25 December 2018

25 Dec 2018: St Albans to Wildhill

There were only three starters for mince pies and coffee at Carol and Steve's house in St Albans on a gloomy but dry Christmas morning. Steve H set off at such a pace I thought he'd morphed into Steve C that morning. We rode out of St Albans heading for Colney Heath on incredibly quiet roads before passing the Vets' college at Brookmans Park, where we saw many cars in the car park. I expect they still need a lot of staff to look after the animals no matter what time of year. After climbing up towards Cuffley we turned left to tackle Carbone Hill before finally getting to Woodside and the pub just after 12 noon having covered 17.5 miles at 13 mph, which is quite a speed for us considering the hills involved.
Jon and Judy cycled in the same time as we did, and after Jon managed to limbo under the pub doorways due to the foot-long antlers sticking out of the top of his head, we managed to get seated in the back room. Here we partook our free drinks (for which we made charity donations) and home-made sandwiches for a jolly lunch.

Soon it got even jollier when an elf appeared alongside his son in a Christmas sweater. Chris from Welwyn Garden City also arrived and we were amazed to hear he had never been to the Woodman before.

Which one has the elfine figure?
The pub was only open for an hour theoretically, but it was about 1.30 when we were turfed out and saw Santa on his tractor before heading back to our various homes, all, I hope getting back in daylight.
Santa's tractor
Route below; I couldn't find a Santa on a bicycle so used a skiing one instead!

Happy New Year from Carol

9 December 2018

9 Dec 2018: St Albans to Caddington

As you can see from the picture below it turned out to be a bright sunny morning for December when six people gathered for the first later start at the Waterend Barn pub in St Albans. Great value for £1.25 for a bottomless mug of coffee. Steve H lead the ride out via the Gorhambury private road where we paused by the beautiful ruins. I tried for a group photoshoot but our riders are not very good riding in a tight peloton so as I only got one photo without truncated cyclists I selected the one of my husband.

Gorhambury in the sunshine
The road/track out of the estate up the hill was remarkably dry considering how much rain we have had recently. We skirted the edge of Hemel Hempstead then headed up Gaddesden Row and through Studham towards Kensworth. We were running a bit short of time on this hilly route so sped downhill to Markyate before climbing up to Caddington where we had a warm welcome and a table reserved. The pub did a good job of getting our pre-ordered sandwiches and jacket potatoes out even though they had two very large parties in for lunch. Must use this pub again on a winter short ride. After lunch we opted for the quickest and flattest route home via the back of Harpenden to get back to the St Albans area by 3pm. A welcome today to two new riders to the Sunday group who I hope we will see again.
We covered about 34 miles for the round trip as the map below shows.


2 December 2018

2 Dec 2018: Hatfield to Hitchin

Sunday's ride was the first of our later start, shorter winter rides, and so we met at the more leisurely time of 10.00 in Poppins Café, Hatfield for a pre-ride coffee before setting off at 10.30. We were delighted to see Jon and Judy back in business after a substantial lay-off.

We headed through Lemsford and then the centre of Welwyn GC to pass under William Cubitt's magnificent Digswell viaduct, still carrying the main line after 168 years. Avoiding the big hill to Harmer Green we went to Tewin and then through the still autumnal woods to Datchworth. Two large Australian birds – emus - seemed find our appearance very fascinating when we passed their field. They are 6 ft tall and can sprint at over 30 mph, so we were glad they were well fenced in. There was some debate about whether they were rheas or emus, but the blue necks visible in the photo are only found on emus.
Two big birds
It was drizzling on and off, but mild, so rain gear came and went. Dropping down into Stevenage at Bragbury End, Jackie knew how to get to the football ground along the rough cycle paths. After that I knew where I was. Passing through the charmless rest of Stevenage it was a relief to get back into the countryside again.

Finding our intended pub in Gosmore couldn't take us for lunch after all (I had forgotten to phone before hand) we went just up the road to Hitchin, a town competing for the highest density of pubs and cafes in the world. Ignoring this vast choice, we settled on the Wetherspoons pub. There was plenty of room and the usual fare was on offer. So, after a convivial and cheap lunch it was back to our various homes by shorter routes. A great ride of less than 40 miles.

