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Newmarket Pig & Abbot The Chestnut Tree West Wratting West Wratting

At last! A dry Thursday

Graham’s plan to meet everyone over coffee in The Chestnut Tree took a knock when he sustained a puncture just outside West Wratting. So instead of warming himself with a hot drink in the pub, he was seen wrestling with tyre levers out in the garden.

How many Windmillers does it take to mend a puncture?

Pesky puncture repaired, we set off towards Dullingham and Newmarket, thirteen Windmillers looking forward to Graham’s new route and enjoying our first dry ride in a month.

Victor, feeling particularly welcome in Newmarket

It was in Newmarket that Graham introduced us to a new (to us) café in the town centre, albeit one hidden away up a side street, called Victor Victoria. The coffee, cake and, according to Jeremy, the porridge too, were all top notch. We must make a return visit soon.

Newmarket, by Bill Tutte’s memorial

Before resuming our ride, we paused to look at the Memorial to Bill Tutte, 1917 – 2002. A Newmarket man, Tutte is commemorated for cracking the code used to communicate with the German navy during WW2.

Back on the bikes, we headed for Moulton and thence Cheveley, Saxon Street and Kirtling – where we encountered the surprise of the day, a pair of emus peering at us through a wire fence.

Suffolk is full of surprises; a pair of emus photographed near Kirtling

Returning to the The Chestnut Tree having clocked up 32 miles and looking forward to a well deserved beer, we were warmly received by Landlords Peter and Rachel – and delighted to be joined by Maurice, Martin and Ken for lunch.

Victor leading the way, snapped by Charles

For the record our peloton comprised: Alan, Brian, Charles, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Jeremy, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon and Victor

Thanks go to Graham for organising things, devising an excellent route and finding a really good venue for future coffee stops.

32 miles clockwise from West Wratting

Earlier in the week we were saddened to hear of the sudden death of Mick Thompson who, alongside his wife Pat, ran the Pig & Abbot, one of our favourite lunch spots. Our thoughts are with Pat at this difficult time.

On behalf of the Windmillers, Maurice will be making a donation to Cancer Research UK, Pat’s chosen charity.

Brian

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Cambridgeshire

Wet at Wimpole

Into each life some rain must fall, so goes the song. But we’ve had more than our fair share of the stuff this past month and it’s becoming difficult to write a blog without tedious repetition of ‘stair rods’, ‘cats & dogs’, ‘drowned rats’, etc.

El Cafecito, Fowlmere

Yet here we were again; another wet Thursday and a tricky go / no go decision for Simon, this week’s ride leader. On the one hand he wanted to avoid getting everyone soaked and – it goes without saying – to keep us all safe. On the other hand he’d booked 18 people in for lunch at The Chequers. It was quite a dilemma.

Being a ballsy sort of guy, Simon confirmed he would be waiting patiently at the start – where he was delighted to be joined by a foolhardy foursome, namely Sandra, Graham, Jeremy and Brian.

Wet at Wimpole

Rather than meet in a rain-lashed pub car park, we got together a little further down the road at the excellent El Cafecito – where Graham was already enjoying a hearty breakfast – before steeling ourselves for the ride.

Of course, once we got going there developed a sort of all-in-this together camaderie – resilience in adversity and all that – and before we knew it, sixteen miles had gone and we were pulling in at National Trust Wimpole for coffee.

Refreshed (and quietly leaving behind us five sodden NT chairs), we took to the bikes once more for the return leg. It was only 11 miles but the rain was heavier and the puddles bigger. Indeed, Jeremy endured a complete soaking when a passing truck sent a tidal wave of water his way.

So it was with much relief that we tumbled back into the warm embrace of The Chequers where we were greeted with a cheer by our drier, more sensible friends. Sitting down with Andrew, Chris, Howard, Maurice, Rod and Roger, we enjoyed a well deserved lunch.

Lunch at The Chequers, Fowlmere

Our thanks go to Simon for instilling in us his gung-ho spirit of adventure.

27 miles clockwise from Fowlmere

The very next day, many of us were back at The Chequers raising a glass to our dear friend, Lawrence, having earlier attended his funeral at St Mary Magdelene’s Church, Ickleton. The service was memorable both for Windmiller Ken Worthing’s excellent eulogy and for the wonderful voices of the Cambridge University Musical Society Choir.

Very fittingly Maurice donated £1000 of our charity collection to the Arthur Rank Hospice where Lawrence spent his final weeks.

There’s a very good account of Lawrence’s life here in the Cambridge Independent.

Lawrence Wragg, 26th November 1943 – 29th October 2022

Brian

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Clocks

As we cycle about our local area we quite often stop to admire lovely churches, and occasionally take a look inside, but how often do we take notice of their clocks? Well, a recent notification to The Ickleton Society from The Hundred Parishes Society, which covers much the same area that we cycle around of North West Essex, North East Hertfordshire and South Cambridgeshire, sheds an interesting light on the church clocks that we pass by so frequently.

This is what they have to say:

‘Within each of our hundred or so administrative parishes, the parish church is nearly always the most significant heritage feature. The majority of our Grade I-listed buildings are churches and each of them has fascinating architecture, memorials and memories. Today, I would like to focus on one particular aspect, the church clock.

Before the middle of the twentieth century most people did not have watches; they relied on public clocks which could be seen at railway stations, post offices and other public buildings – and on church towers. This reminds me of the lines written in 1912 by the homesick poet, Rupert Brooke:

“Stands the church clock at ten to three

And is there honey still for tea?”

I have to report that only half of the parish churches in The Hundred Parishes have a clock. All listed buildings have a formal description, but the details for a listed church rarely mention the clock, albeit that it is often a distinctive element of the church’s appearance.

Most clocks are mounted on the church tower. Many churches have just one clock, some two or three. I have found only three churches with four clocks, one on each side of the tower: Newport, Radwinter and Steeple Bumpstead.

The majority of clocks are round, but a few are lozenge or rhombus shaped, like Felsted and Great Waltham. Most clocks have a solid face although a few, like those at Steeple Bumpstead, consist of metal framework and numerals through which the brick or flint wall can be seen.

Solid faces are usually either blue or black. Numerals and the hour and minute hands are almost always golden. The hands generally point to Roman numerals: I, II, III, IV, etc – although a good number have IIII instead of the usual IV. Widford breaks the mould with Arabic numerals: 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Great Canfield has just a single hand, pointing to the hour.

