29 December 2019

29 Dec 2019: Hatfield to Potters Bar

We arrived at Poppins café in Hatfield just before 10am and were grateful to see it was actually open as sometimes they are a bit late unrolling the shutters at Christmas time. By the time it got to the 10.30 departure time there was a pleasing attendance of ten people including new rider Ellie from St Albans. It was a challenge to devise a route to Potters Bar that would use roads different from the usual meander round the lanes of Broxbourne Woods, however we did achieve this by setting off in the St Albans direction along the Alban Way. We skirted Highfield Park before a short off-road and slightly muddy section took us over to Milehouse Lane. We rode through the back of Napsbury Park before heading along the main road up the hill to Shenley. In Ridge we stopped to admire the World War II pillbox before using the horse-bridge to cross the busy A1(M) road. From Barnet we passed through the pretty Hadley Common, then took NCR 12 north to The Admiral Byng pub in Potters Bar where Jon and Judy were already wolfing down lunch.
Admiral Byng 
Afterwards, Peter and Sue made direct tracks home, while the rest of us headed north through Little Heath and Water End before taking the direct route back to St Albans via Colney Heath. The afternoon's cultural highlight was passing one of the Victorian Coal posts in Little Heath of which I took a photo, remarkably the same one this article shows. You might have seen many of these while cycling round south Herts and wondered what they were!
Little Heath coal post
As only Steve H went back to the start in Hatfield I've shown the map below finishing on the Alban Way.


22 December 2019

22 Dec 2019: St Albans to Chesham

The cold dark damp morning on the winter solstice brought out only five riders into the Waterend Barn, including Talia from Barnet Cyclists and Philip from our midweek riders. Observing yet another Christmas Market on St Peter’s Street we set off towards Redbourn, noticing the volume of traffic, which was probably due to the later-than-usual start time. We knew that floods might be a problem due to the recent heavy rainfall and we encountered the first on the Redbourn Road, Turning off along Hogg End Lane as the sun came out, we paused near its end to take a picture of a fly-tip, and cut through Cupid Green and Piccott’s End. and then along the B440 Leighton Buzzard Road and encountering a flood extending over half the left side of the carriageway at the appropriately named Water End. We then turned off for Berkhamsted and crossed the old A41 at the traffic lights in the town centre. Enduring the subsequent long climb out of the town we turned north west to visit the entrance to Champneys before heading south to follow a continuous 5-mile descent into Chesham unfortunately directly into the midday sun. While Philip popped into Sainsbury’s to buy a sandwich, we chatted to a venerable cyclist who was fascinated by his parked chrome-plated 1970’s bike. Then, all suitably equipped with rations, we headed to the  south end of Chesham and the Pheasant pub, which encourages patrons to bring their own picnics.
Pheasant decorations
A by-product of this policy is that the inside of the pub is immaculate. We deposited ourselves by a large round table and consumed our lunches with drinks from the bar before departing at 1.30.  We then took the usual route back via Flaunden where the green-dragon figure-head no longer peers over the hedge at the top of the hill as the pub is currently closed (but rumoured to be re-opening after some building works). We then returned via Ruckler’s Lane and the Hemel Hempstead Road arriving home well before 3pm in broad daylight.

Steve B

15 December 2019

15 Dec 2019: Panshanger to WGC Christmas lunch

Remarkably it was a bright sunny December morning with no frost or ice when we met at the View café at Panshanger Golf Club at 10am for coffee before departing for a morning ride at 10.30. We were a few minutes late leaving as we didn't realise Ronny and Gary were waiting outside in the sunshine while we were indoors finishing our coffees. We set off along the main road towards Hertford before turning north to Tewin then cycled through Bramfield and Stapleford to reach Watton-at-Stone. After heading north to Aston we looped back up the hill from Bragbury End where we had a map stop.
Blue skies all morning
A route along muddy lanes to Datchworth then took us down Queen Hoo Lane back to Tewin where some people rebelled by ignoring the planned short-cut through Tewin Bury farm then up the old lane to the golf club. We reached the pub at 12.35 so were well placed for prompt service at 1pm. It was good to see Neil, Jon, Judy and Craig joining us for lunch.

Attimore Hall Christmas lunch
After a rather slow lunch we all got away by 3pm to cycle home before the dark descended. The morning ride was about 20 miles. Happy Christmas everybody!


8 December 2019

08 Dec 2019: Hatfield to Hoddesdon

Although it was a rather dull and damp day forecast we were pleasantly surprised to see 11 people turn up to the start at Poppins' café in Hatfield for the 10.30 departure. Jon and Judy decided to make their own way to Hoddesdon and see us at the pub, so nine of us left using the usual route up Woods Avenue before heading to Welham Green on the cycle path behind the Industrial Estate. If only Lord Salisbury would allow cycling along the direct tarmac path from Hatfield Station to Woodside!

Steve B had a puncture at the beginning of the path where we also noted we had lost Phil B ( sorry Phil, but I thought you were following us up the hill when we turned off the roundabout). We decided to carry on and leave Steve to fix the puncture and we shortened our route slightly, going via Wild Hill, Essendon and Letty Green before using the tiny road via East End Green to Hertingfordbury. At the bottom of St Mary's Lane the road to Bayford had a police sign closing the access, so we diverted via Brickendon and then took the usual route to The Star arriving at 12.15. Jon, Judy and Steve B were there before us and we managed to find somewhere to sit down. After quick refreshments (disappointing for some, the pub had a problem meaning no cask ales were available) we left again at 1.15 and rode back via White Stubbs lane; near Woodside someone had made an effort with Christmas decorations.
Colourful characters

In Hatfield, Steve B was presented with the Hargreaves trophy in the car-park in a rather low-key ceremony. Not exactly a red-carpet occasion! Nonetheless a magnificent achievement after 35 years with the club. Look out for his name in the New Year's honours list. 
Hargreaves hand-over
We did about a 40-mile round trip and managed to avoid the forecast rain.


