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Report on the Thameslink Chiltern Ride 20 June

June 21, 2010 by David Arditti

Possibly because of the cool weather for the time of year, or because of the large number of other events organised on this first Sunday in National Bike Week, only four cyclists boarded the train to Harpenden to take part in this ride one day before the longest day of the year. They were evenly split between north and south Brent, Richard and Esther getting on the train at Cricklewood, having cycled from Dollis Hill and Willesden respectively, and David and Jiten getting on at Mill Hill Broadway, having cycled from Edgware and Kenton respectively.
 
The sun intermittently came out, and the day, which had started with a stiff, cool easterly breeze gradually warmed up was we cycled from Harpenden Station down to the River Lea or Lee and up again towards Kimpton. From there we followed a cycle route towards Whitwell, on the upper reaches of the River Mimram, a tributary of the Lea, and the UK water-cress growing capital, with water tower prominent in the landscape. This area is actually very close to major towns, Luton and Stevenage, of which evidence can be seen, such as planes going in and out of Luton airport, but the towns are hidden in the valleys, as seen from the roads on the hills, and, with a well-chosen route, mid-Hertfordshire can seem, deceptively, very rural.
 
We were in search of the well-known (to cyclists) Emily's Tea rooms in Whitwell. This establishment, however, is rather poorly signed, and we missed the tiny sign directing down a side road when we approached from the west, having to seek directions from a local before we arrived in the quaint yard that is Emily's, dotted with archaic bits of machinery. Cyclists are explicitly welcomed here, and most of the customers are cyclists. (They, and pedestrians and horse-riders, are the only ones who might go slow enough to be able to spot the sign.) Spare parts and second-had bikes are on sale as well as sandwiches and cakes. The new feature this year was a cage of hens, who are being rehabilitated, having started their lives as battery birds. For some reason they share the cage with a rabbit.
 

At Emily's
 
After lunch we followed the valley of the Mimram down towards Codicote, and Jiten started to regale the group with intellectual teasers or mathematical puzzles. Discussion of these puzzles occupied the group for much of the rest of the day. For those interested, the most curious or baffling of these is the so-called  Monty Hall Problem, which tends to deceive even very intelligent people on its first statement. 
 
Following another cycle route from Codicote, we stopped at the Church at Ayot St Peter to examine this attractive two-tone brick structure with its mosaic-work clock, and to look around the graveyard. The church was rebuilt in 1875 after the previous building had been struck by lightning and burned down. Nearby we found the entrance to the Ayot Greenway, a walking and cycling route on the bed of a railway that once ran between Harpenden and Hatfield, and, gratifyingly, we found that may othercyclists were using it, particularly families with children. This took us in pleasant manner to Wheathampsted, where we sought out a tea house to not only refresh ourselves but also to put pen to paper to try to clarify the Monty Hall Problem.
 


At Ayot St Peter church

West of Wheathampstead there was an unavoidable stretch of busy B-road before the Greenway re-commenced at Leasey Bridge, over the Lea, and it then lead us alongside the river back into Harpenden. The ride totalled about 20 miles, and had a fine balance of mental and physical exercise thanks to Jiten's efforts. So discursive did it prove that we did not get home until getting on for 8, in the evening sunshine of the almost-longest day of the year.
 

On the Ayot Greenway

The next Brent Cyclists ride is the Scenic Brent Ride on Saturday 24 July. Meet 11am at Kingsbury Station for an easy and informative 20 mile tour of the picturesque and historical curiosities of the borough. Also do not forget that a three-day ride is being organised over the august bank holiday, August 28-30. This will be necessary to book (contact me), and is not fixed yet, but may be in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.    
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