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

9 June 2019

09 June 2019: St Albans to Wrest Park, Silsoe

As it was the start of Bike Week, we'd listed this event on the LetsRide website, so we welcomed some newcomers, which simultaneously fixed the usual gender imbalance, and started off from St Albans with 12 riders. Avoiding the route of the St Albans half marathon, we cycled towards Redbourn before skirting Maylands industrial area in Hemel to gently climb to Gaddesden Row. In Studham we missed the planned turn as Carol was chatting so zig-zagged back to join the gradual ascent towards Whipsnade then cut across to Kensworth and then used the very quiet Isle of Wight Lane to the top of the Dunstable Downs. A fast descent brought us to the newly found Downs café where it unfortunately took ages for the food to arrive.

Neil joined us at the elevenses stop, so 13 carried on to Silsoe using the back streets of Dunstable before joining NCR 6 for a couple of miles through a surprisingly green area of Dunstable and Houghton Regis.
Posh picnic area at Wrest Park café
It was a short distance along the road towards the new M1junction, then we rode on the cycle path alongside the new-junction access roads bringing us us back onto the lanes near Sundon. Largely quiet roads took us past Flitton church where the De Grey mausoleum is situated. (The De Greys were the family who lived at Wrest Park). We split into picnickers and pub-goers in Silsoe. The picnic area of Wrest Park was generously equipped with proper tables and chairs where we enjoyed the sunshine. The pub-goers were not so lucky as the pub didn't serve sandwiches. Two bad choices on one day is not a good track record. We didn't get to see Wrest Park House, so I've included a picture below to show its architecture. It also is run by English Heritage and was a run-down agricultural college until 2006.

Wrest Park
Ronny had gone straight back from Silsoe, so after lunch 12 of us made our way to Emily's at Whitwell for an afternoon stop where we encountered a huge queue of other cyclists. However we still got back to St Albans at 5pm, just as the rain began, after almost exactly 60 miles. On reflection, another trip out this way should use the Gary Cooper (named after the 1950's film star who lived in Dunstable as a child), just off the cycle route in the park in Dunstable, as a morning-coffee stop.


2 June 2019

02 June 2019: Wheathampstead to Great Barford

Our riders assembled at Wheathampstead on a fine but breezy morning for our trip out into Bedfordshire. Setting off through Kimpton we were soon zigzagging through the network of quiet lanes to the north, to drop down to Lilley Bottom.
Route checking
We headed towards Lilley village. It seemed to me a route too much used recently, so for a change we climbed up to Great Offley and then down onto the main Hitchin road for a bit where Herts CC had done us a favour and coned-off the onside lane to allow us to cycle safely along the dual carriageway. We turned left along Wibbly Wobbly Lane (boringly now re-named Carters Lane).
A505 Luton to Hitchin road
Though actually the surface was quite good and there weren't too many bends, so maybe fair enough. A nice long straight road took us to Pirton and then on to refreshments at Lower Stondon golf club. Several of our party turned back for home at this point, but the rest struck out into deepest Bedfordshire. We passed the gigantic airship hangars at Cardington (built 1915) and used as film studios more recently.  A now flat route soon brought us to the Great Ouse and the picturesque bridge at Great Barford. We sat by the river to eat our sandwiches (drinks from the pub) and admired the river traffic. We had turned in the best part of 40 miles and the return trip was going to be into a brisk head wind. Some people now, realising that Bedford train station was only 7 miles away, suddenly began to remember urgent evening appointments or were surprisingly troubled by bad legs and said they were going to get the train back to St Albans.
So, it was only a sadly depleted rump who set out on the bracing return ride. But ride it we did and it involved climbing the hill at Hexton and tea at Emily's. Top marks to Sue who had to get further still and into north London.

