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Not Inn!

Posted on Tuesday 17 April 2018 by Brian O'Reilly

Nine of us met up early on a Spring Sunday morning at Marylebone Station for our ‘helter skelter’ ride up and down The Chiltern Hills in Bucks. The weather prospects looked promising as the early morning sun shone through, it was a nice change from the relentless wet and miserable weather of late.

Our spirits were not dampened as as it became a little overcast on our journey out by train to Chalfont Latimer to start our ride, at least it was not raining! After some advice given by me regarding group bike safety rules and assurances to our new and inexperienced riders that we will always look out for and wait for them at crossroads and T junctions we started on our roller coaster journey towards Hawridge Common via  Latimer for lunch.

With some tired legs after some steep hills and with empty stomachs we arrived at the ‘Full Moon’ pub looking forward to tucking in to some pub grub only to discover there was ‘nobody at the inn’! It was closed for refurbishment – what lunacy!

Many times on previous cycle rides I have used this pub and with it’s large garden area I’ve had no trouble ever getting served after arriving
unannounced with a group of cyclists. No need to panic as with my knowledge of the area I decided the best and only real option was to cycle on to Wendover, where we were heading toward anyway, and where we would have a choice of pubs and cafes to eat in.

With a well sated and a happy group of full bodied fit cyclists we were now ready for the last part of our journey via The Lees and a very short and steep climb up to Little Pender to see our ride finish up and down along a beautiful ridge with stunning views before arriving into Chesham as dark clouds gathered. Just as we entered the stration it started to rain – phew!

Lesson learned from leading this * ride:  ALWAYS check and phone the the pub beforehand Brian!

Herts Delight

Posted on Wednesday 28 March 2018 by Charles Harvey

Despite the best efforts of Thameslink, whose timetable was in tatters due to overrunning engineering work further south, five riders all managed to arrive at St Albans on the same train at about the right time. We were a select group, led by Brian, all of whom had led rides in the past for CLCTC.

After a quick coffee stop at the Café Roma, we headed out via Sandridgebury and Sandridge to Wheathampstead, Ayot St Lawrence and on to lunch at Emily’s at Whitwell. Emily’s is well known cyclists’ watering hole and on a Sunday most of its customers arrive on two wheels. Despite being delayed by mechanical problems at Wheathampstead, I somehow managed to arrive at Emily’s before the rest of the group.

After lunch we headed towards Kimpton. This involved some serious hills. I, for one, pushed. The final climb up into Harpenden up Crabtree Lane was hard work but we reached the station to find that there was a train to London after only seven minutes wait.

Our thanks to Brian for organising the ride and some decent weather. I enjoyed the route and am thinking of doing my own variation on it. You may well see a Herts Delight 2 in a future rides list.

One star Aviation Ride

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.

Blue plaque ride, January 2018

Posted on Monday 15 January 2018 by Charles Harvey

For some years, Brian has led a ride visiting blue plaques in Camden and I have led one that visits blue plaques in Barnet. Last year we combined the two rides. It went well so we did it again this year.

13 riders met up by Finchley Road station at 10.00 and headed up a very steep slope that one had to push up. Our first stop was the plaque to Sidney and Beatrice Webb, who helped found both the Fabian Society and the London School of Economics. It would take pages to list every plaque, memorial or grave we looked at but those commemorated included Sigmund Freud, Edward Elgar, John Constable, Cecil Sharp, Robert Louis Stevenson, Evelyn Waugh, Harold Wilson, Tony Hancock and Ralph Richardson.

The route climbed up through Hampstead Village to the Whitestone Pond then down through North End to lunch at the café at Golders Hill Park. We then rode round the original part of Hampstead Garden Suburb and the Hampstead Heath Extension before pushing our bikes up a steep path on Hampstead Heath to near the Spaniards Inn. We returned to the Whitestone Pond and then descended past the plaque commemorating Paul Robeson’s time in London. A few doors away, I spotted another plaque to an Alfred Reynolds, a Hungarian philosopher and poet that even the Hungarian on our ride had never heard of. Can anyone enlighten me on how he came to get a blue plaque? We finished at the café at the Camden Arts Centre, close to our original start point.

The ride seems to have gone down well and Brian and I hope to lead another blue plaque ride next year. No doubt, we will tweak the route slightly. One thing we will change is to add to the entry on the rides list the advice to bring extra warm clothing. The ride is inevitably a stop start one as we stop to look at blue plaques and hear about the people they commemorate. So one does not build up heat as one would on a continuous ride. Two riders left the ride, one in the morning and one after lunch, as they were getting too cold.

Spyride

Posted on Monday 8 January 2018 by Charles Harvey

This ride with an espionage theme was led under  Spokes’ auspices but was also put on the CLCTC rides list as a one star ride. It’s a ride I’ve led many times before and, since many people have already ridden it and it was very cold, I wasn’t expecting large numbers. Rather to my surprise, 16 people turned up at our rendezvous point at the Cha Café in Cassiobury Park.

Almost at once, we hit our first problem. Jiten had a puncture within a minute of starting. As we were just outside Watford Metropolitan Line Station and he could get home easily, he decided to turn back rather than let the rest of us get very cold while it was fixed. This self-sacrifice is much appreciated and I look forward to seeing him again on future rides.

From Watford, the ride went up through Whippendell Wood to Chandlers Cross and then to Belsize and Flaunden. All the time we were climbing gradually to the top of this part of the Chilterns. It was sunny and the wooded landscape looked attractive. We arrived at The Green Dragon at Flaunden at 12.00 just as it opened. The Green Dragon used to serve mainly Thai food but nowadays serves traditional pub grub and, this being Sunday, Sunday roast.