1 December 2019

01 Dec 2019: St Albans to Croxley Green

Christmas scooters
On Sunday we were lucky with the clouds. While Saturday morning was frosty, the cloud cover during Saturday night kept the temperatures above 0°C and we didn't need to face the danger of ice on the small country lanes. After breakfast in the Waterend Barn (alongside many Santas assembling for their fun run) we set out towards west. The later start time that we have in winter meant also increased traffic on the main roads, however soon the country lanes provided us with joyful cycling. The sun came through the clouds and the hills out of the Ver valley and the Gate valley warmed us up. The right turn in Chipperfield came earlier than I thought, and so I let all my fellow cyclists stop and then start again while going uphill. In Belsize we took Plough lane and followed the valley downhill, for me this bit was the nicest landscape of the Sunday trip. We then continued into Croxley Green, where I missed the pub on the first time past. However, thanks to experienced fellow riders, we found the planned pub and enjoyed our food.

Scooter club flag

The Croxley Rebels, a local scooter club arrived at the pub later and allowed some chatting from biker to bicycler. They had been on a charity ride raising money for Stoke Mandeville hospital.
The headless puncture mender!

Our departure from the pub got delayed due to Eammon's puncture. Once this was fixed and we were on our way, another puncture ( Steve B) caused another pause just 300 metres later. We continued to the Ebury Way and then followed it into Watford, from where we continued on the Colne Valley Cycle Route. The weather started to cloud over with thicker clouds and before reaching St Albans a few drops fell. After 50km we were back at the starting point at 15:00.

Route below, Ronny

17 November 2019

17 Nov 2019: Hatfield to Shephall

After too many dismal autumn rides – too much rain and drizzle or just continuous dark clouds, the forecast for Sunday was looking better. But still there were only six of us at the start in Hatfield. So away we went heading for Hertford by a southern route. And the forecast was right, as despite it being quite cold the sun was shining and the countryside looked beautiful in its autumn colours. We went by a relatively flat route via Welham Green, Tylers Causeway, Brickendon and then a lovely long downhill and into Hertford by West Street. This is a nice way to approach the town as it was one of the original old roads in and is lined with many delightful old buildings. In the town we headed for “Rose’s” cafe probably the best cafe for cyclists in the area. Excellent food, extremely prompt service and very reasonable prices. Once there we found fellow cyclists Gary and Rona who had somehow missed the start and Jon and Judy who had cycled there directly from Barnet.

When we left Jon, Judy and Eamon weren’t able to go on, so now there were seven of us heading for Stevenage. Once away from Hertford the route used quiet lanes through  countryside looking at its best as the sun was still shining. Through Bramfield, Watton, and then Aston, before the excellent Stevenage cycle lanes led us to Shephall. This is now just part of the modern housing in Stevenage, but amazingly there is still a little, pretty enclave of village green and a few old houses, which long predates the modern town. Here we lunched in The Old Red Lion, which was once the village local but is now a modernized chain pub. Still the food was fine.

After this it was time to head home. Out of Stevenage via a cycle path, which was once probably a country lane, then to Old Knebworth and across country to Codicote. A while after this we split up with some going to St. Albans via Wheathampstead and others via Ayot St. Peter and Welwyn to the start in Hatfield. The total distance back to here was approx 40 miles. It had been an excellent cycling day, cold but sunny, which was psychologically lifting after the dismal weather we had been having.

peteR 17/11/2019

10 November 2019

10 Nov 2019: St Albans to Ivinghoe

Little Gaddesden
A bright forecast saw nine people at the start in St Albans. Ronny led us north up the old A5, then most of the group turned left into Hogg End Lane as Jon and Judy carried on north on a flatter route via Redbourn.
I got a puncture by the Old Jerome's turning, so Steve mended it while the rest of the group carried on, as it was a cold day. It has been a great Autumn for leaf peeping as the photos show.

We tried to take a shorter route so went via Water End and Little Gaddesden. There was a huge flood on the road towards Ivinghoe Beacon so we walked along a verge to avoid it.

Ronny texted to say the cafe in Ivinghoe was closed so they had gone on to Pitstone Wharf cafe instead.

Jon and Judy had gone on to Berkhamsted for their coffee stop, and Gary and Nick had turned back at Hudnall, so there were only five of us at the elevenses stop

Blue skies!
After a long wait for the food, we headed back towards Berkhamsted along the valley route back, passing more attractive scenery. Ronny assured me his photo hasn't been edited it really was an azure sky!

Three of us stopped off for a quick snack in Berkhamsted, as we hadn't ordered much food at the cafe.

A good turnout for a shorter ride and we still covered just under 40 miles.

Map below

3 November 2019

03 Nov 2019: Hatfield to Stevenage

It was a sunny morning when we arrived to meet Gareth and Peter outside Asda for the 9.15 start. Richard arrived in his car and croaked that he would not be able to lead the ride as he was unwell. After a quick map-check we set off towards the planned Hitchin coffee stop. I forgot to switch my GPS tracker on so stopped in Hatfield Garden Village to remedy this. As I stopped Gareth realised he had a puncture, so we waited until he replaced the tube before setting off again. He threw away the old inner tube which was then retrieved as Steve warned him that he might have another puncture and need to repair that one as he didn't have another spare tube. As we'd lost some time we decided to divert to Old Stevenage for our 11's stop.
Four of Stevenage's Six Hills
Puncture no 2
A northerly route west of the A1 took us into Old Stevenage via the cycle path that starts at the Six Hills Roman barrows; not just landscape gardening but real roman relics

We used Subway which provided a bacon roll and coffee for the grand total of £2. Fantastic value. Unfortunately when we came to leave, Gareth discovered he had another puncture. After fixing this one using Steve's spare tube we decided it was too late to get to Lilley so just headed back to Hatfield and the Harpsfield Hall for lunch. As we left Stevenage on the cycle paths towards Bragbury End we encountered half-marathon runners (and walkers), some of whom seemed very reluctant to move out of the way even when we politely rang our bells. 
After Datchworth it started raining so we took the most direct route back via Tewin and WGC before having a chat and some food in the rather busy pub. We only did 30 miles but better than nothing on a damp dull day.

I'll schedule another ride to Lilley in the new year.