Some clocks are inscribed with a date and occasionally a royal cipher, for example Great Waltham celebrates Queen Victoria.

Hatfield Broad Oak appears to display the oldest date locally, 1797, although the clock looks in pristine condition following recent conservation. Hinxton possibly has our oldest clock, believed to date from 1700 AD, albeit extensively renovated in 1809 when a new face was fitted.

In Furneux Pelham, St Mary’s clock is topped by Old Father Time and the words “Time Flies, Mind Your Business”. One wonders what prompted those words to be included.

The bell tower at Sheering has two clock faces which were installed in the 1940s to remember those who served in the War. The north-facing one tells us to “Work and Pray” whilst the west-facing proclaims “Today Is Yours”.

The church at High Wych was built in 1861 to the design of local architect George Edward Pritchett. Its clock is almost as wide as the thin flintstone tower on which it is mounted.

Artist Eric Ravilious lived in Great Bardfield and his wood engraving of the church of St Mary the Virgin clearly shows the enormous clock that was added to commemorate the coronation of King George V in 1912. One assumes the residents of Great Bardfield are never late for work or church. The engraving has been adopted as the logo of The Hundred Parishes.

I hope this brief insight will encourage you to take more notice of our humble church clocks. As with all things in the Hundred Parishes, we can rejoice in the variety. I attach a page of images of the clocks mentioned above. You may see some reproduced in your parish magazine over the next two month or two.’

We are probably most familiar with the clock on St. Mary’s Church in Furneux Pelham with its inscription of ‘Time Flies: Mind Your Business’ but have we ever noticed Old Father Time above it? And next time we’re passing through Steeple Bumpstead why don’t we stop to take a look at all four clocks on the church tower, or the single hand on the clock of the church in Great Canfield? It’s good to learn also that the clock on Hinxton church is getting on for 325 years old.

The Hundred Parishes Society has a lot of additional interesting information about our lovely local area here: http://www.hundredparishes.org.uk/introduction

Tick tock!

Martin

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Pig & Abbot

Another wet one

It was more of a steady drizzle than the stair rods of a couple of weeks ago, though the result was much the same; eleven soggy Windmillers drying out over a pint.

Ken had planned a 30-mile outing but, given the forecast, very wisely decided to put the start back an hour, knock ten miles off the thirty and, much to Deborah’s chagrin, ditch the coffee stop too.

So it was that an all-weather team comprising Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Graham, Jeremy, Ken, Rod, Roger, SimonT and Tom, having fuelled up on Landlady Pat’s coffee and biscuits, set off from the Pig & Abbot for a soggy Thursday outing.

It was one of those we’ve started so we’re jolly well going to finish it sort of rides, heads down into the rain, only interrupted by Brian sustaining an early puncture. But that was soon fixed and we were underway once more, completing the course at quite a lick.

Back at the pub we were delighted to be joined by Andrew, SimonO and Maurice who, two weeks on from his knee op, was looking very chipper, hobbling around with the help of a stick.

Just before sitting down to lunch we received news that Martin would be going into Addenbrookes for major surgery the very next day. Good Lord, Martin! We duly raised a glass and wished him well.

As ever, Pat served up her splendid pies in all their many varieties (steak & kidney being my personal favourite, Ed) and we looked on aghast as our legendary trencherman Charles went the whole hog, following up his pie with sticky toffee pudding and custard. He is such a skinny whippet, where does he put it all?

Thanks go to Ken for organising everything and for his doggedness in getting us all to turn out in such character building weather.

Brian

PS: We are glad to hear that Martin’s op went well and we look forward to seeing him back in the peloton soon. As Rod quipped, he is now a semi-colon publisher.

21 miles clockwise from Abington Pigotts
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31 October. Halloween and the last of the summer rides. 20 miles.

Alan was called all sorts of names for having planned this Halloween ride but not taken part on account of having a cold. But there was no pity for him as seven spooky Windmillers tackled the Bastardos he made us climb, cursing and swearing like evil monsters as we rode along.

Starting from The Red Cow in Chrishall at 2.30pm, Rod set off like a rocket, Maurice-style, followed at a distance by Simon, Sandra, Iain, Andrew, Nick and Martin. But we soon ground to a halt, not once, not twice but three times before exiting Chrishall in the direction of Chrishall Grange, to sort out Simon’s scraping rear mudguard and Rod’s computer (at least, that’s what it might have been). This is Alan’s route:

Eventually we got it together and whizzed downhill towards Chrishall Grange before turning right and heading towards the first Bastardo – the nasty, bumpy, steep hill from Ickleton Old Grange up to the better financed Essex border where the smooth tarmac starts. On the way there were cars and vans trying to overtake us and others waiting patiently at the top of the hill for the puffers amongst us to reach the summit. What was going on with the A505 we wondered?

Thereafter, another stop was made to adjust Simon’s scraping mudguard; this time Andrew’s brute force and ignorance seemed to do the trick and it was all peace and quiet from then on. Well done, Dawg!

Stopping for tea and crumpets at Simon’s house was hinted at as we passed through Littlebury Green but none were available and, anyway, the light was already fading. So it was down the long hill, reaching over 30mph, and then up the second Bastardo of the ride towards Duddenhoe End.

In Arkesden a stop was made to admire the Halloween decorated house (shown above) opposite The Axe and Compasses, where rebuilding work is making progress. The owner showed us his evil talking spider and then rushed back to his house on seeing Rod coming towards him with a menacing look on his face.

It was quite a relief to turn right in Clavering and sail back with the wind behind, Nick peeling off back to Meesden at one stage. Then Andrew peeled off in Langley Upper Green to talk to his garage man, leaving Rod, Sandra, Iain and Martin to have a chat around the table in The Red Cow and to toast absent friends, this being the first ride since we had learnt of the passing of our great friend Lawrence Wragg. RIP Lawrence; we’ll miss you,

The last time we saw Lawrence on his bike – a short ride alongside a French canal on Monday 27 June 2022. Thereafter he became known as Goldilocks for sleeping in a bed in the wrong B&B, without checking in or checking out.

And on that sad note, this draws to an end a summer of wonderful hot Monday rides. But the good news is that future rides will start at the earlier time of 11.00am and, who knows, could involve a light lunch somewhere each week. More anon from our Monday organiser, Alan, who we should thank for organising this ride. It wasn’t that bad, really!

