Gingerly on the Chiltern frost

There’s been a régime change in the four-star group but by and large it’s business as usual.

We still meet at Le Péché Mignon off the Holloway Road but those starting from further west than Islington like cutting off the corner on northbound forays and rendezvous at Tally Ho Corner.

So it was that last weekend six met there at 9:20 and headed on up the Finchley Road. A brilliant winter sun shone on us but it was frosty, thanks to a record-breaking dome of high pressure that had swelled up over the British Isles (centered, as it happens, on Cardiff). No pell-mell descending in those icy Chiltern lanes please, Allen!

Once through Barnet, we veered left at the war memorial in Hadley and into the first downhill pitch, with a stern warning from our road captain Naomi to exercise caution. And yes, at the bottom of the dip there was indeed a horrible slurry of ice formed from run-off of the previous week's rains.

We worked our way through the back roads of Potter’s Bar, shaving off to NW of St Alban’s and on up to Sandridge, then a left turn into the delightful Ferrers Lane with the broad expanse of Nomansland to our left hand, its sward silvered with frost in the dazzling sun. Just a short distance shy of the T-junction with the main A1081, a right turn gives on to a lane that runs parallel to that fast motor road, alongside Harpenden Golf Club, a new discovery and delightful.

We arrived at the Hub Café in Redbourn High Street at bang on 11 and reckoned we would have to forego coffee to arrive in good time for a lunch at the Valiant Trooper in Albury, ever-popular and likely to be more so on the first genuinely fine Sunday for weeks.

The long ascent towards Dunstable Downs starts at Gaddesden Lane and it was here we encountered a major crash, where police and rescue truck were clearing up a collision between two cars on an icy kink in the road. Just a few hundred meters further up, we saw a couple of riders who had decked it. Caution was the order of the day, with surfaces that were clean and dry where the sun had reached it, and slathered with ice in the shade of the hedgerows. 

Accordingly we decided the big and bodacious descent off the Downs was probably not for us today and took a left at Clement’s End down Pedley Hill, where the right-hand side of the road was dry and speedy, with no oncoming traffic, well not much. The Ashridge Estate was looking picture-perfect, Tom’s Hill was no more sketchy than usual, and the squad arrived just after midday at the Trooper in time to bag a table by the stove and get an early lunch order in.

The homeward route to Amersham via St Leonard’s and The Lee is traditional and well-rehearsed. None seemed to suffer on the climb on Wigginton Hill, with Orlando and Javier, on carbon Canyons, duking it out with Allen on his Ti machine. We arrived at Amersham about 2:15 in good time for a direct train to Marylebone 10 minutes later. Result! 

Postscript: we learned that Angela (in Kent) and Phil’s daughter Ella (in Wales) had fallen on icy roads. Heal up soon!

Riders: Allen, Javier, Julia, Martin, Naomi, Orlando

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