a lovely lunch we make our way back via the usual routes and we don’t hang around, as the weather was likely to turn nasty.

11 March 2017

11 Mar 2017: Saturday Fun Ride to Shenley

It was a great pleasure to start the Saturday morning rides again this year; we had 5 returning riders and 4 new riders making a total of 10 for a nice, easy paced ride taking in the wiggly lanes around St Albans.
Coffee outside at Shenley Tearooms

The point of this ride is to introduce different road conditions and see how riders fare and I have to say they all did extremely well. When we got to Drop Lane we had some fun, as a rider took a non-serious tumble and one of our new riders found they had a puncture. It was noted that as the lads sorted the puncture the lasses had a nice chat.


The weather couldn’t have been better: bright, sunny, not too chilly and in some parts quite warm. With stops included, the ride took a little over two hours and it was a really pleasant start to the year’s Saturday morning rides.