Route was about 70 miles back to Wheathampstead


1 June 2019

01 June 2019: St Albans to Shenley

We had another good turnout today. Two new riders and it was great to see a face that hadn’t been out for a while. After my normal preamble I made sure that everyone had water; the day was going to get hot and water was a must for everyone.
Our route took us down the Alban Way, then through the estates over to the Watford road, but instead of following this we took a trip around Greenwood Park, with a murmur of surprise from one of our riders as they didn’t know it was even there. I love it when that happens, people discovering stuff is the best.
We went over the footbridge and into How Wood, then meandered around the streets which eventually led us to Bricket Wood and Drop Lane. It’s funny how you can do a route and there is nearly always someone new to the roads. This time it was a rider from Barnet who was familiar with Smug Oak Lane but had never been down the next lane on and he was pleasantly surprised with it.
Making good work of Hanger Lane we were soon onto the climb that is Black Lion Hill. About a quarter of the way up we headed off to the less steep side of the hill. This hill, although not a challenge to most seasoned cyclists, can be a real pain for those that just aren’t used to hill climbing. The reward for this effort is a relaxing cuppa at the Shenley tea rooms. 

This place was as busy as ever, there was also another group of cyclists there (a Watford group), we pushed up tables and all enjoyed the sunshine, then at some point a tandem arrived.

After the break we headed onto the lovely lanes that are around Rectory Lane and by this time the sun had well and truly started to shine, so we did a couple of quick roads into London Colney, then we hopped over the BIG massive bridge and took our lives in our hands as we navigated the junction on the BIG roundabout to safely make it onto Nightingale Lane (once a main road).
It wasn’t long ‘till we were back at the start before the sun did its stuff later in the day.
A great ride out. Our next ride is exploring the lanes that populate the Ridgeway as we head off to Potters Bar.

Neil 01/06/2019

26 May 2019

26 May 2019: Hatfield to Nuthampstead

At the start in Hatfield we thought we might have some new riders join us, but only one turned up, an existing CUK member called Rob, which meant we had a party of six.  Our first stop was to be in Much Hadham and, anticipating that there might have been new riders, I had planned as flat a route as possible. So we started out westwards along the Cole Green Way to Hertford, then followed the Lee navigation towpath to Ware. From there a gentle climb up through the suburbs of Ware and we were out in open countryside. We went  through Babbs Green and on using  very quiet lanes across more open country in the sunshine to Much Hadham. A bit further brought us to Ash Valley Golf Club, a low key friendly place for a bite to eat and coffee. There we were joined by Steve and Jackie who had ridden there to join us, but who went back when we went on to our lunch venue.

Route check at Washall Green
Originally lunch was to have been at the Bull near Langley, but having discovered that they weren’t doing any food I had switched to the Woodman at Nuthampstead. So from elevenses we headed north through the Pelhams and skirted Anstey to get there. It was a beautiful route with virtually no traffic and idyllic countryside. The Woodman is an interesting pub as it is adjacent to a former WW2 US air force bomber base and has much commemorative information on display. There we were met by Adrian who had ridden directly there from his home. I was pleased to meet him as he would be able to lead us to our tea stop at Rushden as it is an area he knows far better than I.

By now it had started to rain so we stayed in the pub as long as possible before having to move on. The countryside was still idyllic but seems less so when one is being rained on and facing a head wind. However we reached the nursery at Rushden, where we put our bikes out of the rain in one of their poly-tunnels whilst having tea in another.

On leaving, Adrian headed off homeward, whilst we headed due south with a fine view of Cromer windmill before reaching Walkern. From there it was still southwards via Aston, Datchworth and Tewin, then into WGC and back to the start at Hatfield. From there many of the party still had to get themselves back to St Albans so they would have done quite a bit more than the 60 miles I logged from start to finish.


19 May 2019

19 May 2019: St Albans to Wing

Another special ride we'd promoted using the Lets Ride website as part of the Sustainable St Albans Festival attracted five newcomers to our group along with Sue who had ridden up from Barnet for the 9am start. Other Sunday regulars were manning a market stall today so missed the ride. We set off via the back roads to Sandridge before crossing Nomansland Common and climbing up to Mackery End where we had a good view of the house before descending to the Lee Valley again to cross Harpenden using the splendid tarmacced Nickey Line. A short cycle on quiet lanes near the M1 brought us to our coffee stop at Harpers farmshop and café. This building used to be pub called the Half Moon. You can see some photos of how it looked in the 60's and before Harpers did the splendid job of rescuing it here

After coffee we made a fairly direct route to lunch at the 33 mile mark in Wing. After an easy climb from Markyate we whizzed down Bison Hill (where sadly there is no longer a Bison visible) onto the plain of Bedfordshire. Good progress brought us to an early quick lunch in the garden at the Cock pub in Wing.  A largely flat and downhill route took us to the group photoshoot outside the gates of Mentmore Towers. History of this Rothschild mansion here. If you are not interested in the history you may be interested in the films that have been shot here.

