It is over four years since I got involved with the Welwyn Hatfield Cycling Forum and during that time we have been organising local rides and events with varying success. Last year we decided to try doing a regular social ride on the second Saturday of every month. We will still be running occasional rides for families with young kids but these regular social rides are aimed primarily at adults. A few months ago I volunteered to organise and lead the February ride and I had been having difficulty deciding on a route/destination. Just by chance my parents told me about a walk they did which included a stop at Emily’s Tea Shop in Whitwell, where there was also apparently a small bike workshop. I did some research and found that it is recommended by Central London CTC on their guide to cyclist-friendly Pubs and Cafes in Hertfordshire.
So that was the destination decided, now I just needed to work out a route. We generally start the rides in one of two places, The Forum in Hatfield, or Kinetic Cycles in Welwyn Garden City. It would have been silly getting people from WGC to cycle to Hatfield on their way to Whitwell so Kinetic was the obvious choice of start. On the Friday before the ride I finished a gardening job early and it was a nice afternoon so I decided to scout the route. My practical bike has been undergoing serious renovation and was by no means rideable, which meant taking my fixie. That was fine by me since I have grown to love the fixie and unless I want to carry stuff in panniers or the terrain is very hilly I will keep using it even when the donkey is back on the road. I packed the relevant OS maps and my copy of a Roy Moor’s “Off Road Cycle Rides in Hertfordshire” and cycled to Kinetic where I went inside to investigate a creaky bottom bracket. I had assumed that it was a crank working loose on the spindle but that didn’t seem to be the case and the guy in the shop said it is often down to the bottom bracket moving slightly in the shell (when I got home I applied oil to the threads and that stopped the noise but I should look at it properly). Setting off from Kinetic I headed over to Sherrardspark Woods where I joined NCN 12 and followed it out through Ayot Green and Ayot St Peter before turning off onto Kimpton Road and heading up the river Mimram as far as Codicote Bottom. At that point I crossed the river as if to go into Codicote but turned immediately left onto a muddy bridleway which was a bit of a challenge on the fixie. I came out at Kimpton Hall and rode a few yards north on the road before turning off onto another bridleway which continued up river. What this second section of bridleway lacked in mud it made up for in potholes but again it was passable on the fixie. When I came out onto the road it was just another mile or so up to Whitwell and a welcome stop at Emily’s. I ordered coffee and cake and sat for a while reading an old CTC magazine before setting off again. On my way back I cycled on-road alternatives to the bridleway sections in case people were not prepared for for mud.
On the day of the ride I got to Kinetic early and was eventually joined by nine other cyclists. One of the riders asked to borrow a pump and set about inflating the tyres on a cheap rusty mountain bike which had an exceedingly wobbly bottom bracket. He said he hadn’t cycled for years but seemed keen to start and managed to stay with us through Sherrardspark Wood before announcing that he was going home. He was pale and sweating and if he wasn’t actually ill then he was either very unfit or his bike was in an even worse state than it looked. Fortunately he said he was happy to return on his own, which left nine of us to carry on. I phoned Emily’s to let them know how many to expect and we got there without further incident. We ordered food and sat down at the tables which had already been put together for us. While we were there another fairly large group of cyclists came in and it is clearly a popular destination for weekend rides. Before leaving we posed for a group photo (see above). I suggested avoiding the bridleway sections on the way back but people seemed keen do them again so we did, though I had to get off and push for a few yards on the muddy one.
I also wrote a ride report for the WHCF website. I thought it was a great success and I have volunteered to organise another one in July to a new and interesting destination (yet to be decided).