Richard 02/12/2018

25 November 2018

25 Nov 2018: Hatfield to Shepall (Stevenage)

Steve B noticed his front tyre was flat just as we were leaving the house at 8:40 to cycle to the Hatfield start. He decided to stay and fix the puncture while I cycled to the Asda start. We were amazed that he actually turned up just after 9:10 so it had been a fast inner-tube change. We took a wiggly route south and west through Bullen's Green and Brookman's Park to start with before heading to Rose Café via Bayford and Brickendon. Arriving at 10:40 all eight of us ordered and were served within 5 minutes! This must be a record for fast service in a café.

Afterwards we took the park route out of Hertford, then went via Stoneyhills, Stapleford and over to Woolmer Green.

We climbed up and over the A1 motorway through the picturesque Mardleyheath nature reserve, before meandering north, crossing the A1 several times again to reach the edge of Stevenage by the old Roebuck Inn. Remarkably we reached the pub by cycling about 1/4 mile along quiet roads then the old Shepall Lane which is now a pleasant cycle path next to a park, and where we saw a black squirrel, which took us straight to the the old Sheppall village, now surrounded by urban Stevenage.

The Red Lion pub has had a refurbishment since we last visited, and we sat in a room with a bicycle theme. There were many photos and pictures of bikes, and some saddles and handlebars arranged to look like the deer antlers more usually seen in a pub.
Bike trophies!

Unfortunately as we left Steve B had another flat so the group went on ahead and we stayed behind to fix it at the pub. It was easy to find as there was a huge flint sticking through the tyre. As the photo shows, you would not know you are surrounded by modern Stevenage here.
Second one of the day
We ended up getting back at about 3.20 pm just as it was beginning to get dark after covering about 48 miles.


24 November 2018

24 Nov 2018: Hatfield to Hertford

Eight of us met for a morning’s ride over to Hertford, it was an overcast morning and some of us had experienced rain getting here, but we were glad we squeezed another fun ride in before winter. Suitably enough a fun fair was being set up in Hatfield Market Square and they were getting ready for turning on Christmas lights that night, so it all made for a colourful sight.

Dorris and Steve
Jean, John and Julie
This ride was going along some very familiar roads, but riding at this time of year can be tricky, you can never be sure of what the roads are actually like. Silky/rough/icy/full of leaves it’s Hobson’s choice, luckily for us they were OK and quite pleasant to use.

We took a slightly busy A1000 out of Hatfield and quickly left it at the Mill Green turn off to cycle up the path that meets the 414 and then back onto Gypsy Lane through the golf course, navigating the suburbs of WGC to get ourselves to Panshanger. We took the scenic route through the bottom of Tewin and headed out to Bramfield, everywhere looking suitably autumnal, with a lot of colour on show.
Jean leading on the hill to Tewin
Jon and Judy
From Bramfield we took the winding back road into Hertford, this is a nice route that gradually undulates with a drop at the end of it, getting onto the busy main road at Hertford North proved to be problematic, but after some waiting we all made it. Next it was a trip through a park then on to Rose Café.  I needed to check this place out as this café has bravely fought developers and have not been closed like all other shops around them.

After a lovely stop for brunch/snacks we made our way back out of Hertford via the lower Hatfield road for a bit before taking St Mary’s Lane which leads up to Hertingfordbury, a lovely road that has some great views, one of which being a lot of sheep in a wooded area (I think they must have escaped from a neighbouring field). We took our usual route from Hertingfordbury to the Old Coach Road, at Letty Green we said good bye to John and Judy (who headed back to Barnet). We joined The Cole Green Way to get back into WGC then made our way over to Ascots Lane, the A1000 and back to Hatfield.

