Philobiblon: The Lanes of St Albans

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Lanes of St Albans

After a week pretty well glued to my keyboard, looking at the gorgeous blue skies outside, I decided on a break today, so joined a Central London Cycle Touring Club ride around the lane and by-ways of St Albans and environs, including Hatfield, Colney Heath, South Mimms, and Shenley, finishing at Watford Junction. So if you saw a red-faced cyclist in a black balaclava, puffing their way very slowly up a hill in those environs, while the rest of the party (several of whom I was giving at least two decades to) waited patiently at the top, yep, that was probably me.

Still, I did make 26 miles (42km) in the end - although I had my doubts a few times after lunch.

Things I learnt:

* South Mimms is quite a nice little village, not just a motor-way service stop. (The White Horse is a pleasant pub too - another cycling party, numbering well over 20 arrived just as we were leaving, and the staff were quite relaxed about the invasion.)

Looking around for this post, I found from this lovely little local history:

Vicars in the late 19th century criticized the prevalence of drunkenness: P. F. Hammond refused the pot of beer offered him at the church door in 1889 (Footnote 71) and his successor, W. H. Wood, urged that the number of public houses should be reduced. In 1894, besides beershops, there were eight public houses in South Mimms village, serving a population of 250.

Today I think there are only two; at least that was all I saw.

* A cold day in November will see lots of cyclists out - we saw a total of three other organised groups, including one group of boy racers, some of whom were wearing shorts! (The BBC tells me the top temperature in St Albans today was 5C.)

* Ice is quite possible in these conditions. One of the boy racers, drawing up very slowly at an intersection in front of us, fell over, and looked very embarrassed about it. (Apparently boy racers look down at CTCers.)

* I also learnt how to cycle on ice (which is rather like driving). Just try to keep everything pointed in a straight line, and pray. Or don't go out at all, which might be my future approach.

* On the architectural side, I learnt about Hertford spires, as on the church at Aldenham, and why a barn might be stood on mushroom-shaped posts. (The theory is that it would keep the rats out, since they couldn't climb around the bulging part.)


Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Bruce Durling kindly emailed these ehlpful suggestions to me off-blog, and gave me permission to post them in case they are of use to anyone else.

"I've been a winter cyclist for a few years now here in Pennsylvania. The ice and snow can be quite bad, but I enjoy going out when it is below freezing (but not below around -10C). I have ice tires that I put on my bike to keep
me upright on my commute from November to March. They work fine on dry and wet pavement, but they are magic on ice. I slip less on my bike when it is icy then I would if I was walking.

You should be able to get a good set for a road, hybrid or mountain bike at a good bike shop. My ice tires are from Finland and are made by Nokian, who also make winter tires for cars."

11/24/2005 08:59:00 pm  

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