Mentmore Gates
Our cleverly designed flat route back to Berkhamsted carefully avoiding the edge of the Chiltern Hills  meant we reached Berko at 2.30pm. So rather than stop we just carried on through Hemel and up Hyde Lane to Bedmond before the usual route back into St Albans. A man was spotted petting the cows as if they were small cats or dogs!
Petting the cows!
 After 59 miles we got back early and some of us looked at the market stalls which were still manned for the sustainable week's events.
We all made it back....
Well done everyone and we hope to see you again.

The route is below

Carol & Steve

18 May 2019

18 May 2019: Hatfield to Knebworth

We had a good turnout for the Hatfield ride and welcomed a new rider, really wasn’t too sure of the weather, which I think may have put some off, so I had a rucksack full of extra clothes. Six of us set off for the wilds of Hertfordshire countryside.

We passed through WGC and Panshanger with the greatest of ease, then headed up Archers Green. It was as we were coming into Tewin that I felt the need for a wardrobe change. Off came the light jackets and they stayed off. We spied some very inventive scarecrows as we passed through Tewin (Rose and Crown had a competition going on).
Scarecrows in Tewin
The riding was pleasant and steady. Our new rider was keeping pace and we were a happy little group going through Datchworth, then we went up one of my favourite winding little lanes: Rectory Lane. This little treat goes all over the place and leads to a crossroads that can get you lost if you don’t have your bearings (I know I’ve done it). Not too far from there is the lovely downhill road that leads into Knebworth town. Our stop was to be Coasters, but it was rammed and there was a queue for seating, so I went in search of a new café. I popped into the Simmon’s (next to the delightfully named Ming Che) and found that there was a café around the corner called Vero.

This café was a little find and we were made very welcome, they even set a table out before we had got in there, a return visit will be happening. Whilst there we picked up Steve and Doris, who were late to the start due to house works. The route back was via Rabley Heath, another great network of lanes, then we skipped past Codicote via Cowards Lane and dropped down to Kimpton Bottom, then followed the Codicote Road to the Ayot St Peter turn off.

After going through a very pleasant Ayot we took our usual route back into Hatfield, Sue left us to head into Sherrard’s Park and the rest of us continued home.

Great morning’s cycle ride, next one is in June when we take on Black Lion Hill to get to The tea room in the Orchard.

Neil 18/05/2019

12 May 2019

12 May 2019: St Albans to Naphill

Today's ride was a special one as it had been advertised using the Let's Ride website as part of the Sustainable St Albans Festival. Six people joined us who had not ridden with our group before and there were six others at the start on a sunny spring day. We took a route to Amersham via the usual Bedmond  and Kings Langley lanes, passing by the Green Dragon at Flaunden (reputedly a drinking haunt of Joachim von Ribbentrop & Guy Burgess) before the downhill to Latimer. This was followed by the steep uphill to Little Chalfont before taking a back-road route to the ever reliable Masterchef café. Just before the café we heard Steve and Ian had stopped to fix Ian's puncture. It was good that everyone could cycle at a similar pace even though there were a few hill climbers who shot ahead sometimes.

Steve H dropped in at the café for a chat as he is currently afflicted with sciatica and cannot ride a bike at all. A little behind schedule, 10 people carried on to the lunch stop. We managed to find some small lanes along the way before being well looked after at the Wheel pub in Naphill which is probably closer to High Wycombe than the advertised Princes Risborough.

Outside The Wheel pub, Naphill
After leaving the pub we cycled past RAF strike Command at Walters Ash where we  stopped for a photo in front of a Spitfire and a Hurricane.

