Issue 81 Summer 2014


Saturday 26th April
Starting from two meeting points, eleven Spokes members cycled through bluebell carpeted woods to meet up at Maureen’s house, where we enjoyed a splendid cream tea!”


I know a lot of you already are aware Neil & Sons bike shop in Vicarage Road has closed. I`m not sure how long the shop had been in that family but I have lived in Watford for 43 years and it`s always been there.
Don`t forget to “flash” the Spokes membership card when purchasing any bike items or getting a service (the bike I mean!) from local bike shops. Also 10% off bike goods at Halfords with a British Cycling membership card

Expect some major developments to the website soon.

Roger Robbins

SPOKES – AGM April 2014 – Chair’s Report

Introduction – Welcome

During the past year we have had many changes in SPOKES. As Chair my main preoccupation has been trying to cope with the changes. Fortunately most structural issues have turned out well.

Last year Iain, who had produced the SPOKES quarterly Newsletter from shortly after the formation of SPOKES in the mid 1990s, had to leave the area. So we needed a new Editor/ Producer, then Errol who had been running the web-site for the last two years announced he wished to resign from that role. Filling these two roles was essential to SPOKES continuing in its present form. After a number of special meetings, we had two members willing to take over these roles. So I give a big thank-you to Dave Baldwin who has become the new Web-Master & Roger Robbins the Editor-Producer for the Newsletter.

Over the past year SPOKES has continued to promote cycling.
We have organised rides, social activities and campaigned for better cycling facilities.

I wish to thank all members for their support in organising & leading SPOKES activities,

We have a flexible committee structure allowing members to participate in a way suitable to them. We will welcome additional members onto the committee particularly for promoting SPOKES & its activities, including campaigning for better cycling facilities.

We have continued to organise a rides program, and the production & distribution of the Quarterly Newsletter.

Apart for our rejuvenated Web-Site we have Facebook , Twitter & a Yahoo Group accounts, at present these are not used very much. We need to decide how & if we should continue with these media facilities. I believe the main access to our information should be though the web-site. Your comments on this issue is welcome.

We have continued our involvement with CycleNation & CycleHerts a countywide federation of cycling groups, hoping to influence Hertfordshire County Council in the promotion of cycling.

We have worked closely with the Watford Cycle Hub & supported British Cycling Sky Rides.

SPOKES has also participated in other local events including Croxley Revels & the Rickmansworth Environmental Fair. At this years Rickmansworth Environmental Fair
We hope to have a common stall with Both the Cycle Hub & SUSTRANS. We will be looking to members to support these events

The number of Members has remained steady and is now around 150 lead members & with another 70 family members, giving a total of 220 members.

We welcome & rely on members coming forward to lead rides, please get in touch with the Rides Co-ordinator if you have ideas for future rides, or are interested in leading a ride.

Over half of our members never come on rides, we believe they stay as members to support our objectives in promoting cycling & seeking to improve the cycling environment.

Two years Watford Council agreed to support the introduction of 20mph on all residential roads, this change will improve the environment making it safer for pedestrians & cyclists whilst making little difference to travelling time for motorists.

As yet Hertfordshire County Council, the Highways Authority has not supported this change.

The County & District councils have acceptable written cycling policies, but to be effective they need to have a higher priority and be implemented more effectively. The obstacles to cycling need to be removed and a safe cycling network developed.

Of course we would like to see all the missing links in the local cycling network completed. In Watford we look forward to being able to cycle the full length of the High Street in both directions & linking the cycle paths in Cassiobury Park to the canal path.
Some major changes are planned for our local area, including the ex Leavesden Aerodrome site, Watford Health Campus & Ascot Road Area. We need to influence local councillors & planners to ensure good cycling routes are provided.

I would like to see more footways by busy rural roads converted to shared use paths. These are often little used by pedestrians, but could be a significant benefit to cyclists.

The future success of SPOKES depends on members participating & supporting the rides, having a social program, and improving our campaigning ability to ensure that better cycling facilities are provided.

Cycling is not only a recreational pastime, it provides a cheap & effective means of local transport. It is also a way of achieving a healthier lifestyle in a pleasant & sustainable environment.

15th March – Ride to Gorehambury and St Albans –Roger Robbins

10am at The Harvester saw 8 members and 2 guests depart via the canal towpath on what looked like it was going to be a sunny, warm day.


Sampling the fairly recently re- surfaced towpath we exited near the Kings Langley Church (not before having a photo taken at ? ) to make our way to Abbots Langley and then Bedmond.

Turning right at the old corrugated tin Church we continued for a couple of miles then came to the entrance gate to the Gorhambury Estate. A notice regarding no entry to the Gorehambury Estate on certain days when shooting takes place was posted on the gate but lucky for us this day wasn`t one of them (well planned Roger – Ed). Despite living relatively close to Bedmond for several decades, I had never visited Gorehambury and I must say the scenery was very pleasant indeed.