27 October 2019

27 Oct 2019: St Albans to Northall

St Albans Start
The sun shone brightly in windless conditions on the 1st day after the clocks went back and everyone had an extra hour’s sleep, so surely there would be a heaving throng of cyclists at the War Memorial eager to get out on the road. But no, we were still well in single figures so why was this? Someone referred to the semi-final of the rugby world cup that morning, a game which provides a spectacle where hulking men place their heads against the thighs of other men and tightly clasp their buttocks. I prefer the elegance of the ladies’ game, particularly when it is played in the rain on a muddy pitch, but each to their own.

We headed north throughSandridge and Peters Green before making the descent to cross the Lower Luton Road by the East Hyde sewage works. We then climbed up through Kinsbourne Green and negotiated some flooded roads before arriving at Pepperstock. Harper’s cafe and farm shop (formerly the Half-Moon pub) was unusually deserted although a group of cyclists was just leaving as we arrived. Was the rugby still on? However, it meant that service was quick and we were soon on our way though Markyate before taking the road towards Whipsnade,  then descending to skirt Dunstable, passing through Totternhoe and arrived at the hamlet of Northall at 12:30. There were only a few cars in the car-park and we were astounded to be told that all tables had been booked and that we would have to sit outside.
Banished to the car-park
Fortunately this was not a problem for us due to the extremely bright sun and a dry day, but otherwise it would have been.
After a sandwich lunch we followed the most direct route back through via Dagnall, up to Studham crossroads and down Gaddesdon Row.

As we approached Dagnall we could see the chalk White Lion below Whipsnade needed a good wash as it was hardly visible. At Redbourn we put our lights on as we encountered some heavy traffic heading south down the A5183 making the last 3 miles rather unpleasant, accentuated by the sun being low in the sky behind the trees of Prae Wood making it seem quite dark. We arrived back in St Albans at about 3:45.

words Steve B

Map below showing ride-length of about 48miles

20 October 2019

20 Oct 2019: Hatfield to Great Hormead

Six of us set off from ASDA car-park on a very bright but cold morning. Taking a familiar route past the QE2 hospital and the cycle path to the Old Coach Road (formerly A414) we turned north at Cole Green to brave the hazard of crossing the new A414 and headed towards Bramfield. At a road junction we encountered a group of about 12 stationary cyclists, one of them sitting on the verge with his head in his hands. We learned that he had hit his head but asserted he was “all right”. Hmm; he didn’t look very happy. The group were from Whetstone where they meet outside Boots every Sunday at 8:30. Continuing through Bramfield we did a mile along the main A119 at Stapleford to enter Watton (unusually for us) from the south. We then took the track to Whempstead and the usual route through Dane End, noticing a cyclist from the distant past wearing the yellow-&-green Herts CTC jersey, and making the ascent to White Hill Golf club. Here we were joined by Steve & Jackie and later by Gary who had made his own route from Hatfield having been late arriving there. By now it had clouded over, and 3 of the riders decided to turn back, as did two more later at Westmill. Narrowly avoiding two Roe deer which leaped across the road, we rode through Buntingford & Anstey before turning south along a very minor road signed only as “Flint Hill” arriving at Great Hormead at about 1 pm.
We saw two like this
The pub was surprisingly quiet and had a log fire so the remaining 4 riders gravitated to the coolest spot, a circular table conveniently located by the toilets. Thick-cut sandwiches came quickly and we were soon on our way again admiring the autumn foliage.
near Great Hormead
We headed east to Cottered and then turned south through Walkern to Bragbury End then used the road past the crematorium near Knebworth, noting that the entrance now appeared to have a modern sculpture but which on closer inspection were numerous  dumped grey cushions. Saying goodbye to 2 riders at Old Knebworth the remaining two continued south through Codicote, pausing briefly here for a coffee & banana before reaching St Albans at about 4.30pm.

58 miles from Hatfield back to St Albans.


13 October 2019

13 Oct 2019: Wheathampstead to Lower Stondon

Five of us us assembled outside Wheathampstead car-park observing a succession of hikers and dog walkers trying the locked door of the public conveniences, which according to the nearby notice should have been open on a Sunday morning for those in need. After the comment that there was still plenty of foliage on bushes we set off up the long steep hill to Gustard Wood. It was impressive that Gary, who today was riding a 1970s’ Falcon with two large chain-rings and a tiny 5-speed block kept up with us during the ascent. At Claggy Croft, just outside Kimpton, we turned towards Breachwood Green, negotiating an extremely large flood, a consequence of the amount of recent weather. It was then through Lilley and the descent to Hexton.

After the hill to Higham Gobion we stopped for a rest and I took the photo showing the beautiful autumn foliage.
Autumn colour at Higham Gobion
Remarkably it didn't rain until we were enjoying good quality sausage and bacon baps for breakfast at the golf club in Lower Stonden. After the break we decided to cut and run back home and we had to cycle for about one hour in the rain into a driving headwind as we came home via Hitchin. We cycled through many flooded areas on the roads, but none so big as the one at the top of the hill between Codicote and Wheathampstead. Ronny took the photos below.

This shows the size of the flood!
Carol and Gary riding through big flood!

38 miles in total, map below,

map here

6 October 2019

06 Oct 2019: St Albans to Amersham

Despite the dire weather forecast, it didn’t rain during the Sunday ride, but there were only three of us.
The ascent from Belsize to Chipperfield.
The other two riders wanted only to go to elevenses and back so that’s what we did. A notable feature of the ride, apart from the lack of rain, was that the cafe in Amersham was unusually crowded; this may not be totally unrelated to the fact that the tables were being served by two attractive young girls.

We returned to St Albans at 1 pm to find the market place occupied by a vegan market.

Steve 06/10/2019

28 September 2019

28 Sep 2019: St Albans to Chipperfield

Chipperfield Saturday Fun Ride.

As five of us gathered for a ride up to Chipperfield the 'Five Miles Further' group were meeting for a trip out to St Paul’s Walden, this is fantastic progression for them and long may it continue.

