New cycle path, Nomansland, Wheathampstead

By | 7th November 2021

A useful short length of bridleway open to cyclists has opened south of Wheathampstead, parallel with the B651. This new path joins up with an existing bridleway alongside the Heartwood to create about 1.5 miles of safe off road cycle path. Below I describe the route and then comment on how it can be used and some of the issues still unresolved which need attending to.

Route description north to south

The new path starts to the west of the B651 opposite the entrance to Dyke Lane. Dyke Lane is a quiet back lane which links the Ayot Greenway (National Route 57) via the Marford on the Lea to this new path. The alternative is to ride on the B651 directly out of Wheathampstead, but this is a steep hill followed by a national speed limit road, so not a nice place for anyone but the keenest road cyclits. The image below shows a cyclist joining the path by the cricket ground, taken from the end of Dyke Lane:

Start of route opposite the end of Dyke Lane

The new path is surfaced with compacted gravel and runs next to the B651 to the crossing of Ferrers Lane. You can turn right here to follow this road to Ayers End and then up the hill to join National Route 6 on the A6 south of Harpenden.

Ferrers Lane crossing

The new path then climbs up the hill parallel with the B651 to join the existing bridleway to the east of the Heartwood.

Heartwood boundary marker

The surface changes to crushed concrete rather than gravel for the remainder of the route. At the entrance to Hillend Farm the bridleway zigzags west to keep bridleway users clear of the turn into this private road.

Where the bridleway crosses the entrance road to the Heartwood there is a bridleway path parallel with this road which then joins the Sandridge to Harpenden Bridleway through the centre of the Heartwood. That route also links to Sandridgebury Lane which is a quite route into St Albans at New Greens.

At Sandridge the bridleway ends just inside the 30 mph speed limit at the start of Sandridge village. On road cycling is then required south of here as there is only a narrow pavement. An alternative is to cross the B651 and head north east along Coleman Green Lane, the line of the Roman road, where the motorcyclists are in the picture below:

The view towards Sandridge shows how narrow the pavement is.

End of bridleway at Sandridge, looking south

Usefulness and issues

This 1.5 mile section of path is very helpful in taking people on cycles off the B651 which has a national speed limit along this section (ie 60 mph). It creates a useful quiet road link from the Ayot Greenway to the Heartwood. A 14 mile circular route for Welwyn Hatfield cyclists which could use this would be as follows:

  • Welwyn Garden City to Wheathampstead along the Ayot Greenway.
  • Sheepcote Lane then Dyke Lane (steep hill) to bypass the centre of Wheathampstead via the Marford over the river Lea and then the Devil’s Dyke, the defensive ditch to the west of the Iron Age hill fort.
  • The new cycle path alongside the B651.
  • Visit the Heartwood.
  • Return home via Colemans Green Lane, Hammonds Lane, the bridleway from Symonds Hyde to Hatfield Garden Village.
  • Back to Welwyn Garden City via the cycle path alongside the A1001 (Comet Way) and A6129 (Stanborough Lane).

You can see this 14 mile route here: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/37957265

The remaining issues which need fixing are:

  • Calming the traffic at the crossing points at both ends of the route. The B651 should not be a 60 mph road, 40 mph would be a much more reasonable limit. Signs to show that people will be crossing are needed at both ends.
  • The Sandridge Village 30 mph limit ought to start before the Heartwood entrance, not after.
  • Sandridge village: This is a narrow and congested road which ought to have a 20 mph limit on the High Street.

8 thoughts on “New cycle path, Nomansland, Wheathampstead

  1. Chris

    Thanks Adam. The route incorporates two great cafés, Heartwood Tearooms at Sandridge and Charlie’s in Wheathampstead.

    Chris

    Reply
  2. Adam Edwards

    Thanks for this. I’ve not been to the Heartwood Tearooms yet so must try that.
    Adam

    Reply
  3. Lisa

    Do you know of any routes or plans to connect wheathampstead with Harpenden/Southdown safely? The best way I can think of is through Ayres End at the end of Ferrers Lane but I’m not confident to take my 5 year old on his bike through this country lane.

    Reply
    1. Adam Edwards Post author

      Sadly none. There has been a long standing Sustrans plan to link Harpenden to Wheathampstead through fields along the line of the old railway but the landowner refuses to enable this to happen. I believe St Albans City Council looked at a compulsory purchase order but this was unaffordable due to legal costs (£250,000) and then the costs of a likely appeal. It’s such a shame as joining up the two sections of national route 57 here would be really tranformational as the road alternatives are not safe.

      If you cycle just beyond West End Barns (where there is the weekend cafe) you can then avoid the hill up and down to Ayers End by using West End Barns track across the fields. They sign post this as access to their cafe at weekends, so I’ve taken that as permission to use when they are open. It’s legally a footpath, but as it’s a wide farm track, very ridable. There’s no alternative to Ferrers Lane east of the cafe.

      Do please write to your county councillors about this as they are responsible for cycle routes amd they need to know local people want them.
      Hope helps
      Adam

      Reply
      1. Lisa

        Thanks for your reply Adam. I have risen that farm track with the kids. Do you think it’s public access Mon-Fri?

        Reply
        1. Adam Edwards Post author

          The track is a public footpath so open to all people walking anytime. Cycling is technically not permitted as it’s not a bridleway. Howevver, as it’s a wide track used by farm vehicles, it would be hard to argue against cycling. At worst, if the landowner complains you get off and push. The cafe is hoping to open more days per week (when they get permission) so I doubt they will wish to put you off visiting.

          Reply
  4. H

    Between 1985 and 1995 I was an engineer building pavements for Sustrans – mainly in Scotland, and mostly in drybound macadam or equivalents using local material, but after 60 years working in engineering & transport, I’ve quite a long knowledge of pavement construction, and the especially critical issue of drainage, which for a drybound macadam, relying on the fines to bind this structure is especially important

    From the images I see no ‘gravel’ but some pretty useless engineering detail which will deteriorate at a steady rate
    There seems to be no crossfall/camber to drain the surface, with shoulders ABOVE the path edges

    My teams delivered paths which lasted and provided properly drained surfaces

    At some stage I’ll need to get a closer review of exactly the materiel being described, but this is typically what I see being delivered. I quite like the pavements I seen locally built with stone setts or even ‘waste’ harting left over after the C18th cavity wall filling material was used – we’ve one 180 year old pavement laid in stripes of different coloured stone still in good order with minimal maintenance

    2 of my favourite jobs were digging the debris from over 100 years of abandonment from a road recorded in 1700 on military surveys, and finding the road formation in such good shape that all we needed to do was lay a new layer of fines to blind and restore the smooth profile, and clean out the drainage ditches, the other was building 2 Km of path alongside a loch using the clay/gravel mix that had washed down to form the ‘beach’ which laid and rolled beautifully to make the hard pavement required

    So much can be done especially with manual labour, local materials and basic sensible engineering

    One dram project is to properly restore the Strathtay to Skye drove road (with the singing satnav directions) especially the section up through Lochaber via Loch Hourn to Kylerhea & Cullins

    Reply
    1. Adam Edwards Post author

      Thanks for this technical detail. The path was built for St Albans District Council not Sustrans, so if you want to ask about the construction, I’d suggest contacting SADC.

      Reply

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