The 20th Century saw the closure of many thousands of miles of railways in the UK. Their loss was to benefit cyclists and walkers as many were turned into greenways. These are traffic free routes that run along the former railway track beds. The surface can vary from fine gravel to fully paved.
Cole Green Way
The original line opened on March, 1, 1858 and operated passenger traffic until June, 18, 1951. It was never a busy branch line. It ran from Hertford to Welwyn Garden City
The line opened in 1865, but in 1868 passenger demand was destroyed by the new Midland main line railway to St Albans (City). It ran till 1965 when the Beeching cuts fell. It ran from Hatfield to St Albans.
The line was finally opened on 16 July 1877 to great fanfare with celebrations led by Berkhamsted Rifle Corps Band. A special train was laid on from Hemel to Luton and champagne receptions were held in Luton and Hemel town halls. Church bells were rung and a banner hung across Alexandra Road in Hemel proclaimed "Success to the Hemel Hemptead and Midland Railway Company"
The last train ran on the line in 1982. It ran from Hemel Hempstead to Luton
The line opened on 1 September 1860 and was operable for more than 100 years. Passenger numbers declined sharply after the Second World War and passenger services ended in 1951.
The line ran from Welwyn Garden City to Luton and closed in 1971.
We head east on the cycle tracks and within a kilometre sneak out into the countryside. We take a quiet, rolling and scenic route through the lanes to Sacombe Park where we get to ride on our first gravel section. We then continue on quiet roads to Bengeo and on to Hertford. We then head west via the Cole Green Way and Alban Way to Bovingdon our second control. Turning north east we join the Nickey Line greenway. Some country lanes then we head south and east via the Ayot Greenway. We we head north east again via a short gravel section back to the Arrivee. In total there are about 45km of traffic free greenway / gravel sections.
It is suitable for road bikes on 25mm tyres (I did the early test rides on 25mm tyres both in dry and wet conditions) as well as hybrids and fatter tyred bikes. It has suitable minimum and maximum speeds to reflect the greenways and gravel. This route is not to be rushed.
The event uses commercial controls with a cafe start, and cafe finish.
- Brevet Populaire (BP): under Audax UK regulations
- Start: Fairlands Valley, Stevenage
- Date Scheduled: Saturday September 19th 2020 08:00 am
- Finish By: Saturday 22nd September 19th 2020 07:06 pm
- Distance: 111km
- Ascent: 1000m
- Min Elapsed: 5 hours 33 mins (20km/h)
- Max Elapsed: 11 hours 06 mins (10km/h)
- Sunrise: 6:46am
- Sunset: 6:59pm
Please note this event is run under Audax UK regulations and there will be no directional signage, sag wagon or rescue for riders. A GPX track of the event route, with control locations marked, and a routesheet, will be provided to entrants.
Entrants are expected to be self sufficient and responsible for their own safety and navigation. Please look out for other riders who may be in need of assistance.
The event starts from the main car park in Fairlands Valley Park, Six Hills Way, Stevenage SG2 0BL. There is plenty of free parking.
Heading from the car park (along the road) into the park you will reach Costello's cafe. The cafe may be open if there are enough entrants to justify them opening early. Details on this will be communicated nearer the event date.
Approximately 45km of the route is on greenways, gravel or cycle tracks. If you are looking for a fast 100 then this is not the event for you. This is one to be savoured, maybe bring or buy a picnic, and enjoy the lower speeds the greenways offer. You have all day to get round with the deadline being just after sunset.
Turning left out the park, you descend a hill on cycle tracks and within 1 km you sneak through a secret underpass and find yourself in a country lane.
After Aston you descend a hill and climb up the other side, then repeat to get to Benington.
After Benington you pass through Whempstead and turn left for Dane End. After turning right and entering Sacombe you head left for the Church. Not suitable for HGVs!
We join our first bit of gravel up towards the Church and not long after comes the first info question. Have your pen or your camera ready. The question will be straight forward and you can either take a photo or write the answer in your brevet card to prove you were there.
We now join some smooth tarmac on private roads but open to bikes due to its bridleway status.
We cross the A602 with care and continue onto quiet lanes opposite. Onto Bengeo and down to Hertford. Here we have a second info question. Don't worry, after this you won't have another question to answer for some time. Here we pick up the Cole Green Way at Hertford Football Club.
We then follow the Cole Green way all the way to Welwyn Garden City. Be respectful of other users, including pedestrians. Apart from the very last bit into Welwyn Garden City it is a finely packed gravel surface.
The trail is pretty any time of year particuarly Spring or Autumn.
We come to a junction where we bear right through an underpass and onto smooth paved cycle way into Welwyn Garden City.
We pass through the outskirts of Welwyn Garden City where there is an opportunity to stock up at a COOP just 200 metres off the route. We continue onto Hatfield where we join the Alban Way. The Alban Way is paved its entire legnth.
