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