15 March 2020

15 Mar 2020: Wheathampstead to Wadesmill

Who would have known this was to be the final formal South Herts ride for the foreseeable future! Coronavirus spreading has now enforced the end of our official Sunday rides.

Anyway five stalwarts turned up for the start in Wheathampstead, and we headed on a fairly direct route north through Ayot St Lawrence, Whitwell and Willian before reaching Dimples cafe at the small golf club on the edge of Letchworth. The seating had been replaced with some rather stylish fifties-style chairs and somehow the conversation turned away from the usual chain rings and sprockets to soft furnishings. I remarked we were getting some new curtains made and suddenly Steve H astounded us with tales of his own haberdashery efforts to make his own! I questioned the quality of the result and you can see below the comparison of John Lewis' pinch pleats vs Steve H's "pencil" pleats achieved with rufflette tape. I must admit I'd describe Steve's as a panel when the curtain is closed, certainly not the minimum two and a half widths of fabric!
John Lewis left, Steve H right
After coffee we headed east through Weston then south via Walkern (where we saw Richard out alone for a short ride heading north) to Benington where we stopped to admire the spring daffodils.
Benington daffodils
It didn't take long to get to the Anchor pub via Whempstead then after a stiff climb up to Sacombe we descended to Wadesmill. Ronny had peeled off near Dane End as he needed to get home early. A wise move as after lunch Katy had a puncture in the pub garden which meant by the time we left the rain had started. We ended up taking the most direct route back to St Albans via Hertford and Steve H left us at Stony Hills to take a more northerly route back to Wheathampstead. I got noticed soft tyre near WGC but Steve pumped it up and it lasted till we arrived home.
Thanks to Steve H for a good route and let's hope we can keep in touch over the next few months and all keep healthy.

We did just under 60 miles door to door - route below

8 March 2020

08 Mar 2020: Hatfield to Old Stevenage (not Streatley)

At last there was a reasonable weather forecast for a Sunday ride - it was warmer than it had been recently and only light rain showers were predicted in the afternoon. Steve and I cycled over to the Hatfield start along the Alban Way. We picked up new rider Katie in Fleetville and guided her to the start location in the Asda car park. There was a person in the cycle shelter at the car park but I didn't think he would join us as he was flat out, sleeping on some trollies and didn't appear to have a bicycle.
Spot the rough sleeper!
Six of us set off on the planned route, while Jon and Judy took a more direct way to join us at the coffee stop in Hitchin. All went well until Katie had a puncture in Ayot Green which was quickly dealt with by Steve. After this we carried on through the country lanes via Kimpton Mill,
Ronny's photo near Kimpton Mill
until we came across a group of cyclists contemplating a significant flood in a lane in Shilley Green. It included a pair of Chiltern Society riders we know out doing a reconnoitre of a planned ride for April. All agreed the flood was too deep to risk going through, so we diverted to the main B656 Codicote-to-Hitchin road where we passed the CS riders and followed the fairly flat route to the café where we found Jon alongside Steve and Jackie who had ridden there directly. Judy subsequently joined us among the fairly crowded tables.

After good coffee and very reasonably priced food, and as we were running late, we abandoned the scheduled destination of Streatley and took a re-planned route to Old Stevenage via Baldock, Clothall and Weston. I got a puncture climbing up to Clothall,
Dressed for puncture repair
so while Steve again fixed it, we told the others to go on and we caught up with them at the Standing Order (formerly a bank) after passing the childhood home of the novelist E.M. Forster. It's called the Rook's Nest
and the house in the novel Howard's End is based on it. I found this link to the EM Forster country website which describes a campaign to prevent the land north of Stevenage being developed and gives history of his links to the area.

After lunch we waited for a heavy rain shower to almost finish before making bee-lines to our various homes. It was about a 53-mile round trip for the St Albans' riders on a largely quiet Spring day.