Martin

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27 October. A ride of contrasts. 32 miles.

Red sky in the morning? Shepherd’s warning! This is how the saying goes and how right it turned out to be on this mild autumnal but mixed weather day. Graham had set out early from Ickleton, as usual, to cycle to the start of this ride in Brick End near Stansted Airport which he had very kindly organised, capturing the magnificent red sky en route.

The Prince of Wales was to be our base for the day and what a fine pub it turned out to be – a huge car park and the prospect of some fine beer and grub at lunchtime, pre-tested by Graham he assured us. But having placed our lunch orders, the red sky delivered its warning and it was soon pelting it down with rain. Undeterred, some donned wet weather gear and some decided to take a shower whilst Ken, who arrived later than most, decided sensibly to sit in the comfort of his car and catch us up at coffee time. Contrast no.1.

GPX files are created by many apps these days and, in theory, should work anywhere. The file for this route, however, in contrast to most files loaded on to the Windmill WhatsApp group, refused to behave itself and seemed to defeat even the most IT-literate Windmillers. However, eventually after much experimentation and tweaking a sufficient number made it on to the devices of our 3 leaders for the day, Graham, Brian and Tom. Contrast no. 2.

So this was the devious route Graham had planned for us. Was it the figure of 8 and the mix of clockwise and anti-clockwise circuits that confused the GPX gremlins? Perhaps we’ll never know. ‘You can’t beat paper’, Maurice would say, and he might have a point.

Graham led the way in the rain accompanied in Group A by Rod, Jenni, Sandra, Deborah and Roger. They were soon overtaken by Group B, due to a minor technical issue of some sort, comprising Tom, Charles, Iain, Andrew, Keith and Martin who were in turn overtaken by both Group A and Group C’s trio of Brian, Simon and Victor, partly because Group B took a wrong turning (blame the rain and screens being difficult to see) and partly because poor Charles got a puncture in his front tyre – the first he has had for ages, possibly ever?

Having a puncture in a narrow muddy lane whilst it’s raining with lots of cars squeezing past is not exactly fun but the source of the puncture was soon discovered – a whopping great thorn, so easily picked up from the hedge cuttings currently in our lanes. Everything went well with the installation of a new tube until it failed to inflate, so it was back to square one. A dodgy valve it seemed was the cause. Finally, after much squirting of ice cold gas into a second tube, Group 2 set off again in pursuit of the others.

After a succession of tiny lanes we then found ourselves cruising through Great Dunmow from North – South before crossing the A120 and once again taking to quiet lanes.

Group B take a breather as the weather improves, near Buttocks End (Puttocks End!! Ed.)
Just wondering if Charles is planning one of these in his garden at Chrishall?

By the time Group B entered glorious Hatfield Forest, the sun was out big time but Group A had already left. Cycling through this National Trust property was a dream, with a café positioned perfectly in the middle by a large lake, which served excellent coffee and a good choice of cakes. Ken arrived at this point and tagged along with Group B.

Hatfield Forest National Nature Reserve is the best surviving example in Britain of an almost complete Royal Hunting Forest. It has seen many owners, from Kings to commoners. No other Forest on earth evokes the atmosphere of a medieval hunting Forest so completely.
Hatfield Forest is a managed landscape, which has been created by centuries of human intervention. The traditional woodland management techniques of coppicing, pollarding and grazing are continued today.  It is home to over 3,500 species of wildlife, some of which are rare and threatened. The ancient trees, some over 1000 years old, provide the perfect habitat for some of the Forest’s rarest insects, lichens and fungi. It’s the perfect place to cycle off road on its many trails.

Having gone clockwise so far most of the time it was now an anti-clockwise circuit, exiting Hatfield Forest after a long grassy trail, a bit soggy and uphill in places which was easy for those with e-bikes but quite tough going for those without. The scenery was fabulous.

Simon stops for a natter with some Red Poll heifers.

The route back once we hit the road again was a mix of quiet lanes and quite busy stretches as we crossed the M11 a couple of times. This led to Group B experiencing some significant road rage, mainly from angry lady drivers, three of whom hurled abuse at us whilst cycling in single file on wide roads. Perhaps they thought it was just a bit of fun on their part. In contrast, there were no other reports of such rage from either Group A or C. Contrast no. 4.

And the mix of quiet lanes, forest trails and some busy stretches? That makes Contrast no. 5.

Despite Group B’s late arrival back at The Prince of Wales, the timing was perfect as lunch had been ordered for 1.15pm and it was soon on the table, washed down with a nice pint of Ridley’s and other ales.

Many thanks to Graham for inventing and organising a terrific ride and for giving us such an interesting day of contrasts. And thanks also to Graham, Charles and Brian for some of the photos.

Martin

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The E-Bike Trio

An earlier start for our Monday ride from The Bull at Lower Langley and only 3 e-bikers present on a sunny autumn afternoon. Iain with his mighty German steed, the Range-Rover of e-bikes, with it’s multiple suspension systems, massive battery and an electrically operated Rohloff hub gear with belt drive, Nick with his carbon Specialized more suited to a race track than our bumpy lanes and myself on the sturdy Haibike. Departing in the direction of Little Chishill the first disruption was when the top of my water bottle flew off, very odd but I blame the bumpy road, retrieving it the chain then jammed in the chain guard, soon freed but investigation required especially as it happened again later in the ride. The only common event was a very rough and bouncy road.

The route took us through Green End and Mill End and as we passed John Bagrie’s abode we spotted him seemingly checking the fallen leaves, so we stopped for a chat. John was concerned about Maurice and Lawrence’s health and I was able to update. I saw Maurice on Friday and he was making good progress and walking with a crutch. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to provide such good news on Lawrence, with whom John had been hoping to take a ski trip early next year. It also turned out that Nick and John had been near neighbours in Meesden so Iain and I left them reminiscing, Nick did join us again, eventually. Having dropped Nick at his home in Meesden, all these stops made us late back to the pub, where Iain kindly bought the beer.

Apparently the speed I set was a little faster than either Iain or Nick was comfortable with, they need a BadAss on their bikes, not something anatomical but the name of the dongle which can speed up an e-bike.