A really good morning’s ride.
Neil 24/11/2018

18 November 2018

18 Nov 2018: St Albans to Woodside, near Luton

Middle of November -   good forecast - fine, sunny but a bit colder than of late. So there were five of us at the start in St Albans about to head west to our first stop in Berkhamstead. First minor problem was St Albans council had decided (somewhat prematurely in my opinion) to close the High St for an all day festival prior to switching on the Xmas lights that evening. Note my opening sentence that it was the middle of November! However a quick diversion down side streets took us via the Cathedral and Verulamium Park onto the quiet lanes leading to Bedmond. From there down to Kings Langley and then more lanes until we reached the Bovingdon road. Around Bovingdon to Whelpley Hill and the countryside was improving all the time as we dived down a narrow steep and twisting hill before climbing up the other side to cross the A41 and enter Berkhamstead through its western suburbs. Then, great joy, as we came to “The Crown”, a fine old inn in the High St now part of the Weatherspoon empire with all that that promises in terms of bargain prices for value food and drink.
At “The Crown” we were met by Mark who had cycled there direct from St Albans. Now it was onwards to the east to get to Woodside just south of Luton for lunch. As anticipated this was to involve a lot of climbing. First it was out of Berkhamstead past the ruins of its castle. (History note: this was one of the first Norman castles built in England and was where the English formally submitted to the conquering Normans after the battle of Hastings.) 
Berkhamsted castle ruins

Then  ever upwards through the wooded Ashridge estate, beautiful in the sunshine. Followed by a long fast downhill to Hudnall followed by an inevitable long climb back up again. Through Studham to Markyate and another climb, before looping around near Caddington to end at “The Plough” near Slip End. This is a non-pretentious pub which serves excellent grub at realistic prices. 
Leaving “The Plough” we used back lanes to Harpenden, then a slight diversion through the common there before taking the cycle path alongside the main road back to St. Albans. 
East Common, Harpenden

All told the total distance had been about 42 miles, and all agreed it had been an excellent cycling day for the time of year.


11 November 2018

11 Nov 2018: Hatfield to Wareside

Gotta admit when I awoke for this ride the skies were teeming with rain and looking out the window I saw it was quite windswept as well, but as the morning got underway the rain stopped and stayed stopped.
Five of us met at Asda in Hatfield and met a new Sunday rider, Dimo. We took a familiar route out of Hatfield. Lemsford/WGC and up Harmer Green Lane. 
Harmer Green
Here we stopped for a breather and directed the police who were looking for a fallen tree opposite the train station (which is on New Road). Whilst cycling down to Woolmer Green we zipped past the delightfully named Robbery Bottom Lane (we must go up there again sometime). I must say the trees were looking resplendent in all their autumnal glory. We passed Datchworth and headed down the road to Watton-at-Stone, something we haven’t done for a while, as we are usually going up that road. We also took in the full length of Mill Lane (quite often we would turn off this road); the end of this lane is quite pleasant and meets the Whempstead road. 

From here we took a direct route to the golf club but at the bottom of the hill our newest rider copped a puncture.

We had a lovely leisurely break in the club discovered a broken chair and generally enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere. Our route to Wareside was very much like our route to the first break, all familiar roads but taken in a different order, the skies by this time though had taken on a deep blue colour and the wind was doing all it can to make things blustery. We headed up to Haultwick and then back on ourselves to head for the crossing at Nasty. It’s a nice little jaunt down to the A10 on this road but just before we get there a little farmer’s road takes us onto the A10 roundabout. On this concrete track Carol had the misfortune of suffering a mechanical problem. We decided to navigate the roundabout and stop in the next village to see to the fault in a quiet carpark where the diagnosis was a front disc pad had fallen out.
After this we made good headway to Much Hadham and a more direct route to Wareside arriving very late at 1.30pm. The pub carpark was packed and inside was quite busy as well but we got served very promptly and lunch was really pleasant, nice herby and tasty sausages. After lunch it was Babbs Green/ Ware/Hertford and home. It was a really pleasant day’s ride.


Carol's note: We found out later that two others had gone to the pub but left before we arrived.

4 November 2018

4 Nov 2018: St Albans to Mangrove Green

Five riders assembled outside The Blacksmiths Arms for the 9.15 departure before heading out towards Sandridge and Nomansland common. We crossed the busy Lower Luton Road, then climbed up via Mackerye End before heading back west across Harpenden and Kinsbourne Green to reach Markyate at about 10.45. Dugs Mugs cafe wasn't very busy so we were served quickly.

Eamonn left the group to return home and the rest of us carried on to the lunch stop. On the corner of Wesley Road and the High Street we spotted a new pub called "The Local". A man was gardening in what we thought was next door's garden but it turned out he was the owner of the pub and he kindly invited us in to have a look around.  It is open only in the evenings and serves gravity-fed beer from the barrel as well as from bottles.
Inside "The Local"
Outside "The Local"
We went to Mangrove Green via Slip End and West Hyde then used the small country lanes to skirt round the end of Luton airport runway to reach the refurbished George IV pub where we were welcomed and served with good-value food. Richard joined us at the pub having been unable to wrench himself from his bed in time to reach the start.

