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06 Nov: St Albans to Eaton Bray

posted 10 Nov 2011, 03:08 by South Herts   [ updated 17 Feb 2017, 23:55 ]
As the first Sunday of the month, today’s ride was one where newcomers are invited along to ride to elevenses. Then they are guaranteed someone will lead them back to the start, so they can be sure they have a ride of reasonable length for a beginner/newcomer.

However, as it was a very dull and damp day weather wise, no beginners turned up. But, anticipating there might be I had thoughtfully planned the flattest possible ride to elevenses at Woodside Farm at Slip End near Luton. So ten of us set off, including Mike who normally rides with the Wednesday evening group, but thought a ride to elevenses would be ideal.
We took a roundabout route out of St. Albans going through the Childwick Estate where the film director Stanley Kubrick used to live. After that, we meandered across to Gaddesden Row and in due course dropped down into Markyate before reaching Woodside Farm having done about 17 miles.
Outside Jakes Cafe
Llamas at Woodside Farm

The café there is delightful -small and cosy with the walls lined with bookshelves of second hand books, with sales going to charity. So, after a literary elevenses three of the group returned to St Albans and the rest of us set off for Eaton Bay, which is sort of N.E. of Dunstable, together with three who had joined the ride at elevenses.

The original published plan had been to go to the ‘Old Farm Inn’ at Totternhoe for lunch, but prior checking had revealed they had already booked a party of 28 walkers so couldn’t accommodate us. Some other pubs seemed excessively expensive so I had settled on the ‘White Horse’ at Eaton Bray. To reach there we cycled up past Whipsnade Zoo seeing a large shaggy bison and then hurtled down the long, steep and appropriately named Bison Hill, before looping around  through Totternhoe and into Eaton Bray.

The ‘White Horse’ turned out to be a popular pub, i.e. it was crowded but we squeezed onto a table in a corner. Having fed, there was some discussion as to the best route home as we didn’t want to go back up Bison Hill, nor any of the other steep routes to get over the Dunstable Downs. The consensus was that we should go via Dagnall and then across to Studham.
This proved to be a very wise decision as we went along a relatively flat route below the zoo and the escarpment of the downs passing beneath the enormous white lion carved into the chalk of the downs.
Whipsnade Zoo
White Lion Hillside

At Dagnall, we turned towards Studham and reached there without really noticing we had climbed very much at all. From here, it seemed an easy run back to St Albans via Redbourn. So, a slightly damp day, but it never actually rained, wasn’t too cold and a good day was had by all. Total distance was round about 50 miles. Note that we didn’t have a tea stop, as this is the beginning of the winter rides programme and we want to get back before dark. This also means that winter rides tend to be shorter than summer ones.