Seat of the Earl of Verulam, the present Gorhambury House was built in the late 18th century by the architect Robert Taylor. This replaced the old Gorhambury House, built in the 16th century and the home of Francis Bacon, the philosopher and writer.

A short ride passed the Verulam ruins and across Bluehouse Hill saw us arrive at the main reason for the ride, refreshment at the Cafe in the Park in Verulam Park.
Onwards and upwards as they say and it was time for the homeward leg via route 61/6 and on to Bricket Wood and home.

A nice sunny, warm day with good company and a good route, what more can anyone want?

Hertfordshire Year of Cycling

Hertfordshire Year of Cycling runs from May 2014 to May 2015. Hertfordshire County Council has initiated this programme of cycling events because last year, responsibility for public health was transferred from the National Health Service to the county councils.

The launch of Hertfordshire Year of Cycling will be at the County Show at the end of May.

The Tour de France is coming through Hertfordshire. The nearest point for us will be Hemel Hempstead.

Bike Week – 14-22 June. Roger Bangs will lead a ride for Spokes from the Aquadrome to the Hub on the 15th June.

The Big Herts Cycle Challenge will take place from 20 June to 20 July and this involves businesses.

Sky Rides programme for Watford, Dacorum and St Albans runs between June and September.

Love Parks is a national campaign for promoting parks. Love Parks Week will be 25 July to 3 August with the involvement of the Cassiobury Park ranger

Rides Coordinator

David Turner has now stepped down from being the Rides Coordinator, a role he filled for the last six years promoting our rides & encouraging members to lead rides. David has been an active member promoting many different events including weekends away & recruitment drives. He intends to continue as a member, We hope see him at future events.

Steve Tarn has come onto the committee as the new rides coordinator, please give him your support & offer to lead a ride in the future.

Cycling in Burma – Pam Mann

Towards the end of October last year, after spending three weeks with my son and his family in Thailand, I flew to Yangon (Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma) to join a two week cycling trip organised by the travel company Explore.


I had wanted to visit Myanmar for some time, but had hesitated, as I did not wish to appear to condone in any way the infamous and brutal military regime in Myanmar. However, in view of the tentative steps that have been taken recently by the regime towards democracy – Aung San Suu Kyi now has a seat in parliament, for example – I felt it was right to go.

After spending a day in the capital and visiting the wonderful Shwedagon Pagoda, we flew north to begin our cycling tour in the beautiful forested hills of the Shan plateau.


The tour was graded as moderate, but this had more to do with the hot, humid conditions and the hilly terrain, rather than the overall daily distances cycled, which were modest at 40-60kms. Because of this there was always time to visit places of interest en route.

The bikes we used were provided by Explore and were Specialised Hardrock Sport, with V brakes and 27 gears. They were in very good condition and very well maintained by the young mechanic, who accompanied us on the trip. Although not so fast on the tarmacked roads, they were ideal on the tracks and sandy back roads that we were more frequently cycling on. It was also the end of the rainy season and many of the tracks, particularly up in the mountains, were extremely muddy.

The first few days cycling were in the hills of the Shan plateau, with visits to Inle Lake, Kalaw and Pindaya. The scenery was magnificent and the advantage of being on a bike meant we could get right off the beaten track. We visited mountain villages, where the people welcomed us and offered us tea, fruit and nuts.

From the Shan plateau we made our way, partly by bus, due to the distance we needed to cover, to Mandalay. Here we spent three days exploring the main sights in and around the city by bike. We visited the former royal capital at Inwa with its beautiful teak monastery, the iconic Ubein bridge that spans Lake Taungthaman, the hill station of Maymyo with its lovely botanical gardens, as well as the former royal palace in the city itself.

From Mandalay we travelled westwards to Monywa and from there to the town of Bagan.
The scenery in this part of Myanmar consisted of rolling hills and our route along the back roads took us through traditional wooden villages past fields of rice, sesame and peanuts. Oxen were used to pull carts and plough the fields – there was little evidence of any mechanised agriculture.

The main reason for going to Bagan is to visit the magnificent temples, which were built by successive kings between the 11th and 13th centuries. At the height of its prominence there were over 13,000 temples; now just over 2,000 remain, but they present a marvellous spectacle when viewed at sunrise or sunset. We spent two days in Bagan visiting some of the temples by bike and also cycled south of the town to Mount Popa to visit a temple on top of the mountain, which meant climbing up 777 steps!

The following day it was time to fly back to Yangon and from there we embarked on the long flight back to London. I was sad that a wonderful trip, full of interest, beautiful scenery and magnificent monuments had come to an end, but the smiles of the friendly and welcoming Burmese people will stay long in the memory.

Ed: Thanks Pam that is a terrific story!