There was a beautiful oak tree on the green to provide a backdrop to the photo as the group left to return to St Albans via Lilley Bottom and Kimpton. We were home by 3.40 on a pleasantly warm Sunday for the time of year.
Oak tree at Mangrove Green

I think we covered about 46 miles on the round trip.

Carol 4/11/18

28 October 2018

28 Oct 2018: Hatfield to Wadesmill

The coldest day since April with squally showers and a NE gale from the arctic didn't put everyone off. In fact we welcomed two newcomers, Jean from WGC and Simone from Hatfield, on their first ride with us, hopefully the first of many.  We almost missed them due to slight confusion about which cycle park we used at Asda (it's the one opposite the fuel station). Fortunately, Phil had noticed a cyclist wandering around the car park earlier, so I went to find them.

This was a 'fun' ride, modelled on our successful Saturday rides, and I was aiming to keep the average speed down to around 10 mph. Heading into the teeth of the northeasterly there was certainly no risk of exceeding that on the route out to Stanstead Abbotts. I chose a flat route too, although in high winds it's often the hilly routes that are easier.  The way through Hertford was a novel one for many, taking in Hertford Castle gardens, the town centre and the back streets towards Ware.
Simone, Jean, Phil, Judy and Ronny at Cole Green
The cafe for elevenses (breakfast for some) was quieter than usual and a welcome chance to warm up the chilled extremities during our 30 minute stay. I had promised blue skies by mid morning and sure enough they appeared as we left the cafe and headed for the climb to Hunsdon.  This was the halfway point and it was now much easier with the wind behind us down to Wareside. But it wasn't quite so easy for me when my rear gear shifter let me down, most annoying as it had only lasted 14,000 miles, and I had to do the rest of the ride using the two chainring gears.

The ride through Cold Christmas was particularly pleasant and everyone was enjoying the ride, judging by the chatter behind me. We reached the pub in Wadesmill by 12:30, where Phil had to leave us. Fortunately, that left enough of a group to not only get the 2 for 1 meals, but also a £10 group discount, which gave us a really good lunch at amazing value.
A suitably spooky scene in Hooks Bushes near Tewin
The route back from here took us up to Chapmore End and across to Bramfield and Tewin, then into WGC, where Jean left us, before arriving back in Hatfield via NCN 61 after an enjoyable 40 mile circuit.

Jon 28/10/2018

21 October 2018

21 Oct 2018: Wheathampstead to Streatley

After last Sunday's deluge which saw Richard actually cycle to Hatfield and then be grateful that no-one else turned up, it was a superb forecast for today. The start found nine riders assembled in the sunshine before today's leader Steve H set off towards Ayot St Lawrence and Codicote. I noticed there was a "Road closed" sign on the road to Gustard Wood but didn't give it another thought at the time. We headed along Kimpton Road where Steve managed to miss the tiny lane by the mill, not once but twice! He blamed the unusually low strong sun..... We headed north along Three Houses Lane where the Clarkes joined us with miraculous timing as they had cycled from their home nearby.
The route via Preston, Little Almsloe and Willian took us to Dimples in good time where we enjoyed coffee overlooking the golf course - the name coming from the surface of a golf ball.
Track near Pirton
After coffee, Steve led us through Letchworth then along a mile section of track, the Icknield Way, to rejoin the road South of Pirton. I stopped to take this interesting photo that I shall think of over breakfast although we can't afford branded cereals.

After a now blustery route via Sharpenhoe Clappers we reached the excellent Chequers at Streatley where the riders who stayed indoors were colder than those who sat outside in the sun.  As we left quite early after lunch we got to Whitwell before 3pm so decided to head back for an early finish.

closed road!
At Gustard Wood there was an "access only" sign, which we ignored, and it was only down to some polite workmen allowing us to carry our bikes through a tiny gap where they were doing water-main works, that saved us having to go round a significant detour.

It was good to see 11 people out on a sunny autumn day. The route was about 48 miles.