In the early 1950s, Guy Burgess often stayed in Flaunden and was a regular drinker at this pub. One day the landlord noticed Burgess in deep conversation with another man he did not recognise. Days later, the papers were full of details of the defection of Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean to Moscow complete with photos and the landlord recognised who the other man was. More details here.

After lunch, we returned to Watford via Sarratt, which is the home of the Circus’s training school for agents in John Le Carre’s spy novels. We were going mainly downhill now and made it back to Watford about 15.00. The ride didn’t so much finish as disintegrate as riders peeled off to go to their homes. We planned to visit the Cha Café again, but with a queue stretching back to the entrance, we decided it wasn’t worth waiting and headed to Watford Junction station.

 

Beer and Bunyan ride 23 Dec 2017

Posted on Monday 1 January 2018 by Charles Harvey

I’ve never led a ride so close to Christmas before so I was unsure how many riders I’d get. In the event, we had seven on the ride. As it was almost the shortest day of the year, the ride was inevitably a short one, especially as it included a trip to a brewery.

I first came across Farr Brew when I tried their beer at a blues gig by The Untouchables at Wheathampstead and I came across their beer again at the Kimpton Folk Festival. I’m always on the lookout for interesting places to take bike rides to so I’ve wanted to lead a ride to their brewery for some time. I finally found an open day at the brewery when I was free to lead a ride on the 23rd December. We rode out to the brewery, which is in farm outbuildings at Colemans Green, via Sandridgebury and Sandridge, taking about an hour. We stopped to have a look at the remains of a cottage where John Bunyan is believed to have stayed while preaching in the area. There’s no way or proving it but I’m inclined to believe that the tradition is true. Though Bunyan was based in Bedford, he did preach extensively in Hertfordshire and the county was a centre of religious dissent.

At the brewery, we had a half hour talk on how beer is brewed and the opportunity to have a beer there or take a bottle with us. Then it was back past the John Bunyan cottage to the John Bunyan pub for lunch.

After lunch, we had a short ride though Symondshyde Great Wood and Peacock Hill back to Sandridge for tea at the newly opened Heartwood Tea Rooms. Then it was back to St Albans while it was still light to catch the 15.48 train back to London.

My thanks to Pat Wheeler for acting as backstop throughout the ride.

One-star ride to the Docklands Museum

Posted on Tuesday 31 October 2017 by Charles Harvey

Rather to my surprise, 16 turned up for the ride. I suspect that it was the appeal of a late start and the fact that the clocks had gone back the previous night helped. Our start was slightly delayed when one of our number found she had a puncture in a tyre that was very hard to lever off the rim. Fortunately, there was a branch of Evans nearby where a mechanic was able to remove it easily without even using tyre levers. How do these professionals do it?

I’m quite shameless when it comes to recycling (pun intended) old rides. The route, best described as labyrinthine, was the same one as I used at Easter for Barnet Cyclists and number of Barnet Cyclist members who hadn’t been able to come at Easter joined us. The route twisted and turned until we reached CS3 at Lower Thames Street near Southwark Bridge. From there CS3 is almost a straight-line route to the Docklands Museum. En route, we looked at various plaques and memorials, to William Wallace, the Scottish patriot, to the Battle of Cable Street (commemorated by both a plaque and a mural) and to the chemist Sir William Perkin, who discovered the first aniline dye.

Once at the museum, we had two hours to have lunch and look round the museum. Few on the ride had been there before and were impressed by its size and the quality of the exhibits. We used the Thames Path to return and had some spectacular views of the river. Passing back through the City of London, we paused to look at Postman’s Park and George Frederick Watts’ distinctive memorial to those who lost their lives trying to save others. We returned to King’s Cross at 16.00.

I’d like to record my particular thanks to Geoff Stilwell, who acted as backstop throughout the ride. The fact that nobody got separated from the group in what was a complicated and twisty route is due to him.

Flamstead Scarecrow Festival

Posted on Monday 14 August 2017 by Charles Harvey

Flamstead is normally a quiet Hertfordshire village but once a year it turns into a surrealistic environment. The whole village is full of scarecrows. The reason for this is the annual Scarecrow Festival held in support of local Multiple Sclerosis charities. There are barbeques, live music, morris dancing – the whole village is en fete.

Nine riders met up at Harpenden station and got to Flamstead about 11.15. After the obligatory coffee, tea and cakes in the village hall, most of us decided to ride on to the village of Studham for lunch at The Red Lion. We were heading into the fringes of the Chilterns and gradually climbing. After lunch, we headed back to Flamstead rather faster with the gradient in our favour. We arrived at Trowley Bottom at the fringe of the village to find the Aldbury morris dancers performing outside the Rose and Crown. Our ride to the centre of the village was enlivened by the sight of a huge Co-Op lorry stuck in one of the narrow twisty lanes unable to move. The driver had to call the police to sort out the resulting traffic chaos. We were glad we were on bicycles.

Back at the village hall three of our number decided to head straight back to Harpenden. The remaining six enjoyed more tea and cakes, more folk dancing and an entertaining ukulele band. We left at 16.30 and headed back to the station stopping to help a cyclist who had punctured twice and was walking her bike back to Harpenden. It was a good team effort and we soon got her back on the road. We got back to find that a fast train to St Pancras was leaving in few minutes.

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