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18 Jan: St Albans to Knebworth

posted 21 Jan 2015, 06:12 by South Herts   [ updated 11 Mar 2015, 01:49 ]
The trembling figures standing outside the Blacksmith’s Arms pub were not waiting for the doors to open, but South Herts CTC anticipating a foray into the sub-arctic hinterland. The route was through Nomansland Common, scene of the recovery of the left-forearm exhibit from the body-parts murder that had put St Albans on the map, then through Southdown to cross the A6 and up the hill in Harpenden to cross the Nickey Line. We passed through Kinsbourne Green and sadly noted the absence of the alpacas by Annables Lane – had they provided an exotic Christmas dinner for one of the local squires? Skirting the edge of Flamstead we ascended the heights of Caddington to our chosen morning stop, Cafe 7. We had used this before and it had provided fast & efficient service, but as soon as we entered we noticed 
bike rack
Peter taking the strain at Knebworth Station
 baguette & chips
 
 A light lunch 
that it must have changed hands.  Now it might seem a simple matter to serve a few breakfasts consisting of the usual staples of bacon, eggs, sausages and beans, but obviously not here. After waiting 30 minutes for the orders to appear, during which one of the staff had gone out to get supplies from the Co-op next door, we politely enquired as to their expected time of arrival, only to get the response that the staff were very busy. Hmm, apart from the seven cyclists there was only one other customer.
 
Setting off later than planned, we crossed the M1 on a bridleway bridge that led into Stockwood Park and then took the well-surfaced Upper Lea Valley cycle route to New Mill End where we ascended the hill to Peter’s Green & then went through Whitwell and Nup End using familiar roads but in the opposite direction. Passing through the elegance of Old Knebworth we descended into the somewhat less elegant main village to a new destination for us: the Station Hotel at a rather late 1:30 pm. In the interests of inclusiveness, we do try to vary the nature of our destination pubs, and this was clearly a drinking-man’s football pub with a large loud television showing 22 men wearing advertising shirts shouting, spitting and running round 
a perfectly turfed field. Despite the main bar heaving with similarly clad men, we found a back room shielded from the noise and occupied by only 3 other punters. We grabbed a large table and ordered the good-value food on offer, which duly arrived during a discussion on the abrupt departure of the CTC’s technical officer.
 
On departure, we inspected the double-decker bike racks outside Knebworth Station and came to the conclusion that getting a bike onto an upper rack required undue physical strength, despite the cantilevered design.  Then we followed a standard route back through Codicote, Wheathampstead and Sandridge.

Steve 18/01/2015
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