8 March 2014: Highfield Park
Four of us got the 2014 ride programme off to a good start with a very gentle amble on a mild spring day.
Along the Alban Way, we stopped for a fettle at the Hill End Garden of Remembrance, a poignant stop.
The history board next to the arch tells you the history of Hill End Hospital. You can find out more about Highfield Park - including a map and the history of the hospitals - on the Highfield Park Trust website. We carried on along the Alban Way to Hill End Lane, then headed down Hixberry Lane and into the Park. Through to Highfield Lane, around the corner and into Winchfield Wood. We then linked through to Herons Way bridleway, and onto Napsbury Lane, and round to Ayletts for our coffee stop.
As no-one needed to return to Morrisons, the rest of the ride was into St Albans City Centre along the London Road cycle route.
5 April 2014: Nickey Line
"Screw loose and a bit wonky" I overheard as we gathered at the cycle racks at Harpenden station. Not an accurate depiction of the leader, as I thought at first, but the outline of a mechanical incident resolved by the group who cycled out from St Albans to the start of the ride.
We had hoped the new ramp at Ambrose Lane might give us easy access to the Nickey Line, but the work is not quite complete. You can't make out the lettering on the works sign, but it is rather charming "Cyclists please dismount Pedestrians please take care through the works". Nobody tried to ride down the steps...
We enjoyed the ride down to Redbourn, although the tarred surface is only through Harpenden, it gets more rustic once you are out of town. All the better to enjoy the abounding nature - the violets were very pretty.
The Hub was obscured by a cloud of blue as we approached, and once we had locked our bikes it became apparent that the Ashwell CC had got in ahead of us. Being a cyclists' refuge as well as an excellent café, the Hub staff just asked us to take a seat and in no time at all the blue jerseys at the counter had dispersed. and while their coffees were dispensed, our order was taken. Quite how they managed to fit the seven of us, the hordes of lycra lads and several locals without bicycles but with prams into such a tiny space, remaining calm and welcoming throughout ... an impressive achievement to match the excellence of the cake and coffee.
The next stage of our ride took us along the main road - on the footpath, not yet widened to shared use standard, but we did not have to share it today, so no problem for us. A discovery - the bakery at Redbournbury Mill is open on Saturdays. We stopped, we shopped.
Getting across the ford was considerably more challenging that getting down the Nickey Line steps, but teamwork made hauling the bikes and ourselves up the bank a slick operation. The climb of Beesonend Lane also proved less challenging than you might think. We rode back to St Albans using the bridleway through Childwickbury. Distance covered actually over ten miles, and fourteen or more for those who rode to the start.