RAF Strike-command planes
To reach the afternoon break in Chesham meant climbing over three large hills before the final descent via Pednor. We paused while passing 'Pipers' in The Lee to admire the ship's figurehead of Admiral Lord Howe, taken from the Navy's last wooden warship, HMS Impregnable. The Lee has an interesting history, thanks largely to the influence of Arthur Liberty, who founded Liberty's store in Regent Street.
Admiral Howe

Just as we reached the top of the climb from Chesham I got a puncture so held the group up for a while as Steve fixed it for me. We then had a fairly straightforward route back to St Albans via the pretty Bovingdon Green before going down Ruckler's Lane and up Bunker's Lane. The weary group got back  to St Albans after 61 miles with 3300ft of climbing up and down! We'll done everyone and we hope to see you again.

It was a hilly route!
Route below

Carol 13/05/2019

5 May 2019

05 May 2019: Short circuit

With many of the regular cyclists exploring country lanes abroad and a northern wind cooling down the air to single digit degrees, only one cyclist showed up for the Sunday ride. The sunshine was nice and warm and so they went for a short ride. The photo shows the view over the river Mimram next to Archers Green.

River Mimram
After passing through Burnham Green, Woolmer Green, Codicote, Kimpton, and the outskirts of Harpenden, the tour ended after about 45 km, just as the weather became completely cloudy.

Ronny 05/05/2019

4 May 2019

04 May 2019: St Albans to Wheathampstead

We had another great turnout today and another new rider; the destination was Charlie's in Wheathampstead, so the route was not as long as it could’ve been.

We headed off down the Harpenden Road, which for some reason was very busy, so it was quite a relief to be getting off it at Ayres End. From here we took a detour via East Common and made our way around the golf course then dropped into the back end of Harpenden. Then it was back up and around to meet the other end of Ayres End to shoot down towards Nomansland Common, but before we got there we took on Bull Lane leading us to the junction of the Elephant and Castle. Not long after this we headed into our destination town and Charlie's Café. This establishment soon filled up with 13 of us occupying all the spare seats including the outside tables.

It was quite windy and the rain was threatening all throughout the ride. Our way back featured the hills and rises of Beech Hyde Lane and Coleman Green Lane. We hit Sandridge and made our way back to Jersey Farm via House Lane and from there we got back to the start via Oaklands College. The bouncing lambs were out in force and the alpacas were looking very relaxed.

It’s easy to get confused between llamas, alpacas and vicunas.  Llamas have distinctive banana-shaped ears, alpacas are smaller and have triangular, pointed ears and vicunas are the smallest.

 Llama                                                   Alpaca                                       Vicuna

Neil 04/05/2019

21 April 2019

21 Apr 2019: Wheathampstead to Maulden

We started Sunday’s ride from Wheathampstead last week. And suddenly we needed to shake the moths out of our cycling shorts – after weeks of chilly weather it had turned seriously hot and sunny. As it was a fair way to our planned coffee stop in Stondon, we took a fairly direct route to Whitwell and along Lilley Bottom. It wasn’t long before we saw the familiar figures of Steve and Jackie also heading our way. Down the hill at Hexton we were soon into the Bedfordshire villages and then the golf club cafe in Stondon, a bit posher than many of our venues. I normally go for beans on toast on these occasions. This cafe goes in for embellishing this humble dish with a green spring of pea shoot placed on top. An unusual, possibly unique touch, but thanks for the extra effort chaps. Graham joined us here. It was also a treat to see Tracey (absent too long from our rides).

Next it was a matter of navigating through those strings of Bedfordshire villages, confusing to some, but thankfully Steve & Jackie knew the area and it wasn’t long before we took in Ireland, Haynes, Meppershall and then The Dog & Badger at Maulden – a nice obliging pub.

Heading back from Bedfordshire always involves a choice about which climb up the escarpment to pick. This time we went for the one from Barton and then back by way of Emily's.

20 April 2019

20 Apr 2019: Hatfield to Hertford

Nine of us met for the ride into Hertford and it was great to see Jon and David for the first time this year. We also had the company of Rona, which is always a pleasure and I learnt that we have been successful in poaching a rider from British Cycling (not sorry Mr Hoy 😊 ).