Further down the trail we encounter a ghost station - or do we?
We then continue down the Alban Way enjoying the traffic free cycling.
Another ghost station is passed. We then pass by a Morrisons for further provisions if required. A gap to the right and you will spy the car park and store.
Leaving the Alban Way we join quiet residential roads on the outskirts of St Albans. These lead us safely to Ragged Hall Lane to Bedmond.
We enter Bedmond by the Church and go left and then right into Tom's Lane. It's alright he lets us use it.
We descend Bedmond Hill To Kings Langley before climbing up the other side to Bovingdon our halfway control stop. In Bovingdon don't forget to keep your receipt. Check it has the right date / time and location on it. You will need to hand that in at the finish to validate your ride with Audax UK.
We then descend a hill that gets steeper further down. Take care. At the bottom we cross a busy B road at some traffic lights, before a short bit of gravel takes us over the canal and deposits us on quieter if more urban roads of Hemel Hempstead Old Town.
After a couple of km of the urban sights and hills of the Old Town (chance to refuel here) of Hemel Hempstead we join the Nickey line.
The Nickey line is a bit bity to start with and includes a short climb up some steps (smooth section to roll bike up) to get onto the Greenway properly. Don't worry it is worth it.
You then follow the Nickey Line to Harpenden, and exit about 800m from its terminus. There are information boards along the way which are worth looking at. Maybe stop on one of the many benches and have a picnic.
We have a short section taking us out of Harpdenden back into the countryside
We join another cycleway. Part of the railway that ran from Welwyn Garden City to Luton and Dunstable.
We then turn up a quiet lane before taking a busier road to Wheathampstead. Here you have the opportunity to restock if need be. From here we pick up the Ayot Greenway.
Once again there are info boards on the history of the railway that ran here.
We continue to the end of the Ayot Greenway, where there is an info control, then we go left and then right to descend down to Old Welwyn. Another chance to restock food and drinks.
Homers Wood Lane which leads down to Old Welwyn via a steep downhill
We climb more gently out of Old Welwyn and pick up our final bit of gravel to deposit us in Pottersheath.
At the top of the hill after turning right we rejoin tarmac.
We then go right and left again to Mardley Heath and onwards to Woolmer Green before climbing gently to over look the eastern aspect of Stevenage.
Then a final descent to Stevenage at Bragbury End. If it is after approx 4.00pm then the finish will be at the Chequers Inn. Followed by a few more minutes ride back to the start if you need to.
On the leaving the pub you rejoin the cycle tracks back to the start (with no time pressures now)
- BENGEO: There is a COOP on the right hand side before you descend the hill.
- HERTFORD: There is a Sainsbury’s plus cafes and shops off to the left of the route.
- WELWYN GARDEN CITY:
- L @ O, $ QE2 Hospital 31km
- SO @ Mini-O
- Go right at the mini roundabout into Hall Grove and shortly you will come to the COOP on the left. Retrace to rejoin route
- ST ALBANS: There is a Morrisons through a gap just off to the right of the Alban Way
- KINGS LANGLEY:There is a Texaco Garage at the bottom of the Toms lane descent from Bedmond
- BOVINGDON (CONTROL): There is a café on the right Lily’s Coffee Shop plus two shops further up. Plus pubs. Note this is a control location so you will need to obtain a receipt with the date / time and location.
- HEMEL HEMPSTED: Visit the Old Town High Street (which you pass on the route) for a selection of cafes, shops, and pubs.
- REDBOURN: There is a cyclist cafe plus shops.
- WHEATHAMPSTEAD: There is a Tesco Express plus a café and pubs.
- OLD WELWYN: There is a Tesco Express plus shops and pubs
The toilet locations below will be marked as Waypoints in the GPX.
- START: If the cafe opens early then there will be toilets at the start.
- HERTFORD: If you go left to Sainsbury's (follow superstore signs) as you enter Hertford then there are toilets.
- ST ALBANS: Morrisons just off the Alban Way has toilets.
- BOVINGDON: Toilets in cafe or pubs. Bell Inn is friendly.
- KINGS LANGLEY: If you continue right on main road there is a Premier Inn and Toby Carvery on the left hand side.
- HEMEL HEMPSTEAD: If you go right and right after crossing the canal there is the fisheries cafe (on Hemel side of canal) with toilets.
- OLD HEMEL HEMPSTEAD: As you cross the first roundabout towards Hemel Hempstead Old Town there are toilets in the park on the left.
- REDBOURN: As you cross the side road. Turn left into Redbourn and there is a cyclists cafe with toilets.
- WHEATHAMPSTEAD: There are pubs and a cafe with toilets.
- OLD WELWYN: There are pubs with toilets.
- FINISH: There are toilets at the finish
I hope you have enjoyed this write up. Why not enter the event and enjoy it for yourself? Let your friends know.Enter this event