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Henham

Wet, wet, wet

The weather forecast was a tad deceptive. Occasional showers? Humph, it was raining stair rods! Having waited in vain for a “Let’s call the whole thing off,” message from Andrew, ten Windmillers arrived in Henham hoping for a lull in the downpour.

Andrew had, quite understandably, been loath to cancel yet another outing from The Cock Inn, having already cancelled three in the past due to bad weather.

It’s warm, it’s dry, let’s stay here

So there we were at 9.30, sipping coffee in the pub while the rain hammered down outside. Graham, having arrived on two wheels, was looking like a drowned rat and leaving puddles wherever he stood, while our remarkably understanding landlady trailed around after him with a mop.

Alan does his bit mopping up Graham’s puddles

Mulling over our options – it was still tipping it down outside – opinion was divided. The wimps – Andrew, Brian, Jeremy, Rod, Roger and Victor – formed a majority and just wanted to go home. But there was a gung-ho gang – Alan, Deborah, Graham and Sandra – gagging for a ride come hell or high water.

Sandra laughing off the rain

So it was that the wimps headed home while the gang of four stalwart, nay foolhardy, Windmillers headed out. And by all accounts they had a jolly time. The rain did eventually stop and they clocked up a respectable 19 miles on some very flooded roads.

The all-weather gung-ho gang drying out in the Chameleon Café, Great Dunmow. Well done Deborah, Sandra, Alan and – behind the camera – Graham.
19 miles

Well done you guys. Respect!

Brian

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13 October. Victorious West Wratting circuit via HM Highpoint Prison. 31 miles.

Victor conjured up an ingenious ride from The Chestnut Tree in West Wratting which took in some lovely new lanes around Suffolk to Highpoint Prison near Stradishall where our closest contact with the inmates was having a coffee in Café 33 outside the high security fencing.

A good turnout of 15 Windmillers meant that three groups set off after first enjoying a fine cup of coffee and having placed their lunch time orders for food and drinks.

Victor led the way with his Goup A comprising Sandra, Alan, Charles, Jeremy and Deborah, followed a few minutes later by Andrew, Brian, Howard, Rod and Ric in Group B. Bringing up the rear in Group C were Geoff, Graham, Simon and Martin.

Although a bit chilly to start with, those without shorts soon regretted not wearing them as the temperature warmed up, so much so that most were sweating by the time they got back. It’s just that time of year but what a splendid autumnal day it turned out to be.

Not long after starting Group C came across Group B mending a puncture in Brian’s front wheel, expressed their sympathies and then swiftly moved on as everthing seemed to be under control. Brian must surely be in the running for the 2022 puncture prize? Has he converted to Schwalbe Marathons yet we wondered?

Brian in cheerful mood whilst others watch Howard doing all the work. Meanwhile, Simon seems to be inspecting the hedgerow……….

HM Highpoint Prison, the former home of Lester Piggott for a while then came into view, surrounded by very high fencing as you might expect. Just before reaching it we did wonder if the mad driver of a powerful old V8 Jag might be breaking out, or helping others to do so.

The main entrance to Highpoint Prison, a Category 3 prison these days, meaning it’s mainly for murderers and lifers. The site of the prison opened in 1938 as an RAF base. (My father was based there during the war. Ed.) On its closure in 1970, the RAF base was briefly converted into a transit camp for Ugandan refugees. In 1977, Highpoint Prison was opened, initially providing cells for male prisoners only, having been built by the prisoners themselves. Using prison labour instead of outside contractors saved £2 million on the overall cost of construction. That would be a good way of using today’s prisoners, surely? In February 2003 it emerged that two women drug therapy workers were ordered out of the prison after they were confronted with allegations that they had had inappropriate relationships with two male prisoners. The workers employer, Addaction (ho ho), subsequently lost its contract for therapy at the prison. Surprise surprise.

Padlocking our bikes securely outside Café 33, just in case, we all sat down outside to admire the view. Unless breakfast or a hearty meal was required it was best to stick to coffee as the selection of cakes was not quite up to the usual standard, but friendly and quick service all the same.

The return leg produced a fine splash of Suffolk colour which will probably only improve further in the weeks to come:

Then it was time for Simon’s chain to misbehave again, having been on its best behaviour so far on the ride:

Simon’s backside is becoming a familiar sight on recent rides as he once again puts his chain back on. Geoff provides protection.

The lanes became more familiar as we passed through Hundon, Great Wratting and Withersfield, eventually arriving back at The Chestnut Tree for yet another excellent lunch and fine ales.

Thanks go to Victor for organising a wonderful ride, and to Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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3 October. Welcome to Iain and his pet monster. 22 miles.

We gave a warm welcome to new member Iain Taylor on his first ride with the Windmill Club, astride the largest e-bike we have ever set eyes upon. Weighing in at 26kg and brimming with gadgets and carriers for serious camping expeditions in Scotland and elsewhere, this was a bike which would make mincemeat of our local lanes.

Welcoming him at The Red Cow was Maurice, organiser Alan, Rod, Simon, Nick, Charles and Martin. Possibly for the first time in Windmill Club history e-bikes out-numbered normal bikes. No doubt we’ll soon see Maurice back on his e-bike once his hip operation is over, although he talks of a new knee too………. What a brilliant invention the e-bike is, facilitating the continued enjoyment of our lovely countryside and the company of good friends.

This is where we went, anticlockwise:

The first test for Iain’s bike was the gravel byway between Building End and Langley Lower Green but he stormed up that, passing the Thames / Wash water course junction on the way, except there was no water to be seen. Roll on some more wet weather, but not on Mondays or Thursday please God. (He normally obliges unless members have been sinning.)

In Clavering we stopped briefly to allow Simon to put his chain back on again – a frequent occurence it seems since his prang at Cardington which probably distorted his gear mechanism, but he’s getting this down to a fine art with a little bit of help from his friends……..

Many hands make light work of putting a chain back on
Simon gives Charles’s rear camera the five fingers

Soon we were on our way again, this time direct to Manuden which made a change and luckily without too much traffic. Then it was back via Rickling Green, Arkesden and Duddenhoe End to complete a very enjoyable evening ride, with Nick peeling off in Rickling to cycle back home to Meesden.

Stopping for a breather between Manuden and Rickling Green

Back at The Red Cow, a warm welcome was received and some fine ale sampled before going our separate ways. Just as Alan had advised, the sun would be setting earlier and so this would be the last time for a while that we would be starting at 4.30 on a Monday. There was talk of bringing forward into November the popular pre-Christmas lunch time rides followed by a light lunch at a suitable hostelry.