We made good progress going through Hatfield, WGC and Panshanger. We then headed on to Tewin, the roads quietened down and soon we were just a group of happy bods cycling around the countryside on a lovely, hot, almost summers day. The point of this route became obvious as we made our way up Marden Hill, this road is surrounded by woods and covering the floors of the wooded area is a lovely display of bluebells so we stopped here to take in this beauty.
Sunshine at Marden Hill
It’s not far from there to Bramfield and here we took the back road into Hertford on another fairly traffic free road, though what cars you do see tend to be moving fast. Once at Hertford we took a quick detour around the park then wiggled around the market to arrive at a packed Rose café.

This place never disappoints, always buzzing, sharing tables is always an option here. After a lovely brunch we went on our way again opting to go back via Hertingfordbury, accessed by the Lower Hatfield Road. The reason for this was because they are re-surfacing the Cole Green Way and this would have made for an extremely uncomfortable ride. We noted that The Prince of Wales (the former pub on the corner) in Hertingfordbury is now being worked on, with scaffold everywhere. Our route back was straightforward via Birch Green, Letty Green, the Old Coach Road and then onto the tarmacked section of the Cole Green Way. We retraced our steps through WGC to get back to Hatfield and after 23 miles we completed a great morning’s ride.

Neil 20/04/2019

14 April 2019

14 April 2019: Hatfield to err...... Hertford

It was the first 9 a.m. start of the year which turned out to be a freezing cold but bright day. We took a familiar route from Hatfield through Welham Green and headed east through Bayford where we were overtaken by a group of Verulam riders. Several cyclists came in the opposite direction displaying numbers on their bikes with some even wearing shorts! We had trouble in passing through Hoddesdon where an almost endless convoy of cars delayed our crossing the roundabout on the A1170. Passing through aromas of Rye Meads sewage works we turned sharp right after the level crossing into Roydon Marina. Noting two familiar bikes already parked outside the renamed Boatyard Cafe we were delighted to meet Steve & Jackie who had cycled directly from their home.

The new-style cafe was a bit slow delivering the hot food and then as we prepared to leave we were surprised to see hail falling. By the time we got going again it was nearly 11.45 so on the way to Perry Green a new route was planned to loop round to Hertford for lunch instead of the planned Sawbridgeworth stop. The weather improved such that Ronny felt the need to have a quick sunbathe at Helham Green!

Ronny catching the rays
As we approached Barwick Ford we noticed a newly erected sign that was difficult to interpret. Cyclist's "what" have to use the footbridge? Note that HCC are responsible for education in the county.

HCC literacy?

After crossing the old A10 road we passed through Sacombe Park where Ronny took the interesting photo below of Neil. We made it to the Six Templars at 1.20 for lunch before cycling back along the Cole Green Way. As it had been so dry we thought we'd give it a try for the full length starting from  Hertford football club. There was evidence of resurfacing but, unfortunately it looks as if it is still going to be a so-called hard packed surface that will deteriorate again in the winter rains.
Double take?
It was an interesting ride and we did three off-road sections today that were very rideable in the dry conditions. The adapted route worked well and we were all back home by about 4pm. The Hatfield to Hatfield length was about 48 miles.


7 April 2019

07 Apr 2019: St Albans to Winslow

Weather on the Sunday wasn't too nice, but three fearless cyclists met in St Albans to head out into the grey weather. Among us was newcomer Solomos, who, after doing spinning for a while, wanted to get out of the gym. We crossed the northeast of Hemel Hempstead and followed the ridge along Gaddesden Row. I wanted to go on a road I've not used before and so we crossed the valley of the River Gade in Great Gaddesden. This added another hill to our tour, as we had to go up and down to reach Nettleden (afterwards I knew, why we didn't use the road before). From Nettleden we first quickly and then slowly climbed our way up to Beacon Hill, the northern end of the Chiltern Hills, from where we could enjoy a nice down-ride into Ivinghoe. Shortly after we reached our morning stop Jackie's Café, which unfortunately was closed. So we went back to the Waterside Café.
Marina at Waterside Cafe
From there we continued north, facing some headwind towards Wing and Stewkley. For me the landscape of South Buckinghamshire felt a bit depressing with the wind-chill, the grey sky, the leafless trees, and the large fields. In Hertfordshire more variation between small woods, fields and meadows happens. However, once the road made a 90-degree turn to the west, things felt suddenly better and cycling became so much easier. The wind pushed us into Winslow where we had lunch at the Bell Hotel.

