July 2010 weekend ride reports

25 July: Hatfield to Therfield

posted 26 Jul 2010, 11:03 by South Herts   [ updated 30 Dec 2016, 23:57 ]

Jon writes: Some frantic waving helped John home-in on the starting point for his first ride from Hatfield, just as his GPS was sending him round in circles near Asda car park.   Nine of us set out for Church Farm at Ardeley following a direct route via WGC and Digswell, then taking Harmer Green Lane through to Burnham Green.   At Datchworth Green cross roads, we picked up Stuart, who had gambled correctly that our route would pass through there.  We dropped down the beautiful Raffin Green Lane and soon picked up Walkern Road taking us directly north, reaching our coffee stop at 10:30.
 Church Farm Ardeley
Getting hungry
Ardeley Church Farm was packed and it took nearly an hour to be served, despite three chefs going flat out in the kitchen.  A great place if you’re not in a hurry, but my absolute deadline for leaving was 11:45 and we only just made it.  Glad we didn’t all simply walk out, as the food was great quality when it arrived (although Richard had to leave early and missed his organic beans on toast).  Precisely 0.5 mm of rain had fallen whilst at Ardeley, but by now it was getting hot, as well as humid, and we took the direct route to Therfield, joined now by Chris and Geoff.
Therfield village green
Stuart's new Paganini
Two earlier phone calls to the pub had persuaded them to provide baguettes (no thanks, we didn’t really want roast dinners in the middle of summer), but we were told to arrive early, to avoid clashing with a party of 40 fans of the ‘traditional’ roast.  All worked out well for us, and the baguettes were excellent, although we saw no sign of any large parties arriving.  With more and more pubs providing lunch wanting to morph into restaurants providing drinks, arranging a light lunch can seem more tricky than planning and leading the ride itself.   Before leaving, I had a quick ride on Stuart’s brand new carbon framed Paganini - a virtuoso performance.

Then it was off on a loop via deserted lanes east of the A10, arriving hot, sweaty and covered in thrips for a welcome tea and cake with Jeanette the vicar at Braughing.
Friendly service at Braughing

The Old Boys School dated 1574 

I stayed to cool off and have a better look around Braughing, while Peter led through Bramfield & Panshanger, then Tracey took the group through the woods to WGC. 
Leaving Braughing village hall

Total distance 66.6 miles.  25/07/2010

18 July: St Albans to Quainton

posted 20 Jul 2010, 10:49 by South Herts   [ updated 30 Dec 2016, 10:43 ]

Richard writes: This was an earlier than usual start, as the ride was going to be a bit longer than normal, involving a complete circuit of Aylesbury.  So a fairly direct route to coffee seemed a good idea. 
 Neil, Vish, Simon, Judy, tracey, Carol, Stuart, Pete and Richard at St Albans

Eleven of us set off from St Albans up the A5 to Redbourn, then up and down, via Gaddesden Row, Water End, Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and the National Trust woods, into Aldbury.  Here Carol's tyre went off with a bang. Fortunately Steve had a folding tyre as a replacement.  Just shows you how handy these are.  Not very often needed, but on the odd occasion essential.  There was a strong wind which seemed to have been with us for several days and looked like lasting all day.  It was making cycling difficult in places and amazingly easy in others.  There was some drifting rain around too, but nothing serious.  From Aldbury we went north along an annoyingly bouncy piece of road; it seemed to be constructed of concrete slabs, so you got a vigorous jolt every 10 yards as you hit a joint.  Just as with some of our cyclists, the passage of time seems to make these oddities worse. 
 College Lake
 Lapwings fly through the cafe
But soon we arrived at our coffee stop - the visitors’ centre cafe at College Lake Wildlife Centre, complete with its mammoth tusk.  This is a really attractive, modern building with a spectacular view of the old chalk pits, now a set of lakes for wildlife, although the only birds in evidence were hanging from the café ceiling.  Conscious of the distance to lunch, we did not linger and headed off north through the villages in the Vale of Aylesbury - Long Marston, Wingrave, Aston Abbots and along the main road through Whitchurch.  Here that dreaded hissing sound occurred again, but Steve soon found the cause to be a broken valve.  Jon & Carol helped him replace it, while the group went on, although mild panic ensued until a suitable long valve 26in tube was found in the depths of Steve’s pannier.  The route continued up and down Pitchott hill, with wonderful views across the Vale to the scarp slope of the Chilterns, to arrive at Quainton and the George and Dragon.  

 Quainton Mill
The pub had an ancient Wurlitzer juke box, but the landlady wouldn't let us play it as the volume was excessive for a Sunday lunchtime.
Most people had sandwiches, so we sat on the village green, a delightful spot with its windmill and old houses. Vish had brought delicious snacks made by his wife, which livened up our sandwiches no end.  The pub was friendly, with a good selection of beers, and charged reasonable, i.e. cheap, prices, too.   We did a brief circuit of the village just to see the church and almshouses, then on to Waddesdon village, up Waddesdon Hill, then through the very pleasant (and downhill) off-road route through Eythrope Park, crossing the River Thame and on to Bishopstone. 
 Eythrope Park
 River Thame

Passing the Chiltern Brewery, at Halton we picked up the overgrown towpath of the Wendover link to the Grand Union canal, following this almost to Tring. 
 Wendover canal path

By this time (4.00 pm) it was hot and we were gasping for a nice cup of tea, but to our horror the tea rooms were closed at tea time.  Unpleasant remarks were made about the leader not planning for this, but the nearby vegetarian ‘green house restaurant’ came to the rescue - a very tasty cake and tea (some jibbed at the cost).   By now we were keen to get back by a direct route, so we followed the old A41 through Berkhamsted, then down by the canal through Hemel and climbed the hill to Pimlico.  And so back to St Albans: it was quite a long ride (I had done 78 miles), and we were a bit later getting back, but really enjoyable for a longer summer ride and a pleasure to try new venues for stops.