Sunset over Chrishall
Thanks go to Alan for organising a great ride and also to Charles for some of the photos.

Martin

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Roads we owe to the Romans

A rather late Blog of our 10 October ride, but better late than never. 5 Windmillers, Victor, Simon, Nick, Alan and myself, left the Red Cow on a sunny but breezy autumnal afternoon at the earlier hour of 15:30. It was a good ride with no delays and after the drought through the summer, recent rain has saved next years harvest with many fields showing good growth of new shoots. It always amazes me to see the neat lines of shoots with almost no gaps, although I’m informed that an 80 to 85% germination is usually expected. If only my seed sewing was as successful.

Taking advantage of the Roman’s gift of road building we skirted the Langleys to follow the Roman road from Butts Green past Cooper’s End onto the road to Duddenhoe End. We owe many of our local roads and settlements to the Romans and we should be grateful. Although at times I think many of our local roads last saw a new surface when the Romans were here.

Nick soon peeled off to return to Meesden and Alan for Great Chishill, leaving just Simon, Victor and myself to enjoy a pint, chat and some bar refreshments back at the Rec Cow. All in all a nice day. 20 miles.

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Who ya gonna call?

Ghostbusters? No.

Sandra? You betcha! With her capacious van, the Windmillers equivalent of Thunderbird 2, she can pick up and transport pretty much anything, anywhere. No job is too big – and we hear an HGV is available for exceptional loads.

This time it was Iain and his monster of an e-bike requiring salvage. It was only a puncture but, for want of a big spanner, we were unable to remove the rear wheel and effect a repair. More to the point, it was nearly pub-time and we were late for lunch!

So there was Sandra, already at the pub and enjoying some well earned refreshment, when she took the distress call from Brian, “Sorry, but please could you rescue Iain?”

“OK but where are you?” was her very reasonable response.

“Er, dunno. Suffolk somewhere.”

This was the first time we had cause to use what3words in anger – and it worked a treat – referencing our location (to the very square meter!) as prep.somewhere.extend and texting that to Sandra, lo and behold, some 20 minutes later there she was, scooping up Iain and his machine for safe delivery to the pub.

Ken, Iain, Deborah and Geoff enjoying the Suffolk sunshine
Coffee and cake at Platform One, Clare

That aside, it was a very successful and enjoyable outing: Alan, Brian, Charles, Deborah, Geoff, Howard, Iain, Ken, Roger and Sandra completing a 28 mile circuit, the highlight of which was a meander through the gardens of Clare Priory before stopping for coffee and cake at the nearby Platform One café.

Clare Priory

Another good find was The Bell Inn at Castle Hedingham, a lovely old coaching inn full of wonky, period fittings and a perfect lunch venue for wonky, period Windmillers.

Thanks go to Maurice for researching a delightful route, Howard and Brian for leading the two groups, and Charles, Sandra and Alan for the photographs.

The Bell Inn – it’s a proper pub

Spare a thought for Maurice next Thursday as he will be in hospital having some worn out parts replaced; our thoughts will be with him.

Finally, Windmillers, we recommend you install what3words on your phone – and maybe put Sandra on speed dial.

28 miles clockwise from Castle Hedingham

Brian

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29 September. Crash landing at Cardington. 30 miles.

It’s been nearly five years since the last crash landing at Cardington airfield near Bedford, but Simon achieved another whilst taking a good look at the huge hangars as we cycled past and veering into the grass verge at the same time, dismounting in style but, thankfully, none the worse for wear other than his chain coming off. To be fair it was all the fault of Martin and Brian who were ahead and who slowed down to also admire the view, and one wheel just happened to clip another……….

The previous crash was far more serious. After earlier failures and a crash landing in August 2016, Airlander 10, an airship as long as a football pitch, got loose on its moorings in November 2017 and deflated spectacularly. Sadly, that was the the end of the £100m project.

This was the only ‘event’ on an otherwise fabulous ride organised by Brian, a 30 mile circuit of Bedfordshire from The Cock in Broom, just off the A1 near Biggleswade. It was good to be back there knowing that there were some good beers to sample at lunchtime.

With 13 participants in all, Brian led the way with Rod, Howard, Charles, Simon and Martin in Group 1 followed a few minutes later by Jeremy, Keith, Ken, Chris, Alan, Roger and Deborah in Group 2. After four miles the plan was to cycle through Old Warden Aerodrome, home of the Shuttleworth Collection, but it seems an air show was planned over the weekend and we were not allowed through unless we paid £15 each. So a U-turn was necessary, back through the delightful grounds of Shuttleworth Estate which enabled both groups to meet up for a photo in front of Shuttleworth House.

Shuttleworth House, a fine Victorian house with its magnificent tower and clock overlooking the extensive parkland, and equally magnificent Windmillers in front.
Photographer Martin having a quick kip
Wake up, Martin!

So now we were off in earnest to explore Bedfordshire’s varied mix of pretty villages, not-so pretty villages, fine architecture and churches, disused railway lines and gravel pits, quiet bike paths alongside the Great Ouse, large fields of potatoes and even a hill up to a greensand ridge. This is where we went, anticlockwise from Broom:

The paths around the Great Ouse were well surfaced, nicely laid out and popular with walkers as well as cyclists, ending up in the pretty village of Willington with its National Trust Dovecote and splendid church of St Lawrence.

The Dovecote in Willington, with Simon doing some exploring
Group 1 selfie
St. Lawrence, Willington, where we thought of our friend Lawrence.
Charles doing the Catwalk, clearly keen to win the sartorial prize again at the Christmas lunch

It was soon time for coffee at The Barn in Cardington, a good find which served excellent coffee and cakes.

It was soon after leaving The Barn that Simon had his prang but he was soon back in action again once his chain was back on and no blood could be seen:

Howard and Rod assist Simon whilst Martin and Brian, the culprits, look on shamefacedly. Sorry, Simon – we could do with brake lights.

Then we saw a side of Bedfordshire, or any county for that matter, which was simply shocking – a huge pile of refrigerators and freezers just dumped on the side of the road complete with rotting bags of food. What a contrast with other countries such as France when after a huge mountain bike event recently not a single piece of litter could be seen. We need a Government that can tackle this issue (and others of course) urgently.