After food and rest we headed back out through the landscape of Buckinghamshire. The clouds became a bit thinner, but the sun didn't make it through. Two short, but steep hills had to be climbed, but once reaching Cublington we gradually made our way downwards to the Aylesbury arm of the Grand Union Canal. A few drops were falling when reaching our last stop, the Wilstone Farm Café. The place was warm and with the wood in the old barn quite cosy, however, we had to make a few more miles before home. We headed through Tring and then followed the often-used path through Berkhamsted and south Hemel Hempstead. Bunkers Lane was the last hill (where the GPS logging stopped) and after 120 km we were back in St Albans. We were lucky with the weather, only on the last few kilometres it was drizzling a bit.

Ronny 07/04/2019

6 April 2019

06 Apr 2019: Fleetville to Stanborough Lakes

11 of us met at Morrison’s on Saturday morning for the first fun ride of the year. There were 3 new faces, 1 returning face (nice to see Richard after a year), a couple of Rona’s group and some regular Sunday riders.

This is always a well-attended ride and this year I decided to do the ride in the reverse direction, so we meandered through the back streets of Fleetville a bit then picked up the foot/cycle path that leads from Marshallswick right down to Sandridge.
Stanborough Lakes

A quick waddle through said village saw us onto Coleman Green lane, a steady accent but a lovely quiet lane, and we took Beech Hyde Lane to get down to Wheathampstead. From here we made our way onto The Ayot Green Way. This great slice of countryside has been made even better by a good ‘ol fashion clean up. It really is a fantastic traffic free route to Ayot St Peter and when you get there it’s just a quick cycle up a hill then you are into Sherrard’s Park, another good traffic free route to WGC. We made use of Handside Lane and were soon at a well-deserved coffee stop.

The route back to Morrisons was some jiggery pokery at Stanbrough, then we connected to the  Alban Way, which at that time of day was relatively pedestrian free and very pleasant to ride along. The route was just under 19 miles and was a great success. To be repeated.

Neil 06/04/2019

31 March 2019

31 Mar 2019: Wheathampstead to Biggleswade

After a week of nice warm sunny weather, winter returned with a bang on Sunday. So having five of us turn up at the start in Wheathampstead wasn’t too bad. Also it was nice to have Neil join us for his first Sunday ride for some time following an accident last year.

Our first stop was to be Dimples cafe set in a mini golf course in a Letchworth suburb. A reasonable distance so a fairly direct route was taken. Up the valley of the Mimram river to Kimpton Mill, then more back lanes skirting St Pauls Warden, avoiding Preston Hill to get to St. Ippollitts (lovely name), followed by Great Wymondley into Willian. This latter is now virtually a suburb of Letchworth and here we went on an off road cycle path into the  pleasant suburban streets in the south of Letchworth, where, with a bit of luck I actually located the cafe. After coffee and sustenance it was time to move on and Neil went back, as he didn’t want to over-do things.

Now the four of us were off to Biggleswade for lunch. The problem with getting there is that if you are in a car you can go straight up the A1. But on a bicycle you have to loop out miles to the east or west. We decided on east, but first had to get out of Letchworth.  I amazed myself by managing to navigate across the town and out through Norton on the north side of town without getting lost. Then east into the wide open spaces leading to Ashwell. This involved a steady climb up into an annoying and cold headwind. Just before Ashwell we turned west towards Hinxworth and, now we had the wind behind us, the cycling seemed amazingly fast and easy. After a few more easy miles and we were in Biggleswade. Finding the pub, “The Crown” was relatively easy and being a Wetherspoons, the food was quick, fast and cheap.

