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.