18 October 2018

13 Oct 2018: St Albans to Markyate

After a torrential downpour and some debate our morning ride started, we welcomed 3 new riders and took to the streets. The route to coffee was a really familiar one for those of us who do Sunday rides, but for the Saturday morning group it was quite a new route. Most had not been through the Childwickbury estate.
We made our way over to Cupid Green Lane and then from there to Gaddesden Row. This involved some climbing but also some nice dips just to wiz up the other side. To coffee in Markyate it was a 15 mile ride, which was taken in a steady and pleasant manner.

Dug’s Mugs is a spacious cafe in an old car showroom with 1970’s décor (orange paint) and furniture, catering for petrol-heads as well as cyclists. The calorie-laden, hot cheese & tomato croissants were very tasty.  By the time we left Dug’s Mugs the sun had properly come out to do its duty and the journey back home was via Friendless Lane to Flamstead, then down a supposedly quiet lane to Redbourn. This was unusually busy due to cars avoiding the queues on the Redbourn bypass. Once we were at Redbourn we took the St Albans road down to Redbournbury and had a nice little detour past the mill, up the other side and out over to Ayres End.

River Ver at Redbournbury
We went through Sandridge and back up the back alleys to Fleetville. It was a lovely morning’s ride despite the wet start.

Neil 13/10/2018

7 October 2018

7 Oct 2018: St Albans to Hedgerley

Although it was a fine autumn day there were only five of us at the start in St Albans for our  planned excursion south of the M40. It always feels a long way to go to Hedgerley but in fact it's quite a bit nearer than many of our other destinations.
It was good to see two new people joining for their second Sunday ride in recent weeks. We headed along the usual lanes via Bedmond, Abbots Langley and Chandlers Cross before skirting round the edge of Chorleywood to reach Chalfont St Peter and the popular Madeira cafe. While cycling down the hill through the private-housing estate we noticed a road  called "Winkers Close". Later Googling uncovered that there is a rural nightclub nearby called "Winkers" which repeats the same spelling mistake.

At the cafe the owner made an effort to welcome us and showed us into the garden to park our bikes safely. After coffee the others had to get home, so only Steve and I carried on along the planned route to Hedgerley via Burnham Beeches.  We made a circuit through the car-free roads in the wood and enjoyed the autumn sunshine.

Burnham Beeches

The White Horse pub in Hedgerley remains a totally unspoiled example of an old country pub. Simple food and gravity-fed beer. Two rather faded plaques on the front show the pub won the "Wethered's flower competition" in 1985 and 1988. The current owners have maintained the tradition as the photo below shows.

White Horse flowers
After leaving the pub we made a direct route back to St Albans by crossing to the Colne valley and following the Ebury Way back via Rickmansworth and Watford arriving home by 4.30 after about 55 miles.


30 September 2018

30 Sep 2018: Hertford to Stansted Mountfitchet

Hot summer coming to an end and autumn beginning: although sun was forecast it was pretty cold at the start. Despite this, eight of us met at the start in Hertford. After a short delay whilst Richard mended a puncture prior to actually starting we made good time through countryside to the south of Hertford. Then via Rye house and Roydon it was on to Harlow and navigating the cycle path through the new town to end up at the cafe in Old Harlow. Unfortunately Carol's rather unflattering photo makes it look more like "new Harlow".
Old Harlow

Since we were for once ahead of schedule we abandoned the short route I had planned to the lunch stop in Stansted Mountfichet. Instead we took a longer route going to the east around Stansted airport, up to Elsenham (once famous for its jam) and then directly to the ‘Dog and Duck’ in Stansted M. The restaurant section was full so we ended up at a nice scrubbed wooden table in the public bar, so a proper pub type feel. What is more other than pukka Sunday lunches, the pub only does baguettes but because it was a Sunday these came complete with roast potatoes!
Roast beef & roasties

( Carol's note: While looking for a picture of the picturesque Stansted M village I found this photo which seemed very relevant to our lunch location. Story about this dog and ducks here )
Another dog and ducks!
So, well fed we left Stansted M. It is a pretty place with old buildings, its only flaw probably being it is too close to the airport. So we headed due west on very quiet lanes past Farnham and Upwick Green before heading south through the Hadhams. We were a bit early for the planned tea stop so went on to Ware. Our usual cafe had no cakes and said they couldn’t do tea either, seems to have turned itself more into a kebab shop. Tried another cafe which was too slow and ended up in a third, Cafe Frappe. The friendly owner showed us he had a back garden to park bikes in, accessed from the adjacent car park.
After this it was a quick dash back to the start in Hertford. For those of us finishing there we had done about 50 miles. Some had further to go, cycling back to St Albans and WGC.  