We were a select company of riders I had seen for a while now and our ride took in Verulamium Park, Potters Crouch, Bedmond, then down the lanes to Nash Mills. We cycled up Rucklers Lane which is a lovely climb full of overhanging trees and some great views. As we passed Phasels Wood Scout Camp we came across several groups of young un’s doing their Queen's Scout or Duke of something or other award.
Phasels Wood
We finished our climb at the top of the ridge and popped into the garden centre there for tea/cakes, curry and toasties (not all at once). This is a nice garden centre and never seems to be in too much of a hurry.

After break we retraced our tracks a little, then headed down Barnes Lane for a change making our way over to Kings Langley, then we shot down an 8% hill only to climb up the other side (Tom’s Lane). This gets you huffing and puffing and is quite a challenge, but we all made it as one group, which I have to say seldom happens. Got the pace just right 😊. After visiting Potters Crouch again, we took to Ragged Hall Lane and navigated our way back on to the Alban Way to complete a ride of 23 miles.

Windy at times with a few spots of rain, but a nice morning’s ride.

Neil 28/09/2019

8 September 2019

08 Sept 2019: Hatfield to Sawbridgeworth

8 of us met at ASDA on Sunday for a trip into the Essex countryside. We welcomed a Saturday rider to the group and her husband. We set off on a slightly familiar route going to Cucumber Lane via Welham Green and Wild Hill. We don’t traverse the length of Cucumber Lane very often and once at the end we took ourselves off-road and followed the bridle path that leads to The Coach and Horses at Newgate Street. Whilst getting there we were treated to a great view over the trees and woodland in the area. It's quite a view.

After slogging up Darnicle Hill we zipped into Goff’s Oak looking for Halstead Hill which we proceeded to fly down, noting all the new-build housing on the lane. When we emerged near Cheshunt  we headed for the bike path that takes us over the A10.

The café is a nice affordable affair in the square in Waltham Abbey.

Outside Abbey Café

Afterwards two of our number left to go home and the rest of us continued. We took the crooked mile out of Waltham Abbey and made our way into the Lee Valley Park and followed the off-road track, then re-joined the road to get to Lower Nazeing and a wait at the longest traffic lights ever. From Nazeing we took a lovely quiet winding road up to Broadley Common then we joined a familiar route to Harlow Common and Essex beyond. In Essex I found a great network of small country lanes that really suited the peacefulness of the ride until after 20 miles we arrived at the Gate pub in Sawbridgeworth.

After filling ourselves up with sandwiches,  we headed for Hertford. The route I chose was very uncomplicated (Allen’s Green, Green Tye, Much Hadham, Baker’s End, Babbs Green and Ware were all visited) on our journey to Hertford, all the way facing a head wind. We chose to stop at the Wetherspoon pub only to find they didn’t do cake. So I won’t be making a Wetherspoon last stop again.
Getting back to Hatfield was a straightforward affair and after 59 miles we finished the days ride.

And it was very pleasant.

Neil 08/09/2019

1 September 2019

01 Sept 2019: Wheathampstead to Streatley

Eleven of us were present at Wheathampstead car-park at 9:30, a fitting tribute to England’s recent cricketing success, although none of us could claim comparable ability to Ben Stokes’ prowess, especially the drinking & fighting in night-clubs. We welcomed two new riders, Emma & Jonathan, both Audax veterans and new to the area, who were forewarned about our usual modest average speed. To impress them with the local cultural heritage, the route passed through Ayot St Lawrance & Bernard Shaw’s house before taking the track down to Kimpton Bottom and St Paul’s Walden, the birthplace of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who became the Queen Mother. We then passed through Preston, which claims the country’s first community-owned pub, before heading north-west to Letchworth, entering the first Garden City via a cycle path to reach the golf-club cafe which has a semi-circular window with a vista of green serenity. We were impressed with the welcome from the manager & the presentation of the food which came fairly quickly. From here we passed through the city centre before heading south-west to Ickleford to pick up the ancient Icknield Way (the “oldest road in Britain”), which is now a bridleway, but due to the lack of rain was completely dry.

Exiting the Icknield way
Fortunately it was downhill for the mile that we cycled. Joining the road to Pirton, we skirted Barton & continued to Sharpenhoe before making the challenging ascent up Sharpenhoe Clappers to the Chequers pub at Streatley where the village has a cute sign.

Unusually for a Sunday, it was very quiet but this made it easier for us to find a large table. The afternoon took us down & up to Lilley before following the familiar route to Whitwell, stopping at Emily’s for afternoon tea and the up the hill to Kimpton & back to Wheathampstead. A shorter than usual ride for early September meant an early finish.
leaving Streatley
Steve B

18 August 2019

18 Aug 2019: Hatfield to Whitehill

The weather forecast on Saturday night showed a fine dry Sunday, so Steve and I set off for the day with no rain jackets, a decision we soon came to regret. We met Eamonn, Ronny and Peter at the Hatfield start and set off on the usual route round the edge of Welwyn Garden City. By the time we got to Bramfield the rain started, drizzly at first before turning into proper driving wet rain. We pushed on to the golf club where we managed to park the bikes under cover and sat indoors hoping the rain would pass through. A decision was made to abandon the planned route and return as soon as possible. As we left the golf club we could see that the weather might clear and indeed by the time we got back to Whempstead the skies were blue in the distance.
Rain finally stopped
However we stuck to the plan to return and got back to Hatfield at about 12.30 after about 30 miles. Lesson learned - don't trust the previous night's forecast.


11 August 2019

11 Aug 2019: Wheathampstead to Biggleswade

A ‘nice’ day for cycling, not too hot, not too cold and no rain forecast. But, being as it was the middle of the August holidays, only five of us were at the start at Wheathampstead. Our first stop was scheduled as a cafe in Baldock. Amazingly and due no doubt to a following wind, we reached Baldock via Kimpton etc. at the world beating record time of 10.20. At this point, possibly due to over exerting ourselves, three of the party decided they had pressing engagements at home and turned back.