23 February 2020

23 Feb 2020: Hatfield to Hatfield!

Well, after Ciara and Dennis we had a storm-free Sunday, but it seems all the regular riders wimped out today. Steve and I cycled to Poppins but no-one else turned up. Jackie and Steve Whatsapped to say they might join us at the planned lunch stop at the edge of Letchworth. This meant we would actually do the planned ride so we set off at 10:30 into the stiff south westerly breeze. Cycling along to cross the A1(M) we were nearly knocked off by the wind as we passed gaps between the houses, so as we reached the crossing we decided to abandon the ride and return home. Proof below.

As far as we got!
Afterwards we spent a while in the Galleria looking for a new windshell jacket for Steve before getting home and stripping a 30-year-old wallpaper border in the afternoon. Total 15 miles I think! Better luck next week I hope.

2 February 2020

02 Feb 2020: St Albans to Asheridge

Seven of us came out on a blustery day and, after a good breakfast, set off from St Albans to Asheridge, just outside Chesham.
A grey breezy day
The route went though some lovely lanes via Potters Crouch, Abbotts Langley, Belsize, Flaunden and Ley Hill, although, thanks to the heavy rain last night, we met with substantial puddles along the way!
National Air Traffic Control "mast"!
The big "golf ball' we saw was actually a relatively new Air Traffic Control "mast" built sometime after 2010 when the locals of Bovingdon objected to it. From Langleybury towards Flaunden the lanes were closed for a marathon event but the marshalls kindly let us through and we cheered the runners on as we made our way to our lunch stop at the Blue Ball and a good meal . It was a long climb up to Asheridge so we were pleased to head downhill on the way back and, with a tailwind, followed the river Chess via Waterside to Latimer and back to Flaunden, where we went our separate ways home. Thanks to everyone for coming and I look forward to another ride soon.

Note from Carol: Thanks to Talia for volunteering to lead a ride for the first time for our group and choosing an interesting route out and back. Also welcome to new rider Jules ( or is it Jools?) from Gaddesdon Row.
Route here, about 40 miles out and back from St Albans:

26 January 2020

26 Jan 2020: Hatfield to Hertford

The ride today was planned to go to Rye House near Hoddesdon, but events got in the way. Jon and Judy had coffee with us before returning home, so it was only Richard, Steve and I who set off to do the planned route of about 23.5 miles looping north-west first before skirting north of Welwyn Garden City to head for our destination in the Lea Valley. As there were only a few of us we took the opportunity to explore a bit and took a shortcut to Welwyn village through the new executive housing estate now called Wilshere Park, built on the site of the old stately home The Frythe. I knew this building when it was used as the research centre for the Smith, Kline and French pharmaceutical company before it eventually merged with Glaxo and moved the research centre to Harlow. The old house is now luxury apartments.
The Frythe,Welwyn
After Welwyn, we went through Oaklands, Bulls Green and Bramfield where I saw my first snowdrops of the year (I've been away if you were wondering......)
First snowdrops
We climbed out of the Beane valley then went to Wadesmill via Crouch End, then into Ware where we used a useful cut-through route avoiding the town centre. Unfortunately Steve had a puncture then afterwards noticed the tyre wasn't seated correctly so had to refit the tyre. As we lost a lot of time we re-routed to Hertford, and guess where? The Six Templars, of course, where we had cheap quick food before heading back through Hatfield on the usual route along the Old Coach Road, just getting home before the rain started. I did 45 miles in total so I think the route from coffee was about 35 miles.


19 January 2020

19 Jan 2020: St Albans to Woodside

We gathered in the Waterend Barn for a welcome pre-ride coffee (full breakfast for some) on one of the coldest mornings for ages. There had been a sharp overnight frost after days or was it weeks of rain. We set off wondering what the roads would be like - flooded, icy or both? Caution was definitely required. We noticed ice in some of the roadside puddles, but the lanes themselves seemed OK.
Flooding on Bridle Hall Lane near Wheathampstead

