Saturday 4 November 2023

Saturday 4 November 2023 - the ride that didn't happen but slightly did

Storm Ciaran had swept along the south coast and battered Jersey and cancelled the Netherlands Headwind Cycling Championship on Thursday.  So although there was no weather warning for St Albans on Saturday, we were a bit wary of the rather poor forecast.  Based on past experience of forecasts changing in the run up to a ride and weather usually being better than forecast, we held off cancelling and kept a wary eye on the Met Office.  But when the forecast still looked like this...

we decided to call off.  However, the Fabulous ride leader had a parcel awaiting collection at the St Albans Cycle Hub, so the offer of a short ride to coffee in the Community Centre cafe was given, and one bold rider accepted.
When considering cancelling a ride, the leaders are not just thinking about whether their waterproofs will keep them dry, they are also considering the conditions on the road. The heavy rain in the early morning had flooded the cycle stands at Morrisons, so what might it be like out in the lanes?
And it had also been windy....
This was the scene on the Alban Way just east of Orient Close.  Two lovely gentlemen had given us a hand getting our bikes over the fallen tree, and we had done our bit to help by dragging some of the lighter loose branches out of the way.
We continued along to Cottonmill and found a nice dry spot to park our bikes, then trotted round to pick up the parcel.  If you don't already know, you can order online from Freewheel and have the goodies delivered to a local bike shop.  The delivery is free, and we have found that it is very quick - if not next day then the day after.  And what's more, Cycling UK members can also get a discount on their purchases.
We then dived into the cafe for some coffee and cake and a bit of a natter.  Having attended to our sports nutrition, and the rain having lightened, we boldly decided we wouldn't go on the pump track, but we would enjoy two laps of the gravel track, admiring the cyclo-cross course and dirt jumps as we took in the autumn colours.
The Cycle Hub had already reported the fallen tree, and as we approached on our return it looked like it might have been at least partially cleared.  But appearances were deceptive, close up it was clear the trunk still blocked the way and there was still manhandling involved, and this time without any lovely men to give us a hand.  Ah well, we coped.
It was definitely the right decision to cancel the organised ride, a cold and wet ride on messy possibly flooded roads is potentially an endurance test and we ride for gentle enjoyment.  However, a couple of you going off on a very short ride - it is about a mile and a half between Fleetville and the Hub - on a traffic free route can be a lot more fun that you might expect.

Saturday 21 October 2023

Saturday 21 October 2023 - after the storm

Although St Albans was not as hard hit by Storm Babet as other parts of the country, we still had some fairly wild weather in the days before the ride.  However, it dawned dry on ride day and five riders gathered to go further and faster. We welcomed two newcomers to the group, and we were glad to have one of the leaders back with us after an injury.  For all these reasons a fairly gentle ride had been planned.

We set off eastwards along the Alban Way. Progress was straightforward until we encountered a fallen tree almost entirely blocking the path in Hatfield. A concerted effort managed to move it sufficiently to at least allow a pushchair to get by. 

We continued along NCN12, turning off for Woodhall Farm and under the railway to the cafe at Stanborough Lakes. Despite it being October, it was comfortable sitting chatting outside under the awning with our drinks and cake. It was good timing as the tables were filling up as we were about to leave!

The rain's arrival destroyed any notions of a longer road-based route back, but we were rewarded by a close-up of a heron perched in a tree by the lake. Thanks to our earlier efforts it was easier to get past the fallen tree, but the rain was pretty unrelenting, until (as predicted) it died away when we reached Morrisons and a rainbow rounded off a ride of around 15 miles.

Saturday 14 October 2023

Saturday 14 October 2023 - Autumn fruits

It's a busy month, leaders and riders have limited Saturdays available for riding.  Thus we had a mixed group today, the Further Faster element wrapped up warm and enjoyed going a bit more slowly, the Fabulous went a little bit faster and, ahem, a bit further that usual.  And were also wrapped up warm, temperature has dropped, but it was beautifully sunny.

From our start point in Fleetville the seven of us headed over to Jersey Lane.  As you do, we helped a couple of riders we met along the way - one of them had dropped their chain and it was stuck between the smallest cog and the drop-out. Taking the wheel out did the trick, and they were soon on their way again.