Richard and I however, being more determined, decided to press on for lunch at Biggleswade as planned. So we cycled out from Baldock into very open countryside, climbing towards Ashwell. Then we headed for Hinxworth, a village on the northern edge of Hertfordshire. From there we went further north before turning due west for Biggleswade, through the suburbs and into the centre where we went to “The Crown” pub for lunch. Unfortunately, despite reaching there early, we were told that there was a long delay for food. Cyclists of course can’t wait, so exploring the centre of Baldock we found a “Subway”. Clean and amazingly cheap, what is not to like with coffee at only 50p.

After lunch it was time to head south into a bit of a headwind. It is a slightly boring route through Henlow and Arlesey. The only interesting bit was just outside Hitchin at the Hitchin Lavender Farm.

This was in the national news recently, as apparently people like to take selfies against a blue background of lavender plants. Such is the demand for this that it was reported that the farmer is charging £6 to enter the fields for photographic purposes. Whilst we paused at the entrance for some time there was a continuous stream of cars turning into the farm. However neither Richard nor myself thought we really needed photos of ourselves in lavender so we pressed on to a pub on the southern outskirts of Hitchin, where we paused for the obligatory tea and cake.

After this it was a steady ride back through the lanes to Wheathampstead. A pleasant day’s cycling of about 54 miles from start to finish.

peteR 11/08/2019

4 August 2019

04 Aug 2019: St Albans to Eversholt

This week we met in St Albans and first stop was to be Leighton Buzzard garden centre, so a fairly direct route seemed called for. We took the main road to Redbourn, then through Gaddesden Row and Studham.  Whipsnade Zoo seemed to be doing brisk trade as we went past the entrance and down Bison Hill. Approaching Leighton Buzzard from the east we were astonished by the new housing developments. The garden centre used to be on the fringes of the town, but now new estates surround it.

After a quick refreshment break, Peter headed home, while the rest of us followed the twisting and hilly lanes through the pine woods and along the edge of the greensand ridge to the Brickhills. Tantalising glimpses of Milton Keynes could be glimpsed to the north. Then, through more pine woods, we arrived in elegant and posh Georgian Woburn. Our planned lunch stop in Flitwick was going to be a problem, as the pub was not offering sandwiches. So, spotting the village shop in Woburn, we bought food there before heading off through the deer park to Eversholt.

It was drinks and our own sarnies in the pub in the village. There was now no special need to go to Flitwick, and a revised route took us through Tingrith and under the M1 to Harlington. Getting to Lilley Bottom from the north is going to involve a stiff climb whichever way you go, but the easiest of the various steep hills is the A6 main road from Barton. So, slogging up there we were soon along the pleasant valley and into Emily's for a well earned drink. This time not too cluttered up with other sweaty cyclists for a change. From Emily's we took the usual route through Wheathampstead back home, a round trip of about 65 miles.

Richard 04/08/2019

3 August 2019

03 Aug 2019: St Albans to Redbourn

Eight of us met outside Morrison’s for the morning’s ride to Redbourn; we had a new rider from Luton attend and we had a Romanian couple as well. Two of our riders’ bikes were not really suitable for the ride and they had some problems, but I was not going to deter them as that may have put them off group riding.
Meeting at Morrisons
We started out with our usual preamble through the streets of Fleetville and made our way towards Childwickbury. Our first stop happened around these lanes as a back wheel had made its way loose, so it was out with the spanners to re-align the wheel and tighten it up. We were soon on our way again. Childwickbury is a gem of a place and everyone feels great going through it. There are some lovely views from the roads there. We went up to Buncefield then hopped over to Holtsmere End and dropped to Gaddesden Lane to get to The Hub in Redbourn.
At The Hub, Redbourn
We stopped for a well-deserved break, they do some great flapjacks here all made with produce from the mill down the road.

After our break we took a less undulating route back home via the Nicky line, which we followed to Harpenden. This is a great, traffic free route that is very popular with all kinds of users, Harpenden was busy as usual but we managed to wiggle through and make our way to Ayers End and past Nomansland common.

We took a leisurely route to Sandridge and followed House Lane to get to Oaklands college. They were holding an equestrian gymkhana, which produced a great conversation on the use of the word and how other countries use it. From Oaklands it was a short hop back to the start. Not our fastest ride but very enjoyable, and there was a real sense of achievement for a couple of us.

Neil 03/08/2019

28 July 2019

28 July 2019: Hatfield to Allens Green

I arrived at the start already wet from the rain, and waited to see how many intrepid people would brave the elements. As it turned out, three more brave souls appeared and we started off with the drizzle starting to get heavier.

We chose to take a different route, as we often use the road past the golf course, and went up to where cycle route 12 crosses cycle route 61, at the beginning to Welwyn Garden City. Here we turned onto route 61, which travels round the back routes near Panshanger and onto the Cole Green Way. As we travelled down towards Hertford, thankful that it wasn’t too muddy, I got a puncture and the four of us managed to keep the tyre off the ground and out of the mud and replace the inner tube, all the while sheltering from the heavy drizzle. Steve H and Richard doing a stalwart job in getting the tyre off.

We reached the cafe in Stanstead Abbotts with the rain easing off, the cafe had run out of ordinary coffee, so I had to make do with decaffeinated, but our food came fairly promptly so we discussed whether we should go on or turn back, the consensus being that it wasn’t heavy rain and we would go on.

As we left, it wasn’t raining, but that soon changed, and we cycled on through Harlow on cycle route 1, through Old Harlow, up to Lower Sheering and Sawbridgeworth to Allens Green our next stop.

Suitably fed and watered we left the pub and cycled around by Green Tye and Perry Green to Much Hadham and by the time we reached Ware it had stopped raining and the sun was threatening to show itself. We made our way back to Hertford, where we bade farewell to Ronnie and found our usual watering hole of the Rose Cafe, which is still going strong, even though the shops to its right have been demolished and there is no sign of anything being built any time soon.

Now the sun had come out, and was getting pleasantly warm, so at least the end of the ride was better than the start. All in all, not a bad ride but could have done without the “wet stuff.”

