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