Coming back from Biggleswade we came down to the west of the A1 through Arlesey, this route is a bit boring but has the virtue of being flat. Then on and through Hitchin to the cyclist friendly haunt of “Emily’s Tearoom” in Whitwell. On from here we dispersed. When I got back to the start I made it about 55 miles in total but some of the others would have had quite a few more miles to do to get to their homes.                                                                                                   

24 March 2019

24 Mar 2019: Hatfield to Shepall

The Hatfield start and fine-weather forecast attracted a group of nine riders for the 9.15 departure form outside Asda. We took a south-east route via Welham Green, then via Newgate street to Bayford. After Brickendon we cut through the byway open to all traffic (BOAT) to Monks Green, before skirting Hertford through the old Balls Park estate which avoided any main roads. We passed Foxholes farm on the left, which is the source of the famous sausages served at the Chequers pub in Wareside. After cycling through the picturesque part of Hertford Heath we free-wheeled down to Ware for our coffee stop. Unfortunately the Esem Express planned café was closed - whether just for the day or permanently I don't know. We went into Café Frappe opposite and it turned out OK.

Jackie spotted Richard wandering past looking for us so the group became 10 for the onward ride towards the edge of Stevenage.

near Burnham Green 
Gareth got a puncture near Rabley Heath, so Jackie lead most of the group through Old Knebworth before taking the cycle path to Shephall Green where the Old Red Lion was busier than usual. Steve, Carol and Gareth arrived a few minutes later. Recycled photo below shows the bike-themed room we sat in.

bicycle trophies
After lunch the group took the usual way back via Codicote where the Hatfield group headed back via  Welwyn. I recorded the route back to St Albans so tweaked the route to be the way I imagined the group took to Hatfield.
An enjoyable day out with plenty of sunshine and not too cold,


24 February 2019

24 Feb 2019: Hatfield to Hertford

Closed railway
Was it to be another hot and sunny record breaking February day? Well the seven cyclists at the start in Hatfield were optimistic. The plan was to go to a cafe at Waltham Abbey for elevenses. The route was to be southerly via Potters Bar, Northaw and Crews Hill. Then in a bid to avoid the major roads around Waltham Cross we went through Theobalds Park where it was just a little muddy and on across the fairly new footbridge over the A10. Then heading to the Lea Valley Park we had to cross the railway.  A new footbridge to cross the line has been erected here but it is very steep to get bikes over. However this was not a problem today as the original level crossing is still there and, very strangely, the road barriers were open whilst the railway tracks had barrier tapes put across the lines. Apparently the line had been completely closed for maintenance work.

Then into the park for a little way, past the Olympic canoeing centre and out onto the road for a very short distance before passing the Abbey itself. Just beyond are what must have been the market square and the old High street which are now pedestrianised and have a historical aura.  Here we frequented the aptly named Abbey Cafe.
Opposite the Abbey cafe

Leaving here we retraced our route through the park, over the level crossing and into Waltham Cross. Then we turned a different way climbing up a back lane to Goffs Oak. From here down and up another winding country lane with the lovely name of “Bread and Cheese Lane” and onwards wending our way to Hertford.
puffing up the lane
So whilst Hertford is nicely historical, like Waltham Abbey, our pub of choice was the very modern Wetherspoons called “The Six Templars”. Here we were pleased to meet other members of our cycling group, Jon, Judy, Neil and Steve.

After lunch people dispersed in various directions but some of us went back by a fairly direct route to the start at Hatfield.  Our optimism had been justified, as it had been a beautiful hot and sunny day perfect for cycling at any time of year but especially welcome in February. The overall distance was approximately 40 miles.

route here

17 February 2019

17 Feb 2019: St Albans to Hemel Hempstead

It seems a long time since the last blog was written. Sadly two Sunday rides had to be cancelled in late January and early February as the weather was icy one week and the ground was covered in snow  on 3rd Feb. Then on the 10th Feb Steve and I turned up at the start in Hatfield hoping no-one else would appear as the forecast was wet and cold. Unfortunately Ronny and Peter both did, so we ended up cycling to Hitchin in the ever increasing rain. After excellent coffee and food at the Hitchin Kitchen cafe we made a decision just to cycle home using the shortest route.

