16 November 2013: Green Ring Recce

Seven riders set off, we were delighted to welcome three ladies to their first Fabulous ride.  The objective was to circumnavigate the proposed route of the Green Ring, paying special attention to the three small sections currently out for consultation. http://www.stalbans.gov.uk/planning/Planningpolicy/greenring/

Strictly speaking, we failed in our objective, as we did not actually wiggle past the oak tree at the back of Morrisons.  Well, we know it well, and we had already shifted our meeting spot to the sunny side of Hatfield Road, so hey!  Off we went up Woodstock Road, and our objective was again modified to accommodate the closure of Jennings Road footbridge, we diverted via Blenheim Road and Sandpit Lane.  Being fabulous, it did not trouble us to walk the footway up the hill to Lemsford Road, but it was a relief even so to get a bit further away from the horrible traffic and wend our way through an autumnal informal path (see right).
  Our next opportunity for muddy trails through trees came on the next consulting section, across Bernards Heath, firstly from Sandridge Road to Harpenden Road and then through to emerge on  NCN 6 (see left).  Those of us with local knowledge opined that Everlasting Lane would be too muddy even for intrepid explorers such as ourselves, so we reconnoitred Ladies Grove.  Some of us were even bold enough to ride up through Oysterfields and Temple View to check out the third consulting section, a link across the park. 
The picture (right ) is misleading on two counts – that is not a temple, it’s a lamp post, a hospital chimney and a litter bin, and that is an existing path, not the proposed one, which is off to the left.

After all this hard work, we were ready for our coffee stop at the Inn on the Park and thereafter an easy ride through the park and along the Alban Way back to Morrisons.  You have until 12 December to get your Green Ring three sections comments in.  Our coffee stop was an impromptu planning meeting, so watch out for dates, but expect at least two rides from Harpenden in 2014 as well as the usual Fleetville rendezvous.  

12 October 2013: Apples!

Some rides really are fabulously fabulous – this was one of them.  Apples were advertised and my goodness, they were delivered on this ride!  We were also keen to take in the resurfaced Alban Way too.  And, the weather forecast had changed from wet to sunny.  First we headed east – here are three of the septet gliding smoothly along.

Another remarkable feature of this particular ride – we allowed a chap to come with us!  His local CTC group is looking at running 5MTF style rides, so this was important outreach opportunity.  Our man is also a pomologist, so we benefited from his expertise as we plundered the windfalls in Highfield Park.  In fact, he enjoyed the orchard so much he asked us to leave him there and carry on without him.  The pictured section of orchard is near to Hixberry Lane, mainly cookers and a few desert trees. This was the orchard of the Herts County Mental Hospital, built in the late 1890s.  Further west we cycled through the old Cell Barnes Hospital orchard too.  Both these hospitals had farms to provide food and therapeutic work for the patients.  Find out more at the Highfield Park Trust website. 




Having gathered bagfuls of apples, we meandered through the autumnal beauty of Highfield Park, picked up the London Road cycle route and in no time at all, we were ensconced in the Dahlia Coffee House at Ayletts.  We recommend the date slice and the availability of lactose free milk.

Our return route looped round by Sopwell and Cottonmill to take us to the western end of the Alban Way for more smooth tarmac enjoyment as we returned to Fleetville. 



 7 September 2013: Open Studios
Bike leaning on road sign
Time to rest the bike

Three of us convened to peruse the Open Studios listing.  There was a studio only about 100m from Morrisons, but we felt we could and should go a bit further than that, yes even as far as Wheatampstead!  How could we resist an artist called Bel Bluemel? 

Off we went, Alban Way, Oaklands, House Lane and up past Nashe’s Farm, and round through Symondshyde Woods.  We followed a path through the church yard and out into a lovely little green with a play area.  Hmm, leader now had no idea where she was, but made a good guess, and we popped out at the Open Studio just as the door opened.  And yes, it turned to indeed be that Bluemel, the cycle accessories manufacturer! 

We enjoyed our visit, we bought artwork and we turned for home.  More uphill, bike needed to lean against a sign to rest after the effort.  Back to Sandridge via Nomansland, and there we parted company to make our separate ways home.

This was a fairly arduous ride, October will be shorter, slower and flatter.


20 July 2013: Ride Report
Devil Cake
Painted nails
Painted nails
We took the hint from the Sunday riders and decided on a nice short route in the heat. Although it was actually a bit cooler this morning.  Our quartet headed west along the Alban Way for a change, through by Berners Drive, Gorham Drive and Butterfield Lane to New Barnes Mill.  A cheery greeting from some fast chaps on lightweight cycles coming along in the other direction.  We’d be going faster too if we were going downhill!  A bit of a slog up Napsbury Lane and then a scamper down and voila! we are at Ayletts Nurseries.  Astonishingly, this is our first 5MTF visit to Ayletts, although we were none of us individually strangers there. We picture for your delight the Devil Cake.  We also show you the pink lemonade in the clutches of today’s youngest rider (age 12) who has painted her nails most beautifully.
The Dahlia Café was popular with cyclists today, we met a couple from the Forty Plus.  Refreshed by cake and companionship, we allowed ourselves a little shopping time, then headed back to Fleetville using London Road, Highfield Park and Camp cycle routes.

