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15 Apr: St Albans to Leighton Buzzard

posted 18 Apr 2012, 07:37 by South Herts   [ updated 2 Feb 2017, 23:23 ]
The frost glittered in the bright April sunshine; what had happened to global warming?  13 bizarrely clad figures gathered at the war memorial with not a bare knee in sight.  The fluorescent yellows and oranges formed into a column and set off down Catherine Street and following the path of the Roman Legions sped along Watling Street, nowadays known as the A5183, towards Redbourn.  
13 cyclists at St Albans
Start: St Albans
Market Cross close up
Destination: Leighton Buzzard

Carefully avoiding passing the former Punchbowl pub, we turned off towards the scene of the Buncefield fire of 2006, where nothing much has changed since, and wiggled through the housing estates of Hemel Hempstead down to Piccotts End and the main A4146.  Riding along this for a mile, we endured the results of the maintenance regime of Herts Highways (due to be no more at the end of September, hurrah) before a steepish ascent to Frithsden and Ashridge Forest.  As the college came into view we took a sharp left down an allegedly concrete path, but really a muddy track.  A herd of deer stared at us inquisitively, as well they might, but we just stared back.  We saw other bunches heading for Ivinghoe Beacon, while we descended Tom's Hill and passed the once-notorious Stocks House, sadly no longer a training camp for playboy bunnies.  
More bizarrely clad figures inside Stocks House
A bunch prepares to descend past Ivinghoe Beacon

On arrival at the cafe at Pitstone Wharf we had trouble parking our bikes due to the prior arrival of the Verulam Club, who were also occupying most of the inside seats.  However, there was just enough room for us to squeeze in, and while we consumed refreshments we admired the obviously very stretchy material from which the blue-and-yellow club jerseys were made.  Back on the road we wended our way through the rather flat countryside crossing the new Leighton Buzzard bypass to arrive in the town centre and the Swan Hotel, now a J D Wetherspoon establishment. Three of our number were planning to ride the Dunwich Dynamo (a night-time ride from London to the Suffolk coast) this year and a determined training session ensued. This might have been regretted, as our route from lunch involved carrying bikes across the canal lock gates where a steady footing and sense of balance were in demand.  
An awkward crossing at Grove Lock
The Grand Union canal

However, there were no mis-haps, and we cycled south, skirting Tring to join what had been the A41.  Here the precipitation started, but we just made it to the cafe without the necessity for rain-jackets.  When we came out (of the cafe, there were no revelations) the rain had stopped so it was the usual route through Hemel Hempstead, up Bunkers Lane and back along the A4147. 

15 Apr 2012