Here is Richard's report:
Meeting at our St Albans start (the war memorial at the top of St Peter's Street) on another of the bright sunny mornings we have been enjoying recently, we set off through the town centre, down Holywell Hill, past the King Harry and through the lanes to Bedmond. By the tin church we were joined by Phil S, who it turned out had come up with an unfamiliar (to me) route taking us to Hunton Bridge (thanks Phil). Through Chandler's Cross I took a too early left turn to Croxley Green (must look at the map more). But we were soon back on course through Chorleywood and The Swillet.

Parking at the Madeira café
Coffee was taken at the excellent and obliging Madeira Cafe in Chalfont St Peter. Lunch had been planned in Berkhamsted. We headed north, but it wasn't long before startling grinding noises came from my back hub. I came to a halt. Oh dear - would I be able to get back home? But slowly and accompanied by awful metallic sounds I could just ride. Thanks for waiting chaps.

The now-closed Green Dragon
We passed the green dragon mournfully gazing down the hill from the pub garden (now closed). The future of this historic pub is now uncertain. Keep an eye on ebay for 8 foot tall fibre glass dragons (buyer to collect). The group headed off for lunch ... while I ground my way home.

Instead of going to the planned Berkhamsted lunch stop the rest of the group headed to Hemel Hempstead's JD Wetherspoon pub called "The Full House" as it is a converted old cinema with the bar running across in front of the old screen.  

We covered about 45 miles on the day using the route below.

13 January 2019

13 Jan 2019: Hatfield to Whitewebbs

We met in Poppins Cafe, Hatfield at the civilised hour of 10.00 for an early coffee. It was nice to see some regular riders again who have been absent for a while.

Pre-ride discussion of our route to lunch in Enfield revealed that Jon had a route worked out and as he's more or less a local to that neck of the woods, he was soon appointed special guest leader for the outward trip. We set off to Potters Bar and then turned east through the pleasant lanes to Crews Hill. A powerful following wind wafted us on our way.
Hilly Fields, Enfield
We took the well-surfaced and delightful track through Hilly Fields Park and then across Whitewebbs Golf course soon to arrive at The King & Tinker after turning in a record distance in quick time - thanks to the NW wind. The pub could not have been pleasanter - nice food freshly prepared, reasonably priced, and not too busy with a very welcoming staff. Highly recommended.
King and Tinker
After lunch the group split into those going home in north London and those heading back to Hatfield. The Hatfield group took in more of the tracks through Whitewebbs Park, then the hilly open roads to Hadley Wood. Passing the station we continued through Potters Bar and soon were back in Hatfield. A great day's cycling.

Richard 13/01/2019

6 January 2019

06 Jan 2019: St Albans to Ley Green

It was a grey and overcast start to the new year and a small but select group of four met in the Waterend Barn. Good value breakfasts were consumed by two of the party and then just before we were leaving we had a call from Gareth who hadn't noticed we were not meeting outside the Blacksmiths Arms. We took a quiet route out of St Albans which wasn't really necessary as the volume of traffic was extremely low and headed up to Woodcock Hill where we encountered a pile of abandoned fridges. Steve took a photo and later that day posted a report using "fix my street" to report the fly-tip incident.
Woodcock hill fridges
What a dismal start to the day to see this type of rubbish on such a large scale. We headed north east via Coleman Green and Water End then changed direction to head north west via Ayot Green and Kimpton Mill before doing a loop around some tiny roads to get to the Plough at about 12.50 and after 22 miles. Gareth was struggling as he hadn't had time to have anything to eat at the start after cycling up from Brookmans Park. He made up the calories pretty quickly by downing two pints of beer at lunch. The pub was very old fashioned and is in a bit of a 1950's time warp pub with some fox heads on display caught at Simonshyde in 1900. The food was very good value and we left at about 1.45 to go downhill via Whitwell, then over the private road to Kimpton where Carol had a puncture. Philip, Gareth and Peter carried on while Steve attended to the problem.

Steve fixing the puncture
Unfortunately even though we found the hole in the damaged tube, the first replacement tube would not inflate properly, so he had to put in a second spare tube before we could carry on. This meant is was getting quite dark when we finally got back to St Albans after about 35 miles. A good dry day and not too cold made for an enjoyable early January outing.