23 September 2018

23 Sep 2018: St Albans to Great Missenden

The weather this weekend would have been described by other European nations as typically British. In 10°C warm rain Justin and Ronny went out for a short ride to the morning stop and back.

In the end the rain didn't turn out to be the most annoying thing, but the flooding of many roads was. This hid the potholes; hence we had to go slowly in many places. However, even in the rain the landscape was still pretty, like the small woods around Bedmond, the lovely villages, such as Flaunden, or the nice countryside around Latimer. Around that area the cold started to become more noticeable, so we were quite happy about the hill up to Amersham.

After few more kilometres we reached the elevenses stop in Great Missenden, where we warmed up and replenished the energy reserves. On our way back we followed the National Cycle Route 57. It started with the hill up to South Heath, which allowed us to warm up again after feeling quite cold on the first few meters.

With a tailwind we reached Chesham quickly and by then the rain had stopped. This turned out lucky for us, because a puncture needed some attention. After fixing it, we warmed up again on White Hill.

Unexpectedly early the sun broke through the clouds when we passed Bovingdon, hence before the last hill up Bunker's Lane it was time to put away the rain gear and we arrived in St Albans in nice sunny weather.

Ronny 23/09/2018

16 September 2018

16 Sep 2018: Wheathampstead to Biggleswade

We were pleased to welcome new riders Gareth and Eamonn when we met at Wheathampstead for our Sunday ride, which would take in both Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. We set off through Codicote bottom, Easthall Farm and then along the Hitchin road for a bit to get to Great Wymondley and Willian. However we were soon disconcerted to find the road down into Baldock closed for road works. There was no sneaking round the edge of these works as the bridge over the A1 was securely sealed off, but there was a convenient bridleway that seemed to lead just where we wanted.
On NCR 12 near Baldock
Taking this was a nice find - one to use again maybe, and we soon arrived at the cafe in Baldock. Here we found Steve and Jackie already tucking in. From here it was out to Ashwell, Guilden Morden and the open rolling countryside of Cambridgeshire.

Turning west towards Biggleswade we were confronted by a stiff headwind. The centre of Biggleswade keeps its historic feel and the Wetherspoons pub is in the centre. After pleasant refreshments, Steve, thank goodness, was familiar with the route back south through a baffling string of Bedfordshire villages and led us to the fringes of Hitchin. A quick afternoon tea stop and we headed back home.

Special congratulations to Gareth who had coped manfully with the first long ride he had ever done - conditions into the headwind were challenging at times.

Richard 16/09/2018

9 September 2018

9 Sep 2018: Hatfield to Broadley Common

From Hatfield we started along often used paths to Welwyn Garden City. There we met the runners of the Welwyn Half Marathon and partly shared the path towards Cole Green with the first starters and/or fastest runners. This wasn't a problem at all, as they had a pace only slightly slower than us. After crossing the river Lea the first hill up to Bayford challenged us. Enjoying the rural landscape we continued to Brickendon and into Hoddesdon, where we crossed the Lea again at Dobbs Weir then another hill challenged us.

Judy and Jon were waiting at the cafe, which we hadn't used before, located at the Ada Cole horse rescue centre at Broadley Common near Harlow.  As well as horses and ponies, including some characters named Dolly and Elvis, there was at least one donkey.  Yes, Del Boy was around, judging by the loud braying emanating from a nearby paddock.
A very sick horse
The cafe was a useful find, very friendly for cyclists with indoor as well as outdoor seating. I think we'll be using it again as it's just the right distance from Hatfield when heading out towards Essex.  But instead of doing that, we all decided a half-day ride was favourite and turned back.
Ronny leading Richard to school
Haileybury College
The weather was greyer and colder than forecasted until after breakfast, but then the sun was visible between the clouds and it became a nice day. On our way back from Ada Cole we passed through St Margarets, along Haileybury College, and through Hertford. From there we followed cycle route 61 along the old railway line between Hertford and Welwyn Garden City and then back into Hatfield.