A sad sight, but so common these days.

Brian, being Irish, threatened to take us to Ireland once again on this ride and indeed he did but only to a tiny Bedfordshire village which bears its name, without a Blarney Stone or Shamrock in sight yet alone any Guiness on offer. They really should cash in on this opportunity for those whose satnavs take them there by mistake:

Back at The Cock we received a warm welcome and were seated in our own room which hadn’t changed for centuries by the look of it. The excellent beer was kept at cellar temperature down some steps and the food was good too. What more could Windmillers wish for?

Thanks to Brian for organising the ride and to the many photographs provided by him, Simon, Charles and Deborah. Our thoughts are also with Maurice as he prepares for another hip operation.

Martin

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Heath Café and Bar Royston

“Good God, Rod . . . ”

. . . that wasn’t arf a hilly ride” was the general consensus as we supped our pints at the end of Thursday’s ride. The day had kicked off with a stiff ascent to Therfield on top of Royston Heath – and from there on it seemed we were always either climbing or freewheeling back down.

Thirty two miles and umpteen hills later, we slaked our thirst while the pedallers amongst us mentally added ‘e-bike’ to our Christmas wishlist.

Nevertheless, we thanked Rod for devising a lovely route; traffic free and with some fine views across the Hertfordshire countryside.

Breakfast at Heath Café and Bar . . .
. . . and lunch

Another revelation had been the Heath Café and Bar. Relatively local but little visited by the Windmillers – probably because it’s not a proper pub – we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and beer, not to mention the attentive service. Not only did they do a good breakfast but, come lunchtime, their venison ragu and Timothy Taylor’s bitter went down a treat.

Brian and Ric
Coffee and cake at Buntingford
Roger feeling the burn
Ric making full use of his 5 gears

It was another good turnout: Alan, Andrew, Brian, Charles, Geoff, Graham, Howard, Jeremy, Keith, Ken, Nigel, Rod and Roger – with Maurice joining us for lunch. There would have been more riders but for yet another outbreak of covid and various other autumnal lurgies.

Thanks to Jeremy and Charles for the many photos, more of which can be seen here in the club album.

32 miles clockwise from Royston

Brian

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Uncategorized

15th Sept. End of an era. But our rides continue.

No interview process, but maybe we got the right man for the job by accident? How lucky we are(?)

This Thursday saw a beautiful ride from one of our favourite restaurants, The Red Lion at Great Sampford, anticlockwise round this course via Castle Hedingham and back. It was completed by eleven riders.

My day started badly when I put some more air in the tyre, only for it to explode like the crack of a whip, taking the tyre off the rim. I received excellent help from Howard and Alan and was soon back in action. This was just as well since as organizer, I had a number of jobs to do.

It is difficult after many days of mourning and, when an army of journalist and commentators have said so much, for me to say anything new concerning the passing of The Queen.

Nonetheless I will try.

Book of condolence in St Nicholas’s. What can one say about 70 years in just a few lines?

Even those with doubts about the institution of monarchy, with its imperialist overtones, detected considerable virtue in the late Queen. These are the enduring virtues of faith, hope and charity. Other attributes are sometimes admired in modern times, such as great beauty or intellect, riches or sporting prowess, but there is no excuse for us being distracted. The first two are mere accidents of birth, one fleeting the other usable for good or ill. Riches are rarely a measure of person’s quality. After all King Salman is rich, but he is an unlikely role-model. Likewise, we know that someone can be the greatest player in the world one day and a retiree with bad knees the next.

So, we return to the enduring virtues. Faith, adherence to one of the great faiths or the belief that life is better lived when guided by principles and circumscribed by restraints. This was clearly at the centre of The Queen’s life. Hope is so valued because it is infinitely preferable to despair. It gives the strength to move forward in faith, towards trying to create a better world. She was often a source of hope in difficult times. Her charitable efforts were focussed on The Commonwealth. This works for good governance and the elimination of corruption in many of the world’s poorest nations, also in the fight against poverty, ignorance, and disease.

Of course, we know intuitively that more is required in living a ‘good life’ than the avoidance of sin. Pray silence while we name the seven deadly sins in order that they may be recognised. They are; greed, gluttony, idleness, envy, pride, lust and wrath. No, a person is also required to display positive attributes and behaviours as well. For guidance these were identified in ancient times as; courage, truthfulness, the advocacy of fairness, modesty, friendliness, generosity, patience and the lack of self-indulgence. So, there we have it, enough on virtue. At least now we know how to recognise it, maybe we can attempt a little. But carefully and on a small scale.

We set off in two groups. Now, in the middle of September, the start was chilly but things had warmed up by the time we arrived at The Moot House in Castle Hedingham. Here the two groups interacted over the customary coffee and cakes.

Coffee and cake. Concern about scones being shown by Deborah.

There followed some discussion of current ailments. Though, in fact, anyone present would likely be classified as ‘worried well’ by their doctors. Long may that continue. Several members are so comforted by their regular ingestion of statins that they have decided to demonstrate the effectiveness of this wonderful treatment using jam, cream, butter and scones.

Bigger scones are needed to accommodate all that cream (and jam and butter).

The first group made off, while the second visited St. Nicholas Church. This is a beautiful building and we thought how nice it would be on another trip, to climb the tower.

St. Nicholas’s seems to have been extended a number of times with one upgrade, unusually, in brick.
The beauty of symmetry and in stained glass. What a sight.

This route, designed by Maurice, took in some exceptionally quite lanes and pretty villages. We were soon back at the pub. Maurice was there to greet us. The food was excellent (again) as was the welcome and organisation.

Another great day out with the club for which we are all so grateful. It only remains for me to follow club tradition when a new monarch is appointed and exclaim;

God save the King!

Also, our precious planet, the National Institutions which give our lives some continuity and predictability. Also our intersecting circles of family and friends, who are always in our thoughts.

Categories
Cambridge

Flying high with the Windmillers

A sunny Thursday morning saw Jeremy leading twelve Windmillers away from the Three Horseshoes, Stapleford bound for Grantchester, Cambridge and Anglesey Abbey. Following Jeremy were Alan, Andrew, Brian, Chris, Geoff, Graham, Hazel, Howard, Ken, Ric and Simon.

