September 2013 weekend ride reports

29 Sept: Hatfield to Nuthampstead with Havering CTC

posted 30 Sep 2013, 06:49 by South Herts   [ updated 11 Jan 2017, 22:04 ]

It seems I’m a popular leader when there’s a strong head wind and the seven who joined me in Hatfield soon formed a neat line astern as we headed straight into it on the first leg to Ware.  We were due to meet a contingent from Havering CTC, on a return visit following our ride with them in Essex earlier in the year.  We had picked a morning stop near Ware railway station, but it was only Stephen who chose to arrive by train.  Three others from Havering (Alex, Gordon & Chan) impressed us by cycling the 30 miles – perhaps we should have chosen somewhere a bit further south.

cycling next to river
River Path to Ware
group leaving cafe
With Havering CTC in Ware
We headed north on some narrow lanes through Barwick Ford, Puckeridge and Furneaux (pronounced Furnix) Pelham, Great Hornmead and Anstey.  I was keen to show the ‘Essex Boys’ a scenic route, but it turned out to be quite hilly and there was some muttering in the ranks.  Evidently the only hills in Essex were a few humpback bridges.

We arrived at the pub at 1 pm and Judy had let us go on, but I was a bit concerned when she hadn’t arrived 30 minutes later.  Admittedly, the left turn in Great Hornmead is easily missed and she had put in an extra loop to Brent Pelham and stopped there for refuelling.  Meanwhile we were enjoying beer from the barrel and some excellent sandwiches in the sunny garden.

group leaving pub
Leaving Nuthampstead

The ride to tea was sublime.  The sun was out and the wind behind us as we coasted through Wyddial, Buntingford and Nasty.  The Havering bunch left us to catch the 4:30 train back and we enjoyed tea on the golf club patio.  Then it was an easy ride home to finish off a great day out in good company.

Jon 29/09/2013

22 Sep: St Albans to Flitwick

posted 27 Sep 2013, 01:12 by South Herts   [ updated 11 Jan 2017, 22:07 ]

This ride was planned to visit a new coffee stop and a new pub for the South Herts group. The first leg to coffee was quite a long stretch of 25 miles, and six riders were at the start – Craig, Richard, Roger and Diane together with leaders Carol and Steve.  We took a direct route along the A5183 through Redbourn, then along the old A5 to Markyate, before going up the long haul to the edge of the Chiltern ridge by Whipsnade Zoo.  After passing through Eaton Bray and the edge of Leighton Buzzard, we found the entrance to Rushmere Country Park and climbed up a fairly long tarmaced driveway to find a spanking brand-new cafe.  It has a terrace and beautiful views over the canopy of trees, hence the name ‘Treetops cafe’. 
But it was not cheap.  We all gasped at the extra £1 for jam with a scone, to be told it had ‘strawberry and champagne’ in the ingredients.  It transpired that I incorrectly assumed the Stockgrove Park cafe had been re-badged.  I was unaware this was a new business run by the ‘Greensand Trust’ and Stockgrove Park still exists with its (presumably) cheaper cafe. Anyway the view was worth paying for, but we decided not to pay the £3 charge to ride on their paths.  I looked on the website afterwards and they dress it up as a ‘health and safety’ liability issue.

group arriving at junction
On the way to Whitwell
Trice on busway
Judy takes a wrong turn up the LD Busway

Leaving the park we followed cycling signs for the ‘Greensand Cycle Route’, via Brickhills, Woburn Forest and Aspley Guise, to cross the M1 near Steppingley before arriving at the Blackbirds pub to find Jon and Judy.  They had taken a direct route via NCR 6 and Luton to check out the new Luton-Dunstable Busway – which currently has a poorly surfaced afterthought of a cycle track next to the ultra-smooth bus track.  The pub was cheap and rather down-market by our refined Hertfordshire standards; it was full of men with stratospheric BMI indices watching football on televisions in the “Sport Bar”.  We are not used to sitting in a garden (we were the only occupants) looking at a man bellowing at the kitchen staff through a wall ventilator!  There was even a television in the garden, fortunately not turned on.
Diane and Roger caught the train back home, avoiding our interesting verbal exchange with a member of the lower orders with a limited vocabulary, who overtook us with only microns to spare.  The rest of us climbed the ridge at Sundon before following a well-ridden route home via Whitwell, getting back to St Albans after 72 miles.

