Posted on Monday 29 January 2018 by Charles Harvey
Sometimes rides don’t go as you hoped. This one started badly when I had a spectacular blow out in my rear tyre en route to the station. Fortunately, I always take an early train if I’m leading a ride so I had time to fix it and still get to Radlett in time to meet seven other riders.
The theme of this ride was aviation history. It’s perhaps inevitable that I have an interest in it. My mother was in the Air Force during the war and I grew up near RAF Hendon, now the site of the RAF Museum. Our first stops were the two sites in Radlett occupied by 80 (Signals) Wing during the 2nd World War. They were occupied in trying to locate the navigation beams used by the German bomber force. They then used this knowledge to warn the defences about impending raids and worked to jam or distort the beams.
After brunch at the Orchard Café in Shenley Park, we headed towards Salisbury Hall. Sadly, we then had an accident. Colin went into a hedge after losing his balance when he went over a pothole that was disguised by a puddle. His handlebars were badly bent and his coat torn but, fortunately, he just had some minor scratches and carried on with the ride. It looks as though the handlebars took most of the impact.
At Salisbury Hall, we learned about its use during the last war by De Havilland’s design bureau. The Mosquito was designed there and the fighter prototype flown off from the field behind it. It is now the site of the De Havilland Aircraft Museum.
An off road route took us to the site of the former London Colney airfield. It was here that 56 Squadron, a crack fighter unit, worked up on the new SE5 fighter before heading of to France to take on the Richthofen squadron. We also visited Shenleybury Church Yard and saw the graves of two pilots killed in flying accidents there in 1918.
A bridlepath took us the across the airfield site. There’s no trace of the airfield now. It was simply a grass field and was returned to agriculture after 1918 though the hangars were subsequently used as warehouses and survived until about fifteen years ago.
The last part of the ride went wrong. My planned off road route to our final destination, the site of the former Handley Page works and airfield, was too muddy to ride on and the route we finally used was muddy and depressing, made ugly by fly tipping. When we got to Moor Mill, our planned tea stop, the staff claimed that they were too busy to serve us tea and coffee. Next time, we will skip this section of the ride. We headed back along the main road to Radlett and just missed a train. To cap it all, my rear tyre blew out again just as I was getting home.
My thanks to John Silvertown and Pat Wheeler for acting as backstops.