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