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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.