Ronny 09/09/2018

8 September 2018

8 Sep 2018: Hatfield to Hoddesdon fun ride

Last year we did a rather super, hilly route and this year I changed it to make it more direct. It’s always good to venture up and around White Stubbs Lane and experience the rolling roads in that area. A slight drizzle accompanied us all the way and the weather sort of threatened showers. I wasn’t the only one who had brought a coat (just in case it did rain), but it was only threats.

We visited a great new café / bistro on the High Street for us, who did some lovely paninis/snacks and teacakes.

The ride back to Hatfield was a nice, steady climb all the way up through Goose Green, Monk’s Green and a drop down to the outskirts of Hertford. We tacked back to Hertingfordbury and took the familiar route to Hatfield via the Old Coach Road and WGC.

28 miles ridden in total, a lovely morning’s ride, the trees are beginning to look amazing.

Neil 08/09/2018

2 September 2018

2 Sep 2018: St Albans to Lacey Green

It was a fine sunny morning albeit a bit cold when we met outside the Blacksmiths Arms in St Albans. There were only four of us at the start, so we made quick progress along a fairly direct route to Masterchef in Amersham. Always good efficient service saw us fed and watered promptly. I thought I recognised someone approaching on an old bike and sure enough it was Paul from Croxley Green accompanied by Jackie.

They joined us on the hilly route via Hyde Heath, Great Missenden and Prestwood before we found some exceptionally steep hills to reach the very friendly and good value Black Horse. We found a new route out of Amersham along some roads that made Harpenden look like a third-world country.

After lunch we took the flattest route possible  to tea which involved climbing over Cobblers Hill before a long haul up to the Lee where we stopped for the obligatory viewing of Admiral Howe.

Afterwards it was plain sailing to Ashley Green where we finally managed to use the Church as a tea stop.
Ashley Green church

We were well fed with scones, jam and cream with tea or coffee for £3.50 all served to us at our table. the scones were so big, several of us took one home for the next day.

We got back to St Albans after a great day's ride in beautiful sunshine appreciating the beauty of the Chiltern Hills after about 64 miles.


25 August 2018

25 Aug 2018: St Albans to Dacorum Cycle Hub

What makes a successful ride? This is a question I keep asking myself as yet again I greet new riders and old, well chuffed that Jon chose my ride to come out after a break due to illness. A real crowd of us met at Morrison’s and set off on our merry way through the back streets of St Albans making a colourful sight as we hit the roads towards Childwickbury. Now some of our riders thought that we couldn’t come in here, but nobody has ever told me not to so in we go. It’s a great little estate that has a nice winding road down to the A5.

With a little hop along the said main road we scooted off up Hog End Lane. This is an undulating climb of a road that leads past the Buncefield Depot (home of the largest explosion in peace time Europe), into the back end of Hemel and the Dacorum Cycle Hub. This is actually a really good fledgling hub for cyclists and it has quite a few good resources there.

Once our break was over we said goodbye to Jon and Judy then headed off to the Nicky Line for a hugely enjoyable dash down to Redbourn. This is a fantastic route and people need to use it more often or they will lose it.

We soon skirted Redbourn and made a stop at the mill where bread and goodies were purchased. The route home was nice little meander through Ayres End and Sandridge.

In all we did about 22 miles (I forgot to put my tracker on for the first part of the ride); everyone had a great time.
Neil 25/08/2018

19 August 2018

19 Aug 2018: St Albans to Leighton Buzzard

A rather gloomy day with slight drizzle greeted the stalwarts at St Albans for the scheduled ride to Eversholt. Five of us set off via Hogg End Lane and passed Buncefield oil depot before picking up Phil near the exit of the Maylands Estate. He'd guessed correctly the route we planned to take. Later in the day we were discussing the 2006 disaster with Ronny who hadn't heard about it even though we thought it had made the European news at the time. We finally made it to Jackie's cafe in Cheddington at about 10.50 only to find it closed for Sundays during the school holidays.