11 July: Hatfield to Brent Pelham

posted 14 Jul 2010, 06:27 by South Herts   [ updated 24 Nov 2015, 23:51 ]

Neil writes: Big day for me - I finally get to lead the ride that was washed out on 2nd May.  We all met at ASDA Hatfield at 9 o'clockish.  When I got there we welcomed two new arrivals who were waiting for us (Jane and Andy).  The weather was a bit odd as it was hot and muggy; I was expecting it to pour down with rain any minute and dressed accordingly.  BIG mistake.
We got off to a nice and leisurely start heading out to Welwyn and made our way towards Panshanger.  At this point I handed over the leading to Tracey and she led us through Panshanger and into a small wood that skirts the airfield there.  In this wood we found several dog walkers and lots of very young puppies.  One poor pup had to keep up with his owner who was on a bike (bless 'em).
From the airfield we took a left and raced down the hill and then up the next hill to join the road that took us to Bramfield.  This part of the ride was very scenic and with lovely clear skies the views were very impressive.  Just a little after Bramfield I took a wrong turn and led us very nearly into Bengeo.  Thankfully help was at hand and we found our way up a fairly busy road to Sacombe Park.  Once through the park we made our way to Dane End and the golf course.
The two new riders were doing very well and had no problem with riding in our group.
After elevenses we made our way to Buntingford via Little Munden, Great Munden and Nasty.  At Buntingford we went up the high street and took a right that led to a small quiet road that took us all the way to Brent Pelham.
The Black Horse is a lovely little pub with a nice garden up to the side of it.  There we met a group of riders from Southgate (one of them seemed a little worse for the beer).
It was at this stop that I displayed my astounding lack of map folding skills and what I thought were roads turned out to be creases!  Then I found that I had the wrong map; I had everywhere else apart from Stevenage.  But with help from Peter we planned out a route to Old Stevenage.
As we were cycling this route it became clear that I had been on these roads before and near enough knew my way.  It was also on this leg of the day that we encountered swarms of suicidal thrips (thunderbugs or stormflies), they were blooming well everywhere and we got covered in them.  I mean it: head to foot, they were horrible, then we went through a swarm of something else.  These were bigger with big wings and I don't know what they were.
On the way to Stevenage we met Stuart who joined us for the ride to the Standing Order for a cuppa.
This seemed a quick little part of the day and we were very pleased to get to the pub as the sun had decided to bake us.
That’s when the fatigue set in and at around 4pm everything got very hot and dry, people started flagging and I for one felt for them as I ran out of water.
Stuart led us through Stevenage (this was interesting as he knew all the cycle paths and made sense of it all, the last time I was there I got hopelessly lost).
We made our way back to Hatfield via Knebworth and skirted Tewin.
All in all a fantastic day and I thank everybody for coming out, their patience and their help.

04 July: Picnic ride to Marlow

posted 12 Jul 2010, 02:38 by South Herts   [ updated 24 Nov 2015, 23:51 ]

Carol writes: Holiday season had started so there were only five people at the St Albans start for Steve and Carol’s annual ride to Marlow. Good to see Craig and Vish out again joining stalwart Neil.  We skirted Bricket Wood and aimed for Chandlers Cross where we picked up new rider Julie who is based in Watford.  We took a route to Chalfont St Peter using an off-road section of Old Shire Lane between Chorleywood and Chalfont Common. It was OK on a dry summer day in the direction we went with a long downhill on the roughest part.  The combination of a strong headwind and the different route meant a late arrival at Crumb’s café. 

Even though we were late we decided to detour through Burnham Beeches and use the car-free roads. This diversion from the normal way caused Craig to comment along the lines of ‘I knew we’d done some extra miles but this is ridiculous’ as we passed a village called ‘Egypt’!
 Burnham Beeches

When we got to Marlow and had bought food it was about 1.40, the latest we’d ever arrived at a lunch stop. It was busy next to the river, but we managed to bag a seat eventually. 
 Out with the picnic hampers
 The Thames at Marlow

The route back via Bourne End, Hedgerley and Gerrards Cross took us up the private road ‘Over the Misbourne’ where Neil managed to get a shock by touching an unmarked electric fence, then we all got a shock at the end as there is now a new locked gate to prevent cyclists and walkers reaching the bridleway road in Upper Denham. We had to lift our bikes over this new obstacle.

Yet another newly found bridleway allowed us to shortcut alongside the railway line towards Denham Airfield.  By the time we got to Maple Cross it was so late (5pm) we thought the Aquadrome café might be closed so we used the BP Wild Bean café where Craig bought mini brownies for us and Neil continued to flaunt his new England 2010 cycling shirt. 
 Fuel stop at Maple Cross

We made our way back via the Ebury Way dropping Julie off at the Grand Union canal junction and eventually made it home at about 6.45 after a very enjoyable 75 miles using some new roads and paths.

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