Sue 28/07/2019

21 July 2019

21 July 2019: Baldock to St Neots

The effects of global warming were evident as five people met at Baldock Station for our car-assisted ride, except that Phil had not needed any assistance having already cycled 25 miles from Bedmond. We headed off skirting the pretty village of Ashwell before heading north-west to our coffee stop at Sandy. On a very hot day it can feel like heaven to be in an air-conditioned supermarket and this day was no exception as Subway was operating as a concession inside the local Co-op. The feeling of paradise was enhanced upon discovering that a bacon roll & coffee was only £2. How can they make any money? They must know what they are doing as they have more branches internationally than any of their competitors, including McDonalds & KFC. Continuing north west for a few miles before turning sharp right at Colmworth, we sped through cornfields in flatlands almost devoid of trees and fortunately, cars. We followed the main road into St Neots, noting with pleasure that it was the sort place that had a Waitrose and would therefore be suitable for our visit. Even the Wetherspoon’s seemed fairly smart inside, although all the external tables were occupied, but probably by smokers anyway. Suitably refreshed we took a wiggly route to the tea stop at the garden centre at Waresley, again having to sit inside as all the outside tables were taken.   The most interesting thing we saw all day was this unicorn, modestly priced at just under £2000!
Teak unicorn
Suitably rehydrated, we continued vaguely South, crossing our outward route near Sutton and almost again at Ashwell getting back to Baldock at about 5 pm and cycling about 63 miles. But it was not the end for Phil, who still had another 25 miles to get back to Bedmond.
Steve B

20 July 2019

20 July 2019: Hatfield to Roydon

With the deluge of rain over the last 12 hrs this mainly off road route had to be changed at the last minute. As for the weather on Saturday, it was unpredictable. Rain was in the air as I waited for the ride to start and by ten O’clock only one rider had joined me, so without further ado the pair of us set off for the borders of Essex.

We were soon hitting the undulating road that is Grubs Lane and as we rode the hint of rain never quite left us. It was at the end of this lane that our route had to be changed. The original plan was to head onto the path that is on the land of Woodside Farm and then tack across to Newgate Street via the bridleway skirting Millbrook golf course. I called this off as I thought it would be far too muddy for us. So instead we took a more familiar route down Tylers Causeway, a really winding, undulating affair of a road. We had only just reached the rise when we had to pullover and let some people-squashing tractors past. White Stubbs Lane was as pleasant as ever, going through the Broxbourne nature reserve is always a treat and somehow looks better when it’s not so sunny.

Roydon Marina
After a wiggle around Hoddesdon and the Rye House sewage works we eventually got to the Marina, which looked superb in the sunshine. They served a great breakfast and proved to a success. As we left the Marina the sky darkened over, the wind picked up and the clouds produced a short, sharp and heavy downpour with accompanying thunder. Taking shelter under what trees we could find, coats went on. A few minutes passed and the downpour stopped but the wind didn’t go away.

We made our way back to the sewage works and took a bridleway that leads into and around RSPB Rye Meads. We scooted past Abbots Lake and saw the mist rising off the pavement as we took our jackets off.

The tow path proved to be a sploshy affair, up near Stanstead Abbots it was quite doable and pleasant, but as got nearer Ware it became evident that they had had more rain than us as small puddles gave away to greater puddles and the pair of us got covered in mud. To be honest I found this to be quite a lot of fun, even Swans got in on the act by having a quick nibble at us. The path between Ware and Hertford was seriously bumpy though and not quite as pleasant. As we were already muddy we carried on with the off road theme and took the old train line to WGC, all the while battling a steady head wind.

After reaching Welwyn it was a small task to get back to the start and complete the longest of our Saturday rides so far.

A fun, muddy and bumpy ride out.
Neil 20/07/2019

14 July 2019

14 July 2019: St Albans to Towersey

The designated ride leader had had an acute attack of Wimbledonfinalitis on Sunday morning, where the only known cure is to lie prostate on a settee in a darkened room with a television showing tennis.  I discovered that I had been volunteered to lead the ride, so I quickly calculated some suitable routes between the stops, and as the tea stops are not cast in concrete, moved the last one to Great Missenden church. There were only 3 of us at the start; I suspected that other regulars were similarly afflicted or had been tempted by another event where men in colourful pyjamas throw a small ball around in an activity which is now a serious rival to the world paint-drying championships. I am more of a ladies’ beach-volleyball person myself, but each to their own. We set off a bit late, as one of the riders had to return home to retrieve his mobile phone from its resting place on the kitchen table, so I shortened the planned route to go along the Hemel Hempstead Road & down Bunkers Lane, as it is a 24-mile stretch to Wendover. Early on a Sunday morning there was only an insignificant amount of motorised traffic on these roads. We went through Bovingdon and headed towards Ashley Green becoming more aware of a number of cyclists  travelling the same way but with numbers on their backs. I queried one of them as to what event they were doing to learn that it was the Etape UK, which was in the Chilterns this year, having started in Amersham. With 3000 riders expected at over £50 a pop, it was a nice little earner for someone. We continued on through Cholesbury and after a wrong turn at Braziers End (it’s not everyone who has a place named after a piece of his anatomy) we descended the Hale to Wendover to see an almost continuous stream of Etapers coming down the main road from Tring. It was then exactly 11 o’clock, and after coffee at Crumbs Cafe, we headed due west, joining in with the Etapers for a few miles and eventually picked up the Phoenix Trail, NCN 57 which is dead flat but took us close to the 3 Horseshoes at Towersey. 
Old Phoenix trail photo!

I had planned a short route as I expected to be late leaving Wendover, so we arrived at 12:20 and were astonished to find the garden tables nearly all taken. However, we found a table & had a baguette each (one of us successfully palmed off a 1969 50-pence piece, when it was worth 10 shillings) and were ready to leave at 1:30. I had calculated that it would take us an hour to get to Great Missenden following a cycle route marked by green dots on the OS map which took us through Princes Risborough followed by a sharp left turn up the extremely steep Kop Hill. At that moment the sun came out so bucketfuls of sweat were left on the road as we struggled to the summit. 
This is why we struggled
We then joined some more Etapers as we followed the descent into Great Missenden, arriving at exactly 2:30, but being somewhat disconcerted by the sign in the village saying Church Teas 3 – 5pm. However, the church doors were already open and we put on the weary travellers needing sustenance act and successfully blagged  a piece of cake each. After that it was the usual route through Chesham, Chipperfield & Bedmond arriving back in St Albans at 5pm.

