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