We passed through Wheathampstead.  A long stretch of the next lane to Ayot St Lawrence was underwater, but could have been deeper, I suppose. Then along the shaded lane towards Kimpton, I was suddenly aware that the surface was black ice with a film of melted water on top. A clatter from behind said that three of our party had fallen off. Thank goodness there was no serious harm to riders or bikes. We walked the rest of the lane and pondered whether to continue or not. We decided to go on, but stick to well-used roads.
Roads drying out in the sunshine
From Peters Green we took the route past Someries Castle then the cycle path through the fringes of Luton (recently identified as the UK's pollution capital). Managing to navigate through Stockwell Park we were soon in the very obliging and pleasant local - The Plough, Woodside. We'd seen flooding, ice and bright sun - all in a day's mid-winter cycling. After lunch it was a straightforward and incident free route back through Kinsbourne Green and Harpenden.

Richard 19/01/2020

12 January 2020

12 Jan 2020: Hatfield to Gt Offley

A fairly normal winter’s day, a bit drizzly early on and forecast to get drier later. There were just 6 of us at the start at Poppins cafe in Hatfield with an anticipated start time of 10.30. Unfortunately when I arrived Gary was already outside the cafe struggling with a puncture. To compound his problems he couldn’t get his pump to work and as he had Schrader (car type) valves none of our pumps would fit. He then tried taking the wheel to a nearby garage to inflate it but that didn’t work either. Unsurprisingly at this point he gave up saying he would get a lift home. As it was now later it gave me a good excuse to shorten my planned route to Great Offley.

Away we went to Ayot St. Peter where Jon and Judy, who had already cycled from Barnet turned back as they had planned.  Shortly after Jackie, who had come out for a short ride decided to turn off to her home in Knebworth. So now it was just Richard and myself, going on through Whitwell and then through the small country lanes to the “Red Lion” pub at Great Offley. This is a very popular pub and the landlord must be extremely pleased, as despite there being only two of us the place was so packed we couldn’t get in.

An alternative plan was hatched and we quickly got onto Lilley Bottom for a fast ride back to Whitwell and Emily’s, the cafe much frequented by cyclists, for a light lunch of beans on toast. From there it was an easy ride back to the start for me whilst Richard headed to St Albans. As to how far we travelled I have no idea as my new cycle computer decided to malfunction. However on a more positive note it was dry all day and not too cold and amazingly the wind seemed to be with us both on the way out and back which is a rare occurrence.

peteR 12/01/2020

8 January 2020

05 Jan 2020: St Albans to Lilley

On a slightly misty Sunday morning 14 cyclists headed out from the Waterend Barn. Two of us headed back home as they had already done 16 miles to meet us in Waterend Barn. The others set out north. Keeping an eye on 12 cyclists had its challenges, but once we were on the small country lanes this got easier. I chose a hilly start, going along Waterend Lane to Ayot Little Green. From there on it was a bit flatter, at least until we crossed the River Mimram at Kimpton Mill. Another hill had to be climbed before getting into Preston.

The road from Preston to Great Offley was new to me, and I found it quite enjoyable. Along this part we met quite a few other cyclists. Part of the joy might have also been connected to the weather, as here the roads had stayed dry. The drizzle varied a bit throughout the day. Here it was completely dry, but at other times the drizzle turned to rain and most of the time the roads were wet. This transformed the backs of our riders without mudguards into works of art.

The downhill bit from Great Offley to Lilley was slightly more difficult than expected. Not only were we hungry, but also a westerly wind was causing extra head wind. The Lilley Arms provided enough seating for our big group and after a lengthy ordering process we quickly got our food.

We left the pub at quarter to two, to reach St Albans before the dusk. Our group split into two shortly after lunch, one half wanted to take the expected less hilly way along Lilley Bottom, while the other half followed me passing by the east side of Luton airport. Checking my route-planning website, the latter group might have saved a few metres of ascent. I quite enjoyed the less usual route along the ridges and the view over Lilley Bottom. A few hills were unavoidable, with the longest one after crossing the River Lea going up Leasey Bridge Lane. Around there I got a slow puncture, but gratefully with just two extra pumping ups we managed to continue back to St Albans, where we arrived 15:30, well before sunset.

Ronny 05/02/2020