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19 June: Hertford to Hatfield Forest

posted 20 Jun 2011, 02:53 by South Herts   [ updated 1 Jan 2017, 08:37 ]
What a relief that this Sunday looked like being a dry day, exactly as predicted four months ago when this picnic ride was planned for Bike Week.  The River Lea path wended through countryside that was green again after recent rains, as eight of us headed along to Ware.  We opted for the top lane from Ware to Babbs Green and John commented that not a single car had passed us on that stretch - perhaps they were all dusting down their bikes, or more likely having a lie-in.  Either way, it made for an idyllic ride with the wind pushing us along and we soon reached Sawbridgeworth. 
The Shed in Sawbridgeworth



The Shed Coffee House provided some rather too comfortable sofas to relax in and it was a struggle for some to leave.  Our numbers swelled to ten as Carol & Steve caught up with us here and, being slightly ahead of schedule, I decided to put an extra loop in and took the group into some lanes some had never explored, as the Hertford start put us further East than usual.

Lack of traffic in these quiet, narrow lanes does seem to lead some drivers to expect a clear run.  I'm not sure if it was lack of thought or sheer devilment, but two cars decided to overtake us just as we were avoiding some very large pools of water and they soaked some of us near the back of the group.  It didn't get them anywhere as the lane became too narrow to pass the whole group, and they only succeeded in getting a very prolonged earful about their pathetic and inconsiderate driving habits.

After this excitement, it was good to reach Hatfield Forest where we grabbed a table by the lake for our picnic. 

Hatfield Forest
Flitch Way

 



The Shell House (left) in Hatfield Forest is a fascinating folly built by Jacob Houblon in 1754.  It was built for picnics and summer parties for friends and family, overlooking their new lake in the heart of the forest.

Jacob’s daughter Laetitia decorated the interior and exterior with exotic and colourful shells, (mostly from the West Indies as they were used as ballast in the holds of slave ships) split flints, blue glass, coral and sands. The designer of the building is unknown, but it was of Italian influence.



Not exactly up to Ascot Races picnic hamper standards (forgot the Duchy Originals), but it made a change from the usual pub lunch, with the added excitement of wondering when that big black cloud would reach us.  It did give us a couple of brief showers as we slithered along a mile of the Flitch Way and found our route across to the new part of National Cycle Route 16. 
NCR 16
Around Stansted Airport

This extends the Flitch Way as far as Birchanger and avoids the M11/A120 gyratory system by tunnelling under two slip roads.  From here we could follow more quiet lanes across to Little Hadham and our tea stop in the superb gardens of Hopley's Plant Centre, where some beautifully crafted African sculptures can be seen amongst the herbaceous borders.

The pond at Hopley's
Part of the large garden

Here we split up into smaller groups for the home run, while Carol & Steve headed off to explore the possibilities of cycling through Youngsbury Park near Wadesmill.

Jon
19/06/2011









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