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16 Jan: St Albans to Essendon

posted 18 Jan 2011, 05:57 by South Herts   [ updated 31 Dec 2016, 23:50 ]
The 16 Jan dawned mild and dry - what a welcome change from previous weeks, through there was a powerful southerly wind to contend with. Ten of us set off from St Albans heading for our morning stop at Shenley - quite close if we took a direct route, but as conditions were good, we didn't. Leaving St Albans by way of the King Harry roundabout and Ragged Hall Lane, we took Lye Lane to the tricky crossing of the busy A405. Here we met an old friend Eric, still getting his cycling legs back after his accident last year. He wasn't planning on going our way, but he was persuaded to come with us as far as the mid morning stop. Passing through the woods, we paused at the intriguing house rebuilt by the architect Frederick Wallen for himself circa 1890, for use as a holiday home for orphaned boys, with its outstanding plaster reliefs of sporting scenes.  More on The Bricket Picture House...
Bricket Wood
The 'Picture House'

Following the cycle route through north Watford for a while, we turned off it to double back on a bridle way passing under the M1 and then following a very pleasant route along the River Colne to Wall Hall, formerly part of the Uni of Hertfordshire, but now private apartments. Then on through the surprisingly rural villages of Aldenham, Round Bush and Letchmore Heath, then turning left, climbing to Radlett. At Radlett, I went up the steep hill to Shenley, as I didn't know the much easier climb that avoids it. Several people pointed out my error and I must learn the other way if I lead another ride this way. Coffee and refreshment now beckoned at the Orchard Cafe, a recommended, popular stop.
Shenley Park Cafe
The Candlestick, Essendon West End

Then leaving Shenley towards Borehamwood, we turned left on the bridle way through Crossoaks Farm. A nice track follows the ridge with fine views on both sides. In the farm, we were surprised to see a partridge that seemed to have lost its identity and was mixing in with a flock of chickens. Then down hill to the horse bridge crossing the A1 (Eric veered off here) and on to Dancers Hill. Turning left into Potters Bar, we turned right after the station to emerge on the road to Northaw. From here, the route would be significantly hilly. Between Northaw and Newgate Street it is a real switchback with two steep sided valleys to cross, though very pleasant through the woods if you have the strength to look round. The route on north from there to Little Berkhamsted is not so fierce but not flat either. Turning east there another valley crossing brought us to Essendon, not for nothing is this area known as the Hertfordshire Alps.
St Albans to Hatfield - taking in a few hills

Then turning left by the church, another descent and climb along West End Lane took us to our lunch stop at the Candlestick. The route had been unusually hilly, we deserved it. This pub has been very nicely refurbished since our last visit. The food was excellent and reasonably priced - all enjoyed a very pleasant lunch. Although we had covered a reasonable 30 miles from the start, it wasn't going to be far back home for most. Heading back in the general direction of St Albans, with the forecast rain just beginning, people peeled off on their own routes home.
16/01/2011

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