After a quick debate we backtracked to the Waterside cafe at Pitstone Wharf where the service was a bit slow. Ronny and Phil left to go back and the rest carried on towards Eversholt until Steve B called out that he'd left his wallet in the cafe. In a panic he started cycling back to get it, only to turn round again and sheepishly admit it had been in his trouser pocket all the time - apparently the "wrong" pocket. As we'd lost so much time now it was deemed a good idea to still head north, and do a loop through the Brickhills before going to the White Swan in Leighton Buzzard for lunch. We saw several Greensand Ridge walk signs featuring what I used to think was a camel but now know to be a Muntjac deer and indeed later in the afternoon we saw a specimen by the roadside before it ran away to cross the busy dual carriageway leading to the M1 motorway.

Muntjac were brought from China to Woburn Park in Bedfordshire in the early 20th century.

After lunch at the JD Wetherspoon establishment where we were surprised to find a bouncer outside at 1pm, we headed for a different tea stop at the Flamstead scarecrow festival as we had seen a poster for the event on our outbound journey.  The village was very busy with families wandering around judging the exhibits and we had a cuppa in the Methodist hall.

Lots of crows!

Not very scary.....

So unusually for the first time in nearly thirty years of riding a Sunday ride did not visit any of the planned stops! We got back to St Albans after 5pm after covering 60 miles on what turned out to be a pleasantly warm day with strong winds that sometimes helped and sometimes hindered our progress.


11 August 2018

11 Aug 2018: Hatfield to Knebworth

11 of us met last Saturday morning, for a great ride into the wilds of Tewin and Datchworth, welcoming new riders, returning riders and two that were making a transition from the women’s group to slightly longer rides.
Hatfield start
The road through Tewin up to Burnham Green proved to be a bit of a challenge to some of us; I know this road can be tiring, but it is worth travelling along. We took ourselves into Datchworth and made a beeline for Rectory Lane. This is a great road that is about the width of a small Mini and we encountered a car, but the driver was very good and made his way past us without too much trouble. This little lane is so nice and windy, but at the cross roads you can easily lose your bearings, but we didn’t. Two of our new riders were a South African couple and they loved the countryside.

The last time we visited Coasters we had seating no problem, but this time it was very full with no seating available and a wait for tables. After break we headed back via Rabley heath and Codicote where the road down to Codicote from the heath has some quite fabulous views. From Codicote we headed to Hatfield via Ayot St Peter. These roads are a steady climb all the way and everyone seemed to deal with them OK. There were a couple of stops, one to take in the arts & crafts church in Ayot and another to give directions on a fast, busy road.

By the time we got back to Hatfield there were smiles all around.

Neil 11/08/2018

5 August 2018

5 Aug 2018: Hertford to Monk Street

Only three of us dared to take on this ride as it was a lovely sunny day but set to get really hot and the afternoon had the potential of being quite uncomfortable.
Bishop's Stortford
I nicked the route to Bishop’s Stortford from Richard as it skirts Ware, then utilises the lanes around Cold Christmas, Baker’s End, Hadham Cross and Green Tye. It was a nice, brisk jaunt to the Bridge Café. Here, after some great cheesy beans on toast, we left Peter and made our way into the wilds of Essex.

We took the Hazelend Road out of Stortford heading in the direction of Manuden. As a group we’d done this several times this year and there’s a lovely lane that runs from Manuden to Rickling Green. Along this lane were fields of vibrant blue linseed plants and now the fields look very dry and lifeless.

We passed under a BIG blue road, which Richard informed me was the M11, and on the other side we were back into quaint Essex winding lanes, passing through a duck infested Henham and making a lovely climb up to Debden Green just to wiz back down through Thaxted to end up at Monk Street.
Monk Street
The Farmers Inn is a superb walker/cyclist friendly pub that is nestled just off the main road. Great grub and friendly staff.

The homeward journey was a mix of backtracking (keeping off hilly roads in the heat) and some new roads with a village that had a manned level crossing, none of this high tech automated stuff for this sleepy Essex village. Then I wanted to skirt Stanstead Mountfitchet and failed as we found ourselves emerging onto the high street. We soon navigated back to my route and made quick work of Hazelend and Upwick Green, to end up on the Little Hadham road (just below the wonderfully named Clapgate).

We enjoyed a great ginger beer in Hopleys, and then made short work of going home: Babb’s Green, Ware and the river path to Hertford was our chosen route. 64 miles of fun and a great day out.

Neil 05/08/2018