15 June 2013: Bike Week Ride
Smiling cyclists
All smiles at the start of the ride
We were very cheerful at the start – it was sunny! 
Group posing outside garden centre
Come on it's about to rain!
Eleven ladies arrived, including five who had not been out on a 5MTF before. We were waved off by Jon and Neil from the Saturday Saunter, and as if that wasn’t enough male company for one morning, we timed our exit onto the Alban Way to coincide with the departure of a Beaver pack on wheels. They decided we looked faster than them and waved us through ahead! 

We headed east to Ellenbrook, and then turned west again along the lanes through Wilkins Green to Smallford. We rode steadily along Station Road and Hatfield Road to get to Notcutts, where we rather swamped the cycle parking.  We took up quite a lot of the café too! In fact, we made such an impression that the manager came over to see us…..to ask if she could have some of the Bike Week leaflets that we were waving around! 

We did wonder if we would get drenched on departure, but the rain held off, and we got back on the Alban Way, and then went round through Highfield Park and back to Fleetville by the Camp Road Cycle Route. Ride distance was 8 miles. 

11 May 2013: Exploring the Nicky Line
Two cyclists with bikes
Our first ever ride from Harpenden did not attract any harpies, but we did impress the press. We featured briefly as photographic headline news on the St Albans Review web page on Sunday morning, so perhaps we will also be in the print edition if nothing more momentous happens ere then. We were celebrating Global Women’s Cycling Day, a US-based initiative recognising the importance of bicycles in the emancipation of women. The Day is chosen to coincide with US Mothers’ Day, so we were actually a day ahead. Enough of the chat, lets ride!
Those Harpenden folk get up nice and early to drive in and go shopping, so we were a bit slow through town but were soon rising above it on our way up to the level access to the Nicky Line at Roundwood. Downhill from there to Redbourn, enjoying the scenery, but looking out for the gaps in the old sleepers at the track crossing just before the roundabout. We were soon ensconced in The Hub, a café and cyclists’ refuge. We had enjoyed the Nicky Line so much and were so refreshed at the Hub, that we carried on a bit further along the line, to Three Cherry Trees Lane, then came back along Punch Bowl Lane to the main road. Since the appearance on a TV baking show, Redbournbury Mill has been mobbed, and they now sell only flour at the Mill on Saturdays, bread sales have moved to the Chequers car park where there is easier access by car. Hmm. Good cycle parking. A wet winter means the water was flying over the mill wheel.
As we had no Harpenden-based riders out, we turned for St Albans at the end of Beesonend Lane. We had really enjoyed extending our range however, so may well have another Harpenden start in the future.

6 April 2013: Frühling, Frühling wird es nun bald.
Six days into British Summertime, and at last the words of this German folk song are believable – soon it will be spring.  Four of us made our way east along the Alban Way in sunshine, right through to Hatfield.  The bridge over Wellfield Road was tempting – only a mile further to Stanborough - but our way lay along Wellfield Road itself, and we were delighted to find that the footway has been most effectively converted to shared use, with small gabions on the roadward side to enable path-widening.  That took us fairly easily to White Lion Square and thus Hatfield Farmers’ Market.  We enjoyed browsing the plants and produce.  The primulas were very eye-catching.

In spite of the sun, we were keen to find coffee and cake indoors, and duly invaded the relocated Simmons.  We totally flummoxed the young trainee, who found four fabulous women all wanting different drinks and pastries on the one order a tad overwhelming.  A request for toast was the last straw for the poor lad; his supervisor came to the rescue.
We were in like disarray ourselves however when we stopped on our way back to assist a young couple with a flat tyre.  The tyre was one of those very tight fitting ones, and we were sufficiently discombobulated by the effort required to get the wretched rubber off the rim that we forgot to check that the thorn we had removed was the only one before we wrestled the tyre back on again.  Oh “bother”.

Blue Sign
From Ellenbrook we made an architectural diversion down Wilkins Green Lane to enjoy a glimpse of ‘Torilla’.    Dating from 1935, this house was designed by F.R.S Yorke, who was one of the first British architects to design in the Modernist style.  The Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust later intervened to prevent its demolition.  We also enjoyed the much larger and grander and older Great Nast Hyde House.  What you see from the lane is actually the back of the house; the proper front entrance to the house is up a drive from St Albans Road.

We rejoined the Alban Way at Smallford and carried on westward and back to Morrisons.  It might appear from the sign that by the time we got back we would have ridden at least 12 miles, but bear in mind that we had started from Fleetville, not central St Albans.  Although, even allowing for the distance vagaries on Alban Way signs, we did on this occasion go further than the nominal five.
16 March 2013: Winter still! 
Saturday 16 March dawned grey and wet with forecast likewise.  Fabulous women know that if they don’t want to go out in the rain, they don’t have to.  They also know that waterproofs are pretty effective these days.  Two of us took the waterproof option.  Regular riders will  know we have a flexible approach to routes and destinations, and today we decided to flex in the direction of a short ride and a long coffee stop. Our traditional wet weather destination is Notcutts, but even that seemed a bit far, so the special feature of this ride was a new 5MTF coffee stop, and as the leader had not been before, another special feature was a led leader.  The atmospheric photograph of our waterproofs dripping on the balcony at Dunelm Mill did not come out very well, so you will just have to imagine our enjoyment of hot drinks and colourful house wares.  It was not raining quite so hard for the return , so we took the indirect route via Oaklands College and Jersey Lane.
We hope for better weather on 6th April.
Rona Wightman
(*)/ (*)  happy cycling!