15 November 2015: Green Ring Reprise

Six riders again this month, for our final ride of 2014.  We were revisiting the Green Ring, to see what has happened in the last 12 months.  See pink panel to right for Green Ring updates. First off, big round of applause for St Albans District Council's Alban Way improvement - the retaining wall by the oak tree just west of Sutton Road.  We stayed on road around Hatfield Road - quiet at 0930h on a Saturday morning - and up Woodstock Road and Jennings Road.  It is a gradual uphill here, we were glad to get over the railway bridge and onto Lemsford Road.  This time last year the bridge was closed for water main works.

Since last year a raised table has been built, so it was easy to get onto Lemsford Road itself for a short way, then we walked up through the woodland alongside Sandpit Lane. The official notice to upgrade the informal path through this 'common land' was posted in the paper this week.  We walked over to cross where the toucan crossing will be installed, walked up the footway and then rode along Heath Road and Boundary Road.

Over Sandridge Road onto Bernards Heath, where youngsters were setting up some sort of training session - the very youngest waved at us!  This section across the heath has already been upgraded for the Green Ring.  The next section from Heath Farm to Harpenden Road is also still at statutory formalities stage - that white square in the photo is an official notice!

We did not fancy a muddy path today, so rode carefully down Heath Farm Road and crossed straight over the Harpenden Road.  There is to be a toucan crossing, a bit further down.  As there was no-one on the pavement, we rode slowly along.  But this was too flagrant for a man on the other side, who actually crossed the road to harangue our back marker.  Oh dear, bit embarrassing. The more so since none of us would normally ride this bit of pavement, we have alternative routes for our usual journeys.  Anyway, we were soon on legitimate shared use pavement and NCN6 to Batchwood Drive.  The footway starts off as shared use here, and there is no actual end of route sign.  But we did go with great care on the narrower section along to Everlasting Lane, where we were back on road through Ladies Grove to Downedge, then a quick footway link to Oysterfields.

The crossing of Verulam Road is at design stage, we deemed it preferable to just ride on the road through to Branch Road and St Michaels round to Verulamium Park. Lots of activity in the park, kids scooting, cycling and playing and adults pounding along with rucksacks doing 'warrior fitness'.  From here on the Green Ring is almost all done, save upgrading the crossing of Holywell Hill to toucan and installing a raised table at the Prospect Road junction.  The footway is signed for shared use from Prospect Road round to Griffiths Way and along to the level crossing.  Back onto the Alban Way, we were ready for coffee.

We went to Sandino's on Hatfield Road for our refreshment and perusal of maps and plans.  Having missed out on art in September, we took advantage of the pop-up art gallery at 131 Hatfield Road, where steampunk pieces made of bicycle components were displayed on a table made out of an old road-sign.  And the lamp has a cycle chain pull-cord.

The gallery is open until late December, the art changes from week to week. More info, including gallery opening times and pictures of more artworks can be found at www.clivebatkin.wordpress.com

18 October 2014: Three orchards and two ponds

Six riders today, half of them sporting hi-viz pannier covers as issued by the Community Safety Partnership last year - see pink panel picture.

We set off east along the Albans Way, then turned off at Hixberry Lane to get to Highfield Park.  Our first orchard was part of Hill End Hospital.  The season has been early this year, so there were some windfalls to be gathered, but not very many compared to the same ride last year.  Lots of sweet chestnuts though, as we rode west to the former Cell Barnes Hospital orchard, and stopped to study the information board.

Which led us to look for the pond mentioned thereon.  Highfield Park is brilliant if you are interested in trees, orchards and history. We then put in a loop, down Nightingale Lane, along the A414 and back up Highfield Lane, then we headed along to London Road and down to Ayletts for coffee.  Five miles covered so far. 

To our delight, we found that Ayletts was running an apple festival over the weekend, with interesting varieties to taste and purchase, also apple juice and apple crisps.

We decided there was time to fit in yet another orchard, so we went round by Napsbury Lane and New Barnes Mill to the east end of the Alban Way.  You get a good view of the Watercress Local Nature Reserve from the Alban Way. It is tucked in between the Ver, the Alban Way and Riverside Road.  We took the little path from the Alban Way down to the end of Riverside Road and went for a wander around, thus gaining pond number two ('the mere') and orchard number three for our ride. The spring-fed mere was once watercress beds. The whole site had become a dump and was restored by local people.  The reserve is very well managed by the Watercress Wildlife Association. Visitors are encouraged to arrive by foot or pedal power - there is cycle parking. It is a wonderful, tranquil place to get close to nature.

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.

We enjoComfy seating at Ospreyyed 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 Way

A 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.