|Five Miles to Fabulous Rides
Five Miles to Fabulous was initiated by the CTC as a weekend of rides in June 2007. Some CTC local groups have incorporated 5MTF rides into their programme, and South Herts is one such group. The rides are for women who want to cycle, but are put off by the state of the roads and the traffic and the lack of suitable group rides. The format is an easy ride incorporating a coffee stop, using quieter roads and traffic free-routes. The ride thus gives an opportunity both to gain confidence in traffic and discover routes that avoid busy roads.
Experienced riders are also very welcome on these rides, your support and advice is appreciated! Exact route to be determined on the whim of the leader taking into account the coffee morning listings in that week's local news and the preferences of those present. Our motto is 'Style before speed', which you may recognise as the slogan of the De Laune CC in the 1920s.
*Most rides start at Morrisons Supermarket, Hatfield Road, St Albans. We meet by the cycle stands, near the pedestrian crossing of Hatfield Road. For rides from Harpenden, meet by the cycle stands just past the station building. You do not need to be a CTC member to try these rides. Please fill in the Contact Us form if you would like to be added to the list and mention 5MTF. Thank you
Chester Fabulous Ladies have a very similar approach to our group. Their leader, Sue, runs an excellent blog which I recommend to you Sue's blog; it has lots of useful advice. That's Chester Fabulous Ladies pictured below.
6 September 2014: Southdown Trot
After carefully perusing the Open Studios booklet, we decided to revisit Frogs Folly in Southdown. 5MTF went there in 2012, but none of the three who met the leader at Morrisons on a grey September morning had been on that ride. So we set off up Woodstock Road, heading for Sandridgebury Lane. Offered the option of rough but traffic free track or going around on the tarmac, the preference was for the track. So off we went heading for Ayers End Lane. We managed the uphill with ease, stopping courteously as one should to let a horse and rider past. The downhill was a bit trickier, being a bit rough and gravelly and some of us chose to walk.We decided on a bit of an explore, two of those present are involved with the Cycle Campaign's work on the revision of the St Albans District Cycle map, and Cross Lane was not familiar to us. Super route - a chat with a dog walker and some more horse riders made it a sociable route too.
This brought us nicely to the eastern edge of Southdown and our intended studio. Puzzled by lack of hi-viz flags, we checked the booklet. Oops, seven days too early. (Should've gone to Specsavers.) Not to worry, we admired ceramics and cake and photographs at Jay's delicatessen in Southdown.
Having established our walking credentials, it was obvious that we should take the footpath through to Ferrers Lane. Then we rode on a Nomansland path (as is permitted) and back to Sandridge using the track parallel to the B road. Back into St Albans by Jersey Lane.
12 July 2014: Tour de Bricket Wood
Having been north and east quite a bit this season, thoughts turned to west and south when considering a route for today, and Bricket Wood was a popular suggestion. Thus the six of us went west along the Alban Way, briefly on NCN6 to Abbots Avenue, but we turned off along Holyrood Crescent and made use of the footpath link from Coningsby Bank to the M10 Roundabout. We used the underpass to get over onto Watling Street, and boldly rode up the hill and into Park Street. Yes, we are fabulously able to ride the occasional A road. We were glad of the 30mph limit and the double white line to subdue the motor traffic. Soon we were heading along Park Street Lane through How Wood to our highlight of the day's ride, a loop down Drop Lane and back along the track on the other side of the Ver. We had hoped to visit the 'picture house' down School Lane (a listed 1890 building with plaster reliefs of sporting scenes) but time was marching on, so we headed directly to T in the Woods, a café new to 5MTF.
For our return to St Albans we came back to How Wood and picked up NCN6 through Greenwood Park and Chiswell Green, then we headed through the St Stephens residential area to Verulamium Park. We said our farewells in the middle of the park, with everyone scattering for home from there. Distance covered was 13 miles to the park, with three of us completing the circuit back to Morrisons, a further 2 miles.
The Bricket Wood area would repay further exploration, it was pleasant to ride through shady woods on a hot day. Train assistance to get us out of St Albans might be used. Some of the bridleways across Bricket Wood Common can get a bit sloshy though.