Carol 22/09/2013

08 Sep: St Albans to Quainton

posted 9 Sep 2013, 05:12 by South Herts   [ updated 11 Jan 2017, 22:12 ]

The Sunday riders joined forces with our Cotswolds tourists and added up to what must be record numbers for a Sunday ride.  Getting in a taster for the Cotswold Hills, Richard led 11 of the tourists and another 8 Sunday riders up and down the Chilterns Hills to Wendover Woods, where an extra tourist and 4 more Sunday riders joined the party.  It was great to welcome Steve and Jackie back with us following Steve’s nasty collision earlier in the year.  They and a few others returned home from Wendover, including Steve & Carol who were off to Amersham to see the steam train on the Metropolitan Line, and we carried on to Quainton for lunch.

Groups at two outside tables
At the cafe in Wendover Woods
Riding through country park
Riding through the Waddesdon Estate

Richard’s route now took us through the vast Waddesdon Estate, where Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild built his country retreat in the style of a Loire chateau in 1877.  This is a lovely, direct traffic-free route climbing gently up from the Thame valley.

Some isolated showers blew over while we were in the pub, heralding the arrival of autumn – at least for a day or two.  Undaunted, we waved the tour party off as they left the pub and headed for the hills, while we Sunday riders headed for Tring.  Then five minutes later Richard surprised us as his group merged in again at the next junction, so they had to be careful to follow the right leader when we finally split up.

We carried on through some brief showers to Cublington, where a marvellous rainbow formed to our left and some very black clouds hovered over the Chilterns.  Too late for tea at Tring, we carried on to Berko and into the reliable Crown for a coffee (or beer!) break.  We escaped with our lives and it was now an easy ride back to St Albans.  Easy for all except Rebecca, whose back wheel had developed an interesting wobble due to several broken spokes.  There’s nothing like brakes rubbing to get in a bit of extra resistance training on a hilly 74 mile ride!

Jon 8/9/2013

01 Sep: Hatfield to Arrington

posted 4 Sep 2013, 08:41 by South Herts   [ updated 11 Jan 2017, 22:16 ]

The day started with quite a surprise as Jon pulled out from the back of his car his own recumberment (sic), with which he joined our ride into the wilds of Bedfordshire & Cambridgeshire.
We set off on a slightly familiar route to the Café Plus in Baldock, taking in Bull’s Green, Datchworth, Watton-at-Stone, Walkern and Weston.   Actually this is a great little route featuring the little ups and downs Hertfordshire countryside has to offer and some wonderful views before dropping down to Baldock.  This part of the ride was quite brisk and we made some good time, we dropped the two recumbents at some point, but they were catching us on the downhills and never too far away.

Soon we pulled into the first stop and were greeted by Richard, this swelled our number by 1 to a wonderful 7 brave souls.  It was here I had my first shock as I realised I didn’t have a map for the last stop, but Richard did and kindly lent it to me.  But first we had to get to Arrington, this was a straightforward route I had planned and it worked very well although it was windy and we seemed to be riding into it most of the time.  The countryside was particularly flat and very open; there were some great views on both sides of the road that we were traveling along.

Soon we came to Croydon and I showed everyone where we were supposed to be having lunch then headed down into Arrington; the Hardwicke Arms was our preferred destination.  True to the reports about the place it did look as if it was closed, but on inspection it was very much open and doing some great business.  The prices were reasonable and the food looked good.

Country house estate
Cycling through Wimpole Hall Estate
unloading bikes
Unloading recumbents
Country house
Wimpole Hall
pub garden
Hardwicke Arms garden

From lunch we made our way from the Hardwicke Arms straight into the Lord Hardwickes’ estate of Wimpole Hall.  This is the greatest country house in Cambridgeshire and begs to be visited often, and from the crowds that we encountered it looks like it will remain a well visited place for many years to come.  We pushed on to Orwell then out through Meldreth and flipped round towards Royston.  At this point Richard Stubbs proved to be invaluable.  We had to take in a small part of a busy A505 dual carriageway up onto the roundabout and go around it.  Sounds simple, but it seemed so frickin busy to me and I did flounder.  Richard did the business; jumped in front said “let’s go” and we were off: quick, decisive action - thank you Mr Stubbs (why no cycle route here?).

And once past that it was up a blooming great hill into Therfield to Reed End and the Silver Ball Café that closed at 1.45 pm, oooppps now what to do?  Jon had the right idea and we made our way into Braughing for tea and cakes at the Church.  There was no stopping Judy once cakes were mentioned and off she shot through Barkway leaving us all struggling to keep up over ideal recumbent terrain.  The ride was very quick and added load of miles to the ride and boy was I shattered.  Then after tea it was back to Panshanger taking in Bengeo, Chapmore End and the B1000 and by the time we got back to the start 78 miles later I was flagging to say the least, but I had a great day and I hope everybody else did too.

Thanks to Mr Richard Stubbs, Jon & Judy for helping out.


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