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30 Jan: Hatfield to Halls Green

posted 2 Feb 2011, 03:46 by South Herts   [ updated 1 Jan 2017, 02:23 ]
Peter says: In a way, winter rides start on the Saturday night with an anxious look at the weather forecast. Is it going to snow? Be a sheet of ice? Or be a beautiful, fine day?  In the event, Sunday morning, although around freezing, seemed ok for riding.  None of the 9 people who arrived at the start at Asda Hatfield had fallen off on the way there so that seemed a good omen.  First stop of the day was scheduled for a new café (for us) at Hitchin, which is a fair distance.  Now the obvious way to go would have meant using much of the route we had used on the previous weekend, so a different route was called for.  We went via main-ish roads through Old Welwyn and Codicote and then started down minor lanes taking us through Preston, Gosmore and into Hitchin.  Two of the party, Jon and Judy, anticipating being slower than the rest had set off on their own to take a fairly direct route.  Strangely, our routes seemed to intersect on occasions, as we would find ourselves coming up behind them, overtaking them and then after a lapse of time find ourselves behind them yet again.  It was really a tortoise and hare situation; with the former winning as, when we got to the café they were already there.  The ‘Hitchin Kitchen’ as the café is called, turned out to be a proper ‘caff’ - an excellent find with very reasonable prices.
Hitchin Kitchen
RSPCA sign

Next stop was ‘The Rising Sun’ at Halls Green, which is a small hamlet to the north east of Stevenage, probably no more than 4 or 5 miles away as the crow flies. Having fed well at the caff, and not being crows, a longer route to work up an appetite for lunch seemed appropriate.  This involved leaving Hitchin by a back route, which led into a lane proceeding to Willian.  I was amazed when Carol, who seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Hertfordshire lanes, said that she had never been up this road before.  Then it was downhill into and through Baldock, a much nicer and quieter old town now it has been bypassed.  Out of Baldock to the east on the old Royston road, then over the new bypass and up and away across very open terrain to the village of Wallington.  We stopped there for some reason and on looking around found we were outside an old cottage bearing a plaque saying George Orwell had lived there.  After some erudite discussion about the Spanish Civil war, we went on.  Just as we were getting close to lunch Bill decided to have a puncture.  Now he can be forgiven for this as it was caused by a thorn.
In the centre of Wallington
George Orwell lived here
Bill collecting a thorn donated by a generous farmer

Thorns are a particular problem at this time of year as farmers obviously get bored about now and go out hedging and ditching. Unfortunately nowadays hedging involves lacerating the hedge with a sort of flail attached to a tractor, which seems to spread copious quantities of thorns all over the road.  These then lie there until some unsuspecting cyclist comes along, whereupon the thorns malevolently pierce the tyre, break off flush and are the very devil to get out.  After this interlude, we went on to ‘The Rising Sun’, which was a very pleasant pub with a nice wood fire.

Having spent an entertaining time watching Bill repair his puncture, now after lunch we were a little later than usual.  After some discussion, a fairly direct route back was agreed with those going to St. Albans turning off near Datchworth. Those of us who went back to the start at Hatfield found we had done about 50 miles in all that day.  Jon and Judy who had taken their own route back to Barnet after lunch must have done considerably more.  All in all not a bad day, it was cold with much talk of frozen feet but no rain or snow.