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16 Aug: Hertford to Mill Green

posted 19 Aug 2015, 11:43 by South Herts   [ updated 23 Sep 2015, 01:04 ]
I like trying new routes and a round dozen riders gathered for a journey to explore lands to the east of our usual hunting grounds, thinking that I knew Essex like the back of my hand.  Little did they know that I knew nothing about one part of the route, where my route planner was taking a direct line along a bridleway.  But first we had to get to Harlow, avoiding the bridge at Dobbs Weir, which was closed for rebuilding. 

We took the scenic route along the river to Ware, trying to dodge the worst of the rough bits, and I thought I’d be clever and take a short cut coming out at the station.  That was fine, but the barriers came down as we arrived so we ended up back by the river and crossed the railway on Viaduct Road instead.

We reached Stanstead Abbotts without climbing any hills at all, so I felt merciful and took the easier climb out via Kitten Lane to avoid the 10% gradient.  It’s a lovely descent to Roydon where the inevitable barriers were down, but we were soon in Harlow and onto the north-south cycleway we’d used before.  Emerging on Paringdon Road I thought I was further south and missed the turn to Commonside Road - it was becoming clear that I didn’t know the back of my hand too well.  Carol came to the rescue and found the way to what used to be the Pink Cottage pub. We negotiated the M11 roundabout safely, helped by an improved junction design, and the sun came out as we reached the garden centre.

Negotiating a barrier
Barrier on Old Barns Lane

I was pleased when everyone said they were carrying on to lunch, but some had little choice, as they didn’t know their way back from here. It was a familiar route to Radley Green, mostly on NCR1, but then we headed south to cross the A414 and onto over a mile of bridleway. One of the privileges of leading a ride is that it lets you try new routes and this looked like a useful short cut, but I wondered why I’d never been taken down there before.  After getting around a locked gate it turned out to be quite rideable with just a few water filled dips to avoid. After passing some isolated houses we were onto a concrete road through very dark and spooky woodland before emerging on the Blackmore Road.  Soon Metsons Lane provided another off-road shortcut through the wood yard and onto Ingatestone Road, where we paused to inspect a vintage Dodge car that was for sale. 

Vintage car for sale
An old Dodge

The Viper is hidden away in the woods and deservedly popular with walkers and cyclists.  Quick service, good sandwiches and beer, what more could you want?  After an hour in the garden the only real incentive to leave was the prospect of our first visit of the year to Upshire Church for tea.  It was a quiet route to Ongar and Toot Hill, then the steep climb up Ivy Chimneys, along the Epping Road and down to Upshire.  It doesn’t seem possible, but the range and quality of the food on offer looked even better than last year.

The Viper pub
Lunch at The Viper

After Waltham Abbey we divided with most joining NCR1 going north through Lea Valley Country Park, then across to Hoddesdon and over the hill back to Hertford to complete an enjoyable 65-mile circuit.

Jon 16/08/2015