14 June 2014: Bike Week Reflections
Seven of us out today, on a figure of eight ride. The planned coffee stop was Osprey, a new destination for some. We headed out along the Alban Way as far as Hill End Lane, then up to cross the Hatfield Road and ride through the grounds of Oaklands College. As we had made good time, and as some of those out had cycled up Nashe's Farm Lane before, an extra loop before coffee was requested, so we carried on along House Lane to Sandridge. Quite a deep flood to negotiate just past the Jersey Farm roundabout, we are grateful to a group of oncoming club cyclists who demonstrated that the lie of the road meant it was best to go through on the east side, not the centre.
Through Sandridge, and we admired the colourful field of wildflowers alongside Coleman Green Lane. We wended through the lanes to loop around through Symondshyde Great Wood, if we had wended a tiny bit quicker we could have missed the shower that gave us a freshen up just before our arrival at the Osprey
and the Saddlery Café.
yed the very nice cake, and took our time over it as a larger, heavier shower came down stair rods. With 5MTF now having larger groups out it was a good opportunity to have a briefing session on group riding protocol, such as things one might shout out to warn the others of hazards. The Verulam Cycling Cub has a very good guide
, aimed at faster riders than us obviously. But we commend this bit: "The Café Stop is a vital safety feature and ideal social opportunity for all.." We had a wander round the shop, admiring the cushions....
Time to retrieve our bikes and head for home, reflecting as we went.
17 May 2014: Flying off the Alban WayA lovely sunny morning, shorts and shades on, ten ladies set off from Morrisons heading east along the Alban Way. The wayside vegetation was all frothy.
We left the Alban Way at Ellenbrook and headed for what is now a country park called Ellenbrook Fields, but which many of us refer to as 'de Havilland aerodrome'. After a loop up to the memorial that also gave us a glimpse of the longhorn cattle we joined the taxiway. A pause at the information boards, then we were off up the concrete and then onto the grass and in no time at all we were heading into Notcutts for our coffee.One rider bailed out after coffee, she wanted to shop for garden sundries. The rest of us pootled back along the Alban Way as far as Hill End Lane, where we shed another rider going direct back to Morrisons. The remaining eight headed north through the grounds of Oaklands College, crossed Sandpit Lane and found our way through to Jersey Lane. A couple more peeled off en route and the ride finished at Bernards Heath, where the Wars of the Roses encampment was set up.
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.
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.
St Albans Community Safety Partnership has produced hi-viz rucksack / pannier covers and reflective ankle bands just in time for the dark evenings. Look out for them at community events. There is a limit of two per family.
As we think back to 1914-18, here is a timely clip from the British Film Institute, a women's cycling rally in Surrey in 1916.
Green Ring update - Herts County Council engineers have completed outline design. Detail design and pricing is now underway. The Lemsford Road section is done, this is part of the Maple Safe Routes to School scheme. St Albans District Council Infrastructure team will have their sections all done by end of March 2015, including widening the Alban Way past the oak tree at the back of Morrisons.
St Albans District Council has a web page devoted to the Green Ring, it includes the feasibility report for the ring as a whole.
Needlework news - spotted at L'Eroica Britannia festival in Bakewell in June:
Bikes and Bloomers is a project bringing history to life by interweaving archival data with new Victorian cycling garments made from 1890s British patents in collaboration with local craftspeople - the website is fascinating. Lovely film of the bloomer making workshop and subsequent bloomer ride based on Look Mum No Hands cycle café in London.
Super article in Cycling Weekly, an interview with centenarian Billie Fleming, who has ridden a lot further than five miles, but with similar aims and attitude to the Fabulous ladies:
"In 1938, then named Billie Dovey, she rode a staggering 29,603.7 miles across the United Kingdom on a mission to promote the health benefits of cycling. She rode every single day of the year in a wide variety of weather conditions to spread the message. Her mammoth tour included many evening engagements that required her to give a talk at the end of a long day’s pedalling. Fleming’s ride attracted a huge amount of interest and press attention as the year progressed." Recommended reading.
20s Plenty for St Albans - this campaign has a petition you might like to sign if you support 20mph for residential areas.