Let’s go punting

The outing soon developed an aeronautic theme; firstly when we paused at the end of Cambridge Airport runway and a Cessna flew low overhead as it came in to land.

Pedals and propellers

Then on the return leg from Anglesey Abbey we pulled in at Bottisham Airfield Museum to admire the P-51 Mustang parked outside. Jason Webb, Chair of the Trustees, happened to be there and sensing our interest, gave us a quick tour. He explained how the airfield was taken over by the US Air Force during WW2 and saw P-47 Thunderbolts and P-51 Mustangs provide escorts for the allied bombing offensive as well as ground attack missions.

Jason offers a tour. Yes, please!

Stuffed full of WW2 history and interesting artefacts, the museum is well worth a visit. It’s open every Sunday, 10.30 to 4pm, is dog-friendly and we hear the coffee and cakes are good too.

We thought this was Ric’s bike; similar vintage
The bride wore parachute silk
Chocks away, Hazel

Thanks go to Jeremy for planning the route and leading the the way. The off road section from Fulbourn along the Roman Road towards Cambridge was particularly pleasant and a novelty for most of us.

31 miles clockwise from Stapleford

Later that same day, we were saddened to hear of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Windmillers would like to express their deepest condolences to the Royal Family.

Maurice recalls the time in 2005 when he and Lyn attended Windsor Castle for an Aston Martin drive-by. His DB6 was one of nearly 300 Aston Martins and Lagondas taking part in a St George’s Day parade, where they were met by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh.

24 April 2005: Maurice driving his DB6 past the Queen at Windsor Castle. On her right stands Prince Philip with the Chairman of the Aston Martin Owners Club
A young Elizabeth with her sister, Margaret

Brian

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Monday the 5th September. Expert Leader in Position.

Yes, this Monday saw Alan guide us expertly around another course which he had devised. Meanwhile in Westminster we saw the installation of another (expert?) leader, who we hope proves similarly effective at devising a course towards the desired objectives.

‘Course’, of course, is a word with rather too many meanings, so I feel that I need to make myself absolutely clear. I refer to ‘course’ in the course of this write-up in the geographical sense, not the culinary one. Though I don’t deny that Alan’s service to the club could only be enhanced if next time, at the pub, he bought us all a first course. Those who received the gpx on WhatsApp and who still can’t follow the ‘course’, have only one course of action available, that is to take a course in navigation at night-school. I’m pleased to report that during this ride no hare-coursing was spotted and that over the course of time we hope that this will remain the case.

This trivial linguistic diversion has run its course to stop right now. “Focus on the work in hand, Teague, and you may yet rise-up to be average” as my Latin teacher so wisely advised me all those years ago. If only I had listened to those sage words, my life might have stayed on course better than average. But with youthful vitality coursing flowing through my veins, I was not yet ready to listen.

We started from the Bull at Lower Langley. That evening music was to be made by 20 musicians who, the landlord bemoaned, would only drink one pint each. Nick arrived on time having acquired a new cycling computer adding to the variety of gadgets on his bike, including radar. Rod was delayed by leaving the house without cycling accoutrements and had to return to get them. Anyway, it’s safe to say that with Alan armed with Garmin, and Rod and Nick baring clusters of electronics, we were very adequately equipped for a pleasant trip round our local lanes. Myself, I had invested in a new tyre and felt a warm glow, which I knew would not be punctured by future events. A warm glow of satisfaction which only Schwalbe Marathons can provide.  Martin completed this high-tec peloton which cycled, through a refreshing, light shower, around the following route.

A nice route through lanes we have not used for a while.

I mused on the meaning of Truss. Could a failing Houses of Parliament be saved by the placement of a suitable truss, so preventing the roof from finally falling in? Was our previous Prime Minister trussed-up and placed somewhere in which he can no longer prove embarrassing? Will I need a truss when I get my next hernia and find that medical care is no longer available in this country? Will these fine fields provide 36 lb bundles of straw after this year’s modest harvest? Finally, and most importantly, was my Latin teacher, right? Yes, on mature reflection, I think he probably was, and I have written ‘I must not get distracted’ several times on a post-it note as evidence of my contrition.

At the bottom of Roger’s road.
Ferneux Pelham extends it’s usual greeting.

Since we were passing through Furneux Pelham we felt the urge to stop and bother Roger. But decided not to on closer inspection of the sign at the bottom of his road. Those who know the village will remember two facts relating to this village’s hospitality. The church clock has the motto “Time Flies. Mind your Business'” and a murder took place in the village of a retired Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Workman on 7 January 2004. In true Cluedo fashion, it was the gamekeeper what dunit. He later confessed to another murder while in prison and was sentenced to a minimum of 32 years in 2012. So at least we are safe from that village member. Still discretion being the better part of valour we decided to cycle on with our precious party intact, leaving the Pelhams behind to mind any business but ours.

Finally, we were expertly delivered back to the pub. Cursory examination resulted in us concluding that the road ahead might not be smooth with this chosen leader in place and so the best thing to do was to ‘drink more beer until the economy picks up’. A wise plan, since it is probably best not to approach this future entirely sober. There we go. We are lucky, we know it, we are grateful.

Now can we just get on with our lives please?  

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1 September. Bellissimo ride in deepest Essex. 32 miles

After an inaugural ride from The Red Lion in Great Sampford a few weeks back, Windmillers demanded a repeat ride in order to once again enjoy the wonderful Italian food on offer at this otherwise traditional English pub. A perfect combination!

Eighteen Windmillers were due to take part but in the event we had sixteen comprising Andrew, Geoff, Sandra, Brian, Charles, Howard, Chris, Jenni, Graham, Rod, Hazel, Jeremy, Deborah, Ken, Ric and Martin, all dead set on working up an appetite for dishes ranging from Tagliatelle with Fresh Lobster to Pollo Con Funghi. The Spaghetti with Mixed Seafood proved to be the most popular choice.

So, with lunch all sorted, the first group of eight led by Geoff set off at 9.30 towards Castle Hedingham using the reverse of the route used previously but it wasn’t long before the second group overtook them whilst Deborah’s saddle was being adjusted by Graham. And it more or less stayed that way until a stop was made by everyone in Great Yeldham to admire the remains of an ancient oak tree (as above) held together with metal straps and concrete – dead as a dodo it seems but a nice reminder all the same of what was clearly a massive tree, assisted perhaps by being next to a ford on the Cambridge – Colchester road. Here is the plaque which gives the full history:

Instead of using the same farm shop café as last time (but well worth another visit there) the route took us via another new coffee venue, this time the Old Moot Tearoom and Bistro in Castle Hedingham who looked after us very well, even though cramming sixteen into the garden didn’t leave much room for other guests. A large interior suggested it could be an ideal place to warm up on a cold winter’s day…. It was great to hear of Sandra’s early experiences of driving HGVs around London and the Midlands, and being told not to worry about warning lights on the dashboard.

