People On Bikes
It's always a good sign when you hear someone on a ride you are leading say "I've never been along here before" in a pleasantly surprised tone (as opposed to deep sarcasm!)
Today's ride got this on the approach to Napsbury as we cut through from London Road in St Albans. We then took the cycle route through the Napsbury village and then a bridleway west under the M25.
I'd promised the riders some rough bits, so they'd all come on mountain bikes, whereas I was on my Brompton. This was fine until I was defeated by a particularly bumpy patch at Park Street. Ride leader instantly demoted to tail end Charlie, but not for very long.
Lunch was at the Burston Garden Centre, which has a really good restaurant, the pumpkin soup going down particularly well, as did the cakes. The only snag for cyclists is there is only parking for three bikes and it's the front wheel hoops on the wall type, so not very secure. However, cable locks and daisy chaining did the trick.
Coming home took us via National Route 6 and Chiswell Green and then down to the Alban Way near Abbey Station. We saw lots of signs up for the Green Ring, opening next month. A swift ride back to Hatfield followed, with a pause at Ellenbrook to admire the tidied up station and signal post and another photo stop just before the Galleria where resurfacing means the route is back to the correct really wide size.
This month's ride was a short (~ 8 mile) round trip from Welwyn Garden City to Shaw's Corner at Ayot St Lawrence to visit George Bernard Shaw's house, where there was a display of vintage bicycles dating back to wooden hobby-horses. We also had the chance to look around the gardens and the newly-reopened house.
A good mixture of people enjoyed the ride including two families, with 11 cyclists coming along for at least part of the route!
In a change to the usual routine we went out on a Sunday afternoon to tie in with the cycle display - please let us know if this would suit you better.
Another year and our annual trip to Colney Heath for the railway ride. Sixteen people took part, the main group being three families new to it all who came from WGC by car to ensure the kids would cope with the 6 mile round trip. That made for a long line of riders stretched out along the route.
A particular highlight, for anyone who has not been past yet, was the signal and clock at Nast Hyde Halt, Ellenbrook on the Alban Way. Do go and have a look.
Not so good was the rough riding on the cycle path alongside the A414 thanks to tree roots, overgrown vegetation, and the usual difficult crossing of Smallford Road, where cars come hurtling off the A414, often not indicating until the last second, if at all. The planned traffic lights cannot come soon enough.
Despite our crew including three six year olds, we made good time and had to wait to be let on to the North London Society of Model Engineers' site. This was a good thing, as with the most trains running I think we've ever seen - three on the low level railway - we got our rides in before the crowds arrived.
Next year will be even more fun as there will be tunnels on both lines. The new tunnel on the ground level railway is particularly impressive cut and cover engineering worthy of the Victorians!
On a bridleway
More byways and bridleways took us along side the River Lea till we reached tarmac again.
We carried on via Letty Green and the Cole Green Way (a highly recommended cycling and walking route between Welwyn Garden City and Hertford) to Serendipity's cafe.
After a leisurely al fresco lunch in warm sunshine which gradually turned into afternoon tea (more cake!) we returned with another look at the River Lea and a detour via Mill Green.
(This account was written by Isobel who came on our ride to Wheathampstead Village Day.)
Cycling has always been a very pleasurable experience for me. It was a quick and easy method of transport which made one feel close to life and nature. Over the years I have cycled (or rather pootled) in very many countries including USA, Alaska, Canada (Banf and Jasper) Denmark, Sweden, Scotland, Malta,Channel Isles, and Kyoto Japan.
Advancing years and other activities and interests meant I had given up this pleasure for a number of years.
Meeting Chris Whitehouse of the WelHatCycling Group, which exists to spread the joy of cycling, soon persuaded me I should get back in the saddle. I accepted an invitation to join a group riding from Campus West to Wheathampstead and back.
Friends counselled me against it given I had had a total knee replacement just a year ago with the other knee ready to keel over too. A friend offered to come and rescue me if I had bitten off more than I could cycle...!
Equipped with a borrowed bike and life essentials such as snacks, waterproofs and a can of gin and tonic in a bag strapped to a carrier, and elastic bands for cycle clips, we set off.
We quickly reached a leafy track through Sherrards Wood with dappled sunlight streaming through the trees. Quiet and peaceful, a few walkers or passing cyclists exchanged "good mornings". I was sandwiched between Chris and Roger, who protected me against loose dogs or cyclists coming from behind, advising me on how to avoid some potholes and where to mount or dismount. I managed to fall off just twice but on soft ground and they just dusted me down and we started all over again.
Getting back on a bike
The route had no hills, just gentle slopes and I managed with just one brief rest to get to our destination. A leisurely tea and the most delicious scone I have ever tasted at Charlie's on the High Street soon revived me. We watched the carnival procession to the recreation field complete with bands, fancy dress and floats and then followed them to the field.