Map below 

Steve B

7 July 2019

07 July 2019: Hatfield to Marden Ash

It was a drizzly start to the day, as I cycled to the start, but at least it wasn’t cold. I was slightly nervous as this was my first time leading a ride, and there were nine of us at the start. That was soon dispelled as we set off down through Welham Green and up towards Wildhill Road, past Paradise Wildlife Park, where it seemed like the occupants were sleeping in as there was little sound of them. The sun was starting to make an appearance, and it was getting to a more pleasant temperature for cycling. After making our way through Hoddesdon and up through Rye Meads we arrived at Roydon Mill Marina to find that we weren’t the only people wishing to partake in a late breakfast, as the place was busy. Hearing that there was a considerable wait for cooked items, we all chose to just buy food from the counter, to save time. We said goodbye to Ronny at this point as he was going back home.

After coffee, we followed National Cycle Route 1 through Harlow and, thanks to Carol, I found the right route through Old Harlow. We soon were on our way through Househam Tye making our way down through Moreton, where we left route 1, and instead of going the back route through Greensted Green we went through on the Moreton road to Chipping Ongar so some people could buy sandwiches.

It was at this point that we lost Richard, as when we arrived at the pub, he wasn’t with us.
The Stag pub garden
( Rumour has it, he followed another group, by mistake) Carol tried ringing, but only got his voicemail, so we had to leave without him.

After lunch, we made our way to Stanford Rivers and Toot Hill and the infamous Ivy Chimneys, which was surprisingly free of traffic, on to Upshire Church where we met Jon and Judy who had cycled out to meet us, as well as meeting up with Richard, who had made his own way to the church. We then split up, with the others making their way back to Hatfield, whereas I went back with Jon and Judy through Enfield.

Many thanks to Carol for helping me plan the route, and at least we had a pleasant ride through the Essex countryside.

Route below
Sue Shea 07/07/2019

6 July 2019

06 July 2019: Wheathampstead to Whitwell

The new starting place East Lane car park in Wheathampstead proved to be a good meeting place, where five of us ponied up for this ride into the countryside around the Ayots. We welcomed a new rider Allan and then promptly made our way along Cory Wright Way and made a bee line for Ayot St Lawrence, taking in the quiet, tranquil lanes. Passing Shaw’s Corner and the old church, we headed into the grounds of Ayot Manor along a gravelly track, which meets up with Tanyard Lane (I thought this was Lord Mead Lane, but upon looking at a map I saw my mistake).

We shot down the lane to do a little wiggle through Kimpton Bottom then back out to the lovely meandering lanes of Three Houses and what I can only presume is Langley Lane,. These two lanes happily wander all over the place and make for some lovely, peaceful riding.

Passing The Hitchwood bluebell forest was as pleasant as ever, as we headed towards Preston, where the little village was a hive of activity as they prepared for their village fete: scarecrows, tractors and all sorts everywhere. We followed the road that takes us past the Frogmore Livery Stables and then dropped to Lilley Bottom, leading straight into Whitwell.
Emily's Cafe
The delights of Emily’s Cafe never fail and we enjoyed sun, cakes, cream teas and a bit of drizzle: lovely stop.

Our route home was simply straight across to Wheathampstead, via the farm road (cows decided to follow us for a quick jog) that leads to Kimpton. Then the delights of Ballslough Hill, where one of our group surprised herself by completing the hill with no trouble at all. Then the reward for that is a lovely downhill almost to Wheathampstead.

A really successful ride from a new start.

On the 20th our ride is longer as we go to Roydon Marina.

Neil 06/07/2019

30 June 2019

30 June 2019: Panshanger to Royston

Well, Saturday had been hottest day of the year, at 34C a bit too hot for cycling. But a radical cooling change was forecast for Sunday. So in anticipation there were 8 of us at the start at Panshanger golf centre in Welwyn Garden City. First stop was to be at another golf club at Ash valley near Much Hadham. For a change I took the direct B1000 road straight into Hertford as, being early there wasn’t much traffic. Reaching Hertford very quickly we climbed up through the back streets of Bengeo with its smart “gentrified” housing. Then out along a country lane towards Sacombe Park, the grounds of Sacombe House, currently encased in scaffolding and probably being turned into upmarket apartments. Still the parkland setting is very pretty.

Sacombe Green
From there across both the old and new A10 roads and down to Barwick ford. Here Ronny displayed virtuoso riding skills by cycling through the ford without falling in, whilst the rest of us wimps went over the footbridge. Onwards took us through Much Hadham and then at about 18 miles we reached the Ash Valley golf club. This is in a very nice setting and has a nice low key ambience plus excellent mid morning grub.

After this three riders turned back for home, while the rest of us headed north. By now we were on little lanes in mostly very open, quiet countryside, the temperature was ideal and we meandered on through Anstey to Barkway. Ronny now had to turn back, so just four of us did the last few undulating miles into Royston. Here we lunched at “The Manor House” a fine imposing Georgian building, now a pub run by Wetherspoons. This might seem a little ignominious for such a building, but at least it means it is restored and maintained and the public (us) can see inside. Plus it does good food at a very good price.

So, having fed and rested, we left Royston going west on the old main road a short way until we turned south across Therfield Heath.  This was easier said than done, as in reality it was a long hard slog of a climb against a headwind all the way to Therfield. Onwards through Sandon and Roe Green it all seems quite a remote part of the county. Then we were in Rushden and by now we had been cycling for about an hour into headwinds. So the original plan to press on to Old Stevenage for a tea stop was abandoned, because the opportunity to stop here and enjoy having tea at “The Mill” nursery was too much. Indeed it was so pleasant sitting and having tea at tables with tablecloths and proper teapots that we found it difficult to motivate ourselves to start cycling again.

