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27 Feb: St Albans to Gaddesdon Row

posted 28 Feb 2011, 05:10 by South Herts   [ updated 1 Jan 2017, 02:34 ]
A bright, dry but chilly morning at The War Memorial at St. Albans saw 10 of us ready to go. First leg was to Chipperfield, which is not that far to the southeast. So we took the usual route to begin with up past Verulanium and on through the lanes to Bedmond and then Kings Langley. The first excitement of the day was when a youth on a mountain bike decided to turn right in front of me without looking at all, just as I was leading the ride to go past him. My initial thought was that I was going to crash but a mad swerve saw me just manage to turn right inside him. He did have the decency to say sorry and I pointed out that was all very well but, as he hadn’t looked, if I had been a lorry he would have been squashed and dead.

Then it was on to Hunton Bridge and Chandlers Cross. Here by way of diversion we turned south and went down through Whippendell Woods, very pretty with sunshine through the trees. At the end of the woods, we turned right up a lane, at the back of Croxley Green, which rapidly deteriorated from what once must have been a lane into a very potholed muddy path. Despite this, it was an interesting route and the general consensus was that we had never been that way before. Eventually it emerged onto a proper road and we headed for Sarrat, which has a large village green. As a vintage vehicle enthusiast, I nearly decided to abandon the ride immediately as numbers of vintage cars and lorries were assembling on the green for a show. However, dutifully I went on, arriving at Blackwell’s café in Chipperfield on time at eleven o'clock. This café has a nice ambience with a continental feel to it with a bar and croissants, yet also full English breakfasts for the hungry traditionalist. It also has an interesting history being more than just a café. Apparently, the ‘lords of the manor’ at Chipperfield were the Blackwells of ‘Cross and Blackwell’ (think baked beans) and in the First World War two of their sons were killed in France. As a memorial, the family gave the village a hall/club. Later in 2006, the great grandson of the original donor reopened the revamped hall in its current format. This as I say is a very stylish café, which helps to raise funds to maintain it as a club/venue for the village.

Blackwell's Cafe, Chipperfield

Training for the Marathon

After this break, two of our party (with great prescience as it turned out) decided to head for home whilst the rest of us started out for Kensworth some way to the northeast. Through the lanes towards Hemel Hempstead, but skirting it and then starting to climb towards Potten End. Here it started to rain and we began to see runners coming the other way, lots and lots of runners. The stewards for the runners told us it was people training for a marathon, over 500 of them. Those at the front seemed ok but as we went on, those further back (many miles back) seemed to be more and more exhausted and more like they were training in how to kill themselves. By now it was raining quite hard, two more of our party had turned for home and we finally reached the heights of Gaddesden Row. Decision time. The original plan was to turn north here for about 5 miles to the lunch pub at Kensworth. This would mean 5 miles in the rain going north only to be followed after lunch by a similar distance in the rain coming back. So a democratic vote was taken to abandon this silly idea and repair forthwith to a nearby pub, ‘The Chequers’. Despite being very full, we managed to find a couple of free tables. Like an increasing number of pubs, this does not do sandwiches on Sundays, but as we couldn’t face going out in the rain to find a different one we settled for having ‘starters’ from the menu instead.
So after a break and duly fortified we set off again in the rain to get back as quickly as possible via Redbourn to St Albans. Here some had to go on to Hatfield and Welwyn whilst those of us who finished at the start as it were, found we had done about 37 miles in total.

So in summary a lovely morning to begin with, shame about the rain later but oh what joy and relief that at least one was cycling and not near to death running in the rain.