The History

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
Wikipedia

Alban Way

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.
Wikipedia

Nickey Line

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"
Wikipedia

The last train ran on the line in 1982. It ran from Hemel Hempstead to Luton

Ayot Greenway

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.
Wikipedia

The line ran from Welwyn Garden City to Luton and closed in 1971.

The Audax

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.

Route Overview
Elevation

Gradient

The event uses commercial controls with a cafe start, and cafe finish.

The Essentials

  • 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.

Routesheet
GPX

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 Location

The event starts from the main car park in Fairlands Valley Park, Six Hills Way, Stevenage SG2 0BL. There is plenty of free parking.

Six Hills Entrance
Park Here
Some Regulars

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.

Getting There

See Directions

The Route

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.

Cycle Ways

Secret Underpass
Misty Lanes

After Aston you descend a hill and climb up the other side, then repeat to get to Benington.

Benington
Leaving 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!

Sacombe Church

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.

First bit of gravel

We now join some smooth tarmac on private roads but open to bikes due to its bridleway status.

Private road

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.

Start of Cole Green Way

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.

Cole Green Way
Cole Green Way
Info Board
Info Board

The trail is pretty any time of year particularly Spring or Autumn.

Pretty

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.

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.

Ragged Hall Lane

We enter Bedmond by the Church and go left and then right into Tom's Lane.  It's alright he lets us use it.

Bedmond Church

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.

Rustlers Lane junction
Bovingdon

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.

Canal

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.

Follow me

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.

Info Board

We have a short section taking us out of Harpenden back into the countryside

Just beyond Harpenden

We then have a short section of the old Welwyn Garden City - Luton Line

WGC - Luton line

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.

Ayot Greenway Start

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.

Ayot Greenway

We then climb more gently out of Old Welwyn and pick up our final bit of gravel to deposit us in Pottersheath. From there we then go right and left again to Mardley Heath and onwards to Woolmer Green before climbing gently to over look the southern aspect of Stevenage.

Final bit of gravel
Approaching the southern end 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

Pub for later finishers