The haws were bright red and plentiful in the hedge as we headed along from Sandridge on the track to Nomansland.  On closer inspection, there are big sloes in there too.  Usually we try and feature apples in our October outing, and we knew that apple crumble cake was on the counter at West End Barns...
and here it is, with Vicky happy to serve a slice in a takeaway box on request, since the slice is quite large, and might be too much all at once. We can report that the cake is delicious, lots of apple, light and moist, and of course crumbly in places.  Vicky was kind enough to take the group photo too...

We headed back along Drovers Lane, and from Sandridge we were shedding riders - two headed for home via Jersey Lane, the rest of us pootled along Sandridgebury Lane and down the Old Harpenden Road to the Ancient Briton, where we scuttled across on the green man rather than contend with heavy traffic.  Two more headed west from here, the remaining trio headed clockwise on the Green Ring.
This is a lovely section, through Bernards Heath, and we paused to contemplate the site of the heaviest fighting during the second Battle of St Albans on 17th February 1461.  We wended our way down Boundary Road, the Sandpit Lane wastes and were delighted to find that the link between Lemsford Road and Jennings Road was being given a very thorough sweep by a couple of chaps in orange overalls.  Whoop, well done, all the mulch and cack removed.  Good to see active travel infrastructure getting some maintenance.

Saturday 16 September 2023

Saturday 16 September 2023 - Bricket Wood Station Tearoom

Two slower and four faster riders all set off west along the Alban Way.  The faster group was soon well ahead, and by the time the slower duo turned into Holyrood Crescent the quartet was a distant blur heading uphill.

The duo cycled under the M10 roundabout, along the A414 cycleway then a nifty nip through to the Mount avoided us having to toil uphill on Watling Street and launched us down through Park Street.  We turned into Whippendell Lane, then got ourselves across the park and into Frogmore pits. This is a delightful ride, we took it nice and slow to enjoy nature and avoid being stung by nettles, the path is a bit narrow here and there.

Onward across the former quarrying site, under the M25 and past Moor Mill, we took to the riverside path and gently ambled along.  Up Drop Lane, we were soon at the station, where we recognised the bikes parked on the platform cycle stands and thus we joined the faster foursome, who had reached Bricket Wood via Ragged Hall Lane, Potters Crouch and Noke Lane.

Look at that piping hot coffee and fresh-out-of-the-oven-scone!  The old station building has been splendidly restored, you can read more about it on the Bricket Wood Station Heritage Trust website.  The Tearoom has its own website.

The slow riders were so enthused by the railwayana that they opted for a train ride back to St Albans.  The fast riders had not stopped to take photos on the outward journey, but having returned to St Albans via How Wood and Greenwood Park, they paused on the Alban Way at the bridge over the Ver to admire the fine view of the Abbey.

Saturday 2 September 2023

Saturday 2 September 2023 Autumn Festival

Three Further Faster and two Fabulous riders set off from Fleetville.  As we rode considerately and carefully along the shared footway a grumpy man told every one of us that cycling was not allowed.  He was told five times that it is. We did not engage further but rode on, looking pointedly at the shared space signs.  Sigh.

The Further Faster group went all the way along the Alban Way to the very end then wended their way back through Hatfield, Colney Heath and Tyttenhanger. 

The Fabulous pair went more slowly along the Alban Way as far as the milepost, where they paused for a little fettling. 

From there they took the bridleway through to Wilkins Green Lane.  This bridleway is a little sketchy in places, there are some deep ruts and it is slippy in the wet.  Dry today, but with the additional challenge of an extensive fly-tip, they got past but only just.  Fly-tip reported using the ClearWaste app.  (ClearWaste website) On to Ellenbrook and back along the Alban Way, enjoying the renovations at Smallford station.

At Hill End Lane they turned off to ride through Highfield Park, and the two groups coalesced on Highfield Park Drive.  Coffee was calling, so we went direct to Ayletts and through to the festival field.  We enjoyed coffee and chat in the Tea Tent then strolled through the dahlias and the Celebration Garden.

The return to Morrisons was via the Camp Cycle Route, which SADC Green Spaces Team have recently tidied up, restoring the path to full useable width. Chapeau!

Saturday 8 July 2023

Saturday 8 July 2023 Outriding the storm

As last month, a wary eye on the weather forecast, which was different every time we looked in the days and hours before the ride.  As we gathered in Fleetville the forecast was rain around 1pm and a yellow storm warning.

