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20 July: Hertford to Stondon Massey

posted 23 Jul 2014, 15:38 by South Herts   [ updated 8 Jan 2017, 22:01 ]
Women outnumbered men at the start on a sunny Sunday morning in Hertford, but Bill soon joined us to even the numbers.  It was good to see Mary out with us after a long absence and, despite nursing a sick knee, she was soon showing us how to climb the hill out of Hertford to Hoddesdon.  I'd figured an early start in Hertford would get us further into Essex, but Carol & Steve had worked out they could take a more direct route from St Albans to Hastingwood and leave a bit later.  It took longer than they thought but they still arrived just before 11, albeit a little overheated.  

The prospect of a burning sun prompted Judy to head for home as we reached Weald Lodge, where the rest of us continued by retracing part of the Tour de France route, still marked by the odd yellow bike hanging precariously from the side of a building here and there as well as the occasional newly patched pothole.

group in front of war memorial
Gathering in Hertford
five cycling towards camera
Cycling through Nazeing
walking around gate
Start of the bridleway near Fyfield
entering a field
Path near Gaynes Park
At Fyfield we left the TdeF route as I fancied exploring a bridleway which route planning software was sending me down, so just after the chicken farm we turned off right onto a farm track.  This turned out to have a good concrete or gravel surface all the way through to the Willingale Road and it saved quite a distance.  I had passed this numerous times with other groups and no-one had thought to explore it, but being chuffed with myself for discovering this useful shortcut was very short lived.  

On emerging from the track we paused as what must have been over 50 young female cyclists approached on sportified bikes and promptly took to the track we had just left!  This group turned out to one of over 350 groups in which 7,670 women took part around the globe on Sunday in a Women's 100 km ride.

female cyclist

Leaving them behind we soon reached The Bricklayers in Stondon and had a very pleasant lunch in the garden and there was a small park and pond opposite for the picnickers amongst us.  Reluctantly we left for tea with an easy drop down to High Ongar followed by a gentle climb to Toot Hill passing the oldest wooden church in the World (where I forgot to stop and look).  Then it was time for more exploring as we bumped into more of these female cyclists at the top of the last switchback after Toot Hill.  Carol had spotted a direct path across to Stonard's Hill and Epping, so we took to the field edge where most had to push their bikes, especially when climbing over the fallen tree (not impassable this one).  A bridge took us over the M11 (fortunately) but the driveway we had hoped to join was fenced off here with barbed wire, so more field edges followed until we emerged on the drive as intended.  Well, it was an interesting walk on a sunny day.

riding on grass
Neil heading off
climbing over a tree
Obstacle course
tea and cakes
Bill at Upshire
another cake
Cake at Nazeing Church
At Epping the two of us in the Barnet contingent headed south to Upshire for tea, where we were flagged down by a couple of old gents doing their best not to let any cyclists zoom past them without refueling. Meanwhile the rest of our group headed west to Nazeing Church to compare their cakes, only on offer until the end of July and very fine they were too. It had been a fine day on the bike, on which we had seen far more women cyclists than men - a demonstration that male dominance of the sport is fast becoming a thing of the past.  Hopefully that will lead to more integration rather than segregation, especially in non-competitive clubs like the CTC.

Jon 20/07/2014