However needs must and away we went cycling southwards. Soon we were at Walkern followed by Tewin and back to Panshanger where we had started. In all we had done about 60 miles and the weather had been kind, mostly sunny but not too hot with just a little too much wind in the afternoon.

peteR 30/06/2019

23 June 2019

23 June 2019: St Albans to Hedgerley

Our planned route on Sunday started with a detour as the setting up of the St Albans Festival was in a full swing. Nevertheless we found our way out of the city and onto small country lanes to Bedmond. My three fellow riders were surprised by the nice areas in Abbots Langley around Hazelwood Lane, a way we seldom take. We continued our way to Loudwater.

In my planning I didn't take much care of the hilliness at this place and so we took the scenic route along Chorleywood common and the woods up to Berry Lane Estates, adding 50 meters of elevation to the tour. As our stomachs became already noisy, we had our breakfast stop a bit earlier than planned at the cafe in Maple Cross.

The hill to Horn Hill helped us to get warm again after breakfast, but then we also enjoyed the ride down into Gerrards Cross. Our route continued to be hilly through Fulmer and Stoke Poges, until we finally headed to our lunch stop in Hedgerley. We ordered our sandwiches just in time before the White Horse became busy.

The way after lunch continued on quiet lanes. We were surprised to see how much grass and other plants were growing in potholes and cracks of the road parallel to the M40. The blackberry bushes were in full blossom, which was nice to see and added some colour. The sky remained cloudy for the whole day, but it was dry and the temperature warm. We then crossed Beaconsfield, which was more busy, but soon we found ourselves back on quiet and empty lanes. The valleys of the rivers Misbourne and Chess added some more elevation to the tour, so we all looked forward to the coffee stop in Chipperfield.

There we got entertained by the youth on their bicycles (back-wheel riding). Eventually we had to go back on our bikes and took the direct way back to St Albans. When we arrived there, I had 86 km on the bicycle computer.

Ronny (PS see below the map for an update on the Welwyn Hatfield fitness festival event)

On Saturday 22nd Rona, Jean and Neil represented the club at the WelHat Health Festival where they had a stall.

Smiles all round!

16 June 2019

16 June 2019: Hatfield to Bishops Stortford

It started raining as nine gathered under the bike shed outside Asda in Hatfield, but in the warm weather it didn't last long and jackets were soon removed. The usual picturesque route south went around the back of the M and S depot and through the industrial estate in Welham Green before branching east through the village of Little Berkhamsted and behind the Paradise Park zoo to Hoddesdon. We arrived at the River Palace café to find it heaving with dads being treated to a Fathers' Day breakfast. A quick re-plan took us backtracking to a different café on Rye Road called Anatolia's. The service could not have been more different to the previous week as all the food was produced in double-quick time at a very economical price. The café is like a Dr Who Tardis as it is huge inside, hiding behind a modest exterior.

After another change of plan, we cycled pasted the Rye House gatehouse where the Rye House plot took place.
We decided the original planned lunch pub would not be a good idea as sitting in the garden in the rain didn't sound appealing so we headed to the usually ever dependable JD Wetherspoon outlet in Bishops Stortford pausing for a photoshoot near Perry Green by the Henry Moore statue.
Perry Green

Carol got a puncture just afterwards so the rest of the group went ahead to the pub. The road seemed exceptionally busy on the way into Stortford and it turned out the A120 trunk road was closed between Little Hadham and Stortford as the works have started on the Little Hadham bypass. Unfortunately we were cycling on the official diversion. 

As Carol and Steve approached the JDW pub the others came out after having been told of an hour wait for food, so we decamped to the reliable Bridge Café for lunch instead. 

We left Stortford via quiet lanes north, then west before crossing the now-opened  A120 and headed west through Wellpond Green where we saw the illegal camp set up by members of the Travelling Community. This hit the national news recently as they bought a field and have built a caravan site illegally.

Get the map out
Ronny's photo showed there was some fine weather around and eventually we had a coffee stop in Hertford before getting back to Hatfield in the late afternoon.

I forgot to switch my tracker on until we were on the edge of Hatfield so the map looks a bit strange. 

Lesson learned - next year set up a picnic ride on any special occasion day if we want to avoid any overloaded pubs!

About 60 miles and unusually no planned stops were used!


15 June 2019

15 June 2019: Hatfield to Potters Bar

We had a good turn out this week, welcoming a rider from the 40+ and seeing the return of a new rider from the last ride. It was one of those what-the-hell-should-you-wear kind of mornings, quite warm with drizzle in the air. The route to Potters Bar was a meandering affair as usual. We headed out via the university and took the road from Colney Heath to Water End. After we’d gone through there I decided to take the cycle path beside Swanland Road, which turned out to be an arm scratchingly, leg stingy, branch in the face kind of experience. Plants just love to grow out of control!

Anyway, after we’d put our machetes away, the delights of South Mimms were awaiting us. Now I don’t go through here often and when we got to the main junction in the village I remembered why. There’s a small bit of one way road here that I always forget about, so we all cycled along the road the wrong way, motor vehicle drivers would’ve had a field day if they’d seen us.

After we’d passed the Old Guinea pub we stayed on Cross Oaks Lane and took the farm road over to Well End towards the Mop & Brooms pub on Rowley Lane, for a nice change. Then it was over the A1, along Trotters Bottom and up Dancers Hill into Potters Bar. The hill that nearly did everyone in was Mutton Lane, which leads up to the top part of the town and our café.

Hiding inside the café were Jon and Judy, who we haven’t seen for a while and both looked happy and well. It was nice to catch up with them. Upon exiting the café I spied lots of traffic and some furious honking of horns. This was because the traffic had nearly come to a standstill, so we chose to break the rules again taking carefully to the pavement. It really was the most sensible idea as we came across the cause of the problem, an artic lorry delivering to the Co-op mixed with the road being ripped up for re-surfacing.

Once we were through the traffic we headed for Northaw and took the back road to Brookmans Park. Here we chose to use Upland Road and headed into Welham Green via Bell Lane, a great route as it’s almost all down hill . After a little jiggery pokery we were back in Hatfield with happy faces all around, there was a request for weekly rides but for this to happen we will need more leaders.

Our next ride is from a new starting place, Wheathampstead (public car park behind the Bull pub).

Neil 15/06/2019