Unusually, the slower group was ready for the off before the speedy group, and we nearly took one of them with us as a result. Three set off up Woodstock Road, dodging the roadworks and 'enjoying' some spots of rain.  We had a lovely ride down Jersey Lane, greeting other path users and getting friendly replies.  As we had made good time to Sandridge and the rain had stopped, we ventured further and headed along the track to Nomansland and along Ferrers Lane to West End Barns.  The sky might look blue in the picture, but that's blue-grey.

Always a good choice of comestibles, this time we particularly enjoyed sausage rolls, flapjack and orange cake.  And we admired the sweet peas by the till.

We had a lovely relaxing and nutritious pause, then we headed back across Nomansland.

A wedding or practice?  Don't know, but the bells were lovely as we arrived back to Sandridge, and up Sandridgebury Lane, through to the Harpenden Road.  One rider peeled off for home, the other two carried on around the Green Ring.  A heavy but brief shower caught us at St Michaels.  We caped up, but stayed dry under a convenient tree. A couple of lightning flashes and thunder rumbles as we crossed the park, but we made it to Morrisons without getting wet, the full loop was 13 miles.

Six further faster riders set off westward along the Alban Way.  Like the slower group, we were cautious as the forecast was for thunderstorms, but we managed to stay ahead of the rain for most of the ride. It was humid, but sunny with some large rain spots. at times.

We went up to Ragged Hall Lane, along Stanley Ave, up Chiswell Green Lane, then down Noke Lane. This was not as gravelly as expected fortunately, as three of us were on road bikes. We took our life in our hands when crossing the A405, then went up Lye Lane to Bricket Wood, and through to Drop Lane where we stopped to take photos.

We returned via Park Street and Chiswell Green to the Lazy Llama café. We then dropped down Robert Ave and along the Alban Way. We arrived back at Morrisons having done 16 miles, but then the rain came as we were cycling home.

It was a really nice ride, and we're glad we didn’t cancel due to the forecast.

Sunday 11 June 2023

Saturday 10 June 2023 #BikeWeek #SustFest

The leaders were rather wary of the forecast for very hot weather, and had contingency plans to shorten the rides.  However, the care taken to plan routes with shade in mind meant that full distances were ridden.  With this being our SustFest contribution, we were delighted to welcome two riders who had not been with out with us before.  Our meeting point is in the shade of Morrisons Hatfield Road frontage.

There were two riders in the shorter ride group.  We headed along the Alban Way and turned off at Hixberry Lane into Highfield Park.  We admired the first of many wild rose flowers on today's outing.

Through Highfield and down Nightingale Lane, nice and shady.  In spite of traffic on the A414, the cycle path is quite nice, especially if you cycle slowly enough to admire the grasses.  More dog roses along here too, including some white ones.

Up Highfield Lane and in to the farmyard, where we actually met the farmer!!  He was resetting the coffee machine.  We bought some eggs, the hens were all staying out of sight though.
Back towards St Albans through Winchfield Wood and on to West Lodge, we paused to enjoy the Rose Garden.
As neither rider needed to return to the start point, we carried on through the Camp Cycle Route and down Camp Road to turn westward onto the Alban Way.  We were very aware of the coolness in the shady cutting - a very marked difference in temperature.  A clear demonstration of why we need lots of trees on our streets. From the end of teh Alban Way we delighted in using the re-opened link to Leyland Avenue, that got us to Prospect Road and through Verulamium Park.  The long queue of cars exiting Westminster Lodge was a clear demonstration of the advantages of active travel.  We formally finished the ride at the Verulamium Museum, nine miles at easy pace and still home before it got really hot.

The Further Faster group of six (selfie above) headed north, encountering very few motors and many cyclists as we headed out by Valley Road, Sandridgebury Lane and Coleman Green Lane to Nomansland. Then up to Ayres End Lane, and down and up Pipers Lane. We went left along Wheathampstead Lane and right down Leasey Bridge Lane, then left along Lea Valley Walk, enjoying the shade and calm along the old railway line.
The challenge of going up Crabtree Lane was risen to. The coffee stop at Simmons in Southdown was welcome, although we didn’t get any shade there.

The homeward route was Grove Road, Cross Lane (pictured above), East Common, and the Harpenden Road cycle path. We diverted in Childwickbury to see the Rhododendrons, then back to Harpenden Road. We split off home from the Ancient Briton, having ridden 16 miles.