It was a truly English event with Morris men, falconry display, a story teller and all the fun of the fair.
We munched our way through homemade fudge and candy floss, and the threatening rain clouds failed to open.
Rather shamefaced, I confessed to my two escorts that I thought it was probably wise for me to go for plan B, a lift home with my bike from an obliging friend. Today, one day after the ride, I am suffering no ill effects and feel invigorated. Chris and Roger were just so helpful, kind and supportive and really interesting company. I am looking forward to my next trip with the group and would encourage any people to try the group out.
Our ride to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the start of the National Cycle Network, drew an unusually high number of riders, most of whom completed the full 24 mile circular tour and some a lot more, to and from home. Advertising the event as a Sustrans Go Explore event, meant we were obliged to recruit a Sustrans trained ride leader team from Luton & Dunstable Cycling Forum. With them came another two riders from the Luton & Dunstable group; Sustrans advertising brought in two new riders from Hertford; Five people including Freddy on the back of our Adam's tandem joined us in Hatfield and two people from STACC joined us in St Albans. A fantastic total of 17 people. In spite of a rather doubtful forecast, the weather stayed dry and even the sun came out just when we needed it, to keep us warm for an open air lunch.
It was interesting to watch the Sustrans ride team in action. Adam (not our one) led the ride with David as lanterne rouge at the back. At every road crossing, Adam stopped the ride to let crossing marshal Robin come to the front and take up a position in the road (much the same as the lollipop man at a school crossing might do), to shepherd everyone across. Obviously crossing marshals are not allowed to stop the traffic as lollipop people can, so when traffic approached, Robin would stop riders crossing and allow traffic to pass. This did slow our progress a little, but I felt very comfortable with the procedure and would like to adopt it for our rides, especially if we have young children with us.
However, the Sustrans procedure is a bit controversial, because the crossing marshal must take up a blocking position in the road. This could be regarded as stopping the traffic, which he is not legally allowed to do. It also takes away the rider's responsibility to check for herself whether it is safe to cross. However, teachers do it when they take their classes across roads, when they go out of school, so why not us? If you were on the ride, let us know what you think and whether we should adopt this procedure.
The tour route can be found on: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/7440830
It was a pleasant change, at least for the regulars, to catch a train to somewhere different and meet a different crowd of cyclists. We travelled to Royston to join a ride organised by the A10 Corridor Cycling Campaign which is working to get a safe cycle route along the A10 between Royston and Cambridge. Although the route is officially cycle path all the way there are some difficult major road crossings and generally the path is narrow and the surface is very poor.
We stopped for lunch at a Cambridge Cycling Festival event in Melbourn and continued on to Cambridge by various routes. Cambridge railway station is reached by riding along a wide beautifully surfaced cycle path alongside the Guided Busway, quite a treat after the difficulties of the rest of the route.
We wish the Campaign the best of luck with the route.
WELWYN GARDEN CITY ORBITALA small select group of two ventured out on a dry, but chilly morning for this month's ride. This was probably as well since we were doing a bit of mass lawbreaking by riding along one or two footpaths (that ought to be cycle paths) to link up the circuit.
The ride took us past Moneyhole Lane Park, Panshanger Airfield, a bridle path heavily disguised as a private no through road, Tewin, Digswell and via the footway (for safety reasons, of course) alongside Hertford Road to Welwyn Village. Here we were lucky enough to have the privilege of riding a closed road (for works that hadn't happened) to Ayot Green. The effort of climbing to Ayot Green was rewarded by a long freewheel down to Lemsford, then on past Stanborough School.
By this time, we were feeling distinctly peckish. The Gosling Cafe was the intended lunch stop, but since we were both very close to home, we decided to abandon the rest of the ride via Stanborough Park, Mill Green and Gypsy Lane and return home.
The full ride is shown here.
TOUR DE HATFIELD
Well I will be honest. Half an hour before the ride the rain was falling heavily and the wind loud. I'd just had a call from one person to say not coming due to the weather and my son had decided not to come along. I headed for the starting point in Hatfield Market Place expecting no one to show. I'm pleased to report I was very wrong. When three riders turn up who have come from Luton (actually riding from Welwyn) something must be going right with our publicity! So there were ten of us who set out. The sun came out and although it was cold, as the Tour de Hatfield was a ride round town, we were nicely sheltered from the wind.
Exploring Hatfield cycle routes
The aim of the ride was to remind people just how many cycle paths Hatfield now has, so we did a loop round Ellenbrook and de Havilland Village using the cycle lanes in the business park, followed by the Alban Way, now back to full width with cleared edges and then the quiet streets of Old Hatfield. Through Streamwoods one rider had a close encounter with a falling branch, not something that's happened before. Our grand finale was to ride the new Woods Avenue cycle path ending with a well-earned coffee at Hatfield Coffee House.