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03 Aug: St Albans to Flitwick

posted 8 Aug 2014, 04:10 by South Herts   [ updated 8 Jan 2017, 21:45 ]
group standing by side of road
Amazing, another warm sunny day is forecast during a British summer. At the start in St Albans there are eight of us ready to go with another two heading directly to the lunch stop.
three heads
Heads up Peter, Will & Mike
empty benches
Closed tea place at Grover's Cafe in Stockgrove Park
lush woods
View from Rushmere Park Cafe
tike passing sign saying KEEP GOING
Keep Going sign on the hill from Hexton
group at tea table
Emily's Tearooms at Whitwell
It’s quite a long way to elevenses at the strangely named ‘Heath and Reach’ a village to the north of Leighton Buzzard. So opting for a flat and quick start we head off to Redbourn then Markyate before turning off onto a lane that leads up towards the Dunstable Downs. Reaching the top near the National Trust tearooms we stop to admire the view out across the Bedfordshire plain before plunging downhill towards Dunstable. Then it’s off across the plain (which isn’t quite as flat as it appeared). The plan is to avoid Leighton Buzzard by skirting around it to the east on minor roads and lanes. Getting nearer we go down a lane so minor it is starting to turn into more of a bridle path but it has a lovely remote feel to it. Our actual destination is Stockgrove Country Park which has a café there. So up another lane and finally we turn into the Country Park only to be told by a group of emerging cyclists that the café was closed. This is a bit of a blow as we have already done about 23 miles and want a rest. They tell us they think there is another café at Rushmere Country Park just a few miles away, so off we go again.  We find the other park and it is a steep ride through trees up to the café at the top of a hill. A very impressive location with a balcony overlooking the woods, a lovely place to stop, rest and eat and we have now done 25 miles to get there.

Leaving here three of the group headed back as they only wanted to be out for the morning (dodging about looking for the cafe added quite a lot of miles and they must have done 50 by the time they got back).  Meanwhile the rest of us went on heading for lunch at Flitwick via Woburn. Just as we left the cafe we saw Stuart arriving.  He had made the trip direct from his home in Stevenage, and he caught up with us again at lunch.  The route was a mixture of lanes and minor roads through woods as far as the town of Woburn. The High Street has some fine Georgian buildings but we had to press on through Woburn Park (no sign of any interesting animals, not even any deer) across the M1 and then in a couple of miles into Flitwick to ‘The Bumble Bee’ pub. This sounds like a charming olde world hostelry but it fact it is a rather charmless modern place but with the redeeming feature of being cheap.  At least the numerous TV screen were showing the Commonwealth Games road race rather than football!

So having been well fortified it was time to start the route back. One of us decided to take the train (which shows how flexible our rides/routes can be) whilst the rest headed off through Pulloxhill and on to Hexton. From here it’s a long arduous climb up to the crossing with the ancient Icknield Way footpath.  We appreciated the sign left on the hill by a charity ride which encouraged us to 'KEEP GOING'. Then on to Lilley and a mad dash down Lilley Bottom to Whitwell and the cyclist’s favourite teatime haunt of Emily’s Tearoom. Tea and cake consumed, people went their various ways. Those of us who went back to the start found we had done a total of about 66 miles on a day that weatherwise was perfect for cycling; dry, sunny but not too hot.

peteR 3/8/2014