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