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02 Feb: St Albans to Wilstone (Stately Homes Tour)

posted 7 Feb 2014, 03:02 by South Herts   [ updated 8 Jan 2017, 23:24 ]
A healthy turnout of 13 turned up to the St Albans start, probably encouraged by the good dry-weather forecast. We were a bit late starting as Steve had a puncture to repair at home first. We divided the group into ‘A’ and ‘B’ rides.  As it had been raining heavily the ‘A’ group decided to avoid possible floods and go towards Leverstock Green before dropping down to Apsley and passing through Boxmoor before climbing to Potten End.  We made good progress until we came upon complete traffic chaos on the tiny back road between Boxmoor and Bourne End. It’s incredible how many huge cars try and park on a single-track road in order to drop a small child off to play rugby. There was often no room for a bicycle to slip between the cars so we were delayed somewhat. Must remember never to use that route again in the morning.
On the climb up to Potten End Steve had another puncture (different wheel) so we left him to fix it and carried on via the Ashridge Estate, where we caught up with the ‘B’ ride, who had followed a more direct route.  One final climb to Ivinghoe beacon and we just made it to the café in Pitstone before a group from Aylesbury CTC arrived.  

Cycling through woods
A gentle climb through the Ashridge Estate
Ashridge House
Cyclists emerging from park
Emerging from the estate in Little Gaddesden
Cyclists outside cafe in sunshine
Warm February sunshine at the cafe

Due to the slowness of service we decided to abandon the planned destination and go to Wilstone instead. The original pub only did ‘late breakfast’ until 1pm so we would only have had time for a short, direct ride. The new destination allowed us to take in two more stately homes: Mentmore Towers, which was actually visible today due to the lack of foliage on trees and Ascott House near Wing, which was not visible due to evergreen hedging, but you can see what it looked like. Both properties were built by the Rothschild banking family and have interesting histories.  Mentmore Towers featured as Wayne Manor in the film Batman Begins. The wind was really strengthening for the post-coffee stretch and we were pleased to get to the Half Moon just as a large table was vacated. After a pleasant break, most people went home via the Berkhamsted valley route and the two Steves and Carol took the slightly hillier route via Hastoe Hill and Ashley Green back to St Albans.

stately home
Mentmore Towers near Gotham City
house and gardens
Ascott House and gardens

Audax fan Paul put in a lengthy loop north of Luton back to Letchworth adding up to about 90 miles. I still don’t have a computer on my bike, but guessed our round trip to be about 50 miles.

A ride (mauve) 58 miles.  B ride (blue) 51 miles.   

Carol 2/2/2014