After coffee, the lovely church of St. Nicholas was seen hiding in the corner of a quiet lane:

The magnificent Grade 1 listed church of St Nicholas in Castle Hedingham. Intriguingly, some of the materials used are older than the church itself, which dates back to Norman times. It seems that when parts of the nearby older castle were demolished the bricks came in handy for building the church. The eastern elevation has one of only five Norman wheel windows thought to still exist in England, with splendid stained glass. Deborah suggested a return visit and a tour would be in order.
Guess who took this photo? Brian, of course, lying prostrated on the road in his usual style. Luckily it was dry. Thanks, Brian!

Setting off on the return leg took us on a different, longer route than used before which took us though some lovely quiet lanes with steep hills in places, winding bends and what could easily be a deep ford in winter months. Emerging once again in Great Bardfield but then taking another different route to the road leading back to Great Sampford, we eventually arrived back at The Red Lion bang on time for lunch at 1.10pm to find Maurice waiting for us.

Tucking into bellissimo food back at The Red Lion, Charles being the most colourful character amongst us.

This is where we went:

Can’t wait for the next visit!

Martin

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Barton Hills

Thursday 18th August.

Barton Hills from near Hexton

The Barton Hills is an AONB which form the northern edge of the Chiltern hills. The northern escarpment is a demarcation between the hillier country to the south and the flatlands of Bedfordshire to the North – far more dramatic than the 100m or so height difference would suggest. This was the area covered by this week’s Windmill Club ride, a new area for many of the riders.

We started and finished at the Red Lion, Preston (Preston village just South of Hitchin, not THAT Preston). The Red Lion is the first example of a community-owned public house anywhere in the UK and Camra National finalist in 2019.

There was a windmill, honest

Nine riders set off on a fine warm, dry if slightly overcast day in the customary formation of ‘A team’ and ‘B team’, initially heading down to Whitwell – home of the famous Emily’s tea room (at least famous with cyclists). On this occasion, however, we didn’t stop but headed North towards Lilley Bottom past some decidedly sad looking water cress beds. More rain and running water definitely needed here. Following the valley road up went without incident (one windmill spotted away on the left).

At this point, whilst we took a breather, the B team’s man in orange, Alan, performed a slow motion feet-clipped-in-stationary-fall, cutting his knee in the process. Pressing on and ignoring the blood, we arrived at the fantastic viewpoint at Sharpenhoe Clappers.

B team
A team
Expert ministrations to Alan’s knee

After checking brakes and wheel nuts, it was very speedily downhill to Barton-Le-Clay where the first aid team at the chemist (old school – it was called a ‘chemist’, not a pharmacy) were delighted to have a real patient on which to ply their trade.

Barton was also the scene of the A team’s professor-in-residence, Simon, suffering a tyre failure with large splits opening in the tyre carcass. New tyres needed, we reckoned.

Tea and coffee was taken at the ridiculously quirky Country Matters (formerly Lavender Tea rooms). A setting straight from the 1950s. Proceeds from sales were going to a local charity collection so we negotiated the price of coffee and cake UP to £3 a head.

Country Matters
Coffee. Cheer up, Rod !

Having lost all that height, we inevitably had to regain it. This was on the up hill gravelly, rough and rutted Chiltern Cycleway where a few riders lost traction and had to walk a short way. Thankfully, normal tarmac order was soon restored and it was a fast run pack to the pub for beer and lunch.

Lunch !

Maurice came out to meet the riders (Sandra, Simon, Victor, Rod, Graham, Roger, Alan, Chris, Howard) for lunch. For once Sandra had the luxury of being able to cycle to and from the ride.

Categories
Cambridge Cambridgeshire

A Space Odyssey

The club website says we’re all about exploring the quieter lanes of East Anglia – to which we can now add . . . and the solar system.

A blue planet on a very brown Midsummer Common

Curiosity about Thursday’s ride had been piqued by Brian’s invitation saying we would be . . . visiting every planet in the solar system before stopping for refreshments at a pharmacy beyond Pluto. We thought he’d just had too much sun.

Windmillers feeling the heat

Come Thursday and there was indeed lots of sun – not only the usual one overhead but another one in the middle of Midsummer Common, Cambridge; as if we weren’t hot enough already, having cycled into town from Stapleford in the middle of a heatwave.

We were at the start of the Our Place in Space trail featuring scale models of the sun and planets recreated as contemporary art sculptures strung out along the River Cam and extending some five miles to Waterbeach (aka Pluto). Confused? Have a look at the pictures and you’ll get the general idea.

Simon, boldly going . . .
. . . to Saturn
Deborah does Jupiter
By Jove, we’re a long way from home
Chris does Neptune

As for the pharmacy beyond Pluto, that turned out to be a café in Waterbeach called, well, Pharmacie.

Coffee in a pharmacy beyond Pluto

Some Windmillers got quite carried away with their adventures in space. Rod and Victor experienced weightlessness, albeit fleetingly, as each was seen to fly from the saddle only to crash land somewhat painfully on planet earth.

Victor experiences weightlessness in the confined space of the Carter Bridge, Cambridge

Despite the immense distances covered, we got back to the Three Horseshoes in time for lunch and a few beers – and we were delighted to find Maurice waiting for us at the bar.

And for the record the space travellers were Alan, Brian, Charles, Chris, Deborah, Graham, Ken, Martin, Rod, Roger, Sandra, Simon, Tom and Victor. Back on planet earth we clocked up 28 miles.

28 miles: Stapleford – Hauxton – Trumpington Meadow – Grantchester Meadow – Newnham – The Backs – Midsummer Common – all the planets – Waterbeach – Landbeach – Milton – Cambridge North – Chisholm Bridge – Stourbridge Common – Cambridge Station – Shelford – Stapleford

Rest assured, next Thursday’s ride will be restricted to East Anglia.

Brian